Urban Affair casual restaurant; 7th & Grand Avenue, Downtown Des Moines, Iowa; USA.Wednesday; 2:27 AM…
“…come on, Tran; hurry the hell up!”Cassie, in her late-twenties with her medium-length hair pulled back and swinging around as she eagerly looked around the immediate downtown surroundings, pushed.“Technically speaking we could get fired for opening the back door at this time of night!”
“I know, I know…”The freshman student from Drake University was taking a series of pictures with his smartphone.The flashes illuminated Tran for but fractions of a second, revealing his tall and wide-shouldered frame.The kitchen was two people short for the closing crew, so the team was working later than usual.After taking his pics, Tran verified that his images were on his device.“Ok, I got it!”
After Tran ran back into the restaurant from the alley, Cassie quietly shut the back door to Urban Affair’s tiny docking area, where its freezer and walk-in refrigerator were…and so was the general manager of the entire business-casual restaurant!
Cassie let out a tiny yelp while Tran froze on the spot—guilt written all over his young face!But to their surprise, Jessie seemed like he could care less about the policy-infringement from the duo.
“Hey, I got to ask you two something…”Jessie, then, walked off toward the front section that led to where the kitchen was connected to the main-seating area of the restaurant.Jessie, a former jock and in his mid-forties, had a habit of asking a question to his subordinates and simply walking off to whatever location the situation was.
The lounge area of Urban Affair had already been cleaned up by the three closers after a relatively busy Tuesday night.So, Tran and Cassie knew that was not their boss’ concern…They ended up in front of the women’s restroom before Jessie stopped.
“You guys remember me cleaning the bathrooms right after we closed to the public, right,” the GM asked.
It almost seemed like a set-up to play one worker against the other, should they both fail to tell whatever truth Jessie was looking for.But it was rhetorical, given that the GM had a knowing smirk on his face as he held up one of his index fingers to emphasize a point.
“Now, I saw both of you working on closing the grill area and the bar area…Plus, as you both know, we’re all on video.”Jessie then opened the door to the women’s restroom.“So, when the hell did someone do this tonight?”
The restroom was draped in toilet paper, the water faucet to one of the sinks was left running, the cabinet door that housed bathroom cleaning supplies was wide-open and some of the chemicals for cleaning were opened and their content spilled all over the floor…Jessie watched both crew members closely to gauge their reaction.
Cassie breathed out a sigh of shock; Tran’s mouth gaped while he silently walked into the women’s restroom.
“The men’s is pretty much the same, but not quite as cluttered,” Jessie informed.
Jessie and Tran saw that Cassie had a thought.“Did a patron stay behind?Maybe waited until he or she knew when we would start our closing duties and just went to town in here?”
“Obviously that’s not the case,” Tran input, “otherwise you wouldn’t be here talking to us about it, Jessie…and where would this patron be now?This is a small restaurant compared to other places I’ve worked at and we only have one floor-level—it’d be easy to spot an extra body here.More importantly, all the doors are locked – ”
“Well, you two did have the back door opened,” Jessie reminded them as he led the two young people out of the women’s restroom and back into the restaurant’s main lounge area.“That’s why there’s a rule against opening it late at nights!”
“I held it open the entire few minutes Tran was outside,” Cassie said defensively.Nevertheless, her eyes were, now, inspecting the lounge for any possible hiding places!
Jessie seemed to snap out of a trance.“What were you two doing out in the back area anyway?”
Tran and Cassie gave one another, both, a knowing and an apprehensive look!Without saying anything else, Tran presented his smartphone and brought up several images.Jessie recognized the images as being the exterior of the downtown restaurant.In each shot there was the same window, though some shots were sharper than others.Tran handed his phone to the GM.
“I had to go outside since the light from inside the restaurant made it easier to see from out in the night,” Tran explained as he kept his eyes on his boss; waiting to see if the manager would catch on.
Not surprisingly, Jessie flipped through the various shots of that window, not seeing the importance of the pictures.
“What the hell is that!” Jessie said after he zoomed into one of the sharper images of the window.
Cassie and Tran waited so he could confirm for himself.It’s usually better that way.
“Is that—did someone from first shift have too much time on their hands and—”
“And, what, Jessie,” Tran came in, “took their own, greasy, dirty hand and continuously made a bunch of handprints to make it look like one big handprint?”
Jessie looked up from Tran’s phone with the pictures.“It’s possible…restaurant-humor, you know?”
