Everyone turned and stared at the stranger standing in the doorway of Mike’s Diner.
“What was an eloquent looking lady doing in a place like this?” They wondered.
No one came to this Greasy Spoon by mistake. Especially someone as attractive as her. Besides, who would intentionally come to an off-road diner that boasted of serving lousy food and warm beer?
The waitress walked over, eyeing the woman suspiciously.
“You sure you’re in the right place, toots?”
The woman looked around and smiled. This diner was the perfect mixture of bland characters and road-wary travelers. The kind of crowd that would mine its own business.
“Are you sure you’re in the right place, Toots?” A waitress asked, looking her over.
“I’m sure. Table six, please.”
“Yes, the table in the corner with the number six on it.”
“Oh, you’re a wise gal, huh? Okay, follow me.”
As the waitress led the woman to table six, the woman looked.
She chuckled silently to herself. “If you looked up the term ‘greasy spoon online, you’d see a picture of Mike’s Diner. A dimly lit ‘joint’ decorated in the customary black-and-white checkered tile floor and red leather-covered booths. The tabletops and countertops were scratchy white Formica. The waitresses wore vintage red and white candy-striped dresses and orthopedic shoes.
“Here ya are, TooTs. Table six.”
The waitress waited for the woman to settle in the seat before handing her a laminated menu.
“Kinda dark over here, Toots. Would you like to sit someplace else?”
“No, thanks. I‘m meeting friends.”
“Okay, I’ll be your server. My name is Darlene. Can I get you somethin’ why ya waitin’?”
“Just water with a slice of lemon.”
“Okay, Toots, be right back.”
Ten minutes later, a tall man rangy man walked into Mike’s.
“Can I help you?” a waitress asked.
His mouth shaped into a thin smile.
“I’m supposed to be meeting someone at table six.”
The waitress turned around. “Hey, Darlene. Ain’t you covering table six?”
“This guy wants to sit there.”
Darlene shrugged, then led him to the table.
The man sat opposite the woman.
Darlene took out her pad.
“What can I get you, mister?”
Never taking his eyes off the woman sitting at the table, he replied, “Nothin’. I might not be stayin’ long.””
The man waited until the waitress walked away. “I thought I was meetin’ a man? Who the hell are you? Are you the person I’m supposed to meet?”
“That depends. Who are you?”
“I’m Number One.”
A bearded man entered Mike’s and marched straight to the bar. “A rum and coke, buddy.”
As he waited for his drink, he looked around. In between sips, he peered over the rim of his glass, watched the crowd. Everyone looked suspicious. A waitress walked by.
“Excuse me. Do you have a table six?”
The waitress looked around.
“Hey, Darlene, another guy for table six.”
Darlene walked over and looked him up and down. “You goin’ to table six, too?”
“What do you mean,’ too’?”
“Some folks is sittin’ there already.”
The man took a swallow from his drink, then followed Darlene.
The woman and Number One looked up.
The woman stared at the bearded man. “Who are you?”
“I’m Number Three.”
The woman smiled at him. Number One sat back in his chair.
“Hey, I thought we were meeting a gentleman? The guy who teched me.” Number Three asked.
“Me, too.” Number One said
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, gentleman. I didn’t think my gender mattered. You both are here to split the money, right?”
The men nodded.
The woman motioned them closer and whispered, “First, I want some answers. Which one of you idiots killed the security guard?”
Before they could answer, a chubby man walked over to the table.
“May I help you?”
“That depends. If I told you I was Number 2, would that mean anything to you?”
The woman smirked. “Sit down. Let’s get this thing over with.”
“Now that you are all here, let’s get something straight. Correct me if I’m wrong. An unknown man contacted all of you and offered you a chance to make some easy money. Since all of you were in some type of financial jam, you accepted. For anonymity, he assigned you a number so that no names would be used. He teched each of you a piece of a foolproof plan. Burglary of the Thomas Loan and Securities Company downtown. He planned burglary down to the last detail. If you three kept to the plan, the security guard should have been on the other side of the building while you cracked the safe. Which one of you messed up. Why were you off schedule?”
The three men sat dumbfounded, looking at each other.
“While you think about it, I’ll buy a round of drinks What will you three have?
“A rum and coke.”
“A Tom Collins.”
“A Scotch and soda.”
“Okay. By the time I get back, have your story straight or there’s no money.”
The men watched as the woman disappeared into the crowd.
Number One said between clenched teeth.
“Damn! What are we going to do? I need this money.”
“Who in the hell is she to question us like this. She should just give us the Goddamn money.” Number Two said, shaking his head.
Number Three leaned his elbows on the table. “You think she got the money with her?”
“Maybe so. Why don’t we rough her up and squeeze the money out of her?” Number one said.
They all agreed.
The woman walked back to the table and distributed the drinks.
“Did you get your story straight? Now, tell me what happened.”
Number One began. “We arrived, on time, at the Loan Company.
“The lock on the door was easy to pick,” Number Three added.
“We were on schedule when we got to the safe. But the safe we practiced on wasn’t the safe in the office.” Number Two laments.
“Yeah. We had fifteen minutes to bust into that safe. It took us twenty-five. By that time, that old man guard surprises us—”
Number One banged on the table. “Yeah. He surprised me, and I had to shoot the old bastard.”
There was a moment of silence.
The woman grinned. “Okay, thanks for telling me. Let’s drink and split the money.”
The woman handed a money-filled envelope under the table to each man. Then, hidden by the tabletop, they opened the envelopes out of public view and counted the money.
“Are we square men?”
They all nodded.
As they drank and shared small talk, the woman said.,”You know, I was thinking about the security guard at the Loan Company. I wonder about his family? How upset they must be.”
Number One chuckled. “Who cares. He’s dead, and there ain’t nothing we can do about it.”
The woman smiled wryly. “Oh, I think there’s something we can do about it. You want to hear something interesting?”
“Yeah, why not.” Number Three replied.
“I tracked down and killed the ring leader of your little gang. I tortured him until he told me everything I wanted to know. Then, I killed him. I swore I’d get everyone who was involved in the security guard's death. You see, I’m a professional killer, and that security guard was my father.”
The men gasped. They tried to stand but couldn’t.
“What’s wrong, fellas? Finding it hard to move?" The woman laughed as she sipped her lemon water. “Yes, arsenic will have that kind of effect on you. Why do you think I was so eager to buy your drinks?””
The woman stood up. “Well, I guess it’s time for me to go. At least you men will die with money in your pockets.”
The men sat there trembling in pain; a tear rolled down the cheeks of Number One;. Number Two clenched his eyes from a stomach ache;
Number Three eyes began to burn.
After twenty minutes, Darlene walked over with her pad in hand.
“Will you want another round, guys?’
Darlene couldn’t understand why no one answered.