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Panera Bread in Shakopee, MN

(this is not my Panera)

One of the ways I get writing time in, mainly so that it does not intrude on the time I need to give to my family, is to get up early in the morning and write at a Panera Bread restaurant close by.  That usually gives me an hour or more before work.  It is critical for me to do that during the NaNo month.  If I write in the morning, then I do not have to sweat it out in the evening, Using that strategy has helped me to survive several Novembers of writing.

What that also means is that I have become friends with the regulars at the Panera I frequent.  They ask me about my writing, invite me to their parties, treat me like one of the gang.  This year, one woman in particular joked with me that I should write her into my story.  Gail is quite the character, a willowy woman with short blonde hair and intense blue eyes, who loves to speed walk and is obsessed with clean windows.  I obliged, writing her into the story — but killed her off.  It became a joke within the group of restaurant friends, enough that they have been trying to talk me into reading that portion of the story in front of the group.

This morning I gave in to their requests.  Blushing.  Hesitating.  I knew I had written Gail into the story as a caricature, something that is not always complimentary.  On top of that, I haven’t done much with my NaNo since the end of November.  The novel is still a very rough draft.  So I read.

Here is what I read:

Brilliant saw it first.  In the tree across the street.  Watching them. 

“Go now.  Fast.  That demon Is waiting for his friends.  They must be close by.”

Will put the car in gear, rolled down the drive way and gunned it as the demon jumped out of the tree in front of the car and rolled away, sword drawn as it stood in the street behind them.  They crested the hill to see a road clogged with cars, a bloody scene with bodies littering the road around the cars, dead people inside and outside.  Demons were storming down the road in their direction.  Will slammed the Challenger into reverse, slammed on the brakes to slide the car back around towards the house and floored it, tires smoking as it careened into the surprised demon.

“There goes the new car feeling.  The first scratch always sucks.”

The car slid sideways as  Will took a sharp right turn down a side street, immediately punching the accelerator to straighten the car out.  The only real way out of town was going to be to snake through side streets until they reached the county airport.  From there Will knew they could enter the airport through the hangar parking lots, then open it up to cross the airport.  There were a few airplanes taxiing on the runway.  Will hoped the planes had somewhere to go.  There was no place safe on the ground that they had seen so far.  Any airport close to any metropolitan area was going to be swarming, a cesspool of demons hungry for human blood.

“What in the name of the Creator is that?” 

Brilliant pointed at a waddling figure moving quickly up the sidewalk ahead, short blonde hair bobbing as the sweatsuit clad woman paced like she was holding a can of beans in her butt cheeks – a speed walker.  Will noted the pedometer strapped to her left ankle as they approached.  Some people apparently insisted that the end of the world not interrupt their routine.  The tires of the Challenger grabbed and squealed as Will locked the tires up to skid to a stop next to the penguin blonde.   Undaunted, she stole a sideways glance while continuing with the same pace, refusing to look their way.  Had she seen the glare of the dark angel from the passenger seat of the car, she may have been more afraid.  As it was she simply seemed angry at the possible interruption, oblivious to the approaching army that was about to be nipping at their heels.  There was little or no time, only a few seconds to decide what to do.  If she was this clueless perhaps the best decision was to move on, let attrition wean out the weak and unsuspecting.

Will couldn’t let that happen.  The car was rolling beside the woman who was still trying to act like they were not there.  A quick glance in the rear view mirror showed the demons only a few hundred yards back and closing quickly.

“Looks like she is going to have to be forced, Brilliant.  Pick her up and shove her into the back seat if you have to.”

With the car still rolling, Brilliant sprung out of the car, snatched the woman kicking and screaming.. and screaming even more as she got a look at the imposing figure that was picking her up.  He literally shoved her into the open door and into the back seat of the Challenger as Will punched it, the car leaping forward with the door open.  A few seconds more and they would have a huge fight on their hands.

“Let me out of this car this instant.  I am not done with my workout.  I, Gail M. Hinkle, will not be bullied like this.  When I get out of this car, I am calling the police and you are going to hear from my lawyer.  I… mmmmmpppphhhhhhhh.”

Gail M. Hinkle was leaning over the back of the seat, practically spitting with a crazed look in her eyes.  The fear of the dark Brilliant was short lived.  No wonder this woman was out on the streets by herself.  She was clueless.  Brilliant didn’t even look back as he reached back and cupped a scarred hand over her mouth.  Gail swatted his hand away to continue her rant.

“Hey, get your filthy hand off of my mouth, whatever you are.  I demand to know where you are taking me, you, you, you HOOLIGANS!”

Brilliant scowled with a rage that Will had not seen even during the skirmish the night before.  His eyes burned red, nostrils flared.  He ripped Gail M. Hinkle from the back seat, across his body, and hung the raging woman out the window of the car.  One hand held down her kicking feet, the other held her by her short hair.

“Let me go this instant.  Oh, if my husband wasn’t raptured he would not be happy with what you are doing to me.  Put me down, I say.”  She flailed in Brilliant’s direction, not really trying to loose herself but instead wanting to slap him. 

“Go ahead.  Do as she says.”

Brilliant didn’t hesitate.  His sinister cackle was almost comical, even to Will who had never heard anything like it, as Gail M. Hinkle bounced like a rag doll behind the speeding car.

“The car smells like Windex now.  Lovely perfume Gail was wearing.”

“That woman may have been safe even if we did not take her.  Demons would have mistaken her for one of them.”

“Well said, Brilliant, my friend.”

I am certain Gail is going to smack me the next chance she gets.