It was a cold rainy night. He stood, watching his underlings finishing the job. Silently observing their movements, he felt a strange sense of sadness mixed with blistering fury. Though he had not been the one to deal the death blow, cleaning up the mess was par for the course.
“Boss, he’s in the trunk. What should we do?”
“Lock the trunk up tightly. What you do next is up to you.”
“Understood,” the underling replied.
Turning his back on the scene, he walked to his waiting vehicle. Getting in the backseat, he heaved out a sigh. Loosening his tie, he slumped in the seat.
“Boss, what happened?”
“Another one of our men was killed.”
The man in the front seat gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. “How many does that make?”
“Three, in the last two weeks.”
“Sir, when will this end?”
“Once we figure out who is doing this, then we will end this madness swiftly.” He attempted to be as reassuring as possible, but deep down he really had no idea how much longer the situation would last. In truth, he wasn’t even sure where to start looking. “Let’s go home.”
For the moment, he didn’t want to think about the problem at hand. However, the reality of the issues at hand wouldn’t allow him to rest. “Damn it,” he muttered.
At the same time, she walked down the dark street, letting the rain pelt her clothes. What she just witnessed was too much for her heart to bear, and she ran away before any words could be exchanged.
The buzzing in her pocket made her halt her steps briefly. Checking the screen, the name on the display made her flinch with sadness. Stuffing it back in her pocket, she continued on her way home.
Crossing the street, headlights turned the corner directly into her path. Gasping, they stopped abruptly. ‘This is it,’ she thought.
“Get out of the road!” a male voice called from the driver’s seat.
Too scared to move, the rain overhead ceased. “Are you all right?” a deep voice asked.
Gathering the courage to look up, she saw a pair of beautiful, chocolate brown eyes. “Wha--, um, yes. Thank you. Sorry for the trouble.” A deep blush came across her cheeks.
Walking away quickly, the man caught up to her, forcing her around, thrusting the umbrella into her hand. “Take it.”
Their eyes met for a moment, until he walked back to his waiting vehicle. Watching it disappear into the night, she couldn’t help but wonder who the mysterious man was and why he was so kind. Self-pity swirled in her gut for a moment, as she wondered why she deserved kindness in the first place.
She took a deep breath, trudging the rest of the way home.
Unlocking the front door, she shook the umbrella out into the hallway, so the carpet could soak up the water. When she closed the door, her eyes settled on it for a moment. “How am I supposed to give this back to him?” she muttered to herself.
Putting it out of her mind, she decided to take off her wet clothes and take a shower. At the same moment she was about to step in, the doorbell rang. She ignored it, but then a fist beating on the door caused her to alter her course back to the front door.
Firmly closing her bathrobe, she opened the door seeing the one person she didn’t want to see standing there.
“What do you want?” she asked, avoiding eye contact.
“Please let me explain, Allara. It wasn’t what it looked like.”
Allara squeezed her eyes shut, recalling the incident that took place. “Don’t give me that, Kai. What I saw was exactly what it looked like. So, please go away.” She attempted to close the door on him, when he held it open with his foot.
“Not until you let me speak.” His tone had taken a dark turn, making Allara flinch in fear. “I still have things to say.”
“Go away, Kai,” Allara said, still trying to close the door.
“Hmph. Fine, I’ll go for now. But I’ll be back.”
Slamming the door shut, she locked the deadbolt and doorknob. As she slid down the door in despair, Allara wondered what would become of herself now that she was alone again. The more she thought about it, the more her nerves became frayed with the idea of loneliness.
Finally peeling herself off the floor, she set on her initial intention to shower and try to push her thoughts elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Allara’s mind was unable to switch off. Even long after her warm soak in the shower, her mind was a constant stream of television channels broadcasting the worst possible scenarios. Covering her head with the comforter, even the sounds of the city outside her window were not enough to lull her sleep.
Down to the final straw, Allara remembered the cold brown eyes of the strangers who loaned her the umbrella. Somehow, though his demeanor was rough, she saw a small amount of kindness in his actions. That brief interaction made her smile.
After long hours of trying sleep, Allara closed her eyes and drifted off into a deep slumber.
