The World is Broken

I look around and I see the cracks, the shards, the jagged pieces. I hear the creaking and groaning. I feel the shaking.

People yelling, screaming, at each other’s throats. They attack in their anger and passion, forgetting how to exercise the love of God at all, or so it seems.

Sarcasm. Name calling. Rants full of ugliness. Swearing. Twisting of Scripture. Put downs. Mocking. Damaged relationships. From friends to enemies.

Fires are burning. Destruction is rampant. Threats are hurled.

So much fear. So much pain. So much anger. Hopelessness. Derision. Manipulation. Hatred. All these things evident in the words and actions of so many.

The world is broken.

I hear it. I see it. I feel it. I can almost taste and smell it. It begins to crush me to the ground. It starts to smother me.

The world is broken. And I can’t fix it.

I can’t stop the problems. I can’t repair the cracks or put the jagged pieces back together. Not with logic. Not with cures. Not with anything.

I can’t stop the pain. I can’t make the voices gentle and the words kind. I can’t force loving tolerance. I can’t revise hatred or undo destruction. I can’t heal or bring the dead back to life.

The voices and tears, pain and misery, shouts and screams, anger and hatred – I hear them all. They crowd in on me. I want to stop them; repair whatever it is that needs repaired. Instead, they fall onto my shoulders like a crushing burden, weighing me down. They fill my head until I can’t think for the very noise.

Because I can’t. I can’t fix it.

The world is broken.

But…

There is hope.

“Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Through all the noise, the words are like a whisper; a peaceful, gentle pleading.

Instead of sinking under the weight of a broken world that I absolutely can not fix, come to Jesus.

Peter tells us to cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

He cares for us. The Creator of the Universe cares for us, His weary and burdened children. And there is nothing that this broken, groaning world can do to touch that, mar it, or take it away.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Nothing can separate God’s children from His love. Nothing.

So, we take this burden of a broken world, we cast it on Him, and we rest in His love. And then, I go out and I show that love to others.

Because I can’t fix it. I can’t begin to fix this broken and crumbling world. I can’t stop the lashing at a brother, the cruelty shown, people tearing into absolute strangers; I can’t fix the frustrated, ban the name calling, mend the brokenhearted, stop the fires, end the destruction, or turn the screaming into singing.

But He can.

The love of Jesus can fix every bit of brokenness, when and where He chooses. He’s still in charge. His love can tame tongues, stop destruction, turn enemies to friends. His power can bring justice, put out fires, and stop death. He can comfort the brokenhearted and reverse cruelty.

I can’t. He can. What’s more, He will in His own good time.

All of creation groans, but it won’t always be that way. He may choose to mend a part of this world now or He may, for His own glory, let the cracks merely deepen and creak, but one day, the broken world will be no more. There will be a new heavens and a new earth, and it will be glorious! The one we’re in now, is temporary and finite.

Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

The world is broken. It needs a Savior, but I am not it. All I can do is pray and point the broken, pain filled, burning world to the real Savior and show them His love and redemption. Point them to the cross and the empty tomb.

Then, let me rest in that same loving and powerful LORD, who can both save and mend, right the wrongs and heal the pain even in this groaning creation, while I look forward to the glories of the world yet to come.

The world is broken. God can fix it. And He will. In His time.

To the KING be all the glory!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXI

Chapter XXI – Timothy Teller

Timothy’s reading plan worked out far better than he could have hoped. As he began the opening chapter, he discovered that he felt somewhat nervous. He couldn’t be certain how a group of adults would react to something that could be considered somewhat juvenile. However, once he began reading, he stopped worrying.

4:50 from Paddington opened up exciting from the very start, catching Timothy’s interest as well as the rest of the group, if one could judge everyone else by their absolute stillness and silence. They sat as though captivated. Maybe Fabian had been correct; perhaps they had really needed the distraction.

When Timothy passed the book and Renee continued reading on his left, he had to strain to hear at first, she read so very quiet. He wondered, if anyone across the table could catch more than a word or two, and began to expect complaints. Renee’s enthusiasm for the story, however, soon won over and she read with confidence.

On her turn, even Ginger read with interest, but as the story continued and the group’s attention deepened, Timothy’s thoughts began to drift.

Listening to Mrs. McGillicuddy’s horror at having witnessed the murder on the train struck him rather strongly; moreso than he could have expected. Even Ginger’s voice wavered when she read out the woman’s short description of the dead girl. Timothy’s breathing began to shorten, just enough that he could notice it.

