VORTEX — MC Diner Trilogy: Book 3

About VORTEX

A powerful conclusion to the MC Diner trilogy wrapping up all the loose ends including the real reason behind the massive gold robbery. This final book leaves no doubt God is in control even at times when things seem the most bleak. And how he can use evil situations crafted by man for the overall good of man.

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CHAPTER 1 UNEXPECTED

The M-C Diner breakfast crowd cleared out. May Fredrickson, owner and chief cook, stood alone in her grief, which began yesterday following her doctor visit. She cleaned the tables with gusto and occasionally kicked a chair leg out of frustration. Her mind whirled with deep yearning to have children. She and Charlie, her husband, had been trying for over a year with no results. When was the doctor going to call with the results? What was taking so long? How’d he like waiting? She threw the scrub rag halfway across the diner.

After retrieving the rag, she walked behind the counter to put the scrub bucket and rag away. The ringing phone startled her. The caller ID said “Spamsville Clinic”. Her heart beat faster. “May Fredrickson.”

“This is Debbie, a nurse from Doctor Palette’s office. I’m sorry to say, the tests confirmed the doctor’s suspicions. You are unable to conceive. Is there anything else I may help you with?”

Talk about being blunt. Her feelings turned from hope to complete despair. She grabbed the counter to keep from falling and covered her mouth to keep from screaming. There were a million questions she wanted to ask, but could not. She barely answered, “No.”

“Have a nice day.” The phone went dead.

She bounced the phone off the counter. “Why’d anyone say ‘have a nice day’ after telling someone they’ll be motherless? What a dumb nurse. I could brain her. How would she like to be treated like that?” She looked around curious if anyone heard her. She collapsed onto a diner chair and buried her head in her hands.

Her heavy heart yearned for Charlie, who left early yesterday for a three-day church conference. There was no one to share her deep pain. She folded her hands and prayed. Dear Lord, how do I tell Charlie? What are we going to do? Will he still love me? How do I know the doctor was right? Charlie’s a minister and I believe. Why did this have to happen to us? She dropped her head back into her hands and wept some more. At least it’s roughly an hour and a half before the lunch crowd starts to arrive. The diner door opened and closed. Good grief, give me a break. Come on. How much can I take? She wiped at her eyes before she checked out the person who entered.

An older woman stood in the open doorway. “Excuse me; is the diner owner around?”

May rose from the chair, walked toward the person, and extended her hand. “I’m May Fredrickson. My husband Charlie and I own this diner. May I help you?”

The semi-plump woman wearing a red-checkered dress and white apron extended her hand. “I’m Nadine McQueen. I saw the help wanted sign in the window.”

“I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before. Are you new in town?”

“No. My husband Clyde and I’ve lived here for several years. I’ve never been in your diner before, but Clyde used to come in a lot.”

“Sure, I knew Clyde. You have my condolences. He was a great person.”

“Thanks.”

May nodded. “Clyde, along with his other buddies, Mort, Ben, and Jake, were the welcoming committee when I first came to town, after my uncle passed away and willed this diner to me.”

Nadine chuckled. “And you stayed?”

May laughed in return in spite of all the internal turmoil she was feeling. “Would you like something to drink, some coffee, milk, or some kind of soda?”

“Sure. Black coffee would be fine.”

“Why don’t you grab a seat there?” May pointed to the table in the corner.

Nadine moved to the table, and May went to the back bar to retrieve the coffee pot and two clean cups. Lord, how do I get through lunch? My legs feel like jelly.

When May came back to the table, Nadine had some papers laid out for her. She moved them toward May. “Here’s some stuff I wrote down about myself to help you make your decision.”

May pushed the papers off to the side. “So, tell me why do you want to work here, especially in this old diner now when there are so many newer places in town?”

Nadine took a sip of coffee, before she set the cup down. “First of all, I wasn’t really job hunting, but with Clyde gone, I felt like I needed something to occupy my time. I saw your sign yesterday when I was on the way back from the bank and thought ‘why not’. I’ve always loved to cook. It’s probably the main reason I’ve never been in your diner—I enjoy my own cooking.”

May noticed Nadine scratch at a small bump on the red linoleum top table. May didn’t pick up her coffee cup. She was afraid her trembling hands would spill it. “Okay, I understand, but why do you want to work here?”

