She checked the time on her phone again. Stirring the cream and sugar in her second, or was it her third?, cup of coffee, she sat in a booth on an electric orange vinyl seat and watched out the window. It was midday but dark outside. A storm had engulfed New York and the eerie black clouds clung overhead like a damp cloak. As she watched, another bolt of lightning fanned out across the broiling clouds, lighting the streets in a blue glow, casting confused shadows. Thunder ricocheted between the buildings.
A whirlwind of papers spun across the street in front of the brownstone, when she noticed a black cat prancing past. Odd, had the cat been staring at her? She turned in her seat to look for the cat and spilled a bit of her coffee dropping the spoon when a deep voice said from behind her, “What’s for lunch, Miss Hill?”
She whirled around to find an strange old woman in a plain long black dress had sneaked up to her table silent as a cat and was, uninvited, sitting at her table across from her.
“Who are you?” she asked, pulling napkins out of the chrome napkin box on the table and mopping up the spilled coffee.
The waitress returned just then. “Here’s your bowl of vegetable soup,” she said, plopping the bowl and saucer down, contents sloshing over the side, coating the package of saltines in hot sticky soup. The waitress made a point of not noticing the side effects of her hurried service.
Turning to the old woman, she asked, “What can I get for you Miss Tabitha?”
Miss Hill did a double take.
“Just a glass of water for me, Samantha,” replied the old woman to the waitress.
Miss Hill’s jaw dropped open as she realized the waitress had just curtsied. What was going on here? she wondered.
She broke away from watching the receding swaying back of the waitress in her white heels and classic diner uniform and re-focused on her visitor. “That was … strange,” she muttered.
The old woman lifted one eyebrow in response.
“So, you are, um, Miss Tabby Black, I take it?”
“Yes, of course. And, you are Miss Hill from the Post, obviously.”
“We don’t have much time, Miss Hill. You wanted to know what was going on with the weather, correct?”
“I do. I had been digging, and …”
The old woman raised her hand and interrupted, “No need to explain, dearie. It’s all part of the plan.”
The waitress returned with the glass of water and handed it carefully to the old woman. “Thank you, Sam,” she said taking the glass and downing the contents in a single series of gulps. She set the empty glass on the table and smiled.
“Now, Miss Hill.” The old woman opened the big bag on the bench seat next to her and pulled out a beach towel and an envelope. “You’ll need these,” she said passing them across the table.
The reporter found her mouth agape again, “What?”
“What you are looking for, my dear, is a man named B.Z. Bell.”
“A man?” she asked in confusion. “Surely, you don’t think a man is behind the odd weather?”
“Of course not. He’s no ordinary man, my dear.”
Copyright © 2014 Eric Schweitz