“Sorry!” said Marina. “I think I broke the glass there.”
He was breathing heavily. Panic attack? He’d never had one but had heard what they were supposed to be like.
He looked down at the glass that Marina had set down on the table just a bit too hard. There was a crack in it. Water started to leak out and trickle onto the table.
“I’ll get you another one,” she said. “Just gonna leave that there for a moment. I’ll come back with a bin to put it in.”
Marina walked off.
The bathroom door at the back of the diner started to open. Hunter started to walk out.
Victor’s heart pounded again. He looked for something to distract himself. Something to make him invisible to Hunter. He reached for a discarded copy of USA Today on the window ledge, opened it up, spread out the pages, clutching them as if to stretch them further and create a shield, and pretended to read.
He could feel Hunter walk past. Feel the breeze. The dread.
His eye caught the splintered glass again. He saw Hunter’s face in the water and glass, gaining on him.
Two sharp raps.
Victor’s backside cleared the seat.
The door opened. The rain bounced off every surface and sounded like a rolling drum solo - every tom and cymbal in action.
“Jeez, boy! You’re out in the middle o’ freakin’ nowhere, huh? Damn!”
He got into the cab and sat down. He shut the door. The drum solo was muffled again.
Victor looked over at him. He was massive – probably six-four and at least two hundred and eighty, with a lot of muscle. Dishevelled, too: off-white baseball cap full of oil stains, ripped lumberjack shirt, frayed jeans. He turned to look at the fresh-faced Victor, slim and shaky. Victor looked away. Looked ahead.
“So. You broke down, huh?”
Victor swallowed. “Yeah.”
“Damn! Well, I have a tow truck there. I can come round and pull you all the way to a garage. Or all the way home. Up to you.”
“Oh, a garage, please.”
“You sure, boy?”
Victor nodded. “Yes please, sir. Thank you.”
“OK!” said Hunter. “Now, just you wait here.”
Hunter opened the door. He got out of the cab. He shut the door behind him.
Victor exhaled. What was the best option? Stay here and wait, as told? Or run?
He then tried to rationalize it. His truck had broken down. A man had pulled up behind him, in a tow truck. He had then offered to help. That’s all.
Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling of complete fear. He looked in his rear view mirror and could see the man getting back into his truck.
As soon as he saw the man close the door, Victor tried the ignition again. And again. Both times: nothing.
A hand on his shoulder.
Victor’s knees shot up and hit the underside of the table.
“Here’s your water,” said Marina.
Victor looked up from the paper. “Hmm?”
“Your water. There you are. And I brought you another coffee.”
“Oh, thank you so much.”
“You’re looking a little better now,” she said. “Oh, that’s yesterday’s paper. Do you want today’s? I think Mr Hunter has it on his table. I could-“
“No, no, that’s fine, there’s something I want to read in this,” said Victor. “Yes, I do feel a bit better, thanks.”
“OK,” said Marina. “I’m glad to hear it. Well, enjoy the coffee. And the water.”
Marina walked away, back to the counter.
Victor inhaled deeply.
“HEY, DON’T I KNOW YOU FROM SOMEWHERE?”