Demons Don't Eat Pie
The weird ones always come in after midnight.
The weird ones always come in after midnight.
That’s what my boss told me on my first day at Marty’s All-Night Diner. And he was right. But weird doesn’t always mean bad. I’ve worked the dead eye shift here at the diner for about six months now and while we definitely have some real doozies come in overnight, I can honestly say that most of the folks are just plain folks trying to get by like the rest of us. Some work the late shifts; some just like to be out at night. Less people to deal with, one of my regulars once told me. But that’s not my experience. There’s a whole culture out at night, they’re simply different people than the ones that live their lives in the daytime. Different. That’s a nice way of saying weird, I guess. So, like I said, my boss was right. I had the chance to work the morning shift a few months back and I tried it. I did the coffee and tie crowd with their non-spill tumblers and bagels. Wasn’t really for me. I even tried the early evening shift once with all the tennis skirt wearing soccer moms. Definitely not my scene. Then I realized that I liked the crazies and late shifters. As it turned out, I was one of the weird ones my boss had warned me about. I’m ok with that. Last night though…last night was different.
I was running late again, like I always am, so I didn’t really notice how empty the parking lot was when I got there. But, after I got in and got settled into my night, I looked around and the place was empty. I mean, it happens sometimes. Usually it’s the weather, or a big ball game in town. Tonight, it was just dead…maybe a dozen customers in the whole place. So, I went over and put some of the tip jar change in the juke box and loaded up about an hour’s worth of 80’s music. If you’re going to be bored, might as well be bored with some great tunes, right? We were about forty-five minutes into my play list, about halfway through Eye of the Tiger, when the first one came in the side door. He was tall and thin to the point of looking sick, like some of the cancer patients we have come in from time to time after their treatment at the Cancer Center down the block. He was dressed all in dark clothes with an old timey hat pulled way down over his eyes. It really didn’t match, the hat I mean. First, you just don’t see too many guys wearing hats like that anymore. It was a brown businessman hat like they wore in the forties. An Indiana Jones hat, you know? Second, it didn’t match anything else he had going on. If he had been in a suit, maybe. But this guy had a ragged overcoat on over dirty clothes. It was pulled tight to his body and fell almost to the floor. There was something off about him right from the start; he was weird in way I wasn’t accustomed to.
He moved to the far corner booth and sat himself down heavily. Great, my table I said to nobody in particular. But hey, I tip’s a tip, you know? I moved towards him, coffee pot in hand…they always want coffee…and was about to give my normal greeting when he looked up from the table. He looked me in the eyes. I stopped. I froze, is more accurate. A chill didn’t just run down my back; I whole army of chills did laps around my entire nervous system. He didn’t say a word, he just looked at me. I shook off the heebie jeebies he gave me and moved as close as I could make myself get.
“Looks like we might get some rain tonight,” I said. “I guess we could use it.” I paused for a reaction. Usually I get something. Not this guy, he looked at me without any kind of emotion. Ok, not a talker. Gotcha. “Well anyway, what can I get you? Hot….”
“Coffee. Black. Please.” His voice wasn’t like a voice at all. It was like two animals fighting. A gravelly screech that just happened to form into words. I was sure my fear was written all over me like one of the flashing neon lights hanging in the window.
“Coffee. Black. Got it. Do you, uh, want to see a menu or something? We have great, uh, pie. Apple. If you like apple,” I stumbled through my usual pitch. He just glared at me from under the hat. “Coffee. Black. Please,” he repeated. I turned over the coffee cup we leave on the table…like I said, everyone gets coffee…and filled his cup.
“Thank you, Marianne. Most kind,” he graveled out. It took me until I was almost back to the counter before I realized I hadn’t told him my name. I don’t even go my that name. I go by Mari. My name tag just says “M”. The fear gripped me in a way I’ve never felt; I became cold all the way to my core of my being, and I began to shake.
“Mike, I’ll be back in a sec,” I managed to say to my grill guy, somehow without crying.
“Take ya time, doll,” he said over his shoulder. “I’ll be here when ya get back,” he said. It’s what he always said.
