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Closing Time

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“Here’s the pitch!” the television boomed.  Ronnie Jordan sat bolt upright in the leather recliner.  “There’s the swing, and it’s a long fly ball to deep left field.”  He glanced at his watch; 4:59 p.m.  “It could be; it might be; it—”

“Shit!” Ronnie spat, shutting off the television.  He stumbled out of the door and hopped into his mother’s car.  Sirens wailed, both approaching and from somewhere south.  His first thought was they were at Del Rio’s Steakhouse, not even a mile down the road, at his mother’s place of employment...at his own place of employment.

Ronnie shook the thought aside as he backed the Caprice from the driveway and began his short trek up the gravel road.  More sirens wailed.  Red and blue lights flashed by on the main highway.  By the time he reached the end of the gravel, there was a plethora of wailing sirens from his left; south; close.  He could see the edge of Del Rio’s parking lot where he sat and believed the lights were illuminating from there.  He hoped not.
Ronnie sped the quarter mile or so to Del Rio’s.  His stomach sank as his assumptions proved correct.  Four police cruisers sat near the front door, sirens still wailing and lights flashing. An ambulance was backed up to the front door.

Ronnie slammed on the breaks near the back entrance, jammed the transmission into PARK, and exited without even killing the ignition.  “Not momma,” he began repeating aloud as he made his way through the screened-in area where the washing machine rested.  He slowly and cautiously entered through the double metal doors opening up on the dishwashing area.  No one was in sight.

Ronnie thought of calling out but didn’t.  He did not dare do that.  He had no clue as to what was going on or what had happened.  It might prove better to keep his presence unknown for the time being.

He moved quietly through the dishwashing area and down the narrow hallway where the employee’s restroom was located.  A single strand of caution tape stretched out across the doorway at the end of the hall, the doorway that would take him into the kitchen.  “Not momma,” he said one final time as ducked beneath the piece of tape.

But it was momma.  It was every Del Rio employee that worked the Saturday shift.  His mother was just the first he happened to lay eyes on.  She was lying on the floor at the far end of the counter where she had fixed plates for more than twenty years covered in blood and lifeless.

“Oh shit...no...no,” Ronnie said through tears.

He then saw Patty James, one of the cooks, lying dead upon the grill she worked.  He saw a set of legs sticking out from beyond the opposite end of the counter in front of the cooler door, legs that he could only assume belonged to one of the two waitresses that would have been there before him.

Ronnie peeked through what they referred to as the window, a small opening where food was transferred from the kitchen to the waitresses.  He could see a cluster of policemen and paramedics gathered in a circle adjacent to the salad bar, staring at something on the floor; something Ronnie could only presume was the body of the second waitress.

He pried his gaze away from the window and over to the furthest corner of the kitchen.  There, he saw another unsettling cluster, a smaller cluster compromised of only policemen.  And they were not staring at a body on the floor.  They were staring at...him, and whispering suspiciously amongst themselves.

“What in the fuck happened here?” Ronnie shouted.  The policemen began moving in unison towards him, splitting in separate directions around each side of the island counter like a brigade surrounding a foe.  It occurred to Ronnie that they were surrounding him, but he was too shell-shocked to question it.

“What are you doing here, son?” a husky, younger officer asked rationally.

“I work here.”

“Okay, son,” the same officer reasoned.  “Just slowly put the knife on the floor, and everything will be alright...I promise.”

“Knife?” Ronnie repeated, choked.  His throat was suddenly dry and scratchy.  “I don’t have a knife.”

But Ronnie could not help questioning himself.  He had not checked his pockets before leaving the house like he normally would have, but even if he had, he never carried a knife.  He didn’t even own one.  It was then that he glanced at his own hands, held up above his head in a surrendering gesture.  There was no knife.  But blood soaked nearly every inch of both of them.

His hands fell at his sides as a small gasp of both fear and terror escaped his lips.  His knees weakened as he stumbled backwards, and his right hand grazed across an unfamiliar budge in his front pocket.

Ronnie lowered his gaze from the still moving policemen down the front of his own body.  His once white t-shirt was not spotted with various red splotches.  His blue-jean shorts were spotted with dark circles in various spots.  His gray-and-white tennis shoes were drenched red.

