A hospital orderly with a wheelchair arrives with the nurse. “Okay Sarah, we’re ready.”
Mike asked the nurse, “Is it okay if I go in with her?”
The hospital orderly gives the nurse a quick look.
“Getting stitches is a minor procedure that may take a little longer than you think. You mentioned something about food a little while ago and you could go now if you’d like.
“I’ll be fine. Have something to eat and I will text you when its over.” Sarah said.
Mike leans over and gives Sarah a peck on the forehead.
“Okay. Please text me. I’ll see you when you get back.”
They took Sarah out of the room. Mike walks to the exit and heads out of the hospital.
As he walks through the waiting room, his eye catches a young girl.
She’s around 9 to 10 years old. Her face is white, and she has dark bags under her eyes.
“She looks haunted,” Mike said to himself.
Mike exits the hospital.
He looks across the street and sees the 24-hour diner that the nurse recommended.
Mike jaywalks and dashes across the street and walks into the diner.
The sign at the hostess stand tells him to please wait to be seated.
He hears a voice say to him, “Sit anywhere you want, Hon.”
Mike grabs a menu and takes a seat in a booth. He looks at his phone. It’s 9:25 PM. He checks the menu and looks at email and social media to see if anything interesting is going on.
“How are you doing? The rain hasn’t let up.”
Mike glances out the window and looks back at the waitress. “Yeah. It seems to be getting colder.”
After informing him of tonight’s specials, she asked Mike if he would like to order. “Yes, please. Let me get the Amigo burger and fries with extra jalapenos. ” She asks him how he would like it cooked and makes the notation on her pad.
She said thank you and turned and walked off. Mike goes back to checking his phone.
There’s a whoosh of cold air.
Two more people are entering the diner. Mike looks up and notices an older woman walking in with a man in his 20s wearing a dark suit. Mike smiles to himself and thinks that it looks like a cougar has caught her prey.
The woman is ashen-faced and the young man’s posture looks a bit depressed and almost downtrodden.
Mike returns to looking at his phone and checks the news. He looks at the counter and sees three older men, all reading newspapers. All the news in on the phone. Why would anyone read a newspaper? Old habits are hard to break. Mike says to himself.
He goes back to checking sports scores and the waitress brings his food and neatly arranges what she’s carrying on the table.
The burger looks good and the beer glasses are frosty and there is a layer of ice on the top in the foam.
“Here you go. Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Nope. It all looks perfect.”
The waitress smiles as she nods her head and turns and walks away.
As he cuts the burger in two with a knife, Mike notices the woman intensely gesturing and telling the young man something. Mike takes a bite of the burger and after a few bites, the older woman gets up to leave as Mike mentally notes that she didn’t stay long.
When she approached Mike, she turned and looked to her left, away from him, and lifted her hand as if to hide her face. Mike takes a sip of beer and the icy coldness hits the back of his throat. He catches his breath and takes a long gulp.
He looks at the clock on the wall behind the counter and it’s a little before 10 o’clock. Mike wonders how Sarah is doing. He sends her a text asking her to please let me know when I can come back.
Mike looks up and notices that the young man has disappeared as he looks around the restaurant and doesn’t see him. He would’ve noticed him walking out because of the cool breeze and the bell from the door would’ve made him look.
He drains the last of the beer and Mike catches the waitress’s eye. Mike makes a drinking motion with his hand and points at the empty beer glass. She gives him the okay sign.
“A beer sounds good. How’s the burger?”
The voice was coming from just behind Mike’s right shoulder, and he turned to look. It’s the young man in the dark suit. Mike thinks to himself how weird it is that the young man just seemed to materialize out of nowhere behind him.
“Beer is always good, and the burger is decent,” Mike said.
“Do you mind if I sit and hang out for a few? I’m waiting for a text. I’ll buy the next round.”
“Sure, have a seat. I’m kind of doing the same thing and since you’re going to buy beer, I guess introductions are in order. My name is Mike.”
“My name is Damien.”
