The bell above the door jingled as the cool breeze blew inside the warm diner. Mike and Anna walked into Mama’s Kitchen to be greeted by a black sign stating to seat yourself. The conversations in the diner were silenced as all the patrons turned to look at the outsiders. Anna pulled her tan jacket closed, looking up at her husband. She felt uncomfortable which angered the author.
“Good Morning.” Mike nodded his head and waved at all the eyes staring at them. His wife shook her head then tapped him on the arm. She stormed off to the booth closest to the window.
The seats of the booth were a faded red color, cracked, and some held together by duct tape. This was not a good start to his introduction to Clover, Vermont, but Mike needed to make his wife feel comfortable before he started questioning people. As he slid into the bench with his back to the window, he smiled at the woman who was his best friend.
“Such a lively bunch. And I bet you were worried we wouldn’t make any friends.” Mike flipped up his coffee cup then looked down at the paper placemat with local advertisements on it.
“I swear, I can’t take you anywhere. Did you have to do that?” She leaned in closer to her husband, lowering her voice. “I wonder if they’ve seen visitors before. We must scream tourists.”
“Maybe you do with your expensive dress coat. That’s why I wore a flannel.” Anna giggled at her husband. She slumped back on the bench, looking out the window at the flower shop across the street.
The waitress was a short woman with dirty blonde hair. The dark circles under her eyes were the same color as the grease stains on her brown t-shirt with the restaurant logo on it. Her heavy white shoes squeaked as she walked. “You guys aren’t from around here.” She laid down 2 menus on the table before getting out an order pad from her apron. “Can I start you off with some drinks?”
“I’ll have a large glass of apple juice if you don’t mind.” Anna grabbed a menu, flipping it open to the breakfast page.
“And for you, sir?”
“I’ll take a pot of coffee, fully caffeinated.” Mike smiled at the waitress who tilted her head. She finished writing down their drink order before turning to retrieve their drinks. Mike felt the eye roll without seeing it.
“You keep that up and they are going to spit in our food.” She turned to look at the whiteboard at the entrance with the daily specials on it.
“Just trying to have a little fun. All work and no play makes Mike a dull boy. Did you decide what you’re getting yet?
Anna looked down at the menu again. “It all looks so good, especially since there are no dishes for me to wash.” Their conversation was interrupted by a glass of apple juice being sat down in front of her. The waitress poured coffee from the coffee pot into Mike’s cup.
“I asked, they wouldn’t let me serve your coffee to you in the pot. I promise to check on you often though, so you don’t run out before you finished this.” She held up the pot, giving Mike a half smile. “Wouldn’t want you drinking cold coffee anyways.” Mike laughed at her banter. “Are you ready to order, or do you need a few more minutes?”
Mike looked at his wife. He never needed time to decide what he was having for breakfast. He ordered the exact same thing every time they went out. Anna flipped her menu closed, handing it to the waitress. “I’ll take an order of biscuits and gravy please.”
After writing down her order, the waitress looked at Mike. “I need to place two orders. First order: Western omelet with hash browns and rye toast, lightly buttered.” He paused to allow for her to write it down. “Karen, may I call you that?” Mike pointed to her nametag hanging crooked at the top of her shirt. She nodded. “Karen, I’m looking for information. I need to find out the history of the cottage I’m staying at. Do you know where I should go for that?” He pulled out the diary from his jacket pocket, placing it on the table with his hand on top.
“I’m really not a good person to ask for information. But if I had to guess, you could start at the library. It’s across the street from the school on Bancroft.” She pointed her pen out the window before leaving to place their order.
“I don’t mean to sound rude. Did I hear you say you’re looking for information?” A portly man with grey hair and jean overalls waved from the booth in front of Mike. “The name’s Randy. Randy Mills. I am the retired postmaster of Clover. Maybe I can help.” The man’s companion propped up his legs on the seat, turning to join the conversation.
Anna rolled her eyes. She pulled her cell phone out of her purse trying to ignore the talking.
“The name is Mike Sharpe. I would be thankful for any help you could give me.” He looked down at the diary, wondering if he should spill the source of his quest.
“Very nice to meet you, Mr. Sharpe. This is Pete.” The man nodded at his friend. “The local handyman around Clover. You need anything, Pete’s your man.” He held up the paper placemat that was in front of him, pointing at the advertisement in the bottom right corner. “Ole Mr. Handyman himself.” Randy chuckled. “We aren’t used to seeing people around here until the snow starts coming down. Skiing season. Where are you folks from and what brings you to the small town of Clover?”
Mike opened his mouth to answer when Anna’s voice interrupted. “We’re from California in town for some R and R while my husband writes a book.”
“A book?” Pete craned his neck to look at the author. “Are you the Mike Sharpe, creator of the movie Bitterlines? My son’s room was filled with those movie posters when he was growing up.”
“That’s me. Except for I wrote the novel the movie was based off. I had little to nothing to do with the movie.”
“Well, I’ll be. Who knew that Clover would ever have a celebrity visiting it.” Randy looked around the room.
“I’m trying to stay low key, so I can finish my manuscript. But I’m a little distracted now. I found this diary in the barn at the cottage, and just wanted to return it to the family it belongs to. There’s a lot of personal family history in here.”
“You read someone’s diary?” Pete looked at Mike with wide eyes.
“I didn’t mean too. Just looking for inspiration for my story.” Mike looked down at the brown book. “Honestly, there are clues in here of a possible murder.” Anna looked up at her husband. Her face was red. He knew better than to tell her about this piece of information until he absolutely had to, otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone along with helping him.
“A murder in Clover.” Randy laughed loudly. “There is no way. I’m sure murder is commonplace in Hollywood, but not here. We would all know if there were a murder. Where did you say your cabin was?
“We are staying at the 1850’s red farmhouse on Kettle Road. My agent booked it through Get Away Cabins.”
“That’s the old Olson farmstead. I’m not sure if any relatives still live in the area so you can give them back the diary.” Randy lifted his arms as Karen placed his big plate of breakfast in front of them. “The library might help you find them though.”