Lila took Ian’s arm and began walking with him toward the taco joint. As they entered, she watched the reflection on the glass door as it swung outward. She saw the dark haired man whom she dubbed “Charlie” start walking toward them.
Tightening her lips, she walked to the counter and made her usual order. “One fish, one shrimp taco, and a jamaica to drink.”
“I’d like two fish, one shrimp taco, and a Mountain Dew.” Ian ordered his favorites, and after paying they walked to the corner barstools to wait for their order. Lila leaned into Ian’s shoulder and whispered in his ear, “Is our friend having tacos too?”
“Looks like it.” Ian commented and patted her on the shoulder. “Order up.” He gestured toward the cooking area where their tacos awaited them. They loaded up on Sessy’s Salsas, Lila’s favorite being the Radish Relish, bright red and yummy, while Ian coated his in mild salsa.
Taking their drinks and food outside to the seating area, they waited to see what their new friend would do. Lila positioned herself facing the entrance, and Ian took the seat beside her. They proceeded to consume their tacos, Ian inhaling his at his normal pace, while Lila picked at hers, eating slowly while keeping an eye on things.
“Charlie” exited the restaurant and came toward them, sitting at a nearby table. He looked over at them and commented, “Great tacos.”
Lila nearly swallowed her tongue. “Yes. Yes they are,” she said in a strangled tone of voice. She glanced at Ian and saw him nodding in agreement.
“You from here?” Ian asked nonchalantly.
“Yep. And you?” the man replied.
“Oh, we’re from here and there.” Lila laughed uncomfortably.
“You know there’s a cool ride I’ve heard about at Griffith Park,” the man paused, “It’s called the Haunted Hayride. Heard of it?”
Ian coughed. “Yeah. You interested in going?”
The man took a bite of his taco and made an appreciative noise. After chewing for a moment and swallowing, he replied. “I was thinking about next Saturday.”
Lila nearly blew a chunk of taco out her nose. Choking, she took a long drink of her hibiscus tea.
“You all okay?” The man asked concernedly. “Seem to be choking on that taco,” he pointed out. “Spicy?”
“No, just super hungry.” Lila managed to say between wheezes.
Charlie continued. “I’m really interested in seeing parts of Griffith Park. I’ve heard it’s haunted.”
Lila joked, “Are you a ghost hunter?”
The man looked over at her seriously. “Actually, that is an interest of mine. I’m a big fan of history, and there’s lots of it there. Death, mayhem, murder.” He finished his taco, and rose to throw away the paper dish. As he passed their table, he pointed underneath it. “Looks like you dropped something.” He strolled around the corner and disappeared from view.
Lila leaned down to check under the table and saw a small package. Her head jerked up in surprise, and she stared at Ian. “I didn’t hear anything. Did you?” she said in an amazed tone of voice. “That wasn’t here when we got sat down. I’m sure of it.”
Ian shrugged in an I-don’t-know manner, and leaned down to pick up the package. Written on the box top were their names in large, black letters. Their eyes met across the table. He slowly pulled the tape from the top and they looked inside.
“Holy…” Lila exclaimed.