Tara was trying to multitask—help in the dining room and get the taxes done. Apparently, Uncle Sam didn’t care much about flood warnings.
With a heavy sigh, she sat back and took several meant-to-be-relaxing stretches. She’d been at this too long, and looking at all of it, she wasn’t sure she’d accomplished a blessed thing.
She needed to take a break. Standing, she walked to the French doors. Outside, the world was soggy. Fat raindrops fell on the flagstones. A small river slipped over those same stones and tumbled over the edge, down into the shadowed bed of the creek.
She could see the top of the water. Normally, the creek was little more than a trickle at the bottom of the pathway. Tonight the water reached nearly to the top. How deep was the creek bed? She couldn’t remember. Would it overflow again? Would the sandbags hold?
Was it supposed to stop raining anytime soon? She’d been so busy, she hadn’t had time to watch the news or do more than listen to the sound bites on the radio. Now she wished she’d taken more time. Deciding to get online and check, she half turned when a movement outside caught her eye. Was someone out there in this awful rain?
She leaned closer to the glass, trying to see out. She could see movement but couldn’t make out the person or even if it was man or a woman. Just a figure moving slowly down the hill toward the parking lot.
Hastily, she moved to the other door, following the person’s movement down the incline. They leaped over the puddled water, a splash shooting into the air around them as they landed. Then they disappeared into the shadows beneath the trees. She couldn’t see them anymore.
In the relative quiet of the near-empty restaurant, Tara heard her phone blare. Not her ringtone, not a call coming in. She pulled the phone out of her pocket and looked at the glowing screen. A weather alert.
Like a wave across the room, phones in various diners’ purses or pockets made a similar noise.
“Hey, what’s that?” Wade stuck his face in the opening of the pass-through.
“Weather alert.” Tara walked into the prep area and thumbed the screen. Her face reflected his frown. “Flood warning actually.”
“Where?” Wendy came into the kitchen, her hands full of dirty dishes, her phone in her pocket glowing through the thin fabric. Most likely the same warning.
“Let me see.” Tara read the message, trying to concentrate at the same time she tried to hit the right key to stop the obnoxious noise of the warning. “East of town.”
Wade cursed and scooted into the kitchen.
“Don’t you live out that way, Wade?” Wendy asked. There was no answer from the kitchen.
Tara walked around to the door. The cook was at the grill, but she could tell he was worried. His shoulders were tight as he worked.
“Do you need to go?” She could handle the grill.
“Nope.” He flipped half a dozen burgers onto the grill. “My place is up on the hillside. It’s safe.”
North, south, east, west, didn’t matter. What did was up and downstream at this point. East of here was the hill country. Uphill country. She stood watching him work, her mind focusing on something else. The town had been built in the valley. They sat frighteningly close to the creek.
Tara went out the back door and looked across the alley. Rain still fell in sheets, the wind strong, raking through the thick cottonwood branches, bending the big trees nearly in half. She stared at the creek.
The tiny meandering creek reached the top of its meager banks. The grasses that normally grew tall, that Ricky Raccoon and Tabby Cat—as they’d been dubbed by her staff—usually hid in, slipping through the tall blades to sneak up on each other, were flattened to the ground. Battered by the rain that hadn’t stopped for long.
Where had the animals gone? She hadn’t seen Ricky in days, hadn’t had any critters getting into the trash since Wyatt’s crew had put up the sandbags.
What happened to raccoons when it rained? Where did stray cats hide? She looked around, wondering, hoping that she might see them lurking somewhere where she could get them. Save them if she needed to.
Maybe they were smarter than she was. Should she close up? Should she—
“Everyone’s leaving,” Wendy announced, coming through the door. “It’s gonna be dead now.”