Rachel stared at the final flecks of coco powder and mocha swirling in the bottom of her oversized mug. A few feet away people lined up for their fancy coffees and overpriced muffins, register drawers opened and slammed closed.
“Grande Mocha Up.” Someone yelled over the hollow squeal of baristas steaming milk for countless lattes less than ten feet away. Rachel rubbed her forehead as the clanging sliced through her brain.
“If I didn’t have month end reports to go over after lunch I’d go home.” Rachel said to her mom without looking up. She tried to put her elbow on the table but two mugs and a small plate were almost more than the table could handle.
“You not feelin’ well?”
“I got some Tylenol.” The way her mom said it sounded more like Tylenaw, something Rachel first noticed when she returned from Michigan. Up there everyone pronounced A’s through their nose.
“I’ll be fine, thanks. What were you saying about Adam?”
“Oh, Yvonne is just being her stubborn self is all. Honestly, I don’t know what your brother sees in that woman some days.”
“Takes two mom.”
“Well she knew when the two of them got married he was deaf.”
Her mom continued on paying no attention to Rachel’s comment. “I tell ya Rachel, don’t know how much worse this old world can get.” Her mom sipped her coffee and held up her finger so Rachel wouldn’t interrupt her monologue. “I watch the T.V. and praise God I raised the two of you before all of this mess. I’d hate to be starting off in these days.” She broke off a bite of blueberry muffin and held it between her fingers as she spoke.
Clearly the conversation on Adam had finished. Rachel followed her mom down this next rabbit trail. “Every generation has their dangers.”
“And you wanna tell me things are getting better.” Mom’s Kentucky drawl did nothing to take the edge off her tone.
“No, just that it is part of the cosmos.”
“The cosmos?” Her mom lifted an eyebrow and squared her shoulders. Why had she chosen that word to use with her mom?
“May be true in the big scheme but here in Woodhaven…well I just don’t know.”
“Excuse me.” A woman hit Rachel in the head with her purse. Coffee splattered out of her cup and landed on her cell phone. Always when she had a headache.
“What is up with all these people today?” Rachel blotted the coffee off the camera lens of her phone.
“Dunno,” her mom wiped the table with a second napkin then continued. “There’s someone killing young ladies, here. Did you hear ‘bout this Fratboy killer?”
Rachel set the large ceramic cup to the side and leaned forward on the table. “I’ve been following it on the internet. Real sicko.”
“I worry ‘bout you workin’ s’ late with this goin’ on.”
“I took self-defense training.”
Her mom waved away the answer. “You screamin’ fire’ll do nothing against a gun.”
“Then it’s a good thing this guy isn’t shooting people isn’t it.” The squeezing pain in her head made it come out sharper than she’d intended. She paused and forced her words out a bit gentler. “Woodhaven is twenty minutes away, mom.”
“You think killers don’t have cars?”
“I imagine they do that’s why I’m careful if I have to leave after dark.”
“Yes but you work such long hours. You should-.”
“I know mom. As soon as we have these new reps trained I won’t have to do their job and mine.”
“And Shannon can’t do any of it?”
“She works new clients and leads I work personnel and bookkeeping.”
“You should be making enough that you could hire a security guy for the parking lot at the very least.”
Rachel dug in her purse. There must be some headache medicine in her bag someplace. How many times would they walk around the same mountain at these afternoon coffee breaks? She found her pill case in the side pocket and swallowed down two pills. “Do they have any leads yet?”
“I get it. Stay out of running your business.” Mom leaned back and folded her arms.
“Well none they’re tellin’ anybody. The paper said they call him the Fratboy killer ‘cause he leaves some fraternity charm on all the girls along with a white rose.”
“I’d heard about the charm. Alpha something something. Is it for sure a fraternity?”
“I don’t follow all that Greek stuff. I’m sure they’re just guessin’ anyways. D’you hear about the latest young lady?”
“Day or two ago.”
“No.” Someone came over and took Rachel’s tray. Her mom lowered her voice and leaned forward.
“She makes number four in the last year. Broke my heart when I saw the picture.” Her mom put her hand over her chest. “She was a beautiful young lady in her early 20s, with such pretty red-brown hair. It was on the front page.”
“I don’t get the paper. I read my news on-line.”
“Right-right.” Her mom wiped at the air then continued. “Said she was an education major but I thought she could be a model easy. Paper said he’s speeding up. They’re coming closer and closer together. They found her in the basement of the library.”
“And nobody saw anything.” How could someone rape and murder a woman without anyone noticing a thing. A shiver ran up her spine. “I don’t know what possess some people.”
“Well that’s exactly it.” Her mom poked her finger on the table as she spoke. “These people are possessed by pure evil.” Rachel nodded her head in agreement. Mom looked past Rachel for a moment, her eyes glassy. “Why don’t you come over this weekend and visit for a bit?” The pleasant southern belle voice was back after a momentary northern lapse.
“I know but the people there just adore you.”
“Maybe another time.”
“If that’s how you want it.”
“Mom, I’m fine.”
“I know, Rach, I worry. It’s a mom’s prerogative.”
“It would be nice to have one afternoon together without bringing this up?” Her mom’s shoulders fell. So she’d disappointed her mom again. What else was new?
“You’re right. Let’s not ruin our lunch speakin’ bout such unpleasant things.”
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
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This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
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