“Where’s mine?” Bryce asked.
Madison shrugged. She stopped at the Sunglasses Hut to chat with Bryce on her way back to her store. Since she didn’t have her phone to occupy her time, she had decided to use her break to get an iced caramel swirl with almond milk and three sugars. “They ran out. This is the last one.”
“The coffee shop ran out of coffee?” he asked, with one eyebrow raised.
“That’s my story and I’m sticking with it,” she replied.
“What are you doing after work?” he asked.
“Mr. P. is coming over to talk to my mom.”
“That’s weird. Are you in trouble?” he asked.
“No. But I told him about the old people and he said we need to loop her in, on account of the guns and everything.”
“Your mom is totally going to tell you to drop the story,” Bryce said.
“I know. But maybe Mr. P. can—” Madison stopped mid-sentence and grabbed Bryce by the arm. “It’s him!” she said, pointing toward the stairs in the middle of the mall.
“Who?” Bryce asked.
“They guy! From the place!”
“So helpful,” he deadpanned.
Madison handed him her coffee and took off running. She reached the bottom of the stairs as her quarry reached the top. She dodged in and out of the crowd as she climbed. She looked around. She was pretty sure he had been wearing a leather jacket so she scanned for that. Spotting him, she ran at top speed, swerving around mothers pushing strollers, slow walkers, and mall kiosks. She watched as he took a right, which she knew would take him to one of the big department stores that anchored the mall.
She made the corner herself and didn’t see him. She headed for the department store, glancing at the shops along the way. Slowing down to pass through the theft detection equipment at the mall entrance, she took a long look around. She saw the back of the leather jacket on a man near the perfume counter. He was heading toward the upper-level exit that went to the parking lot. She ran to catch up and grabbed him by the arm.
The man turned to look at her. “Sorry,” she said, deflated. “I thought you were someone else.”
Madison crouched down to catch her breath as the man walked away. She was absolutely sure she had seen the man from the warehouse—the one who helped her escape. But it wasn’t the man she chased through the mall. As she walked back to the Sunglasses Hut, she kept an eye out for him, in case perhaps she had seen him but chased the wrong leather jacket.
Bryce handed her the empty cup. “Thanks for the coffee,” he said with a huge smile. “What was that about?”
“I am pretty sure I saw the guy from the warehouse,” she explained.
“Oh! The one you recognized?” he asked.
“Right. I’m almost completely sure it was him. He was over there by the stairs. And I chased someone, but it wasn’t him.”
“So it wasn’t the guy from the warehouse?” Bryce asked.
“No. Well, I think it was, but I think I chased someone else. It was crowded and I think I just got fooled by a similar jacket.”
“I kind of hope you’re wrong,” Bryce said. “How creepy would it be if the guy was here?”
“But I need to talk to him!” she protested.
“I think you’re getting carried away with this whole story. Now you’re seeing things.”
Madison scowled at Bryce and turned on her heel. She jogged back to her store, hoping she wasn’t going to be late getting back from her break. Her supervisor was a complete bitch about letting breaks go long. She entered the store and her supervisor wasn’t around. Madison let out a long slow breath in relief.
“Hey Mads,” her coworker called to her from behind the register. “A guy left this for you.”
Madison walked to the counter. The girl handed her a phone. Madison’s heart leapt to her throat as she looked at it. It was her phone. She flipped it over and pulled off the case. Her license and debit card were inside.
“Oh my God,” she said, tears forming in her eyes.
“What is it?”
“I lost this a couple days ago. I thought it was gone for good. My mom would have killed me,” Madison explained.
“Well lucky he found it, I guess.”
“Who gave it to you?”
“Just some older guy in a leather jacket. He said, ‘Can you give this to Madison when she gets off break?’.”
Madison’s hands were shaking and she struggled to get the case back on. Then she pressed the power button, and the phone lit up. It was fully charged.
“Oh my God,” she repeated. Then she texted Bryce, “You aren’t going to believe this.”