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Feb 20, 2021

Science Fiction Romance

                                     How was your Day?

                                                                                       By

                                                                           John Meiners, Jr.

    ‘How perfect,’ thinks Pamela as they sit sipping margaritas outside at the Riverwalk Café. Clarice points out the boat coming down the river, and Pamela waves at the tourists. Rain clouds on the horizon head their way, but their spirits remain high just like the mama duck swimming along with her eight ducklings. Cypress trees lining the Riverwalk rise high above them, reaching up to the people strolling by on the walkway above. Stefan puts his phone down… again . ‘So many phone calls,’ thinks Clarice.  Just moments ago, Stefan had a smile on his face enjoying the day, but now after the last phone call, his expression looks like when he watched  Rosemary eat raw liver in a scene from the movie Rosemary’s Baby

    Clarice asks, “Who was that on the phone?”

    Stefan answers, “Bob.”

    “What is it?” asks Pamela alarmed.

    Hesitating. “We saw a car, this morning.” Stefan looks at them not wanting to go on, but there is no way to hide it. “It drove by slowly then sped off. Bob called me in… when you both were upstairs. The car came back a second time. Now it’s happened again.”  

     Clarice upset asks, “What do you mean it happened again?”

     “That’s why Bob said he was going to the car to get the umbrella. He wanted to see if we were followed.”

     “Bob saw the same car just now?” Pamela asks.

     “Yes.”

     “Does anyone just tell the truth? Is everyone hiding something?” questions Clarice obviously upset. 

     Stefan wonders how many obstacles his marriage can hit before it derails. Trust always existed in their marriage; it was never doubted… Now Stefan isn’t sure there’s any left. Laughter heard from two men drinking at the next table and a few scattered couples having a late lunch distracts him.  Spirits seem to be high everywhere except at his table. 

     Stefan’s phone rings again. “Bob’s going to find a parking garage attendant across the street to watch the car then he’ll be back.” 

     The wind picks up, blowing in dark clouds threatening rain, and the crowd walking along the river starts leaving in droves. Only the three of them and the two men enjoying a cold beer remain. Suddenly the two men rise to leave, but as they walk by, brandish guns beneath their coats and sit uninvited.  

     “Don’t move,” orders one man while keeping his gun trained on Stefan and Clarice.  The other jabs a gun in Pamela’s side, grabs her up and marches her quickly away from the table and down the river path. Helplessly Stefan watches them leave praying for Bob to appear.  ‘How can I warn him,’ he thinks. Then there’s Bob, walking quickly, very spry for a 71 year old. Bob sees Stefan and immediately notices Pamela is gone, and a stranger sits with them. Bob’s mind races. He shakes his head at Stefan, which Stefan knows means ‘Don’t draw attention.’ Suddenly Bob shuffles and hunches over holding a rigid right arm. He limps up to the table and asks, “Can you spare a dollar?”

     The man growls, “We got nothing for you, man. Get lost.”

     Bob sees the man has one hand out with the other in his coat pocket, no doubt holding a gun. Bob limps to the man’s other side, steps away, then turns back. “How about 50 cents?”

     The man turns slightly, “Get the Hell out of here.”

     No sooner than the last word clears the man’s lips, Bob hits the man with a right cross. His lack of mobility now only a recent memory. The man slumps, and Bob sits down beside him easily taking his gun.

     Stefan tells Bob, “The other man took Pamela up the river path.”    

     A waitress walks up, “Anything else?”

    “No thanks,” replies Stefan gesturing at the man. “He’s had too much to drink.”

     As she walks away, frantically Bob shakes the man.  “Who are you? Where did he take her?”

     The man reaches for his missing gun and defiantly says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

     Bob asks the man. “You know what a draakar is?”

     “What are you talking about?” the man answers.

     “How about someone from Avante or Osteo?”

     “Where? You’re nuts.”

     Bob is afraid he’s running out of time. He yells, “Tell me where they went. Now.”

