Chapter 16 (WIP) – Facing the Past

That night Jessica went to work after an unsuccessful attempt at a nap. Her trainee, an energetic, enthusiastic young man named Justin was quite capable of keeping her awake. He was able to run the shift on his own, so Jessica had very little to do, except show him a few of the things that she did to make sure everybody else was on the ball. Since it had been so long since she was at work there were plenty of errors left to find, even though it had been so quiet. Jessica thought about the irony that when the manager filled in her shifts, she didn’t catch the bookkeeping errors that Jessica would find.

This was the least busy time of the year, and after the robbery some long-term guests left in a panic, repeat guests decided to find somewhere else, and unsurprisingly it had made it to the reviews online. With so few guests, that review was still at the top of the list.

Jessica found herself a little jumpy at work, especially since she was so used to being there alone. Justin was very friendly and more than willing to fill Jessica in on what had been going on in her absence. As she had suspected, the lobby had been roped off for a few days while the police took their time investigating the scene. This meant that employees were using their own tablets to run the hotel and one of the rooms had been re-labeled “Lobby” for awhile. From the decline in business, it was clear that all of this fooled no-one, but it was not clear who had leaked the actual event to the reviewer. Justin seemed to be under the impression that the reviewer was the shooter and no-one would know the difference since he had never been in the lobby at night.

“How else would he know about the safe?” he said.

Jessica remembered Kenzie opening the safe, as if it was a gift for the boy. She remembered Kenzie waving at around as if it was meaningless. Jessica closed her eyes to try and block out the images, but they just got brighter as she remembered the scuffle and the shot. Her eyes shot open and she shuttered with the sound as it echoed through her mind. She could not bring herself to tell Justin how the boy really got the money from the safe.

It did not take long before Justin realized that Jessica probably did not want to hear more about the robbery. “I’m sorry, I forgot, they said that you were there. I won’t talk about it anymore if you don’t want me to.”

“It’s alright, I’m probably overreacting. You filled in all the blanks I had been curious about. I know I will have to face it at some point anyway. If they catch the guy I may have to go to court and tell a bunch of strangers about it. But I would like to put some more time between it and me before I do. Thank you.” And nothing more was said on the subject for the rest of the night.

After work Jessica needed a jump start since the car had been sitting in the parking lot for so long. Justin did not even seem to notice that he had been up all night and gave her a hand. He even sat outside with her as she let the car run to charge up the battery. Even though she knew she should let the car charge more Jessica decided she had better get home and let Ashley know nothing crazy had happened. She wished Justin good luck and told him that if he needed help when he started his own shift to give her a call. Jessica drove home looking behind her just to make sure she wasn’t being followed. Of course she was not, but she felt it better to be safe than sorry.

When she got home Ashley was ready for work and ran out to the car to greet her.  “Hey Jess! I just wanted to see how you were doing before I left.”

“I’m fine, the battery was dead so now I have to sit here for a few before I can go to sleep.”

“I wish I could join you but I gotta run. Glad everything is okay.” Ashley gave Jessica a hug before she jumped in the waiting sedan that belonged to her co-worker.

Jessica sat reading in the car until she could not stay awake. She turned off the engine and went inside. A bowl of cereal sufficed as dinner before she crawled upstairs to bed.

She had been there just long enough to change and lay down when the phone rang. She considered letting her mother leave a message until she realized that it was not her mother.

“Hello?”

“Can I speak to Jessica McGuire please?” Said a gruff voice on the other end of the line.

“This is her.”

“Hello this is Detective Haskell. I spoke to you in the hospital.”

“Yeah, how can I help you?”

“I just wanted to let you know that we have picked up some scumbag trying to use your credit card. We would like you to come in to ID him.”

“I just got off work and I really need to sleep now, can I do that this afternoon?” Jessica asked, knowing that she would probably not be able to make it to the station in one piece.

“We can only hold him for so long, but this afternoon should be fine. We will have your co-worker come by as well.”

“Sounds good, thank you.”

Jessica found herself sitting awake, wondering if this was the guy. Was she ready to face him? The detective did not know it, but she had been called in to ID a suspect before. She knowingly identified the wrong man. She told herself that this time she would not be intimidated, no matter what. Justice would prevail. This time, she would do the right thing.

