First Date

A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – June 2022

First Date

A short story by Lynn Miclea

Allison drove down the two-lane parkway, glancing at the rushing river flowing by the side of the road. Excited and nervous, she licked her dry lips. She hated first dates. They were always so filled with promise and possibilities, but they almost always were horribly disappointing. She hoped this one would work out.

After meeting Ron online in a book group, they had exchanged numerous private messages, emails, and then phone calls. As their conversations progressed, she felt more comfortable with him, but something still bothered her, and she wasn’t sure what. He didn’t live that far away, and he suggested they meet since they had so much in common. A bit reluctant, and her stomach churning, she agreed.

Now jittery with second thoughts, Allison realized her throat was too dry and she decided to stop at a small store for a bottle of water. There were not many cars on the road, and glancing in her rear-view mirror, she saw only one vehicle behind her, a dark SUV a good ways back.

Two miles down the road, a gas station with a small convenience store appeared on the right. That looked perfect. She pulled in and parked on the side. After buying a bottle of chilled water, she gulped down half the bottle, wiped her mouth with her hand, and got back in her car. Feeling better, she started to pull out of the parking lot.

She noticed a dark SUV parked towards the back of the parking area as she pulled out onto the parkway. Something was tickling at the edges of her mind. What was it? Then it hit her. The dark SUV. Was that the same one that had been behind her on the road? Possible, but maybe not. But even if it was, it didn’t mean much. Whoever it was must have also needed to stop there. She was just nervous and reading into things.

Putting it out of her mind, she let the sound of the rushing water from the nearby river refresh her as she drove, and thought about her upcoming date. Ron had seemed very nice on the phone, but she was not sure she trusted anyone she met online. Especially when her gut was churning when she thought about it. But she didn’t know what was wrong, and she dismissed it as simply nerves. He seemed like a nice person and he liked the same murder mystery books that she did. That had to be a good sign. At least she hoped so.

Ten minutes later, she pulled off the parkway and drove a half mile down the road. Glancing in her rear-view mirror, she saw a dark SUV behind her. The hairs on her arm stood up. Was that the same one? Was he following her? And if so, who was he?

The coffee shop where she was meeting Ron was two blocks away. On impulse, she made a quick right turn. No one was behind her — good. She made another right and then two more, making a complete circle back onto the same street. Confident that she had lost the SUV, she pulled into the parking lot at the coffee shop and parked the car.

As she checked her watch, she saw she was five minutes early. She walked to the front and reached for the large glass door at the entrance to the coffee shop. She hoped this date would go well. For some reason, she was not looking forward to it, and she just wanted to get it over with.

Wondering if Ron was here yet, she glanced at the parking lot before she went in. As she looked around, she saw a dark SUV pull in. The hair rose on the back of her neck. Was that the same one? She peered into the cab through the window and briefly saw a young man with dark hair and scruff on his jawline. The man looked at her, his eyes boring into her, and then he quickly looked away and pulled around the corner and went out of sight. Who was he? Was she imagining things?

Her mouth dry again, she backed away from the entry door and wondered if she should call Ron and cancel the date. Something wasn’t right.

As she thought about her options, a man with short, light brown hair approached the entrance with quick strides, and he smiled at her. “Allison?”

He looked somewhat familiar but not quite like his profile picture on the internet. “Ron?”

“Yes, thank you for coming. It’s nice to finally meet you in person.”

“You too. I’m glad we can …” She stopped talking as she noticed the dark-haired man from the SUV approach. “Um, let’s go in,” she quickly stated, wanting to be away from the man who seemed to be stalking her.

“Is everything okay?” Ron asked.

“I’m not sure. This guy has been following me.”

Ron’s face paled and his eyes narrowed. “Who’s been following you?” His voice dropped and he sounded serious and concerned.

“I’m not sure … I just noticed this SUV …”

“Wait. I left something in my car.” Ron seemed agitated as he started to turn. Then he reached for her arm. “Come with me.” He pulled her with him into the parking lot.

The dark-haired man rushed toward them and took out a weapon. “Freeze!” he yelled. “Police!”

