It had been a long shift, but it was coming close to an end, much to my relief. Once I was done cashing in these last two tables, I’d be able to check out and go back to Dave’s place. But first, my last two tables needed to finish eating, so I could cash them out.
Astrid was behind the counter as usual, neatening up a few things. Business was fairly slow at the moment, which was common at this time of day, when the lunch crowd had gone home. In fact, the whole place would close up for the day, not long after I left. I was just thankful that I didn’t have to stay for closing today. Danielle would be the one to close up the front of the house, while the guys in the kitchen, would clean up the back.
Seeing that the customers at one of the tables had finished, I quickly went over and flashed my best smile. “Would you like me to clear your plates?” I asked, quickly following that with, “Would you be interested in any dessert? We have a great lemon merengue…”
They didn’t want any dessert, much to my disappointment, because Astrid was always pushing us to ‘upsell’ on the desserts. And as I’d learned during my time working here, any addition to the overall bill, usually ended in an increase in my own tips.
After I finished collecting the check from the last table, along with a decent tip, I was done for the day. But before I could leave, Astrid called out, “Pan, I have something for you…”
“Yes?” I asked, going up to the counter where she was still standing.
Astrid handed me a whole apple pie, smiling as she did so. “You and Jake enjoy this, but make sure you save a slice or two for my nephew.”
“Thank you,” I told her with a smile. “We’ll definitely enjoy this.”
I gave Astrid a smile and a nod, then waved to Danielle before hurrying out the door. As soon as I was out of the diner, I suddenly felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I’d always thought that one of the worst things about being an adult, would be having to go to work every day, and now I knew that I was right. I liked Astrid, Danielle, and the head cook Carlos, but other than that, I could have happily done without the diner.
When I’d been young, which now felt like a lot longer than it actually had been, Mom and Dad used to tell me to get a good education, so that I could get a good job when I grew up. Now, I’d grown up a lot faster than anyone had expected, and there had been no opportunity for an education.
“I wish I’d paid more attention,” I muttered with a sigh.
Then I froze, suddenly realizing that I wasn’t alone. I looked around the parking lot outside the diner, and saw a familiar figure standing there, watching me with a dark look.
“Tom,” I muttered, feeling a surge of concern, and even fear.
Tom hadn’t shown up to the diner again in the last week, not since Jake and I had taken that artifact away from him. But now, there he was, standing right outside the diner, just a short time before it was scheduled to close. From the look on his face and the way he began moving towards me, it was obvious that he’d been waiting out here for me.
“Where is it?” Tom demanded, pulling out a gun.
I had a gun in my pocket, but I couldn’t reach for it while Tom was pointing a gun at me. My heart was racing as I stared at the firearm, feeling a mixture of fear and anger. After all that time worrying about Kraesse and his people, I realized, that I should have been more concerned about other dangers.
“It’s MINE!” Tom snarled. “Where the fuck is it, bitch?”
“I threw it into Thompson lake,” I lied, knowing that he wouldn’t believe the real truth, even if I had been willing to tell it to him.
Though I’d never been to Thompson Lake, I’d heard about it a few times from different customers at the diner. Apparently, it was a great place to go fishing for trout, and it was fairly close.
“You’re lying,” Tom spat out, pointing the gun in my face. “No way would you throw something that valuable into the lake…”
“Valuable?” I responded with a sharp laugh. “You used it to rape women, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let anyone use that on me…”
Tom glared at me, looking pissed off and determined. However, from the smell coming off him, it was pretty clear that he was drunk as well. My guess, was that he’d used a bit of liquid courage to build himself up to this.
“It ain’t rape of the woman wants it,” Tom responded with a smug look. “And every woman I’ve been with definitely wanted it…”
I gave the creep a look of disgust. “If you have to use magic, to make someone want it, then it’s rape…”
With a snarl of anger, Tom punched me, yelling, “I ain’t no rapist…”
I staggered back with a sharp pain on my cheek, dropping the pie in the process. Then, I glared back at Tom, who still had the gun. I wiped the blood from my nose, really wanting to hit him hard, though I didn’t dare do anything now. I was afraid of the gun, having seen first-hand what that kind of weapon could do to a person. However, I was startled to realize that I wasn’t really afraid of Tom himself, just the situation. Compared to the people I’ve already dealt with, Tom was barely a threat. That realization helped me to calm down and focus.
