CHAPTER FIVE

"Lucifer?" Andy asked the cook. He was staring the sandwich board. Which wasn't difficult, as it was staring him in the face a mere 10 inches from his nose.

"Yeah, I know," the cook said. "I get that all the time-"

"Look, Luscious," Sue interrupted.

"Lucifer, dear." Andy corrected her. "But he prefers to be called, 'Lou.'

"Whatever." She said, dismissing Andy's comments with a wave of her hand. "Look, you...cook man. Our car went off the road somewhere in this godforsaken hellhole. We need to get to a working phone. I assume there must be such a thing around here. You can't be that backwards."

"Cook man?" Andy said, raising an eyebrow. "You're making him sound like some kind of barbecuing super-hero."

"Oooh, how cool would that be?" The cook looked at the waitress and they both nodded in agreement.

"Your family barbecue is going up in flames," Lou intoned manfully, flexing a muscle, 'but never fear, Cook-Man is here!" His eyes twinkling with humor, he smiled at Andy. "How do you think I'd look in a flowing magenta cape?"

"Magenta?" Andy asked.

"Yeah," Lucifer answered, "I think a blue cape would clash with the yellow on my sign board. Magenta and yellow would look really cool together, don't ya' think?"

"Will. You Both. Shut. Up." Sue hissed through gritted teeth. She started massaging her temples."Bottom line people, is that we need to get our car out of the snow. I want to get back on the road to Vermont sometime before I die of old age."

"Well, that might be a wee bit of a problem, lassie." Came a distinctly Scottish voice from behind them.

Andy and Sue turned around to see the fake Australian guy standing there.

"Wait a minute. I thought you were supposed to be an Aussie." A baffled Andy said. "Now you're Scottish?"

"Oh. Er—no, mate. I'm as Australian as coconuts." The fake Australian guy said, blushing with embarrassment and immediately correcting his accent.

"They don't have coconuts in Australia." the waitress turned and said to the young man. "Do you have some kind of a coconut fetish? Have you ever used them to sexually assault someone?"

"Did I say coconuts? I must've been riding my brumby in that blazing outback sun too long, sheila. I meant koalas. I'm as Australian as a koala bear." He paused. A smile came to his lips. "Though I do rather like the feel of a smooth, round coconut in my hand once in a while..."

"OK, tell me the truth. Please. For the sake of my sanity. If you're not from Australia, where are from?" Andy persisted.

"Well, I am from down under...kind of...I guess... " The young man shrugged. He said lamely, I mean, in a round about way I am from south of here." the fake Aussie said, shyly.

"How far south?" Andy queried.

"New Jersey. OK? I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. Satisfied now?" The young man admitted defiantly in a strong New Jersey accent. Then he flashed Andy a determined grin. "But my heart will always belone to the outback, mate." He affirmed in his fake accent.

"Sure. I understand." Andy smiled at the young man warmly. He winked and said in his own version of a fake Australian accent, "Good on ya', mate!"

"OK, I think I understand now." Sue said, rubbing her temples in frustration. "Somehow in the storm, a bus load of asylum inmates crashed, and you all are the escapees, right?"

"Hey, ain't we all just prisoner's of our own life man?" Came a querulous voice from the end of the counter. It was the old man dressed like a refugee from the disco era.

"That's right Frank!" Lou told the old man. He looked up at the ceiling piously. "But the Lord will set us free."

"Oh, do put a sock in it, Lou." Came a thin, frail voice. Andy gazed in that direction. It was the elderly woman with the posh dress and feather boa, who was sitting next to Frank.

"Oh come on, Boris. You know I mean no harm. I'm just trying to help save a few souls." Lou said.

"Boris?" Andy said to himself, raising his eyebrows.

He looked again. Now that the old woman was facing him, Andy could tell that she was a cross-dresser. And she—or he, Andy had never been certain what the politically correct term was. Boris was looking back at him, rather timidly.

"Good evening. Erm-nice dress." Andy said, giving Boris a welcoming smile. Cross dressers never bothered him. He'd grown up in Greenwich Village and got his first job in New York's fashion district. "The color really suits you."

For that remark, Andy got a sharp jab in the ribs from his wife.