Chapter 17 – Where Do We Go From Here?

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Fear & Trust

Once upon a time people knew everyone they came into contact with on a regular basis. When a stranger came to town everyone knew about it and was full of curiosity. That stranger was alienated by a sense of otherness, and could cause problems, but they were so outnumbered by the locals that it was not likely.

As cities grew larger people grew into small groups of trust, and people who were up to no good had the ability to blend in and hide. Bandits could come into town, work their mischief and leave as quickly as they had arrived. On the other side, locals could scam people, but if they tried to scam other locals they would probably be caught, and so most choose to prey on people passing through town or skip the scam and go the sneakier burglary  /pickpocket route.

As transportation has become easier, strangers are more common, and are largely ignored. In large cities no-one even knows who is local and who is not. Small towns seem to exist largely due to the tourism industry, and so strangers are just a part of everyday life.

Most people have just accepted this status quo of not knowing who is nearby. We routinely lock our homes and automobiles, women carry pepper spray to protect themselves, and we choose to live under the watchful eye of video surveillance systems to keep others in check.

Why do we, especially Americans, do this? We have been told so many times that the world is out to get us that we believe it. On the news we hear stories about people who were trusted with something taking advantage of, or just generally not deserving that trust. We hear stories of the time that a child was left in the day care’s van after a field trip and left to die, we hear stories of people’s lives being torn apart as the result of a burglary, and we hear about people being massacred on a public street. These are terrible things, and we should be aware of them.

The problem is that these are the only stories we hear. We do not get to hear the stories about a nurse who spends her time off the clock reading to coma patients, we do not hear the stories about the homeless man who picks up garbage in the neighborhood for free every day, or the bank manager who knowingly sets his own wages less than his employees and sets raises based on personal situations rather than work ethic.

We have been conditioned to think the worst of everyone around us. Fear is used for advertising everything from mouth wash to legal policies. It is also perpetuated by laws that hold the homeowner responsible for injuries on their property, even when the person is not supposed to be there. Many tales have been told of robbers who successfully sued the homeowner for injury, even if the robber themselves broke the window that injured them. In some countries homeowners insurance covers break-ins even if the front door was unlocked.

So how can we trust anyone? The short answer is we can’t. But as social beings who need human interaction, we balance risk and reward. We go to school, work, shopping malls, etc even though we know about the massacres that have happened in these places. Our experience tells us that these are very rare, and we take that risk. In fact we scorn the people unwilling to take that risk as insane.

As we meet people and make new friends we do develop a level of trust, but deep down we know that there is no way to know what they do behind our backs. This is part of what causes so many paternity suits and why we have structures built up to keep businesses accountable.

Today a movement known as the ‘sharing economy’ has been making an appearance. This is still largely a fringe movement, but some things have become mainstream, like eBay. In the beginning this was a very risky way to purchase or sell things. The product might not be what was advertised, or even exist at all. The payment may never arrive, and the seller had no recourse. Policies have been enacted since then that hold both parties responsible and protect them from the possibility of things going wrong.

Craigslist is still very basic. When using craigslist the risk is still a part of the user experience and something to be wary of. The company has published tips on how each party can protect themselves, but does not vet participants in any way, no reviews, or much in the way of account creation. They have chosen to welcome newcomers as equals rather than to embrace those who are in it for the long haul.

Both of these examples are largely just a way to facilitate a single transaction. Craigslist encourages in person exchanges, while eBay requires no face-to-face interaction. Other examples of this ‘sharing economy’ are just coming into the market. These range from renting out rooms in your home to hooking up for the evening or going out to eat at an aspiring chef’s home. These examples have followed eBay’s example to assist the users in trusting the other party. This allows participants a way to engage in activities that would normally be considered very risky with less fear. That is good thing, but some have also been accused of deleting negative reviews in the hopes of creating a positive public perception. There is also the issue of being held accountable for those reviews and not wanting to criticize a nice person.

I see this movement as a good thing as a whole. We need to find a way to trust again. Even if that trust is supported by a business structure. Anyone who has walked down a public street in New York knows that of the thousands of people we may come into contact with on a given day, we avoid 99% of them. Even those we do interact with, like cashiers, we cannot fully trust.

