Huck took a drag from his cigarette and then another one, deeper this time as he watched the beat-up Chevy pickup pull up to the gas pump nearest him.
It was after three in the morning, there were hardly ever customers at this time of night, which is why he’d thought it was a good time go out and have a smoke.
Huck grunted and stamped out his half-finished cigarette with the heel of his boot as the driver of the Chevy got out of the cab and hustled to the door.
“You got a bathroom?” the man asked, his voice urgent.
Huck grunted and thumbed toward the door.
“Inside, to your right. Don’t make a mess.”
“Of course not, of course not. It’s just been a long ride.”
Huck followed the man inside and watched his tight-cheeked sprint to the bathroom, glad that he’d already signed off on cleaning for his shift and wouldn’t have to be responsible for whatever went on in there.
He went behind the counter and perched on his stool, arms crossed and wondering how long the man would be in the bathroom when someone else pulled into the station.
Rather than strain his neck to look outside, Huck watched on one of the camera monitors and squinted at pumps.
An identical blue Chevy pickup had parked at the pump and a man got out, hustling his way toward the building.
He pulled open the door and looked around, his posture stiff and voice frantic when he asked,
“You got a bathroom?”
Huck pointed. “Down there,” he said, “But it’s occupied at the moment.”
“Won’t be for long,” the man said, the man who looked very much like the one who was already in the bathroom.
Huck’s eyes shot to the video monitor, watching the camera at the end of the hall where the bathroom was located.
The man pounded on the outside of the door, and Huck saw it open and the man disappeared inside.
What the hell?
Huck pulled the small handgun from the shelf below the register and slid it into the back of his belt. This wasn’t the first time on the job he’d had to break up some funny business in the bathroom on third shift.
From what he’d heard from coworkers, it was a common occurrence in his line of work.
“Hey,” Huck said, tapping his fist on the bathroom door, hard enough for the men to know he meant business, but not hard enough to really scare them.
“Look, fellas, I don’t have a problem with you lovebirds hooking up, but you can’t do it in this bathroom. It’s against policy. If you don’t come out right now I’m going to call the police.”
He heard a shuffling inside the bathroom, and then the door opened and one of the men, the first man to go in, stepped out.
“Sorry I took so long, buddy,” the man said to Huck. “It was a long ride. I’m just going to grab myself a drink and I’ll be on my way. Meet you up at the counter.”
The man brushed past, and Huck pushed the bathroom door all the way open.
It was empty inside.
His heart flopped like a fish in his chest, and he turned and walked back to his stool behind the register before the man had picked out his beverage, a ninety-nine cent can of off-brand diet cola. He passed the drink across the counter to Huck and then took a fiver out of his pocket.
“Lost my wallet,” the man said. “Something’s always missing.”
“Bad luck,” Huck said.
“Nah, my luck is usually quite good.”
“Need gas?” Huck asked.
The man looked out at the pump, smiled at the identical Chevys parked on opposite sides.
“Not anymore,” he said. “Have a great night, now.”
Huck watched the first man to arrive get into the second Chevy and drive off.
Then he pulled the gun from his belt, and, clutching tight, rewound the security tapes.
Photo by: Maarten van den Heuvel
This piece was chosen as one of the weekly Editor’s Picks on Yeah Write – I’m very proud! Thank you to all who read, commented, and voted for this piece – your recognition and encouragement keeps me going.