Joel Johnston was a Sophomore at a local Community College. He was a full time student looking for a part time job. After applying to several places, via the internet, he finally got a call from a well known spot in the community. The PiZZa PuB, a small pub located a couple of blocks away from his school’s campus, was a staple in their buzzing community. It seemed to be the ideal gig for Joel. Being family owned since it’s conception, back in the day, one would think that there would be little to no employee turnover. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Especially in the last few months. Open 7 days a week, the PiZZa PuB’s busiest days were Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Those days you could get any drink, 2 for 1 and their signature Hot Wangz were more than worth a visit.
Joel’s favorite, the Fried Shroomz, huge beer-battered mushrooms, were also a top seller. Over the past few months, the Owner had given the business a facelift, introducing new items on the menu and initiating the weekend drink specials. Due to this and a few other things, the business had begun to grow, nearly tripling its weekend margins within a short period of time. Because of it’s growth and popularity in the College Community, the Management Team sought to expand the business by adding a delivery service. It would be on a trial basis, just to see if the response would be favorable, or not. It was predicted that it would be a great business move, catering to the College Kiddos and the local apartment complexes in the area. There were also a few neighborhoods that were probably going to jump on the delivery bandwagon or at least that was the hope of the Management Team.
Little did Joel know, but the he would be the first driver hired for the newly created position. He didn’t know what he’d be doing, but the PiZZa PuB had grown so in popularity that he didn’t care if he was scrubbing toilets. Just to be a part of such a phenomenon would make it worth his time. The head of the Management Team had done a lot of research before launching this whole Growth Campaign to include the Delivery Service. She was confident that offering delivery to customers would work and once it was proven, the PiZZa PuB would add drivers as needed.
A concern with the whole plan, however, was the fact that customers who began utilizing the delivery system, might become long time users. Customers who became frequent Delivery Service customers would frequent the pub less. A large part of revenue came from BooZe BaR sales and you had to be at the pub to take advantage of the 2 for 1 drinks. Delivery System customers would cause the BooZe BaR to take a hit. Only time would tell if that hit would be significant. A simple, yet complex nuisance of business. The Manager still pressed forward with her plan, so Joel got the call. He was completely ecstatic about the call, and the come-on-in-and-let’s-do-a-face-to-face-interview and was overheard comparing that day to his Birthday or even Christmas.
He really needed a job. Something he could do, effortlessly, and not interfere with his studies. Something not too demanding, but paid well enough that he could afford more than just Ramen, prepared every way imaginable. Long before the call, back when he was just a Freshman, he met Suzanne Quinones. He met her in his Physics class and after some time, they became close friends. Both of them being straight A students as well as introverts, neither knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. An inside joke between the two of them. Another inside joke was how Joel butchered Suzanne’s last name every time he tried to pronounce it. Because of this he began calling her Suzy Q which over time stuck. Soon everyone, even the Professors, began referring to her as Suzy Q. They’d laughed about the whole thing on several occasions. She was just cool like that.
She had pale skin and jet black hair. Her nails, which she almost always wore shaped to a point, were always painted black, too. These both complimented the deep dark wine colored lipstick she chose, daily. Over time Joel became smitten with her, but couldn’t tell if she felt the same, or anything even close, about him. Yet another inside joke, between the two, was how he would ask her if she was a vampire. Jokingly, of course. Most everyone agreed. She’d always laugh whenever Joel brought the subject up. But there was one time when she responded, ‘If I were a vampire, I’d be sure to bite you so that you could live forever with me!’ Caught off guard by her response, Joel laughed. But he never forgot that moment. For a few reasons, but mainly because it kind of answered how she felt about him. Somewhat. He felt that she was into him, but he couldn’t be too sure.
He was a bit of a goober and most girls didn’t even look at him. Not wanting to mess up their friendship, Joel never asked her about her true feelings towards him. He wanted, more than anything, to protect their friendship. He felt that he could be himself around her and that was cool. It was cool, too, how Suzy Q could care less of what people thought of her. She was just herself. All the time, wearing mostly black clothing, looking Gothic. They had a blast at their first, and only, Halloween party. She dressed up as, you guessed it, a Vampire while Joel dressed up as a very scary BatMan. Inspired by the comic character, he mixed that with becoming a human bat. She helped him with the make-up and they won every contest they entered. Even the online contests.
Although his costume was breathtakingly scary, Suzy Q’s was even more astonishing. She looked like an actual Vampire with elongated canine teeth that seemed almost too real. Joel secretly waited for her to pop them out all that evening, to eat, drink or whatever. But she didn’t and seemed to function with those vampiric teeth, naturally. There was nothing that they couldn’t talk about, but in time, he would find that there was a lot she never mentioned.
