The sound of cutlery scratching porcelain dishes echoed through the air and fell upon her ears as Haven made her way to the back of the busy diner. Her shift had just ended, and she wanted nothing more than to go back to her shabby chic apartment and soak in a nice hot bath, if she could make it to the time clock that is. Blocking her way was the overly sweaty and rotund Marcus Donegan, her boss and also the lead cook.
“Where do you think you’re going? I told you I need you to cover a double tonight.”
Haven rolled her eyes into the back of her head and sighed, “You mentioned it once or twice, but I never agreed to it.”
He stepped closer, leaning in so close that she could smell the greasy residue from the fryer seeping through his pores.
“You would do good to remember that if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have a pot to piss in girl.”
“And how is that Marcus? By giving me this job making less than three dollars an hour and by you stealing my tips every chance that you get?” she answered defiantly.
Haven pushed past him, making him turn to follow her, “If you walk out that door you are fired!”
“You don’t need to fire me Marcus because I quit!” she said as she smashed her timecard into the timeclock and removed it just as hastily. She turned on her heels and slammed the timecard into Marcus’ chest, “I expect my full paycheck without your version of deductions, or you will hear from my lawyer.”
Of course, she didn’t really have a lawyer. Who could afford a lawyer with her pay? Well, with what used to be her pay. She looked back to give him one last menacing glare and was knocked backwards as she came in contact with another body.
The hand on her arm tightened, stopping her before she could hit the floor. The man gripping her arm was scarier in her opinion than the fall she had almost taken. She would have rather hit the floor. His eyes were dark and screamed murderer through the façade of his black and white suit. She needed to get away from him without causing a scene, but how. Without thinking too much into it Haven yanked her arm from his grasp and took off running toward the back of the diner, barreling past Marcus who still looked a bit disgruntled.
She stole a glance over her shoulder in time to see Marcus methodically place himself between her and the two suits determined to chase her. She made a mental reminder to thank Marcus for this favor because now she really did owe him big time.
Her hands slammed against the access bar, throwing open the door to the rear parking lot, and she immediately took off in the direction opposite of her car. If they got away from Marcus, she didn’t want them to know what vehicle to look for. For all she knew these men could have been watching her for a while. They probably even knew where she lived. The idea of them being in her home made her heart race even faster. She flew down the side streets, being sure to not take one distinctive path home. No, instead she ran at least two miles out of her way just to circle back and run to her apartment.
When she reached the back entrance of her apartment, she carefully checked the front of the building to be sure no one was waiting for her. Satisfied that she had escaped the two men, she climbed the stairs to her apartment and unlocked the door.
She was going to miss her quaint little home. When she first moved here it was nothing more than four walls made of cracking plaster and creaky old wood floors. She had intended to stay here for a while and had put a lot of work into it. The once cracked walls were patched and painted a deep evergreen and the wood flooring was now covered by a deep mocha, plush carpet. She loved woodsy colors. She always had.
She impatiently wiped the solitary tear from her cheek and made her way to the back of the apartment to pack her clothes. She yanked the suitcase from the closet and threw everything she could fit into it and raced to the door. She checked the peephole for visitors before slamming the door open and dragging her suitcase down the stairs behind her as she ran down the rear stairs.
Stopping once more to make sure the rear of the building was clear, she said one last goodbye to her home and made a run for it, sticking to the alleyways until she felt that she was far enough away. She needed a car. It would only draw attention to herself if she walked the busy streets with a suitcase in tow.
There it was. The perfect car. New enough to get some good mileage and yet beat up enough to not draw too much unwanted attention. She slowly made her way down the alley, looking for anyone who could see her. Her record was clean, and she would prefer to keep it that way. Getting caught was not an option. She wasn’t sure why men were chasing her, but she remembered the words of her Grandmother telling her that if she wanted to stay alive, she needed to run from those who wish her harm. Sure, the men had only approached her, but her instincts cried danger and she was never one to ignore her instincts.
Finally climbing into the car from the passenger side, she tossed her suitcase into the back seat and went to work on the wires under the dash.
“This would be so much easier with a pair of wire strippers,” she said to herself as she stripped the plastic coating with her teeth.
