Shirley sat in the corner booth of the local diner, kneading the straps of her bag. She didn’t know what, but she had to do something. The whole situation was a mess.
It had started out in the best way possible, given the circumstances. She had uprooted herself and moved to Atlanta in order to care for her ailing father, who was in the late stages of renal disease. Leaving her boys was hard, but she knew it would only be a few months. She initially tried to take little Ben with her, but Andre had probably been right that it was best to keep the boys together. Since she and Andre were legally separated anyway, she didn’t have much right to take the kids out of state, and again it was supposed to only be for a few months. She didn’t want to disrupt their lives, so she said her goodbyes and agreed to Skype often, and she and Andre had actually parted on somewhat amicable terms.
She left Shirley Sandwiches in Britta’s care, which didn’t sit right with her, but she had a secret pact with Gilbert that he would keep an eye on things for her, given that he had inherited Pierce’s half of the business as well as the mansion. She supposed Pierce had wanted to leave Gilbert something even if the bulk of his fortune went to Troy.
Poor Troy sailing the world. She hoped to the Lord in heaven that the boy was okay. Sometimes she tossed and turned at nights fretting about him. Pierce had always been an ass about insinuating that she and Troy were related, but part of her deep down had always viewed him as kind of an older son. She knew he had no mama, and that just didn’t seem right.
Her mind went back to her own boys. It was supposed to only be a few months. In order to bring in some money in caring for her father, who didn’t have much, she had taken on a job as a chef for a paraplegic Detective Devon Butcher. It had a been a pretty decent gig, given that Detective Butcher allowed her to work at night, prepping all the meals and then she could spend her days caring for her father.
Within a few months, her father had passed. It was very sad, but she had been glad that she had devoted some time to him in his last days. Andre, bless his heart, had flown down with the kids and they all went to the funeral. She had stayed behind to pack up some things and settle her father’s affairs, intent on rejoining her family in Colorado within a couple weeks. Detective Butcher, with a flicker of something unreadable in his eyes, told her he understood and was happy for her. She promised him she’d help him find a replacement chef.
Poor and troubled Detective Butcher. That man had a seriously tragic life, becoming paralyzed while pursuing a suspect who had ended up killing his wife.
Devon? No, Detective Butcher.
He was always Detective Butcher.
But now things had become more intimate. Not in a romantic sense, that would be insane. He was a skinny white man and she certainty wasn’t attracted to him. But she had left the house one night and forgotten her phone, quickly realizing and turning around. The house had been quiet, but she spied the study door ajar, a light from within. Detective Butcher was normally asleep at this hour, and she had rushed in, luckily stopping him in the knick of time. Seconds later would have been too late.
He put up a good front about it all, but now she saw the cracks. He had pushed off her urgings to take him to the hospital, but she insisted on staying, keeping him within eyesight the remainder of the night. They had stayed up talking, and by the end of it all she had somehow reignited his will to live and vowed to help him solve the case that left him paralyzed and led to the loss of his wife.
They had solved it within the week, and it all wrapped up nicely. She then mentioned leaving again, and the now more robust Detective Butcher (Devon?) had patted her arm and encouraged her to get on with her life. He would be fine, he said, and was looking forward to returning full time to the force.
Within a day it had been determined that Detective Butcher couldn’t get along with any of the police department rules, and he had quit in disgust. He had attempted to open his own detective business, insisting he could do it all on his own. She had helped him begin to set up the office, again intent on leaving in a few days, but then she had spied the clue that helped them solve the case of the yellow orchid. The accused robber had confessed by Thursday, and then they had found the actual robber by Friday, his face shriveling under Shirley’s glare.
It had been so exciting. Much more exciting than running Shirley’s sandwiches. She ignored the additional fluster she had begun to feel around Detective (Devon?) Butcher, for she had no time for any funny business, and he seemed to feel the same. Sure, everyone kept mistaking them for a couple, but on each occasion they would both laugh and then get slightly uncomfortable before returning to the case at hand.
The case at hand. She had needed to postpone her return to Greendale, for a body showed up on the steps of the local community college, and that would never do. She knew she could help, and her offer was greeted with an initially begrudging acceptance from the dear Detective.
The call from Britta had confused her. Of course she knew Britta would be expecting her back, but it wasn’t that simple. The waiver in her voice had probably tipped her off, and soon enough she received a call from Annie, who ended up sweetly and then kind of viciously interrogating her, and then soon enough Jeff was on the line and being his smooth and lawyerly self. She was so startled she didn’t think of questioning why he was with Annie in DC. They had ended the call with Jeff getting all testy with her about her leaving her kids, which was kind of a low blow. She heard Annie yelling at him in the background before she grabbed the phone back, but Shirley refused to talk to Annie and hung up.
Then Abed called, and it was weird. He told her to be at this diner at eleven in the morning. Well, here she was.
She should have known, but she never really believed it would be true, figuring Abed was just engaging in some absurd imaginary scenario. But no, he was here. She smiled at him and instantly felt a rush of relief. She jumped out of the booth and while holding onto her bag, pulled the Tan Greyhound into a hug.
He awkwardly patted her back and as they moved out of the embrace, appeared to study her. There was a hint of a tear in his left eye, but it vanished as he began to speak.
“It’s good to see you. Let’s sit down and you can tell me about this mess.”
Shirley bit her lip and started to squirm before she regained her senses and slapped him on his bony arm. She huffed, “Abed! Why didn’t you let me pick you up from the airport? And why are you here?!?”
He cocked his head and explained, “I told you to be here. I assumed you’d fill in the rest. And I wanted our reunion scene to take place in an atmosphere more conducive to discussing murder, which let’s face it, is probably not an airport.”
She paused to consider this, and somehow it made sense. She motioned for them to sit, and then she leaned forward to tell him her tale. As she filled him in on the various crazy events of the past few days, he nodded and jotted things down in a notebook he produced from his slim vinyl bag. The waitress approached, and Abed placed an order for black coffee and cherry pie before settling back into his listener role. As Shirley talked, she spied a small suitcase by his side, and wondered what various wardrobe changes might be inside and how long he was planning on staying, but she didn’t want to ask.
She had missed him so much.
As she concluded her tale, he nodded once again and closed the notebook. Taking a long sip of coffee, he looked up and met her gaze.
“Well, this is a pickle all right, but I think we can solve this case.” He then dove his fork into his slice of pie.
Shirley shook her head, not feeling the urge to eat any pie, and she briefly wondered what he thought Atlanta was like. There certainly were no pines. She sighed and said, “I just don’t know what to do. I’m usually pretty good at piecing information together, but this case is eluding me. I just don’t know.”
Abed slowly chewed and seemed to think some things through. After a minute of complete silence, he took another sip of coffee and then replaced the cup in its saucer. He let out a satisfied ahhh and turned toward the waitress.
“Well, this is one damn fine cup of coffee! Best I’ve ever had. And this pie. Damn fine indeed.”
The waitress blushed and made some small talk with Abed for a little bit, and Shirley looked at her watch.
“Abed! We have to go! Devon…the Detective, um, Detective Butcher needs me.” She began to gather her purse as Abed wiggled his brows.
He turned back toward the waitress and said, “I’ll be back, Shelly.”