An hour later, I sat in a diner, goading my concerns with coffee and sucking down greasy eggs and toast. This particular diner, known as Mel’s, was one that I sought out from time to time when I needed to do some mulling. I find greasy spoon diners in general, and Mel’s in particular, to be refreshingly mundane, uncomplicated, and unthreatening.
I had asked Mr. Bob for more information concerning the origins of the fish, and he had given it to me with a certain gleeful satisfaction. As he unveiled satellite photos, film clips, and the like, it became more and more clear that the fish did, indeed, have their origin from within the League Complex. I spent some time carefully analyzing the material he presented for forgeries and doctoring, but as near as I could tell, they were genuine. Mr. Bob, for his part, took obvious pleasure in my discomfiture over his information.
The unavoidable conclusion was that Management knew about the fish, and where they were coming from. Management’s control over the Complex was absolute. The question was, why had they assigned me the task of stopping the fish when the ability to do so was almost certainly within their grasp? And why had they lied to me about the origin of the fish? Were they trying to get me killed by throwing me against Mr. Bob? Were they directly responsible for the fish, as Mr. Bob had not unreasonable asserted? Or were they simply complicit in allowing the Complex to be used as the staging area? Despite his actions, was Mr. Bob in cahoots with the League in order to set me up? And where did the other bit players in this drama come in? What of Carver? Or Harold? And what about Roger Binks? Who had hired him to kill me?
These questions, fueled by caffeine, whirled around and around in my mind until I was nearly dizzy. I had to stop going in circles. I took a deep breath and tried to quiet my mind by return my attention to my late-evening breakfast.
As I finished my toast, my thoughts went to the God of Toast himself. Somehow, he was mixed up in all of this as well. And Barbara, too. I wondered how they were involved.
Contemplating Barbara and the God of Toast made me hungry for more delicious, wonderful toast. I signaled the matronly waitress, who moseyed down the bar towards me.
“Yeah?” she said.
“Could I have some more toast, please?” I asked politely.
“Sure hon,” she said with a smile, and walked back into the kitchen.
She did not emerge for some time. When she finally did, she was without toast.
“Sorry honey,” she said to me, a perplexed expression on her face. “Toast’s off.”
A cold chill ran up my spine. “Off? What do you mean?”
“Something’s wrong with the toaster. It heats up and all, but the bread won’t cook.”