He then glanced to the ground directly behind him.  There were two sets of clearly visible footprints, identical prints headed in opposite directions and matching the soles of Ronnie’s shoes.  One set led out of the restaurant while the other led up to where Ronnie now stood.

Ronnie reached cautiously to his pocket and grasped the bulge.  He knew immediately what it felt like, but it just could not be true.  He pulled the bulge from the pocket, revealing to himself for the first time (clarifying what he hoped hadn’t been true) and to the cops what they already knew he possessed.  The blood-stained filet knife gleamed beneath the fluorescent lights overhead.  “Oh shit!” Ronnie gasped.  “No!  It can’t be!”  The husky cop that had spoken with so much rationality inched closer.  “Tell me that it can’t be possible,” Ronnie pleaded, completely aware of what the police were planning.  His arms shot out almost involuntarily in a pleading gesture.

“Oh God, please...no,” Ronnie continued groveling.  His grip loosened; the knife fell aimlessly to the concrete floor, separating the tip from the end of the blade.  Ronnie stumbled backwards down the short hallway and into the wash area, driven only by shock and dismay.

“Get that son of a bitch,” the husky cop bellowed as the entire gathering of policemen rushed forward.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion for Ronnie at that moment like an instant replay of a dramatic buzzer-beater in game seven of the NBA finals.  He wasn’t planning on putting up a fight or resisting arrest; he was too busy trying to let the horrifying realization of what had happened sink in.  Words kept tumbling from his mouth.  “I couldn’t have done this.  There is no possible way I could have done this.”

The husky cop tackled him.  In a matter of moments, the same cop was escorting Ronnie out to one of the squad cars.  He was now handcuffed and bruised and battered from the scuffle.

“I couldn’t have done this,” Ronnie mumbled again.

“You’re a sick fuck, kid,” the husky cop bellowed.  “You know that, huh?” He gave Ronnie a slap in the back of the head that was far from playful.  “Now get in the goddamn car.”

Ronnie sat straight up in the backseat of the cop car.  His eyes found the rearview mirror.  “Am I killer?” he asked aloud.  There was no response, but he continued staring into the rearview mirror as if he expected to hear an answer.

And one did finally come although it was not of the verbal nature.  A simple stare down in the mirror was all it took for Ronnie to remember what he had done.

 

***

 

Ronnie dropped his mother off at approximately three p.m., but he never actually left the restaurant.  The memory of going home, falling asleep, and then coming back had only been remnants from the previous Saturday.  One look was all it took for him to realize it.

Instead of pulling back out on Highway 165, Ronnie simply pulled the car around the side of the building where no other employees would see.  Patty James and Marilyn Bailey was already there.  All he had to do was sneak in through the back doors.

Ronnie crept in quietly through the screen door and made sure it didn’t slam shut behind him.  There was music drifting out from the kitchen, but that did not mean anything; his mother had great ears.  The double metal doors were standing open as they always were during the summer. He passed through them but neglected the narrow hallway.  There was another way out of the dishwashing area.  A second door nearly adjacent from the double doors that led directly into the dining area loomed at him.  There was a huge risk of being seen associated with taking this door, but it was a risk he had been willing to take.

Ronnie quickly moved through where he could be seen and through the door.  The door creaked open and shut behind him.

“Did you hear something?” he heard his mother ask Patty.  Nothing come of it.  Patty said “no”, and his mother didn’t investigate any further.  After all, it was nothing new to hear strange and inexplicable noises at Del Rio’s.

All Ronnie had to do was wait and anticipate the perfect time to strike.  And he didn’t have to wait long.  In what seemed like only seconds, the three women separated.  Patty went outside to take some boxes to the dumpster; his mother was in the cooler collecting condiments to cut for the salad bar; Marilyn was setting up the salad bar.

Ronnie snuck quietly into the kitchen and grabbed the largest filet knife from the holder hanging on the wall.  And then he waited.

