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Escape
prose [ ]
a coffee shop short

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by [jaw ]

2012-02-05  |     | 



I could see him staring at me out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over and he turned away in such a casual fashion that I thought I must have been mistaken. I turned my attention back to Cassi.

“A grande cappuccino please,” I requested, not that she didn’t already know. I have been frequenting this coffee shop for five years and all the girls know that I order a cappuccino, almost without exception.

I felt the heat of eyes fixed on me from behind, and with a great effort refused to turn and look. My face reddened... ever so slightly. I had seen his rugged features, with two or three day’s growth on the square chin.

“That’s four forty-six,” Cassi said, pulling me back to reality. I handed her a twenty and dug around in my purse for the forty-six cents. Finding it gave me a curious sense of satisfaction.

“Go sit down Bonita,” she told me, “I’ll bring it out to you.”

“Great... thanks.”

I now had an excellent excuse to turn and survey the coffee shop. Survey it I did. I started at the opposite end from where he sat, perusing the small café. My eyes paused at each occupied table. Some looked up as if drawn by my glance. Two smiled, people I knew... in the coffee shop fashion. Not friends, rather bare acquaintances. We nodded to one another, an acknowledgement of some shared knowledge or love. More likely the need for caffeine.

The lone empty table, sat next to the man with the square, be-whiskered chin. I stepped toward it, my low heals clacked on the tile floor. As I neared my destined table, I dared a quick glance at those penetrating eyes. They were green and filled with mischief. I shuddered. No girl needs this I admonished myself... whatever this is.

I sat in such a fashion that I might observe him out of the corner of my eye. Why was I intrigued I wondered?

Cassi interrupted my reverie. “Here’s your cappuccino Bonita.”

“Ah thanks,” I tore myself away from my thoughts.

“Let me know if you need anything else,” she said, then looked over at the man, and gave him a warm smile.

God, I wanted to slap her.

Take a deep, deep breath, I told myself.

Then another.

Make that three.

“Ha,” I sighed.

I took a first, tentative sip of my cappuccino and glanced over my mug at him. Those green eyes seized mine and I was his captive.

It passed in an instant but there was a satisfied smile on his craggy face. I felt a fleeting desire for something stronger than coffee. And, the need to hit him, jump his bones, or run like hell... perhaps all three.

Running seemed the wisest option.

He got up and came toward me. I lowered my eyes and stared into my cup as if this would make him go away or pass me by. He pulled out the chair across from me and sat down.

“Hello Bonita,” he said.

I lifted my eyes in surprise.

“I heard your name when the girl served you your cappuccino,” he explained with a smile that would melt a glacier. “I’m Damien,” he reached across the table, his hand extended.

I pulled back and kept my hands wrapped around my coffee mug. He frowned for a moment, then relaxed and that smile reappeared. He is trouble I thought.

“Bonita is such a pretty name, what does it mean?”

“Pretty.”

“Ah.”

I finished my coffee and got up. “I have to leave.”

“I can take you wherever you want to go,” he said with a smirk.

His stunning profile and green eyes lost all attraction for me in that instant. “I don’t think so.” I said as I got up. “Thanks Cassi,” I called, then strutted to the door.
He followed.

#

I saw him behind me and all but ran to my Porsche. I hit the unlock button from eight or ten feet away, scrambled in, and locked the door with a relieved sigh. My respite lasted no more than a second or two as he appeared at the driver’s window and began to pound on it.

“I just want to talk,” he yelled, red faced.

I shook my head, afraid that he would punch through the soft-top and grab me. I threw the car into reverse and with tires screaming, shot out backwards, thrusting him aside with the fender of my Spyder. I flew out of the parking lot, tires wailing and smoking as I fled down the street.

Safe at last, I gave an involuntary hiss and slowed to ten kilometres over the speed limit.

#

I avoided my coffee shop for three weeks and two days. It upset me that he could force me to that. Who the hell was he anyway? I had every right to my splendid cappuccino. Nowhere else could they manage the same, amazing flavour. Damn him!
I would return to my coffee shop I decided. If he bothered me, I would call the police. It was my prerogative to go there, for this had been my coffee shop for five years.

