It was just ten minutes after midnight when Max strolled into Lake’s Diner. He leaned over the long counter, planting a kiss on Mama Lake’s cheek; her round face flushed bright red and her southern giggle traveled through the near empty urban diner.
“I’ll be right ova there,” she said to Max as he made his way toward me. I nodded in response to her statement and watched Max join me at the distant booth.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said. He peeled off his black leather jacket and tucked his badge into his white polo shirt.
Whatever he came for, it was off the radar and possible personal.
“You’re always late,” I pointed out.
“You got me there,” he chuckled. As promised, Mama Lake made her way to our table; she held a fresh pot of coffee and the smile on her face was a combination of comfort and innocence. She was the reason why I kept coming to diner for the last twenty years and her innocence was why I had been away for the last eight months.
“You takin’ the regular stuff, unlike your friend here, Max?” She asked.
“Fill me up, Mama.” He said, raising his small, white ceramic mug. Mama Lake filled his cup then looked at me.
“More decaf, Richie?” I shook my head; I was still stomaching my current cup. “It’s good to see ya, Richie.” She added with a shirt sigh.
“Thanks Mama.” I fiddled with my spoon and dodged all the eye contact directed at me.
“Well,” Mama cleared her throat and smiled harder, “will you boys be havin’ the usual tonight?”
“Yes ma’am,” we replied. Mama Lake grinned at us then swayed away.
“She’s right, you know,” Max said. “It is good to see you.”
“What do you need?” The pleasantries were getting to me and the longer I stayed in public, the more I ached. The more the thirst called to me.
Max crossed his arms on the table, surveyed the area then leaned in closer to me.
“I got a case for you…”
“I don’t do that anymore.” I retorted.
“You should take this case.”
“I told you…”
“She knew Kelly…” Max interrupted.