Hey everybody, I have been quite busy lately. Meanwhile I have been slowly working away at this little story for you all to enjoy. I hope you do, and please let me know what you think.
The Coffee Connoisseur
The smell of coffee beans pressed against the portafilter licked the air surrounding the cafe in the small town’s plaza.
“Do you want to stop and get a coffee before we enter the shops?” Allan turned to Krystle,
“Sure.” She responded with a smile.
They turned into the small corner shop, a short line, horizontal to the counter. Other customers stood at the counter’s end, blocking patrons from entering the Winn-Dixie.
Allan ordered the coffee and sat at a table that had moments before been vacated.
Krystle sat opposite a smile caressed her face. They had only just met a few weeks beforehand, a mutual friend – a so-called matchmaker in her terms. Their first date started slow nerves filled the air the suggested restaurant in which to host the evening did not suit either of them. A few months and more dating, and they have found their rhythm – Coffee and horror movies. He couldn’t believe his luck either, a blind date with a woman he felt was out of his league, her blonde hair swayed when they walked, her hips slender yet moved with a rhythm of a Latin dancer, which helped her ass move with a hypnotic swing. Her green eyes highlighted the small freckles on her cheeks, while her straight nose added to the perfect symmetry of her face when she smiled. He felt confident in how he now looked the hairline started receding in his early thirties, which highlighted the size of his ears, and forehead. His blue eyes and big smile were his saviors, though, he thought. That and his body, in which he tried to keep fit on weekends.
The barista placed the takeaway cup in front of him, just the way he liked it; they add more. She then positioned the glass containing Krystle’s favorite drink topped with whipped cream and sugared in cinnamon.
“Enjoy your drinks,” the barista smiled and headed back to the counter.
“Do you know,” Allan watched as Krystle started to dig into the cream.
“They make pumpkin-spiced lattes without pumpkin.”
He smiled as he sipped on his drink, the smooth liquid gliding down the throat.
“Ah, that is a good coffee.”
“So is this,” Krystle added, placing down the cup. Her lips saved some cream for later.
“What would be in this then?” She stared at him.
“Some say that there are towns out there that use the livers of those that have died from cirrhosis.”
“Oh yeah?” She laughed, “And? What happens to those who drink this vile liquid?”
“Well,” Allan said, taking a sip. “They say those who drink this concoction, within half an hour, their body drains of all liquid and mummifies on the spot.”
“So just like all those victims of all those evil witches?”
“Yeah, just like that. I found an article from Dr. Alhezter, a medical expert who was saying that it isn’t just the scarred liver that is causing the mummification process. It is the combination of Pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, and the liver that creates such a potent drink. ”
“Well, then how are these coffee shops getting away with these murders? And why is the media not covering it?”
The barista walked past to a table with a card number twenty-three standing on a pole. She leaned in and talked to the customers Allan couldn’t hear what she had said. Movement at the table suggested she had asked them to leave.
“The media, I suppose, is trying to cover it up,” Allan said, taking another sip.
“As for the coffee shops, some say that the liver only supplies a certain amount of doses.”
The barista finished wiping down the table as she passed them she gave a small smile.
“So you are saying that some get the deadly dose and, others are lucky not to?” Krystle asked. “It all sounds a bit far fetched, don’t you think?”
“You would hope so, but you can never tell these days. People are killing others over the color of their skins, political and religious views, let alone those who have slain many over bullying that is if; they don’t take themselves out first.” Allan sighed, looking at the customers coming through the cash registers.
“Okay, so if you knew of this why, would you let me get this drink?” Krystle said, her head tilted, with, an intrigued look.
“Well, I figured if we were going to take a road trip for the day, we might as well stop and try the coffee, and I knew you would want one of these vile drinks anyway so, I wanted to test out the rumors in this small town.” A smile crept along his face.
“Oh, you are an asshole.” She said, smacking his arm, laughter erupting from them both.
“Come on, Krys, do you believe in these urban legends?”
“No, well, I don’t know.” She looked down at her glass, less than a mouthful remained.
A scream rang out from near the entrance to the shopping complex. People, startled, confused, started to run towards where the noise originated. Allan finished the remainder of his cup and rose out of the seat. Krystle left what remained of hers and followed Allan. Others had gotten up to see what the commotion was about, a crowd gathered around in a circle, Allan couldn’t see over the sea of heads.
