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I PLAYED WITH the display of mechanical pencils on the counter as Vee, the cashier at Gary's Hardware, rung up the purchase.

"Will you stop that?" She glared at me. "You're messing them up."

"Sorry." I returned the pencils to the basket and tried to rearrange them in the order she'd had them. Vee went back to scanning.

"Bolt cutters?" She raised a thinly sculpted eyebrow at me, holding them up like she'd never seen the item before in her life.

I shrugged.

She snapped them open and closed once before finally setting them in the white plastic bag along with the flashlight. "What are the two of you doing with bolt cutters?" She shifted her brown eyes between Jeremey and I, folding a strand of scarlet dyed hair behind her ear.

"Yard work," Jeremey replied immediately, not even looking away from the assortment of energy drinks he was examining in the mini-fridge by the register. It was a good thing he was quick, because in all likelihood the answer that would have fallen out of my mouth would have been "cutting bolts."

"What sort of yard work are you doing with bolt cutters and a flashlight?" Vee asked, crossing her arms and wrinkling her nose.

"All sorts." Jeremey pulled himself away from the fridge and stood next to me, setting four neon-green cans of energy drink on the counter.

Vee rolled her eyes and scanned the drinks. She placed them in the bag along with the tools. "You know if you buy two more of these, you get a pair of ski masks for free." She paused for a second, deadpan while neither of us laughed at the joke. "It's $32.54," she finally continued, not missing a beat.

I nodded, searching through my wallet.

"Seriously, what are you two up to?"

"Seriously, none of your business, Vee," Jeremey replied, picking up the bag as I continued to search for cash. I'd found a twenty and a few ones, but that was it. "Ready to go, Harper?"

"I've only got like, twenty-five bucks," I said.

"How old are you? Twenty-two? You need to get a fucking credit card." Jeremey shoved the bag at me to hold while he pulled out his wallet.

"I know," I groaned and took the bag. I folded my wallet with my other hand and put it into my back pocket. I got paid in cash, so I'd never bothered to get a credit card or anything like that. I didn't even have a bank account.

Vee chuckled lowly. She stared me down as Jeremey took out a blue plastic card and handed it to her. I looked down at my hands, avoiding eye contact with her but still watching in my peripheral vision. She relaxed slightly as she ran the card through the machine.

"So Vee," I leaned up against the counter, fidgeting with the pencils again. She glared at me, so I shoved my hands into my pockets instead. "Did you hear someone bought the farm house on Clay Road?"

Jeremey kicked me in the side of the shin.

"Ow."

Vee snorted a single laugh. "Yeah. A couple weeks ago, right? His name's Jordan or something I think."

"Joshua," I corrected her. She raised her eyebrows at me. "I've seen him a couple times at the gas station."

"Okay. Joshua, whatever." She handed Jeremey the receipt to sign.

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