I went into the back through the swinging double doors and pushed myself against the wall. Slowly, I peeked out one of the small windows in the doors. He was still there sipping his coffee. He didn’t appear to be looking around for me…or to even care. Maybe I heard him wrong, I thought. Maybe I just thought he’d said my name. Maybe he said, “thank you there, man,” and not Marianne at all. I had almost convinced myself of that ridiculous explanation when he turned his head towards the backroom. He smiled. His mouth was a thin line without lips. They didn’t open, but I heard him say “It is Marianne, isn’t it?” It sounded like it was coming from behind me, from all around me. Still, his mouth never moved. I turned away from the door and slid my back down the wall beside the cherries. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. That’s all I could think. Tears were welling up in my eyes when Mike thundered through the doors. I screamed. Mike screamed. Then, he grabbed his chest and pretended to have a heart attack. “Damn, doll! You ‘bout put me in the ground that time,” he said laughing. He stopped when he saw I was crying. “Hey, hey…I didn’t mean to scare ya. You ok?” Mike helped me up and I explained what happened with the guy in the corner booth. Mike was mad. He liked to think he was my protector at night. Not just me, but all the girls on the red eye; he took care of us. He told me to stay in the backroom and he’d speak to the “spooky asshole”. I watched through the cracks around the doors as he approached the guy with the hat and leaned in on the table in front of him.
“You got a problem, pal? Because you’re freakin’ my waitress out and I don’t like that,” Mike said raising his voice.
“I have no problem, Michael. But I like your shirt,” the man said to Mike.
“Oh, you do, do you?”
“Yes, yes. But it’s missing something, Michael,” he added.
“My shirt…is missing something? You kidding me? You think this is a joke? Well, let me tell you something…,” Mike was stopped short as the man pulled a short, slender blade from within his coat and slashed quickly across Mike’s neck. The blood saturated down the front of Mike’s stained white t-shirt almost instantly. Mike’s eyes showed surprise first, then horror as the realization of what happened set in. He tried, but couldn’t speak, the cut was too deep. Mike slid down into the booth across from the man and then onto the floor.
“There. That’s better. I do prefer bright red to plain white. Don’t you Marianne?” The man sipped his coffee loudly before turning his head towards the backroom.
It only took the other diners a moment to process what they had just seen. They all ran for the doors at once, only to find them unable to be opened. Not locked, just immovable. Panic set in and everyone moved to the opposite corner of the diner. Several people were calling 911 and others were recording the scene playing out in front of them. I stepped out of the backroom and moved to join them, safety in numbers and all that. Before I could get out from behind the counter, the man in the hat raised his arm in my direction and I stopped moving. I was trying, but my body just wasn’t cooperating. The man in the hat stood and faced me, with his coffee still in one hand and the other pointing at me. He lifted his hand and I felt myself rise off the floor. He jerked his hand into a fist, and I flew against the wall behind the counter, motionless. I hung there helpless about four feet off the floor. I looked at my customers, wide eyed with fear, but all I could see were cell phones held up recording me.
“Come on, people,” I said as fear was, at least momentarily, was replaced with anger. “What the hell?” Tears fell down my face in big drops now.
“What the hell, indeed. That is an…accurate…question, Marianne,” the man said, now just a half dozen feet away, before slurping his coffee again. “Don’t be too hard on them, Marianne. They are cattle. Fearful. Cowardly. Do you know what cattle is good for, Marianne?” he paused.
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t.
“That’s alright, I’ll help you. Cattle is good for one thing, Marianne. Slaughter.” At this, he turned towards the customers. They screamed. He laughed. He stepped towards them, but then turned back to me. “Hang on a minute, I’ll be right back to you. In a second…or two.”
Have you ever heard a gunshot inside a building? It’s nothing like you might imagine, nothing like the movies. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of the blast and for a moment I couldn’t hear anything at all. I looked at the man in the hat, thinking it had come from him, only to see a large piece of his coat explode out the front of him splattering the customers with dark crimson. He grabbed at his chest, his hands slick with his own dark blood, and turned quickly to face the side door behind him. My eyes followed his and that’s when I saw the second one. Another man in a hat and a long coat. His squinted eyes never left the dark man’s, a large revolver still smoking in his hand. He said, “you ok?”
“Me?” I was lost for a second. “Are you asking me…or him?” The new stranger smiled a tight smile and said, “Well, I shot him, kid. So, as you can imagine, I’m not so much concerned about his well bring. You on the other hand are hanging on the side of a wall. Are you ok?”
“Deacon,” the dark man growled drawing the new stranger’s attention back to him. “John. Whatever are you doing here? What a pleasant surprise,” he said doing his best to keep pressure on the gaping wound in his chest. He turned to me and said, “if you’ll excuse me a moment, my dear. My friend here as caught me at a bit of a disadvantage.” He turned back to the gunman. “It is good to see you, old friend. You’re looking tired. Have you been sleeping enough; it’s so important you know.”