His own horror at the discovery of Gary Bradshaw’s body hadn’t seemed to last long. There was a great deal going on to process and he had moved on to other things. Or so he might have thought. Until his horror began to return with the reading.

Somehow imagining a fictional killing, brought the real one into fresh relief. The renewed and ever clear realization that a real, living, breathing man, who had made the decision that morning to come down to the café, now lay as a corpse, still and cold in the corner, fell upon him sharp and heavy.

He fidgeted and tried to focus on the story, but failed. He fidgeted again.

“Are you all right?” Anna’s whisper barely reached his hearing.

He nodded, then shifted in his seat. Flashbacks, ones he had avoided for months now, crashed before his mental vision. His hands shook and he clenched them into fists to steady them.

He could feel Anna still watching him, but he hoped that no one else had noticed. They didn’t seem to. All other eyes at the table focused on Ginger as she continued her reading; at least, as far as he could tell. He shook his head, but the images kept coming, faster and more vivid, and he found it difficult to focus on the people actually in the room with him.

“Come on, man. Keep breathing. Don’t give up on me now…”

The man in front of him didn’t respond. He didn’t move.

“Come on, man. Don’t. Not now…”

The chair on the other side of Renee scraped across the floor and pulled Timothy back into the present. He jumped and met Eddie’s hunted expression. It quickly changed to concern and he stepped behind Renee.

“Are you all right, dude?” He hardly made a sound at all as he bent slightly over him, but Timothy could tell what Eddie said. Ginger continued to read.

“I’m… I’m okay.”

“Sure. You look like it. Pale as you are.” He spoke just above a whisper this time.

Timothy wanted to counter that Eddie looked pretty pale himself, but he didn’t have the mental focus to argue. He gave Eddie a faint smile and nod, before the man made for his seat, and then Timothy grit his teeth.

This is stupid. I’ve managed to be fine for months. Why now?

Ginger passed the book off to Fabian, who read in a surprising and soothing voice. Timothy tried to listen, and managed for about three paragraphs, before the images came flooding into his head again.

Lord, I was fine when I saw the unfortunate dead man. Why now? Because for thirty minutes, it’s been calm and quiet?

In his mind, he could hear machine gun fire and shouts. Smell dust and blood. Feel the growing pit in his stomach and swiftly pounding heart.

No. No, no. Come on. I don’t want to remember. Not now.

Mary began reading and Timothy jolted to the present once more.

Timothy had never heard another reader like Mary Dill. The voices that she assigned for the Agatha Christie characters defied all logic and meaning. When she practiced a squeaking, drawled out Arkansas accent on Jane Marple, Timothy couldn’t help but stare. For the moment, he forgot everything but the incongruity of that voice belonging to a native of a small English village and to a character that he had read about since he was sixteen.

Judging by the expressions on the faces of his companions, he wasn’t alone in his thoughts. Renee did her level best not to laugh with each new and surprising piece of dialog, covering half of her face with her hand. Ginger’s eyes widened and she raised one eyebrow in silent question. Fabian mostly kept his eyes on the tabletop with a glance thrown at Mary every now and then, while he kept his jaw tensed, as if he might like to laugh, but absolutely refused to allow it.

Mary paused when Adrian asked Ginger to join them for an interview, but after a long and wary stare, she jumped when Fabian cleared his throat. Mary hurried back to the book and Timothy listened with a growing urge of his own to laugh. It would have been nice to laugh, but not at the expense of Mary Dill, no matter how annoying the woman tended to be. Despite how comical she made it sound, she read with an obvious belief that she was being absolutely serious.

That sounds like the voice Aunt Jennie gave to the fish in The Cat in the Hat when I was a kid. Miss Marple is… a puzzle with that accent.

When her turn came, Kimberly contrasted Mary with a monotonous reading that produced little inflection and no character voices. A robot might have read with more interest in his tone.

His surprise and puzzle over, Timothy’s thoughts began to drift again. He struggled to bring them to focus. Away from dirt and machine guns. Away from screams and death.

Mary stood rather abruptly, Kimberly paused, and everyone looked up. Mary raised one eyebrow, before pursing her lips and gesturing toward the restroom. One or two people nodded, and Kimberly continued her reading.

Timothy tried to stop his shaking hands and closed his eyes.

“I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”

The man in front of him continued to remain still. No heartbeat met Timothy’s frenzied search.

