Trapped by a Dangerous Man

By: Cleo Peitsche

I flipped through the sticky dessert menu even though it hadn’t changed in years. Apple pie, chocolate cake, a banana split that looked nothing like what the kitchen sent out. “Every dessert served with a smile!” was printed under each photo. On the last page, someone had drawn a stick figure dangling from a noose.

“Still waitin’?” the waitress asked as she shoved a pen behind her ear. She wore a blank name tag, and her tight, short-sleeved uniform bravely tried to cover her enormous breasts. As her eyebrow skeptically crept up, I knew what she was thinking: shouldn’t plain girls like you be familiar with the signs of being stood up?

Rather than protest that I did quite fine when I put my boobs on display, I said, “I’ll take more water when you get a chance.”

Outside the glass window, the sleet was giving way to the kind of heavy snow that made driving treacherous. I was going to kill Rob. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mind quality time with myself, but something about sitting alone in a diner, picking at a plate of cold french fries and grilled cheese, waiting for Rob because he had again misjudged how long it would take him to drive from our office—

“I’m here.” Rob slid into the booth across from me. Water dripped off his wire-rimmed glasses, and his reddish hair was so wet that it almost looked as dark as mine.

“Forty minutes late on top of the fifteen minutes you always keep me waiting. Remind me… were you out sick the month they covered clocks in first grade? And why haven’t you been answering your phone?”

“But I’m here!” He flashed a dimpled smile and jabbed a finger on the table. “It’s snowing out there, and I’m here.” More smiling and jabbing. “See, you need to focus on the important part—”

I slapped down the printout of the top fifteen wanted criminals, cutting Rob off. The one with the largest bounty was circled.

Rob looked it over with a low whistle. “Two million dollars for Corbin Lagos? That’s a lot of money.” He frowned. “Never heard of the guy. What’d he do? ‘Various crimes’ is pretty vague.”

“If you hadn’t been so late, I’d be slapping handcuffs on him right now.”

He snorted. “I get it. You’re mad so you’re teaching me a lesson with this bullshit about going after the big bounties again.” He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a damp piece of paper of his own. “The printer was out of toner. I looked everywhere for more but no joy. So I’ve only got one copy. It’s faint—”

“I’m going after Lagos.”

“You’re…” He shook his head. “Audrey, even if you knew where he is—which you don’t, by the way—a guy like that would kill you before you get within fifteen miles of him.” He grabbed a handful of french fries. “Now, we’ve got three deadbeat daddies here. Two of them are up near Pawnee, but the other is way past Brighton. I figure it’s the same amount of work since Pawnee is closer, so you can pick which you want. Kat is back in the office on Monday, so she’ll help whoever takes Pawnee.”

I smiled. “I want Lagos.”

Rob tilted his head, studying me. “What did you hear? Did you run into him in a gas station or something?”

Actually, that wasn’t far from the truth, but I sure wasn’t going to tell Rob that. “You have your ways of finding deadbeats, and I have my ways of tracking down the big game.”

“You’re serious.” His expression made me think he was going to follow up with “Cross your heart and hope to die, stick a needle in your eye?”

Excitement got the best of me, and I decided to be mad at him later. “It’ll be like we always dreamed. Can you imagine? Two million! Even Dad never got one that big.”

Rob sighed. “Ok.” He held up his hands, which were covered in grease. “I’ll need a day to get everything together and to do some research on this guy so we know what we’re walking into, which is perfect because I don’t know if you heard the latest, but the worst of that snowstorm is headed right at us.” He pushed the paper back to me, smearing ketchup on one corner.

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