The Ihop was bustling with all kinds of people they were not used to associating with. There were scantily clad strippers with all sorts of unseemly types. The restaurant was full of people. The entryway was slick and had a large triangular yellow caution sign warning of slipping on the wet floor. There were waitresses running from tables to the kitchen. A couple of bus boys were sitting in the corner of the place smoking cigarettes with their bucket of dirty dishes waiting for a table to clear.
“Hey! Y’all can just take a seat anywhere.” A large gal boomed from a corner booth where she was sitting with a group of what they assumed were strippers, pimps and drug dealers. The lady’s shirt of her uniform was in imminent danger of shooting one or more of the buttons across her bust through the restaurant and taking out someone’s eye. There was a couple of girls sitting atop the table of a few older gentlemen. Sarah could see they weren’t wearing panties. They had never come upon a group of people on this side of society. A grizzly, old biker type attempted to reach for Sarah’s backside. She intertwined her arm with Jeff’s as they made their way to an empty spot at the counter. The mingling of the multiple conversations created a loud din, making it hard for Jeff and Sarah to hear each other.
Jeff almost didn’t hear his cell phone ringing. He removed it from his belt and before he could answer it, the call was dropped. “Probably the kids.” Jeff responded to Sarah’s nervous glare. “Or maybe even just a wrong number. I know you’re scared but you can stop shaking. It’s rattling the counter and driving me nuts. Just stop it.”
The counter where they were seated was kind of sticky on the edge. The condiments looked disheveled and dirty. The box for the sugar packets was upside down and packets of sweeteners were scattered underneath it. The salt shaker was interspersed with rice to keep it from clumping together.
“I can’t help it. This whole thing is just. . . Just , so damned unnerving! Why in the hell would that guy do something like that? And now what do we do?” Sarah wrapped her feet into the bars at the bottom of her seat to keep from bouncing her legs.
“He probably got pissed off at you for calling him and just wanted to scare you. I’m sure it will all blow over and we can go to another hotel and get a room there. He couldn’t possibly find us.” Jeff righted the overturned sugar container and put the better looking packets back in. He shifted in his seat and removed his leather jacket, putting it on the back of his chair. “Come on. Loosen up. Get comfortable. It’s okay. We’re fine. We’re safe now. You can relax. There are a ton of people in here. We’ll be alright.”
A waitress came over and set two glasses of water in front of Jeff and Sarah. She was frightfully thin. Her face was bright and full of youth but her hands gave away her age. She had her bright red hair up in a tight bun with a lone strand of hair falling behind her ear. “So, do you two know what you want? Or do you need a little time?”
Jeff looked at Sarah. “You figured something out to eat?” He put his hand on hers and gave her a reassuring half smile. He looked at her soft graying brown hair as it clung to both sides of her face. Her hazel eyes were worn with worry. He watched as tiny droplets of water followed the contours of her face, through every laugh line and over every tiny wrinkle they traveled reminding Jeff of how beautiful he had found her when they first met.
“I know we didn’t get that much to eat but I’m not that hungry, now.” Sarah fiddled with the paper napkin ring around the silverware. She rubbed the sticky substance on the paper ring back and forth pushing it from one edge of the ring to the other, in an attempt to avoid taking in more of her surroundings. She didn’t like this place at all. The people were frightening. They were so loud, so filthy, and just not what she was wanting to be around. She just couldn’t do as Jeff told her. She couldn’t let go the terrifying moments they had just escaped from. The group of heathens that surrounded her here weren’t helping. She knew this was a bad idea. She just wanted to go home and erase all this disgusting crap. This whole scenario was unsettling. It was like a party atmosphere in the restaurant. It felt to Sarah like attending her own wake or something. She really didn’t know. It wasn’t her element. These weren’t her type of people. All of this and Jeff wants to eat.
“Let’s just get some French fries with cheese and bacon on them and a side of sour cream? I know you’d eat that if we got them.” He looked at the waitress “Is that something you could do for us?”
The waitress‘s hair held firm except for the strand that flew back and forth with the nodding of her head. “Oh, sure, doll. I can make that happen. No biggie, here. You two want something to drink besides water?”
“I’ll have a coffee. I ain’t gonna sleep tonight, anyways. You Sarah?”
“I think I’ll do coffee, also. I won’t be able to sleep either. After all of this.” she leaned on Jeff and he put his muscular arm around her. Sarah watched intently as the waitress turned, grabbed the pot of coffee and poured them each a cup. Sarah got lost in the wisps of steam coming from the pot and their cups of coffee.
Despite, claiming they weren’t hungry, they devoured their fries and started thinking about where they were going from the restaurant. Jeff looked at Sarah and said “The map on my phone shows that there’s a DoubleTree hotel in a suburb just twenty miles from here. I know you would have preferred we went there first.”
“Well, yeah! We wouldn’t have had to run from some crazy psycho killer. But I guess that’s over, now. I’m ready to get some sleep and get away from this bullshit. This has been too much for me. I really just want to go back home. This was a stupid idea in the first place.” she began to tear up.
“It’s alright. The worst is over and we’ll get a room at the DoubleTree and relax. I wish our waitress would bring our check. I wonder wear she went?” His firm hand rubbed Sarah’s back as he began to visually peruse the restaurant for their waitress.
