Matt hooked a right turn on State Road 183 and drove slowly down the two lane highway towards Ashland, Kansas. He didn't have any reason to go to Ashland, after all he had to pass right through Protection and Sitka to get there but he just had a good feeling about Ashland. Matt had left Hebron, Nebraska the day before freshly fucked and with a cool ten grand in his pocket. He had driven the rest of the day until he reached Hutchinson, Kansas then he stopped at a fleabag motel for the night. He woke early, showered and pulled out before sunrise and he hadn't stopped since. Matt was looking for just the right place and maybe this was it. He saw the sign on the outskirts of town, 'Ashland, Kansas Pop. 973' and he slowed down as he entered the small town. Damn, I'm hungry he thought and he started looking for a café, all these small towns always had a café on the main drag, kind of a gathering place to drink coffee and gossip. He spotted the greasy spoon and the empty parking space right in front and pulled in and parked. Matt walked in the front door and saw several tables full of locals as well as a couple of guys at the counter. He picked an empty seat and slid onto the stool.
The waitress saw him sit down and walked down the counter carrying a pot of coffee and stopped directly in front of Matt. "Can I help you mister?"
"Yea, coffee — black. Two eggs over easy and two pieces of toast, please."
"Alright." She poured him a cup of coffee and left with his order.
There was a newspaper on the counter next to Matt and he pulled it over and looked at the front page as he sipped on his coffee and that's when he saw it — September 25th. God damn it was his birthday and he hadn't even realized it, thirty years old today. Well I'll be dammed!
Matt Cain was many things in life and most of them were bad. He was a drifter, a thief, a conman but mostly he was a hustler. Matt was a high school drop-out but that didn't say anything about his intelligence, it had been measured during his brief stint in the Navy (They discharged him when he was caught with another sailors wallet in his locker.) and he had graded out with an IQ of over 140. He worked for two years as a waiter/bartender in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (The women were plentiful and easy but the hours and pay sucked.) then he moved on to Washington, D.C., where he took a position as a cab driver. But there was a hidden blessing in working those two 'people' oriented jobs because they revealed to him his true talents in life, Matt had a special sense about people, and especially about women. He could sit and talk with a woman and in no time flat sense her exact vulnerability and combined with his good looks, wit and charm they would fall into his bed quicker than Batman shows up at a crime scene. But it wasn't until he turned 25 that he realized that they would not only give him their unconditional love they would also give him their money. His current hustle took him over a year to refine but now he stuck to ripping off older women, usually over 60, widowed and living in small towns. They were the most vulnerable of all women because they were lonely, horny and had money. His approach varied from town to town but he usually picked a local church to attend, after all good widows always attend services. He stayed away from the Catholic churches for he had learned long ago that the women there were too religious to fall for his line, no Matt tended to go to the much more laid back churches like Lutheran, Methodist or similar churches to search for his victims.
The waitress, her name tag said 'Marcy, ' came back with his plate of eggs and a side dish of toast and set them down in front of him. She grabbed a rolled paper napkin with a fork, spoon and knife inside and handed them to Matt. "More coffee?"
She refilled his cup then said, "Never seen you around here mister."
Matt took a sip of coffee then buttered his toast. "Just got into town this morning."
"Oh, where from?"
"Wow, some trip. Whatcha doing here?"
It was time for the scam, the line. "Uh I'm a writer. I'm gonna do a story about the hardships of rural life in Kansas."
"Well mister, you sure picked the right spot on the map. Anyway I'm Marcy." She held out her hand.
He took it. "Matt. Matt Cain."
"Well Matt I have to get back to work but I suspect I'll be seeing you around town." That said she turned and walked back down the counter to the serving station, picked up two plates of food and walked them out to a table in the back of the café.
