WHO HAS THE GOLD? — MC Diner Trilogy: Book 1

About WHO HAS THE GOLD?

A massive gold robbery in obscure southern Minnesota leaves three guards dead. Nancy Abrams is sent undercover to find the thieves  to be brought to justice. A justice she intends to carry out herself for the death of her fiancé--one of the gold shipment guards.

Coming from the east coast, she is ill equipped to handle the barren wasteland of southern Minnesota and the tobacco spitting  yokel locals.

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Nancy Abrams could not sleep with her murdered fiancé, Mark Strand, only three days in the grave and a new assignment taking her far from New Jersey into the boondocks of Minnesota. Her alarm clock rang unnecessarily. She threw it across the room, then covered her head with her hands, and cried. “Why, why, why, did Mark have to be murdered? I’ll never find another man like him. I’ll die an old maid with no kids. I’m already thirty. Why me? Why can’t I be happy?”

The slim feisty five foot-nine inch, tough as nails, redhead struggled off her bed and entered the bathroom. She didn’t want to glance into the mirror, but did. She looked at her beautiful light blue eyes, which always twinkled. They were now two blue islands in a sea of red. She closed them and lowered her head to her waiting hands while “what-if” scenarios raced through her confused mind.

It writhed as it tried to wrap around the poor decision Conglomerate Trust Bank made. She retreated to her bedroom and grabbed the newspaper off the nightstand, to reread it for the umpteenth time.

With rising operating costs, Conglomerate Trust Bank combined three gold shipments and decreased the number of guards.

She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes before continuing.

Management boasted of their decision prior to learning all guards were murdered and $250,000,000 in gold missing. How it happened along the southwestern edge of Minnesota, where nothing exists, remains a mystery. The bank’s decision of shipping gold through the friendly Midwest with less than adequate guards backfired. An investigation is underway.

She slammed the newspaper to the floor and stomped on it.

In about an hour, her life as Nancy Abrams, Conglomerate Trust Bank operative would end. Her new life as May Stevens, owner of a rundown diner, would begin. She spoke to the empty apartment, “Did you know I jumped at the chance to go undercover in order to find the thieves and bring them to justice. Ha. The company wants justice. I want revenge for Mark’s death. None of them will stand trial. I’ll pass final judgment and carryout the execution. You can count on it. Do you hear me you lowlife creatures? I’m on my way and there is no place to hide.”

Three days later, she arrived at a small dusty airport, as close as she could fly to Spamsville, MN and found the car right where her boss, Jason McCall, told her it would be.

She followed the detailed map for forty miles before she called Julie, her close college friend and confidant. “You would not believe the car the office gave me. Dust is billowing up through the floorboards. The radio’s volume knob is missing, and the windshield has two diagonal cracks. Oh, oh, I almost forgot to tell you, the rear bumper is missing.” She reached for her pistol lying on the seat and checked the magazine.

“Come on. Are you putting me on?”

“That’s not all. There is only one windshield wiper and it’s on the passenger side. Julie, quit laughing.”

“I don’t believe you for one minute. Take a picture and send it to me.”

May chuckled. “Okay, so it’s not quite as bad as I said. But, it’s two years old, not new like mine.”

“I wonder if I’ll ever understand you and your warped sense of humor. You are on a mission to capture Mark’s killer and you pull this. You’re weird.”

May swatted a mosquito away from her face. “Anyway, I’m here, but not sure where here is. It’s all the same—nothing. Maybe I’ll live in one of those sod huts. What are they called?”

“A soddy.”

“Yeah, right. You should see this place. It’s rolling grass covered hills and a line of big trees, probably along a river. There is not a building or even a farm fence insight. I did see some cows early on.” She pointed the pistol at a lone scrub oak and imagined it as a bad guy. Her arm shot upward from the pretend shot.

“Hard as I try, I’m having a difficult time visualizing you running a diner out in no-man’s land. Better catch the killers quick before you have to cook something.” Julie giggled.

“That’s not funny. I know how to cook. I’ll have you know, I took a crash course in making coffee, frying eggs and bacon, grilling pancakes and hamburgers” May glanced left and right for something—anything acknowledging civilization.