The big lady that had told them they could sit anywhere they wanted, got up from her seat and walked toward Jeff and Sarah. Her perfume got to them before she did. “Your ticket has already been taken care of.”
“What?” Jeff asked as he looked puzzlingly at Sarah.
“Yeah, Troy paid your bill before he left.”
“Who’s Troy?” Sarah questioned.
“He’s just one of our regulars.”
“You said he already left, right?” Jeff was trying to get some more information about their mysterious benefactor.
“Yeah, honey. He said you two looked like a pair of drowned rats trying to escape a hungry cat. So he paid your tab.”
“He didn’t need to do that.” Jeff pulled his wallet out to try and pay for their meal. “We’re just fine.”
The large lady took her plump hand and stubby fingers and pushed Jeff‘s wallet away back towards him. “Your money’s no good here. I told you he paid your bill. Don’t sweat it, Troy’s got plenty of cash to do what he pleases.”
“Jeff, let’s just go. I’m really beat and I just want to get out of these clothes and sleep.” She tugged at Jeff’s jacket like a child desperate for a different destination. Sarah turned towards the door and noticed a dark figure near their bike. “Jeff, someone’s by the bike. We need to go.”
They both raced out to the bike. Cars whizzed back and forth silhouetted in the night, splashing water onto the curb next to the parking lot they stood in. They searched for the figure Sarah claimed to have seen at the bike but could find no one around. “You really are tired. You’re seeing things. Let’s go.” Jeff placated Sarah as he rubbed his hand on Sarah’s jacketed back. He jumped on the bike.
Sarah jumped on the bike behind Jeff. There were two loud bangs from behind Sarah. She thought the bike backfired and leaned into Jeff. She felt his phone vibrating on his belt. She pulled it off and handed it to Jeff. He gripped the phone and looked puzzlingly into the street as he recognized the voice on the phone.
“How was supper?” their tormentor asked.
“Who is this?” two more loud bangs. Jeff knew they didn’t have anything to do with the bike. He began to stiffen as he attempted to discover the identity of the stranger on the phone. “Seriously, who are you?”
“You’ll know soon enough.” and the call dropped.
“We’ve got to go!” Jeff put his helmet on and they zipped on the streets in attempt to make it to their new destination. The streets were nearly deserted as they made their way quickly down one street and then another towards peace and rest. They were slick with rain water and Jeff did his best to control his balance on the bike and keep them upright.
Instantly, Sarah felt an electric heat expand through her back into her shoulder. She screamed. Jeff turned down an alley behind a gas station. The alley was dark and it was difficult to make anything out. Jeff quickly jumped off the bike after he brought it to a sharp stop by a dumpster behind the gas station. Jeff reached into a saddle bag on the bike’s right side and got a flashlight to examine Sarah with. He could feel her terror and pain in her scream. He wanted to be strong for her but he was beginning to fill with dread and struggled to figure out how they were going to survive this.
“What’s wrong?” Jeff turned the flashlight on to look at Sarah. He noticed that there was something oozing from her back on the left side just to the right of her shoulder blade “Oh, my God! You’re bleeding!” he began to fumble with the latches on their pack, trying to find something to wrap her wound with to try and stop the bleeding. There was so much blood coming from the wound. Now, Jeff was very scared. He tried to control his emotions to keep Sarah calm.
“It burns, Jeff! It burns! My shoulder is on fire! What happened?” Sarah’s voice was trembling. He knew she was hurt bad. They had to get help.
“I think you’ve been shot! I need you to get your jacket off. So I can get a look at it.”
“AWWW!’ she screamed. “I can’t get it off. It hurts so bad! Just call 911! We can’t do this by ourselves. This guy whoever he is, is insane!” she began shivering and shuddering. Her face was going white as the blood was draining from her wound. Her body felt so heavy. It was so difficult for her just to stand. She wanted desperately to lay down. If she could just lay down and take a short nap she thought to herself she would feel better. It was even beginning to feel difficult to breath. She realized she was slipping away.
“Oh God! I don’t know where we are! Where the hell is this? My I-phone isn’t giving me a location. It still shows searching. Oh fuck! This is crazy! Let’s just wrap it up and try to stop the bleeding.” Jeff tried to calm her and reassure his wife but he was worried. He could see it. He could feel it. He was losing her. He felt her grip on his shoulder weaken.
“Okay, just hurry. I don’t fee. . .” The world spun around her and with that she dropped to the ground.
A set of headlights shined down the alley at the two of them. Jeff began waving his arms to get the attention of the driver for help. He was torn between running to the vehicle and getting down on the ground and holding Sarah as she slipped in and out of consciousness. When he noticed the car was coming towards them he went back to Sarah and knelt down to hold her in his arms. Continuing to wave the driver closer to them.
“It’s okay, baby. It’s going to be alright. Help is coming. Help is on its way. Hang on, baby. Hang on. You can’t . . .”
Bang. The slug seared through Jeff’s scalp into his brain. It was over.
“Call me late, messing with my bizness. Troy don’t suffer no fools.” the man on the end of the phone said as he kicked Jeff’s lifeless body over on top of Sarah. He stepped over the two and shot a final bullet into Sarah’s forehead. Ending it all.