Judgment was near. It would be swift and painful, I was sure. An angry shopping cart has the strength of ten Orangutans. Do them wrong and they tear your arms off. Yet I did not run. And there had been plenty of chances to escape. I needed to accept responsibility. I wanted to be punished. The truth came out:
“The operator said the tracking device we found on Barry was purchased over a year ago with a credit card belonging to Mike McGuire,” Rich announced.
The room may have gasped. I was feeling too relieved to notice. The shame and guilt had driven me crazy. To be rid of the secret was a step closer toward feeling at peace.
“The operator said he bought eight trackers, total,” Rich added.
“Is it true? Was it you?” a cart named Mario asked me.
I nodded, solemn. “Norwich had grown tired of you all. You’re too care free, don’t live by their rules. Or any rules. Free love and free corners for all. Well, you don’t fit their picture – our picture. In fact, to us, you represent the worst of everything. Your life, always on the run and in the wind, seems unproductive and ugly. And it was only a matter of time before we locked you up in a parking lot for good. I didn’t want to see that happen. I thought there was a better solution for everyone.”
“So you just got rid of our friends?” asked Mario Cart, now visibly angry, cage rattling.
“Yes. I heavily drugged Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan, Bernard and Barry and shipped them on overnight freight trucks to different cities across the country. Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Oakland. I sent Pocky and Owen to Las Vegas, because I knew they had family there. I figured if respected shopping carts started to go missing and were feared dead, then all the rest of you would get scared and leave town, too. Find a place where you fit in.”
“I get it. But why track us?” Barry finally asked.
“Because I love you, and wanted to make sure you were all right. When your signal died, Barry, I left for New Orleans to find out if you were all right. When I couldn’t find you I feared the worst and hit rock bottom. By the time you found me face down in the French Quarter the guilt had nearly eaten me alive.”
“Along with a few rats,” Barry added coldly. “You tracked us to make sure we weren’t coming back.”
“I guess that’s true, too,” I admitted, sadly. Mario Cart then pulled out a shiv made from a toothbrush. “You feet-having scumbag. The devil’s gonna put you on wheels. I hope he fills you with Natty Ice and diapers like us and pushes you to the hottest corner of hell.” He rolled forward in an instant and stuck me deep.
On the ground passing out, losing blood.
“I didn’t kill that shopping cart from Sherburne,” I said. “I don’t know who did.”
“Probably a copy cat. Some cart-hater taking it a step further than you did. Where are the others,” Barry asked sharply.
“I only did what I thought was right,” I said, ignoring him.
“Where are the others?” he asked again, louder.
“I didn’t tell you the truth until now because I wanted to make sure the other carts were all right first, and that they made it home,” I said, starting to pass out. “I wanted to redeem myself before you killed me.”
“Where are they!” Barry yelled a final time, shaking me.
I handed him a bloodied piece of paper. It was a password to the TrackUsense database: sh0pc4rt.
He ran over to Rich’s built-in laptop, typed in the information. A few seconds later a smile came across his face, he said nothing.
“They’re on their way home,” I said, voice weak. “They’re all OK. Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan, and Bernard. Well, Bernard almost got used as an outdoor grill in Houston I guess, but other than that it sounds like they take nice care of their carts in other places. I used my life savings to have them rounded up and shipped back. That’s why you had to pay for everything. Sorry you had to sell yourself, man. Sorry for everything. ”
“If only you could’ve learned to sooner,” Barry said, walking out the door. “Before it came to all this.”