“It looks like someone is rationalizing like crazy,” I said, my eyes remaining on the gun. “You’re not man enough to get a woman on your own, so you have to use magic to rape them…”
Tom snarled and threw another punch at me, seeming to ignore the gun in his hand. He’d done that the first time too, and I had a feeling that he’d rely on his fists more than a gun. This time, I reacted to block him, and then, without even thinking about it, I snapped my other hand out to grab his wrist, the one for the hand holding the gun, and pushed it away from me. Still operating more on instinct than anything else, I slammed my foot into his shin, knocking his foot out from beneath him and putting him completely off balance. A moment later, Tom hit the pavement face first, while I had his wrist pulled back behind him, forcing him to drop the gun.
“YOU FUCKING BITCH,” Tom screamed in pain. “I’M GONNA KILL YOU!”
“I don’t think so,” another voice said.
At that, I jumped back away from Tom, kicking the gun away from him in the process. I looked to the speaker and saw that it was Astrid, standing at the door to her diner with a shotgun in hand. It was pointed right at Tom.
“You fucking bitch,” Tom gasped, slowly getting back to his feet while rubbing the arm I’d twisted.
“I just heard you threatening to murder one of my waitresses,” Astrid exclaimed, glaring at Tom. “Give me one good reason not to blow your damn fool head off, right this instant.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Tom responded as his eyes darted to the gun. I could see the mental wheels turning, as he considered whether he could dive for the gun in time.
“Wouldn’t I?” Astrid demanded, narrowing her eyes.
Just to make sure that Tom didn’t get any stupid ideas, I finally pulled my own gun. He saw that and his widened under the realization that he was out of luck. While keeping my attention and gun on Tom, I carefully picked up his gun, then backed up towards Astrid.
“I don’t want any police involvement,” I quietly told Astrid, who nodded in understanding.
There was no doubt in my mind, that if the police showed up for any reason, they’d start asking a lot of questions, such as who I was. Considering the fact that I was trying to keep a low profile and avoid attention, that would be a very bad thing indeed.
“Tom Adams,” Astrid stated with a cold gleam in her eyes. “You are no longer welcome in my diner. If I see you around here ever again, I won’t hesitate to shoot your ass.”
Tom glared at Astrid, and then at me. “Fine,” Tom exclaimed a moment later. “Your food sucks anyway…”
A moment later, Tom took advantage of his second reprieve to run off as fast as he could. Jake and I had given him a chance before, and after trying this, I wasn’t in the mood to be merciful. Unfortunately, even letting the cops deal with him, would only create more problems for us.
“Now,” Astrid said, turning her attention to me. “Why in the world was that man so interested in you? I don’t think he’d be involved with those people who were after you…”
“I’m pretty sure he isn’t,” I responded with a sigh. Remembering Astrid’s ability to sense BS, I decided to stick close to the truth. “I found out that he’s been slipping a little something to various women in order to make them sleep with him. I only figured it out, after he tried it on me…”
“Damn,” Astrid gasped, her eyes going wide. “I always knew there was something suspicious about him…”
“Well,” I continued with a wry grin, “I stole his supply and got rid of it, which is why he was so pissed…”
Astrid nodded her understanding. “That makes sense.” Then she told me, “Just let me know if he shows up again. As it is, I think I’ll put a few words in some ears, so the ladies in this town know to avoid him, and the police know to keep a close eye on him.” When I gave a start at that, she quickly added, “I’m not giving them any names or specifics, just telling them to keep a look out…”
“Good idea,” I admitted with a sigh.
“Now,” Astrid mused, looking in the direction Tom had run off in. “I wonder what that boy is going to do next.”
I chuckled faintly at that as I answered, “Probably go for a long swim in Thompson Lake.” Then, at Astrid’s look of curiosity, I explained, “That was where I told Tom, that I’d dumped his stash.”
Astrid chuckled at that. “From your expression, I’m guessing that isn’t where you actually dumped it.”
“Nope,” I agreed. “Where I dumped that garbage, no one is ever going to get their hands on it again.”
“Well,” Astrid said with a smirk, as she turned to go back into the diner, “I hope that boy drowns while looking for that trash.”
“Me too,” I responded with a sigh. “Me too…”
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