“Key To Her Heart”
“Uh ma’am. You dropped your keys.”
Elsa saw a ripple of fear cross the face of a woman standing near her. She turned her head, didn’t make eye contact, and stammered, “No … no I didn’t.”
“Pretty sure they’re yours,” Elsa replied, glancing down to catch another look at the keys lying on the sidewalk outside the doorway of a small café. Darkness inside told her the eatery was closed. A sign of brilliant colors above the door said, “Bea’s Hive.”
Elsa looked at the front of the café again, then snapped her view to where the woman stood. She spun and began walking away. Unsure what to do, Elsa glanced at the keys, then looked at the woman, now a good 30 yards away. In seconds, she vanished into a thick crowd.
Quickly, Elsa bent, reached a gloved hand toward the key ring. Just as her fingers touched it, a shot rang out. Sparked by a jolt of surprise, Elsa yanked her hand back! But before standing up, she looked down again, and reached.
The delay may have saved her life.
As she grabbed the keys, the door of “Bea’s Hive” exploded in an eruption of glass and shards of wood. Confetti of shrapnel cascaded. Elsa ducked; too far. Her forehead smacked the concrete with a resounding thud.
Before she could even feel for blood, a hand reached through the shattered door, grabbed her leg, and roughly hauled her inside the café. Whoever had her continued to pull her deeper into the darkness.
Confused, Elsa managed to remain calm and limp. Though her head was spinning, she somehow rationalized she was better off being dragged into the closed café than lying on the sidewalk with bullets flying. With a crash, her body slipped through metal swinging doors. She felt the chill of tile, and assumed “kitchen.”
Suddenly the person dropped her legs, and stepped over her, back to the doors. Elsa watched a head carefully rise to the small doorway window. A man! Her hero was a man. He chanced a look through the window. In a hazy light, she saw toussled long brown hair. Catching a glimpse of his rugged face, she had a feeling of familiarity; as though she should know him.
Wobbly, Elsa raised her head off the floor. Hands coarsed with grit of dirty floors, she felt for something to grab so she could stand. A table. She started to rise, but the man turned and signaled her to stay down. Head spinning more, she sat back in agreement.
After what seemed like an eternity, the man slid from the window, and moved toward Elsa. As he moved from the light, she couldn’t make out his features, his face fading fast into the dark.
“You okay,” he asked in a hushed, deep voice. “Sorry it got kinda hairy.”
That voice. Again, Elsa couldn’t shake the idea she knew this man.
“But I know you’re into that,” he added.
How? Into what? Who? Elsa struggled to understand why a complete stranger would know what she was “into.” Oh God, she thought, I’ve escaped from one horrific situation to get into another. This guy thinks ….
And then a flashlight popped on, the beam pointed straight at her eyes. She turned from the brilliance of the white LED.
“Get that outta my eyes,” she barked, her fear replaced by anger. “Who are you?”
As laughter erupted from her hero-turned-apparent-assailant, Elsa knew.
“Clint?” she queried.
“How’s that for a little excitement,” her husband chirped. “Feelin’ the ol’ romance?”
“Wha …. I don’t underst …. Oh my God!” Elsa answered. “Don’t tell me it’s because I said I wanted to do something …”
“… exciting for our anniversary,” Cliff noted wryly.
“Good Lord, I was thinking carriage ride in a park, a rock concert, or maybe just dancing.”
“I know. But when you said ‘exciting,’ my mind just took off, and well … got your heart racing, huh.”
“But the woman? The keys? Who …”
“Greta. Glad you didn’t recognize her.
“Your secretary? But the gun shot? The café? You’re lucky I didn’t get hit!”
“Blanks and a little pyrotechnics, from work, on the door. The hardest part: making sure you’d show up and see those keys. Sorry about your head. When you duck for cover, you go low!”
“All because I said …”
“Yes my love. Now let’s go get cleaned up. We have a night of dining and dancing. Yessiree, it’s going to be an exciting night, my love.”