In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
February 23, 1993
The Troy Diner was decorated in shades of burgundy and white, with a long counter dominating one end and a series of booths along the other. Piped in music accompanied the lunch crowd bustle, which ranged from raggedy students with their noses in books to businessmen that were constantly checking their watches. John Sig stood in the entranceway and inhaled deeply, taking it all in. “Very nice,” Phil commented, “we should only have to wait about eight or nine hours for a goddamn table.”
“No we won't.”
A fat man with menus under his arm approached them, “You're early.”
“Just came by to see if the lunch menu is as good as the evening menu.” John smiled, “Owen, this is my friend Phil.”
Owen offered his hand, “Welcome to my restaurant Phil, any friend of John's is a friend of mine.”
“Great.” Philip took his hand and gave him a curt nod.
“Well gentlemen, will it be a booth or a counter?”
John stroked his moustache thoughtfully, “Any spots in Angie's section?”
“Of course.” Owen's grin widened further. He led them to a booth near the window and handed them each a menu, “She'll be delighted to see you.”
“Thanks.” John called out after him as he headed off to greet more customers.
“Very classy joint.” Phil commented, “All the menus smell like the owner's armpit.”
John glanced at the daily specials section, “Better than the smell of your soiled Depends.”
Phil’s eyes widened comically, “Oh, you wanna play dirty do you?”
A red-haired slip of a woman walked up to their booth, her expression brightened at the sight of them “Johnny! What are you doing here?”
“Just came by to see how you were handling the day crowds.” he grinned.
The menu dropped from Phil's hands, “Did she just call you... Johnny?”
“And I know who this is.” She gave Phil a playful poke in the shoulder, “Johnny's told me so much about you.”
Phil was shaking his head, “Johnny?”
“I wish I could chat with you two but the natives are restless,” she whipped out her pad and pen, “What can I get you gentlemen?”
“Two coffees I think.” John suggested, Phil made no protests, “Black for him and I'll have the usual.”
“Six sugars, six creams on the way.” she gave him a wink and continued on her circuit of her tables.
“Did you just have a stroke?”
“You hate to be called Johnny.”
“No.” he corrected, “I hate it when you call me Johnny.”
Phil raised a hand, “Explain something to me Romeo, how does she know you? And how does the owner know you?”
“I've been coming here for almost a month now.” John inhaled deeply.
“When?” Phil leaned closer. He and John had been having lunch together for almost five years now, and Zara, Phil's better half, had long ago issued a standing invitation for dinner. An invitation that John, more often than not, took them up on, “For breakfast?”
“No. I come up around midnight and have a cup of coffee. Maybe a snack.” John said, watching the kitchen door.
“And when pray tell do you sleep?”
“Here and there.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“I told you, a month, give or take.”
Angie returned with their coffees, she set Phil's down before him, “One black.”
He grunted a thank you.
She set down John's, “And sweets to the sweet.”
“Flattery will not affect the size of your tip young lady.” he grinned, trying to avoid Phil's blistering gaze.
“So, have you gents decided on anything?” the pad and pen where in hand again.
John began, “I'll have the deluxe burger, make that-”
“Up and walking, yes I know. And how about your quiet friend here?”
“I'll have a BLT, hold the T.”
“Okay.” she scribbled it down, “And listen, I'll see if I can get the cook to give you a little extra bacon to make up for the tomato.”
“Thanks.” Phil didn't speak again until she was well out of earshot, “What in the Holy Hell is going on here?”
“Try the coffee, it's good.”
“Fuck the coffee, I wanna know what you’re up to.”
John shrugged his shoulders, “I can’t sleep. I come up here to kill some time.”
“Is that all John?” Phil leaned in closer, his voice an angry whisper, “Is that really all?”
“Yes.” John frowned and took another sip from his cup.
“I can’t have you drawing attention.”
“Don't worry.” John said, “I’m all right. I’ve been on my best behavior. It’s just insomnia.”
Phil took a swig of coffee, “It better be.”