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I was bringing the order out when I heard a booming voice.
“Is there a Charlie working here?”
Startled, I almost dropped it, but quickly recovered. “I’m Charlie,” I said. “Can I help you?”
A huge guy was standing next to Jonathan. He had flaming long red hair and a beard to match. He wore a black Megadeth tee shirt that was stretched tight over a beer belly. His face was pockmarked with old acne scars.
Jonathan’s entire demeanor had changed. When he first walked in, he was relaxed and flirtatious. Now, he had adjusted to more of a combat stance, legs spread, arms loose at his side. His body was tense and his eyes watchful as he eyed the huge red-haired man.
“You’re Charlie?” he asked, his voice still booming.
“I am,” I said, coming a few steps closer. I could see heads turning toward us and was hoping I could get him to lower his voice.
“Hey Red,” Chester said. “What do you want with my favorite waitress?”
Red didn’t answer, his eyes fixed on me. He pointed a thick finger at me. “Someone has been asking about you.”
I could feel the blood drain from my face. At the same time, there was a loud crash, making me jump.
Claire was standing there, surrounded by a pile of shattered plates and now-inedible food. Her face was as white as a sheet, probably like mine.
“Sorry,” she muttered, surveying the wreckage. “Oh God, I’m so sorry.” She knelt down, her hands trembling, to gather up the worst of it as the busboy hurried over with a broom.
I wanted to go help her, but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was rooted in my spot, held like a bug pinned under glass, by Red and his thick, pointy finger.
I swallowed. “Who?”
Red shrugged, his massive shoulders shifting under his tee shirt like boulders. “Some guy. Definitely an out-of-towner.”
“What did he say?”
“He kept asking if anyone knew of a Charlotte who had recently moved to town.” His eyes narrowed as his gaze turned calculating. “Charlie is short for Charlotte, right?”
I couldn’t answer. It felt like my tongue had stuck to the roof of my mouth. Sweat beads dotted my forehead as both hot and cold flashes surged through me at the same time. My body was still frozen in place. I couldn’t move, not even as my glass slipped through my numb fingers and crashed onto the floor.
From a far-away distance, I could hear voices talking to me, but they sounded like they were at the end of a tunnel, and I couldn’t make out a word they were saying.
I could only think of one thing.
And he found me.
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