The Whistle

He sits alone at the end of the counter. Its Tuesday and the middle of winter. Too early for anyone but the regulars to show up. Some might call him a regular but he knows better, nothing is regular about him being here. Its the same each town he’s been in. He comes in quite and sticks around for a while, just long enough for peeople to get used to him being there and then he leaves. He moves around for work. Its always smaller places never anything big enough that he’d ever have to wrry about anyone being smarter or better trained than he is. Never small enough that anyone new is an outsider. He always chooses those towns just big enough that they have a couple elementary schools, a library and at least two gas stations. He needs people to know him enough not to remember him, he needs to seem like he’s just another face in the town, nothing special, not new, not flashy and not too talkative. These places are easiest. Sure people notice you’re a new face but no ones ever expecting it to be you.

When he was younger he’d been less careful choosing towns. He was a gifted kid and that got to his head real quick. he realized early on how much better he was than the his brothers. That ego was a dangerous thing in his line of work. It had done in a couple of his older brothers and had almost gotten him too. Sir had warned him once before he scouted the first time but he was 16, handsomer than hell and more stubborn than a horse.

He sipped his coffee angry at himself for thinking about how reckless he was as a kid. “Shit”, he muttered to himself, “we was all damn kids.” Candace, the plump, yet still beautiful in her own way, waitress passed him by filling up his cup as she asked Mr. Anderson how he thought the market looked this morning. Same damn conversation they had with each other every morning. Candace always trying to cheer the early birds in the diner up before they headed off to work. Most of them were bankers, insurance agents, car salesmen or traders getting ready to hop on the train to the city. “Poor bastards” he muttered to himself again as Candace swept back past him to attend the city slicker that jus sat down a few seats away from Mr. Anderson. These small town-folk don’t know shit about the world. They barely traveled outside of this little miserable place except to head to the city for a holiday or to visit a son in school.

Thinking about how much more he knew about the world than all these sore sons ‘o bitches made him smirk. He stole a glance at his watch even though there was a clock hanging right up in front of him on the other side of the counter. It was one of those ones that was supposed to look like it was from a diner in the 50s, it had a gaudy plastic rim that was supposed to look like chrome and a yellow neon light wrapped in a circle on the inside. He tried not to remember these types of things. He did his best not to remember anything from any of the towns he’d worked in. Sir had always said it was a bad thing to remember too much. Remembering meant you cared which meant you were as good as dead. Caring meant you’d slip up and they’d have to cut you loose. That’s what Sir always said. “I never knowed what the hell being ‘cut loose’ meant,” he thought to himself, but he had a pretty good idea.

It was 6:07 am and he’d just finished he 3rd cup of Joe. Candace, hearing the clink of his white porcelain up hitting its saucer made a move to fill it up again but he caught her eye and gave a stiff dead shake. He’d gotten to the Whistle early this morning, he’d left early because he’d heard the roads were a mess but it wasn’t anything more than he’d seen in his day. A few inches of powder, it was cold enough now that all that came down was powder, no more of that nice crunchy warm snow that soaks everything it touches. It was winter now.

He decided he’d have another cup of Joe after all and would leave by 7:00 am. Just as he was about to try and find Candace to have her pour him another cup of Joe a veiny hand with chipped yellow nail polish slid a piece of torn paper folded haphazardly underneath the white saucer. He looked up and he barely caught Candace’s eye as she withdrew her hand hastily grabbed his cup and filled it up setting it down too quickly and spilling coffee on the saucer. She turned away without a word and continued down towards Mr. Anderson who was making a fuss about how cheap a cup of Joe and eggs were back when he first moved to Lincoln Port. Slowly, he slid the piece of paper out from under the saucer and his heart began to beat faster as he turned it over. He had received notes like this before but usually from a woman trying to get him to take her out. He knew this was not that kind of note. He smoothed wrinkles in the paper, keeping it folded, to reach what was written on the front. Keeping a straight face, making sure not to seem uncomfortable or distressed, he read the letters, slowly, on the outside. He mouthed them as he went, “L” “E” “O”, “Leo” he mouthed. He didn’t get it until he said it out loud “Leo.” A wave of terror passed through him as he attempted to place the note in his breast pocket. He fumbled with the button as his hand had begun to tremble. He needed to leave and leave now. He needed to read that note.

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