"Oh, for god's sake!" she whispered, "Don't encourage these people! What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking they're just people." Andy whispered back. He was beginning to feel a bit cross with his wife's attitude. "They've done nothing to make me treat them disrespectfully."

Sue silently gave her husband the wifely equivalent of the evil eye. She dove her hand into her purse. Yanking out her wallet she took took out a twenty dollar bill. Sue waved it at the waitress with what she probably thought was a friendly smile pasted to her face.

"You probably don't make many tips in this jerkwater diner. Am I right, sweetie? Tell you what. I'll give you this twenty if you just give me ten minutes on a telephone. That's two dollars a minute. I bet you can buy yourself a real nice fake police badge with that." Sue rattled off encouragingly.

"Ysss—wasping ysss—time." said the elderly cross-dresser at the end of the counter.

"What's he...it, saying?" Sue questioned the waitress, throwing a distasteful glance in Boris' direction.

"He says that you're wasting your time sheila. Like I was trying to tell ya', before I got sidetracked about my geographic origins." The fake Aussie guy said. "In case you hadn't noticed, we're in the mountains. The nearest tower is miles away. It's a dead zone here. No signal." Jerking his thumb in the direction of the phone booth, he added, "And the diner's phone hasn't worked in ages."

For the first time, Sue was nearly close to panic. Andy could see her face go pale. Her eyes widened in shock at the thought of being deprived of a phone for more than an hour or two. For who knew how long?

Outside, the wind picked up. Andy could hear the greasy, oily hissing of the wind-driven ice pellets battering the glass windows. The night was pitch black. Nothing could be seen of the outside world beyond the pale golden light of the windows. It was as if this was the last place on earth which still harbored life. For some reason, that thought suddenly made Andy shudder.

"Hey!" the cook suddenly exclaimed.

He startled Andy out of his gloom, nearly making him fall off his stool.

"What're we doing just standing around here, Johnson?" Lou asked his waitress jovially. " These folks'll likely be hungry. I bet you two haven't eaten for hours. And Frank and Boris need their cups re-filled. "What about you, mate?" he addressed the fake Aussie guy, who had sat a few stools down from Sue and Andy.

"Well...I am feeling a mite peckish. Maybe Detective Johnson can bring me a slice of that Dutch apple pie you got over there in the dessert display. Oh. Sorry." 'Mate' amended when the waitress glared at him. "I clean forgot, shelia." He said to Lou, I'll have some pie when your waitress—who isn't an undercover detective, gets a chance."

"Say Frank," Lou said, walking over to the outdated disco granddad, "why don't you go put a quarter in the juke box? It's quiet as a cemetery in here." He reached into the pocket of his dirty trousers, and pulled out a fistful of change, handing it to Frank.

"Don't forget, Jesus Saves!" Lou shouted, as he headed back into the kitchen, expertly negotiating his signboard through the swinging doors.

"When he shops at Save-Mart!" Andy called out in reply. He heard Lou's laughter from behind the door.

"Now, have you decided on your order yet?" The waitress flipped open her order pad, and smiled down at Andy.

"I'm still waiting for a cup of coffee." Sue told her. The waitress didn't seem to have heard, so Sie cleared her throat loudly. "Excuse me? Coffee? That hot black stuff you pour into a cup. Me. Want. Some. You. Un-der-stand Eng-lish?" She asked sarcastically.

The waitress arched an eyebrow at her.

"I understand you. Quite clearly. However, as you can see, I am taking your husband's order at the moment. And since I'm not Doctor Who, and don't have the powers to split myself in two or grow another hand, I can only take one order at the time. You'll get your coffee when I'm good and ready to get your coffee." The waitress said dismissively.

"Well you told her." Andy said under his breath, trying to hide his grin by turning to look at the Jukebox.

Music suddenly came from the old jukebox. It was an oldie from the early 1960's that Andy remembered from playing his parent's record collection.

"When's the devil gonna' get me? 'Cause I've been soooo-baaadd, Lost and alone without you, I feel so saaad ..."

A gust of icy wind suddenly seemed to blow through the diner. It made a shiver go down Andy's spine. He looked around but didn't see any sign of an open door or window. Still, a lingering coldness suddenly sat within him. He couldn't fathom why. But all too soon, he would find out.