Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).

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Chapter 55. Chicago

about Neon Blue or Girl, unlockedAt Ajanian's, John Connor could hardly keep his mind on his work. He longed for Blue, worried about her.

"You've been daydreaming," Gregor Ajanian teased. Ajanian's wrinkled hand patted John's shoulder. It was nine o'clock, and most of the sales staff had already gone. Ajanian had his tailored buff linen jacket on. It hung deceptively, padded in the shoulders, disguising his arthritis-racked frame. "I see symptoms," he told John, "and I hope it is love requited."

Johnno grinned. "I feel like a teenager." He locked display cases and damp-toweled fingerprints as he went.

Ajanian's gray eyes looked bright. "I was beginning to think you would never fall in love."

"Don't tell me it shows."

"Oh, it shows," Ajanian said with a wink. The gesture had a kind, smug delight, like a cat's pounce without the claws.

After Ajanian left, Johnno let the last of the sales staff out. He took his time, puttering about. He swept up little messes here and there, dabbed at fingerprints. Where was she? Was she okay? What was she doing? Was she thinking of him?

Toward nine-thirty, he put on his coat. Turned off the store lights and switched on the night lights. Made sure the emergency lights were functioning. Turned on the alarm system. Each store in the mall had its own alarm system tied to the police department, the fire department, various alarm companies, and the mall's own security agency. Satisfied that everything was in order, he stepped into the dark alley and locked the steel door. Startled by a sound, he whirled.

A cat had jumped from a high wall and landed on a dumpster it intended to scavenge. A clear, chilly night. Stars shone in a sky as black and mysterious as a velour display case. The silence was unnerving, now that the elevator music was off. He stepped into the deserted main part of the mall.

"Mr. Connor."

He jerked around. A pleasant looking man with white hair and a chilly smile walked toward him. A hand was extended. The other hand remained in the pocket of the stranger's raincoat. "I'm Father Jenkins. Father Binder referred me to you."

Blue kept her feelings deeply stored apart in separate boxes, and she made sure the padlocks were tightly locked


Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.

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