#

Jenny was at the counter when I walked in. I glanced around. There was no sign of him.

I relaxed.

“One grande cappuccino?” Jenny grinned.

“Yes please,” I said with vigour.

Jenny took my money. While she steamed the milk she said, “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“No,” I replied, I had a bad experience last time.

“I heard about that, though I’ve never seen the guy. I heard he’s really cute.”

“Yes, and really aggressive.”

Jenny raised her eyebrows at me but nodded. “Well, like I said I haven’t seen him. Maybe he embarrassed himself, I don’t think he comes around.”

“I hope not, I want to drink the best cappuccino in the city in peace.”

Jenny gave me another of her contagious grins as she passed me my coffee.

I sat at a corner table where I had a clear view of all the comings and goings. I did feel a reasonable sense of ease. Jenny’s comment that Damien did not seem to frequent the coffee shop was reassuring. I drank my cappuccino, and dropped a five-dollar bill into the tip mug on the counter on my way out.

“Hey, thanks,” Jenny said when she noticed the size of the gratuity.

“You’re very welcome,” I smiled back.

I was a regular again.

After a few days, my confidence was complete. Damien did not come into the café, I did not see him anywhere and was sure he would now leave me be. Two weeks of coffee shop bliss followed.

#

It was Sunday morning and I decided to drive up and have breakfast with a cup of strong coffee. Cassi was on that morning and I surprised her when I ordered a grande coffee instead of my cappuccino. I went over to the counter that held the lids and fixings. Rather than my usual non-fat milk, I splurged with a great splash of cream. I sat while Cassi made the California bagel I ordered. I chatted with her when she was free and another patron who was at the table next to mine. It was a pleasant breakfast. I popped a nice tip into the mug on the counter as I passed and said goodbye.

#

Damien was leaning against my car. I stumbled to a halt. He bathed me in his woman-killer smile.

“Hey Bonita, good to see you.”

“You’re leaning on my car,” I told him in a startled huff.

“Sorry,” he grinned and pushed himself away and toward me.

“Don’t come near me,” I told him as I groped in my purse for my cell phone.

He lifted his hands in innocence. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You scared the hell out of me the day we met and you’re scaring me now.” I felt the phone and pulled it out with a flourish, my finger found the button to speed-dial 911. “Just leave me alone.” I held the phone out, pointing it at him like a weapon, my finger poised.

“What are you going to do, call the police?”

“I have 911 on speed-dial.”

He stopped. “Hey, no problemo, I’ll just leave you to yourself.” He shrugged and turned away.

It should have registered that it was too easy. Far too easy.

#

It took me a couple of days to realize that the same BMW followed me with excessive frequency. It was the identical, vermillion M3 coupe each time. It was behind me on my commute to the office and on my trip home after work. It followed me when I went shopping and to the gym.

I knew who was in that car. After a week, I realized I had to act, before I had a nervous breakdown. I called the police.
It was an interesting conversation.

#

The next morning, there was a phone call and I buzzed a VPD officer up to my condo. He was not in uniform, but had ID. That, and an unmarked police car.

“We think this is the same guy who stalked six other women in the last two years,” he told me.

I was astonished. “What happened to them?”

“Hmm...” he cleared his throat. “They disappeared.”

“What!” I gasped.

“Don’t worry, we have a team on this.”

“Am I the first one to call you that I was being stalked by him?”

He sputtered, hemmed, and then sighed. “No, one other woman called in, but we didn’t take her seriously. She had a history of mental illness and paranoia. That was a mistake, but there will be no errors this time,” he assured me.

It wasn’t like the VPD had an immaculate record and though I was mollified, I did not intend to put my life in their hands.

Not without reserve.

#

I drove over the PVC loop and the gate to the underground parking rattled open. I slipped my Porsche into low gear and eased out into the lane. I looked both ways and saw the black SUV I knew belonged to the undercover cop who would follow me.

I smiled.

It was some consolation after all.

I drove down the lane and turned onto Richards Street. I went left on Pacific, and down to Cambie. When I entered Cambie, I saw the red BMW slip in behind me. The SUV backed off, though I could see it two or three cars behind.