“Oh my God!” one woman stated,
“This is terrible, the poor woman.” said another.
The crowd kept shifting. Men and women exited the inner circle, their faces pale in color, others holding their mouths, hoping to stop themselves from vomiting. For others, this did not help, as the smell of half-digested food and stomach acids splashed upon the checkered black and white tiles. Allan pushed his way to the front.
“Let me through I am a doctor.” A voice came from his right.
He looked down and then over to the man that called himself a doctor.
“I don’t think you will be much help doc,” he said his, voice almost calm.
The man looked back at him, “Do you know what happened?”
“No,” Allan said, looking at the mummified remains of the woman who had sat at table twenty-three looking back at Krystle, who had just made it to the front. Her face, pale and filled with terror.
Allan looked at the shriveled corpse of the woman. He thought about what she had been drinking at the table.
“A glass cup.” He whispered.
Reaching over towards Krystle, he took her hand and dragged her through the crowd. Once free of the people, they stood in sight of the coffee shop.
“We need to get you to a doctor,” Allan said, his voice shaking.
“Do you th.. th.. think that she had the pumpkin spiced latte????” Fear filled her voice.
“Well, unless you believe a witch is roaming these walls, I don’t want to rule it out. If we can get you somewhere fast, we may be able to stop whatever this is.”
Looking over at the coffee shop, he noticed the barista watching them. He started to walk over towards the woman. The barista put down the stainless steel jug that held the milk she had been heating and moved out the side door towards the kitchen.
“Where did she go?” Allan asked the dish hand.
“Out the back door,” the young boy said, pointing.
Opening the door, he saw down a long curved hall, empty except for a few milk cartons loosely thrown around.
“Where does this lead to?”
“Uh, there is an emergency exit down around the bend there, but otherwise it comes out at the entrance of the public toilets.”
“Thanks,” Allan said.”
“Krystle, you head back through the main shop I will head this way.”
Krystle nodded and headed back through the coffee shop, the hall echoed with the sound of his feet running against the concrete path, a service corridor, tiles were not, needed.
The emergency exit had been opened a silent alarm, flashed above the door. Pushing through, light rays from the bright sun shone straight into his eyes.
A moment later, he could see his surroundings, the back-end of the car park lay before him, up ahead across a small road, a few car sales yards, a sign further down read Winfield Equipment Rentals. Behind them stood a small forest. Running down towards the Drive, he noticed a man walking through a row of cars, bags hanging from both hands.
“Excuse me, sir,” Allan said, still looking around. “Did you happen to see a woman running through here?”
“I did happen to see one she works at the local coffee shop,” the man responded.
“Yeah, that’s the one. Do you know which way she went?”
“She headed over the road back there.” He pointed to the Central Motors building.
“Can’t tell yah if she went in the building though. She seemed to be in a hurry. Maybe she got scared off by what happened with that poor miss in the main foyer.”
“Maybe,” he said. “Thanks for your help.”
Running up the path towards the car yard, he looked out the back to see if a fence line ran along the forest line, there was none. Crossing the road after a semitrailer passed through, he headed for the trees. Another complex loomed before him, a veterinary, and a pharmacy, from what the sign near the side road stated. Allan ran in between the shops into the car park Allan looked around at the half-filled rows. The barista’s head bobbed towards the back street spotting, Allan she started running back towards the WInn-Dixie. Allan reached the road, looking in the direction he last saw her, she had disappeared again. A sign on the other side caught his attention he jogged over reading the white words on the blue background River of Living Water United Methodist Church. A cross with a red flag painted on to a white concrete block next to the sign Sermon times and a verse placed on the message board. He looked up the driveway, steep, with a curve. He looked back down the road. There is no way she made it to that truck yard, he thought. As he walked towards the church, his cell rang.
“Allan,” Krystle said.
“Where are you???”
“I’m in the driveway of a methodist church.”
“River of living water?”
“Uh?” Allan said confusion running across his brow. “How do you know the church?”
“Oh, uh! I asked one of the employees back at the cafe if she would go anywhere near here to hide or hangout.”
“How are you feeling?”
“I feel okay at the moment. I will go there.”