She touched the two wires together and the car came to life. Wasting no time, she threw the shifter into drive and began her journey to God knows where.
“Should we go after her,” the smaller of the two suited men asked his colleague.
They watched from behind a fence as their target raced away in a stolen car.
“Her instincts are greater than we gave her credit for. It’s time for plan B,” the taller man admitted.
The shorter of the two nodded and asked, “What’s plan B?”
“We call for reinforcements.”
Haven raced through the darkened rural streets refusing to slow down for any reason just incase they weren’t far behind her. Something in the men’s eyes set her instincts haywire. They were not there to make nice and they were definitely not law enforcement. Something about her Grandmothers warning resonated with her in that moment. She couldn’t for the life of her remember her full final warning before she passed away and it never seemed to truly matter until now.
“Shit! Why can’t I remember?” she cursed to herself.
A loud tapping noise followed by a large cloud of smoke bellowing from under the hood lead to a stream of foul language to roll not so eloquently off her tongue as she pulled on to the shoulder of the road.
“Just perfect!Damn car would break down in the middle of nowhere!” she yelled as she slammed the door open and pulled the lever to release the hood.
When she squeezed the latch and lifted the hood another cloud of smoke rose in her face immediately created beads of sweat to form along her forehead. A quick examination of the engine told her that she was helpless. The head was cracked, and no number of tools or knowledge could fix it in her current location. She would need a garage and a new head. She wasn’t about to out that much effort into a stolen car.
She removed her outer flannel shirt, leaving her in just her white cami and denims. She wrapped the flannel shirt around her hand and proceed to wipe down the interior of the carto remove any fingerprints before moving to do the same to the exterior. She didn’t have a criminal record and she would be damned if she would let running for her life change that for her now.
A pair of headlights in the distance sent her heart into her chest. Should she hide? Should she flag the car down for help? The realization that the vehicle heading in her direction was coming from in front of her, not behind her relaxed her enough to remove her suitcase from the back seat of the car and wave to the white SUV headed right for her.
In the driver seat sat a man like none other she had ever seen before. He was tall and rugged in an alluring kind of way. His face showed the slightest hint of a five o’clock shadow and his eyes wore the look that said he had seen a lot of stress.
“Hi, thanks for stopping. The head is cracked on the engine. Do you think you could give me a ride?”
“You sure it’s the head? It may be something I can help you with. Maybe it just needs water,” he suggested in a tone that said he didn’t believe that she knew what she was talking about.
There it was. She knew there had to be something about him that would keep people away. Just like every other man, this one thought women were just helpless creatures who wouldn’t know how to work their way around a car. Truth is, her Grandfather and her Uncle taught her everything she would need to know, and she could probably put this man to shame in a garage. She had reminded herself to be polite because she still needed his help.
“I’m positive but have a look for yourself if you’d like.”
He climbed down from is seat and took a look under the hood of what he believed to be her car, “Huh, looks like you know your way around a car. Where are ya headed? I can give you a lift and come back with my trailer to get the car to a garage for you.
“I’m just heading a little way up the road into the next town I believe. I can’t for the life of me remember what town I’m in.”
She had to play dumb. It was her only chance to get this man to help her without raising any flags because truthfully, she didn’t know where she was. She had to tread carefully and play her cards right.
“Next town up is Leesburg, he grunted as he climbed back into his driver seat.
“Right. I’m heading to Kentucky but I’m looking for a place to hunker down for the night,” she offered.
“Right, well climb on in. I have to run across the bridge to pick something up so if you don’t mind tagging along, I can give you a lift.”
Crap! The last thing she wanted to do was go in the direction of the bad guys, but what other choice did she have. Who knows how long it would be before she saw another car? For all she knew the bad guys could catch up before anyone else came along.
“Sounds good. Thank you for your hospitality,” she said as she opened the door to the passenger side and climbed in.
“Don’t mention it,” he offered in contradiction to the tone of his voice. He seemed to be annoyed by her presence and she didn’t know what she could have possibly done to cause such a reaction. Maybe she should find another ride when they get to wherever he was headed.