APROXM: SHORT STORY

SALEM

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PREFACE: Guess which four player cooperative first person shooter I played in favor of writing this assignment until the last possible minute. And it shows.



Out from a pouring rain did two men and one woman enter 17th Street's busiest chophouse--a hole in the wall by all accounts despite its contradicting popularity--and although one may consider visiting a restaurant for the food or its ambience, the party of three chose this house of peanut stained floors simply because it meant they were no longer outside. A cacophony of knives digging into seared meat, teeth pummeling baked loaves, glasses clinking with cheer, and the usual buzz of speech filled the air almost as much as the scent of sirloins couriered by waiters and waitresses. The two men took notice of these observations while the woman seemed to pay attention only to her feet below. The party patiently waited five steps of a clock hand.


"Boston," one man inquired to the other, the two facing forward.

"I don't want to hear it, Cambridge."

"Man, she might try to run for it."


At this, Boston turned his head just slightly in the direction of their third party member, thought carefully, and then faced the front once more.


"No, I don't think so. She knows what we did. She's not gonna try anything."


A third voice chimed in, but not from behind them: "Hi! Party of three? Come right this way, please."


And so the two men and one woman were politely escorted to where they would be dining today, a booth of darkened oak. Cambridge took one seat--The other two sat across, with the woman first, and their waitress promised to be right with them before disappearing behind creaky double doors. Boston reached over the woman and grabbed at the wand hanging from their booth's window, closing the blinds and shutting out the rain's imagery.


"I don't like it." Cambridge grumbled.

"Well, there's no sense in being a baby about it. We're here now," answered Boston.

"No, man, I get why we're here. Staying off the streets and lettin' this shit blow over sounds like a real good plan--"


They both glanced at the woman, who would have continued to keep her eyes locked to her feet had their table not served as an obstruction.


"--What I don't get is why we brought the bitch," Cambridge continued.

"What do you--what do you expect me to do, huh? The bitch is the only reason we didn't get filled with holes going into the van. We can't just dump her. She knows what we look like."

"Shiiit, you good with just saying all that right in front of her?" Cambridge asked, laughing, "You makin' her think we're gonna do somethin' to her."


Before Boston could respond, their waitress returned with waters (although the men would have preferred beers had they been asked) and wondered aloud if everyone knew what they wanted. Boston ordered a well done sirloin (to his partner's pantomimed disgust) and a chicken salad ("Is chicken okay? Hey, you gonna talk? Fine, you're getting chicken.") while Cambridge reassured that he'd be fine with bread for now. With the departure of their waitress, Cambridge slowly drifted his eyes off of her disappearing figure and around the room, all the while drumming his fingers until stopping very suddenly. Two police officers entered the restaurant.


"Hey, Boston."

"I know."


Watching the officers be greeted and sat, the two men then snapped their attention to each other.


"They ain't here for us, maybe," offered Cambridge while pecking at the blinds with his fingers.

"Rain's lettin' up," he continued. "I'm gonna go make a phone call--see where Plymouth's at with the truck."

"Keep it quick, alright?" reminded Boston.

"Yeah, whatever. Don't you two have any fun conversation without me now."



It was as Boston began to spread butter around his dinner roll did the woman finally speak.


"What do you… plan on doing with me, if I may ask?" As she did.

"Yeah I… I dunno, kid. Kinda playing this by ear," Boston responded, chewing.


There existed a rift of silence broken up only by bread being devoured until she spoke once more.


"You shot a few people back there."

"Hey, keep your voice down. I don't want to hear that shit," barked Boston in a rough whisper.

"Do you like shooting? Do you feel good at it?" further inquired the woman.

"Yeah, real good at it. Keep talking about this and I'll remind you how good."

"Well, I don't think you would. Not here, anyway. Not in public," she remarked.

"... What the hell are you saying?"


For the first time that night, the woman's eyes peeled off of the ground and rose up to meet Boston's displeased gaze.


"I'm saying that I could scream for help right now. That I could yell--'Look out! He's got a gun!'-- And those two officers would draw their weapons and kill you."


A pause.


"Alright. Well, why don't you, then?" inquired Boston.

"Hmm… Because I think you and your little group are very… cool," answered the woman.

"What?"

"Well, I know that this isn't the first heist that you've pulled off. I know this because you appear on tv from time to time and I like watching. I think it is… very thrilling. And I also like shooting. And--"


Straightening his back and clearing his throat, Boston reminded her not to continue saying anything stupid aloud--then motioned for her to continue with whatever it was exactly that she was getting at.


"Well. I suppose I'm wondering if your little group is accepting… greenhorns."

"Excuse me? What, you--you saying you want to join us, is that it?"


To this, she giggled.


"I'm sorry, this probably feels ridiculous when I haven't even introduced myself properly."

"I don't want to know your name."

"Salem! Is what I would like to be called. That goes along with your theming, right?"

"I… Listen. That's an… unexpected... " But Boston simply lacked the words to express his befuddlement. He glanced at the blinds, wondering what was taking his partner so long, then transferred his gaze back to the expectant face next to him. Instead of offering a proper response, however, he decided to approach her with a question.

"You uh… you good with a gun?"

"My father taught me. It was the source of great bonding between he and I," affirmed Salem.

"Where is he now?"

"He's passed away, since."

"Sorry to hear that," offered Boston.

"It was an altercation with the law."

"That supposed to explain this willingness?"

"No, I'm not driven by revenge. I just admire you, is all," Salem huffed.


Boston let out a deep sigh, and rolled his chin.


"Listen… Cambridge is doing whatever the fuck, and I've gotta take a leak. Can I trust you to sit your ass there and wait for me to get back?"

"Yes, but I expect you to take my query seriously when you get back," she smiled.


And so Boston rose from his seat, slapping the table a couple of times for no discernible reason, and made his way to the toilets. Opting to take a seat within a stall, he pulled out his phone and texted his partner about the bizarre conversation he shared with the woman and, furthermore, if there existed any progress with the truck. Moments after sending, the bathroom door opened to allow another man inside whose footsteps alerted Boston not because of the sole's sound--but the buzz of the walkie talkie carried on his person. He caught snippets, such as 14th, 15th, 16th Street cleared, no signs and Suspect's masks discovered left behind at the scene. Sweat began to form atop Boston's forehead, and he pressed his hand up against the firearm within his jacket. And then he flushed.


Automatically dispensing a mixture of soap and water, Boston washed his hands next to the officer, who took a very curious, careful look at him. And then he chuckled, complimented Boston on his suit, and left to rejoin the other officer. Following the bathroom door swinging open and close, Boston let out a hoarse gasp, regained his composure, and walked out towards his own booth--the girl was gone. He froze. He looked around. He did not see her anywhere. She was not at the booth. She was not sitting down. She was not at the booth. And where was Cambridge? Why was she not at the booth? He needed to check on Cambridge. And so, with great anxiety swelling within his chest, Boston slapped down a fifty dollar bill onto their table, made his way to the front, walked out the exit, and was then bathed in blue and red light.