That same night Joel had a dream. He couldn’t recall it the next morning, but knew it had something to do with darkness. He woke up several times, during the night, sweating and unable to go back to sleep right away. He would eventually fall back to sleep, only to start dreaming again, picking up where he’d left off. The next morning, as soon as he turned on his T.V., every news station was reporting what had happened just a couple of blocks away from the PiZZa PuB. Because of that, Joel became instantly interested in the story.
Due to the sensitive nature of the on-going investigation surrounding the story, the name of the victim, or the way she was found, had not been released. Crime in the way of robberies and shootings were prevalent in the area, so Joel and everyone else were numb to the stories. Most of the incidents were attributed to the wealthy, careless college kids in the area. From a criminal’s mindset, most of the college kids there were an easy target. Especially after a few drinks.
There had been several college assemblies speaking on this issue. Administrators encouraged students to use the ‘Buddy-System’ when traveling to and fro on and off campus. Of course, most of the rich kids ignored this request because most of them felt invincible. Usually a huge mistake on their part. The number of students robbed and beaten at gunpoint were astounding. Even so, only a handful of deaths had ever occurred so this case was getting special attention. To some of the onlookers, this was just another case of someone at the wrong place at the wrong time. To the Forensic Experts on site, this was already one of the most bizarre cases, ever, in the city.
It would be over a week before the Hostess’s name was released as the victim in this heinous crime. Three days after the incident, a few of her co-workers began to figure out that the victim may have been her because she never missed work. According to the schedule, she’d missed 2 days and this wasn’t like her at all. Meeting her that one time for the tour, and later having dinner with her, Joel had no idea that this was uncharacteristic of the her. Being the new guy, there was a lot he still had to learn. The main Cook at the pub made sure to remind him of that every chance he could. It seemed he had an issue with Joel since day one and Joel could not figure out why.
The Cook couldn’t wait to tell him the devastating news and seemed overly thrilled to do so. It just so happened that Joel had returned from a Food Drop when he was hit with the news. “So ya heard about ya girl?!” Joel, who noted that the Cook never so much as said two words to him before this, looked around to make sure that the Cook was speaking to him. Joel responded, “What girl?” For a second his mind drifted to Suzy Q. It had been awhile since he’d seen her so it was only natural that he’d think of her. Although he found thoughts of her at this very moment, odd.
Coming back to reality, he heard the Cook saying something about the Hostess and how he heard the cops found her body in two places in the alley. Once he processed the information, it hit him like a freight train. Just the thought of someone he knew being killed, much less in such an insane way, made him nauseous. Then the fact that the killer seems to have virtually disappeared didn’t help either. All of this and the stupid smirk on the Cook’s broad face was really more than Joel could bear. He stood there in disbelief and the Cook proudly told him what he thought he knew. As he blabbed on sharing his limited knowledge, Joel drifted away mentally. Back to the night he and the Hostess shared the plate of Fried Wangz and the bowl of Fried Shroomz. He remembered feeling a little guilty since Suzy Q had been the only girl he’d ever shared anything with up to that point.
He and Suzy weren’t official, but he didn’t think that she’d ever share food with another guy. Even now, in the midst of this tragic news, for some reason he wondered what she would have said if she’d walked up on their little tryst? Apparently it had been a pretty big deal since the Cook brought it up. Joel tuned back into the Cook saying, “Actually, YOU were the last person she talked to that night. We all saw her before she left, but she didn’t say anything to any of us. Guess we’re not as cool as the Delivery Boy.” Joel preferred Food Courier, it just had a nicer ring to it. But whatever, he wasn’t letting the Cook phase him in the least. This made the Cook talk even louder. He’d also been holding, waving and pointing a large butcher knife the whole time. Just to help add to the effect of what he was saying, no doubt. He looked and sounded a bit hostile, but Joel always remained cool, calm and collective.
He wondered himself how he did it. Feeling as though he was being interviewed by a Bad Cop for this craziness, finally spoke. “Wow. I had no idea…” and he really didn’t. The Cook continued on in his Bad Cop role and Joel continued to ignore him grabbing his deliveries and walking out the back door.