“I don’t think so,” Tran persisted; pointing at the image on his phone while his boss held it.“If you zoom in even more, there’s no question that the details show it’s one, big handprint, Jessie!”
Jessie did as Tran suggested and enlarged the image.There was no doubt, indeed.The image showed one large handprint; perhaps three times as large as a full-grown man’s hand!But, even more troubling, was its configuration.
“Noticed that there are two thumbs on that print, boss,” Cassie mentioned, as she, too, pointed toward the image.“One thumb on both sides of the four fingers!”
“Christ…” Jessie stated.“Well, did you see any footprints, Tran?If this is true…”
The two young crew members of the restaurant waited for the manager while an apparently terrifying thought occurred to him.
“Was this print on the outside or inside the restaurant…?”
Absolute fear was now in Cassie and Tran!
“Oh, my god,” Cassie, now, whispered!“We were too caught up in just spotting the print!We—”
There were two, unmistakable, footsteps from the back of the restaurant; where the kitchen was.Heavy clunks!The steps seemed to stop upon the trio’s own words stopping!
All three were petrified at this point.But survival instincts kicked in and Cassie, Jessie, and Tran all took off running in the opposite direction of the footsteps—toward the front door!Problem was, Jessie, the general manager with all the keys to Urban Affair, had to stop for a few seconds and fish for his ring of keys until he found the one for the front door!His manager habits kicking in, Jessie started to lock the front door as the trio were running out of the restaurant until Tran and Cassie forcibly dragged him with them as the closing crew ran away from the building…
Des Moines Police Department; 3:15 AM…
“…and that was about forty-five minutes ago,” Sergeant Pam Freisden deliberately asked for the second time; making sure the man on the phone was not a prankster.The middle-aged cop was in her office, but as with all modern worksites, it was an open-concept where she could easily see what was going on throughout the precinct office, as her subordinates could see her as well.
“…So,” she continued, “you didn’t really see this—thing, did you…?Ok, Mr. Lawson.I ask that you and your people stay out of the restaurant and let us take it from here, ok…?No, no that won’t be necessary, Mr. Lawson.We have officers that are trained specialists within our animal control division…Ok, you’ll get a direct call from me to update you.”
Sergeant Freisden pushed the call-finished button on her cordless phone and replaced it back onto its stand.She smiled at the young scientist who had been quietly seated across from her during the entire phone call.“Dr. Greene, looks like someone found it!”
“Finally,” the late-thirty-something said as he tilted his head up and rubbed his eyes after moving his thick glasses from his face and then replaced them.“Did you say a restaurant?”
A chuckle from the sergeant.“Yeah, I guess it got hungry, huh?”
Dr. Greene made an uncomfortable shrug.“Hope not too hungry…”
She got the point.“Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t joke…Ok, Doctor, we already have a team en route from the earlier calls of disturbances of Urban Affair’s neighbors, so we’ll be joining them at the restaurant.Now, do you have what you need in case my team can’t convince this…animal to cooperate with them?”
Now it was his turn at a light chuckle.“Yes, Sergeant Freisden; I do.”
The sergeant regarded him inquisitively.“Did I say something wrong?”
“Oh, no; not at all.I mean, we humans are also animals, but would you call on animal control if one of us caused a disturbance?”
This time Sergeant Freisden stared at the scientist.“Doctor, you’re not saying what—”
“I suppose we’d better catch up with your team, Sergeant Freisden…”He gave her a look; as if to suggest it was better not to ask any further questions.
And she did not…
Downtown Des Moines, Iowa; 3:56 AM…
As Sergeant Freisden drove her city-issued vehicle toward the district where there was a cluster of restaurants, it was obvious to Dr. Greene and the sergeant that events had, indeed, gotten out of control since the general manager of the restaurant Urban Affair had called them!They were several blocks away from the restaurant when Sergeant Freisden encountered manned roadblocks.Dr. Greene looked at the sergeant from the passenger seat with concern.
“This is Tiger-One to Lion…”It was the sergeant’s police radio.Police officers always used anonymous identification when on police radio.Lately, in the US, more municipals were using delayed, radio broadcast due to a spike of nefarious crimes.Some opted out of public broadcast altogether.
Before answering it, Sergeant Freisden gave an exasperated look at the scientist—which he wore, as well!“This is Lion, Tiger-One; go ahead…”
“Request to have SWAT’s presence; suggested three units…subject has expanded presence; possibly near the Martin Luther King, Jr Parkway area, or possibly on the Keosauqua highway…”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the sergeant said more to herself than to Dr. Greene.She had stopped the SUV at that point, just yards away from an immediate roadblock.Early first-shift workers of Des Moines were already starting to clog the downtown streets!
