When Frank Met Mike
(© Robert Denham)
September 15. 3:43pm.
Severide, Ohio, somewhere south of Cleveland
The Punisher, a single, wild lock of his
slicked, jet-black hair blowing in the slight breeze, stood gazing
indifferently, as he pulled the 1911’s trigger three times, the close-range
impact sending the big Latino tumbling backwards across the worn wicker porch
furniture. Seconds later the door flew open, and another Latino mook stood in
the doorway; "The fuck was tha--"
September 15. 3:21pm
Banks’ Diner, Severide, Ohio
Frank Castle sat in a corner booth of the
rundown diner, enjoying a surprisingly good plate of meat loaf and mashed
potatoes. The dish of buttered green beans with potatoes, ham, bacon and corn
was already gone. He was impressed, because not only was the food good, but
he’d been given a complimentary glass of water when he sat down. He hadn’t seen
that, in probably 25 years.
The young waitress, however, was just, oh, a little less than good at her job,
and not even particularly friendly. He’d hadn’t seen her in the last fifteen
minutes, and could use a refill. He therefore wasn’t planning on leaving her
much of a tip, which was unfortunate, because he had $3500--a thick wad of
fifties and hundreds--in his pocket, spoils from an encounter he’d had with a
hapless, would-be assassin in Columbus…and he’d come in feeling generous.
Music from a local oldies radio station drifted into the dining area from the
back. Currently, Cyndi Lauper was assuring all within earshot that "Girls Just Wanna
The busboy—well, bus "man", really; the guy, a tall, thin black man, had to be
fifty or better—sauntered over to clear the adjacent table.
He nodded at Castle, who nodded back and forked up a chunk of meatloaf. "Have
you seen the waitress?" he asked he older man; "I’d like a refill on my drink."
"Sorry ‘bout that;" he replied, sincerely; "…she’s in the back on the phone;
havin’ some trouble with day care and her ex-boyfriend. They had a kid, and the
bastard’s tryin’ get him from’er; the day care place doesn’t want to get
involved, so they’re kickin’ the boy out. They’re just a church," he shrugged;
"…so they haven’t got the resources for that. She can’t afford any better."
Castle sighed inwardly; the guy was a talker. Tell you more than you want or
need to know, in a minute. Or more.
He went back to clearing the table. "It’s sad; she’s a good girl. Shows up for
work on time, works over, when she can. Loves the kid to death. The guy’s just
an asshole. Doesn’t work; troublemaker; used to slap’er aroun’, some. Prob’bly
drugs, too, I’d bet. It’s always somethin’," he sighed long-sufferingly,
shaking his head and carefully placing the plates in the bus pan. He wiped up a
glob of something with a bleach-smelling rag, then proceeded to wipe the whole
surface. "Always somethin’."
Castle paused, and guiltily considered what a presumptuous asshole he’d just
been, if unintendedly, and swallowed. ‘It’s always something’; that much was
true. He chased the clump of meatloaf with the last of his Coke; the melting
ice clinked as the liquid drained.
"I’ll get you some more," the man said and took the scratched, clear plastic
tumbler, returning in a few moments and setting the cup on the table; he wiped
his hands unconsciously with the worn apron doubled at his waist. Castle
indicated his thanks and guy started to turn… then, looking out the window and
shaking his head, said, "tsk….look at that shit."
Castle looked up to follow his gaze, and turned his head; there, across and up
the street a couple of lots, was a dilapidated old house in an overgrown, weedy
A decidedly shady-looking character had just left, staggering off the porch,
where sat a large, heavily-tattooed man, clearly a bouncer, in sunglasses.
Sunglasses had a skimpy beard, and wore a flannel shirt over a white cotton
"wife-beater" styled t-shirt and calf-length, black cargo shorts. His head was
glisteningly bald and around his neck was a large gold chain and medallion of
some kind. He was pissing with a computer tablet. He glanced up disinterestedly
from his tablet at the patron, who stumbled up the cracked walk and headed off
down the street.
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