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The Third Circle by J.C. Hill
SUMMARY: Entry for November 2009 Flash Fiction Contest. Theme: Hunger
Jesse looked down at the dark-haired little girl tied up in the trunk of his car. The drugs he had forced down her had done their job. She was out like a light. He reached down and ran his hand through her silky hair, then down her back. Feeling her softness under his fingers made him tremble in anticipation. His hand twitched as he reached the waistband of her jeans, but he forced himself to stop there. Not here, he admonished himself. There would be time enough for that when they got to the rental cabin.
He shut the trunk and glanced around the empty parking lot of the old Shell station. These little country gas stations closed when the sun went down, making it a safe enough place to pull over and check on his prize. Still, standing there in the open made Jesse uneasy. He got back in the car and checked the map he had downloaded from the rental agency's website. Still a ways to go, he thought. He put the map away and started the car, anxious to get moving again.
The two-lane road wound through the Appalachians like a serpent, its curves forcing a careful speed. Fat rain drops began to splatter on the windshield, and Jesse cursed, slowing even more. The rain picked up, turning the car into an island of solitude in the blurry darkness. As he navigated a particularly sharp turn, a dim red glow appeared ahead. The road leveled out and the rain slacked off, allowing him to make out the flickering neon sign that was the source of the glow. "Third Circle Bar & Grill", it read.
Jesse's stomach grumbled violently, his hunger so sudden and intense that he pulled into the place without another thought. He parked in a space near the road, backing in to hide his tags, and ran for the entrance as the rain picked up again. The sudden downpour made the building look warped, like something out of a bad horror flick. Once he got through the door, it was just like every other greasy spoon he had been in, all chrome trim and red vinyl upholstery. He nodded to the curly-haired old waitress behind the counter and she gestured towards a booth near the large front window.
"Be right with you, honey," she said in a voice gone rough from decades of smoking cheap cigarettes.
He grunted in response and took the offered booth. She took his order and passed it to the cook before resuming her vigil behind the counter. As he waited for his food, he studied the other customers. There was a big Indian dressed in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. He hunched over his food as though someone were about to snatch it away from him. There was a young couple that made him think of the eco-terrorists that were in the news a couple days back. They looked ragged and half-starved. Must have been out hugging trees too long, Jesse thought, amused. The girl wasn't half-bad, though, if you were into skinny chicks.
Then there was the old man that sat at the far end of the counter, nursing his iced tea and exchanging the occasional word with the grey-haired waitress. There was something unnerving about the geezer's eyes.