This is also a great way for people with similar interests to meet up and make friends. Even something as mundane as ride-sharing can lead to a lifelong friendship, especially if both parties are put at ease enough to open up.

As someone who works in customer service, I also see the potential, if this type of economy really took off, of the weeding out of the bad apples leading to public businesses, who have no way to review guests, having to deal with only those left out of the sharing economy. This means that since businesses are the only ones held accountable , they are forced to stretch themselves more and more to accommodate, and keep happy, worse and worse customers.

But is that really a bad thing? I could replace my income by renting out rooms and giving people rides, so long as I was a trustworthy person. I could use those services from other trustworthy people, creating a parallel, better, more transparent, economy. This would encourage people to be trustworthy, and so able to use this economy where people share the things that they value, adding value to the economy as a whole, without the need for more products. The economy of those who are deemed unworthy would be unsustainable, and self-punish those forced to use it. I honestly believe that most people are good. Even more so when being bad is not rewarded.

By supporting people who share only what they personally have, rather than those who have more than they need, this also creates a more equitable system. It could return the balance of power to the individual instead of the corporation, but only if you trust the corporation to properly vet the individuals.

 

Chapter 15 (WIP) – Recovery

When Jessica woke up she could not help but think about how carefree life seemed in her dreams. She sat for awhile trying to fall back asleep so she did not have to face her real life as it fell apart in front of her.

Once it was clear that there was no more sleep to be had, Jessica climbed out of bed with a sigh. When she went into the living room she was instantly tackled to the ground. Jessica struggled to escape her attacker, looking for anything she could reach to defend herself. The only thing she could find was a chair leg. She grabbed on and pulled, trying to escape. The only thing she managed to achieve was moving the chair closer and topple it over onto the person’s back.

“Ouch!” It was Ashley, the new roommate. “What was that for?”

Jessica relaxed, and apologized. “I guess I am a little high-strung right now. I didn’t realize it was you.”

“Where have you been?! I was worried sick!”

Jessica realized that Ashley had probably never been informed about what happened. She decided to go with the short version; “The hospital.” Jessica stood up and walked over to the couch, where she sat down.

“Oh my god! Are you okay? What happened? Why didn’t you call me? It has been days, and I hadn’t heard anything from you!”

Jessica smiled. The two had just met, but they had become fast friends, even though Jessica was so busy and tired all the time. “I’m fine. There was a robbery at work. I went with Kenzie, my trainee, in the ambulance, and once I got to the hospital I passed out. They kept me for observation even after I finally woke up.”

Ashley sat next to Jessica, “Were you hurt?”

“No, I guess it was just the shock, and my exhaustion. But now I have the distinct pleasure of calling up my boss and finding out if I still have a job or not. The lobby was probably closed off for awhile after the shooting–”

“Shooting?! You didn’t say there was a shooting!”

“Yeah, the robber shot Kenzie in the shoulder. She is alright now. I think she already got released too.” Jessica said it as calmly as she could, even though her lip was shaking as she thought about that night.

No matter how hard she tried to hide it, Ashley could tell. Without saying another word, Ashley gave Jessica a big hug, and Jessica broke into tears on her shoulder. The girls sat like that for a long time. When Jessica finally lifted her head and loosened her grasp, she sat up. “I guess I should make that call now.”

Ashley took Jessica’s hands, to stop her, “First, get a tissue. Go splash some cold water on your face, and I will make you some eggs and bacon.”

Jessica smiled and muttered, “Thank you.” She got up and went to the bathroom to make herself presentable.

After breakfast, Jessica was able to think a little better. She hadn’t realized how hungry she had gotten after days of hospital food. She called her boss.

“Hi, Ms. Thomas? It’s Jessica. I was just calling to let you know that I am ready to get back to work.”

