Last Meal

"I'm a business man, detective. I put in work just like the rest of you."

Last Meal

"Everyone's in place?"

"Affirmative," said a voice in his ear piece.

Detective Salazar stared into the transparent walls of the diner while standing across the street underneath a blinking street light. The air was unbearably cold, but his focus was fixed on the man sitting by himself at the booth in the middle of the diner.

The man casually drank his coffee with both his hands on the cup. He seemed inconspicuous enough; nothing about his horn-rimmed glasses and grey zip-up jacket gave any casual passerby the reason to be concerned of his presence. But Detective Salazar knew the truth, and tonight he was finally going to take him down.

He exhaled as he walked towards the diner. "I'm about to enter," he said into his ear piece. He opened the diner door and stopped when he heard the bell ring indicating someone had entered the restaurant.

The sound caught the attention of the man, whose eyes shot towards the door. His facial expression remained the same as he watched Salazar walk towards his booth and take a seat in front of him.

"Salazar," he said.

"Anderson Ward," said Salazar. "We meet at last."

"Perfect timing too," Ward said, "I'm just waiting for my food. Won't you join me?"

"That was the plan." The detective didn't seem like he was falling for any kind of ruse that Ward had up his sleeve.

"It's been inexplicably cold lately," Ward began. "Nothing a nice cup of coffee can't fix."

"You killed him," Salazar accused. "I'm surprised you've been so nonchalant about presenting yourself in public."

Ward laughed lightly, yet menacingly. "No small talk then? It's not one of those?"

"Why did you do it?" Salazar interrogated.

"I guess not." Ward let go of his coffee, sat up straight, and stared out the window.

"What was your relationship to Arthur McMillan?" Salazar was growing impatient, and Ward could sense it in the tone of his voice.

"Artie was a friend of mine," he answered.

"Some friend you are."

Ward shook his head. "I gave him what he needed the most: a chance to provide for his family. I'm all about family, detective. Anything I could do to help out."

"Then why did you do it?" Salazar asked again. "What did you possibly have to gain?"

"I suppose there's no use in trying to run anymore," Ward assumed. "I see you have Detective Campbell seated a couple booths behind me, and another officer waiting in your police car that's parked outside."

Ward waved to the officer outside.

"And there can be more coming soon if you don't cooperate," warned Salazar.

"Very well." Ward shrugged and cracked his fingers. "But first, I'm starving."

The waitress arrived at the table with a plate of biscuits and gravy and another plate full of bacon, eggs, and hash browns.

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" asked the waitress.

"No thank you, this is perfect," Ward said.

The waitress left. Salazar stared at Ward in disbelief.

"No more games, Ward," he began, "I need answers right now."

"Alright detective, since you've been so patient..." Ward stuffed his mouth with eggs while he spoke. "Artie knew too much."

"About what?"

"Everything," Ward said, pointing to his surroundings with his fork and knife. "He was only supposed to take out a loan, not snoop around my business endeavors."

"You mean your gang business?" accused Salazar.

Ward exhaled. "I'm not a gangster, despite what the media might have you believe, detective. I was never fond of the label to begin with."

"And what exactly would you prefer?" Salazar asked, leaning in towards him.

"Visionary?" Ward shrugged. "No, that's too cliche. It makes me sound like a movie villain. I'm a businessman, detective. I put in work just like the rest of you."

"The rest of us aren't murderers."

"Oh please," Ward sat back in his seat. "Everyone murders, just not with their hands. Everyone has murdered someone in their thoughts. Everyone has murdered with their eyes. It's the murderous daydreams people have that keep them from actually carrying out their violent ideas."

"There's nothing more violent and unjust than physically killing a man," Salazar argued.

"Perhaps," Ward began. "Maybe you're just not getting it. You need to open your mind, detective."

"I'm doing just fine the way I am, thank you very much."

"Then I guess I'm just losing it, aren't I?"

Salazar laughed. "I guess that's one place to start."

"Well what do you expect?" Ward asked. "Running a restaurant by yourself really takes a toll on you."

Salazar squinted his eyes at Ward until his heart suddenly sank in his chest. He broke his focus on Ward and peered over the criminal's shoulder to find that Detective Campbell was no longer sitting a couple booths down.

Suddenly, he heard a gun shot outside and turned to see smoke coming out of his police car. Salazar could feel his heart beat pounding in his head.

Salazar turned back to Ward and grabbed him by his collar.

"Where are they?" he growled.

"Unhand me!" Ward exclaimed. "This is a new shirt."

Salazar only tightened his grasp, choking Ward. "What have you done?"

Before Ward could answer, a heavy bottle of wine came crashing down on Salazar's head. His upper body collapsed onto the table as he lay unconscious. The waitress stood over him and threw what was left of the shattered bottle behind her.

Ward straightened himself up and got up from the booth.

"You take too long playing with your victims," said the waitress.

"I was still enjoying my food," Ward said, looking down at the two empty plates. "You have to enjoy each meal like it's your last."

The waitress rolled her eyes. "What do you want me to do with him?"

"Take him to the back," answered Ward. "I'll be back in a bit. I'm in the mood for some dessert."

He made his way out the diner and disappeared into the dark, cold night.

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Jonathan Miciano

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