(Sunday, Oct 22nd)
Liz hurried around the Crashdown, taking orders, delivering food and condiments, and getting drink refills. The Café was emptying out now, but earlier every table had been full, with even more hungry people waiting to eat. It had been a typical Sunday lunch.
The bell rang loudly at the cooks' window as Michael pounded on it with his spatula. "Liz!" he bellowed. "Order up!"
Threading her way through the mass of people and tables, Liz made her way behind the counter and to the window where she quickly gathered her order. Stacking the dishes along her arm, she hurried out onto the floor again dodging even more people to reach her destination.
Liz approached her table, naming the dishes as she put them in front of the customers. "There's one Warp Wrap, hold the mayo, one Take-off Taco Platter, extra green sauce, and one Hell-fire Jalapeño Burger with fries. Can I get you guys anything else?"
The customers shook their heads, and Liz forced a smile. "I'll check on you in a few minutes."
Flipping through her order book, she headed back to the cooks' window. "Hey Michael, how much longer on my Galaxy Sub and Saturn Rings for table five?"
Michael's answer was an annoyed grunt, and Liz rolled her eyes. It was her last order on her last table and she was eager to get it delivered. She was about to ask him again when she was interrupted by one of the other waitresses.
"Hey Liz," Tammy said. "Here's a delivery for you."
Surprised, Liz looked down, taking the small box. It was orange with smiling jack-o-lanterns on it. It was tied with a black bow, and had her first name printed across one corner.
Pulling off the bow, she opened the box to find a bouquet of heart-shaped lollipops in Halloween colors; black, white and various shades of orange. They were tied together with another black bow, and underneath the candy was a small card with writing on it.
Picking up the card Liz read it.
Sweeter than candy on a stick
Strawberry, cherry or lime
With a frown of confusion, she turned the card over looking for a signature, and when she didn't find one she looked over the surface of the box. There was no name, and no sign of who had sent it, but automatically she thought of Max.
After he'd gotten back from the summit in New York a week ago, they'd agreed to be friends, and for some reason she thought the suckers must be from him. Maybe it was a peace gesture.
And as if her thoughts had conjured him, Max was suddenly there, leaning across the counter, the deep tones of his voice drawing her attention.
"What's that?" he asked, motioning to the box she was holding.
Surprised, Liz looked at him, her heart thudding at the sight of him. "You didn't send it?"
Max shook his head. "No," he said.
Liz placed the box on the counter in front of him so he could see it better. "There's this note that doesn't make any sense, but no name," she said, "and if you didn't send them, I have no idea who did."
He frowned slightly, instantly jealous, thinking of Kyle. Why didn't she think he'd sent them?
Taking the small card, he turned it, looking at both sides, but there were only the few handwritten words. "Someone's attempt at poetry?" he suggested. "Maybe they're from a secret admirer."
She laughed. "Yeah, right."
Max focused on her. She hadn't even considered Kyle as a possibility. He knew she'd said sleeping with him was a mistake, but it seemed she wasn't together with him at all. So if it wasn't Kyle, who was it? "Was anyone in here you know?" he asked.
Liz thought back over the busy service as she automatically got a Cherry Coke for him along with the Tabasco. "There were tons of regulars, but hardly anyone I really know."
"What about from school?" Max prompted.
Shaking her head, she tried to remember and then smiled. "Yeah, there was Theresa Moore and Janice Harlan."
"There you go," Max teased. "I always thought Theresa had a thing for you."
Liz laughed and pushed at his arm. "Right."
Tammy came behind the counter and Liz stopped her. "Who gave you the box?" she asked. "There's no name on it."
Tammy shrugged. "No one gave it to me. It was sitting on the counter by the cash register and I just picked it up." She looked at the box again. "Maybe it's a secret admirer. How romantic."
Liz nodded. "Um, yeah."
Michael rang the bell again and bellowed Liz's name even though she was standing right next to the window. "Order up!"
Quickly Liz gathered up the lollipops and the note, stuffing them back into the box, and put it under the counter.
She picked up her order and delivered it, and then checked her two other tables before returning to Max. "Your usual?" she asked.
He nodded, smiling, and Liz turned to give Michael the order.
The bell above the door rang and Liz turned to see Sheriff Valenti coming in. He saw her and Max and walked the length of the restaurant to sit at the counter next to Max.
"Hey Sheriff," Liz started to greet him, but stopped when she saw him closer. He was pale and his whole face was tight. "What's wrong?" she asked concerned.
Glancing around to make sure no one was near, Jim lowered his voice so only Liz and Max could hear. "There was a murder last night," he said, "just a couple of blocks from here in an alley. A young girl about your age."
The blood drained from Liz's face as the information sunk in, and she swayed on her feet. She'd been walking alone last night in an alley with a murderer.
Instantly Max was at her side, his arm wrapped around her, and he led her to his stool. "Are you okay?" he asked, as his eyes roamed rapidly over her.
She nodded. "I was walking home last night from Maria's. It just hit me that it could have been me. Roswell's always been so safe, I never even thought…" she trailed off, looking at the Sheriff.
