Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

Country Cafe4

Cash Under the Counter

(Episode 28)

 Probably another reason Stan hadn’t killed Harriet and Bob Weeds was because there was something nagging at him, some ‘unfinished business’ is how it felt.  He’d never had a feeling like this, and now he had.  Something about his stay in Kimmel County that said it wasn’t over.  And Stan didn’t need all the complications another two killings would bring.

So as not to look too conspicuous, after Bob Weeds had dropped him off, Stan stepped into the Campaign Café for a cup of coffee and a little time to think.  He sat down at the counter, where his back was to the street and to the other patrons.  Several tables to one end look to have collected laptops and phones and coats and briefcases and papers enough to signify an encampment.  Judging from the snippets of conversation which drifted Stan’s way, this was the press corps domain.  They looked the image.  Rumpled shirts, loosely knotted ties, coats tossed over the backs of chairs and with eyes staring into laptops, these guys looked as desperate as the story they were chasing.  From what Stan could make out, they were trolling for who was writing what, and who had found out what, and how, and where?  Stan figured he would’ve been more of a shoe soles on the street sort of fellow.  But what did he know?

Anyway, the place was packed, even in this off hour.  Some kid in the corner looked like he was talking to some members of an organized tour.  The waitress looked to be running her legs off, so Stan rose to refill his coffee himself.

“I can get that for you,” the waitress said, as Stan started to step behind the counter, reaching for the coffee pot.

“Uh.  Thank you.”  Stan tipped his head.  “You look a little short handed.”

“You think?”  She smiled.  The way she smiled made Stan think that she might either own the place, or have an interest in its success.   “I don’t suppose you can cook?”  She joked.  ‘Was there a sexual overtone to that?’

Stan took a look around the café again.  Across the street was the Sheriff’s office.

“Yeah.  In fact, I’m quite good at it.”  Stan smiled.

“Right.  I know.  Back yard barbeques.  Hot dogs.  Hamburgers.  And every Sunday morning you make waffles.”  The waitress smirked, from across the aisle, as she refilled more coffees.

“Nope.  No marriage.  Army.  Third division Rangers,” Stan said.

“Not much interest in K rations here,” the waitress replied.

“Not much interest in K rations there,” Stan replied.

The waitress continued with her other duties.  She yelled to the cook in the back several times.  And several times the cook in the back yelled back…  in a mixture of Spanish and English. Stan continued to sip his coffee.

“Are you making conversation and just pulling my chin, or would you really know how to do a short order job?”  The waitress asked as she walked back to Stan to re-fill his coffee.

“I’m not gassing you.”  Stan shook his head, and let his eyes wander briefly up and down her figure.  “To tell you the truth, I sort of miss it.”

“Ha!”  She wiped the counter around.  “How badly do you miss it?  You miss it today?”  She tossed her head to indicate their overstressed kitchen behind.

Stan figured for a moment.  “I could,” he answered.

“Forty dollars cash to finish out the afternoon.  And if it works out, we pay you under the table for a month until we see how everything goes,” she said in a low voice, wiping a spot on the counter nearby.

Stan nodded finally.  Then he rose and walked behind the counter.  The waitress, who introduced herself to him as Carmella Burnette – “wife to the Mayor, who’s out of town on important city business”, handed him a newly laundered smock and a hairnet and pointed him towards the kitchen.  Stan nodded to the other cook, who looked up without registering any surprise whatsoever.  That alone told Stan quite a bit.

“This is your stove.  This is your area.  And this is your counter.  I’ll clip the orders here,” Carmella said.  Stan nodded.  Carmella clipped an order there, stared at him, and then spun the thing like a roulette wheel.  Stan had the thing on its first pass.  He was a quick study.

Country Cafe2

Photo plucked from Google Images

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