A few weeks later, once the area near the alley had been cleared and the sidewalks were back to normal, Joel got up the nerve to do a little investigation of his own. He had just completed two Food Drops and on the way back to the Pub he pulled over and parked in a space a block away from the alley. He hadn’t spoken with the Cook much since that day he put on the Bad Cop persona, but the stuff he said resonated in the back of Joel’s mind. As he walked over towards the alley, he checked his phone to make sure there weren’t any Food Drop orders coming through.
He was clear. As he looked up, about a half a block away from the alley, he stopped where he stood, causing a couple of people behind him to bump into each other. With people coming and going, anyone standing still stood out like a sore thumb. Joel noticed a person, standing still at the corner of the alley, looking in his direction. Incredibly, it looked a lot like Suzy Q! Completely focused, Joel began walking towards the person and the closer he got, the more he was convinced… it was Suzy! If not for fear of causing a panic, he would have surely yelled out her name.
Totally focused on Suzy Q and only a hundred feet away, Joel didn’t see the old fella suddenly change directions in front of him, which caused Joel to trip over his cane. Making sure the old guy was okay, Joel turned to head back to the alley. As he looked over and around the busy street, he noticed that Suzy was no longer standing where he could see her. Had she walked back into the alley further? He made it to where she’d been standing as fast as he could. She was gone. Looking around in a controlled panic, Joel looked all around the narrow alley noticing that there was no exit on the other side. It was one way in and one way out which meant that Suzy Q must’ve stepped out into the crowd. It didn’t make sense, but that was the only logical way she could’ve disappeared so quickly.
Finally, his emotions got the best of him and he yelled out her name, “Suzy!” It startled a few of the pedestrians, but at this point he didn’t care. The street was buzzing background noise. Cars, trucks, honking horns, people on their cell phones, people selling stolen cell phones, it wasn’t the best area of town. His phone buzzed signaling him that he had orders ready to be picked up and delivered but he ignored it. He walked back out into the crowd looking all around for Suzy Q. He then went back into the alley and walked the length of it, just in case. Nothing. Now becoming puzzled, he wondered if he’d only imagined seeing his old friend. If it was her, why was she avoiding him?
He’d gotten a recent email from her, but she didn’t mention being back in town anytime soon. She still had a few more weeks before school started back. His phone buzzed again, so he figured he’d better get going. Walking back toward the street, something at the corner of the alley glimmered in the sun light. He got closer to it, leaned over and instantly knew that his imagination was playing tricks on him. He picked the item up and placed it into his front pocket. The confirmation was bittersweet since this meant that Suzy Q must have been avoiding him. He felt that she may be in trouble so on the way back to his car he pulled out his cell phone and texted her. Are you back in town? Are you ok? She didn’t respond.
By the time Joel returned to the PiZZa PuB, his deliveries had fallen behind and the Cook was the first one to let him know how he felt about that. Screaming, the Cook was in rare form. Today he was wearing his Drill Sergeant uniform. Joel held back the laughter as he imagined him in an all white Drill Sergeant uniform. Did they even make those in white? Didn’t matter, it was enough to temporarily take Joel’s mind off of his friend. The visual was hilarious. Keeping his cool, Joel began to pack up the orders for delivery with the Drill Sergeant Cook screaming at him. Even the Kitchen Helpers gave him a look as if to say, “We’re sorry…” One of the Helpers said, “You have a lot to carry, I’ll help you.” With that the Cook shouted, “Oh no you won’t! Ain’t nobody got time for that, it rush hour! We’re backed up as it is because of him!” Knowing that this was totally not true, Joel smiled, winked at the Helpers and headed out the back door with his crate full of tasty food.
