The abrupt scream of the steaming wand makes me jump and spin towards the door. Staring at the empty coffee shop in front of me, I curl my hands into fists, annoyed at my own anxiety.
“Sorry man,” the barista says.
I turn, offering him a half hearted smile. “Don’t worry about it. Just a bit jumpy, I guess.”
The barista, a tall man with tattoos covering both arms, shrugs. “Makes sense. What, with all these murders. Did you hear about the last one?”
I nod and grab the edge of the counter, leaning against it. “Wasn’t it a family on their way to their car?”
“That was last week. There was two more just yesterday not far from here.” The barista slides a small cup across the counter. “Tom, I have your cordato at the bar!”
A squat man resembling an angry beaver reaches around me and grabs the drink with a grumbled thanks. I watch him leave before returning my attention to the barista.
“Who were the latest victims? Another family?”
“Nah. Looked like students. Apparently all their stuff, books, phones, wallets, and all, were left untouched. The police are baffled.”
“Do they think the murders are related?” I ask, rocking to the back of my feet. My hands start shaking and I push them through my dirty hair in attempt to hide this.
“I’m sure it’s a possibility. All they’re telling us, though, is to stay safe and not be out too late alone. Fat lot of help that is. The kids yesterday were together and it was only like five o’clock. That’s when I get off work.” He says the last sentence in a murmur, turning around to fill a new cup with syrup.
I glance at the muscles on his arms and scoff. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” I, on the other hand…
A bell dings. My legs stiffen and my hands naturally pull into my body as I look around.
An old lady hobbles inside, pushing a cane in front of her. I let out a sigh of relief. The barista welcomes her and she waves a wrinkled hand at him.
“Here’s your vanilla latte, Avery.” He pushes a large mug across the marbled counter.
“Ah!” He holds up a finger and grabs a small shaker. “Knew I forgot something.”
After he sprinkles the cinnamon on top, I take the mug, thank the barista, and retire to the back of the coffee shop. When I reach my table, however, I see a familiar silver-haired girl waiting for me.
Hot milk hits my legs as the mug shatters on the ground.