Bruce followed the lady in red as she stumbled toward the back of the restaurant. He noticed the back of her dress had a zipper that ran from the neck all the way to the bottom of the dress. It shifted slightly as she walked, like a snake, or maybe a river. She paused for a second, a little off balance, but steadied herself and looked back. Caught staring at her curvy hips, Bruce looked away, toward the side entrance of the restaurant. There was a little eating area outside with a handful of tables. A couple of patrons drank their drinks and ate small appetizers, smiling and talking about their lives possibly. The passing traffic paid them no heed.
He almost bumped into a waitress with a tray full of food. She didn’t stop, but kept going, turning around to open the door with her backside. When she did, the sound and smell of downtown snuck into the hallway.
Bruce had met many clients at this little restaurant. The restaurant and its Polynesian theme would often put the clients at ease and he found he could get them to tell the truth a little easier. The Mai Tais helped. But one thing Bruce never understood is why anyone would sit outside, by the busy downtown street with its smell of diesel and gasoline, and the noise of all that commerce.
Bruce turned back to the lady in red and she was on the move, disappearing around a corner. He quickened his pace and when he turned the same corner, she was nowhere to be seen. The only clue was the door to the women’s restroom slowly closing.
Bruce knocked on the door but there was no answer. He knocked again. Still nothing. He sighed and walked around the area for a bit. He didn’t want to go into the lady’s room. He had been in plenty, sure, but usually at night after hours, looking for clues. This was the middle of the day. He didn’t want to have to answer any questions from suspicious patrons, employees or worse, security. Questions about why he, a full-grown man, was inside a women’s restroom wouldn’t be easily answered.
After it was clear that she was not coming out, Bruce shook his head and took a step inside. She was standing in front of the mirrors spraying a large section with some type of spray bottle.
“What are you doing?” he asked. He kept the door open, just in case someone came upon them. He could say he was checking on his wife without raising too much suspicion, as long as she played along.
She finished and without answering him walked over to a stall that was sealed with that yellow, “CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS” type tape. She promptly tore the tape down.
“What the hell are you doing?” he said, a little alarmed. The last thing he needed was to have his license revoked for meddling with evidence.
She was undeterred and tore enough of it, and a large, official-looking warning sign, off so that she could open the stall.
Bruce walked out of the restroom. No client was worth this. She was obviously crazy or trying to set him up. Either way, it didn’t matter. Yes, he was broke and yes, he needed the job, any job really, but he wouldn’t be able to get any clients if the police came and found him and the lady in red with torn up police tape everywhere.
From inside the restroom he heard a cry and the sound of something or someone falling to the floor. Bruce knew it was probably a setup, but one thing he could not ignore, for the life of him, was the sound of a woman in distress. Bruce pushed the door open and entered, thinking at least he could say he heard someone scream if he were caught.
She was in the stall, but the door was partially closed and he couldn’t see her. He touched the gun tucked into his waistband. This whole affair was making him a little nervous and he checked the other stalls to be sure they were alone. He heard her make a loud retching sound, as if she were getting sick.
“You OK?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “Be out in a minute.”
Bruce cracked the door to the restroom and looked outside, hoping no one was coming. It was 3pm on a Thursday so the restaurant wasn’t busy.
He heard the stall door open and the lady in red came out holding a large black and white thing. It could be a weapon he thought and he grabbed the butt of his pistol but didn’t draw.
The white and black thing she held was almost larva like. She inserted her hand into the back end; it was larger than the rest of the thing, like the swollen abdomen of a bug. There was a glowing tube that connected that part to the smaller front end and it had three black, spider-like appendages that extended past the front of the device, again giving it an insect-like appearance. She pointed it at the floor in front of Bruce, pulled the trigger and blasted a big hole in the floor in front of him.
Bruce jumped back instinctively and pulled his snub-nose out.
“I wasn’t shooting at you, Bruce. Look at it.”
For a moment, he thought she meant to look at the thing, almost alive, that she was holding. But she motioned with it toward his feet and he followed the gesture to the hole in front of him. It wasn’t an ordinary hole. There was no floor beneath the hole, no floorboards or beams or any type of structure. It was just a perfectly black hole. The rim was a fizzling orange color, an almost electronic fire buzzing around the edge.
“What did you do?” he asked so quietly she didn’t hear him.
She walked over to the sinks and stumbled, dropping the gun. Several pieces broke off the device.
She picked up the pieces, alarmed. “We don’t have much time,” she said “Everything in this world passes.” She examined the pieces in her hand.
“Cosmetic,” she said, “hopefully.”
She picked up the gun and aimed it at the mirrors she had sprayed. There was a charging sound from the gun and then she blasted a hole into the mirror. It looked like the one at his feet, but this one was rimmed with blue electricity instead of orange. He could see through it, like it was another room, but he couldn’t quite make out what was behind it. He got dizzy staring at it.
She walked over and tossed the gun down at his feet. He expected it to crash across the floor, but it fell through the hole and out of the corner of his eye he saw it exit the other hole and reappear briefly in one of the mirrors. He instinctively ducked, but the gun was nowhere to be seen.
She stood up as straight as she could, gathering herself together.
“Now, let’s get on with this whole, ‘saving the world’ business,” she said and taking a step, she jumped through the hole in front of him.
The fact that she disappeared through the hole wasn’t what scared him. The fact that he saw her come out through the other hole behind the mirrors, that’s the fact what scared him.
She was in the mirrors, in the reflection, but he looked around frantically and she was not in the room with him.
“Stop looking,” she said, “I’m not there anymore. Now be a good boy and jump in.”