Ancient Theodora Hendricks deposited her buckskin satchel on The Second Chance Grill’s counter and commenced to enjoy her favorite pastime—staring down Ethel Lynn Percible until the old fool, darting between tables like a drunken firefly, dropped a platter of dishes.
The crash of china and Ethel Lynn’s high-pitched squeal threw the dining room into silence. A tot at table seven shaped his mouth into an O. At table nine a group of businessmen stopped to stare mid-chew. But everyone in town was used to the decades-long feud, a state of war that broke out daily. Diners quickly returned to their meals.
Ethel Lynn scooped the broken dishes onto her tray and returned to the counter. “Theodora, you’re a boil on the butt of humanity.”
“Why, thank you for noticing.” Theodora stuck her corncob pipe into her mouth.
“Why don’t you find a child to terrorize? I’m thirty minutes from the end of my shift and in no mood for the likes of you.” Ethel Lynn dumped the broken dishes into the garbage.
“Time has taken your beauty but rest assured, it’s left you stupid. I’m here for dinner. I need a menu.”
“What you need is a swift kick in the behind.”
“And you’re the one to give it?”
“Not if you’re carrying your Saturday Night Special.” Ethel Lynn gave the buckskin satchel the once-over. “Are you armed and dangerous?”
“None of your beeswax.”
“Oh, why don’t you go and shoot a squirrel? I was in perfectly fine spirits until you arrived.” Ethel Lynn smoothed down the lacey collar of her vintage dress. “Would you like to hear tonight’s specials? We have a nice beef stew I’m happy to season with arsenic.”
“Keep it up, missy. Wear down the last thread of my patience, and I will use my gun.” Theodora settled her bony elbows on the counter. “Where’s my coffee?”
A steaming cup appeared beneath her nose. She’d just taken a sip and fished a match from her satchel when someone said, “Mrs. Hendricks, please don’t light your pipe. Smoking makes me want to puke.”
The interruption lifted what was left of Theodora’s brows. Swiveling, she discovered young Snoops Keeley sliding onto a barstool. The girl’s purple spectacles were dotted with raindrops from the April storm passing through Liberty. In fact the child was soaking wet, her dark hair a windblown mess and her eyes darting faster than Ethel Lynn when she was in one of her more jittery moods.
The child’s distress brought Ethel Lynn forward. “Snoops, why, you look tuckered out! Did you bicycle here in the rain? What if you’d been struck by lightning?”
“I had to come.” The girl turned to Theodora. “Mrs. Hendricks, I need to talk to you.”