     The man looks smugly at Bob saying nothing. Suddenly Bob stands, gives the gun to Stefan and his badge to Clarice. He grabs the man and drags him over to the river’s edge. “I’ll show you what a draakar is.” Bob changes before the man’s eyes as he screams then screams again when Bob drags him in the river with him. 

     Stefan starts toward the river’s edge, but just as quickly Bob and the man are out of the water back on land. Bob has changed back, his wet clothes torn and hanging on him while the man lies on the edge gasping in disbelief. Bob yells, “Take me to them. Now. If we go back in the water you won’t come out.” 

     The man nods then all are off running down the river path. Luckily there aren’t many people to impede their progress. Knowing Pamela, she’s taking every opportunity to slow down her captor. She knows Bob will not be far behind, and she’s right. Though none of them will win a 5K or marathon anytime soon, they are covering some ground. Panicked, Bob wonders, ‘Should I change into a draakar to make up time?  But then how will the man tell him where to go.’ All around him the scents of Mexican food, cake, even popcorn flood his senses, making even the faintest scent of Pamela undetectable.  Hustled along by the man, she has few options. Clarice has Pamela’s purse. Dropping something on the trail or breaking a twig on the path for someone to follow is not in play here. The hotels, restaurants and shops are becoming fewer on both sides of the river, and just ahead is the outdoor theatre. Here the path divides, and all slow down. 

     “Which way?” asks Bob.

     The man looks like he sees death at his doorway. Frantically his head turns toward one way then the other.  “I… I’m not… sure.”

     Quickly Stefan says, “Nothing but river on both sides this way. These stairs lead up to the street not too far.”

     Bob realizes the man doesn’t know and decides Stefan’s route, the path of most promise.  Suddenly Bob races ahead like a ‘bat out of hell.’ Laying on the path not fifteen feet ahead is a white handkerchief. He grabs it and holds it to his nose… Clarice looks at Stefan, very bewildered, thinking Bob has lost it, but Stefan knows.

     Bob yells, “It’s hers.” He takes off with Stefan and Clarice following.

     Dark clouds continue to move in around them. ‘The storm is coming for sure,’ thinks Stefan as he runs after Bob. “Look up ahead. I think that’s them by the stairs leading to the street.  They’re a hundred yards away. We won’t catch them.” Suddenly Stefan changes and jumps in the river. Bob and Clarice see Stefan splash and speed away out of sight.

     It’s been years since Stefan changed into a draakar, but he caught up to the man and Pamela in just a few minutes. He swam ahead keeping one eye on Pamela, turns and looks ahead at the stairs to the street. With a slight silent move, he goes under aiming for the stairs. A little late now to think about it, but when he changed, he’d dropped the gun. Now he must surprise them at the bottom of the stairs and snatch Pamela while keeping the man from using his gun any way possible. Stefan huddles close to the side unseen. After a minute, he hears them approaching. 

     “Up here,” says the man pushing Pamela toward the stairs just as Stefan comes out of the water, grabs Pamela from behind and yanks her back. Shocked the man pulls his gun but is slashed across his hand and drops his gun. He turns to run and is slashed again in the back as he runs up the stairs. Stefan changes back and turns to Pamela, “Are you all right?”

     Pamela catching her breath nods, “I’m fine. Where are Clarice and Bob?”  

     As Stefan starts to answer, they hear screeching tires and screams from a commotion above them on the street. Breathlessly Clarice, Bob and their prisoner run up but can’t see the street from their vantage point.

     Bob goes to Pamela and puts his arm around her. “You okay?”

     Pamela notices Bob’s clothes are tattered. “I’m fine, fine. “What happened to you?”

     Pointing to their ‘new friend,’ “I had to get his attention. You know how that works. I’ll be back.” Bob runs up the stairs to the street.