Ron held firmly to her arm and continued moving, pulling her through the parking lot toward his car.

“Wait,” Allison yelled, struggling to get free. “What is going on?”

Ron’s strong grip held her firmly. “That’s not the police. Stay with me.”

“Then who is that?”

“I’ll explain later. Let’s get in my car. We need to get out of here.”

“Stop! Police!” the dark-haired man yelled, rushing after them.

Confused, Allison glanced back at the man. Was he the stalker? Was he just pretending to be a cop? Or was he really the police? Was Ron who he said he was? Why would the police be after him? She had no idea who anyone was or who to trust. Nothing made sense.

Still holding tightly to her arm, Ron unlocked his car door and opened the passenger door. “Get in,” he ordered.

Feeling shaky, her breathing shallow, she backed up to the side of the car and stared at him. Nothing felt right anymore. “No,” she stated. “I can’t.”

Still gripping her arm, Ron glared at her. “Allison,” he shouted at her. “Get in the car. Now!”

Not knowing who to trust, but at least Ron was more familiar, she turned and took a step toward the door and put one foot into the car.

The dark-haired man rushed toward them, leaped forward, and grabbed Ron’s free arm.

Ron released Allison, and she quickly backed out of the car and scooted out of the way, watching in horror as Ron punched the man.

The man fought back and tackled Ron to the ground.

Horrified, Allison gasped and slowly stepped a few feet farther away, watching the men as their fists flew, pounding into each other’s body and face.

The two men wrestled, and finally the dark-haired man held Ron face down with a strong hold, took out handcuffs, and snapped them on Ron’s wrists.

Shocked and confused, Allison watched, frozen in place. Was he really a cop? She still wasn’t sure. She wanted to run but felt glued in place.

A couple minutes later, two cop cars pulled into the parking lot, their lights flashing. After coming to a stop, four uniformed officers jumped out of the vehicles and approached Ron and the man who now seemed to be an officer.

“Got him,” the officer who had wrestled the man said. He grabbed Ron’s handcuffed arms and helped him stand up. The five officers briefly spoke to each other, and one officer then took custody of Ron and walked him back to one of the patrol cars. He read Ron his rights and then pushed him into the back seat of the vehicle.

After the officers conferred with each other, two of the uniformed officers got back in their patrol car. The other two began taping off the area with crime-scene tape.

The dark-haired man approached Allison. “Ma’am, I’m Officer Samuels.” He took out and flashed a badge. “I apologize if I scared you by following you, but you were the best lead we had to get that guy.”

“To get Ron? What is going on? I was meeting him for a date.”

“Ma’am, I need to ask you a few questions and get a statement from you. Then I’ll explain everything.”

“I … I … okay.”

“You know what?” He relaxed and his voice softened. “You seem a bit on edge. Let’s go into the coffee shop and get a cup of coffee while we talk. You can relax, take your time, and answer some questions. Is that okay?”

Allison nodded. “Okay.”

After they were seated in a back corner of the coffee shop, Officer Samuels sipped his coffee. “So, first tell me how you met him and what happened. Don’t leave anything out.”

“Yes, of course.” Allison explained how they met and the progression of their contacts and how they had agreed to meet.

“So this is the first time you met him in person?”

“Yes. This was our first date. I was nervous and something didn’t feel right, but I tried to brush that off.”

The officer asked a few more questions, and Allison answered them as best she could.

After she answered his questions, Officer Samuels let out a long breath and watched her for a few moments. “That guy is not who he says he is, and you’re lucky we got here when we did. We’ve been trying to catch this guy for a while now. He befriends women online, lures them on a date, and then the women go missing, often turning up dead days later.”

“What?”

“He is a dangerous man.”

“I had no idea. I …”

“My advice? Don’t trust people you meet on the internet, especially if you don’t know them.” He shook his head. “You seem like a nice lady. I’m glad we got here in time and you’re safe. You have no idea how lucky you are.”

Allison picked at her napkin. “You’re right. I should have known. I was too trusting.” She should have listened to her gut that something wasn’t right from the beginning. The cop was right, and she vowed to be more careful.