“God, please, not another one! Please!”

Timothy thought he heard a strange sound and he opened his eyes. Renee tried to jump from her seat, hitting against his shoulder, while Eddie, on her other side, simultaneously screamed in an agony of pain and fell from his chair to the floor.

Timothy leapt to his feet, steadying Renee, who nearly tripped on them both. One of the women screamed, but Eddie had gone silent and still.

Moving as if in a daze, Timothy  stepped away from Renee and stared at the young man lying on the floor. Eddie’s shirt rapidly began changing to a deep crimson, while all the color drained from his face, leaving him lifeless and pale. Timothy felt ill.

God Almighty, what just happened? What just happened?

If you’d like an alert right to your inbox whenever a new chapter is up, sign up for my newsletter here! You’ll also get a free short story!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XX

Chapter XX – Adrian Terrence

When Eddie left the cousins, nearly falling off the edge of his seat in his eagerness to escape, Adrian watched him before shaking his head. “There’s something about him…”

“He’s scared and hiding something.”

Adrian looked at Xavier and nodded. “I caught onto the scared part.”

“What neither of us know is why he’s scared or what he’s hiding. Or if it should matter to us at all.”

“Doesn’t it have to matter to us, until we know that it doesn’t?”

Xavier would have shrugged, but for the sleeping child. “Pretty much.”

Adrian flipped open his notes again, adding a few lines under Eddie’s name. He read and reread his notes for all three interviews. Nothing stood out particularly. He looked up. “Did you see anything significant near the body?”

“No. Though, I wouldn’t mind a look at his tablet, if only we could move it.” Xavier sighed and shifted Monique just a little. The child slept soundly and didn’t seem to mind the hum of their voices at all. “It’s possible that I missed something. You’re the observant one. I have to work at it.”

Adrian scoffed. “Of course, you would say that.” He focused on his notebook again. “What if I go over there and take a look for a moment, before our next interview? I don’t think you should try to move Monique, or I’d suggest we both go.”

“Agreed, on that last.” Xavier watched the rest of the café group, who all seemed to be engrossed with their book. “It’s probably a good idea, just… Be careful, Adrian.” He turned back toward his cousin, his dark eyes serious. “While I don’t think it makes sense for there to be another murderous attempt, that doesn’t mean there won’t be. I think we need to be careful that we don’t get anyone riled up or thinking we’re after them.”

Adrian nodded. “I’ll be careful, don’t worry. God will take care of us, like He always does. Remember that.”

“I remember it.” Still, Xavier’s expression didn’t soften, as Adrian stood to make his way across the café.

He took his notebook along, just in case he needed it, pushing it into his pocket.

The dead man still rested as they had left him, the coat covering his face and upper body. Adrian sighed at the sight.

Murder is so senseless and cruel. I don’t understand it, Lord, I really don’t. I hope that I never will.

The table in front of the dead man showed the remains of his last meal. A plate with a half-eaten sandwich and most of a cup of black coffee, the cup still resting in the dead man’s hand. A tablet lay on the table near his other hand.

He didn’t have time to react. He didn’t expect the blow.

Adrian used his sleeve to try turning on the tablet, but a password screen greeted him, effectively blocking him out. He gave up the idea.

It would probably be tampering with a crime scene to do anything else. If pressing the button didn’t already violate that restriction.

He turned his attention to the dead man, little as he wanted to. From what he could see without removing the coat, the man dressed decently in a gray sweater and tan slacks. His shoes had been scuffed, but not out of the ordinary way. He wore a watch with a dark wristband on his left wrist. Adrian sighed, before wondering just how many times he had done so that morning.

Why would anyone kill someone in so public a way? Obviously, they got away with it for the moment, but why do it? And, obviously, why Gary Bradshaw? What had he done?

He glanced toward the frosted windows, then around the café. From the corner seat, Gary Bradshaw had a view of the entire room, including a side view of the small preparation area and ordering counter. Still, despite this view, he also had the most secluded seat in the café.

The employees would have the easiest access to him without being obvious. So… He looked back at the party reading around the tables. Ginger and Eddie are the only employees.

He turned back to the table, but saw nothing else of consequence. He inspected the floor, the seat, and even the lap of the dead man. Nothing. With a final sweep of the scene, Adrian rejoined his cousin.

“Did you discover anything?” Xavier asked. He didn’t really look any less worried.

Adrian frowned. “No. Not anything of importance, so far as I can tell.” He sighed yet again. “It does seem like there ought to have been something more though.”

