Shootout At The Grilparzer Cafe

Estellita didn't like the look of the place, but we had little choice. After driving all day, we desperately needed to stop somewhere and refuel, not to mention empty our bladders. Well, I'd told Estellita bringing a six-pack was a bad idea.

The sign out front was hard to read--Grilparzer Cafe or something like that. "What the heck's a Grilparzer?" Estellita muttered as I helped her out of the ball-turret. Both of us checked up and down the road with our binoculars, but there was no sign of any other vehicles. And none of the buildings near the Cafe were large enough to conceal anything with real combat capability. There were some self-serve pumps outside, so we filled up the tank and then went inside.

There were several other customers inside, which surprised both of us. They couldn't all live in that little house we'd seen out there, and they certainly hadn't walked this far out. After a minute, we decided to play it cool and sit at a table. I would have preferred a booth, but they were all already occupied.

Our waitress had the look of a transsexual who hadn't bothered to fix up her face. I swear, she looked more masculine than I did. "How-do," she said, putting greasy menus in front of us. "Name's Marybeth."

"Garp," I said. "And this is Estellita." They weren't the names we'd used last time we came through here, so I figured we were fairly safe. Marybeth looked at us strangely and then left. I guess, in retrospect, that most of her customers didn't introduce themselves to her. Heck, by the looks of this road, she couldn't get many customers out here at all.

I kept catching the eye of one of the other patrons. There was more than mere curiosity in his eye. I finally decided on the straightforward approach. "What're you starin' at?"

He seemed startled when I spoke. "Just tryin' to figger where I saw you 'fore, stranger," he said. His voice sounded vaguely familiar, but I just put it down to my familiarity with that accent and turned back to the menu.

We had just ordered--I had a mushroom burger, a real delicacy these days--when I heard a strange sound coming from outside. It took me a moment to place it, and when I did, I stood up real fast. Not fast enough, though--there were three guns on me and Estellita by that time. Damn. Why the hell hadn't I thought of choppers?

"We got you this time," the guy said, and now I recognized him. Andre Garthwaite. He'd grown a beard, which covered up that ugly scar I'd given him last time. "Garp and Estellita, eh? Pretty names. But somehow you remind me just a bit too much of Edris & Darla Bartow, know what I mean? But I'm sure it's all just a mistake, and once we check your fingerprints with the kit in the chopper, we'll apologize and send you on your way." Hadn't lost his sense of humor, I guess.

Marybeth had the good timing to arrive just then with the mushroom burgers, and I flipped the tray upward at Andre and ducked just as he shot my lunch full of holes. Then I picked up a chair and cracked it over his head. Estellita took one in the shoulder, but she had her shiv out and gave the guy a hole in his neck before he could get off another one. The chopper-sound was getting louder. We had to get out of here before they landed with reinforcements.

Marybeth, god bless her, clubbed the other gunman with an ashtray, and blew us a kiss as we ran out the door. The chopper was landing out back of the cafe, and by the time they got inside the cafe to find their friends out for the count, we were half a mile down the road and raising a cloud of dust. They'd probably catch up to us in a few minutes, but Estellita and her universal turret had a nasty surprise for them.

<Blair P. Houghton gave me

Garp
Grilparzer
Ball-turret
Transsexual
>

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com