Malcolm folded the papers and sealed them in the envelope. He looked at the clock. The pickup would take place in the next thirty minutes. If he were late, all his preparations would be for naught.
But he had to be careful. They were watching him, he was sure of it. They had a tap on his phone line, and he had seen watchers in the neighborhood. The surveillance wasn’t continuous, though, and he felt sure he could slip through their net. They were overconfident, and they didn’t know he was onto them.
Malcolm hurried to the window at the end of the upstairs hallway. From there he could see the entire street without revealing himself.
Damn. Across the street, one of them was parked in a gray Acura. He was talking into a cell phone, and didn’t appear to be looking at the house, but Malcolm knew better. He was waiting for Malcolm to make a move, and there was less than half an hour left. He might need a backup plan.
The watcher closed the cell phone and started the car. He looked around, not letting his gaze rest on the house, then pulled away from the curb. Malcolm waited to make sure the man didn’t circle the block to catch him off guard, then he scanned the street for other watchers.
All clear! He hurried downstairs and opened the door a crack. He still saw no one, but they could be watching from concealment.
He forced himself to remain calm, and walked toward the street as casually as possible. He looked to the left, and his heart began pounding in his chest as he saw the small white truck approaching. The pickup was early, and he had nearly missed it.
He stuffed the envelope into the mailbox and raised the red metal flag. He turned away and hurried back to the front steps just as the mail truck pulled up.
“Mr. Walker? Hold up. I got something here you need to sign for.”
Malcolm froze, then turned slowly toward the mail truck. Don’t show fear, he told himself, as his heart tried to explode and his sweat turned acrid with panic. He signed his name on the form on the clipboard, and the mailman handed him a thick envelope marked with a government seal and dire warnings against use for unofficial purposes. He watched as the mailman retrieved the sweepstake envelope from the mailbox, then turned and shuffled back to the safety of his house. At least the entry would be postmarked with today’s date, the deadline.
Once inside, he collapsed into his chair and stared at the dark face of the TV until he could breathe almost normally. The envelope was half-crumpled in his fist, but he smoothed it the best he could. It was from the United States Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, just as he knew it would.
I have often said that the story idea is unimportant, and that a decent writer should be able to make a story from the most mundane of story ideas. I've suggested that even a trip to the mailbox could be written into a story. This is no masterpiece, but it was my "put up or shut up" challenge to myself.
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