Sawyer sat upon an overturned five-gallon bucket in a corner of the kitchen near the door. Shaking uncontrollably, he wolfed down the mess of eggs, pancakes, and bacon that Marchesi’s cook, Hawg, had set aside for him. His stomach would hurt afterward, but the attitudes of the men around him precluded relaxed consumption. Hawg continued ranting about Rat’s late arrival, and Rat repeatedly told him to fuck off. In between spats, Rat winked at Sawyer.
Sawyer’s unease grew each time he did.
There was a newspaper under his feet. He bent to read while he ate in an attempt to distract himself from the aggressive bickering going on around him. A headline read – “Vampire of Detroit in Custody.”
Early Monday evening, Detroit’s 12th Precinct caught the serial killer known as the Vampire of Detroit. During a sting to catch him, Nathaniel Browne, a young man in his mid-twenties, was injured during the shootout, which ended his murder spree, but not before he took the lives of four good citizens of Detroit.
Two officers were injured, another killed in the altercation with a gun that belonged to a member of Browne’s family. Police declined to name the family member.
One of our finest, Officer M. Assari suffered fatal gunshot wounds during the capture. He is survived by his wife and two children. Two other officers were gravely injured, but our sources state that recovery is expected for the youngest, a rookie new to the unit.
At the time of publication, the second officer, a junior detective in the unit, remains at risk and is in the ICU fighting for his life. This news team will keep you updated on his status.
12th Precinct? For some reason, he remembered that his father worked for the 12th precinct. Was his father involved with this? Two officers were injured, a rookie and a junior officer. Dad wasn’t a rookie. He wasn’t a junior either. Pushing the paper with his foot, he scooted the article behind him, out of sight.
Hawg interrupted his musings and grabbed the tray of mostly eaten food from him just as Marchesi stuck his head through the kitchen door and hollered, “Five minutes before nine, people.”
Sawyer looked at Hawg. Hawg said, “Construction crews come in during their first break to eat second breakfasts.” He shoved the tray at Sawyer’s chest and said, “Get this cleaned up and get out there. You’re bussing tables.”
Marchesi’s customers were jovial. It was an easy routine. Set a table; pour water and or coffee as customers sat. Give them twenty minutes, then clear, clean, and reset. Sawyer quickly learned that the ten dollars placed on the table for the meal did not include tips for him. Snatcher, acting as cashier, dropped the extra, after tax, into a jar for the ‘regulars.’
“You is a squatter,” Snatcher informed him.
The morning rush lasted until eleven, when a second wave came in wanting a late breakfast. An older couple came in about fifteen minutes after the hour and sat near the hallway. They chatted about the latest news, and about the Vampire Killer who had murdered the lovely woman and her daughter the next block over.
“That poor man, losing his wife and daughter,” said the woman.
The man reached for her hand and as he grabbed it, he said, “He’s locked up for good now, dear.” Sawyer presumed he was her husband. “I hope that fella who stopped him lives.”
Sawyer couldn’t help himself. “Are you talking about the junior cop?”
“My goodness,” said the woman, apparently unaware he’d been standing close enough to hear.
“I’m sorry,” said Sawyer. “Can I get you more coffee?”
The man said, “Yes, that would be fine.”
The woman reached for him. “Yes, dear, I am worried about the officer. So brave.”
Her husband patted her arm as she looked at Sawyer with sympathy in her eyes.
By the end of what most would call the lunch rush, Marchesi locked the door behind the last patron. To Sawyer he said, “Good job. My customers seemed relaxed around you. Get this place swept, mopped, and set up for tonight and your shift is over. Meet me out back when you’re done.”
Sawyer, who looked forward to getting his money, said, “Okay.”
He made short work of readying the space for the evening crowd. As he carried a tray of condiments into the kitchen, Hawg was setting up a sandwich assembly of some sort. “Boss is out back,” he said.
Sawyer took off the apron but hesitated as he realized he did not know where to put it.
“Laundry gets picked up outside,” said Hawg.
The heavy back door was propped open with a rubber door stop. Sawyer slowly shut it, careful that the stopper stayed put. The can marked ‘laundry’ was open below the stairs. He dropped the apron over the banister on top of dirty towels and greasy rags. Marchesi, surrounded by a group of men, stood beyond the dumpsters, smoking a cigar. The heavy scent wasn’t apparent until Sawyer stepped off the stairs into the paved alley. It reminded him of his grandpa, Hank.
