Dethm8, ep 3

“—don’t know exactly,” Fred was saying.

“Then how do you get in contact with her?”  The biker was leaning in, like he was really interested in what Fred had to say.  “How do you keep this place running?  Who takes care of payroll?”

“Well, I run the place for the most part.  And we only have about a dozen employees, but there’s a service that takes care of payroll.”

“How do they get paid?”

“I don’t know.” Fred threw his hands up and immediately apologized.  “And all I have is her phone number.  I know she’s my aunt and all and she gave me the run of the place, but that’s really the extent of our relationship.  We’re not really close.  I mean, I haven’t even seen her in… I don’t know—seven months or more?”

The biker stroked his mustache and nodded.

“So if you called her she’d pick up?”

“Probably.  Aunt Bedelia is weird.  Paranoid—she’s always thinking people are out to get—”  Fred bit his lip and leaned back.  The biker smiled.

“Yeah.  That’s the idea, friend.”

Gladys put her hand to her chest.  In her near thirty years, she’d never met the woman, but what these armed men wanted with a little old widower couldn’t come to any good. 

There was a yelp from near the rear of the restaurant that took everyone’s attention and a moment later another biker-type came in with three teenage boys.  One was that slow boy, Kelly Martin, who’d been sitting in a booth by himself a moment ago, the other two Gladys didn’t recognize.

Found these two lingerin’ outside and this ‘un tryin’ to sneak out the back way,” the new biker said.  He gave the taller new boy a shove, propelling them all forward.  He didn’t appear to be armed, but they all looked frightened enough.

“Everybody come on in,” the man with the gun said.  He turned and raised his voice to speak to everyone.  “As a matter of fact, everyone come on in.  Nobody next to a door.  I want one area to watch.”

A couple people grumbled, apparently Saul Kent was still enjoying his soup despite the goings on.  The big man by the door watched on with interest as everybody was herded together. 

“You ladies come on around and have a seat over here.”  The man with the gun knocked on the counter, looking at Gladys and Dusty.

“Can I—” Dusty jumped in.  “Can I clean her up?”  Everyone looked at Arlene.

“Sure,” the man with the gun said.  Dusty looked at the man who’d just spoken to her then looked at him.  “Uh, Bobby,” the biker at the counter said over his shoulder, “why don’t you escort the lady to the medicine cabinet?”

The one standing next to Dusty snarled at her and followed Gladys from behind the counter.

“—never get to have any fun,” she heard him mumble.  He switched spots with the other Bobby sitting on the stool, who went in the kitchen with Dusty.  They came out a moment later with the Bucket o’ Band-Aids.  Dusty set it on the counter in front of Arlene and took out the small bag of cotton balls and the hydrogen peroxide.  She doused several cotton balls and began swabbing Arlene’s face with them, one at a time.

“Close your eyes.”  Arlene obeyed.  She’d stopped chanting, but her mouth kept moving silently.

“Would she take your call?” the biker asked Fred.  He seemed to consider this a moment and shrugged.

“I don’t know.  I’ve never called her.  I mean, anything the Spoon needs I can buy myself.  I have access to money.  Do you want money?”

The biker rolled his eyes.

“Did we come in here and ask anyone to empty their wallets?  If you hadn’t noticed by now, we’re no ordinary thieves here.”

“Then what do you want?”

“I want… your aunt.  How do we get a hold of her?”

The biker was spinning the gun on the counter, almost absent-mindedly.  It would have been simple for Gladys to reach over and take it, but she somehow sensed he expected someone to try.  But the threat was implied.  Cooperate or someone would die.

“I have a number,” Fred said.  “I can try.”

The biker smiled.

“Good.”

Another biker accompanied Fred into the kitchen and the main one turned his eye to bloody Arlene.

“What the hell is your story, sister?”

 

In truth, Arlene had come out of shock a few minutes ago.  It had been a fog, clouding her mind, but had gradually cleared.  As she returned to herself, she sensed this other danger posed by the half dozen or so men who had come into the Spoon either before or after her—she wasn’t sure which.  Dealing with the greater danger outside was less immediate than what was going on around her.

She’d begun devising a plan without realizing it.  There were currently twelve patrons—no, eleven in the Spoon and she estimated high at eight bad guys.  There were four at the counter, one over near the back, one in the kitchen with Fred and—she took a chance and spun slowly around on her stool to look briefly behind her—two more; one by the door and one standing in the middle of the floor.  She mentally added a ninth for good measure.

