Sarah looked around the coffee shop. It was very crowded. Dozens of people moved about, greeting each other, talking, sharing bits of life. They were small meetings, mostly unimportant as a whole, but still playing some vital part in the life of the participants. And maybe some weren’t so trivial. Entire lives could change from a small conversation, and you’d never know by watching. Certainly, Christie’s life would never be the same by the time she left.

Christie waved at her from a small table in the back corner.

“Is Tommy coming?” Christie asked as Sarah approached her. Not surprising. Christie had been obsessing over this ever since she found out Thomas liked her.

Sarah took a seat. “He won’t be here for a while, but he’s bringing the entire gang with him. Are you ready for this?”

Christie tried to smile, but it came across a bit manic. “I’m not sure it’s possible to be ready for this.”

She still wasn’t over what Jeremy did to her. Sarah had initially thought that hooking up with Tommy would be good for her, but maybe she was pushing too hard.

“Look, after what happened with the creep, no one would blame you if you want out.”

She shook her head. “I’m in too deep to back out now. Do you have the police file?”

She felt the thumb drive in her pocket, and had the strong urge to say no. It held all the details about her last night with Jeremy.

“Are you sure you want this? It’s not healthy to look at this.”

“I’m not going to look at it,” Christie said. “I just need to have it. It’s a security blanket. I like knowing that if things get bad again, they can’t get as bad as they were before.”

Sarah frowned at that. It didn’t seem very healthy to her, but it wasn’t her place to judge. “As long as it helps you. You don’t want to know what I had to go through to get that.” Specifically, she had to flirt with Officer George, who she had been doing her best to avoid for half a year now.

“I’ll make it up to you, I swear,” Christie said with an earnest smile. “Shit! He’s here!” Sarah started to turn, but Christie grabbed her. “Don’t look!”

* * *

Sarah cased the coffee shop. It was packed full of working stiffs. Dozens of people moved about, doing whatever it was normal people did. They probably talked about stupid little things that seemed so important to them. Or maybe not. Sarah usually assumed everybody had some kind of agenda; something you’d never guess just by looking. Take Christie, for example. She looked normal enough, but things would change by the time she left.

Christie met her eyes, just for a moment. She was at a small table in the back with easy line of sight on both doors.

“Is Tommy coming?” Christie asked as Sarah approached her. Christie was always paranoid when setting up a job. Arguably, not paranoid enough, though.

Sarah took a seat. “He won’t be here for a while, but he’s bringing the entire gang with him. Are you ready for this?”

Christie smiled mirthlessly. “I’m not sure it’s possible to be ready for this.”

Last gig Christie ran left her in intensive care for ten days after her partners betrayed her. Sarah had stressed to Tommy that there couldn’t be the slightest hint of double-dealing if they were going to go through with this.

“Look, after what happened with the creep, no one would blame you if you want out.”

Christie gave her a look that said she was being naive. “I’m in too deep to back out now. Do you have the police file?”

She felt the thumb drive in her pocket, and had the strong urge to say no. There was enough information on Tommy to put him away for a long time.

“Are you sure you want this? It’s not ‘healthy’ to look at this.”

“I’m not going to look at it,” Christie said. “I just need to have it. It’s a security blanket. I like knowing that if things get bad again, they can’t get as bad as they were before.”

Sarah frowned at that. If Tommy found out she had it, things would get a lot worse… for both of them. “As long as it helps you. You don’t want to know what I had to go through to get that.”

“I’ll make it up to you, I swear,” Christie said with a meaningful wink. “Shit! He’s here!” Sarah started to turn, but Christie grabbed her. “Don’t look!”

* * *

Sarah looked around the coffee shop. So many people. Dozens of people moved about. Talking about ordinary things. They didn’t understand — couldn’t understand. Nothing was ordinary. Things that seemed so important meant absolutely nothing. All that mattered was this moment. This place. Christie’s life would be different when she left… if she left.

Christie frantically waved at her from a small table in the back corner.

“Is Tommy coming?” Christie whispered as Sarah approached her. They called it Tommy. You couldn’t use its real name. Shouldn’t even think its real name.

Sarah tried to stop such thoughts as she sat down. “He won’t be here for a while, but he’s bringing the entire gang with him. Are you ready for this?”

Christie chuckled manically. “I’m not sure it’s possible to be ready for this.”

She knew more about Tommy than anybody. That made her valuable. That made her mad.

“Look, after what happened with the Creep, no one would blame you if you want out.” Sarah wanted out. Anybody sane wanted out. Would she still want out once she was mad?

Christie just smiled. “I’m in too deep to back out now. Do you have the police file?”

She felt the thumb drive in her pocket. Even the little bit of plastic felt wrong somehow. Every time she had passed a garbage can, she felt the urge to throw it away.

“Are you sure you want this? It’s not healthy to look at this.”

“I’m not going to look at it,” Christie laughed. “I just need to have it. It’s a security blanket. I like knowing that if things get bad again, they can’t get as bad as they were before.”

Sarah shivered at that. How could things have been worse than they were now? What had Christie seen? No. Better not to know. “As long as it helps you. You don’t want to know what I had to go through to get that.” She could still see it when she closed her eyes. Whatever it was. A jumble of images that made no sense.

“I’ll make it up to you, I swear,” Christie said, surprisingly lucid. It only lasted a moment. “Shit! He’s here!” Sarah started to turn, but Christie grabbed her. “Don’t look!”

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