“Oh, that’s great! I did hire someone, but training has been tricky; I have been working every night since it happened and I am sooo ready for a break, if you could come in tonight that would be great – since Kenzie hasn’t worked here long enough, we had to let her go, but I suppose if she told me she could come back back and fill in other shifts or something… but that doesn’t concern you any, we are just glad to have you back, oh my– I didn’t even ask how you are doing! The hospital won’t tell me anything about either of you, even though I asked so many times and told them who I am, as your employer it seems like I should have a right to know when my employees should be released, but they have privacy rules and things, anyway I hope that you are feeling alright, once the new guy is trained -tonight should be his last night, so you can take it easy – you will be able to ease back in if you want to, or you can dive right back to full-time if you would rather do that instead, but thank you for coming in tonight, my husband will be glad that I don’t need to go in to work, have a good one, and get some rest!”

“Thanks- and she hung up.”

“Well, is it good news at least?” asked Ashley

“I guess. At least I still have a job. But I’m not really sure if the rest is good or bad. They hired someone, so now I don’t get as many hours. Yay I get some time to rest and things, but I need that overtime more than ever now.”

“Well, maybe you can use those days off to find a second job.”

“Yeah, at least that would get me more hours, but I would have to work more standard time to make up for the lost overtime. I will end up working more anyway. Hopefully I can work something out with the hospital for payments and get a better-paying job I guess.”

Ashley took Jessica’s hand, “Not today. Today you are rested, and I will have you back by the time you need a nap for work. Today we are enjoying ourselves. We are going to find something fun to do that doesn’t cost a cent.”

Chapter 16 – Facing the Past

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Chapter 11 (WIP) – Down to Earth

Jessica opened her eyes. She was still in the hospital bed. She had been hoping that everything that had happened at the hotel was just a dream. She took a deep breath and climbed out of bed. She knew that since she had not been hurt she really should get out of the hospital as soon as possible to avoid drowning under hospital bills. She also knew that it was too late, money was tight enough as it was. As she stretched out from spending so much time in bed, she considered making a run for it and finding a way to live off the grid.

She walked out of her room and found a nurses station. She asked if she was able to leave. The nurse told her that the doctor would have to give the go ahead, and she paged him. A few minutes later the doctor arrived. He led Jessica back to her room, asking how she was feeling along the way.

Jessica said that she was feeling well, but really needed to get home and get back to work.

Jessica sat on the edge of the bed where a nurse took her blood pressure and temperature. Meanwhile the doctor continued questioning Jessica.

“Do you know what your name is?

“Jessica Marie Owens.”

“Do you know what the date is?”

Jessica stopped short, “Well the robbery was on, let’s see…I have not had a day off in quite some time so the days are running together. It was a Saturday when Mom called. That night I trained Kenzie, —-Kenzie! How is she? Is she alright? Can I see her?”

The doctor sighed “She is doing just fine. She is well enough to receive visitors. You seem to remember pretty well, but let’s make sure.”

“Of course, the robbery would have been Sunday. I know that I was told that I had been here 24 hours last time I spoke to you, Dr…”

“Rodney. That is accurate. It has been about eight hours since then.”

“So it would be the twenty….third today?” Jessica inquired.

“Correct,” said the doctor. “That is good. What we are concerned about with you is that although you do not seem to have suffered any injuries, you slept for more than thirty hours, nearly solid since you arrived. We did CT scans and X-rays, but we could find no signs of injury. We have no explanation.”

Jessica heard the bills going up in her head as she heard this. “I work graveyard. It is very hard to get any sleep. I suppose my body just decided to catch up.”

“That would be highly unusual, but the human body is an amazing thing. I want to do some research while I keep you under observation for a few more hours.”

Jessica started to tense up “I am sorry, I have no insurance. I can’t pay for everything you have already done. I need to go home.”

“Have you been under much stress lately?”

Jessica was a bit confused by the abruptness of the question. “Well yeah, like I said, I have not had a day off in over a month. I work graveyard, I can’t afford insurance, and bills are starting to pile up. Isn’t everyone stressed out right now?”

“It is possible that the stress combined with the lack of sleep might be enough to account for how long you slept. I just want to make sure that there is nothing else. I also suggest that you take a few weeks to recoup before going back to work.” Rodney turned to address the nurse. “You can take her to her see her friend.”

