He had so many visitors passes to retirement and assisted living homes he had to keep them organized in several index card boxes. He knew this obsession of his was strange and morbid, but something compelled him to go, each weekend or afternoon after he clocked out of his mundane job. It had started as a tiny idea. After all, maybe this would form the body of work that would become THE BOOK that he always wanted to write before dying. The idea was a survey. He had always assumed that there was a large majority out there that wanted to write a book but never did before dying. But was this truth?
And then the troubling dilemma of how to find out. If he asked people in health, how would he keep track if they did or didn’t before they kicked the bucket? If he asked them in sickness, the problem still remained unless they died the next day. So he took to traveling. He had already visited the places most useful to his purpose in his own county. One could easily spot him there, for while most people’s faces were troubled and streaked with tears or shadowed by sadness … His was the look of a tigress stalking her prey, hungry, mouth watering, eyes and nose already locked-on the wounded stragglers who graced every common area and room.
He didn’t find his Ninny Threadgoode and he was certainly no Evelyn Couch*. His mission began as a curiosity, a nose-poking to see what was there. He was kind and giving at first, because he was testing the waters. But once he found his timing, his pace was set. He took as much as he could get, and didn’t leave much in his wake. And while most of his visits found his subjects dupable, one would-be target was not fooled by his facade of interest.
Vernon Montel was a veteran, a former construction contractor and mason. He was not about to let this drab little putz walk away from his domain with nothing but meaningless numbers that would get lost in his nightstand drawer.