So, I was scheduled to work at Grand Lake Steak and Fine Dining except Dad got a call, and Chuck’s Pizza was short staffed, and could anybody help?
Dad sent me.
And that wasn’t all bad. You get better tips at Grand Lake Steak than Chuck’s, but half the staff at Grand Lake Steak hated me because Dad had me help retrain them.
Dad fired people after our family took over. They blamed me for that too. Behind my back, I heard them call me “Daddy’s little spy.” I wasn’t trying to be, but after a month, Dad had asked me what I thought about them, and I told him.
I could smell their fear when I came in for my next shift. It’s not as bad now, but skipping a shift there makes any day better.
Chuck’s Pizza is a hole in the wall. It has a small dining room with a few tables, but most of its customers were there to pick up take-out, and didn’t stay longer than ten minutes at most.
It’s also been robbed twice in the last two years—not that anyone should be surprised. It’s not in a nice neighborhood. I think it must be the only business on that side of the block that’s open.
After last year’s robbery, I asked Dad why he kept it open, and he said it was close enough to Grand Lake University that it paid for itself.
I’ve always thought it was nostalgia because it was the first restaurant Grandpa ever managed, and the one Dad practically grew up in.
I could hear Dad’s heartbeat as he told me, and it never sped up. So he believes what he said, and when I worked there on Thursday night, it felt like the whole restaurant wanted to prove him right.
I came in at four in the afternoon, and after five-thirty, it never slowed down. I was the only waitress in the restaurant. When I wasn’t taking orders, I ran the cash register. When the dining area finally emptied, I took orders over the phone, and made pizzas.
I took my first break at nine-thirty which was probably illegal, and ate some spaghetti in the breakroom. Then I walked out the back door, and called Nick on my cell phone.
His family was in Minnesota visiting his grandparents. Nick picked up on the third ring, and we talked.
Somehow, the topic changed from missing each other to ideas he’d had for improving Night Wolf’s car. At first it was kind of cute to hear him get excited, but after ten minutes of him explaining how he’d redesign the car’s engine, it was easy to wonder why we’re dating at all.
Not that I’d break up with him over something silly like that, but I wasn’t calling him because I wanted to talk about the car my grandfather used as a superhero.
“Haaa-ley,” one of my co-workers opened the backdoor, “there’s a guy in the dining area.”
“Now?” I said good-bye to Nick, and went back to work.
Unlike Daniel, Nick’s best friend, I don’t have any kind of danger sense, but if I did, I like to think it would have been freaking out when I went back into the restaurant.
I walked past the stacked boxes, and counters where we assembled the pizzas up to the counter next to the dining area.
He stood next to the counter, and smiled when he saw me.
If all I could do was see him, I might not have felt as uncomfortable as I did, but I still would have felt a little nervous. He didn’t fit in with the neighborhood. He was almost seven feet tall, and had muscles that I could see outlined under his trenchcoat.
I mean, seriously, a trenchcoat in July? Without any hint of rain?
But seeing was just the tip of the iceberg. I smelled warm plastic, silicon and metal–advanced electronics and a lot of them. And the sounds? In addition to his heartbeat, which quickened as I stepped closer, I heard the whirr of small fans. It came from the forearms of his jacket.
He held up his right arm, sliding his hand out. The hand was flesh, but the forearm was encased in metal.
Below his hand, a lens glowed red.
“See the light? It’s a laser. Give me your money or I’ll burn you down where you stand.”