The nurse offered to help Jessica up, but was refused. Jessica was hardly paying attention as she was trying to figure out how to get out of this insurmountable debt she knew she was accruing. “Ms. Owens? I know that things look hopeless, but allow me to make a suggestion.” She handed Jessica a business card. “They may be able to help you.” She stopped Jessica, and lifted her face to see her better. “Now, you are going to see someone who has been through a lot too. I think she would like to see you smile.” Jessica let a weak smile out, “That’s better, now here we are.” The nurse led Jessica into a nearby room, where Jessica was greeted by Kenzie, who sat calmly watching television until she saw Jessica. Kenzie smiled and turned off the TV.

“Hey Jess!” Kenzie greeted her as if they had been best friends for years.

Jessica smiled, “Hey Kenzie, how are you feeling?”

“I’m good. They got the bullet out and patched me up good as new.” Kenzie was so cheerful, Jessica felt guilty for being so depressed. She tried to cheer up for Kenzie’s sake.

“That is a relief. It is good to see you.”

Kenzie noticed the hospital bracelet that Jessica wore. “Were you admitted to? Are you alright?”

Jessica felt a little embarrassed, compared to Kenzie, she had no business being hospitalized at all, let alone taking longer to recover, but she tried to stay positive, “Yeah I am fine! I just had a good long sleep since I got here.”

“What?! You have been asleep this whole time?”

“Yeah. I guess that is what work has done to me. I should probably call Ms. Thomas and see how things are going over there.”

Kenzie tried to brush off her concern, but kept a close eye on Jessica as they talked like old friends. Jessica found it odd that Kenzie, who had been so quiet at work, was so vivacious and cheerful now that she had been shot and sat in a hospital bed.

Finally Jessica decided to broach what she thought would be a sensitive subject. “What were you trying to do when the robber was there? You risked your life.”

“I was trying to save him from ruining his life. I know he was desperate, but there is more hope for him before he does something crazy.”

Jessica sat quietly for a few minutes, running over the scenario in her head. She had not really thought of the robber as anything other than a threat, but Kenzie’s explanation seemed to fit what happened. Suddenly Jessica realized something she had forgotten. “How did you open the safe, and why would you do that?”

“I learned how to crack safes from my father. I just decided not to follow in his line of work. I know the gunman probably did not even know it was there, but I thought that it would be a bigger temptation, and that I could convince him that it was not worth it. I suppose it was pretty dumb.”

“No, not dumb. It is amazing. You are really an enigma.”

The nurse came in and told the girls that it was time for Kenzie to get some rest. Jessica was escorted back to her room with a whole array of new thoughts running through her head. On one hand, she could see the robber as a person now, maybe even see his face a little clearer in her memory. She wanted Kenzie to be right, that the boy could be saved, but at the same time she saw Kenzie in a different light as well, and felt the need to protect her from the cruelty of the world. She felt that the robber should pay more for hurting someone so pure than she had even thought before. But somehow after talking to Kenzie she wasn’t sure if that was right, she was pretty sure Kenzie wouldn’t think so.

Chapter 12 – Castles in Disguise

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CHAPTER 9 (WIP) – ANCHORS

Jessica found herself sitting in a classroom. Surrounding her were people cheerfully discussing their class project. It did not take her long to notice that there were young kids in the class with adults, seniors mentoring teens, while the teens helped the grownups with the technology.

Suddenly Jessica heard a voice from behind. “Haven’t seen you around lately.” Jessica peered around to find the source of the voice. “How have you been doing?”

Jessica finally noticed a gentleman sitting nearby her looking at her in anticipation. She suddenly felt uneasy. “I am doing alright, I guess.”

“What are you doing for your project?”

Jessica forgot where she was for a moment. “Project? Oh, uh, right the, uh….project…” She trailed off.

“You seem a bit lost, are you sure you are alright?”

Jessica looked around to get her bearings. She knew she recognized the man but could not place him, she tried to figure out what she was supposed to be doing, or rather, have done already. For a few moments it felt like Jessica lost herself. She had trouble focusing on any one thing as she tried to remember where she was and what brought her here.

Faces flashed in front of her and a voice – “Are you alright?”

She saw the classroom again and realized that the room was geared towards teaching history.

Again the faces flashed before her – “Do you know your name?”

Jessica tried desperately to hold on to the classroom, since it was the only thing that made any sense at that moment as she found her bearings enough to mutter “Jessica.” The name came out of her mouth as a reflex, but it did not feel like it belonged to her.

