“We need to leave?” Julia exclaimed. “What do you mean, we?”
“Now,” Doran barked, already sliding out of the booth.
“Geez, all right, let’s get the check, and—“
She raised her arm to call their waitress over from her chat session with the other staff, but Doran grabbed it and physically hauled her from her seat. “Now.”
“Hey!” she shouted, jerking away from him. Surprisingly, he let go of her arm. “What makes you think I’m going anywhere with you?”
He growled impatiently and leaned toward her to keep his words private. “Those officers are looking for me, so I need your help to get out of here.”
“Are you a criminal?” she hissed back, her eyes wide. “You’re not A.W.O.L., are you?”
He glanced out the window again, seeing the two cops walking up to the door. “No, I’m not A.W.O.L. Or a criminal. Now let’s go.”
“I’m not gonna just let you kidnap me!”
“I’m not kidnapping you!” he exclaimed as quietly as possible. “I’m telling you that if these men try to apprehend me, I will have to kill them. I’m hoping you’ll do the right thing.”
That should have been the point to start fearing for her life, if there were going to be one tonight. And yet, when he spoke those words, that very matter-of-fact declaration of murderous intent, it was the first time he didn’t look angry or intimidating. He was pleading with her, begging her to help him. To help him evade arrest by two police officers who were apparently actively pursuing him, for whatever reason. Her night seemed to be quickly spiraling out of her control.
“Go to the restroom,” she said tiredly, slowly sitting back down. “Try to find a back way out and get to my car. I’ll watch for you from here.”
He immediately turned and headed for the restroom door in a far corner of the dining room, opposite the entrance. Julia remained in the booth, trying to look as relaxed and innocent as possible while still keeping an eye on the cops. They entered the diner just as Doran disappeared through the restroom door. They were younger, talking and joking with each other as they waited for the staff to approach them. To Julia’s surprise, they sat in a booth near the entrance and continued talking as one of the waitresses filled their coffee cups. They weren’t here for Doran; they were taking a break!
She glanced back over her shoulder toward the restrooms; no sign of Doran, of course, since she instructed him to get outside to her car. Whirling back around, she peered out the window to find a dark, massive form looming over her car. Looked like he found a back door. She hastily dug a ten dollar bill out of her damp bag and hurried to the front counter. “I’m sorry,” she said to the woman manning the register, dropping the bill in front of her. “My friend’s really not feeling well and just wants to get home.”
She was almost out the door by then. “Your bill was only four!” the woman called after her.
“Keep the change!” Julia replied as the door shut behind her. She crossed the parking lot to her car, picking her way around puddles. At least it had stopped raining for the time being. “They weren’t looking for you,” she spat as she fumbled with her keys, not bothering to look at him.
As expected, he gave no response. She unlocked her door and sat down, then reached across to open the passenger-side door as well. Why she didn’t just start the engine and gun it out of the parking lot was beyond her. She watched as he settled into the seat next to her, the car’s suspension system groaning under the strain. “What made you think they were?” she asked.
“Caught their radio frequency,” he grumbled, tapping his left ear. With her attention directed to it, she noticed a tiny black disc nestled in the opening of his ear canal before the car’s interior lights darkened. “Apparently someone called in our introduction as a possible carjacking and kidnapping.”
“Well…” she said, her eyebrows lifting to finish her sentence for her.
Doran’s head drooped, and he let out a frustrated sigh. “For the last time, I have no intention of harming you or stealing from you. I need your help.”
She snorted sarcastically as she started the car. “Yeah, I suppose now I have to drive you around to find a motel with an available room.”
“That’s not what I mean,” he replied grimly.
“What could you possibly need from me?” she exclaimed, exasperated, a they left the parking lot. “And how do you know I can help you after knowing me for a total of a half hour?”
He took a moment to answer her, though when he spoke, it wasn’t much of an answer at all. “Once we get somewhere where we can rest and talk without being overheard or watched, I’ll explain as much as I can.”
She was growing increasingly angry with this man who had forced himself into her life without warning. However, a tiny voice in the back of her mind remarked that tonight was the most interesting and exciting thing that had happened to her in a very long time. Though she kind of wanted to punch Doran in his bandages, she also found herself wanting to learn what this was all about. With deepening disbelief of her own actions, she exhaled heavily and turned the car back in the direction from which she had initially come that night. “I have a feeling I’m gonna need a drink. Your story had better be good. I’m risking my job for this.”