three

It was a quick walk to Jack’s Place, a diner where Sarah had breakfast most Sundays. She walked in, took off her ski coat, and hung it on the coat-rack near the door. She walked past the Seat Yourself sign and grabbed her regular booth. Taking off her leather jacket, an affectation that became important when she had moved to Anchorage, she threw it on the booth seat, and slid in next to it. The red leather squeaked as she sat on it, and she felt the familiar dips where hundreds of butts had pressed the padding down.

“The same, hon?” said Edie, the waitress who looked about 60 but was probably more like 50.

“yeah, sure, thanks, Ede” said Sarah, not even bothering to read the menu. It hadn’t changed in eons according to the wait staff, and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in as long, either.

Edie flipped over the coffee mug and poured a hot steaming mugful of the watery stuff. Sarah added in one cream cup, and one fake sugar. She sipped.

“ahhhhh.”

Edie smiled as she took the menu form the table and went to the next table. “What’ll it be, hon?”

Sarah had been coming here for the last 7 years, give or take. She’d moved up to Anchorage with her dumbass boyfriend, who swore there was a land of riches up here. He’d heard of the high pay that fishermen made, and was planning on tour guiding on the cruise ships in the summer, and. And. And.

It was always “and” with that guy. They’d lasted an entire winter together, until he never came back from one of his commercial fishing trips. She’d spent a lot of time crying, and eating Ben N Jerry’s, and drinking whiskey, and lying on the couch staring. Almost a year and 40 pounds later, she’d begun looking for a job, deciding that one place was as good as another to be depressed. She’d been in Anchorage ever since.

Her breakfast came — two scrambled eggs, wheat toast, and patty sausage. side of hash browns — and she devoured it. When she was finished with the food and about 3 more cups of the brown water in the mug, she went and grabbed the Pressed, a local newsprint rag with local “indie” culture. Since she nominally considered her self indie, she read it. Mostly the Dan Savager column, which she found hilarious, in a sad sort of way.

She was deep into the “my gay boyfriend likes so fuck dogs” letter when the gunman came in.

He looked dirty. He smelled dirty, even from way back in her booth. His hands shook, and probably not only from the cold. His face looked like a caricature of a native guy. He looked scared, like he’d sat outside the diner screwing up his courage and was forcing himself through this now. All this Sarah saw in a moment, before he actually got to the cash register.

Sarah didn’t think he was the smartest guy around, what with picking Sunday morning – the busiest day of the week and time of day – for his heist. He probably didn’t even pick it, she thought.

Most of the other people in the place hadn’t even given him a second glance. The people sitting nearest the door and cash register looked frozen, some of their food halfway to their mouths, like hovering insects, unaware of imminent doom.

He tottered a bit as he moved toward the register. He fumbled in his pocket and suddenly his face changed. He was a hardened criminal, just like that. He pulled out a small, dirty gun and aimed it at the register.

Edie was sorting checks at the register. She slowly raised her eyes and head up to see who was waiting, her eyes narrowing with a kind of calculating surprise. Sarah knew that look. She’d seen it on her mother, on her boyfriend the fisherman, on any number of city dwellers who had no where to go and nothing to lose. The gunman looked strung out enough to shoot, thought, regardless of Edie’s world-weary ways.

There was no thinking about it. Sarah sized up the situation, and the next thing she knew she was running toward the gunman. Everyone and everything around her seemed to slow down. The way the gunman’s eyes widened in slow motion shock as she moved up on him. He wasn’t much larger than she was, and she was moving FAST. She didn’t have time to figure out what she was going to do, let alone how she was running so swiftly, before she slammed into him, grabbed him around his waist, and carried him with her through the door into the waiting cold.

“Ice” she thought, as soon as she hit the parking lot. Her booted feet flipped up into the air and she and the gunman went careening toward the wall opposite the diner door. She thought she saw his gun fly out in the opposite direction as he threw his hands out to break his own fall, but she couldn’t be sure. They both slammed into the brick wall of the neighboring business, and bounced off. She spun off on the ice, hit a parking berm and rolled to a stop. The erstwhile robber spun out into the street. A big SUV rolled right over him, crushing him to death. She saw blood burst from his mouth and he rolled over and over. The SUV slid into a parked car as it tried, too late, to avoid the spinning gunman that it had just rolled over.

Sarah got up to her knees and vomited up her breakfast. A crowd was gathering from the diner, just outside the door. All were focused on the accident and dead criminal. All of them except Edie, who was looking right at Sarah. Edie pointed away from the scene of the accident, mouthed the word, “run,” and pointedly looked back tot he street in front of the diner.

Sarah found a patch of gravel to get some traction, and sped away, toward home.

—-

“You got the stuff?”

“Yeah. Here.”

“Nice.”

The two men stared at each other across the distance of one Chicago airport seat.

“So, what did you find out?”

“It’s right there. Read it”

“Jesus, man, just tell me. What does it say?”

“It says, Mr. Patient, that the nanotests were successful.”

“Sheeit. Thank the gods.”

“Yeah.” The grey-haired man chuckled, “all three of them.” He sobered up and said, “but there were problems.”

The much younger man was almost a mirror image of the older man in his dark blue suit and light blue tie. His own expression hardened, and he said, “what?”

The older man cringed a bit. “They got out. Not all of them, but enough to infect…”

“…Jesus Christ,” interrupted the younger man. “that’s not good.”

“No, it isn’t. But at least…”

“Yeah?”

“…they got out in the middle of nowhere.”

“Where?”

“Alaska.”

“Oh, well, then who cares? No one there ‘cept the damn Eskimos, right?”

“Yep.”

“Course, we’ll need to go get them.”

“Yep.” The older man sighed. He knew what this meant. He knew how obsessed Steve, the younger man, could get. And if Steve wasn’t his boss, by god he could make it rough.

Joseph sighed again. “Well, I’ll go get the tickets.”

“Ok, then.” Said Steve. “I’ll have them send us the gear. Probably some jackets, too.” This time, his chuckle wasn’t even close to mirthful.

—-

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