Otis sensed it before Sam even heard it – tires crunching through the snow on the driveway. Otis growled, knowing instinctively it wasn’t Chris and the kids. It was much too early; they weren’t due back until around 10:00. “It’s ok” Sam whispered soothingly while reaching for the handgun hidden in the cupboard and slipped it into the pocket of an oversized Washington Wizards sweatshirt. Sam squinted at the clock – 5:40 – too early, even for regular customers. Tapping at the other pocket Sam was relieved to find the cell phone.
Cautiously approaching the door Sam yelled out “We’re closed. If you need help the police station’s half mile down the road.” Good bluff.
“I know. I just ended my shift there” came the voice from outside. “Trooper McGinty in from NY. Saw a light on and wanted to make sure everything’s ok.”
“We’re fine but thanks for checking.”
“It’s my duty. I’d still feel better if you let me take a look around.”
”Mind showing me some I.D.? Just slip it under the door.”
“No problem.” Surprisingly a laminated I.D. card slid across the floor.
Glancing to make sure both deadbolts were secure, Sam quickly retrieved the I.D. and checked it out in the glow from the cell. Calling 911 confirmed the trooper was telling the truth – and he was no stranger to Sam.
“Son of a bitch! State Trooper Daniel McGinty!” Switching on the bright kitchen light Sam strode across the diner floor, flipped back the locks and swung open the door.
“Hi, Sam” grinned the trooper.
“Danny McGinty! It’s really great to see you!”
Laughing, the two friends greeted each other with a giant hug. “Sam, you look fantastic. Damn, I can’t believe how the time has flown by.”
“You too, man. You look terrific! Grab a seat and I’ll make us some coffee. You still like it strong?”
“You remember! Good to know some things don’t change. I just got off shift and was heading home when I saw a light on. You work here?”
Sam paused and looked up from the coffee pot, smiling. “You could say that. Chris and I own the place. We met in the
police academy, got married and now live here with our kids. We’re the cooks and ……”
“Whoa! Back up. You’re married?? You always said being a cop in NY was all the family you needed. What happened?”
“Chris is what happened, Danny. When the right one comes along, that’s it. Chris was the one. When we decided to start a family we knew it was time for a safer place for our kids and we couldn’t be happier out here. What about you?”
“Yeah, I took the plunge, too, but things didn’t work out. We really tried, Sam, but we were just kidding ourselves. Besides Newark is like a war zone. So like you I moved out west and I’m engaged to an ER nurse at St. Joseph’s.”
“That’s great! I’m happy for you, Danny. You look peaceful.”
“You too, Sam. And this place is fantastic!”
“What time you picking up this nurse of yours?”
“Chris is coming home from skiing around 10:00. The diner’s closed today; let’s meet back here for breakfast. You in?”
“You bet, Sam. This is great!”
Everyone arrived at the same time. Sam’s twin boys squealed “Mommy, Mommy” and Chris gave her wife a sweet kiss.
“I missed you, babe” said Chris.
Danny approached, smiling. “Sam, say hello to my fiancé Roger.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Roger. Guys, this is my wife Christine.”
“I knew” said Sam.
“Liar!” laughed Danny.
NAR © 2020