THE OLD MAN LOOKED near to death.

There wasn’t much that scared Daisy Kirk, not anymore, but the sight of the old man as he shuffled into the store at three in the morning had sure done the trick.

Working overnights was not for the faint of heart, nor for those in need of constant stimulation. Daisy was neither.

Life at the Drug Corner during those few hours of darkness between when the bars closed and all the normal folks were commuting to their day job was like a different world. The pharmacy in the back of the store got a decent bit of business. After all, there was a hospital just down the road and the Drug Corner was the only pharmacy open past ten in town. But as for people just coming in to do a little shopping? Well, they were few and far between. And those that did come in were like the residents of some far off alien world.

And Daisy, with her purple hair, her neck tattoos, and her various facial piercings . . . well, she fit right in.

To be fair, Daisy rather enjoyed the overnight shift. Though, if she wanted to get at least thirty hours a week she didn’t have a lot of choice. She surely wasn’t going to get it working evenings and weekends like when she was back in high school. To be honest, she would have preferred forty hours a week, but thirty was the most she’d get without becoming management, and that was something neither she, nor the company, was ready for.

The biggest plus to the overnight shift was the overnight manager, Ed. He wasn’t all that motivated to get any actual work done. Instead, he preferred to camp out in the office and play on his phone. Frankly, Daisy would never even see him if he wasn’t required to come out of his hole once in a while to authorize a product return or to deal with an angry customer. His complete lack of commitment worked hand in hand with her own which made for some fairly laid back nights in which Daisy would pull up a stool and read between customers. And there was always plenty of time, great stretches of it, between customers.

With the absence of customers should come silence. And silence, as has been said, is golden.

But there was no gold for Daisy’s ears. The company piped in an uninspiring selection of magnificently mediocre pop music throughout the store, which played in an endless loop and probably will so until the end of time. But Daisy liked to try and look at the bright side once and a while.

Beyond the company’s horrible choice in music, there was no incessant chatter in the aisles, no unnecessary cackling from shoppers as they discovered something new, and no overly loud talking into cell phones by customers with no sense of simple human courtesy. Daisy would choose the one horror over the other any day of the week. Besides, she’d learned to tune out the music a long time ago.

So as it was, apart from the occasional siren from passing emergency vehicles, of which there appeared to be more than normal tonight, everything in the store was quite serene. She might even call it paradise were she allowed to smoke in the store.

But then the old man had come in.

Daisy had just finished reading the latest Harold Jennett comic when she’d heard the unmistakable sound of the automatic doors sliding open behind her. She glanced at the clock, ten minutes past three.

“Welcome to Drug Corner,” she said, setting the comic down on the counter and turning to the doors.

The old man stood there just inside the door, his white hair like something a colony of rats might live in. He was unshaven and more disheveled then a frat house the morning after a party. His clothes were stained and wrinkled, his shoes were untied, and he clutched at a sheet of paper in a hand that shook like a hotel bed with the magic fingers turned to eleven. He looked more than unhealthy; he looked as if he were on his last legs.

“Pharmacy?” His voice was a weak croak.

“Are you okay, sir?” Daisy asked, standing.

“I just need the pharmacy,” he replied. “My prescription.” He held up the crumpled sheet of paper in his fist.

She’d been lost for a moment, worried that the guy was going to keel over and die there on the floor in front of the counter.

“In the back corner,” she said, pointing the way with a trembling hand.

“I thank you,” he said and shuffled away in the direction she had pointed out.

Daisy watched him go, unaware that he would be gunned down in front of her eyes less than thirty minutes later.

To be continued . . .

Okay, yeah, I said that Chapter 5 would be about a girl named Rayla.

Well, now her name is Daisy.

I changed my mind and stuff.

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