George - The Regulars of Amanda Lexie Part 7 - Short Story
Updated: Sep 15
J. J. Hanna © 2023
Amanda was always in on Thursdays. In all the years I'd been coming to this coffee shop, I'd never seen her miss a day. But this Thursday, despite my multiple visits back to the shop for more and more caffeine to keep me going, it was becoming clear she wasn't here.
Even the other staff seemed agitated. When I pulled up to the window, a new barista named Andrew handed me my traditional latte. I could already tell it wasn't made right. For one, it was in the wrong size cup. For two, it felt too light. There would be too much foam. "Busy morning?" I asked.
"Yes," Andrew said.
I put on a charming smile. "You all look a bit frazzled. Are you down a person?"
"Yeah. We had a no-call no-show this morning. Really odd, too. She never does this. Did you want change?" he asked, taking the five-dollar bill from me. He really was new.
"No, keep it," I said. I pulled around and parked, taking the lid off my cup. Yep. As I'd expected. It was all wrong. I got out of the car and headed into the building, keeping my head away from the camera angles instinctively. I always went through the drive-through for that purpose. But I had to know for sure.
It was chaos in there. The oven beeped insistently, one barista was working three bars as another ran back to the oven. More than one barista had left them short-staffed today. Amanda was not on the floor, and she wasn't in the cafe. There was a slim chance she'd be in the back, but she was one of the best baristas this shop had. If it was this crazy, she would be out there working.
I walked up to the front counter. "George! Hi! I'm not used to seeing you inside," Sally said as she popped another sandwich in the oven.
"It looks like you have your hands full. I just went through the drive-through—"
"And the drink is wrong." Sally took a steadying breath. "We'll fix that for you. Traditional latte, right?"
"Yes. Light foam."
"No problem. Give me one moment and I'll get that for you."
As she spoke on the headset and another barista came from the back, presumably to fix my drink, I fished my burner phone out of my pocket and logged onto the wifi. I had to be sure Amanda wasn't here. It was probably nothing. But in my industry, not paying attention to that sort of out-of-character move is what got you or those you cared for killed.
Amanda lived alone in an apartment complex not far from here. It was part of why she got this job. She needed it to supplement her income to keep her apartment. She always had the morning shifts because she worked retail in the afternoons, and pursued her artistic dreams at night. We had more in-depth conversations at the window than I had with any other barista. I liked her. She was a good person. And if something had happened to her, well, I wanted to fix it if I could.
Once I was on the wifi I hacked into the store's system. A quick look through their security feeds told me Amanda wasn't in the building. A look at their scheduling software said she was meant to be here today.
There it was. I'd send a delivery man to her apartment to check on her. Maybe she was just sick. But maybe she wasn't. I scrubbed my presence from the system, grabbed my fresh traditional latte, and went back to my car before I called my coworker.
"What is it, boss?" Axel always answered promptly. It was one of the things I admired most about him.
"I need you to track someone down for me. Her name is Amanda Lexie. She didn't show up for work today. It's probably nothing, but I want you to look into it for me."
"What threat level is this?"
"She's a bystander. Just find her for me. Confirm she's safe and alive, alright?"
Not two hours later, Axel called me again. Amanda had been taken from her apartment complex earlier that morning. They were a pro. Amanda seemed to know them. Axel would keep looking until he found her. Then he'd report back.
I shook my head, watching my phone light up with success reports from Avalon's network. Things were going well for us. There was no need to get involved in Amanda's life if she didn't need me to. But how likely was she to have anyone else with the resources to help her? She'd been good to me for a long time.
I'd give it some time. But if things didn't get back to normal soon, those who took her would have another thing coming.
This story, segments of this story, and ideas from this story are not to be duplicated or replicated in any way. This content belongs to J. J. Hanna alone.
Please note: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real events is unintended by the author.
J. J. Hanna is a writer and reader from Colorado. She loves suspense stories above all else, and is currently working on a debut novel of her own. When she's not writing, you can find her making YouTube videos and Online Courses about the publishing industry. Go find her on social media @authorjjhanna and @jjhannaacademy to keep track of her most recent reads, current adventures, and to get the most up-to-date news on all things publishing. She also runs a freelance marketing business to help authors achieve their own goals. Learn more or hire her at Hanna Book Solutions.