“I’ve lived here in Spamsville, Minnesota most of my life. I have a hard time understanding why this way off the beaten track town had to become a mega resort town. It’s not the same anymore. I remember when your two-story diner building and the half-demolished church were the only buildings in town besides a few houses.” She looked out the window.

May took that pause to take a drink of coffee.

Nadine continued. “I don’t think the town ever developed from the 1800’s until someone got the goofy idea this was a good location for a mega resort. It sure has changed with this glut of new buildings. Your diner has always fascinated me even though I’ve never eaten here.” She paused “But Clyde sure had been in here a great deal. He quite often came home and told me some shenanigans he, Ben, and Mort pulled on each other and how they got you upset.”

May chuckled in spite of her deep pain. “They’re quite a bunch. So when do you want to start?”

Nadine pushed back from the table. “You didn’t read my papers.”

“Will you start tomorrow morning at six o’clock? We’ll give it a three or four day test period.”

Nadine stood up and in her eagerness to shake May’s hand almost dumped the coffee. “Great. I’ll be here at six tomorrow morning and thank you very much. I was wondering if the pretty young lady still works here.”

May’s face lit up, if only for a moment. Behind her smile the clinic’s comments still burned. “You must mean Amy Wentdorf. I wish she were, but she went back to Wyoming and married a wonderful man, Dan, who owns a huge ranch. They’re expecting their first child.”

“Well, good for her.”

After Nadine left, May went to check her face, particularly her red eyes, in the mirror. Her thoughts returned to what the clinic told her and her fear of Charlie’s reaction to it. Why? Why? Why? Her stomach growled and felt like a stampede of cows running though her intestines. No. Not now. I can’t get sick.

The diner door opened. “Morning, May.”

“Hi, Mabel. I hired another cook about half an hour ago. She begins tomorrow morning at six o’clock. She’s Clyde’s wife.”

“Great. We’ve needed some extra help around here for a long time.” She hung up her jacket, stowed her purse under the counter, and tied on her apron.

May turned to the stove, while she struggled to keep her emotions all together. She felt the penetration of Mabel’s eyes and feared she’d get inquisitive, which she did. “May, what’s wrong?”

May shuffled closer to her with her shoulders slumped. Her hands clasped together, and a distant stare. “I received a phone call this morning with very bad news, which I don’t want to talk about.”

“Is Charlie okay?”

May wiped at her tears. “Yes. He’s at a three-day church conference. I wish he were here. I need to talk to him but. . .”

Mabel reached for the coffee pot. “Why don’t you pick up the phone and call him?”

May shook her head and plopped onto a nearby chair. “I hate to talk about serious matters on the phone. I’d much rather see the other person’s facial expressions and body language.”

Mabel wiped her hands on her blue gingham checked apron and waddled to May’s table. In spite of her rotund body, she leaned close. “But, it’s two more days before he’s back, ain’t it? I worry about you keeping whatever it is to yourself for so long.”

“I know it’s probably—” The diner door opened and banged shut. May frowned. “Oh no, it’s Ben.”

Ben headed for his normal table after grabbing a newspaper off a nearby table. He yelled, “Coffee,” and raised his personal gross dented cup high in the air while pulling out his favorite chair.

May shot out of her chair and shoved it back against the table. “Ben, did it ever occur to you to say please, or hello, before you yell ‘coffee’?”

The door slammed shut again. “Coffee, please, hello.”

May spun around to face the new customer and gave him an ugly stare. “Mort, try putting the words in the right order next time. You two are—”

She bit off her words when Mabel said, “I’ll get the coffee. Why don’t you go rest in the back room?”

Once in the back room and after a good cry, she phoned the conference center. “I’d like to speak with a delegate named Charles Fredrickson”

“Just a minute.” The phone was silent. “Hello.”

“Yes. I’m here.”

“I’m sorry, there’s no Charles Fredrickson registered.”

“Fredrickson is spelled F R E D R I C K S O N.”

“Ma’am, I spelled it that way. I’m sorry. He’s not registered. Have a good day.” She hung up.

Once again, May bounced the phone off the counter. She hated that expression. Where was Charlie? Why wasn’t he registered? Was he dead? God what are you doing to me?