[With loads of thanks and apologies to Diane Henders. DH, please, please, please don’t send someone from Sons of Anarchy to beat the crap out of me; you asked for more Fallen Arches. Read more about Diane Henders’ spy novels here.]
Lillian Fasbark never wanted to be a spy. She didn’t want to be a neurosurgeon or an astronaut or a lab technician or a race car driver either. Well, maybe she liked the idea of being a race car driver just a little bit. But all of those were non-starters because she was, in fact, a spy for her government and, right now, she was acting as a short order cook at the Long Branch Café on the north side of South Forks.
Lillian took all her assignments seriously. She wasn’t going to pretend to be a short order cook; she was going to be the best short order cook this side of the Continental Divide. Every morning she arrived by five am to get things ready. She washed and sliced all the vegetables, peeling the potatoes and cutting them into precisely aligned slivers for perfect fries. She made all the salad dressings ingredients herself, prepared all the day’s soup, and formed uniform hamburgers, resisting the temptation to squeeze them under her armpits to get back at the jerk of a boss she worked for. It wasn’t fair to the faithful and unknowing customers. She also turned on the grill, the deep fryer and got all the pots and pans ready.
The Long Branch Café was short on staff but not on service so Lillian did double duty as a waitress. She had “meet and greet” down pat. The customers loved her and she loved them, at least she did a fine job of acting as if she loved them. Lillian had been working there for nearly two years, waiting each day for the arrival of “Mr. Wright,” a diminutive, balding accountant on whose fate many lives depended. So far, Mr. Wright had not shown up.
If Lillian became frustrated over Mr. Wright’s failure to appear, it was mollified a great deal by her handler, a beautiful hulk named Jim Tolls, who would come in from time to time to check on Lillian. Lillian’s heart, not normally affected by bulging biceps and a square jaw, always fluttered a bit when Jim came into the diner. Today, she would find an excuse to follow Jim out to his car and tell Jim that she was tired of her assignment and was ending it now. Plus, she wanted to look at those biceps and that square jaw one more time.
Jim finished his usual breakfast of shit-on-a-shingle, washed it down with the last of the coffee (made fresh each morning), paid the tab with a modest tip and slowly ambled to his car across the street. Faking a need for a brief break for fresh air, Lillian followed him out to the car taking her jacket and her current reading material along and got into the passenger seat as Jim climbed into the driver’s side.
“Well, Jim-boy, what’s it going to be, coffee, tea or me?” Jim let out a short snort in reply to Lillian’s old one-liner.
“Lillian, we’ve been through this before,” the exasperation present in Jim’s voice, “You are not a spy and I am not your handler. You are, and have been, a short order cook.”
Lillian looked at Jim with a startled expression. “Cut the crap, Jim, we both know that I’ve been undercover on assignment for close to two years. When’s this going to stop?”
Jim turned to Lillian with a worn look on his face. “It never started. Look at the book you have in your hand, Lillian.”
Lillian looked down at the book, a freshly minted copy of Diane Henders’ latest novel, How Spy I Am.
“This is the fifth time you’ve done this, Lillian” said Jim. “Every time you pick up one of those spy thrillers, you believe that you are a spy on a secret mission and that I am your handsome handler. One time you were a saleslady at Macy’s, another time you were a bank teller at the local Bank of America branch and now a short order cook. You keep following me wherever I shop or bank or eat breakfast, get a job and pretend that you have this secret assignment. Get a real life, Lillian. Now, get out and good bye.”
Slowly, Lillian opened the passenger door and walked back to the café. She hoped she could explain to her jerk of a boss exactly why she had substituted gasoline for cooking oil in the deep fryer.
Read more about Diane Henders’ spy novels here.