Check-out Time © D.J. Lutz March 2011
The statuesque brunette stood out in the crowd, not because of the Coach handbag or the three inch stiletto heels protruding beneath the tight jeans, but because she was the only woman who didn’t have that look of desperation so common with the rest of the herd. She was here to find a man, a special man. She didn’t know who it would be, or even if he would be here at the library’s weekly speed dating session, but she would know him when she saw him. And if she didn’t click with anyone tonight, she would be fine going back to her flat for a quiet evening with a good book, a bottle of wine and the fine company of her cat.
Scanning the room quickly, she realized that the pickings were slim. Understandable she thought, since over the course of two months, two girls had been found murdered the day after they had attended a speed dating event. Organizers had seen a dramatic drop in attendance, especially from women, but the library was considered a safe venue. She mused that murderers must not be too interested in books these days. And four minutes analyzing each person was not much time to get to know them, precisely why bringing a favorite book was a requirement; it gave a person something to talk about. She had her copy of Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa sitting out in front of her when a fairly good looking man sat down, hesitantly showing his favorite, Shadows on the Grass. She smiled. This could be the man.
“The baroness was so kind to give us this sequel,” he said.
“I must say I am impressed. Not many men care for the original. Fewer even know about the second book…”
The couple made small talk, trying to make the most of the few remaining minutes. He made a point to let his Rolex protrude from his French cuffs. She smiled on the inside – he was trying so hard.
“So, what is it you do for a living?” She could see that he dressed well, now to see how he manages.
“I’m a computer guy; network administration actually.”
“That’s very interesting. I am not very computer savvy; I just don’t know if I can trust what I see on the screen.”
He replied with a know-it-all’s confidence, “So true. You really can’t trust everything you read on-line. It’s so easy for someone to lie and most people would never know. But how about you? Oh, let me guess. I’d say…hmmm…independent businesswoman, used to the finer things in life. Or a trophy wife that got tired of being taken for granted. How’d I do?”
She paused, letting a slight frown show. “Right on target, both counts. However, I am currently looking to better my situation. The short version is that I had a very successful and popular husband, then a nasty divorce, followed by a restraining order, and last month… a move to a new part of the country, right here. I just needed to start over, some place where no one knew me, where no one would judge me.”
His heart started pumping faster. This girl was perfect. “Wow, I would have never guessed. You look so together, you know?”
“A girl does what she can…”
Their time was up. He had to move down the line to the next prospect, but she noticed that he kept glancing over in her direction. She was almost oblivious to the man now sitting in front of her. She didn’t like Hunter S. Thompson anyway. He soon got the nonverbal message and moved on.
As the evening ended, her admirer returned.
“I don’t have a farm in Africa, but I do have a corner table at the coffee shop across the street. Would you care to join me?”
“Yes. I think that would be nice. I’ll just drop my book off at my car and meet you there.”
The man was all smiles. “Of course. I’ll do the same. I’m just parked out back. I’ll be there in a few.”
The man tossed his book in the back, next to his laptop. With his computer background, he had been able to access the signup sheet for the speed dating session and then hack into the library’s checkout system to see what type of book his next victim might bring. This girl had been too easy. And her divorce was indeed nasty. There were plenty of press reports still posted on-line. He made sure the duct tape was next to the knife under his seat. He was going to enjoy this one. “Just have to think of a reason to get her back to my car later,” he thought.
Reaching her car, she popped the trunk and tossed in her book. She reached into the trunk and opened a black bag, carefully taking out a shiny pair of handcuffs, a taser, and her badge. The “computer guys” at her job did a great job of creating her back story, even giving her a new library account. This dirtbag had no idea she was a detective with over ten years on the force.
The two met up at the front door of the coffee shop. As he held the door for her to enter first, they both had the same thought: “Indeed, you really can’t trust everything you read on-line.”