Wednesday, November 14, 2018
HARRIET GOOBLER KNEW BETTER than to be out in East Garrison after dark, especially alone. Ever since Captain Might had retired, the streets had become even more dangerous than normal. But tonight she had little choice.
She’d been on her way home following what would surely go down in the history books as the all-time most awesome wedding reception ever. Brandi Habernash, Harriet’s best friend since the second grade, had finally taken the big step and married Chip. Harriet, of course, had been the maid of honor. The reception had still been in high gear when she’d left fifteen minutes ago. Harriet loved to party as much as the next girl, and this reception had been the party of the decade, but it was imperative that she catch a a few hours of sleep before her rounds at the hospital began in the morning. It was why she hadn’t gone home with Brant, despite his eyes.
Brant Franklin had been a secret crush of hers since fifth grade. He had these intense blue eyes that looked like tiny swimming pools of glass cleaner and she’d often take a couple of laps whenever she was lucky enough to talk to him. Little did she know that all he’d really needed to take notice of her were a few stiff drinks. Had she known she would have bought him a case of beer years ago. But still, she got his number, and he got hers. She’d just have to hope he’d actually call. If he didn’t, well, she wasn’t above calling him.
But the high intense flirting she’d woven over the last hour meant she’d needed to boogie or she’d be late for rounds, again. And this would be the last strike. The one that sends you back to the dugout. Strike three… you’re outta there.
The last time Harriet had been late she’d been stuck waiting on a train. Regardless, she’d been told at the time, in no uncertain terms, that one more tardy and she could consider her career with Garrison Memorial over.
Which is why she chose the route through East Garrison. She’d needed to shave some time off her route. Normally she would avoid East Garrison, even in the daytime, but the short cut would give her thirty-five more minutes of sleep. She’d need that thirty-five minutes. It would put her just over the four hour mark she knew her body required in order to pull herself from the bed once that alarm sounded.
And yet, as she’d been motoring through what the big four national news channels daily refer to as the ‘murder capital of the world’, her car had run out of gas. Harriet, being more than a little tipsy — both on alcohol and Brant Franklin eyes — had all but forgotten that she’d meant to top up her tank, a task she’d promised herself she was going to do first thing after leaving the reception.
As she sat in the car, abandoned buildings all around her, she thought about Brandi and Chip. Mostly she thought of Chip’s cell phone. Harriet hadn’t gotten around to buying one for herself, they were too expensive and she’d been told by those in the know that they got lousy reception. She sure could have used one now. She had her beeper, sure, but what good was that going to do?
She didn’t really have a choice. She couldn’t just stay in the car. The idea sounded slightly more foolhardy then then getting out and walking. If she was going to have any chance of getting to work on time, she would have to abandon the car, find the nearest pay phone, and call her parents. They would come get her.
So she got out of the car and walked, her yellow maid of honor dress shining like a beacon on the dark street. She’d barely made it a full block before a shabbily dressed man stood up from the bench he’d been laying on and asked her for some change.
Harriet gave the man what she had and then moved on with all speed. It’s not that she was afraid. She was terrified, sure, but in the end she felt she could take care of herself if she had to. Of course, most people think themselves invincible when alcohol is turning the wheel.
On the next block she found a phone booth. She almost laughed with relief. But as she moved in closer she could see that it was occupied. A man with long, dark, teased hair was inside. He wore jeans and a leather jacket. The jeans had more holes in them than her grandmother’s favorite colander. Beyond the rock star occupant, two men stood outside the booth, talking and laughing. They too had long, teased hair, blond, but they wore neon green spandex pants, concert t-shirts, long neon pink spandex overcoats, and pink spandex fingerless gloves. In fact, the two were identical in almost every way. They must have been twins.
The presence of the three men wasn’t enough to cause Harriett distress, even in East Garrison after dark. The way they were dressed however, only the Downboys dressed like these three with their leather and spandex. Gang bangers. Not a bad thing, necessarily. From what she’d seen on the news, the Downboys spent more time holding up convenience stores and defending their territory over accosting innocent people. But the occasional mugging had been known to happen from time to time when they were bored.
The three didn’t notice her at first. The Spandex Twins were passing a home-rolled cigarette between them, and the one in the booth had his back to her. She thought about turning back, but that would mean more time walking. More time out here with murderers and junkies. Besides, she could handle herself. The confidence flowed through her veins like a shot of tequila, which, coincidentally, she’d had three of before leaving the reception.
She kept her eyes straight ahead, thinking to pass the booth by and the three gang bangers. Hoping that they’d pay her no mind. But what she didn’t take into account when putting this plan together was her dress.
“What the!?” It had come from one of the Downboys and was followed by a fit of coughing. “You seeing what I’m seeing?” She heard him say between coughs.
She kept moving.
Then came the sound of a phone booth door sliding open with more than a bit of force.
“Where you goin’, Rock Queen?” Called a bold voice from behind.
Still, she kept moving.
Then someone took hold of her by the arm and spun her around.
“I’m talking to you, sweetness,” It was the man who had been on the phone. The other two stood behind him, broad smiles splitting their faces.