The festival crowd had thinned. A local band played at the other end of the lot, fumbling through a cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Dalton took the opportunity to walk around. He softly smiled at a vendor, and plucked a jalapeno chocolate bar from the display. Since the Double Deuce became a casualty to an electrical fire from the gaudy neon sign that hung out front, he’d steadily worked security at festivals and concerts. The best cooler in the business finally cashed in on his fame.

The “Hotlanta! Spicy Foods Festival” was the easiest job he’d ever had. And, like all things, it would soon be over. He had long since resigned himself to enjoy the small moments. It’s all the peace he could muster. Out in the sun. Friendly people. Free food. No small town crime lords, only knuckleheads. No ambushes in the dark corners of the fairgrounds, just jagged shadows from which rodents occasionally emerged.

The festival and concert circuit kept him moving, which was just fine. If he stayed anywhere too long, trouble would find him. Atlanta for month. Then Pensacola. He figured he’d take his time making his way down toward Key West, where he’d see if the ocean would bring him peace. If not, he’d seduce a beautiful woman, then wade into the crashing waves then disappear forever.

The sun had descended down behind the booths. His shift was almost over. Soon, he’d disappear into his small apartment. He’d make some soup, maybe a stew, then read Spinoza and contemplate the dimensions of God. From there, in his solitude, as it did every night, his mind would wander through the night he tore out Jimmy Reno’s throat while they thrashed in the knee-deep pond water.

That pond outside that small Missouri town was the most tranquil he’d ever seen. But he could never remember it way without Jimmy’s lifeless body in Jesus Christ pose, floating on its tranquil surface, swirls of blood curling in the pristine water. Like the blood had become part of the water, the memory had become part of Dalton. In the grand scheme of all things, he knew he survived but Jimmy had won. Which is why, no matter where he went, a flashlight was by his pillow, for the nights he had to shine a light on the demons that woke him from his sleep.