Matt picked the newspaper back up and opened it to the obits page and there just under the picture of the late Mr. Bob McLean were the names, addresses, phone numbers and times of worship of each church in Ashland, Kansas. Well, that was a start. Now he needed to find a place to stay, someplace private. He thumbed through the want ads until he saw an advertisement for a 'over garage room for rent' and he noted the phone number and address. Matt signaled Marcy and she walked over to his seat.
"Something else Matt?"
He showed her the advertisement. "You know anything about this place?"
"Sure that's Mr. and Mrs. Wilson's place, nice people and not real nosy either."
"Great, I think I'll drive over and scope it out." He paid his bill and got directions to the Wilson house from Marcy then left and drove out of town about a mile until he saw the sign for Cutter Lane, just a dirt road really, and he turned in and drove up to the Wilson house. Ten minutes later he had paid Mrs. Wilson for a month's rent and was moving into his new digs.
After he settled in his room Matt thumbed through the paper once again and selected the Lighthouse Baptist church because he found the name funny, Lighthouse. Christ here he was in the middle of the country headed for a church with the name of something you only saw near the ocean although he supposed the name was some sort of a euphemism for the Light showing the way to God's house. On Sunday Matt dressed in a nice pair of slacks, a long sleeved dress shirt, no tie, and a sport coat and was at the church fifteen minutes before services started. He sat in the back pew and watched all the parishioners filing in for services. He was looking for an older woman, alone or with another couple. He spotted one woman coming in alone, maybe 65 or so and was sizing her up as a potential mark then an older man rushed through the door and took her by the hand and they sat down in a pew. Oh well, he thought, I'll go to the after services coffee, there are always all the unattached women there, drinking coffee and eating the stale coffee cake someone baked and donated.
Services were finally over and Matt followed the rest of the parishioners to the back of the church to the reception area. He was heartily welcomed to the church by almost everyone and had just taken a bite of coffee cake when 'she' walked into the room. Matt watched her without trying to be obvious about it. Tall, maybe 5'9" or so, light blonde hair, pulled back into a ponytail, small breasts, more than likely a 32 or 34B he thought to himself. She was plain as the day, no makeup to hide her obvious Scandinavian heritage and wearing one of the plainest dresses Matt had ever seen. Still she was gorgeous and Matt was interested. He nudged the lady standing next to him and asked, "Who's that?" He nodded towards the new arrival.
"Oh that's Molly Anderson, the pastor's new wife."
"Oh, thanks." He turned back toward the last spot he had seen Molly and watched as she easily glided through the crowd, shaking the hands of all the women and smiling at the men. Strange he thought, Molly couldn't have been thirty yet and Pastor Anderson had to be in his late fifties. What had she seen in him?
He tried to not make it obvious but he moved furtively across the room until he was standing directly behind Molly. When she turned to speak with someone else Matt made sure that she bumped into his arm spilling coffee down the front of his shirt.
She was surprised that someone was standing so close to her, still she had caused the accident. "Oh gosh, I'm sorry Mr... Here let me help you clean that up."
"Matt, Matt Cain and I'll be just fine but thanks anyway."
"Nonsense! Let me help." She took her napkins and daubed at the front of his shirt. "You must be new in town Mr. Cain I don't believe that I've seen you before."
"Right you are Mrs. Anderson, I just arrived on Thursday."
"Please call me Molly, everyone does and what are you doing in Ashland Mr. Cain?"
"I'll call you Molly but only if you call me Matt and I'm here to write a story about life in rural Kansas."
"OK, Matt it is. Now tell me, who are you writing the story for?"
"Well I'm a free lance writer but I've got a friend who's an editor in Wichita that has promised to run the story if he likes the message."
"I see. Well what's going to be the message?"
"You know Molly I'm not sure just yet but I was thinking, as the wife of a pastor you know a lot of the town folks, would you be willing to sit down with me and talk about the life here in Ashland and maybe introduce me to some of the parishioners who seem interesting?"
"Me? Oh I don't think so Matt, I'm... well I just don't think that I'm interesting enough for your story and besides I don't want to be known as the town gossip."
.... There is more of this story ...