“There she is!” a loud voice announced.
Flashbulbs strobed into their secluded corner. A man, microphone in hand, rushed past the waiters with a cameraman on his heels. JJ stood, blocking the intruders’ direct access to Jo. Other diners looked on with interest but remained seated. The obnoxious pair moved like boxers in a ring, bobbing and weaving to close on their quarry.
The man with the microphone launched into a barrage of questions with the cameraman filming. “Jo W of Destiny Fashions, how does it feel to be adored by millions? Who’s with you? Someone said you got married, but this can’t be the guy. He’s not a well-known celebrity. Are you cheating on your husband? Harold, get a shot of this loser. We might find out who he is and do an exposé.”
Without enough room to do anything but keep them from getting too close, JJ slammed the palm of his hand on the table. It sounded like a gunshot. He pushed the guy with the camera, resulting in the device falling to the floor. He stomped on it while that man protested, “My equipment, man.”
“Tough luck, buddy. Get outta here and take that fool with you,” JJ demanded, shaking with anger.
The waitstaff formed a line that encircled the paparazzi and herded them toward the door for ejection. Jo covered her face with her hands, her shoulders shuddering in what JJ knew were tears.
He reached her side and pulled her close, to escape into the kitchen. The interviewer evaded the wedge of the waiters and rushed behind them. “Jo W, where’s your next fashion shoot? I need an exclusive.” He grabbed Jo’s sleeve, tearing it.
Jo screamed, “No comment!”
JJ latched onto the microphone and ripped it from the guy’s hand. “No more chances, idiot,” he growled as he slammed the device into the owner’s gut and broke it in two. A sidekick connected and put the man on the floor moaning.
Cecilia motioned from the door to the kitchen. Resounding applause was heard as JJ escorted Jo to their freedom.
JJ inhaled shakily. “Thanks, Cecilia, for saving us. We need to leave but clearly not via the front door.”
Mama Elise stomped into the kitchen. “JJ, the front of the restaurant is surrounded by fans and reporters. I’ve called the police, but it will take time before they arrive.”
JJ looked upward as if for divine intervention, then placed a call.
“Hey, JJ,” Brayson answered. “Your security application is indicating you and Jo have drawn a crowd. The satellite view suggests cameras and live transmissions. Were you serenading her in the street, man?” Brayson jested.
“No,” JJ replied through clenched teeth. “I’m not certain who alerted them. Mama usually keeps our arrivals under cover.”
“The restaurant event is uploading real-time reporting comments. I was able to redirect the upload of the film clips and photos. I destroyed them and have a temporary block in place. The editor will think the camera guy messed up.”
“Brayson, how close is your Timothy Project to reality?” JJ shot a loving look in Jo’s direction.
“I was remote testing Timothy before your application went nuts. I don’t have enough control to maneuver it around that sort of crowd. Without a driver, the vehicle might attract more attention if the bright lights hit it wrong.”
“Agreed, but if you can get it to the back entrance of this place, I might have an idea.”
“I can remote control it to the door. The keys are under the mat if you want manual control. Enter the passcode on the keypad.”
“Let’s do it. We’ll add a case study for your efforts and proof points. You kept the tinted windows, right?”
“Of course. But stay away from the filming lights. It’s still illegal to have unregistered driverless vehicles on public streets.”
“I don’t think we have a choice if we want to escape without Jo getting injured. If you can get it here, it won’t be driverless for long.”
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