We walked back the way we came. Nothing had changed that I could see. Why should it have? I hadn't killed anyone. I had picked the kid up and played it by their rules. Lowell would get over his nut whacking and Mrs. Greene still had her virginity of mind and spirit. Yet something was off. I got distracted from trying to figure out if and where a threat could be coming from by the kid.
"Excuse me sir."
I told him "The name is Gardener. The guy in front is Thursday. Sir is on vacation from reality somewhere on a mountain top. What?"
He couldn't have timed it better. We were approaching the diner and I could smell the food cooking. I was hungry too and my nose was telling me that someone was baking apple pie and grilling meat. "You hungry Thursday?" He just grunted for a reply. I took it as a "Yes." I told the kid "Okay. We'll eat." We crossed the street. I noticed the kid didn't even check for traffic so I smacked him lightly upside the back of his head and told him "Look both ways when you cross a street." He in turn looked at me like I was an idiot. I let it slide. My mouth was watering.
We walked into the diner an everyone stopped to stare. Nothing unusual there. We had caught them between lunch and dinner so everyone wasn't much more than a couple of tables occupied. I ignored the waitress who came up to seat us and took a table by the wall. I nodded at the people we passed, checked their plates, and was greeted with nods in return. The place was like Shelli's diner. A limited selection. We had our choice of stew or the special which was steak.
She greeted us and I asked her "That smells like beefsteak. Is it?" She laughed. "Yeah. Once it's gone it will be awhile. We got a side of beef in. Some farmer got his cow through all the stuff that happened by hiding it. Then just lately he decided it was safe for her to graze and he let her out. She stepped in a hole or something and she broke her leg." She laughed "God works in mysterious ways."
"That apple pie I smell too?"
"Yep. We might be the only place in 30 miles that has it."
I told her "I'm surprised you don't have people lined up down the street."
She grinned, and told me "Ask me how much this is going to cost you."
She was right. Plus I had to pay a "conversion" fee to cover the changing of my silver into "Freedom" dollars. I had to dig embarrassingly deep to cover it as it was cash up front. Thursday of course looked off into the distance while this all happened. When she left he looked at me and said "So who is doing the plundering here?" I just glared at him instead of replying. Of course he ordered his steak rare or as he said "Carve a piece and put it on a plate." That didn't go over well with the waitress. She wasn't to pleased with my "medium rare" either. The boy ordered "well done" which got him the waitress smile of approval. I asked Zane, after she left "What's up with the meat?" He knew what I was talking about. He told me, and he didn't look to happy to be saying it. In fact he whispered it "If it bleeds sometimes people think bad things of you or remember bad things."
"Oh." I told him. That made sense.
Thursday was not the kind of guy you wanted to sit across from at a table. His table manners were on the same level as Woofs. He took a look at his steak. Picked it up in his gloved hand and began ripping pieces off and stuffing them in his mouth. It didn't bother me or the kid enough for us not to eat. Damn, I had forgotten how good beef was. The pie was even better. Not as sugary as I liked but still good. While we were eating the remaining tables emptied out. I was getting increasingly uneasy. Uneasy enough that I was stuffing my face in the same style Thursday was. I told the kid "Hurry up. We got to roll." Thursday was already done. He leaned back in his chair, belched, and said "They come."
He was right. I looked out the window to see a Humvee rolling up in front of the diner right about then. "Time to go guys" I told the other two. We had stood up when they came in through the back. It wasn't a bull rush. They just casually sauntered out into the dining area. All of them dressed for the occasion. The officer in charge smiled at me and said "Hello Gardener. We've been expecting you. Nice of you to drop by."
I smiled back and said "I'm not going to leave a tip now."
He replied "That's understandable. We knew you or Max would be coming for the boy. Some would have preferred Max. Personally I don't give a shit. That 'Medal' shit may have meant something back in the day but it don't mean nothing now."
He opened his mouth to say something more when Thursday casually dropped the head of his hammer on our table. They hadn't reacted to him having it in his hand. Who is scared of a short handled sledge when you are armed with state of the art black plastic? Our table collapsed. I heard a roll of thunder overhead which was weird as the day had been only moderately overcast. At first I thought it was a flyover or something hovering overhead. I heard Thursday mutter "We'll see who gets to babysit the dogs..." Then all hell broke loose.