     Sirens are heard up above them.  Pamela picks up the gun her captor dropped and holds it on the man. Indicating Stefan, “Give him your coat.”  He quickly complies. They all look up and wonder when Bob will return.       

     Clarice and Pamela sit on a bench with the man.  Stefan says, “I’ll check on Bob,” then runs up the stairs and disappears. A few minutes pass, and the man, beyond shocked, offers no resistance. The gun Pamela holds on him helps of course. Pamela can only wonder what Clarice is thinking. Talk about ‘jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.’ Finally, Stefan and Bob come down the stairs.

     Bob says, “He’s dead. We need to go.”

     They all get up and walk back down the river the same way they came.

     The man, alarmed, asks, “What are you going to do with me?”

     “We’ll think of something.”

     “Look, I wasn’t going to hurt anyone,” the man says almost pleading.

     “Don’t worry, we aren’t going to kill you”… Bob turns to Stefan. “Get us back close to the car, Stefan.”

     Stefan and Bob walk on either side of the man with Pamela and Clarice in the front. The man has been warned not to draw attention to himself. When they arrive at the car, Bob walks across the street and pays the attendant twenty dollars for watching the car. 

     The attendant asks, “What happened to you?”     

      “Fell in the river.”

      On the drive back to Stefan and Clarice’s home, Bob explains to them all what happened when he ran up the stairs.  While trying to escape, Pamela’s captor ran out into the street and was hit by a city bus. 

     “You mean he’s dead? I didn’t even know his name,” mutters their prisoner. 

     “What about you? What’s your name?” questions Bob.

     “Gregory. It was supposed to be a quick easy job. Just grab someone off the river. No problems. I’m not sure what was supposed to happen next. The other guy knew everything. I….I just went along.”

     So many questions needing answers, and one of the links of the chain is dead. Gregory will be the one to answer the many questions coming from the team in Community. When they pull into the driveway at Stefan and Clarice’s home, Bob gets out, goes around, and opens the door. Gregory seems to be searching for a place to run, but Bob warns him. “You know some of us change into mountain lions… don’t try to run.”

     When inside Pamela and Bob go into another room while Stefan guards Gregory. Pamela asks, “How long is the flight from Community?”

    “Probably less than two hours once in the air. What are you thinking?”

    “Wondering how to get him back.”  

     “We’re leaving tomorrow. We’ll take him with us.” 

     Pamela says, “Yes, I suppose we’ll have to… What about Stefan and Clarice?“ 

     Pamela is obviously worried.  She was kidnapped. One of her kidnappers died trying to escape rather than be captured himself. These are ruthless men. What did they really want?  With all that was happening back in Community, Pamela had no doubt in her mind it was information they wanted from her. If not, at this very moment, she would be dead. They wanted nothing from Stefan and Clarice. They could have been killed. ‘These people followed us. Bob and I led them directly here to Stefan and Clarice,’ she realizes. ‘We put them in danger.’

     Bob would like to think he’s a wonderful detective that can read people which makes it impossible to keep anything from him, but it is very obvious what Pamela is worried about. He can’t attribute this to excellent detective skills because he is on the same page. There is a problem to be dealt with. 

     Pamela may not be a detective, but she’s as perceptive as they come and asks, “You’re worried about Stefan and Clarice?”

     “I am.”

     “I am too.”

     “I know.”

     “We can ask them to come with us?” 

     Bob nods and says, “We have to… at least ask.” Bob’s face is sad.  “Our intention in coming here was to reunite us all, not tear apart a marriage.”

     Pamela tries to comfort him, “Maybe they’ll be all right, but we must warn them of the dangers.”

     Bob agrees and says, “Yes. You’re right.”

     Pamela nods. “I’ve had a hard day. I think I’ll call Monroe and Samantha tomorrow. Put off today what you can do tomorrow, as they say.”

     “Good idea. Now let’s go see our new friend Gregory.”