“No, no. Stay there or go to the medical center that is up the road. Okay?”
Allan walked towards the road bend a few cars lined the trees that marked the boundary of the land. The entrance was on the far side to where he was. The building itself looked to be in two parts, a long rectangle building and one that reminded him of a hut that belonged on an island, except this had a long cross attached to the top of the triangled building. Rounding the corner, he could see a tarmacked area that could be, used for gatherings or sermons on a fine, Sunday morning. Movement under the patio caught his eyes. A woman walked along, she noticed him and smiled she kept moving towards the open doors that led into a foyer.
Looking down at his phone, Allan noticed that the time had passed by quickly. Just like that of a brief storm. Krystle should have turned by now, he thought. He pressed her name again, trying to receive an answer. The phone cut to her answering machine once again. Do I turn back and find her and let her killer go? Maybe she didn’t get a lethal dose and is just busy at the doctors. He tried once again.
“Hi you have reached Krystle, I am sorry I cannot take your call right now. Please leave your name and number and, I will contact you soon.”
Allan placed the phone back into his pocket. He walked through the doors and into the chapel. Wooden pews lined the floor of the room. A large cross hung above the aisle. A presence that made him feel uneasy like Jesus was watching every step he took in his house. Under the cross sat some candles on shelving, to the right of the shelves, a banner Welcoming guests. Next to the banner two flags, the American and another, blue, red, and white. An Alabama state flag, but it looked different. In front of the wooden pews to his left stood the pulpit, behind the stand, the woman he saw earlier, in the front row sat two women.
“Krystle?” Allan said confusion masked his face.
“What?! Why are you here? And.. And next to her?” He said, pointing to the barista who stood next to his girlfriend.
“You mean Jeannie?” Krystle said.
“Hi!” Jeannie said, the smile forming on her face again.
“How about you get comfortable, it won’t be long now,” Krystle said.
“Long now? What are you talking about?”
“Oh! Allan, Jeannie put a small dose of the potion into your drink.”
“She did?” Fear creeping through in his voice.
“Yes,” Jeannie responded. Her voice sounded like a young girl about to get ice-cream.
“So why don’t I feel anything then?” Allan said.
Krystle walked over to him, putting her arm in between his, an embrace that most women do to show off her man while walking down the street seating, him into the first pew.
“Is he ready?” The woman behind the pulpit asked.
“He should be in the early start of decay by now,” Jeannie responded.
Allan’s eyes had not left Krystle.
“Why?” He said, tingling sensations coursed through his feet and hands.
He looked down to see his finger-tips turning a blue and purple tinge before shriveling into what looked like the remains of a corpse that had ossified.
The woman left the pulpit and walked towards the candles one by one she started lighting them. With each new flame came a chant. Jeannie had joined the other woman the chanting, echoed throughout the empty church.
“We, heard that someone was getting too close to knowing the truth about these deaths,” Krystle said. Her hands rested on her knees as she sat next to him on the pew.
“We set out to find out who was causing the commotion sure there was some stir on the internet, but…”
“But?” He said,
“But.. no one believes what they see on youtube. It is all just some sort of conspiracy theory.” She looked at him, her eyes wide, a kind of sorrow emitted from them.
“You, just, would not let it go. Traveling to different towns within the state so you could try to find any evidence that we..” She waved her hand towards the others and herself. “Existed.”
Allan felt his hands ache the ossification had reached up to his wrists. His feet felt loose in the shoes he wore, he could not see them under the socks or his legs under his jeans, but he knew the same process was happening to them. He felt the urge to scream. It was useless. The sound would echo across the building and, any sound reverberating outside would be lost before another soul would hear him.
“So you planned to lure me into a trap and kill me from the start?” Allan said, a hopeless sorrow set in.
“Oh, Allan!” Krystle said, her hand touching his shoulder just out of reach of the growing decay.
“I did not want this to happen to you.”
“Really!” He said, a touch of anger forming in his words
“Cause it sure as fuck looks like it!!!” He shook his arm to get away from her grip.
“I did not, Allan.” Her eyes lowered towards her knees.
“I tried to steer you away from the path, tried to keep us from going to coffee shops, or at least stay at Starbucks. But you insisted on going to different places. Some I had to stop them from using the deadly mix to stop you from picking up the trail.”
