They stopped at the hardware store and she made arrangements with the chatty owner to pick up Twix’s food last. She also traded an oil pod for a pair of work gloves and looked at the camp stoves.
“Why don’t you just make a fireplace in your tree?” Grigori demanded. “Anyone who can coat a tree in metal can make a wood stove, for that matter.”
“I don’t know how to make a stove, and I’m afraid I’d burn down my tree or die of smoke poisoning. We had a neighbor who lost their house from a chimney fire.”
“Ask that F&R dude how to make one. He likes you.”
She wrinkled her nose and calculated how much it would take to buy propane. “I’m not going there.”
“Look, I can make you a hobo stove out of a gallon tin can for now. Save the bucks for food; I know you’re not loaded.”
He looked over her worn clothes, nodding to the peeling sole of her boot. “You need to replace those, and eventually you’ll want heat in your tree. The winters get cold, and it’s no fun huddling in sweaters. You can ask the cute fire girl how to make a stove.”
“She’s too old for you.”
“Whatever. I’ll make the hobo stove for you today; it will probably last longer than the propane junker. You can buy the can of beans; Mom likes baked beans, but chili will do. Do you have a cooking pot? We can make one out of another can if you like.”
“What’s a hobo stove?”
The store sold a limited amount of bulk canned goods, so Grigori traced a rectangle on the bottom of a can. “You cut out a hole for the sticks and make a row of vent holes on the top. The pan sits on top of the can like a little stove, and the fire cooks your food. Slick, huh?”
It sounded chintzy, but she couldn’t argue with cheap. “Don’t make me regret this,” she warned, selecting a small pot and a frying pan, and wicks for homemade pickle jar lamps. At least she could use acorn oil for the lamp. She bought trail mix, jerky and some dehydrated camper’s food over Grigori’s protests. “I know it’s expensive, but sometimes I have to eat and I won’t have time or energy for cooking.”
Honestly, he nagged like an old woman.
She packed her stuff into Twix’s saddle bags and headed to the grocery, where she picked up ice, staples and some delicious smelling bread. She didn’t worry about anyone stealing her stuff or Twix while she was inside, since no one in their right mind bothered a Black Adder.
She handed Grigori a carton of juice and a doughnut while she ate hers. “You’ll have to jog on the way back in. I don’t want to linger when I’m hauling stuff home.”
“Maybe you’d like an escort,” a man said, and she turned to scowl at Kjetil. He didn’t have the rifle today, but he did have two guns and a tactical knife. His black t-shirt and blue jeans made her think he was off duty. “Are you following me?”
“Yes,” he said without embarrassment. “I talked with one of our EMTs, and she had an idea. Thanks to her, I have a solution to your fainting problem.” He showed her a bracelet. “It’s a medic alert bracelet that monitors your vital signs. It will buzz you when you’re approaching your limit.”
Juniper looked at it dubiously. “It looks like a tracking device.”
“You could think like that. You could also assume that we’re already keeping tabs on your location. You’re a Person of Interest. Get over it.”