     Clarice and Stefan sit at one end of the dining room table with Gregory at the other end. Stefan has no experience in law enforcement. He has shot guns but doesn’t particularly like them nor does Clarice. However, you wouldn’t know it by Gregory’s demeanor. He acts as though he’s looking at Bonnie and Clyde. 

     Bob wants to live up to their standards, and as Pamela sits close to Stefan, Bob sits in front of Gregory. “Well, are you ready to tell us who hired you?  What was this all about? We really need some answers. Go ahead…”

     “Look, I ain’t lying. Nobody told me nothing. Larry, came to see me, and he said, ‘Man, I got this job. Ain’t nothing to it, and the money’s good.’”

     “His name is Larry, you said you didn’t know his name… Are you making up a name now?”

     “No, man, his name is Larry. Sometimes we work together.”

     “Work together? Work together? Is that what you call robbing and kidnapping and murdering people? Working?”

      “I ain’t never killed nobody. I ain’t kidnapped nobody.”

      “What do you call what your friend Larry and you did today? You kidnapped this woman. You held those two at gunpoint, and Larry kidnapped her. That makes you an accessory… You know that? Who hired Larry?”

     “I don’t know, I told you, and I didn’t know nothing about a kidnapping.”

     “Why did Larry leave with her? What was he doing? Where was he going?  What did you think he was doing?  Did you ask him?”

     “I didn’t ask no questions... Money was good… I learned… better I don’t ask no questions.”

     “No, of course not. You were getting money.  What do you care if Larry kidnapped a woman? Don’t ask questions. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, can it? You were wrong this time. It can kill you.” 

     Gregory protests, “I’m telling you the truth.”

     “Let me tell you the truth. The people that hired Larry are dangerous people, and if they connect you to Larry, they are looking for you as we speak to kill you. They leave no witnesses. Probably they already know Larry is dead… Leaves just you. Anything you want to tell me?”

     “Larry hires me sometimes to do a job, but it ain’t never to kill nobody. I didn’t know nothing about what went down, I swear.”

     “There will be more questions. The more you help us, the better it will be. Think about it. Come with me.”

     Bob takes Gregory, handcuffs him to the sink in the bathroom and tells him he’ll check on him later. Back in the dining room, Bob takes a deep breath and sits.

     Stefan asks, tongue and cheek, “So how was your day?”

     After the ordeal of the day and the absurdity of the question, they look at each other and laugh.

     Pamela asks Clarice, “How are you feeling?”

     Clarice notices the focus is upon her. Her life has been smooth sailing with Stefan since they were married, and now nothing is the same. Her world, as she knew it, has turned upside down. She tells all of them especially Stefan, “I can’t say I was getting used to the idea that you’re an alien, but I was beginning to believe that at least it was bearable. Then men were pointing guns at us and kidnapping Pamela, and I said, ‘No, no, I can’t live like this no matter how good our life has been.’  I felt so sad. How would I tell you? I tried telling myself, ‘What doesn’t kill you won’t hurt you.’, but this, all this WILL kill you. Stefan and I may be in danger now if these criminals know who we are.” Clarice is almost in tears and pauses.

     Pamela says, “Oh, Clarice, I’m so sorry, I never meant...”

     Clarice interrupts, “I know, I know… I’ll admit it was a roller coaster ride, but when I saw you in danger, and these two men risk their lives to protect and save you, it was clear... Leaving a man like this who loves me, I would be a fool. I’m not going anywhere.”

     Pamela’s phone rings, “It’s Samantha,” she tells them.  “Hello, Samantha.”  Pamela listens, holds the phone down, and whispers to the others, “She wants to know how our day was.”

                                                                             The End      

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1 comment

00:47 Feb 25, 2021

Hey John, I love the suspense in your story. Your imagery and knowledge of empathy and fear help the reader feel like they are in a real life or death situation. I was a bit confused about who was speaking and feeling certain emotions because it does jump back and forth between character often. However, you brought in great characters and a story that I definitely want to continue reading! Thank you for writing this!

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