“Damien? Do you mean like The Omen guy? No offense, but I always thought that name was creepy.”
Damien nodded his head.
“Yeah. I used to get told that all the time.”
They talked about what they did for work. Mike told Damien his tale of working in construction and then when work slowed down, he went to work at a plumbing supply warehouse.
“I’m a business consultant. I’ve had a few businesses over the years that did well, and now I’m looking for the next big thing.” Damien said.
“Over the years? You look like you’re my age or younger.”
“I get that a lot, too. You could say I’m a fast learner. I am one of those guys that graduated from high school when I was 14 and then I got a degree in computer science when I was 18. My parents were teachers, so I guess I’m a prodigy, at least that’s what they tell me.”
“Wow. I have never met a brainiac before. If I need help with my computer, I guess you’re the guy to call, right?”
“Sure. Why not?”
Mike noticed Damien wore an expensive-looking watch.
“Tell me something. Why do you wear a watch if your phone already has the time?”
“It’s a family heirloom. This has been in my family for a long time and I try to keep it pristine. Plus, women seem to like it.”
“I bet they do. Women have a talent of being able to know how to price things.”
Mike noticed that whatever subject he brought up, Damien seemed to have a working knowledge of all of it. Politics, religion, sports, you name it, he knew it.
It became like a game to Mike, so he talked about obscure details about Seattle’s former NBA team. Damien not only knew the answers but corrected the information Mike thought he knew.
Then Mike tested Damien on the intricate details of the mechanics of the dirt bikes that he rode 15 years ago. Damien rose to the challenge and proved to know more than Mike did. It was uncanny.
After what seemed to be an hour, Damien looked at his watch and said that he needed to leave.
“It’s been good speaking with you, Mike. It’s time for me to go. Have a good evening.”
Mike thought to ask Damien for his contact information, but in the back of his mind, there was a small voice that told him not to.
“Okay, buddy. It was good talking with you as well.”
Damien slid out of the booth, stood up, and patted Mike on his right shoulder as he walked towards the door.
Mike sat in silence for a moment, as he felt slightly dazed. As he reflected on the conversation he just had, Mike had a feeling of uneasiness and he somehow was remorseful. As he got up to go to the restroom, he passed by the waitress and asked for the bill.
The waitress told him that Damien had already paid the bill and said that was a nice thing to do. Mike wondered why Damien had paid for the whole thing. He hoped Damien didn’t feel sorry for him. Mike returned to the table. He looked at his phone and it said that the time was 2 AM! Mike was astonished!
He looked at the waitress. “Is it 2 AM? I couldn’t have been sitting here this long.”
She assured him it was.
“You two have been sitting here laughing and chatting like you were two old college buddies and I kind of thought you were, and I didn’t want to have to break you two up.”
Mike didn’t hear what she said, and he thought of Sarah and that sobered him up. Why hadn’t she texted him? His phone is on and the battery is 47%. He took off out of the diner and dashed across the empty street to the hospital.
Mike walked through the doors of the hospital and showed his visitor’s badge to the guard. He walked past the nurse’s station in the waiting room and went through the doors and into the hospital emergency room.
Mike went to Sarah’s room, and she wasn’t there. He tried to text her. Mike heard her phone buzz and the sound was inside her purse that was on the other side of her bed. Panic struck.
He looked out into the hallway and made a right and went down the hall and found the nursing station as one nurse was staring at a computer screen.
“My girlfriend is missing. Sarah Loughty. She was getting stitches in her hand and she should be in her room.”
The nurse looked up, and her eyes widened as her jaw dropped.
“Oh, my goodness. Wait right here. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.” the nurse said.
Mike’s shoulders tightened and there was an icy chill on the back of his neck. Why did the nurse look shocked and where did she go and where is Sarah?
After what seemed to be an eternity, a hospital administrator and a doctor approached him.
“Where have you been? We have texted you many times and tried to find you or someone to contact.” the hospital administrator said.
“What? Tell me now! What’s going on? Where’s my girlfriend?”
“Mike, your girlfriend is dead.”