At the end of their Freshman year, the two vowed to keep in touch over the Summer Break. She told him that she was planning to go out of town for a while, to visit relatives, but it was with the understanding that she’d return before school started back. This really bummed Joel out. The fact that his best friend, his only friend would be leaving town made him feel all hollow inside. But he didn’t dare show his emotions on this subject around Suzy Q. That Summer, with his best friend out of town, Joel began applying for jobs. He told himself that it was for pocket change, but the truth of the matter was he was missing Suzy Q and she hadn’t responded to any of his texts, phone calls or emails.
As he thought about it, he didn’t know where out of town was for his friend. He’d hoped she was alright, though. He thought of her daily. So, in essence, the call came at a perfect time. It would be the perfect distraction. Meeting with his Shift Supervisor, Joel smashed the interview and was scheduled to come back the next evening for a trial run in his new role as Delivery Guy for the PiZZa PuB. He thought his title had a special ring to it. He was happy to find out that the Delivery System was set up through a newly designed PiZZa PuB app. Since everything was done online, there would be no actual cash exchange. How cool was that?! It was some serious technology for this type of business, but the numbers didn’t lie. The PiZZa PuB gross profits had tripled in the past year. Not only had the Owner physically expanded the area of the PiZZa PuB, through remodeling, the new app would prove to be the best investment yet.
The pub was booming in every area. The Stock Holders couldn’t be happier and other investors were jumping onboard faster than Joel could eat a bowl of the PiZZa PuB’s Fried Shroomz! On the way out of the interview, Joel was introduced to one of the Hostess. She was a lovely girl. Nothing like Suzy Q, but Joel was instantly charmed by her beauty. Her voice. Her fragrance. How lucky was he that she was chosen to show him around the pub?! During the tour she asked him what his favorite food item was and without hesitation he said, ‘the Shroomz.’ Laughing, she said, ‘What a coincidence! Those are my favs, too!’ With that, she looked over at a nearby Wait Staff and said, ‘Shroomz for our newest employee, Joel. Stat.’ Within minutes she and Joel were sitting and he was filling out the necessary paperwork. Soon after they were laughing and talking while they shared a huge bowl of Wangz and Shroomz.
All of a sudden, feeling a little guilty, Joel became noticeably uneasy. He had never sat with any girl for so long other than Suzy Q. He tried to shake the odd feeling off as nerves, but why all of a sudden. As she continued to laugh, talk and look at him somewhat seductively, he withdrew even more. He ended their time by saying that he had to get back to the campus to finish up some work. How crazy was that. School was out and everyone in the area knew it. Especially the employees at the PiZZa PuB since the students were their best customers. Even during the break. He left, returning to his dorm room. Thankfully he had no roommate. For the first time he felt like the Shroomz, as good as they were, made him sick. He’d spend most of the night over his toilet regurgitating his favorite food.
At closing that night, the Hostess finished up her nightly duties and said her goodbye’s to one of the Cook Staff and Night Managers. As she left, out of the back, as she had done a million times she headed for the bus stop a block away. She always carried mace and a Taser, at the advice of her father, a retired Police Officer. She was also in exceptional shape, having won several Triathlons in and out of state. As a 7th degree Black Belt, she once beat down 3 attackers, crippling 2 of them and breaking both of the other’s arms. All 3 twice her size, she never once pulled her mace or her Taser. That was 4 years ago this year. After the huge write up in the paper and online the next day, she’d never had any other would be attackers. Respectfully, so.
Until tonight. As she rushed to her catch her bus, she abruptly stopped. Someone who stepped from the corner of one the buildings between her and her bus stop. As the person stood there in the low lighting, she made it out to be a small person shaped like a woman. But she wasn’t sure. Standing still, about 10 feet in front of the her, the Hostess stepped to the right and continued forward. As she did so, the figure in front of stepped to the left, blocking her path. Stopping again, the Hostess chuckled and said, ‘Clearly, you must not know who I am?!’
At that, the person closed the distance between them, instantly. Speaking, it said, ‘Clearly, you have no idea who WE are!’ The Hostess, with all of her skill didn’t stand a chance. Reaching for her Taser, she never saw the claws that ripped her throat open to her larynx. Gagging and gurgling, the Hostess fell to her knees holding her throat. Blood spewed from between her fingers like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Another swipe and the Hostess’ head rolled into the alley where the being had stepped from. Her body or head would never be found, but the bloodstained sidewalk and alley were blocked off for weeks as Investigators and Forensic Experts tried to make sense of what could have possibly happened here that night . . .
To be continued . . .