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Moe's Cafe MAG
The first impression Cole got when walking through the door of Moe's Café was that it wasn't the sort of place where you wanted to eat if you valued your life. Pictures of Elvis Presley hung at odd angles, dust covering their frames. The smell of burnt food and mold lingered, and a layer of grime seemed to cover everything. As he looked around, he made a promise to himself: Never again would he go anywhere without a sack lunch. The next time he got a flat, he didn't want to be left with an option like this.
Cole sat down warily at the first table he came to and glanced around for a waitress. He spotted her easily since the restaurant consisted, as far as he could tell, of a single room. She was leaning against the wall furthest from him, her arms crossed, face hidden in the dusty shadows. When he caught her eye, she pushed herself off the wall and with exaggerated slowness walked toward him. He felt irritated since, other than the two men at the next table, he was the only customer.
When she reached him she slapped a menu down in front of him without comment.
She pursed her lips. “Water or beer?” He hesitated and she rolled her eyes. “Come on, buster. I don't got all day. We're busy.”
He glanced at the television in the corner, flickering between nothingness and a wrestling match, and counted down from three. He was not going to let this annoying woman get the best of him. He shifted in his seat and felt his foot land in something soft and sticky.
He forced a smile. “Ah, well, that explains why you haven't had time to clean up.”
She snapped her gum. “Water then. I'll let you look over the menu.” She flipped her brown, stringy hair over her shoulder and stalked off.
Cole gingerly opened the laminated menu. The pages stuck together and greasy fingerprints made reading difficult.
“Our hamburgers are best.”
Cole looked up and saw a man standing next to him. A stained apron was tied around his waist, and a chef's hat sat precariously atop his head. The man stuck out a hand. “I'm Moe, the owner of this joint.”
Cole shook the hand reluctantly – it didn't look like it had been washed recently. “Nice place.” He cringed inwardly at the lie.
Moe laughed. “You like it? It's yours for two hundred dollars.” Cole laughed, but Moe persisted. “No joke. Listen, I'll go grab you a burger and we'll talk.”
Cole watched the bulky figure waddle back to the kitchen. He shook his head – two hundred dollars for this place? Maybe the man wasn't quite right in the head.
The waitress suddenly reappeared, a glass of water in hand. She bent across the table to slide the glass to him and said in a low voice, “Listen, I saw your car. Leave before there's trouble.” Before he could even register what she'd said, she was gone, the overpowering smell of cheap perfume lingering in her wake.
Moe returned carrying a plate and a beer. He set it in front of Cole and sat in the chair opposite, popping open the beer.
“I wouldn't drink the water if I was you.” Moe laughed. “So, have you thought about my offer?”
Cole nodded. “I want to know more.”
Moe took a swig of beer. “I basically have a part-ownership deal going on. For two hundred you get a say in what happens at the café and part of the profits.”
He laughed. “Yeah, this place makes money.” He stopped and looked around. “The café's sort of a side business, if you know what I mean.”
Cole raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
Moe suddenly changed tacks. “You from around here?”
Cole shook his head. “I got a flat, so I left my car at the shop across the street and came in here for a bite while I wait.”
Moe grinned broadly. “Well, it's your lucky day, my friend. You're about to make a deal of a lifetime.”
Staring intently out the window and across the road, Moe stopped talking abruptly. “I think you should leave.” His smile was gone.
Cole looked at him sideways. “What about our deal?”
“Forget about it.”
The men at the next table had stopped talking and were looking nervously at each other. A moment later they got up and walked out the door.
Cole shrugged. “All right, I'm finished anyway.” He stood up and reached in his back pocket for his wallet. Moe tensed and his hand flew to his side. Cole pretended not to notice as he withdrew his wallet and pulled out a five, which he laid on the table. “Keep the change.”
He didn't look back as he walked out the door and across the road, but he smiled when he saw his police cruiser sitting at the ready in front of the garage, directly in view of the café's window.