Operation Stingray                        Part 1 // PG. 3 of 3

 

     “What the fuck did you just show me?” I said.

    “That's not even the half of it,” Brian said. “Pretty soon after I saw that video, I started talking with LaFarge. And that's when things really got weird.”

     The waiter stepped up to the table again. Brian waved him off. “We still need a few minutes,” he said.

     “I'm sorry sir, but there's a phone call for you.”

     Brian frowned. “It must be LaFarge. I told him I was meeting you. Wait here.”

    Brian followed the waiter into the back of the restaurant. I sat there rubbing my temples. I was no longer in the mood to listen to conspiracy fantasies, and my head was filled with a slowly splitting ache. I decided that I would excuse myself when Brian came back.

     I looked out the window at the protest. A waifish girl with blonde dreadlocks and a knit sweater was reciting slam poetry about the evils of greed. The ineffectiveness of it all would have been comical if it hadn’t been so sad.

     The waiter walked by again, and I touched him on the arm. “Listen, I'm afraid I'm not feeling well, and I'll have to step out. Please tell my friend I'm sorry.”

     “Not a problem, sir. Will your friend be arriving soon?”

     “No, I mean my friend who was just here. The one you took back for the phone call.”

     The waiter wore a puzzled expression. “I'm sorry, sir, I'm not sure what you mean.”

   The waiter unflinchingly stared at my confusion.“You've been sitting by yourself since you arrived.”

     Was this kid messing with me? “That's not funny,” I said. I stood up and walked to the back of the restaurant. “Brian,” I called. “Hey Brian, are you back here?” I turned down the short hallway that held the phone and the restrooms. The space was empty.      I checked the men's room. Nothing.

    I walked back to the front of the restaurant. “Okay, cut it out kid,” I said to the waiter. “Where's my friend?”

     “I'm sorry sir. I don't know who you're referring to.” I felt eyes on me and I looked around. The rest of the waitstaff were all standing perfectly still, starting at me with blank expressions. The waiter stepped toward me. “But there is a phone call for you,” he said. “Please follow me to the back.” The waitstaff advanced on me.

     There was a thunderous crash as a brick smashed through the plate glass window at the front of the restaurant. I looked out the hole and saw that the peaceful little protest had turned savage. Protesters were smashing windows and cars and attacking passersby. The poet was standing in the middle of the street, staring into the restaurant with a crazed grin. We locked eyes for a moment before a police cruiser smashed into her, sending her flying in a cloud of red mist.

The restaurant erupted into chaos. Diners attempted to flee, knocking the waitstaff aside. I grabbed Brian's manila envelope from the table and jumped out the open window.

     Police officers flooded the scene. They fired tear gas and beat the protesters bloody with batons. But it was all wrong. They came too quickly, almost immediately as soon as the protest had turned violent. As though--as though they had been waiting for it to happen.

     I sprinted home and bounded up the stairs to my apartment. I flung the door open. Lindsay was slicing tomatoes in the kitchen. She gasped when I burst into the room. I slammed the door behind me and locked it.

     “Jesus, honey, is everything alright?” she said.

     “I don't know. We have to call the cops. Something happened to Brian.”

     “What? What happened?”

     “He just disappeared. He went to get a phone call, then the waiters...” My head was throbbing and I collapsed onto the couch.

     Lindsay ran to me. “Honey, calm down. Just breathe. Everything's going to be fine, okay? Just breathe.”

     I sat up, and she stood behind the couch. Her hand on my back made me feel better, and I relaxed a little. “You're right. I just...I just need to think. I don't even know where to begin,” I said.

     I looked down at the manila envelope in my hand. I opened it and saw another, smaller envelope inside. I pulled it out and saw that the words “If anything happens to me” were written on the front.

     “Just calm down,” Lindsay said, rubbing my shoulder gently. “Whatever it is, we're going to figure it out.”

     I touched her hand and looked up at her reflection in the TV screen. “Thank you,” I said, smiling.

     I looked back down at the envelope. I opened it and pulled out a stack of papers. On the top there was one with a single word written in black marker:

     RUN

     I looked up at Lindsay's reflection. She was raising the knife above her head, ready to plunge it into my back.

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H. K. Reyes

SCIENCE FICTION & HORROR