But the classroom was slipping away and Jessica slowly realized that she was in the hospital and all the terrible memories came flooding back.

“Hi there Jessica. Do you know where you are?”

“Hospital, -Who?” She managed to get out through her confusion.

“I am so sorry, my name is Rodney.” For the first time Jessica had a specific person to focus on and things began to clear up. “Do you remember anything?”

“There was a robber, he had a gun…” Jessica trailed off for a moment as the rest sunk in. “How is Kenzie?”

“She is doing well, but you need to focus on you right now though. You have been through a lot, and I am afraid that these guys won’t help, but they are insistent.” Rodney waved to the nurses. Soon two men in cheap suits entered the room.

“Hi there, I hope you are feeling all right, I am Detective Haskell and this is my partner Barnes. We just had a few questions about the other night.”

“How long has it been?”

“You have been out for about 24 hours now.”

“Shit.” Muttered Jessica as she slid deeper into the bed.

Barnes turned to the doctor, “Can we have the room please?”

Rodney looked at Jessica and said, “Please try not to upset her.” before he reluctantly followed the nurse out of the room.

Jessica felt that her anchor had been taken away, and tried not to panic. She sat up a bit and tried to re-arrange the pillows.

Haskell continued, “I know you have had a traumatic experience, but anything you can tell us will help to put this guy away.”

“Can’t you just look at the footage from the desk?” asked Jessica, who just wanted to hide.

“We would, but cameras have not been working for a few months according to the owner.”

“Well I lost a dollar for nothing.” muttered Jessica.

Barnes looked at Haskell and shrugged.

“The drawer is always off. One day I added a dollar from my purse. The next day the drawer was over by a dollar. I knew that no-one would pay any attention to me adding a dollar, but taking one would be frowned upon. So I left it. Turns out I could have taken it back anyway.”

Haskell glossed over this statement, and seeing that Jessica was finally talking he got down to business. “So what did this robber look like?”

Shocked by the abruptness of his question, Jessica took a minute in answering, which clearly irritated the detectives. “Um, he was young, probably younger than me. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.”

“Hard to see ‘em going bad so young” muttered Haskell as he wrote in his notebook. “So was he black, Hispanic, Muslim…?” Haskell trailed off.

Jessica shook her head, “I don’t really remember, white I think.”

“How about that, a white kid…Who knew?” Haskell muttered to his notebook. “Do you think that you could describe him to a sketch artist?”

“I am really bad with faces. I wouldn’t be able to describe either of you even if I were looking right at you.”

“Oh well. Guess we gotta hope the other one comes out of it.” He muttered before asking Jessica, “So what can you tell me about what happened?”

“I dunno-it all happened so fast. I hit the floor as soon as I saw the gun. He wanted all the money we had. I tried to get Kenzie to safety, but she wouldn’t…She just kept talking to him. She got the money from the safe,” Jessica stopped. “–somehow… But she wasn’t giving it to him,” She started trailing off a bit, “That’s how the fight started.”

Haskell looked up from his notebook, “Fight?”

“Yeah, he grabbed for the cash that was in her hand and fell over the counter. In the scuffle the gun went off… While he grabbed the money, I dragged Kenzie to the back to take care of her. That’s when I called 911.”

“Thank you miss, if you can think of anything else, here is our card.” Barnes slid the card over on the tray next to the bed.

As soon as they left Jessica heaved a big sigh and closed her eyes.

She was back in the classroom, this time it was the students’ faces staring back at her as they stood around her as she laid on the floor. The same gentleman from before helped prop her up. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, thank you. I am fine, um—” She looked at the man questioningly.

“You don’t remember me? I am hurt. Rodney, we met at the diner.”

“Oh, right, thank you.” Then she directed a quick, “Thanks I’m good.” to the group that had gathered around her. They hesitated for a little more reassurance, but when Rodney nodded to them they backed away and filtered back to the tables. Rodney helped Jessica to sit up.

“You know if you aren’t feeling well you didn’t have to come to class today.” Rodney sat on the table next to Jessica. Jessica felt better having him nearby, like an older brother.

“But isn’t there a project due today?”

