In every college campus or so, there’s always a Chinese food restaurant that’s open late at night to cater to the drunk and hungry crowd who just got kicked out from their bar’s last call.
Well, that, or they just got kicked out of the bed of their one night stands, but we won’t get to that.
It’s at these places, that me and Rob used to frequent when we were both working late at night on some weird case that made no sense, and since we were both stuck on one that made no sense at all, and it was way, way late into the night, we decided to revisit that Chinese restaurant again, hunger striking when we expected least.
The restaurant’s sign’s light barely worked, the old lights struggling as it flickered on and off in irregular rhythm, tempting and confusing moths here and there as they smacked themselves on and off the old green plastic material the sign case was made of.
The sign may say “Number One Chinese Food Restaurant”, but what they offer is pretty much the opposite of what is advertised. The food, while edible, was far from authentic, stir-fried up by some illegal Mexican cook spitting on your food at the back.
At least, that’s how I always imagined it, as I flinched with every first bite, only easing down after the thoughts had flown away and settled down into my stomach.
Makes sense that we keep coming back for more? Not really, but it’s not exactly like we had the luxury of choices there.
Ordering the usual home-style tofu with fried rice (Which were always yellow, making even less sense than the fact that the fried rice came out of a rice cooker) while Rob ordered his honey chicken with broccoli, we sat down on the cheap, hard wooden benches that made the booths in the place, the mirrors covering the walls making the place infinitely larger than what it really was. The real size of the place was probably about a large hallway, one that was originally used as the lobby hallway for the buildings surrounding it.
Once again, just speculation, you usually don’t judge places well when the only times you visit them are when you’re either drunk or really, really late at night.
Pouring the free hot tea from the ten gallon metal drum on the side, Rob looked as if he was thinking hard as he raised his disposable plastic cup and sipped on the watery tea, the steam rising from it accentuating how hot it still was.
My legs still smarting from the walk, I rubbed them as I lay the metal stick to the side, sighing in complaint as the pain rose more from the massage.
“They didn’t even let you rest before they dumped you back out, huh?” Rob said sympathetically as he watched me struggle with my legs.
“Well, you know I’d probably just get bored and commit a serial suicide if I didn’t do anything, right?” I chuckled at it, although I’m sure it wasn’t as funny as I made it out to be.
“You’re crazy, man.” He replied, as he poured me a cup of tea from the drum. “If I was you, I would have stayed back in bed and enjoyed the days until I could stand up by myself again.”
“Like that’d ever happen to you.” I smiled as I gave up and just let my legs limp themselves on the air. “You would probably just make them both biomechanical and be back on your feet in a day or so.”
He chuckled at that. “It’s funny how you know about it, but still refuse to do so.”
“It’s just who I am, man.”
“Right.” He nodded as the order came out, and the owner lady yelled out our orders in a butchered heavy accented English.
As Rob rushed out to get the order, I thought about the case a bit more, and wondered if I was missing something. Was it really connected to Echo in any way or form? It didn’t feel like it. The post-disappearance death cases were nothing at all similar to what Echo was doing back when she was around.
And just like that, Rob came back with our order ready to go, in Styrofoam boxes and a plastic bag to carry it all.
“You’re not queasy about eating amongst dead bodies still, are you?” He asked as he helped me up from the bench, almost dashing out as soon as I got up to my feet.
“I don’t know,” I replied as I tried catching up to him in my gimpy, cramped pace. “This is actually the first meal I’m going to have after I got out of the hospital.”
“Well, nothing better than get you back through baby steps.”
“How’s rushing me face on to eat in a crime scene considered baby steps?”
“I don’t know, I’m not your psychologist.” He shrugged as he opened the door for me, shoving me and the food on the passenger seat with great hurry.
“What’s up?” I asked, as I repositioned the packaged hot meal on my laps, the warmth permeating through the layers surrounding it.
“Another murder by our serial buddy just happened,” Rob replied as he jammed his thumb on the fingerprint reader, starting the car in as brute as a way as the future will allow him. “And he happen to have left an eyewitness behind.”
“Really?” I liked breaks like that, moved cases that were stuck in the rut. “Was she hiding somewhere or something?”
“No, that’s the strange thing.” Rob said as he rushed out onto the traffic, switching the built-in siren lights on. “He just sort of killed the victim and left the eyewitness there, even though she was just right next to the victim.”
“Hmm.” I said, questioning about the oddity of a serial murderer just leaving somebody who might lead him to his own capture alive. “Want to drop me at the police station where the eyewitness is being held?”
“What, and let you miss eating amongst a corpse and blood-stained walls?”
“Well, you did say baby steps.” I smiled at this, for some unknown reason. “I’m just going to slowly go up the ranks, from first eating with a person who was with the corpse, and then graduate to eating in full glory with the blood and guts and all.”
“Hmm, sounds like a pretty weak program.” He said as he looked besides him and made a full U-turn in full fifty mph without slowing down. “But since you are a puss now, I guess there’s no helping it that you have to take it slow and easy.”
“Geez, thanks for the encouragement.” I said sourly as we approached the police station, already lit with the little excitement that the night had brought on.