kitchen-4Bailey was a regular at Suburban West. He ate there a lot, often for free. He ate lunches there almost every day and did his business lunches there as well. If he did not have to pay sometimes, he made up for it by bringing Mr. Bowman a lot of business. Many of his colleagues ate there, did business there, recommended the place to other city workers and their friends. Suburban West, only ten minutes from downtown, was a local favorite and a well-known businessman’s haunt. Suburban East, on the other hand, was a good half hour to downtown, another ten minutes to home for Bill. It got the surrounding-business lunch rush, but not the downtown Columbus one.

It came to Bill’s attention quite by accident one night when he left work. They had late orders and he hadn’t gotten out until after midnight. Usually he was gone a good half hour earlier.

This night he happened to note a cop car sitting across from the parking lot when he turned onto Delta Road to head back into town and up to the campus where he and his girlfriend lived. Suburban East was outside Columbus proper, out of the city limits. Bill’s probation did not permit him to be out after midnight. It did not allow him to leave the city limits without permission. It completely forbid him to leave the state without written consent. Doing so was immediate grounds for probation violation.

He’d seen cop cars before and hadn’t thought much about it. But this night the police car followed him to the town limits and was met there by Columbus police. The Columbus police car followed Bill home. The police made no attempt to hide what they were doing. They parked in plain sight and watched as Bill got out of his car and went into his apartment.

Bill thought this strange, very strange. His instinct was to get rid of all his weed, but he held off. He wondered about it as he showered and got ready for bed. He slept fitfully, tossing and turning all night. In the morning, early like always, he was up to go to work. Nothing outside seemed unusual.

He put in a call to Bailey and told him what had happened. Bailey wasn’t a bit surprised. He was only surprised that this was the first time Bill had seen it.

“Dude,” Bailey said, “they’re following you all the time. They pick you up at work at night and make sure you get home. They don’t do it every night, but they do it randomly, several times a week.”

“Why?”

“You’re on their list. But I’ve told them your itinerary and cleared your working out there with them. They’re just doing their job. They won’t interfere with you. They won’t come in your house or bother you. Just go straight home and don’t do anything stupid in public.”

Bill was not a happy camper. He was not allowed to drink, or to be more accurate, he was not allowed to go to bars. He could drink if no one was around, if he was inside at home or inside at work. Still, it felt wrong being followed. It felt wrong  being watched. It all felt wrong all together.

Something else to worry about, he thought.

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