Ford was half an hour late if he still wanted Cassie to be
the designated driver. The plan had been for the same old same old; come
round to the apartment to steal most of her food and Chexmix before they took
the car and left to go pick up Carson at her place to get there on time. O’Hare,
Rios, Irvine and the rest of the crew were supposed to meet them over there at the
diner for food and then for a few drinks somewhere nearby at nine. The food and
drink were on Ford this time which was a bonus. He owed her for those concert tickets for that godawful two
hours or off-key Prog Rock ballads he’d dragged her to. Of course she’d been the only one that fell for the guilt-trip to go, and she hadn’t forgotten.
Cassie looked at the clock again after ten minutes, where
was he? She went to pick up her phone to call and get him to haul ass already,
but remembered. Busted, right, which meant they could have been calling and
texting her and she wouldn’t have got any of them. Cassie groaned, got up from
the couch and decided she should probably go down there before they went looking
for her first.
The first port of call was Al’s Diner.
Nope, not there. At least not the first time she snaked her way through the throngs and checked the tables. The second time it had been busier, but there’d been no sign of them then either. Six creeped by and moved closer to seven as she waited. No trace of any of them, maybe they’d been held back by a job.
Cassie found a table to the left of the booths and sat down to order some fries
just so she wouldn’t be loitering and looked around. The man in one of the
booths across from her caught her attention. She had an inkling that he
was ARPD. She wasn’t sure but she had seen him around the area before at least.
Cassie tried to get a name, and got stumped. No, not Harris. Harold? No. Hart
maybe, that wasn’t right either. Cassie scrunched her eyes trying to think and ended up staring. He definitely looked familiar, just with
slightly more facial hair, unless her memory for faces had gone wonky. She looked away when her order came in and went to put some sauce over her fries but found the bottle empty and made a face.
Seven rolled in and there was still not sign of any of her friends
or former crew. She glanced back over at the table and decided.
Worth a shot.
Cassie got up to go grab a bottle of sauce and used it as an
excuse to approach the other table as she passed. “Hey,
sorry to bug you. You’re in the PD right? I think you might know some
of the Fire Department maybe. Some of us hung out with a few of the officers at
Dell’s for downtime?” She asked, hoping it rang a vague bell. “This is a long
shot. You wouldn’t happen to have seen Chief Ford or Captain Irvine leaving the
It had been a while since Reed stepped foot into Al’s Diner since January. There was an active avoidance involved until the question of why not? posed itself into his mind. Give it a chance. Try again. Even then, he parked on the opposite side of the lot where there were fewer vehicles; one glance in the wrong direction and memories would come flooding back until he pushed into a rabbit hole of unwanted reminders. So Reed focused on the advertisement propped against the window that said 24 hours while he walked towards the entrance and inside.
From the looks of it, there seemed to be an entirely new staff. He didn’t recognize any of the waiters and waitresses nor the cooks in the back, and they didn’t recognize him either. Which was…unexpectedly preferential. That meant they wouldn’t look at him with horrified or shocked still faces when they saw him. So far, so good. The only one that might have was Al but a quick glance around the restaurant told Reed the older man wasn’t anywhere in sight. Out came a sigh of relief before he was guided to a table somewhere in the middle of the diner, between the bar and booths towards a typical four-seater. Once he was sat down and a glass of half-and-half tea was ordered, Reed fidgeted with the classical but laminated menu. He knew what he wanted because it was his usual when he came here more often. It was his lack of appetite really that made the idea of stomaching food from here harder; his abdomen wouldn’t stop clenching into painful knots and his lungs still felt tight no matter the amount of deep breaths in and out he took.
Then he looked around again, hoping somewhat now that Al was out on the floor and socializing with other customers. Al would know how to break the ice and smooth over the discomfort. But then Reed wasn’t so sure, considering the publicity this place got after he and Marley were attacked. His unease doubled when his focus lingered for too long on any point of the diner, expecting to see Azul again. The thought of her smiling wickedly, watching him, just four tables down was nauseating. He wondered if he would ever have closure.
Biting on his lower lip Reed faced forward again, closed the menu slowly and slid it to the edge for the waiter to easily grab. Still waiting on his drink, Reed moved onto playing with the wristwatch Regan gave to him and slid his thumb absently across the metal links, gaze focused down on the second hand. Breathing was easier now.
From his peripheral, a pair of legs walked up to the edge of his table and his head snapped up, expecting to see his waiter. Instead, he saw a woman. Like with everyone else in this diner, he didn’t recognize her but unlike them, she seemed to know him. Did they meet before when Reed hadn’t been paying attention? “I am…” He told her a touch warily and sat all the way back in his chair. Chief Ford and Captain Irvine didn’t ring any bells. He shook his head at the latter end of her question, confusion and consideration for their names written all over his face. “Their names don’t ring a bell. I’m familiar with Dell’s Tavern and I know one Captain Maynard…”
Thinking, Reed leaned forward with an elbow propped against the table and said, “But I haven’t seen Maynard around much today.” It was entirely possible meet ups between officers and firefighters happened but he couldn’t think of anyone to call or text from the station at the moment. “What’d you need?” He asked eventually with a friendlier but inquisitive tone, still trying to make sense of the names she mentioned. Then suggested, “I can call him if you need to get into immediate contact with him.”