Officer Kyle Mitchell edged into Maggie’s Diner with his gun drawn. Maggie Donavon was sitting at the counter staring at an untouched cup of coffee. There was an air of deep sadness wrapped around her body like a comfortable old bathrobe. In the back booth, a man was sitting face down in his meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a knife sticking out of his neck.
Maggie rose from her stool and walked back behind the counter. Favoring her left arm she poured a cup of coffee and placed it on the Formica countertop.
“Would you like some pie to go with that coffee?” she asked.
Kyle holstered his weapon and walked toward the booth to check on the man.
“Are you okay, Maggie?” he asked. “We got a bunch of 911 calls about some trouble here at the diner.”
Maggie stood for a moment staring at Kyle as he put his fingers to the man’s neck. Shaking the shivers from her spine, she said, “I’m sorry, it’s just force of habit. Someone walks in, I pour them coffee. It saves a few steps.”
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” asked Maggie, as Kyle returned and took a seat at the counter.
“As a doornail,” he said. “Mind telling me how your husband comes to have a knife sticking out of his neck?”
Maggie moved slowly down the counter away from him. She pulled a plate off the shelf behind her and filled it with powdered donuts, then walked back and set the plate down beside the coffee.
“Care for anything else? A burger maybe?” she asked.
“Maggie, I’m not here to eat. I’m here about the dead guy. Your husband,” said Kyle.
“Oh, him. Jim came in for lunch, then he was dead. Aren’t you going to get him out of here? He’s really bad for business, you know. Folks don’t care much for eating with a dead guy in the booth next to them. Kind of spoils the appetite.”
“Maggie, I know this is hard,” said Kyle. “But you really have to tell me what happened. Do you know who killed your husband? Did someone come in with him? Did he piss someone off? I know Jim had a short fuse.”
Maggie started to laugh, but choked it back. “Now that’s funny, Kyle. You knew he had a short fuse, but you never bothered to do anything about it, did you? Just turned your head every time I showed up to work with a black eye or my arm in a cast. Didn’t once ask how I got hurt, did you? Now here you are all worried about who might have killed Jim. Poor dead Jim. Well, he got exactly what he deserved.”
“What do you mean he got exactly what he deserved?” asked Kyle.
“He comes waltzing in here today like he owns the place, yelling at me to get him some dinner while he stands there cleaning out my cash register. When I set the meatloaf down on the table in front of him, he grabs my arm and twists it up behind my back demanding to know where I keep the rest of the money. What he didn’t figure on was me having a knife ready for him and his short fuse, as you so kindly put it. He looked pretty surprised for a minute before he fell into his dinner.”
“You killed him, Maggie?” asked Kyle.
“You bet your sweet ass I did. This was my safe haven, the one place in my life where I felt safe, where I didn’t have to worry if he might decide that I needed killing. He shouldn’t have come in here and he damn well shouldn’t have hurt me. I was supposed to be safe here.”
Maggie walked over to the door and flipped the Open sign to Closed, then sank down to the floor, her deep sobs filling the silence of the diner.
Sandra is a short story writer whose stories have appeared in various online and print magazines. You can find her at My Little Corner.
Copyright © 2016 Sandra Seamans. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.