“Damnit,” Jerry muttered and slapped the steering wheel. The car sputtered and then came to a stop.
“I told you -”
“Shut up.” Jerry said.
“We should have gotten gas at that last station.”
“And I said shut up!”
I rolled my eyes and cast a look around at our surroundings. “There’s a diner. Let’s go get something to eat. After that we can see if anyone has a gas can we can borrow before the walk back.”
Jerry frowned but then gave in. Food was always the way to his heart. He kicked the front tire before walking away from the car. But his grumpiness decreased with every step towards the smell of greasy food. By the time we had been seated in a corner booth, he was almost smiling.
“What’ll ya have?” a middle-aged waitress asked when she’d approached our table.
“Scrambled eggs and toast,” I said without consulting the menu.
I knew all of these small-town diners had pretty much the same items to offer.
“Do you have strawberry oatmeal?” Jerry asked.
I raised an eyebrow at him, but he shrugged.
“We have strawberries that I can put over a bowl of oatmeal,” the waitress answered.
She nodded and walked away.
“What? I’m craving oatmeal.”
I gave a short laugh, and then looked around to see what other type of people shared the space with us. An elderly couple sat two booths down from us, both reading sections of the newspaper with their hands clasped across the table. A man in a suit was at the bar, typing rapidly on his laptop and ignoring everyone. A young mother helped her son in the opposite corner with a jigsaw puzzle spread across the table. The boy wore a cardboard crown on his head and had a red blanket tied around his neck like a cape. As cozy as it all seemed, I didn’t have any hope that a single one of them had a gas can in their car.
Just as I was about to point this out to Jerry, there was a shout from the kitchen.
“Get it! Get it!”
Someone screamed. Our waitress climbed a step ladder near the
counter and covered her mouth with her order pad.
“No! Don’t let it get away!”
A crash of dishes hit the floor and a large man ran through the door, tongs in one hand and a pan in the other. He looked frantically back and forth at the floor. Before I could ask what he was searching for, I saw a pale red crab click around the counter and saunter towards the door.
“No way,” I said. Why would a diner have a crab in the kitchen? Maybe I didn’t know everything about small town menus.
Jerry leapt to his feet and ran at the crab. It immediately changed its direction and headed towards the table with the young boy. The mother shrieked and pulled her feet up into the booth.
“Don’t worry, ma’am, I’ve got it,” Jerry said and dove under the table.
The patrons let out a cheer when he reemerged, crab in hand. I laughed and clapped along with them. The cook approached Jerry and held out the pan.
“One sec, I need to document this,” Jerry said. He pulled out his cell phone and snapped a selfie with the crab as near his face as he would risk.
The cook disappeared back into the kitchen and Jerry slid back into our booth.
“Well, that was fun,” he said.
“Not a bad place to run out of gas, huh?”
“Shut up. Thanks for reminding me.” His face slumped back into a frown.
“Oh no,” I said. I’d spotted two police officers out in the parking lot.
“What?” Jerry spun around and saw them too. They were heading straight for the diner door. “Maybe they’re just hear for a bite to eat. Cops do that all the time. Right?’
“Sure.” I shrank down in my seat to try and be invisible.
The officers came in and stood in the doorway. They looked around
the room and their eyes fell on us. “We’re looking for the owners of that Toyota Corolla sitting on the shoulder.”
Jerry locked his eyes on mine and shook his head the tiniest amount. But I saw the second cop notice it.
They walked over to our table.
“You two aren’t from around here. That your car out there?”
Jerry stepped on my foot under the table and my mouth snapped shut.
“See, we took a peek in the back seat and noticed something pretty interesting. There was a robbery, see, two towns over. A pair of wise guys were seen leaving a museum in a car very similar to that one out there. And the museum reported some very important fossils missing shortly after. Some fossils that, strangely enough, are sitting in the back seat of that car.”
Jerry’s eyes were wide, but he said nothing.
My mouth fell open but all that escaped me was a strained groan.
“So, it is your car then?”
There were a few seconds of silence before Jerry snaped. “Damnit, Meg, how could you not cover them up when we got out of the car?”
“Let’s go, you two.” The officers pulled us to our feet and cuffed our hands behind our backs.
“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I was hungry.”
“Figures. Never should have asked you along…”
I looked back into the diner to see the little boy waving at us as we left.