“I’m glad you’re pleased,” the gunman said. “And I’ll sleep just fine once I know you’re back where you belong. Why don’t you let the nice girl down off the wall and let these folks go on their merry way? So, we can…talk. Just the two of us. Old friends.”
“Oh, John. If you wanted talk, all you had to do was ask. I had coffee. There was plenty more and I’m happy to share. You didn’t have to ruin my coat like that. These aren’t easy to find anymore, you know,” said the man in dark clothes. “Still, I suppose it is a small price to pay to see an old friend such as yourself.”
“I don’t have time to play games, demon,” the gunman said. “Put the girl down or the next shot is going to ruin your hat.”
“No time, eh? Here on borrowed time, are we?”
Another shot rang out, this time jerking the man’s head sharply, sickeningly, back and knocking his hat across the diner. Another crimson blast covered the cowering customers, this time with pieces of gray, mottled flesh in it. The demon, as the new stranger had called him, climbed back to his feet, and turned towards me. I could see the customers behind him through the oozing hole the bullet had sheared through his head. I could see his face, at least what was left of it, clearly now. It wasn’t just his clothes that were dark and gray; his flesh and hair were the same washed out color. His eyes are black without any white visible at all and his teeth were jagged and yellow. He managed a smile, released his clenched fist, and allowed me to drop to the ground. He turned to the gunman and gestured with outstretched arms.
“There. Happy now, John?”
“Getting there. You know the deal, turn around and face the counter, arms behind your back,” he said to the demon.
“Fine, fine. I’ll go with you, John. Peaceably. If you allow me a word with Marianne,” the demon said. “I’ll be brief.”
New fear ran through me and I almost vomited on the spot.
“Not going to happen,” said the gunman. “Turn around, face the counter, hands behind your back…now.”
“How many, do you think, I can kill before you put me down, John? It’s just a curiosity, of course, but I count ten total. I believe I can kill at least…let’s say…seven of them before you can unload your sidearm and stop me. Or you can allow me a moment with the girl. What do you think, Marianne?”, his attention turning back to me. “Is it worth the danger to save seven lives? Do you accept the risk? It really is quite important.” The demon was looking back and forth between me and gunman. Are you kidding, I thought? These people didn’t lift a finger to try and help me. Nobody helped Mike. They were too busy filming it all for Instagram to care.
“Yes,” I said, “I’ll…I’ll take the risk.” I said it, but I couldn’t believe I said it. “It’s ok,” I said to the man the demon called John.
“Your funeral, kid” was his reply as he pulled a second, smaller revolver and cocked it. He aimed both guns at the demon and said, “you have your moment. Do it now.”
The demon made an exaggerated gesture of appeasement, licked his palm, and slicked back his greasy gray hair. In an instant he was over me, face to face. His breath was hot and smelled like coffee. And not in a good way. He smiled as a drop of his blood dripped out of the hole the last bullet had put at the base of his hairline and landed on my cheek.
“Thank you, Marianne. I felt like I needed to answer you. It’s important that you know, after all,” he was nose to nose with me now. He moved to whisper in my ear; I held my breath. “The truth is demons don’t eat pie. And I do not like Apple. Not at all.” He smiled and turned back to John. “I am yours, Marshall. All yours. Goodbye, Marianne. At least for now…,” he dipped his head in a mock bow of respect.
“Enough,” the gunman said as he placed a pair of elaborately engraved handcuffs on the demon and turned to walk him out of the diner. He stopped just short of the door, looked back over his shoulder at me, and said, “can I get some that coffee to go? Black?” Still in shock, I got up and poured him a cup of black coffee in one of our Marty’s All-Night Diner Styrofoam cups and handed it to him.
“Thanks,” he said. I guess habit took over and I replied, “Have a good night, and thanks for stopping in at Marty’s.”
He just smiled and walked out of the diner, demon in tow. Everyone else in the place stood up and ran to leave through the other door, as far from the two strangers as they could get. Can’t blame them too much, I thought. They’re just cattle. The thought made me feel better for some reason.
I waited for the police to arrive and told them a version of what happened. Not an accurate one, I knew they wouldn’t believe me and nobody else was talking. Cattle. They took the information down for their reports and offered to call me an ambulance. I declined; Mike was dead so I still had to lock up before I could go home for the night. I think I may call in sick tomorrow and stay home. After all, the weird ones always come in after midnight.
About the author
I fight the good fight. I still believe that good beats evil, everytime, and the good guys are humble and brave. Old fashioned? Maybe. Delusional? Probably. Just imagine if we all lived in that delusion...come on, join me here in the sun.