“Warming coffee in a microwave does not constitute cooking.”

“Julie. Weren’t you listening? I told you, I took a crash course before coming out here.” May glanced in the rear-view mirror. Did she make a wrong turn?

“I forget, where’s ‘out here’?”

“Spamsville, Minnesota. Julie, are you developing senility?” May swiped some of her long red hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear.

“Spamsville? Are you putting me on?”

“No. We kidded about it a couple of times before I left, remember? In fact I mentioned it the night Dick asked you to dance at Sam’s Bar and Grill.” May glanced around, as she drove, hoping for something of value to come into view.

“Okay. I remember, but why such a dumb name?”

“Seems Spam is manufactured somewhere in Minnesota, so who knows who decided this little burg should be named Spamsville.” They both chuckled.

“Is this another story like your rust-bucket car story? I never know when you’re putting me on or telling the truth. Take some pictures and send them to me. This I gotta see. Make sure you get something with the town name on it.”

“Julie, I want you to know how much I love you and our long friendship, but I may be leaving this world.”

“What. What are you talking about?”

“There’s a big monster coming at me.”

“May, are you drinking or smoking some funny weed?”

“Oh, wow. It was only a truck. I thought this was my private highway, or should I call it a dustway?”

“May, all I can say is you better get this assignment wrapped up quick, before you lose the rest of your mind.”

“Oh great.”

“What’s wrong now?”

May half-cried and half-laughed. “The road leading to Spamsville has a hand painted sign scrawled on a battered piece of plywood. It says, ‘Dead End’. Julie, stop laughing, I mean it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. Quite. I’m surprised my cell phone works out here. I hope the diner is not a big sod hut. Julie, quit laughing.” May banged on the steering wheel to let out some of her frustration.

“Nancy—”

“My name is May. What is wrong with you? Why can’t you remember? It could cost me my life.”

“Right. I forgot.”

“I hope someday you’re not staring at me lying in a coffin, saying ‘sorry I forgot’.”

“I’m sorry now, and I’ll repeat your new name over and over in my mind.”

“Thanks. I want to get quick revenge, so I can leave this forsaken place. I was upset before I agreed to take this assignment. Now, after seeing this place I’m boiling.” She pounded the steering wheel.

“May, I’m hoping you find the bad guys and who knows, maybe this assignment will give you time to heal.”

“Julie, I don’t want to heal. I want revenge. There’ll never be another man like Mark. I’ll never marry and have kids. When I find the lowlife who murdered Mark and the others, there’ll be no trial.” She punctuated her proclamation with a fist pump.

“I’ll pray for you, May.”

May wrinkled her eyebrows. “There you go with the religious stuff again. You’re wasting your time.”

“Nancy, if you—”

“It’s May. Why can’t you get it through your head. If you can’t remember, don’t call again. One more slip and we’re history. Got it?”

The phone was silent for a few moments before Julie spoke. “May, I’m sorry. I remember back when you got the name Nancy and I had a hard time calling you that because I had known you for years as Tabatha. Again I’m sorry and I’ll work on it.

“Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. This is absolutely unreal. I hope this is not it. I think I’m living a nightmare. If I live to be a million years old, I couldn’t find the words to describe this place.”

“What is it?”

“They even have one of those old Burma Shave signs.”

“Read it to me.”

“Within this vale, of toil, and sin, your head grows bald, but not your chin, Burma Shave,”

“May, did you just make that up?”

“No. It’s for real. Hey, wait. I see the town, or at least a cemetery. You should see some of these old grave markers from the days of covered wagons. They’re weather-beaten boards. I’m sure no one stopped here for any other reason than to bury their dead.” She glanced in all directions hoping to see something.

“Are you making this up?”

“Sorry, Julie, I dropped the phone. Did you say anything else after asking if I’m making this up?”

“No. I’m glad that’s all it was. I thought we lost the connection.”

“I see the town, or what I think is a town. There are some buildings.” May twirled her index finger in the air in a gesture of whoopee.

“Sounds exciting.”

“Julie, watching grass grow is exciting, not moving to Spamsville.” May adjusted her sunglasses, hoping to get a better view.

