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“The usual?” Mary grabbed two slices of sourdough from a bag before slapping on some tuna salad.
“Yeah,” Tom replied looking around the deli.
Two small puddles of rain water merged on the floor. He shook the drops from his umbrella before sticking it into a cloth grocery sack. Water leaked through the canvas of the heavy bag. He looked around to see if anyone saw its contents.
Mary sliced through his sandwich, placed it on a plate with pickle, and pushed it toward him. He placed on his tray a banana from the fruit basket and a cello-wrapped brownie from the deserts.
“Just a cup of ice water,” he said paying for the lunch.
The rain made the deli busy. A few people stood on the doormat just inside the deli waiting for the rain to stop. He edged up to the counter window near the street. He moved a newspaper out of his way and sat down next to a small girl wearing her hair in a bun. He dropped the sack on the floor and pushed it toward the window with his shoe. Tom set his left foot on the bag to make sure it didn’t go anywhere. The girl glanced at him. He smiled back. She shifted in her seat before focusing on her soup.
A torrent of water fell down on the office workers hurrying past the window. He pressed his foot on the bag to make sure it was still there. He had to leave the city, no doubt. The mysterious hangups, the feeling he was being watched, and the envelope containing the baby picture all spooked him. Even though the affair ended years ago, and she insisted he was not the father, the picture could mean only one thing.
If people out there knew his story, they would quit work and run too. He glanced at the girl. Only a few more hours before he could fly as fast as he could from the trouble coming down around him.
Tom rocked his heal on the contents of the sack. Square and tall, most folks would assume he had his foot on a stack of books. It would be an incorrect assumption. Inside the bag, Tom had placed a stack of $100 bills totaling $1.3 million and a private jet itinerary to Belize City.
He pulled the money out of his pension. The whole amount saved from the only job he ever worked. He stamped down on the stack. For some reason, he thought $1.3 million would take up an entire banking table. In fact, the stack took less than the bottom of the bag. It seemed rather small considering all the time it took to collect it. Even so, the money would buy a nice island surrounded by fish and sunshine.
No one would know anything about where he went. The airline ticket had no name. It was a Friday and no one would miss him until Monday. He planned to just disappear.
He flipped the newspaper to finish the story about a shoplifter who broke his arm running from police. He brought up the sandwich and took a bite. He chewed the crust down to the melted cheese covering the bits of fish. He threw down the remaining crust and wiped his mouth. This corner deli made a satisfying tuna melt. Tom washed out his mouth with the ice water.
His face flushed red so he fanned it with the newspaper. Just what he needed; a cold in the rain. He cleared his throat twice in a deep guttural hack. The girl adjusted her chair away from his cough. He took another sip of the water. A tickle grabbed at his tonsils. He sipped again.
The water seemed to only make things worse. His tongue swelled in his mouth. It was suddenly hard to breathe. He started to choke. The girl pushed out of her chair alarmed as Tom fell backward onto the deli floor.
“Call 9-1-1,” yelled Mary.
She ran from the register to where Tom fell and dried her hands on her apron as she straddled Tom’s body. She touched his neck; a weak pulse. He seemed to be trying to suck in, but no air passed his lips. In the distance, the shrill wailing of a siren told her help was coming. Office workers wearing rain coats crowded around Tom. Rain dripped on his face.
Mary reached into his pants pocket pulling out a wallet. A photo of a baby fell out along with some credit cards. On the back of the baby photo someone wrote “Baby Kate. 2 months.”
“There’s no medical ID card,” said Mary. “Does anyone have an inhaler?”
The crowd in the restaurant looked at each other, yet no one surrounding Tom admitted to struggling with asthma.
Two firemen walked up carrying a paramedic case. They pushed the crowd away leaving only Tom and Mary.
“He stopped breathing,” Mary said. “He’s a regular. Always eats a tuna melt.”
“Fish, huh? It’s probably a case of scombroid poisoning,” one fireman said to the other. He pulled an epinephrine pen out of the case.
The firemen worked to rescue Tom. After a few minutes, he sucked in a shallow breath, but still looked like death. They wheeled him on a stretcher out into the street.
Tom wore a breathing mask and reached for Mary. He tried to speak.
“No. Don’t talk. Just get better,” said Mary. Tom lifted his head and grabbed her by the arm as the firemen pushed him into the ambulance.
Inside the deli, the crowd thinned leaving only the girl near where Tom fell. She picked up his wallet and the baby picture. She dropped both into the cloth grocery sack and pulled the umbrella out of the bag. She opened it up as she walked out the door. The girl glanced back at the ambulance before turning the corner and hailing a cab.
As she leaped over a puddle, her phone rang. She answered it as she sat down in the back of the cab waiting on the corner for the ambulance to speed away.
“He didn’t recognize me,” said the girl. She reached into her purse retrieving a red lip liner. She held the phone to her ear and touched up her mouth.
“I have the photo and the money,” she said. She listened to the individual speaking in her ear.
“Two drops in his water,” she said. “He doesn’t know.” She watched the ambulance speed away. “He’ll be dead soon.”
The girl dropped the lip pencil into her purse next to a small vial containing the poison she had used on Tom. She clasped the purse shut.
“Gotta go now mom,” she said. She fingered the plane ticket. “It looks like I’m flying to Belize to buy some jade.”
In the intersection, the driver honked the horn as the cab flew bounced through a puddle in the rain.
© 2016 – 2017, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.