Later that night, Joel woke up a little disoriented on the sofa in his living room. After a long day, he’d come home and crashed. He woke up eager about what he’d found earlier in the alley. Appropriately, a Twilight Zone movie was playing. Joel loved the show and watched it regularly even though most of them were shows he’d seen several times. Pulling the item from his front pocket he began to remember back when Suzy first found it on eBay. He had never ordered anything from eBay and was vocally skeptical when she mentioned ordering it. When it finally arrived, he stated that it probably didn’t work, but he was wrong. He later stated that it probably wouldn’t work for long… That was over two years ago and here it was in his hand. He was wrong, again.
The little silver iPod had stood the test of time. It was obviously a bit weathered, which gave it character. He’d lost count of how many times Suzy came up to him, at school, saying you have to hear this song! It was no secret that Suzy Q fought depression daily. Joel, knowing this truth, did everything he could to protect her from everyone. He teased her about her iPod but realized, without it, she would’ve been a hot mess. Reality slowly crept it’s way back to the surface as Joel walked into his bedroom to grab his Beats headphones. Once his headphones were in place, he plugged into the iPod, turned it on and thumbed through to see what songs Suzy Q had loaded. Surprisingly, there was only one title scrolling by labeled: Be2gether. Joel had heard stranger names, but was curious as to why just one song? Now sitting on the edge of his bed, he took a deep breath and pressed ‘Play.’
Across town, the Cook had dozed off, too. As a guy who wore his emotions on his sleeve, he exerted a ton of energy when he was at work. Between yelling and cooking he’d be worn out by the end of the day. Tonight he made it as far as his La-Z-Boy before crashing out. He would have probably slept until just before getting up and getting ready for his next shift, but a loud noise woke him up. Wiping the drool from the corner of his mouth, the Cook sat up in his chair, startled. Another loud noise caused him to jump and face the kitchen where he thought the noise was coming from.
His house was completely dark, which helped to take his anxiety to an all new level. “Who’s there?!” There was no answer and the Cook slowly stood up and reached behind his sofa retrieving the mini-bat he kept there, just in case someone decided to break in. At 6’3”, weighing nearly 300 lbs, any one, or two, people would think twice before trying to attack the Cook. His Tongan roots were unmistakable even without the tattoos. As he crept towards the kitchen, his massive hand tightened around the bat as he closed in on his destination. Another crash. The Cook had lived alone for years and didn’t own any pets. Who would be crazy enough to ransack his place? Especially while he was home? He stopped momentarily, angrily took a deep breath and stepped just outside the kitchen’s doorway. Raising the bat, the Cook slowly stepped into the dark kitchen and switched on the light.
Something about what he saw nearly got the best of him. All of his silverware; forks, spoons, knives were in a pile on his kitchen floor. Every cooking utensil he owned, every non-perishable food item that he had on his shelves, everything was in the pile in front of him. Although the Cook had his flaws, he was OCD about his kitchen being organized. To see such disruption, in his kitchen angered him but scared him at the same time. He had moved close to the pile and noticed that it started to move. It was as if the pile was on top of ….something. As cans, boxes, utensils began to fall down from the top of the pile, the Cook heard giggling. He stood there staring at the pile but couldn’t move.
The giggling got louder and he realized it was coming from behind him. He turned slowly, in time to see a girl stoop down to pick up the mini-bat he’d dropped. As she stood there holding it in both hands, the Cook, not wanting to completely turn his back on the pile, he half faced the girl and screamed, “Who are you and why are you in my house?!” There was verbal response from the girl, as the massive Cook towered over her. She just looked up at him and smiled. “Give me my bat you little brat!” The little “girl” looked at the bat and back up at the Cook as though she was figuring out if she should or not. Her smile disappeared as her hand was the first thing the Cook noticed as it began to. . .change. It’s hand crushed the bat like a toothpick as it looked intensely into the Cook’s eyes. He stood there and watched as the “girl” slowly became a Beast that dwarfed him. He began to scream as he stepped back and lost his balance stepping on the edge of the pile. As he fell backwards the Beast, moving to fast to visibly see, ripped through the Cooks extended right arm, sending it flying across the kitchen. The Cook screamed louder, this time because the pain was so intense he nearly passed out. Half a second later, it ripped through the Cook’s chest putting him out of his misery. The Cook was dead before his body hit the floor.