“There isn’t always an obvious clue,” Xavier answered. “That’s only in books and television.”

“Well, I am an author.”

“It doesn’t follow that your life will play out like a story though.”

Adrian almost laughed. “Maybe not.” He wrote down a few notes in his book, regarding the table and the dead man, then set both book and pencil aside. “I think we should talk to Ginger Thomas next.”

Xavier nodded. “Sure. Any particular reason?”

“I’m not sure I see how neither she nor Eddie saw anything regarding the murder. They were in full view of Gary Bradshaw’s booth until after the explosion.”

“Eddie clearly said that he was busy and saw nothing.”

“In a room full of eleven people, someone ought to have seen something, and really those two are the most likely from what I saw.”

“Did you see anything relating to the murder of Gary Bradshaw, Adrian?”

“Not that I know of.”

“It’s possible that there is no one in here less honest than you with the same dearth of knowledge.”

“Except the murderer.” Adrian picked up his pencil again. “I had my back to the man as well.”

“There is that.”

The cousins sat in silence for several seconds. Adrian nearly sighed again, but caught himself. “I detest this entire thing.” He nearly didn’t say the words aloud, but once began, he didn’t stop. “There is a reason that even my father didn’t think I should try for a lawyer. Certainly no one would normally suggest that I be a detective.”

“I know.” Xavier paused a moment. “But…” He smiled faintly, then began again. “As you have reminded me on more than one occasion, this is the task that the Lord has apparently put in front of you for the moment, whether you detest it or not, so He will give you the ability to face it. That applies to you as well as it does to me.”

Adrian tapped his pencil lightly on his other hand. “This is true. Even if we’re not any good at the task either. We can face it.”

“Even if.” Xavier put his head to one side. “Except, I’m already a lawyer and have some experience. And you, well, as the resident genius, you’re good at everything and bound to figure things out.”

Adrian shook his head. “Genius does not equal high levels of brilliance in every area of life, Cousin. We’ve covered this before.”

“It does with you.”

“Hardly.” Adrian couldn’t help but relax a bit at the hint of laughter in Xavier’s voice.

His cousin waited a moment, before nodding. “You said that you want to interview Ginger Thomas next?”

“I rather doubt that she wants to be interviewed at all.” Adrian turned a page in his notebook. “However, I think that we ought to.”

“Let’s ask Miss Thomas to join us then.”

If you’d like an alert right to your inbox whenever a new chapter is up, sign up for my newsletter here! You’ll also get a free short story!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XIX

Chapter XIX – Timothy Teller

Timothy had watched the conclusion of Ginger and Mary’s argument with a growing sense of unease.

There’s too much anger on the one side and far too much willingness to react on the other. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Anna had said nothing for awhile, but seemed lost in her own world. Timothy, with the initial effects of the explosions and the discovery of the corpse wearing off, needed something to do. He wandered off toward his laptop, still resting where he left it at one side of the two unoccupied tables.

Fried. That’s not good. At least, I have backups.

He got up to wander again and happened to catch Ginger’s eye in passing. Arms crossed and gaze narrowed, she appeared to be seething. Timothy gave her a wide berth.

Fabian beckoned for him to join Renee and himself, his deep voice very quiet. “I believe that we need some form of entertainment. Renee disagrees.”

Timothy frowned. “Entertainment?”

“Yes. Some people,” he waved in Mary’s direction, “need distraction from their current circumstances.”

Timothy looked at the tall blonde beside Fabian. “You don’t agree?”

“I-I think it will depend on what he means by entertainment.”

“Ideally, we could have a movie to pass the time.” Fabian folded his hands on the table.

“I think that would add unnecessary chaos and would cause us to be less vigilant.” Renee shrugged and brushed a hand across her stomach. “We are in the presence of a murderer after all.”

“Possibly.” Fabian smiled a bit. “As we have no means to play a movie anyhow, I suppose that the question is moot.”

“Do you have other ideas for entertainment?” Timothy asked.

“Do I have any other ideas for entertainment? No.” Fabian shook his head rather sadly. “I hoped that, perhaps, you might.”

“I suppose that something interactive might keep us cognizant of each other’s surroundings, while affording a distraction from our circumstances.”

“If one could come up with something interactive, that isn’t a party game that no one is up for playing.” Fabian steepled his fingertips, watching Timothy over them.

