“Come on, Chan; hurry the hell up!” Dana, in her late- twenties with her medium-length hair pulled back and swinging around as she eagerly looked around the immediate downtown surroundings. “Technically speaking we could get fired for opening the back door at this time of night!”
“I know, I know…,” a freshman student from Melbourne University said while taking a series of pictures with his smartphone.
The flashes illuminated Chan for but fractions of seconds, revealing his tall and wide-shouldered frame. The kitchen was two people short of the closing crew, so the team was working later than usual. After taking his pictures, Chan verified that his images were on his device.
“OK, I got it.”
After Chan ran back into the restaurant from the alley, Dana quietly shut the back door to Spacehop’s tiny docking area, where its freezer and walk-in refrigerator was, and so was the general manager of the entire restaurant!
Dana let out a tiny yelp while Chan froze on the spot—guilt written all over his young face. However, to their surprise, Kyle seemed like he could care less about the policy-infringement from the duo.
“Hey, I got to ask you both something…” Kyle, then, walked off toward the front section that led to where the kitchen connected to the central seating area of the restaurant. Kyle, a former jock and in his mid-forties, had a habit of asking a question to his subordinates and just walking off to whatever location the situation was.
Three closers had already cleaned the lounge area of Spacehop after a relatively busy Monday night. Therefore, Chan and Dana knew that was not their boss’ concern. They ended up in front of the women’s restroom before Kyle stopped.
“You guys remember me cleaning the bathrooms right after we closed to the public, right,” the manager asked.
It almost seemed like a set-up to play one worker against the other, should they both fail to tell whatever truth Kyle was looking for. However, it was rhetorical, given that the manager had a knowing smirk on his face as he held up one of his index fingers to emphasize a point.
“Now, I saw both of you working on closing the grill area and the bar area. Plus, as you both know, we’re all on video.” Kyle then opened the door to the women’s restroom. “So, when the hell did someone do this tonight?”
The restroom was draped in toilet paper, the water faucet to one of the sinks was left running, the cabinet door that housed bathroom cleaning supplies was wide-open, and some of the chemicals for cleaning were opened, and their content spilled all over the floor. Kyle watched both crewmembers closely to gauge their reaction.
Dana breathed out a sigh of shock; Chan’s mouth gaped while he silently walked into the women’s restroom.
“The men’s is pretty much the same, but not quite as cluttered,” Kyle informed.
Kyle and Chan saw that Dana had a thought. “Did a patron stay behind? Maybe waited until he or she knew when we would start our closing duties and just went to town in here?”
“Obviously that’s not the case,” Chan input, “otherwise you wouldn’t be here talking to us about it, Kyle, and where would this patron be now? This restaurant is small restaurant compared to other places I’ve worked, and we only have one floor-level, it’d be easy to spot an extra body here. More importantly, all the doors are locked.”
“Well, you two did have the back door open,” Kyle reminded them as he led the two young people out of the women’s restroom and back into the restaurant’s main lounge area. “That’s why there’s a rule against opening it late at night.”
“I held it open the entire few minutes Chan was outside,” Dana said defensively. Nevertheless, her eyes were now inspecting the lounge for any possible hiding places.
Kyle seemed to snap out of a trance. “What were you two doing out in the back area anyway?”
Chan and Dana gave one another a knowing and an apprehensive look. Without saying anything else, Chan presented his smartphone and brought up several images. Kyle recognized the photos as being the exterior of the downtown restaurant. In each shot, there was the same window, though some shots were sharper than others were. Chan handed his phone to the manager.
“I had to go outside too since the light from inside the restaurant made it easier to see from out in the night,” Chan explained as he kept his eyes on his boss waiting to see if the manager would catch on.
Not surprisingly, Kyle flipped through the various shots of that window, not seeing the importance of the pictures.
Until, “What the hell is that?” Kyle said after he zoomed into one of the sharper images of the window.
Dana and Chan waited so he could confirm for himself. It’s usually better that way.
“Is that … did someone from first shift have too much time on their hands and…”
“And, what, Kyle,” Chan came in, “Took their own, greasy, dirty hand and continuously made a bunch of handprints to make it look like one big handprint?”
Kyle looked up from Chan’s phone with the pictures. “It’s possible… Restaurant humor, you know?”
“I don’t think so,” Chan persisted pointing at the image on his phone while his boss held it. “If you zoom in, even more, there’s no question the details show its one, big handprint, Kyle.”
