It's mid-morning on a quiet spring day when he walks into the café.
His thick boots thud across the floor, a ring of keys clipped to his belt loop jangle against his thigh. Languid gait, wide grin. He orders the usual: black coffee, no sugar. He’s feeling good today.
When the server places his takeout cup down on the counter, he makes an announcement.
“I know everything,” he says, waving his hand with a flourish, looking around the place to secure an audience.
The server smiles, as though this is the kind of thing he usually says.
“I know everything about my tenants." He leans forward, purses his lips, takes a dramatic pause. “From going through their garbage.”
The server busies himself wiping down the coffee machine. “You can’t do that,” he says, with a smile in his voice.
“I can. And I do,” the man replies. He looks around the café, narrowing his eyes at the two separate customers, one sipping a late, the other dusting croissant crumbs off her shirt. “I know what they eat, what they drink,” he says. “I’m a good detective, better than any cop.”
“Pretty sure that’s illegal,” the server says, not looking up as he polishes.
The man juts his chin out. “Nah, it ain’t!” He reaches into his pocket and puts a few dollar bills on the counter. “Listen, people don’t realize how much you can know about their life from their garbage. That’s how I know people do the wrong things. I know all their bad habits.”
His laugh is throaty and gruff. “I even know what kind of medicine they take. The majority of these people are so hooked on legal drugs, man – you wouldn’t believe it.”
The server looks up, smiling. “I’m telling you it’s illegal," he says. "You can't go through people’s trash.”
The man throws his hands up and turns to go. As he walks out, he calls to the server, “You better watch what you throw out!” A theatrical wink. The server shakes his head, cheek raised in a wry, half-smile, and ushers him out with a flick of his wrist.
All is quiet in the café as the door creaks shut. The server’s smile fades as he wipes the counter down.