Timothy glanced around the room, hoping for inspiration. A book on the floor near the counter caught his eye. He jumped for it.

“That’s mine.” Kimberly hardly seemed to care, if her tone could be trusted, that she claimed ownership.

“May we use it?”

“Be my guest.”

“What do you have in mind?” Fabian asked.

Timothy turned the book over in his hands. 4:50 From Paddington. He hadn’t read that particular Agatha Christie book, but at least it was an author that he recognized. He’d try it.

“My sisters and I used to read a book by turns.” He resumed his seat, still holding the book. “Everyone sits together, each taking turn to read for, say, ten minutes at a time.”

“Not everyone is going to want to read aloud.” Renee rubbed her stomach, then sighed.

“Possibly not. Or possibly everyone will be so happy for something to do, that they’ll do it anyway.” He smiled to try to soften what might come off as harsh.

Renee only shrugged.

Fabian reached for the book and looked it over. “So, we read a fictional murder mystery – while we live through a real murder mystery?”

Timothy cocked an eyebrow. “I suppose – yes. Do you have a better idea?”

“No, actually. The idea is intriguing. Hearing Mary Dill, for instance, attempt to voice a rational character should be fascinating.”

Timothy paused and tried to picture Mary calmly reading about a murder. He failed. Maybe we’ll be proven wrong. Maybe it will relax her somehow. He heard the woman’s voice rise in excited conversation with Kimberly a few feet away. Maybe.

Fabian took it upon himself to get the four women to join them. Adrian and Xavier, of course, couldn’t join them; they were busy. And, if they interviewed everyone, they would frequently lose a reader for awhile, but they could manage well enough. To Timothy’s surprise, no one balked.

Fabian set to moving two of the round tables close together and then surrounding them with chairs. He gathered everyone, assigning seats that kept Mary between himself and Kimberly. Timothy saw Ginger watching the proceeding with crossed arms.

He hesitated. He didn’t want to engage with Ginger. He usually avoided her as much as possible and with good reason. He watched her glaring, and sighed.

Sometimes, loving your neighbor means talking to the person that you usually do your best to avoid. He sighed again, but went toward her.

“Are you planning to join us?”

She slowly turned her glare toward him, before her face softened just barely. “What?”

“Are you going to join us while we read?”

She shrugged, arms still crossed. “I said that I would.”

“You’re not going to do it from where you’re standing, are you?”

“If it means that I don’t have to sit anywhere near Mary Dill, I will. I’m quite nearly out of all patience with the woman.”

Timothy bit back a laugh and look looked toward the seating arrangements. “I think you’re safe. I think Fabian is putting you next to himself and an empty seat. Probably for Eddie. Mary is two seats away.”

Ginger dropped her arms. “I’m coming.”

Timothy nodded and smiled a bit. “Let’s see how this goes.”

If you’d like an alert right to your inbox whenever a new chapter is up, sign up for my newsletter here! You’ll also get a free short story!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XVIII

Chapter XVIII – Adrian Terrence

Adrian watched Eddie take a seat. He sent a glance in Ginger’s direction and then tugged at his carrot hair.

It’s a wonder that he hasn’t pulled every strand out by now!

The moment Eddie sat down, he sighed. “I didn’t kill the guy. I didn’t even know him.”

‘Neither of us accused you,” Xavier said.

“But she did. Several times now. And she doesn’t care about protestations of innocence.”

The cousins didn’t try to argue.

“How long have you been working at Café Chocolaté, Eddie?” Adrian turned to a new page in his notebook. “What was your surname again?”

“McIntyre.”

“Very Irish. I named a book character McIntyre once.” Adrian looked up in time to catch Xavier’s half-smile and shook his head.

“Oh.” Eddie seemed to remember the first question. “I’ve been working here for three years.”

“That’s a good length of time. Do you ever plan to go anywhere else?”

Eddie shrugged. “I want to be a nurse, but it takes time to save up for college. I can’t get a loan.”

Adrian nodded. “How old are you, Eddie?”

“Twenty-five.” He sat on the extreme edge of his seat, as still as could be, one hand on each of his legs. He looked up to speak, but otherwise stared at the dark tabletop as if it mesmerized him.

“Are you well acquainted with anyone in the café?” Adrian closed the notebook and pushed it aside.

Maybe it will help to relax him.

“I know Ginger.” Eddie glanced around the room and shrugged. “I recognize most of you, but I’ve never been friends or even enemies with anyone. Ginger usually talks to people and I get the orders ready.”