I felt nervous, but more secure now that I had backup. I arrived at Cambie and Pender, where the law offices of ‘Stern and Gregson’ were located and drove down the lane to park in the underground. I was a full partner in the firm and had parking privileges. I pulled past the gate and stopped until it closed behind me. The vermillion BMW appeared on the other side.

My heart stopped.

The BMW was too late.

The gate shut and I drove to my reserved parking space.

I gave a great sigh of relief.

Reprobate!

I wished to God that I owned a gun for a fleeting moment. But, I am a lawyer and know that violence solves nothing.

Almost nothing.

#

My day passed filled with women cursing unfaithful husbands and men swearing at stupid, bitch wives.

Being a divorce lawyer is tough and anyone who imagines I make too much money is an idiot. I work for every penny of it.

Believe me!

It was six o’clock, time to go home. I called the VPD detective assigned to me.

“I’m on my way to my car,” I told him.

“Fine, we are watching, but be careful,” he said.

That was not reassuring. Not in the least.

In spite of the fact that I parked in a secure, underground parking lot, I felt nervous going to my car. The elevator stopped and the doors whooshed open. I gave a nervous peep out into the car park. It was silent as death.

That was odd at six-something in the evening. People should be hurrying to their cars in the mad rush home. Puzzled, I pulled the keys out of my purse, slung it over one arm, picked up the briefcase with my free hand and struck off in the direction of my parking spot, just out of sight, around the first pillar. I rounded the pillar and there sat my Porsche... as I had left it. I picked up my pace, my eyes searched and the sound of my two-inch heels resounded like I was in a concrete tomb.

I saw an exit door open. My heart stopped. It was Damien. How had he gotten in with the police watching? I dashed for my car.

“BONITA WAIT,” he yelled, charging toward me.

I kept pushing the remote until I was close enough for it to work. “GO AWAY,” I screamed in fear and desperation. I threw the briefcase to the floor, and used that hand to fling open the door. I slammed it shut and locked it as he arrived pounding on the windshield. I started the car, but before I could slam it into gear, he punched through the soft, convertible top and grabbed for me.

I had an idea, as I leaned out of the way to escape his clutching hand. I opened the window a little. I saw a gleam of triumph in his eye and he stuck his fingers in. I rolled the window back up and held my hand on the button, hoping it would dig into them.

“BITCH,” he yelled as he snatched the other hand out of the car and used it to try to haul the window down and free his trapped fingers.
I unlocked the door, unlatched it, swung myself to the right and with both hands firmly on the steering wheel, I put my feet on the door and shoved it as hard as I could. Leverage, is a good thing. The door flew open, smashing him in the face, and I hoped, breaking a finger or two as he hurtled away. I slammed the door shut and threw the Porsche into gear in my mad rush to escape.

#

“Where the hell were you?” I hollered into my phone at the detective who was supposed to protect me. It occurred to me that the police might be willing to sacrifice me to catch their bad guy. But I couldn’t be sure and that might be my fear and anger thinking.

By the time Rowan, the cop, arrived at my condo I had calmed enough to stop calling him unmentionable names.

“We have no idea how he got into the building, but we will be more watchful. We have added another two officers to tail him, he won’t slip away on us again.”

“Great,” my tone dripped with sarcasm. “I need my briefcase, I dropped it in the car-park.”

“We have it, it’s at the station. We want to dust it for fingerprints and examine it, with your permission of course.”

“Of course.” Why didn’t I trust this cop?

“You can call me whenever you plan to leave your apartment and I will make sure that someone is nearby.” He cleared his throat. I raised my eyebrows. “It would be helpful if you kept this on you when you go out,” he held out a small, black object with a plastic case.
“And this would be...”

“It’s a GPS tracking device.”

I paused, and did not reach for it. He looked a little forlorn as he stood there his hand extended while I decided. In fact, it seemed like a good idea. So far, at least, the VPD had not been successful in watching over me and this might be a good answer. “Okay,” I reached out and took the small gadget from his sweaty palm. It was moist from his hand.