They were even, so far as Arlene could see.  Gladys was like a hundred years old and so was Arnie or whatever his name was at the end and the senior citizens on the opposite side.  Even if they’d all been just as able-bodied as these bikers, the problem was there was no way to coordinate an effort.  To devise a plan, put it in place, and fend them off.  People naturally gave in.  It was how Arlene got to take the tail end of Dusty’s shift nearly every day.  Or how Gladys had at least halfway given in to the seating arrangements. 

No.  If there were a plan to be had it would have to fall on Arlene to put it together and execute it.  Maybe—maybe she could enlist Fred and another person.  She would have to neutralize the main one.  He looked about her size, but was at least in his late forties.  Arlene was active.  She was five-seven and a hundred thirty-five pounds.  She didn’t look it, but she was lean muscle and could hurt someone if it became necessary. 

But as for everyone else… Dusty was too skinny and Arlene had grabbed her arm once and felt nothing but bone and pillowy muscle.  She’d probably never thrown a punch in her life.

There were three teenage boys but two of them looked like they might try to hook up with the bikers.  The other… maybe him.  If there were time and she was able, Arlene would attempt to enlist him and Fred.

Fred was saying something and she inclined her ear.

“…must not be home,” he said.

“Don’t gimme that, man.  She’s in a wheelchair.  Homebound, if I hear it right.  You know where she lives?”

“No.”

“Hm.  Gonna have to talk about that.  Hey, Rocco, what’s that car doing?  Look out!”

Everyone turned around, Arlene included, in time to see some kind of silver car charging the front door.  It was coming so fast it looked like it would punch through.  The big man at the door was the last to turn and he flinched when the car was no more than a few feet away, but instead of crashing through, the car stopped instantly.  There was a sound like the breaking of a pane of glass and the big man bowed, throwing his arms forward.

Almost everyone stood.  There were several gasps and a couple screams and as a string of a few seconds seemed to stretch on forever.  Arlene stared at the big man, who seemed frozen in place.  He blocked out a significant portion of the car, but from what she could see of it, she knew she’d never seen anything like it.  It was low, no more than five feet at its highest point.  The wheel hubs were wing-like, almost like a Corvette, but these were much too sharp.  Almost like they’d been constructed for slashing as they passed by other vehicles.  Or maybe other people.  Arlene’s mind flashed back to the instant she’d seen the woman in the brown business suit and how the low front end had sliced through her legs just before the rest of her bashed into the hood and exploded. 

She didn’t remember the color then, but saw it was a brilliant silver she’d never seen before.  Then the car reversed quickly, peeling out of the lot and the big man cradled backward, landing on the floor with his legs up and arms curled around his middle.

Everyone gasped again and people shuffled back as if they would charge the back door.  Only Arlene remained where she was.  Almost everyone stood.  There were several gasps and a couple screams and as a string of a few seconds seemed to stretch on forever.  Arlene stared at the big man, who seemed frozen in place.  He blocked out a significant portion of the car, but from what she could see of it, she knew she’d never seen anything like it.  It was low, no more than five feet at its highest point.  The wheel hubs were wing-like, almost like a Corvette, but these were much too sharp.  Almost like they’d been constructed for slashing as they passed by other vehicles.  Or maybe other people.  Arlene’s mind flashed back to the instant she’d seen the woman in the brown business suit and how the low front end had sliced through her legs just before the rest of her bashed into the hood and exploded. 

She didn’t remember the color then, but saw it was a brilliant silver she’d never seen before.  Then the car reversed quickly, peeling out of the lot and the big man cradled backward, landing on the floor with his legs up and arms curled around his middle.

Everyone gasped again and people shuffled back as if they would charge the back door.  Only Arlene remained where she was.  Maybe she was still in shock, she supposed.  It seemed to her the normal thing to be at the moment would be panicked and frightened instead of detached and rational.  Up until this point, she’d supposed the bikers were with the mystery man, but considering he’d just killed one of them, that probably wasn’t likely.  But they weren’t exactly together to begin with.  She’d suspected a hang-looseness about them, a lack of practice for a better word.  Almost like the group of them had been rag-tag thrown together.  Maybe now that one of them was dead by the hand—or car of the mystery man their group would break down and be all the easier for her to eliminate.

She begin to take mental stock of the kichen cutlery.  If it weren’t on his hip, Fred kept a good-sized knife in a small drawer just off the side of the grill.  If she could mortally wound one of them that would demoralize them even more, but she’d have to do it in a way as to not draw suspicion to herself.  Arlene swiveled her head until she locked eyes with the only other person in the room who hadn’t stood.  The man-child who came in every day from four to six.

Why not? She figured.  He was a man like all the others.  While everyone was still frozen in shock, she got up and walked to the kitchen.

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