“Why is that?” Xavier asked. Monique seemed to have fallen quite asleep again. “Is that what you were hired for?”

Eddie tugged on his pant leg. “Yes and no.”

“Meaning?”

“We were both trained to do everything, but Ginger hates getting orders ready. So, we… worked it out.”

“Your boss doesn’t mind?”

“As long as we get the work done and the customers are happy, no. He doesn’t mind. She helps with cleanup and all in the evenings too.”

“How long has Ginger worked here, Eddie?” Adrian rolled his pencil between his fingers.

“Two years.”

“Did you help her get the job?”

Eddie shook his head. “Of course not.”

“Tell us about finding the ice pick.” Xavier seemed to be watching the young man’s face closely.

Eddie jumped. “What about it?”

“Describe it for us.”

Eddie opened his eyes wider, then cleared his throat. “I was just fixing Mary Dill’s coffee. When I went to hand it to her, something rolled off the shelf under the counter, I think, and hit my foot. I looked down and saw the ice pick, and some… red on the floor.”

“Did you know what the red was?”

“It looked like blood to me. It… It wasn’t right to be anything else.”

Xavier nodded.

“Mary started yelling at me and Ginger didn’t look down where the ice pick was. I don’t know why, except I kinda kicked it under the bottom edge of the counter. And why would she. Anyway, I didn’t really think – I didn’t know why the ice pick would have blood on it in the first place, so I picked it up. That’s all. You saw the rest.”

“Why did you pick up the ice pick, if you recognized blood on the blade?”

Eddie shrugged with another tug on his pants. “I don’t know. I didn’t know there had been a murder. I didn’t know what was going on!”

The men sat in silence for a moment or two. Adrian opened his notebook, marked a few things down, then closed it again. Eddie sat, his eyes focused on the tabletop again. Xavier looked thoughtful.

“Eddie, you said that you saw Gary Bradshaw last week, correct?” Adrian asked.

Eddie raised his head. “Yeah, I saw him. He sat in the same seat for most of the afternoon, I think.”

“You think?” Xavier interjected.

Eddie started to raise a hand toward his hair, but tugged on his pant leg again instead. “I can’t pay attention to everyone in the café. I’m too busy making orders. I saw him when he sat down and noticed him once or twice after that. There were a lot of people in that day and Mary Dill wanted her order changed half a dozen times.”

“You can remember Mary being here on the same day?” Adrian asked.

“She’s here on most days.” Eddie shook his head. “That day, she was more needy than usual and nearly spilled her coffee on – Gary Bradshaw? – when he took his order from me.”

“I see.” Adrian had reopened his notebook. “Can you recall who else might have been here on that specific day?”

“No. Not besides myself.”

“And Ginger Thomas?” Xavier asked.

“Of course. Ginger too.”

“Coming to today,” Adrian rolled his pencil between his fingers again, “why don’t you tell us everything that you know about Gary Bradshaw’s visit. Did you see him come in?”

“No.” Eddie moved further toward the edge of his seat, but nearly fell off altogether. “I was busy.”

“Did Ginger take his order?”

“No, actually. I did. Ginger hadn’t come in yet. She had a flat tire this morning and got in late.”

Adrian frowned, but Eddie kept talking.

“He ordered a coffee and a sandwich, I think, if it makes any difference. I took his order, he walked away. I gave him his food a few minutes later.”

“Had Ginger arrived yet?” Xavier asked.

“I don’t know. What difference would that make?”

“You were doing what when the first explosion occurred, Eddie?” Adrian decided not to allow a rabbit trail.

“Fixing Mary Dill’s coffee. Again. She said it was too hot.”

“And you saw nothing? The service area is right beside that booth.”

“I was busy. When the explosion happened, I nearly dropped the container of ice I’d brought out. I turned to see if Ginger was okay, then I saw that the lady over there,” he gestured toward Kimberly, “had fallen and I went to help her up. I didn’t even notice Gary Bradshaw.”

“You had a container of ice on the counter when the explosion occurred, Eddie?” Xavier spoke very quiet, very clear.

Eddie tugged at his pants. “Yes.”

“Were you using the ice pick?”

Eddie stared hard at Xavier, one hand going into a fist just barely in Adrian’s line of sight. “No.” He swallowed visibly. “I didn’t need it.”

If you’d like an alert right to your inbox whenever a new chapter is up, sign up for my newsletter here! You’ll also get a free short story!