Marty was a friendly and inquisitive man, openly comfortable with everyone he met. Setting the stranger's coke in front of him Marty began to do what the local community called "working his victim". He started out slowly, as usual, so he wouldn't come across as rude. The stranger had introduced himself as Patterson as soon as Marty had introduced himself, but it was well after the stranger's food had come, and had been eaten, before Marty found that the stranger was in Tooker's Bend for a reason.
It took several free cokes and a piece of Louise's excellent lemon meringue pie for Marty to wile the few parcels of information he was able to from Patterson that he had. Patterson was very polite about the whole thing and thanked Marty for the slice of pie and complimented him on the food. On his way out he stopped and asked Marty if there was a family by the name of Reading living in the area.
"As a matta' of fact there is. Thomas Reading and his kin live right out'a town. Would that be th' folks you want?"
"Thomas Reading? I reckon so then Marty. How would I find them?"
"Well Patterson, I don't know you all that well, but I get the feelin' that you're a good sort though, so I'll be right straight with you. Thomas Reading ain't the kind of man to just be lookin' up. If he wants you to come callin', he'll come send for you."
"Well, you could say that. Of course I wouldn't be caught sayin' that too loud around here if I was you. Reading has a mean streak in him in mile. He'd as soon spit on you as speak to you. Lotta people 'round here have been put down by that man when they did sumpin' to piss him off, pardon my french. Hell, you might not believe this but that man railroaded his own son out'a town when the kid was sixteen. Told the kid to get the hell out'a this state or he was gonna kill 'em. All because the boy talked back to him once. Can you believe that Patterson?"
"As a matter of fact Marty, I can?"
Marty looked at Patterson in a new light. He saw some "thing" in the man that he couldn't quite place, in this stranger. There was a shine to Patterson's pale eyes that belied his calm features.
"You ain't planning on doin' something foolish are you? I just met you, but I ain't that anxious to see bad things happen to you here. It might color your attitude about this part of the country."
"Thanks for the concern Marty, I'm not planning on doing something foolish. I'm just returning something that belongs here."
"Well, I suppose you know what you're doing Patterson. By the way, do you mind if I ask you a last question before you go?"
Patterson answered, "Fire away, Marty."
"I've been wonderin' since you came in, what's in the tin can you're carryin' around?"
"The prodigal son Marty, the prodigal son."
As he watched Patterson walk away to the his car, parked at the edge of the diner's gravel parking lot, Marty mumbled something under his breath. Shorty, who had come up behind him asked what he had said.
"I said I got a bad feeling about this SHorty