I held it between thumb and forefinger. I felt icky. I pulled two tissues from a box on the bathroom counter, off the entry, and wiped it dry, while I gave him my best withering stare.

“Sorry,” he said, but he smiled and his eyes laughed.

“Unless there’s something else...”

“No that’s everything. I’ll send your briefcase up in half an hour or so.”

“Please do.”

#

I was glad that I’d accepted the tracker as Damien managed to outwit the police three times during the next two weeks, but on Friday night, they caught him in the act of threatening me with a knife. When they arrested him, the relief was a bucket of ice water poured over me.

The Judge refused to give him bail, which is unusual, but it made me happy. I could get on with life without fear, though I would never be the same and would be ever be vigilant.

#

It was Monday after work. Damien was still in jail with no sign he would get bail. The doors to the elevator whooshed open. I looked around the parkade with my finger on the button, holding the door open until I was comfortable. The place seemed deserted. I could see my car, they gave me a new parking stall since my troubles with Damien. I let go of the button, snatched my briefcase, and headed for my Porsche at a fast walk.

Rowan popped out from behind a pillar. I stopped, my leather soles sliding a few centimetres on the concrete floor. “How did you know I was still here, and what the hell do you want anyway?”

“You still have the tracking device,” he explained. “I thought you might prefer me to pick it up rather than drop it off at the station.”

I shrugged. “Whatever, I’ll get it for you,” I told him as I dug for it in my
purse. “Here,” I held it out to him.

He took it, switched it off, then put it in his jacket pocket. He took my elbow and guided me to my car.

“One small thing,” he told me.

“Yes?”

“They got the wrong man.”

“What?”

He spun me around and clapped his hand over my mouth. I saw the flash of a syringe. I knew I was about to die after a slow brutal rape, as had the six other women before me. There was nothing to lose and I struggled, pushing against the hand that held the syringe with adrenaline infused muscles. But he was too strong and the needle came closer and closer to my arm as he muffled my screams. I did have one lone weapon available and with all the force my fear and anger could muster, I tromped his toe with my low heel. He knocked me away and I caught a glimpse of rage in his eyes.

I was as good as dead. I fumbled for my keys and when he reached for me again, I made as if to stomp his foot. He smirked as he side stepped me and pulled me to him. I jerked my key out and stabbed him in the eye with it.

“STUPID BITCH,” he screamed, dropped the needle and let me go. I opened the door and slipped in, fumbling to get the key into the ignition. With one hand over his bloody eye, he punched through the soft top of my convertible and grabbed my hair, screaming curses.

“You are going to die a slow, painful death, witch.”

Not today, I thought as the key entered the ignition slot... not today.
I cranked up the car and slammed it into reverse. I floored the gas pedal and popped the clutch. For a short eternity, I heard the howl of the tires and smelled burning rubber, but the car only inched backward, then the tires caught and the Porsche flew out of the stall.

Rowan, the bastard, hung on, my head whipped forward and crashed into the steering wheel. I slammed on the brake, hoping the force would break his grip, but he held on and tried to ram my head into the steering wheel again. I banged the gear leaver into first, and popped the clutch. My head collided with the headrest and it felt like my hair was being ripped from my scalp. The wheels protested as I hit the first corner at thirty klicks. The force was too great for Rowan and his hand slipped from my hair.

Two more quick corners and I was at the gate. My entire body trembled as it began the slow process of opening.

Rowan appeared in my rear-view mirror, fury on his face, the syringe in his right hand, his left hand over his eye, with blood seeping between his fingers, dripping onto the concrete floor.

I punched the Porsche into reverse, and am sure I saw his eye widen the instant before I rammed him. I kept the gas pedal to the floor until I hit the wall. Through the rear-view mirror, I saw the light leave his eyes. I pulled forward and got out to look. I was certain he was dead or dying.

I climbed back into my now dented auto, and drove out the open gate to call 911.

#

“Remind me never to mess with you Bonita,” Jenny said, awe in her voice, when I finished telling her the story and why I now owned a hardtop convertible. She gave me another of her sweet grins as she got up to serve customers.

Too bad I don’t prefer women, I thought, as I took a satisfying sip of my cappuccino.

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