Welcome to Chapter 4! Remember this is a very rough draft, so feel free to comment on things you like or what doesn’t make sense.
Things got busy in the shop after that, and Erin went to lend a hand at the counter. By the time the mid-morning coffee-break crowd had cleared out, it was nearing noon and Erin still hadn’t seen any sign of Hazel.
Granted, Erin remembered days when Hazel hadn’t shown up. They were few, but it just seemed a little creepy that she hadn’t show up today, after her cryptic voicemail. Why had she left that message when she knew no one would be there? Why hadn’t she called Erin’s cell phone? She had the number. Why was she afraid? And why wasn’t she answering her phone? Erin had never known her to go many places. She mostly stayed in her big empty falling down house.
Just then, the bell over the front door jingled, and Erin looked up to see her best friend, Pepper Robbins, breeze into the shop.
“Pepper!” greeted Adrian with enthusiasm. “Looking good today, girl!”
Pepper was well known in the shop as she stopped there often, and her flamboyant dress style usually caught people’s attention. Today’s ensemble included a bright pink pencil skirt paired with a multi-colored, striped peasant blouse and pink sequined sneakers.
Erin grinned at her bestie and leaned in to give her a hug. “Here for lunch?” Erin asked.
Although they were a bagel shop, they catered to the lunch bunch a bit by having some sandwiches—on bagels of course—ready made in the cold case.
“Nah, I’m good for today,” Pepper answered. “Just wanted to pop in and see your pretty face. Needed a pick-me-up from the slow times at the store.”
Pepper worked as the sales manager for the Variety store two blocks down, near the Safeway grocery store. She helped diversify their offerings from the as-seen-on-tv trinkets to a comic book fanatics dream of issues and paraphernalia from the Marvel Universe—Pepper’s personal fave—and its rival universe, DC. Their busy time was when the kids got out of school in the late afternoon.
Having been friends since grade school, Pepper and Erin often were called “Salt and Pepper” for their opposite coloring and the fact that you could always find them together. They had spent a lot of time at each other’s houses and even gone to Berkeley together. Pepper had excelled and graduated near the top of her class and even earned her MBA in record time. Of course, with her father, the Rev. Michael Robbins breathing down her neck, she could do no less.
Erin had a healthy fear of Rev. Robbins. He was a large man with a booming voice that garnered respect from his congregation at the big AME church downtown. But he really was a softy when it came to his only daughter. She was the youngest of five and having four older brothers was no easy task. But Pepper seemed able to keep them on their toes.
Erin loved her like a sister.
“I need to talk to you,” Erin told Pepper.
“Sure,” Pepper responded with a curious look. “I can’t stay anyway, so why don’t you walk me back to the store.”
Erin told Adrian she’d be back in a few minutes, and they headed out into the October sunshine.