She glanced at Dr. Greene.He, in turn, arched his brow and silently looked on as she continued.“Tiger-One, this is Lion…that’s a go on whatever resources you feel is needed!Over.”
She decided to pull her SUV up close to the two officers that were manning the nearest blockade to ask them a couple of questions of how the situation had gotten out of control so quickly!
“Sergeant,” one of the officers said to her; the window to her vehicle rolled partially down, “if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that thing was listening in on our radio—knowing what our next steps are going to be!”
That deeply troubled Sergeant Freisden.She glanced her eyes upon Dr. Greene to see his reaction…he sat still, as if not wanting attention on him.
“Ok, Hydewell,” she thanked the young officer as she drove off to detour around the roadblock.
Throughout the whole drive, the radio crackled with coded conversations from Des Moines’ police force.The sergeant’s onboard laptop, for the time being, was stowed against the SUV’s dashboard; mounted on its armature.
“Ok, Doctor,” Sergeant Freisden said, breaking a long silence in the vehicle—with the exception of the radio discourse, “you and I are going to do some frank talk here, ok?”
The hipster scientist glanced at her; half-way expecting things to turn out the way they did.He let her continue.
“You’re not really from the Interior Department, are you?”She, then, drove the SUV on a stretching road as he chuckled.
“You’re very perceptive, Sergeant…per Federal government rules and secrecy, I cannot tell you who I really work for.But what I can say is I hinted about it at the precinct…”
She glanced at him while keeping her eyes on the road as she drove toward West Martin Luther King, Jr Parkway.“I knew it…a damn alien!”
He did not respond.
“Why the hell Des Moines?I would’ve thought somewhere on either coast of the US—with all that water and all…”
“Who’s to say they’re not there, too?”
Sergeant Freisden’s head whipped in his direction.“ ’They,’ huh?”
He looked off toward his window of the passenger side of the SUV.
“Do you all know if it’s like some kind of invasion?I know that’s a bit cliched, but…”
Dr. Greene considered before answering.“Doesn’t seem like Earth has to worry about anything like that.If you were to ask me as a scientist.But, if you were a deer hanging out with your herd, would it matter to you if a hunter ran across your herd during hunting season or if that hunter accidentally stumbled across your planet—uh, herd, and the hunter accidentally kills you with his car?”
Sergeant Freisden nodded to herself.It was obvious the agent—of that she was sure he was—was speaking to her in analogy so he could claim plausible deniability of ever telling the public any top secrets info on extraterrestrial lifeforms!
The scientist frowned to himself.“So, why did you decide to go over to Martin Luther King, Jr Parkway instead of Keosauqua?”
“Like I said a few minutes ago:water, Dr. Greene.This leads us to the closest body of water in this part of downtown…”
“Des Moines River,” he said as he nodded to himself out of approval.“You know, underneath all that down-home, middle-Americana carapace of yours, Sergeant, you have a pretty good logic-structure in you!I can see why you made sergeant.Ever thought about taking it up a notch?”
“You mean like the FBI,” she asked with a laughter.
Dr. Greene reverted to his deflective-mode.“Some kind of national-profile agency…”
“I don’t think so, Greene.I’m—”
“All units, all units,” came one of Des Moines’ police officer’s voice; frantic over the radio, “twenty-twenty on the subject at Des Moines River!Just off East Locust!”
Sergeant Freisden grabbed her own radio.“This is Lion, all units focus effort on East Locust and Des Moines River!Repeat, all units to East Locust and Des Moines River!”Dr. Greene silently nodded at the sergeant, indicating that their discussion was over, and he would follow her lead.
A barrage of scratchy voices confirmed Sergeant Freisden’s call over the radio and mostly went silent for several minutes until most police and, presumably, the SWAT units had converged on Des Moines River.
Despite Des Moines’ municipal police’s efforts, it was too late.The entity had, once again, escaped Dr. Greene.Most likely, as Sergeant Freisden pointed out, due to utilizing the relatively large body of water coursing through downtown Des Moines.As it was, this was an on-going project of Dr. Greene!Des Moines was simply the latest of locales he’d been to on his hunt for the ‘bi-pollex’ visitors!
Dr. Greene helped Sergeant Freisden and her officers put out a public alert, but for an escaped “animal” from the Blank Park Zoo.A total fabrication, of course.But it was what the sergeant and her officers knew they had to do if they wanted help from the Department of Interior…