And just like that, Karen Idel was gone again. She had walked into the store, brought hope back into Gavin's life, and then walked out again. It was almost surreal.
If it weren't for the presence of the paper scrap in his pocket, Gavin would've had trouble convincing himself that what had just happened hadn't just been a very convincing audio/visual hallucination.
That scrap of paper gave him something to live for. No matter what happened next, nobody would ever dare say that Gavin Hunter had bowed to the inevitable. It was time to start fighting the real
He waited for another few minutes, but nobody else came through the doors to the shopping centre. The area was peaceful and undisturbed once more. Gavin sighed gently in relief; there would be no more distractions. Turning back into the grocery store, Gavin hefted his pack and strode purposefully down the aisles, scanning their contents for his targets.
It didn't take long to find what he was looking for. The alcohol section was practically untouched; row upon row of bottles still pristinely arrayed exactly as they would have been on the day the island was evacuated. The prices all seemed curiously low, at least until Gavin mentally adjusted them to account for a decade of inflation. He focused his attention on the spirits first, identifying which bottles were the largest and contained the highest alcohol content.
In the end he selected two 850ml bottles of whiskey and four 250ml bottles of vodka. To most people the added weight would have seemed a lot, but even together the bottles still weighed substantially less than one of Gavin's heavier hunting rifles. He stuffed them all into his daypack, enduring the ceaseless rattling noise they made as he headed to his next destination.
Over the course of the next hour or two, Gavin visited just about every venue the shopping centre had. The terrorists had been careful to remove anything that made for an obvious weapon, but they had left far more than they'd taken. What the stores lacked in appliances, electronics and sharp objects they more than made up for in miscellaneous equipment that could be just as lethal in the right hands. By the time Gavin had completed his first full circuit of the building his daypack was bulging with such esoteric objects as reels of string, matches, a cigarette lighter, several aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution, charcoal tablets, soap and a bottle of hair conditioner, among other things.
Once he had gathered all his initial supplies, Gavin raided the clothing stores. He tore up old cotton dresses and shirts, using them to wrap up the bottles of alcohol so that they didn't constantly rattle like pebbles in a jam jar. Then he reorganised the contents of his daypack so that the bottles were in the middle of the pile, cushioned from outside impacts.
Then, quite suddenly, it was time to move on. There was nothing left for Gavin in the shopping centre anymore, at least nothing that he could carry with any degree of comfort. Despite all that he had managed to scavenge, looking at the bulging daypack brought on an odd sense of melancholy. Looting the shopping centre had been a great timesink, distracting him from thoughts of his current situation. But now it was time to face the harsh reality of life on the island again.
Of course, there's no reason I can't face reality with style...
A small smile crept onto Gavin's face as he surveyed the clothes store again. The passage of time had affected the contents very little, shielded as it was from the elements by the thick walls and heavy doors of the shopping centre. Gavin decided that a decent hat would compliment his attire very nicely. It would also make a good homage to Kimberly, provided he didn't walk into any idiots with sword canes. With this thought in mind, he began searching the aisles one last time.
It didn't take him long to find what he wanted. Ten minutes after he had begun his final search, Gavin strode out the main doors of the shopping centre with a new spring in his step despite the heavy pack weighing down on his shoulders. On his head was perched a shiny black fedora, wide brim snapped down over his eyes to shield against the sun. There was also a pair of sunglasses tucked into his breast pocket, more for show than any practical purpose.
Gavin Hunter had entered the shopping centre feeling optimistic. Then when he'd gotten inside, his hopes had been first dashed by Ruby Forrester and then rekindled by Karen Idel. Now as he strode towards town he reflected that despite his misgivings, and despite all the tension and fear that gnawed away at his heart, there was another emotion to go along with it, one that he hadn't anticipated.
Gavin Hunter was having fun.
((The quintessentially fabulous tale of Gavin Hunter continues in A perfectly unremarkable evening.))