“Yeah it’s the last day, but you can just join the next week’s class to finish it out. It is much more important that you are healthy.”

“I feel much better now. But I don’t have a project to turn in.”

“I will tell you what. Let me take you home so that you can get some rest.”

“No, no, that’s not necessary.” Jessica stumbled over herself as she tried to explain all the reasons that he shouldn’t. “I couldn’t impose, –your project,– I’m fine, I don’t need help.”

“Just listen to yourself, you need to take some time for you. I can turn my project in next week too.”

Jessica got up to go alone, but Rodney got down off the desk to give her a hand. “So where do you live?” The question stopped Jessica short. She didn’t really know this guy. She didn’t want to go to his place, but she didn’t want him to know where she lived either.

“Can we just go to a park or something?”

“I think that sounds like a fantastic idea.”

Chapter 10 – Settling In

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CHAPTER 8 (WIP) – COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Jessica stood up just in time to see a young man come nervously to the door. Kenzie went over and pressed the button to let him in. Jessica was just about to stop her and explain the intercom system, when the man drew a gun. Jessica ducked behind the desk in an instant.

The man stuttered across the words “Empty the t-t-till, give me your p-p-purses!” Jessica was already in the back room before the plural ‘purses’ reminded her that Kenzie was there too. Keeping her head as low to the ground as possible, Jessica peeked out to see the desk. Kenzie was still standing, slowly moving towards Jessica.

“Sir, I understand that things may not be great right now, but I can tell you do not want to do this.” Jessica debated between running to hide in the laundry room and locking every door in between, or waiting for Kenzie, maybe even physically dragging her to the back.

The gunman squeaked out “You don’t–” He stopped to clear his throat and started speaking in a lower more even tone. “You don’t know anything about me, just give me the money.”

Kenzie stepped past the door where Jessica was waiting and kept moving to where the safe was kept. Jessica knew she could not open the safe, what was Kenzie thinking? Jessica fought the urge to run away, as the gunman pressed Kenzie harder, the gun nearly in her face. Kenzie never lost her composure as she knelt down to the safe and opened it by touch.

“I have been where you are, and this money is not worth the damage you are doing to yourself.” Kenzie prepared to scatter the money everywhere to make her point. The gunman jumped up and caught the money in her hand. As he snatched the money from her he seemed to forget that he had the gun in his hand and reached with both hands to grab the stack of bills. As his hand wrapped around the treasure, his finger squeezed the trigger.

Jessica screamed. As he landed behind the desk the gunman regained his composure enough to shoot the spot that Jessica narrowly vacated as she reached for Kenzie to drag her to the back. Jessica got far enough in the room to close and lock the door as the young man made it to his feet. He took only a few seconds to find and empty the drawer that contained the till and snatch the girl’s purses from under the counter before he dashed out the door breaking the glass in the process and was back on the street.

Jessica frantically tried to stop the bleeding from Kenzie’s shoulder as she reached for a phone and a towel at the same time. Jessica knocked the phone onto Kenzie’s chest as she switched hands to use the towel to put pressure on the wound. Jessica’s hand shook as she tried to dial 911 into the phone slippery with blood.

When the operator answered Jessica could get out just a few words between her labored breaths. “robber–shot–shoulder” The operator helped to calm her down enough to get the address and a general description of the gunman. Jessica did not have much since she hid so quickly, and Kenzie was in and out of consciousness as Jessica tried to keep her attention while she answered questions. Jessica knew that she was making the pain in Kenzie’s shoulder worse, but that if she stopped she would bleed out before help arrived. The operator dispatched an ambulance and police, but stayed on the line to help.

Once help arrived Jessica shut down from shock. The paramedics put Kenzie in the ambulance, and helped Jessica step in before she really knew what was going on. Everything was a blur. When they reached the hospital she realized that she was supposed to be working and tried to leave to get back. She was told that the lobby was a crime scene, and the manager had been notified. Jessica fought for a minute before giving up and laying back in the wheelchair they brought for her. As she passed under florescent lights and through door after door the thought occurred to her that she had been putting off getting insurance and could not afford to be admitted to the hospital. This thought did not last long as she passed out rushing through white halls and past drawn curtains.

 

Chapter 9 – Anchors

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