Allan looked at the two women chanting.
“What are they doing?”
“They believe that you can help us to create another deadly concoction.” She said.
“Another drink? Are you crazy? Have you not caused enough death as it is?”
The chanting stopped, Jeannie walked behind the pulpit and pulled out a brass goblet, it was oversized just like those in a novelty store. Jeannie pulled a small dagger out from inside the cup. She walked over towards Allan, the goblet in one arm and the small blade in the other.
Allan felt that his arms were useless now, the decay, close to his shoulders, he figured after watching it work its way up under his sleeves. The smell of death hung near his nostrils, not the scent of a body that had only showered mere hours beforehand but that of a slaughtered animal left on the side of the road to become maggot food. Jeannie stood to his side, a serious, look upon her face, one you would expect on that old lady that always seemed angry at the slightest noise in a library.
Krystle had moved away from him the stench; had gotten to her. Her red blouse lifted to cover her nose, her slim belly showing. Damn, she looked good, he thought. Dehydration had taken over, a ravaged thirst hung on the tip of his tongue, his lips dry. It would explain the delusion of being attracted to the woman that is wanting him dead. The flicker of light reflecting made him watch Jeannie, who had just swiped the dagger across his neck. The goblet filled with blood draining from his wound.
“Wait! What?” Allan said, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
“I’m sorry,” Krystle said to him.
“We need the blood of an infected person.”
“And you could not have done it a little bit earlier and not attacked my neck?” He said as he felt cloth and tape pressed against him.
“We had to make sure you were completely infected.”
“So is that it,” he said, feeling the dehydrating skin creeping up his neck.
“No,” she said, leaning in for a kiss.
“No?” He repeated, feeling the moisture of her lips against the cracked skin of his.
“We need the eyes,” Jeannie said, handing Krystle the dagger. “Be quick before they dry out.”
“The eyes?!!” He looked at Krystle.
“Yes, we need the eyes of a believer, mixed with the poisoned blood to create a new concoction for those who prefer adding syrups to their lattes.”
“But, why?” He asked as she edged towards him, the dagger held firmly in her hand.
“Why? What type of coffee drinker adds flavoring to a beautiful bean. Those who make a mockery of a real coffee connoisseur!” Krystle said, digging the blade in behind the left eye.
Allan screamed the sound echoed throughout the building till he could not make another sound and, his voice dried out. Darkness engulfed him as he felt tears leftover from the eyes and blood mixed run down his cheek. He felt the warm breath of one of the women on his ear.
“I know what you are thinking, Allan,” Krystle said. “You are thinking, why am I not dead already? Well, you will be soon, you see Allan, your heart was still strong against the drink I am surprised that you did not notice the difference in flavors.”
Allan could hear the sound of squishing and the sloshing of liquid, his eyes, and blood blending to become the next killer drink.
“Goodbye, Allan,” Krystle said to the corpse.
“Krystle?” Jason asked.
“Hi Jason, how are you?” Krystle leaned in to give the short, plump man a cuddle and kiss on the cheek. “I am good. How are you?” His facial expressions showed he was impressed with his blind dates looks.
“I am well, thank you.” She said, smiling. “Would you like coffee?”
“Why yes, I would love one,’” He said, stepping into the corner coffee shop. “My treat today, what do you like?”
“I will have a hazelnut latte,” she said.
“I will have a long black, and the beautiful lady will have a caramel latte to have here,” Jason said, passing the money to the barista.
“Okay, please take this number and take a seat,” Jeannie said.
They sat at the closest seat available a few minutes later Jeannie bought out their order. Jason watched as Krystle sipped the drink in her hand.
“There have been rumors about that drink of yours,” Jason said.
“What kind of rumors, Jason?” Krystle asked.
“Well, an article a doctor had written recently, there is a dangerous potion being used to create a manic and deadly state of mind, in those who drink lattes with flavoring. According to witnesses, people have stabbed their own eyes out and cut themselves till they die,” He said.
“And you believe people who drink flavored lattes are, being; targeted? Or that there is something that powerful?”
“Yes, and I reckon they can be, found around here,” Jason said, looking over at the smiling barista.
“Do they now?” She said. Krystle took a deep sip of her drink as he did the same with his.
“I guess we will find out,” She said a large, smile hugged her face.