The following morning, the obnoxious ringtone by Allara’s ear startled her awake. Rubbing her eyes sleepily, she adjusted herself to the early morning light. When she sat up in bed, the ringing ceased. She dreaded to see who called, and much to her chagrin, a voicemail was left behind.
Every fiber of her being was screaming to ignore the message, but her curiosity won out. Tapping the screen, Allara hesitated to put the phone to her ear. When she did, a female voice that she knew all-to-well grated on her eardrums. Listening carefully, the basic idea that Kai and her friend, Katherine had “been into each other for awhile” only made tears come to her eyes. Though she apologized, Allara was too heartbroken. No amount of apology could fix their indiscretion.
Tearfully getting ready for work, the day outside resembled the night before making Allara’s anxiety skyrocket to the stratosphere. “Damn,” she mumbled.
She left the apartment, bringing the umbrella with her into the downpour that she wished would wash away her fears. Despite that, Allara resolved to not let the previous night bother her while working.
Shaking out the umbrella, Allara was met with smiling faces. “Good morning,” she said.
“Oh, good morning, honey,” Mrs. LaMonica responded, cheerily. “Sal, Allara is here!” she called to the kitchen.
The older man poked his head into the order window. “Yes, Maria, I know. I heard the door.”
The older couple owned a small diner in the city, within walking distance from Allara’s apartment. She was one of the two waitresses, and it was also the same place where she met Kai. Of course, the other waitress was the one person she didn’t want to see; a supposed friend, Katherine.
“Something wrong, sweetheart?” Mrs. LaMonica asked, concerned.
Shaking out of her thoughts, Allara put on a fake smile. “No, everything is fine.” She wanted to avoid further questions, and hurried to the kitchen to leave her things, and retrieve her apron.
The ringing of the door so soon after she walked in, cued Allara into who came in after her. Already upset at the prospect of working with Katherine, Allara paused before stepping out into the dining area. She was unwilling to have the discussion during work hours because she didn’t want the LaMonica’s to know what their granddaughter had done.
Affixing a smile to her face, Katherine stepped into the kitchen when Allara was exiting. She whispered, “We should talk.”
Those three words made her gut clench. “No, there’s nothing to talk about,” she whispered back.
While Allara was readying the diner for patrons, Mrs. LaMonica made an observation. “Is that your umbrella, Ally?” she asked, gesturing to it.
Thinking fast, she knew there was no way she could say that a tall, handsome man handed it to her in the rain the night before. “Umm…yes, it is. I found it when I cleaned out my closet.”
“Doesn’t seem like your style,” she remarked. “Usually you carry the one that Kai gave you.”
Swallowing hard, Allara was at a loss for words. Seeing her distress, Mr. LaMonica intervened. “How would you know what her style is, Maria? Are you her mother?”
Inwardly, she thanked Mr. LaMonica for getting his wife focused on something else. Once the couple began to bicker, it was difficult to get them to stop. For that, she was grateful.
As the day progressed, Allara was conscious not to overtly ignore Katherine, but there were instances when it was much more difficult not to. She knew that it would be advantageous not to have to explain to the older folks why she was not making the same level of conversation as normal.
Towards the end of the lunch rush, Kai sauntered his way into the diner. With Allara's back to the door, Mrs. LaMonica was the first to say hello.
“Well, look who it is. How are you, Kai?”
“I’m doing well, Ma’am. Actually, I was wondering if I could have a few minutes of Allara’s time.” He kept his tone light when speaking as to not arouse suspicion for his true purpose for being there.
Her hands froze in the midst of wiping down a glass. Keeping her eyes down, Mr. LaMonica noticed the trepidation in his employee.
“Actually, I still need her back here in the kitchen. Can you wait a few minutes, Kai?”
Slightly annoyed, Kai kept his tone neutral. “Of course. I wouldn’t want to get in the way of her work.”
“Come back here, Allara. Help me out for a few,” he said, encouragingly.
Carefully putting the glass down, Allara could feel Kai’s eyes drilling holes into her back.
Scuttling into the kitchen, Mr. LaMonica was waiting for her by the back freezer. It was the best place to have some semblance of privacy.
