Frank Rooney had been the manager of the Shop & Save for thirty-eight years, and he wasn’t retiring anytime soon. He felt along his shirt for where the bullet had stuck him and he found it had imbedded itself into the pile of cell phone and small notepad he kept in his shirt pocket. His chest hurt like hell but he wasn’t bleeding. “Argh…” he managed to moan. He looked back up at the apparent hostage situation that he had walked in on at his store.
“Look, man, just let her go, okay?” Eddie said. “We can figure something else out, right? Maybe I can help you find another blonde to work in your Russian spy group maybe? I know some people who are looking for work.”
The Russian was furious. “Shut up! I had put years into training Gloria. She had been undercover for a long time building contacts and working for me and then she just disappears? I had been contacted by mercenaries here who had spotted her and said they would have her ready for me. I arrive to see that they had already made an exchange with the CIA; you! You, Eddie have cost me years of hard work. Now I am able to repay you.”
Rooney had heard enough. He rolled over on to his side and started pulling himself back behind the greeting cards. The man with the gun was so occupied with Eddie and Annie that he wasn’t really paying attention to him anymore. He moved quietly around the back of the isle and grabbed a skillet from the cooking section and slowly made his way around the back of the Russian.
“So tell me, Eddie. How would you like to die? Do you want to see the bullet coming or are you a coward and want to turn around first?”
Eddie saw Mr. Rooney coming around back of the gunman. “Don’t worry, Annie. I want you to know that I have everything under control here.”
“Eddie, now’s not the time-“
“I mean, this guy here makes a valid point. I’m sure he’s put in a lot of time into all his nasty spy work and stuff and I just happened to muck it all up. I mean, I’m not surprised because the odds were against him with as much experience as I had, but still-“
The Russian grew impatient. “That’s enough talking! Now you die!”
CLANG! Mr. Rooney brought down the skillet hard on the Russian’s head where he promptly collapsed to the floor. “That’s what you get when you mess with a marine you commie! Shoot me in my own store will ya? I don’t think so.”
“Mr. Rooney that was awesome!”
“Son, I swear you can talk your head off some times, but today it seemed to pay off for ya.”
“Well, I did have those two summers where I was a stagehand for that improv troupe, so I was bound to pick up a few things on the way.”
Annie rushed over to hug Eddie. “Eddie, I can’t believe you did all that! You really saved a spy and got her back to the CIA?”
“Not only that, but we took out this whole guy’s team in the food court too. It was pretty cool. You should have been there. If you had been you wouldn’t have been here to be taken hostage by this guy.”
“Hey kids,” Mr. Rooney said, “help me tie this guy up will ya? We need to call the police. Eddie, go grab a roll of the duct tape back there and we can wrap this guy up like a nerd in gym class.”
The police arrived soon and took everyone’s statement and hauled the unconscious Russian away. Eddie, Annie, and Mr. Rooney picked up the store and set about closing for the night. “Look, Eddie,” Mr. Rooney said, “I won’t pretend to know where you went today, what happened, or why it seemed to follow you back in to my store, but I’m willing to let today go seeing as how it helped bring down a Russian wet works team.”
“Yeah, it was definitely not what I was expecting when I got up out of bed either,” Eddie said.
“Just go home and come back tomorrow and fix the hand sanitizers, okay?”
“Yeah, Mr. Rooney, I’ll get on it first thing.” Eddie started off towards his bike when he saw Annie waiting for him by her car.
“Today was pretty crazy, huh?”
“Yeah. I’m definitely over on my goal for bike miles for the day.”
Annie shuffled her feet nervously. “Look, you maybe want to get a drink or something? With the day we’ve had I figured we could both use one.”
“Yeah, sure. Let me go put my bike lock on and we can head out, okay?”
Eddie had known Annie for a few years. She was the little sister of one of his friends and he had a crush on her for a while now. He almost didn’t get up the nerve to talk to her, but she had heard he was job searching after he got fired from his pizza delivery job a few weeks ago after his car had been stolen. The car had been found by police later that week but it looked like someone had lived in it for a month and had nearly destroyed the thing. He wanted to show her he was dedicated and so working the job at the Shop & Save to fix his car up would be an awesome way to impress her. It was a good thing this spy guy had stumbled into their store today. He was at least a good four months away from earing enough to get the car fixed. Now he could escalate his plans and get started on their first date tonight.
They pulled up to a Caribbean place called The Dancing Monkey. “Hey I love this place,” Eddie said.
“Yeah?” Annie asked. “I haven’t been here before. I’ve heard it was good though.”
“Oh for sure. I used to have a job here as a busboy. They have the best fish tacos ever.”
They made their way inside and found the place in full swing. Most of the restaurant had small tables where people could order bar food and drinks but there was a dance floor area in the middle. Music was going loud and neon lights flew around to provide the atmosphere.
“Where should we sit?”
“We want to find a table or something over there in that corner,” Eddie said pointing to the far left of the main room, “the lights don’t swing over there that much so you won’t get neon green in your face all night.”
Eddie and Annie made their way over to an open table they had spotted when they heard a voice calling from behind them, “Annie! Annie, over here!” Eddie and Annie turned around to see a tall, very tan guy in cargo shorts and a barely buttoned Hawaiian t-shirt walking over towards them. “Holy cow, Annie! It’s been a while. What ya up to?”
Annie rolled her eyes. “Look, Chip, I’m here with someone, okay? I don’t want to do this with you right now.”
“What are you talking about? How are you here with another guy? We’re on a break and you’re already taking some other dude out in our old stomping grounds?”
“Chip, we aren’t on a break. We broke up. I dumped you. And this isn’t our old stomping grounds. We’ve never been here before.”
“We used to hang out at the pool hall three blocks from here.”
“Look, Chip I gotta, go, okay?”
“You gotta go? I can’t believe you would do this to me.”
Eddie stepped forward. “Hey, man. Look, I get it alright? You like the lady but then things go sideways. It sucks. But it sounds like she doesn’t want to really talk to you, so can you be a gentleman and go back with wherever your group is?”
“Look, man, this doesn’t concern you, alright? I’ll get back over to my friends and my date in a minute but I need to hash this out with Annie.”
Annie said,” You’re on a date here and you are over here talking to me? You see why I dumped you?”
“Look, whatever, okay? I just came over here to tell you not to come over and bother me.”
“Well you said it, man,” Eddie said, “We’re going to leave now and get a seat.”
Chip grabbed the front of Eddie’s shirt and pulled him on his toes. “I don’t like your tone, dude! Eddie hit Chip with two quick left jabs and a right hook to the nose. “Ow, man! I thing you broge my nothe.”
“Get on out, man, and leave the lady alone,” Eddie said.
Chip grabbed his nose and went back to the men’s bathroom.
“Eddie, that was crazy. Where did you learn to do that?”
“Oh that? That was nothing. I spent about five weeks as an interim Tae Bo instructor at a gym downtown. It’s all in the waist. Jab, jab, hook!”
Eddie took Annie by the arm over to their table and ordered some drinks. Annie sat quietly staring out onto the dance floor. Eddie said, “Hey, Annie, what is it? Are you still upset about that guy? I don’t think he’ll be back to bother you anymore.”
Annie wiped a lone tear from her eye. “It’s him, and then not him. I mean, it’s just…I don’t think I can do this whole dating thing anymore.”
Eddie’s heart sank. His chance with Annie had gone before he had even had a chance to start.