Angus rearranged his bulky frame in the uncomfortable hard-backed diner chair. It was not the sort of establishment he was used to frequenting, but needs must. This dump served hot food and was near the airport he needed.
This dive with its sticky tables and laminated menus was in the middle of nowhere. It achieved the oxymoron of looking and feeling both like it was a rundown shack that had been here forever, neglected since a day after opening, and as if it had sprung up overnight – an eatery opened in a hurry with little notice.
There was nothing around it; it must rely on the airfield clientele for business. Angus couldn’t imagine many poor people used private light aircraft, maybe illegal immigrants – so if it was people with similar finances to himself, why was this nearby café such a dump? One of life’s mysteries. Oh well, the mysteries of America would soon no longer be his problem.
He was going properly off grid this time. To a small country less well known than this diner and with a government who didn’t ask too many questions. After living in various European counties and then dotted round the US, he knew this would be his biggest lifestyle adaption yet – but it would be warm, he could live quite luxuriously, and most people spoke English. He couldn’t afford not to move somewhere far flung; he had accidentally ripped off the wrong person this time. He and his latest acquired fortune best scarper.
Angus’ thoughts were interrupted by the approach of a waitress.
“Are you ready to order yet sir?”
A friendly enough statement, but she said it dripping with venom. Angus studied her, she was smiling, but it was so obviously forced she would be better being honest and scowling. Angus was unsure why this woman in her forties, maybe thirties and simply over-worked, with a minimum wage job that probably earned less in a year than his cufflinks cost was giving him attitude. Perhaps he had just answered his own question. Regardless, she shouldn’t bring her personal problems to work and project them onto him, a paying customer. This madam would certainly not be getting a tip.
“All day breakfast please, dear.”
Angus knew the patronising use of dear would irk her, and he saw her eyes momentarily flash with anger before she composed herself and asked him what bread he wanted for his toast and what drink he would like. Angus answered politely and watched with some satisfaction as she scuttled off to the kitchen. He loved getting under people’s skin and one-upping them – no matter how small the victory it always gave him a kick.
Then a thought crossed his mind, he hoped the little wench with the attitude didn’t spit in his food, it was likely to be unsavoury enough from an establishment of this calibre anyway. But he didn’t want to fly hungry and there were no other options. He was just grateful this airfield had a vacancy that could transport him to where he needed to be so last minute, his scheduled flight had been cancelled a matter of days ago; apparently they were suffering mechanical problems and couldn’t guarantee safe passage. Well he couldn’t guarantee his safety in this country anymore. He had been relieved when the incompetents he originally booked with had suggested an alternative.
Angus leant back as the waitress returned with his coffee. She didn’t acknowledge him as she poured. Angus studied her, her uniform didn’t fit, as if she were wearing someone else’, she must be new to the job and feel it beneath her. It couldn’t be anyone’s dream, waitressing in a dump in the arse end of nowhere. Still, she had obviously made bad life decisions and this was the price she had to pay. And if she didn’t buck her ideas about customer care up, she was going to stay poor as she struggled for tips.
Angus glanced round and was surprised by how the diner was filling up. Where were all these customers coming from? There weren’t enough planes for them all to be flying. Had he wandered into the HQ of a secret cult that met in the privacy of the desert?
He looked at the other patrons. They didn’t look rich. Or crazy. They were all steadfastly refusing to look at him, as if acknowledging there was an outsider in their diner, but they would all ignore him by some unspoken agreement.
There was an elderly couple tucking into fish and chips very slowly, massively hampered by the fact they were eating one-handed as they held hands across the table. The lunacy of love – or maybe one of them was scared the other would run off if given the chance.
A young man was reading a newspaper whilst eating his fried breakfast. A middle aged couple were having a hushed conversation over their omelettes. There was a young woman spreading jam over her toast. Another young woman in a nice suit was doing a crossword whilst sipping coffee. And there was another handful of geriatrics dotted about, eating as if they had all the time in the world – well – what else did the coffin dodgers have to do? Angus has never understood why you were supposed to respect the elderly – just because they had been born before you and so far managed to dodge death didn’t make them superior. Although Miss Hoity Toity waitress seemed to like them, she was beaming away as she served them and topped up drinks. Maybe she just didn’t like successful people as they reminded her of her own failures?
Angus shrugged, he was rich and like to enjoy his wealth, he was more than accustomed to jealousy from less motivated and less intelligent people. Blame the rich guy because you want what he has, rather than looking at your own shortcomings. Oh well, he took a sip of his coffee, and had to use all his will power not to spit it out. It was the foulest coffee Angus had ever tasted. It was vile. How did the useless waitress manage to bugger up coffee? It had a bitter edge. Stupid woman. It wasn’t worth the effort to complain though. Soon he’d be sipping cocktails on a private plane off to his new home. His bathroom was bigger than this entire dump. The bitter loser could stay here with her bitter coffee; he had bigger fish to fry.
Angus was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the food was barely better. Way too salty. The numerous old folk filling the tables could not be regulars – no-one who ate here regularly with this diner’s level of salt intake would have made it past their fifties. It did make him suddenly grateful for the coffee, and asked for a water. The idiot waitress defied all expectations of incompetence and managed to serve a substandard glass of water. Angus suspected the slice of lemon dumped in the glass was a bit off.
He had never endured such an abysmal meal, not only was he not going to tip, Angus felt they should pay him for the disgrace they’d claimed to be food. He wasn’t going to kick up a fuss though, he couldn’t afford the police being called on him today of all days. Exasperatedly, he signalled the waitress for the bill.
She brought it over, smiling brightly. Too late to try turn on the charm and get a tip now, Angus thought. She handed him a huge till receipt, longer than his arm, and stood smugly back, arms folded. Had the waitress realised she wasn’t going to get a tip and itemised each item of the breakfast? Had she charged per baked bean?
Huffily, Angus snatched the receipt and unravelled it. He was dumbfounded; listed on it was not his breakfast. Listed was a selection of his crimes.
Mr and Mrs Walker. Scammed out of their pension, £768,000.
Cindy Routledge. Mortgage deposit stolen, £26,200
Harold Archer. Trust fund taken, £4.6 million.
Lauren Clover. Credit card debt of £67, 436
Mr and Mrs Knapp. Property scam, AUS $65,000
So Trang Li. University funds, $30, 640
The list went on. It wasn’t all of his jobs, but it was a pretty comprehensive list. Angus looked up at the waitress. She was smiling daggers at him,
“Kim Thornton, you diverted my house deposit of thirty two grand and made me homeless when you absconded with it.”
Angus realised the restaurant had gone still. Everyone had stopped eating and the cook had come out from the kitchen. They started introducing themselves and what he had taken from them. His latest victim, the one who had caused him to flee this time, walked out of the kitchen in a crisp suit, a delighted look of victory on his tanned face.
Speechless, Angus looked back at the receipt to avoid looking at the judgemental faces whilst he tried to figure this out. Did they just want to embarrass him? Were the police on their way? Were they going to beat him up? Surely not, most were the elderly or women, his preferred con target.
Then he saw the huge subtotal for his listed endeavours at the bottom of the receipt. Followed by a price, to be paid for with your life – how was the food and drink? Today you were served by Karma.
“It’s pretty quick acting poison, so if you have any last words, I’d say them now,” the suited man announced.
Then a painful tingling spread through Angus’ body, and he felt a burning sensation engulf him. His deeds had caught up with him, and he had a tab to settle.