He leaned against it, giving Allara a hard stare. “Would you like to tell me why you don’t want to speak to Kai? Or Katherine, for that matter?” The only thing he was met with was silence. “This isn’t like you. Something must have happened,” he continued softening his tone.
Resigning herself, there was no way out of the conversation. “Last night, I went over to Kai’s after my shift. Unfortunately, he was with someone else…” She contained her tears as best she could.
Without another word, Mr. LaMonica already knew where Allara was going with her story. He squeezed the bridge of his nose in frustration. “That girl is nothing but trouble, I swear.” Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he felt terrible that his granddaughter hurt someone she supposedly cared about. “I’ll have a nice chat with Katherine and get rid of Kai. Stay back here.”
As he walked away, Allara sat down on a milk crate thinking about things. By no means were they together for a long period, but the betrayal with her best friend was the worst thing he could have done. It only affirmed in her mind that Kai was out of her league. He was incredibly handsome with light brown hair, and green eyes. His body was nothing to scoff at either; slim but toned. However, the downside of being his girlfriend was he always needed to have his way and constantly tried to change her. He wanted to maintain a certain image, and she did not fit it. Rather than cause conflict, she allowed him to behave that way for over a year.
Katherine seemingly appeared to be the only person she could count on. They had been loyal friends since they were children. Allara couldn’t help but wonder how long they had been sneaking around behind her back. In one fell swoop, everything she had ever known was nothing but a lie. That is what hurt the most.
“Allara, honey?” Mrs. LaMonica’s voice jolted her from her thoughts. Looking up, she had an expression of pity and sadness etched across her face. “Sal just told me what happened. He’s making Kai leave and he and I are going to have a talk with Katherine. Unfortunately, that girl is exactly like her mother, especially when she was younger. Take a break out back, and one of us will come for you.”
Nodding, Allara peeled herself off the crate and went out through the back door.
Squatting down, her head dropped down onto her arms. She released a deep breath and tried to ease the tension that built up in her muscles. Rocking back and forth, she began to reevaluate those in her life. By design, she kept very few people in her life, unable to trust anyone.
Sighing, she stood up. About to open the back door, voices down the alleyway changed her course. Peering down, there were three men in suits standing over another man on his knees. Her gut was telling her to run away as fast as she could, that this was something that was not meant for her eyes.
Turning her back on the scene, a pitiful voice rang in her ears.
“Please don’t kill me,” the man begged.
Against her better judgement, Allara ducked behind trash cans, still watching.
“I won’t,” a deep voice started, “if you tell me who has been killing my men. I know that you know.”
“I swear I don’t know.” The man on his knees cowered in fear, hands in the air.
The tallest man in the middle crouched down, taking the scared man’s chin between his fingers. “Look at me,” he said. When the man’s eyes opened, there was pure, unabashed fear. Roughly releasing his grip, the man stood. “He doesn’t know anything.”
The man on the right side stood behind the one on his knees, hand on his shoulder. “What should we do with him?”
Allara got a decent look at the man facing her. He was good looking, medium brown hair, dark brown eyes. A dark blue blazer with a white button down adorned his sculpted body.
What she could see of the other two was minimal. One was very tall with slicked back black hair, and a grey suit. The other was shorter with light brown hair, dark jeans, and a white button down.
“Put him in the car. We can decide what to do with him later.”
He turned to walk back down the alleyway, when Allara recognized him. It was the same mystery man who gave her the umbrella the night before. To say she was shocked was an understatement. His eyes were cold and unfeeling. Similar, yet different to what she saw before.
Despite the fear building inside of her, Allara couldn’t peel her eyes away.
Suddenly, one of the men yelled, “Boss!” prompting the tallest man to whip around, gun drawn and shoot.
In the blink of an eye, the bullet found its target. Allara stifled her voice as she watched the body fall to the wet ground.
“Damn it!” the man, only known as Boss, gritted out.
Taking that opportunity, Allara carefully backed away, remaining as silent as possible. Her eyes stayed on the men while they spoke amongst themselves. Reaching the back door to the diner, she quietly opened it.
The sound of metal grating on metal made the Boss’s ears perk up. “I think someone saw,” he said to his men.
“There was no one around. We checked the area,” the lighter haired man said.