“Hey,” said Marchesi. “Here’s the man of the hour.” He waved at Sawyer, as he ambled toward the group of men. .
The tattooed man who woke him, sneered at him again. “Topino. Good to see you awake.”
Having asked Hawg during a quick break what it meant, Sawyer took offense. He was not a ‘little mouse.’
The tattooed man clapped him on the shoulder. “It’s all in fun, bambino. All in fun.”
Marchesi handed him a fiver and a ten, fifteen dollars total.
Yes, he needed to pay for the room, but by his calculations, only ten dollars. Surely he earned more pay than this. He said, “What’s this for?”
Marchesi grinned. “I paid you even. Thirty-two dollars minus the ten you owe me for the room, plus the $2.50 for coffee last night, and the cost of one of the sandwiches being set up as we speak. Breakfast was free as promised.”
“I worked seven and a half hours,” said Sawyer, holding the two bills in his open palm.
The men standing around Marchesi started laughing.
A broad-shouldered, black man said, “This ain’t California, Boy. Ain’t no where here you going make fifteen dolla’ an hour.”
“How much did I make an hour?” said Sawyer.
“Four twenty-five,” said Marchesi. “The going rate. You aren’t a regular, so I paid you under the table. That way you get the whole thing.” He winked.
Was Marchesi expecting joyful gratitude? Sawyer had slaved in that kitchen.
Marchesi smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, look on the bright side. Your bill is paid.”
Yes it was. But after a full shift of hard work, he had half of what he started with. It was better than having nothing left, he guessed. He folded the bills and stuffed them into his front pocket.
Marchesi said, “Got a job here, if you want it. Evening shift starts in a while. It’ll help you pay for another night.”
Another night? What a racket. However, where else did he have to go? The chance of meeting another Sailboat Tim was about as probable as finding a four leaf clover in a field of lilies. He’d have to work two shifts a day to stay afloat. Is this how it was supposed to work? How did anybody make it in this world?
He could call his father, but with all his being, he didn’t want to do that. There had to be a better solution. He didn’t have to eat more than once a day. He could forget the sandwich. That would save money. Not much probably, maybe seven dollars. Who was he kidding? He was starving again.
Sawyer was 2,300 plus miles from home with no money and this man was offering him a job. Why was he so hesitant? He handed Marchesi the five dollar bill. “Can I get change for this? I need a few quarters.”
“Gonna call his mamma,” said Tattoo Face.
“Fuck off,” blurted Sawyer.
Tattoo Face rounded on him, grabbed the neck of his tee shirt, and jerked him close. “Don’t get sassy with me, Mouse. I’ll slap yo’ ears.”
“Easy now,” said Charlie. He pulled the tattooed man off Sawyer. “Sure, baby, you can have some change,” he said, patting Sawyer’s cheek.
“Ooh. Charlie’s got hisself a new chick,” said one of the men.
“I’ll slap your ears,” Charlie growled.
“Sorry, boss,” said the man.
Sawyer followed Charlie to the register where he exchanged the bill and handed him the change.
“Phone booth is out front,” he said. “Here’s the phone book.” He plopped it onto the counter.
Sawyer took the book with him to the phone booth. He found the number for the 12th Precinct, dialed, and asked for his father. He twiddled with the cord as he waited to connect.
The phone rang twice before someone answered in a deep, bass voice. “Inspector Tyler. How may I help you?”
Sawyer held his breath. Because he had answered, he knew his father was not the officer fighting for his life in a hospital bed. He was probably sitting in his car somewhere doing whatever a detective does. Did he dare say hello? If he did, Jack Tyler would call his mother. She would send Phillip. Phillip would yank his ass back to Stockton. His life would be over.
“Hello? This is Senior Inspector Jackson Tyler, Detroit PD? Hello?”
Sawyer hung up.
As he walked away from the booth, he heard the phone ring. He didn’t care. He was going to work the dinner shift and be happy about his good fortune. As he stepped back into the bar, Charlie Marchesi smiled at him.