"Who was it?" she asked. "Someone from school?"
Jim shook his head. "Her name is Brooke Carlisle. She went to Goddard High. From what we can tell she was a good girl, a straight-A student, a cheerleader, school treasurer. No one knows what she was doing on this side of town."
"How was she killed?" Max asked.
"That's the terrible part," Jim said. "It looks like she was raped and strangled."
Liz swallowed hard as small shivers ran through her, feeling numb and detached.
Max placed his Cherry Coke in front of her. "Here," he said, "drink some of this. I didn't put Tabasco in it yet."
She obeyed, sipping the sweet liquid, and felt a little better. "I can't believe it," she said.
Pressing against her back and rubbing her shoulders, Max asked the Sheriff softly. "Do you have any idea who did it?"
"No," Jim said, "not at all. There's no evidence. Whoever did this was thorough and meticulous. That's why I'm here, to tell you kids to be careful."
He focused on Liz. "What time did you come home?" he asked. "Did you see anyone around?"
Liz shrugged. The warmth from Max's body was chasing her shivers away. She always felt safe around him.
"It was around one thirty when I left Maria's," she started, "and it takes me maybe fifteen minutes to walk home. A few cars drove by, and there was a couple walking on the other side of the street a few blocks away, but they were older. I didn't see anyone near here at all.
She paused, remembering. "But right when I got to my back door, I thought I heard someone whistling."
"Could you tell where it was coming from?" Jim asked.
"Not really," she said. "I looked around, but I was tired. Maybe I was even half-dreaming it."
"Okay," Jim said, obviously disappointed. He reached over and squeezed her hand. "No more walking home alone in the dark, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
"Hey," Max said in her ear, "you're almost off right? Why don't we go see a movie and get your mind off all this."
Liz hesitated. She was so in love with Max, and there was nothing she'd like better than to spend some time with him, but it could be dangerous too. They couldn't be together. Future Max had made that clear. So if she went out with Max, even as friends, she was not only risking her own heart, but what if Max changed his mind and decided he wanted to be with her again.
"That sounds like a great idea," Jim said. "You should go out and have some fun."
It was harmless, Liz argued with herself. It was just a movie, and she was making too much out of it. Reluctantly she agreed, as her heart won out over her head. "Yeah," she said, "that sounds good."
She sighed. "Can we see a comedy thought?" she asked.
Max smiled. "Exactly what I had in mind."
After the movie, Max took Liz to the nearby Pizza Pan.
He opened the door for her, as she went inside, and he reached out automatically to put his hand on her back, but stopped.
Liz had accepted his help when she was in shock about the murder, but she'd made it clear that she didn't want to be with him.
She'd given him the big speech about wanting to date normal guys and be safe, but he knew it was a lie. Liz loved him, but she felt she had to sacrifice their love to save his people and his planet. She'd even slept with Kyle to convince him that she had moved on.
Even though Max had seen them together, and Liz had told him more than once it had happened, he still couldn't really believe it. Liz wasn't casual about sex. It just wasn't like her.
She wasn't even together with Kyle, as far as he could tell. He never saw them together. They didn't touch or kiss or hold hands, and he was glad. It probably would have killed him to see it.
Their night together seemed to be a one-time thing. Liz said it was a mistake, but he didn't buy that either. It just wasn't something she would do.
He shook his head. But it had happened.
Maybe she'd been desperate. Maybe she'd seen it as the only solution.
Maybe part of what she'd said had been true, and she was in so much pain that she was desperate to break the bond between them, and she saw sleeping with another man as the only option.
But Max didn't think breaking the bond between them was possible.
He was even more convinced of that since she'd saved him in New York.
Isabel couldn't connect with him, but Liz who didn't even know she had powers, had reached him.
It was through the bond they had formed when he healed her, he was positive. What they had was special, and he knew he'd never stop loving her. He didn't think they could ever truly be apart.
He respected her decision to leave him so he could save his people. It was the honorable thing to do, but he thought she was completely wrong.
Liz thought she was in his way, but the truth was that she was his strength and inspiration, his heart and soul. She was everything.
But until he could convince her of that, he would keep up the pretence of trying to be her friend. At least it allowed him to be close to her.
They sat down at a table, across from each other.
"Thanks for hanging out with me," Liz said. "It's nice to do something normal."
Max nodded. "Yeah, it is."
"The movie was funny," she said.
"Yeah," he agreed.
He held her eyes, searching for something, a spark, a hint of what she was thinking, but she was so closed off.
"So," he said, motioning to the menu, "do you want to get our usual?"
"Yeah," Liz said, nodding.
Max sighed. Things were so awkward between them since she'd gotten back from Florida. They were both playing these parts that weren't really them. He wished things could go back to how it was when they were together. They were so close, and so comfortable together.
He could see that Liz wasn't really as okay as she was pretending to be either.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Shaking her head, she looked down at the table. "I don't know exactly. I just have this feeling that I'm forgetting something."
"Like what?" he asked concerned.
"I'm not sure," she said. "It's just this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something is wrong."
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