Going a few steps down the alley, he noticed a door. Without saying so, the Boss knew that whoever had seen them went back through that door. “Let’s get out of here. Bring the car around. You both know what to do.”
“Yes, Boss,” they said in unison.
Doing an about face, the Boss headed out to the street. His instinct told him that whoever was in the alley had to be in the diner.
“Where are you going, Boss?” the darker haired man asked him.
“Go back to the office. I’ll see you later,” was all he said before he turned the corner.
There was no one in the diner when he walked inside. He saw an older woman behind the cash register, a young woman behind the counter cleaning glasses, another wiping down tables, and an older man in the kitchen. Everything before him seemed to be perfectly normal.
“Take a seat anywhere, hun,” the older woman told him.
Without acknowledging, he walked to the furthest end of the diner, facing the door. Old habits die hard. He learned early to never have your back to a door.
“Ally, honey, will you attend to the gentleman?” Mrs. LaMonica asked.
“Sure,” she responded.
Picking up a pen, she got a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye. Cold sweat dripped down her back seeing him again. Mostly because she was deathly afraid that she knew the reason he was actually sitting in the diner.
About to walk over, Mrs. LaMonica whispered in her ear. “Be careful. I don’t like the look of that guy.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Allara responded.
Approaching him, it was difficult to remain composed. Internally, Allara’s mind was racing with the possibility that he would kill her next. There would be no way he would allow her to live. If that was to be her fate, then Allara hoped it would be a quick death.
The LaMonica’s questioned her when she came back inside. They were so concerned that they wanted her to go home. Beads of sweat covered her brow that it was no wonder they were worried. Able to convince the couple she was fine, Allara resumed her duties.
“W-what can I get you?” Allara asked.
Looking up, the Boss locked eyes with her for a moment. “Coffee. Black.”
Simply wanting to break eye contact, Allara jotted the order down, despite its ease. “Of course.” Hastily turning away, she couldn’t walk away fast enough from the oppressive aura he was emitting.
“Order ticket,” Mr. LaMonica said, holding his hand out.
Allara had to shake out of her head to answer. “Oh, he just wants a coffee.”
He leaned out of the window slightly to get a look at the mystery man. For a moment, Allara saw a look of recognition pass over Mr. LaMonica’s face, only to be immediately replaced with irritation. “I don’t like people like that. Waste of time to come to a diner, if you ask me.”
She silently poured the coffee, not wanting to go back to his table.
Katherine came to stand next to her, eyes trained on the sole patron. “He’s a fine specimen,” she mused quietly.
Anger pricked in Allara’s veins. “Haven’t you taken enough?”
Completely ignoring the look of shock of Katherine’s face, Allara took the cup of coffee to the table, placing it in front of the man. “Your coffee,” she said, almost to herself.
“You’re the girl from last night, aren’t you?” he asked.
Freezing up, Allara became extremely frightened of what would happen next. “Um…yes. Thank you for the umbrella. If you wait a second, I can go get it.” All she wanted was to be as far from him as possible.
“Wait,” he said, grabbing ahold of her wrist. Facing him again, she kept her eyes down. “Keep it. It started raining again.”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. A little rain never hurt anyone.” Releasing his grip, he stood up, pulling a one hundred dollar bill out of his wallet. “Thanks for the coffee.”
He walked away not sparing a glance to anyone.
Allara picked up the money, handing it to Mrs. LaMonica at the register. She stared at it momentarily, before showing her husband. “Well, look at this, Sal. One hundred bucks for a cup of coffee. Seems like someone likes our little Allara here,” she jested.
Mr. LaMonica gave his wife a dubious look. “No, Maria. That’s not what it means. I think you know that. Besides, I had that look about me once and what good did it do us?” Raising his eyebrows, they appeared to be communicating with their eyes. “He won’t come back.”
“We can hope,” Mrs. LaMonica mumbled under her breath, closing the cash register.
Allara watched the interaction between them wondering why Mrs. LaMonica suddenly became unenthusiastic. As though a cold breeze blew in, there was a drop in demeanor, and she wondered if she truly hallucinated the expression Mr. LaMonica had before, she went to the table. In the back of her mind however, she wouldn’t mind seeing the mysterious stranger again.