Emilio Vasquez looked at his watch as a group of five or six drunks stumbled into Cindy’s Diner.
6 a.m., Nov. 12, 2062.
Vasquez hated the city’s 24-hour bars, but the downtown drinkers were usually fairly civil, if feeling no pain. Plus, 24-hour bars meant 24-hour Cindy’s Diner. Vasquez loved the whole retro look and feel of the tiny restaurant downtown.
Hey, amigo, that’s a funny-looking bracelet on your arm, one of the drunks said as he jumped on a stool.
That’s called a wrist watch, the waitress told the drunk as she walked over to Vasquez. One of the things he loved about Cindy’s was the waitresses seem to come right out of the 1950s, just like the diner itself.
Whadda ya want, honey?
The mayor had said he would meet Vasquez at 6, but the veteran water utility worker knew politicians often ran late. He decided to go ahead and order.
Garbage! he said as he set down his Fort Wayne Journal. He still loved the feel of paper and reading real ink instead of pixels.
Yeah, that’s why I don’t read it, one of the drunks said.
He’s talkin’ about breakfast, the waitress explained. It’s one of our most popular dishes.
Vasquez smiled. And coffee, Cindy, black. All the waitresses called themselves Cindy.
Hello, old friend, Mayor Roberto Gonzalez said as Vasquez rose and shook his hand. You know, you’re not supposed to wear that old-style Water Utility uniform, Emilio. The mayor or somebody might fire you.
Both men laughed as the mayor sat down across the table from Vasquez.
Garbage and coffee, the mayor shouted to Cindy.
The two men chatted briefly about their days working together at the Water Filtration Plant, their families, the weather, the upcoming election.
I know why you’re here, Vasquez said. I don’t know what’s happening to the river water, but I’ve got a hunch.
Go on, Gonzalez replied as Cindy filled their coffee cups.
Wayne Robotics always tops out at its monthly quota on water, and they have to get more somehow, Vasquez said. Everyone knows they have water trucks going in and out of there all the time. We’ve always thought they were buying water – but what if they’re selling it?
The mayor’s eyes lit up. He never really liked that Wills family. Abe Wills hit it big in the old Powerball lottery back in the ’30s and was smart enough to take the lump sum instead of the payment plans that were all frozen and withdrawn by the ’40s. The old man wasn’t so bad, but he thought the sons were greedy. When they announced they were buying Wayne Robotics and moving it from Detroit to Fort Wayne, Gonzalez rightly predicted the company would cut pay and increase hours.
Plus, both of those Wills boys were huge backers of his opponent, Mia Brown. With the election weekend beginning in just 11 days, Gonzalez started relishing the thought of busting her biggest backers for stealing city water.
One of the drunks interrupted his daydream.
Hey, there’s the mayor! Hey, mayor, what the hell’s going on with the water supply?
We’re working on it, Gonzalez said, thinking about pulling a pre-election surprise.
We’re working on it.