From the front door of his little store Ike Elsheim had fair perusal of most of the town. He stood there for a moment after turning the "Open" sign over and unlocking the door. Probably nobody would have even noticed the door being locked during the middle of the day. Business had been slow and if anybody did ask he would just say he had personal business for a few moments and that should put a stop to any further inquiry.
Lank and homely with narrow eyes and a Roman nose, Ike was extremely intelligent, always civil if not a bit too passive, and was able to seem interested in his customers even when they bored him with their domestic stories when he sacked their groceries. Could they not understand he just wanted to do his job in peace and quiet? The women (who made up the vast majority of his customers) all seemed to want to tell Ike about their kids, their hair, their silly husbands. Ike just smiled and nodded his familiar, if ungainly, head. "Get moving, get moving!" he shouted silently in his mind while he smiled at the customer.
As Ike turned away from the front door he looked at the spot and picked up a solitary black hair from the wooden floor and with his usual acute tidiness he casually dropped the hair into a half-full trash can, emptied the trash into a larger can and then took that can to the dumpster. He was strangely calm. His heart rate was back to normal. His hands betrayed no tremor. Even his mind seemed serene, almost peaceful. He should have done this a long time ago, he thought. It was liberating. An involuntary "Ha!" surprised him as it left his lips and spawned another half-giggle as a reaction to it.
He caught a glimpse of a figure outside and looked up to see young Marilyn run past his door laughing at the dog nipping at her heels. Ike felt almost as carefree and innocent as the little girl running in circles in his parking lot. He knew Marilyn from the neighborhood. Her mother often brought her and sometimes several other kids into the store and he did not usually mind since they were all well-disciplined. He opened the door and with oddly patient repetition called her name and invited her in.
Marilyn sighed and walked to the door, canine companion in tow. Ike was surprised that she did not ask to bring the dog into the store but assumed correctly that she knew better.
"Sit down right there, Teddy. I'll be out in a minute. Ok? Good boy!"
At this point Ike felt like he could have welcomed anyone into the store and not have to worry about his cryptic concealment. The dirty deed had been cleaned up, evidence obliterated and his conscience almost absolved. He smiled what nearly felt like a genuine smile as she traipsed in.
"Mr. Ike", she said, "Do I have enough here for a gallon of milk and a piece of candy?" She held out an open hand that had clenched a dollar bill.
"Yes, Marilyn, I think you do." Ike said generously.
Marilyn beamed and skipped over to the candy aisle just a few feet from the spot. Ike's heart gained a couple of beats but he stifled his worry with the fact that she was paying attention to nothing that was not sugar-filled. Ike watched as Marilyn scanned each confection-filled container. He found himself nervously pacing behind the counter watching the girl with one eye as he walked and realized that he was needlessly working himself into anguish as she lollygagged. He knew that there was nothing incriminating in all the store much less to the eyes of a candy-starved school girl.
Ike tried to busy himself with tidying up around the cash register, his mind now unfortunately ablaze with self-questions and insecurity. He had left nothing to chance and had been agonizingly thorough in his clean up and disposal. Why worry? He checked the status of the girl's decision and heard a low, invariable thud coming steadily from her direction. He imagined the girl softly tapping her foot but could see little movement in her legs at all except to slowly slide to the next choice of candy.
The noise continued its rythmic cadence as Ike felt compelled to walk around the counter and have a closer look. Marilyn was now standing exactly on the spot and he felt sure she would hear the noise and ask him about it but she concerned herself only with the all-important conclusion of candy-buying.
Ike realized that he was sweating and tried unsuccessfully to calm himself. He walked over to the door and opened it and took a gulp of fresh air but continued to hear the confounded beating. It was ridiculously loud and he knew now that Marilyn heard it. How could she not? She was not deaf and yet she wandered around the store with a mocking imperviousness that started to anger Ike. Why did she not just ask him? The noise was almost unbearable now. Ike winced with each beat and grew more and more agitated. He was about to yell at Marilyn to get out of the store when there was a commotion outside that even the child acknowledged.