Ronnie hid and approached his mother from behind after she passed the window where Marilyn might could see from the salad bar.  He slid a hand over her mouth and jabbed the knife forcefully into her stomach twice.  She writhed in his arms.  Her muffled screams were drowned out by the sound of CCR blaring from the CD player mounted beneath the counter.  He drug the razor-shape blade across her throat to speed up the process.  He waited for her to grow limp in his arms before quietly laying her to the ground.

Marilyn was next.  He didn’t want to take the risk of her discovering his mother and screaming, so he struck before she could get back into the kitchen.  She was standing in front of the trash can near the ice machine when Ronnie began tiptoeing ever so slightly up behind her.  But she jerked around before Ronnie could silence her like he had his mother.  Ronnie instinctively thrust the knife forward.  It pierced her neck.  He jerked it out just as quickly.

Marilyn opened her mouth to scream but no sound escaped her.  She stumbled towards the kitchen, slowly, clumsily, desperately trying to stifle the bleeding.  She burst methodically through the open doorway and grabbed onto the counter to keep from falling.  Her eyes widened when she caught sight of Ronnie’s mother.  She opened her mouth to scream once more, and again no sound escaped her dying lips.  Realizing her defeat, Marilyn fell to her knees, silently sobbing.  Ronnie appeared behind her then; he grabbed a handful of her hair before jerking her head backwards.  He watched her eyes grow lifeless and roll back in their sockets as he drug the knife across her neck.  No longer caring about noise at this particular moment, he shoved her head forward and allowed her body to drop to the floor with a mighty THUD.

Ronnie made his way towards the far side of the counter, stepping over his mother as if she were nothing, before ducking behind the meat-block.  He waited patiently for Patty’s return.

The screen door slammed shut.  The pitter-patter of feet in the dishwashing area filled his ears.  Patty appeared in the open doorway just on the other side of the meat-block, nearly within arm’s reach of where Ronnie crouched.  She let out a series of short, soft, and exasperated screams when she saw the two bodies.

Ronnie pounced; he jumped up and jabbed the knife towards her throat.  Patty ducked in an attempt to dodge it entirely, but she wasn’t quite fast enough.  The knife pierced into her left eye socket and lodged itself there.  Patty stumbled two steps towards the grill before collapsing dead atop it.

Ronnie walked over and pulled the knife free before ambling up towards the front of the restaurant.  He hid behind the counter housing the cash register near the front door until nearly four o’clock.  Four o’clock was when Michelle, a second waitress, showed for her shift.

Michelle strolled through the front door as happy as ever.  Ronnie was no longer concerned with subtlety.  He simply jumped out from behind the counter and swung.  She was quick, much quicker than Patty, and was able to duck it entirely.  But instead of running back out of the front door or even trying to make it to the back, she simply fell to the floor, crying and begging for her life.  Ronnie raised his foot quickly.  Her nose exploded in a flash of blood.  Michelle fell to the floor unconscious. Ronnie bent just long enough to carve a jagged and deep line across her throat before calmly exiting through the front door.

 

***

 

“Here’s the pitch!” the television boomed.  Ronnie Jordan sat bolt upright in the leather recliner.  “There’s the swing, and it’s a long fly ball to deep left field.”  He glanced at his watch; 4:59 p.m.  “It could be; it might be; it—”

“Shit!” Ronnie spat, shutting off the television, fragments of the dream creeping slowly into his mind.  He stumbled out of the door (leaving behind only a bloody print on the knob) and hopped into his mother’s car.

 

“The End.”

 

 

 

BIO

 

Jeremy Simons lives with his wife and three young daughters in Grayson, Louisiana.  He writes constantly in his spare time.  His dream is to someday be able to write full-time.

Jeremy has had stories appear with Carnage Conservatory Aphelion, Psychopomp, Voices from a Coma, The Horror Zine, Hellfire Crossroads Volume 4, and the October’s End anthology.  He also has two more stories under contract with separate anthologies from Horrified Press (Midnight Ghost and the X3 Anthology) and his novella (Buried Alive) and debut novel (Untold Tale) are under contract with Celestial Waters Publishing.

You can follow him on Twitter, @jeremi1986, or like his Facebook page, facebook.com/jeremysimonsauthor.

 

 

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