Kyle did as Chan suggested and enlarged the image. There was no doubt, indeed. The picture showed one large handprint; perhaps three times as large as a full-grown man’s hand. Nevertheless, more troubling was its configuration.
“Noticed that there are two thumbs on that print, boss,” Dana mentioned, as she, too, pointed toward the image, “One thumb on both sides of the four fingers!”
“Christ…” Kyle said. “Well, did you see any footprints, Chan? If this is true…”
The two young crewmembers of the restaurant waited for the manager while an apparently terrifying thought occurred to him.
“Was this print on the outside or inside the restaurant?” Absolute fear was now in Dana and Chan!
“Omigod,” Dana whispered. “We were too caught up in just spotting the print. We…”
There are two unmistakable footsteps where the kitchen is.
The steps seemed to stop upon the trio’s own words ending.
All three were petrified at this point. However, survival instincts kicked in and Dana, Kyle, and Chan all took off running in the opposite direction of the footsteps toward the front door.
The problem was Kyle, the manager with all the keys to Spacehop, had to stop for a few seconds and fish for his ring of keys until he found the one at the front door. His manager habits kicking in, Kyle started to lock the front door as the trio was running out of the restaurant until Chan and Dana forcibly dragged him with them as the closing crew ran away from the building…
Melbourne Police Department, approximately three-thirty am.
“…and that was about forty-five minutes ago,” Sergeant Janet Lennox deliberately asked for the second time; making sure the man on the phone was not a prankster. The middle-aged cop was in her office, but as with all modern worksites, it was an open-concept where she could easily see what was going on throughout the precinct office, as her subordinates could see her as well.
“So…” she continued, “you didn’t really see this thing, did you? OK, Mr. Nelson, I ask that you and your people stay out of the restaurant and let us take it from here. OK? No, no, that won’t be necessary, Mr. Nelson. We have officers that are trained specialists within our animal control division. OK, you’ll get a direct call from me to update you.”
Sergeant Lennox pushed the call-finished button on her cordless phone and replaced it back onto its stand. She smiled at the young scientist seated across from her during the entire phone call. “Dr. Cedrix, it looks like someone found it,” she said.
“Finally,” the late thirty-something said as he tilted his head up and rubbed his eyes after moving his thick glasses from his face and then replaced them. “Did you say a restaurant?”
There’s a chuckle from the sergeant. “Yeah, I guess it got hungry, huh?”
Dr. Cedrix made an uncomfortable shrug. “I hope not too hungry.”
She got the point. “Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t joke. OK, Doctor, we already have a team en route from the earlier calls of disturbances of Spacehop’s neighbors, so we’ll be joining them at the restaurant. Now, do you have what you need in case my team can’t convince this, err, animal to cooperate with them?”
Now it was Cedrix turn at a light chuckle. “Yes, Sergeant Lennox, I do.”
The sergeant regarded him inquisitively. “Did I say something wrong?”
“Oh, no; not at all, I mean, we humans are also animals, but would you call on animal control if one of us caused a disturbance?”
This time Sergeant Lennox stared at the scientist. “Doctor, you’re not saying what…”
“I suppose we’d better catch up with your team, Sergeant Lennox.”
He gave her look as if to suggest it was better not to ask any further questions.
Lennox decided to comply.
Downtown Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, approximately four am.
As Sergeant Lennox drove her city-issued vehicle toward the district where there was a cluster of restaurants, it was evident to Dr. Cedrix and the sergeant that events had gotten out of control since the manager of the restaurant Spacehop had called them. They were several blocks away from the restaurant when Sergeant Lennox encountered manned roadblocks. Dr. Cedrix looked at the sergeant from the passenger seat with concern.
The sergeant’s radio suddenly crackles, “This is Tiger-One to Lion…”
Police officers always used anonymous identification when on the police radio. Lately, in Australia, more municipals were using delayed, radio broadcast due to a spike of nefarious crimes. Some opted out of public broadcast altogether.
Before answering it, Sergeant Lennox gave an exasperated look at the scientist, which he wore, as well. “This is Lion, Tiger- One; go ahead…”
“Request to have a tactical response; suggested three units … Subject has expanded presence; possibly near the Southern Cross Station.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the sergeant said more to herself than to Dr. Cedrix.
She had stopped the SUV at that point, just yards away from an immediate roadblock. Early first-shift workers of Melbourne were already starting to clog the downtown streets!