The cop glanced around the coffee shop. “You know what? It’s lunchtime, and you were coming here expecting a meal. Do you want to get something to eat? We’re already here and I’m hungry. Is that okay? My treat.”

Allison gave a nervous smile. “Okay, I guess. But, Officer, I …”

“Hey, relax, it’s over. I won’t bite. Let’s just enjoy lunch. Just two people having a nice meal together. And please call me Greg.” He signaled a waitress over and asked for menus.

After they ordered, Allison looked at him. “But … Greg, how did you know I was going to meet him? And why were you following me and not him?”

“Good questions. We had finally narrowed down who he was and how he lured his victims. We found one of the names he was using and who he was pretending to be. He was in that book club looking for his next victim, and we were monitoring it. But his contact information was encrypted and fake, with his true identity hidden. So it was hard to get to him directly. We were watching to see his next move. You were our best chance to catch him.”

“I had no idea. I thought …”

“That’s how they work. They make friends with unsuspecting people, get you to trust them, and then ask to meet. My best advice is don’t trust people you meet online.” He paused to make sure that sunk in.

Allison nodded. “That’s good advice.”

The waitress returned with their order and set plates of steaming food on the table. “Anything else?” she asked as she refilled their coffee cups.

“No, we’re good, thank you,” the officer replied.

As they ate their food, the conversation turned more casual and personal, and they ended up laughing. Allison was surprised how comfortable she felt with him. Greg was kind, respectful, and funny, and she found that she was really enjoying her time with him. He was not at all what she expected when she first met him, thinking he was a stalker. Now she knew he was a good man, thoughtful and kind. And as she viewed his face, now that it was softer and more relaxed, she realized he was actually very attractive. She was sorry that the meal was ending.

Greg asked the waitress for the bill, and he then gave Allison his business card. “Thank you for joining me for lunch and answering all my questions.” He wiped his mouth with his napkin. “If you think of anything else, please call me.” He smiled, and his voice got softer. “Hey, even if you don’t think of anything else, you can call me any time.”

Allison laughed. “I will. You are very nice.”

His eyes grew warm. “Hey, I have a better idea. Can I call you? Could we do this again? I really enjoyed our time together.”

Allison smiled. “I’d like that. I enjoyed this too.”

After paying the bill, he turned to Allison. “I’m sorry your first date with him was not quite what you expected.”

“No, but I still had a first date, just with someone else.” Her smile grew wider. “And I had a very good time.”

He chuckled. “Thank you, Allison, that is kind of you to say.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m sorry, but I need to get back to the station. Let me walk you out and make sure you get safely to your car.”

As they walked through the coffee shop to the front, she felt his warm hand on her back guiding her, and the warmth seeped deeper into her body.

When they reached her car, he turned to her. “You are very sweet. Thank you for one of the best lunches I’ve had in a while.” He squeezed her arm. “Please stay safe. I’ll call you later.” He waited until she got in the car, then he waved, turned, and walked back toward the crime-scene area and the other officers.

As Allison drove home, listening to the rushing water in the river next to the road, she thought back over the events that day. This had definitely been a memorable first date, but not with whom she thought it would be.

She smiled and found herself looking forward to a second date.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website here for information on all my published books. Thank you!

And visit my author page on Amazon here to see and order any of my books. Thank you!

Please see more incredible stories related to this image here from other very talented writers at the Writers Unite! blog.

———————

https://www.lynnmiclea.com/

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About Lynn Miclea

LYNN MICLEA is a writer, author, editor, musician, Reiki master practitioner, and dog lover. After retiring, Lynn further pursued her passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way. She has published many books in the genres of thrillers, suspense, science fiction, paranormal, mystery, romance, grammar tips, memoirs, self-help guided imagery, and children’s stories (fun animal stories about kindness, believing in yourself, helping others, and being more than you ever thought possible). She hopes that through her writing she can help empower others, stimulate people’s imagination, and open new worlds as she entertains with powerful and heartfelt stories. Originally from New York, Lynn currently lives in southern California with her loving and supportive husband. Please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com.
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2 Responses to First Date

  1. Donna Wells says:

    Excellent! Donna Cox Wells, Esq. (she/her)

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