Café Chocolaté

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Chapter X

Chapter X – Ginger Thomas

Ginger finished serving drinks, returning to her usual position behind the café counter. She noticed Fabian going from table to table, talking to most of his fellow customers. She couldn’t hear what he said, but she narrowed her eyes in his direction, as if that would increase her chances of hearing.

What is he up to? He’s never been this interested in his fellow human beings before.

Fabian continued on, a bit stiff in his business suit, and Ginger let her distrust grow. Eddie pushed a coffee in front of her, then shoved both hands into his apron pockets.

“Who is this for?” Ginger snapped the words and her head in Eddie’s direction simultaneously.

“It’s for you.” Eddie, still pale and haggard, looked amused, nonetheless. “Black with a shot of espresso and another of chocolate.

“Oh.” Ginger took a sip. “It’s not as hot as usual.”

“Because we have no electricity.”

Ginger rolled her eyes. Brilliant observation, Ed. Tell me something I don’t know.

She took another sip and looked across at Fabian again. Eddie nodded in his direction.

“What’s he up to that you’re staring at him? You don’t usually pay much attention to business suit guy.”

Ginger choked on her coffee. “Business suit guy?”

Eddie shrugged. “I don’t know his real name, but he’s always in a business suit.”

“He is that.” A bit of a grin took residence on her face. “I wonder if anyone else has noticed that he always wears the exact same suit when he comes in. It never varies.”

I hadn’t noticed.” Eddie pushed his hands deeper into his pockets. “I don’t really care either, but are you sure?”

“Quite positive.” Ginger smiled again to have superior information, then blew across her coffee. “There’s the lightest stain on his left shoulder and one of his belt loops are torn. Easy to recognize.”

Eddie stood gaping at her. “Seriously?”

“What?” Ginger looked at him, one hand spread defensively. “Come on. I see him several times a week. He stands there forever looking at the menu board before ordering the exact same thing that he always does. I have plenty of time to notice his clothes without even trying.”

Eddie shook his head and turned to clean up a spill on the counter. “I don’t want to know your opinion of my dressing habits.”

Ginger laughed lightly, taking another sip of her coffee. “You don’t have habits. You just throw on whatever you see before leaving in the morning. At least, it’s usually clean.”

Usually?” Eddie turned around, consternation flooding his face and his voice. “It’s always clean.”

Ginger grinned. “If you say so.”

Eddie looked annoyed, but turned back to his cleaning. Ginger laughed to herself in silence, while she turned back to her coffee.

Fabian left his conversation with Timothy and Anna, joining Ginger at the counter. She eyed him expectantly.

Fabian leaned against the counter, stirring his coffee. He stared as the resulting whirlpool shimmered and spun. “What do you think caused the explosion?” He looked up at Ginger, his dark eyes almost gleaming.

Ginger tapped her fingers against the side of her coffee cup. “How should I know? I was in here along with you and everyone else.”

“Surely you can speculate.”

“Ginger only likes to speculate when it’s her idea.” Eddie joined them at the counter, holding a glass of water. “Otherwise, she abhors the notion.”

Ginger rolled her eyes. “You’re always so dramatic.”

I’m dramatic?” Eddie gave her a look she had long since given up on interpreting.

“What do you think may have caused the explosion then?” Fabian turned his smile on Eddie.

Eddie shrugged. “How many things explode? And twice? I think the better question is to ask why there was an explosion in the first place?”

“Why is that a better question?” Fabian asked. He rubbed the remnants of a coffee drip from the side of his mug.

“Because, honestly, who cares what was used to shake the earth? We ought to care about who, if anyone did it, why an explosion, and who is affected by it.”

Ginger raised an eyebrow over her coffee.

“If we knew what caused it, we might be better able to answer some of those questions.” Fabian smiled a bit at Ginger. “Different types of people tend to have their special methods that identify them. Knowing what caused the explosion might show us who created it.”

“Just how would you know that?” Eddie set down his glass and crossed his arms.

“Heard it around. Television or something.” Fabian smiled again.

“Because the TV tells us only the most reliable things.” Ginger smirked at her coffee.

Fabian only smiled.

“What do you think caused the explosion?” Eddie hasn’t uncrossed his arms.

“It doesn’t really matter what I think.” Fabian stirred his coffee again.

Ginger watched the movement with disgust. Stuff is going to get cold and nasty with all that stirring.

“Then why does it matter what we think?” Eddie’s voice bounced between annoyance and confusion.

“I was curious about your opinion.”

Eddie blinked.

Ginger set down her coffee cup. “We’re curious about your opinion then.”

“I’m not eager to grant an answer though.” He winked and turned back toward where Renee drank her hot chocolate.

Eddie watched him a moment, before picking up his water again. “There’s something weird about him.”

“Maybe he likes listening to you complain about me.”

“I did no such thing.” Eddie shook his head.

Ginger opened her mouth to retort, but Mary Dill sidled up to the counter.

Her frizzy curls stuck out like a disastrous halo all over her head, and her eyes still held a wild look, like she might be waiting for another reason to scream.

“This,” she held up her coffee, “is not sweet enough. I said I wanted it perfect. This is not perfect.”

Ginger glared.

Eddie set down his water and reached for her cup. “I’ll fix that for you, ma’am.”

Ginger filled her mouth with coffee to keep from saying anything, but a strangled gasp from Eddie nearly made her choke again.

Eddie’s face had gone white, and he stood with Mary’s newly sweetened coffee, frozen in one hand. He stared at the floor, his blue eyes wide with horror.

“Eddie?” Ginger tried to figure out what he gaped at, but couldn’t see anything.

He snapped his head up, the horror still evident on his face. “Nothing.” He set the coffee on the counter, pushing it toward Mary Dill.

Mary, however, shook her head. “No, you’ve got something.” Her voice grew louder. “You’ve got something! What is it?”

Eddie hesitated, eyes still wide. He yanked at his carrot top.

“What is it? What did you find? What did you do?” She had drawn the attention of everyone else, her voice escalating with each word.

Eddie stood rooted in a kind of terror. “N-nothing. I didn’t do anything.”

“Then, why the look! It’s something!”

Ginger’s glare appeared lost on Mary Dill. She turned to Eddie. “Might as well explain what’s wrong with you before she starts screaming.”

Eddie stared at Ginger in wide-eyed horror for several seconds, before he bent down. Picking up an item at his feet, he held it up with shaking hand.

Mary Dill began screaming at the sight.

The rarely used ice pick that generally hung above the back counter until needed, shivered under Eddie’s trembling grasp. The dark handle shimmered in the gray light of the window, the slender metal sticking straight in the air.

Even Ginger couldn’t suppress a shudder. Dotted along the slender blade in delicate relief, lay a pattern of red dots and streaks in differing sizes. The handle, smeared with crimson, transferred the sticky red substance to Eddie’s hand.

“I-It looks like blood.” Eddie’s voice shook with his hand. “There’s some on the floor too.”

Mary Dill screamed again.

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