“I hear you gasping. What’s going on?”

“I’m trying to maneuver around all the potholes and keep from having the steering wheel ripped from my grip. Wait. I see what I think is the diner—at least I think it’s the diner—is the only two-story building in town.”

“Well, I’m glad you found the metropolis.”

“Julie, my New Jersey bedroom is a metropolis compared to this pathetic burg. They have a church, or I should say they had a church.”

“What do you mean, ‘had a church’?”

“The church’s steeple is half knocked over. You should see the houses. They are small shacks, lining a bunch of dirt roads leading away from the diner.” She faced left and right—hoping.

“I wish I were there.”

“No you don’t.”

“Maybe for a day during daylight hours.”

“Good grief. You should see the rusty old diner sign swinging in the breeze. I’ll send you a picture of this for sure. Hey, wait. There’s three old coots in bib overalls leaning forward in rocking chairs on the front porch. I should jam the car into park, grab my arsenal from the trunk, blow them all away, and leave town.”

“What about the gold?”

The guys rose in mass off their rockers. “Better go now. The gents are moseying over to my car. Oh, dear.”

“What?

“They all chew tobacco and spit. Gross.” May blinked. Her nightmare was getting worse.

“Try it, May, you might like it.”

“Yuck. Gotta go.” Her stomach flipped when one of the gents spit an oversized amount. Mercy.

Another gent with tangled hair and a weathered complexion waved his hand. He smiled showing fewer teeth then more. “Welcome, little pretty lady, to da best town in da Midwest.”

“Yeah, pretty lady, come and sit yea a spell in me rocker,” the tall skinny one said. He hoisted his backside up on the railing.

Another with a heavily tobacco-stained beard stepped forward. “What ya doin’ in this here town anyway? Yea lost?”

May wanted to climb into her car and drive back to civilization, until the pale face of her fiancé lying in a coffin flashed across her mind. “I’m May Stevens. My deceased uncle left me this diner.” She swung her arm in a gesture toward it. Her eyes took it in and she almost lost her lunch. The windows were so dirty she could barely see inside. She saw enough though. Especially the flypaper hanging inside the front door with no room for additional flies. The door itself hung by one hinge with the lower screen ripped clear across. The building’s exterior boasted a spot of paint here and there. She gulped. “And since I’m the new owner, I’m here to take it over.”

The three cronies spun around and scurried down a dirt alley.

May yelled after them, “Hey, what’s going on?”

They didn’t stop. “One shouted over his shoulder, “We’ll be back.”

She stood alone in the road without another car, or person, in sight. Up ahead she noticed the remains of a river bridge. It now lay in ruin with massive cottonwood trees washed against it. Now I understand the hand painted sign.

Before May carried her first load into the diner, the gents were back with four of their buddies. They wore the same vintage worn out bib overalls. The most intelligent appearing one, with the only decently shaved beard, stepped forward. “I’m Ben and dis here is Jake, Mort, Andy, Jeb, Lenny, and Clyde here in da power chair.” They each held out a battered old metal coffee cup, in unison, as if they had practiced. Ben continued, “When will you get da coffee brewing? We ain’t had none, since yer uncle left and got kilt in da plane wreck.”

“Tomorrow morning.”

May surveyed the group. A stranger would be hard pressed to tell one from the other without scrutiny. Ben appeared to be smarter and fatter. Lenny was the tallest and skinny. Andy had bloodshot eyes and was probably a drinker. Jeb stooped over with gnarled hands. Mort had a hard time standing still. His protruding ears added character to his wrinkled face. He had the characteristics of a jackrabbit ready to bound away. Jake could have been cast as Clyde in the Bonnie and Clyde movie except his weathered face resembled a prune on the Mojave Desert floor. Then there was the Spamsville’s Clyde, in a power chair, who had the appearance of a dear sweet man who’d help anybody. May filed all this away in her brain. She shuttered at the enormous job of cleaning the diner, getting it ready to test her new cooking skills, and being chief cook and cup washer for this motley crew. I have to find the gold and get out of here. I’ll give it a week at the most.