She glanced at Dr. Cedrix. He, in turn, arched his brow and silently looked on as she continued. “Tiger-One, this is Lion… That’s a go on whatever resources you feel is needed, over.”
She decided to pull her SUV up close to the two officers that were operating the nearest blockade to ask them a couple of questions of how the situation had gotten out of control so quickly!
“Sergeant…” one of the officers said to her, the window to her vehicle rolled partially down, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that thing was listening in on our radio, knowing what our next steps are going to be.”
That troubled Sergeant Lennox. She put her eyes upon Dr. Cedrix to see his reaction; he sat still, as if not wanting attention on him.
“OK, Daniher,” she thanked the young officer as she drove off to detour around the roadblock.
Throughout the drive, the radio crackled with coded conversations from Melbourne police. The sergeant’s onboard laptop, for the time being, was stowed against the SUV’s dashboard; mounted on its armature.
“OK, Doc,” Sergeant Lennox said, breaking a long silence in the vehicle except for the radio discourse, “you and I are going to do some frank talking here, got it?”
The hipster scientist glanced at her; half-way expecting things to turn out the way they did. He let her continue.
“You’re not really from the CSIRO, are you?” She, then, drove the SUV on a stretching road as he chuckled.
“You’re very perceptive, sergeant, but per Federal government rules and secrecy, I cannot tell you who I really work for. But what I can say is I hinted about it at the station…”
She glanced at him while keeping her eyes on the road as she drove toward the end of Collins Street at Southern Cross Station. “I knew it … A fucking alien,” she growled.
He didn’t respond.
“Why the hell Melbourne? This kind of crap only ever happens in the US according to the movies.”
Cedrix shrugged. “Who’s to say they’re not there, too?”
Sergeant Lennox’s head whipped in his direction. “They, huh?”
The man looked off toward his window of the passenger side of the SUV.
“Do you all know if it’s like some kind of invasion? I know that’s a bit Independence Day,” she said referring to the old movie, “but…”
Dr. Cedrix thought before answering. “I don’t think we have to worry about anything like that if you were to ask me as a scientist,” he said calmly. “But, if you were a kangaroo hanging out with your mob, would it matter to you if a hunter killed you during hunting season, or if that hunter accidentally killed you with his car on the Hume Highway?”
Sergeant Lennox nodded to herself. It was apparent the agent—of that she was sure he was—was speaking to her in an analogy so he could claim plausible deniability of ever telling the public any top secrets info on extraterrestrial life forms.
The scientist suddenly frowned. “So, where are we going exactly?”
“This thing will be heading for the water, right, so that’s where I’m going.”
“The Yarra River,” he said as he nodded to himself out of approval. “You know, underneath all that Bogan carapace of yours, Sergeant, you have a pretty good logic-structure in you. I can see why you made sergeant. Ever thought about taking it up a notch?”
“Like what?” she asked with a laugh.
Dr. Cedrix reverted to his deflective-mode. “Some kind of national-profile agency…”
“I don’t think so, Cedrix. I’m…”
“All units, all units,” came one police officer’s voice frantic over the radio, “twenty on the subject at the Yarra River. Just off Crown Casino”
Sergeant Lennox grabbed her own radio. “This is Lion, all units focus effort on Crown Casino and the Yarra River. Repeat… All units to Crown Casino and the Yarra River.”
Dr. Cedrix silently nodded at the sergeant, indicating that their discussion was over, and he would follow her lead. A barrage of scratchy voices confirmed Sergeant Lennox’s call over the radio and mostly went silent for several minutes until most police and, presumably, the Tactical Response units had converged on the Yarra River.
Despite Melbourne’ municipal police’s efforts, it was too late. The entity had again escaped Dr. Cedrix. Most likely, as Sergeant Lennox pointed out, due to utilizing the body of water coursing through downtown Melbourne and out to Port Phillip Bay. As it was, this was an on-going project of Dr. Cedrix. Melbourne was simply the latest of locales he’s been to on his hunt for the ‘Glaaite’ visitors.
Dr. Cedrix helped Sergeant Lennox, and her officers put out a public alert, but for an escaped ‘animal’ from the Melbourne Zoo. A total fabrication, of course, but it was what the sergeant and her officers knew they had to do if they wanted help from the United Nations special taskforce.
This is a excerpt from a 12,000 word short story. Buy it to read the whole thing.