I wrote the first two lines. I walked away and sulked for over an hour. My wife had to tend to her mother’s illness so I chatted with Daughter #2 about being stuck and feeling sick for it.
“Tell me the characters.” I described Arpad and Rauch; on the way to find Lily. A character based on Daughter #2.
“Where are they?” I guess Arpad is at a hotel. Rauch leaves as this is not a novel.
“When is it?” I thought she meant in the future. She meant during the day. “So the guy goes to dinner or something.”
Brilliant! This is brought to you by her.
Three hours later the sun was low on the western horizon as the sedan sat in a parking spot of the only hotel in Waxahachie. There were several B&Bs but not enough demand for more than one hotel. Arpad dismissed Rauch, obviously relieved at not having to spend a night in the middle of nowhere.
Forewarned by the Foreign Office, he presented a silver coin as a deposit when signing the guest register. The hotel manager turned it about a few times but was civil enough not to challenge him.
“Your key, Mister Rigó,” he said, handing it over the desk.
“Thank you.” Arpad paused. “Are there restaurants nearby? I’ve been in the air for the last eighteen hours and need real food. Texan food.”
To think I was a soldier once. Now I lie like any other diplomat.
He watched the manager rub his chin.
“Likely nothing up to y’all’s ‘hoot cuisine,’” he said, scribbling on a piece of paper, “but here’s a list of a few places close by!”
“Thank you.” Arpad didn’t bother looking about for a porter and went for the stairs. His room was on the top, third, floor.
Hot and stuffy, he tossed his two carry-ons onto the bed. He was pleasantly surprised when the AC unit activated after messing about with the controls. Honestly hungry, he regarded the manager’s list.
His mobile chimed.
That’s not possible. My phone is not attached to any service in Texas…
He took it out of his pocket and thumbed it on.
Beneath letters proclaiming ‘MCNET! Let’s Love One Another!’ with some odd CGI of a girl’s head in the middle of the C, was a single text line: ‘Mort’s Café. Thirty minutes.’
He raised the list in his other hand. The second was Mort’s Café.
Who did this? Who else knows I am here?
Arpad took the Walther from his lighter bag and put it into his suit coat pocket. He walked back down the stairs, already missing the air conditioning. The manager was reading a newspaper behind the counter.
“Yes?” He asked his guest.
“How do I get to Mort’s?”
It was barely under a twenty minute walk south by southwest. The bell over the door rang as he entered. A few people scattered at the tables near the front window but darkness taking the back of the restaurant.
“Help ya’?” A large man in a slightly dirty apron from behind the counter called out to him. Arpad walked over.
“I’ve been travelling and would like dinner. Have you a menu?”
The man gave a genuine smile and waved behind him at a huge eraser board.
“I only serve what’s fresh! Changes daily; sometimes, hourly!” He said.
Arpad’s heart sank as he read further along the hand-written lines. We fed our horses in the cavalry better than thi –
He froze. His right hand nearly shook as he raised it to point.
“Is that for real? Rakott Krumpli?”
The man in the apron was surprised.
“You know it? My mother-in-law makes it every couple of weeks; there’s only a few folks here that eat it. In fact, she…” He suddenly looked withdrawn. “Sorry. Didn’t get your name?”
“Arpad Rigó,” he said, extending his hand over the counter. “From the Empire. I’m passing through on a diplomatic mission.”
“Are you.” The man shook Arpad’s hand but he could tell that something had completely changed in the atmosphere from when he came in. He tried again.
“If there is any left, I’d dearly like to have some! I’m from Budapest. Your mother-in-law?”
The man relaxed. A little.
“She’s from Győr,” he replied.
“On the train to Vienna, where I work! A beautiful town!” Arpad gave a great fake smile. “Have you been there?”
“N… no. ‘Sides my stint in the army never been outside the ‘States.”
“Perhaps under the new Republic that might change!” Arpad took one of his cards from in inner-left pocket. “It’s an international number, but you can also reach me via the Empire’s legation in Austin. We’d love to have your family visit!”
“Well, now,” Arpad watched the hardness of the man’s face melt away, “that’s right Christian of you! We’uns just might take you up on this! Here, now! You find yourself a table and I’ll have the dinner right out!”
“Thank you, mister…?”
“That’s right! You bein’ a visitor and all! I’m Mort Friedenall! This is my place!”
They shook again. Dodged that round, Arpad thought. He turned to go a little into the darkness of the back of the café. Sitting, he heard the door’s bell jingle.
“Hey, Mort!” He heard a young woman call.
“Lily!” The man replied.
Arpad looked up sharply.