Description: Mr. Robert 'Bob' Richards, a gentleman detective in search of a meal, is about to answer the age-old question of whether a man can be in two buffet lines at the same time. As far as his business is concerned, we can assure Mr. Richards he'll find everything he's looking for, although the portions may not be all to his liking. But that's sometimes the case - when the steaks and salads are served in the Twilight Zone.
"What are we supposed to do?"
That was the question from the assistant manager, as she stared from the kitchen. Jaw slack, she just... watched. She watched him when someone- SOMEONE let him through the front door. Someone let him pay money to come in. Sure, it was fine. The Gilded Trough had their customers. It was an all you could eat buffet. With most folks, you always made a profit on the net. But with one look at him, they knew. They knew they would not be making their money back on this customer. That's okay, the pricing was built around it. But today was the special promotion day.
The steak eating challenge.
Whoever dominated the Golden Angel 69er shank steak from the depths of the meat locker, almost 70 ozs of pure beef alongside the fixins of the all you could eat buffet, would get it all paid for. You ask for it at the grill. The rules were strict but simple: nothing could be left of the steak except the bone, and you had to finish before closing. And this man... maybe he wasn't interested in the steak. And yet, the question hangs. The manager dabs his brow, as he notices how many empty tables, how many tempting sides and platters were near the grill... and how little was currently cooking now. He looks over at the rest of the people. "I think-" The manager begins.
"I think we need to make sure everyone gets their steak first."
Robert "Bob" Richards seldom tries to be an intimidating man, but it happens, sometimes. It just happens, and there's little that he can do about it. Standing at 6'5 and clocking in well over three hundred pounds does that, at times, but other times, well.
"Oh jeez," one customer, a man with a scruffy beard and a Metro Maulers cap on rolls his eyes. "Better get seconds now, kiddos, otherwise there might not be any."
Bob, dressed in a white button-up and a blue, rose-print loose jacket, smiled and nodded at the man anyway before making his way toward past the register and toward the buffet. The off-white plate clinked as he removed from the track and started piling up -- a salad. Albeit, a salad with a lot of toppings but still a salad. A few moments later the opaque red cup pressed against the lever and dispensed a beverage with a carbonated hiss before Bob set his sights on an empty table.
But, in truth, he would probably not be dining alone today.
There is a deep thumping sound.
The cashier at the front of the Gilded Trough looks up. Before her, there was a large, wide-set man that was 7 feet tall and somewhere in the ballpark of 600 lb. He wears a floral Hawaiian-style silk shirt, a deer skull necklace, brown cowboy-style chaps, a yellow tie, brown gloves with horseshoes on the tops and thick boots, and a set of jeans that were branded with the Mark of the Spangles. The stout man has white hair and a thick beard. He is wearing a pair of glasses with the left side blacked out with a lipstick mark, silver bolts and small text on it. beside him is a massive coffin, labeled 'Area 51' that he keeps a hold of on a chain. The man has his wallet out, and he is holding a single military ID. "Excuse me, ma'am."
"But I understand there is a 10% discount for members of the armed services?"
The manager and his assistant only have a moment of respite, sighing in relief as the customer went for the salad. Maybe he was, in fact, on a diet. Maybe everything would be fine. That was, until the sound. Boom. Boom. Boom. The towering new customer strides along with his coffin, as all eyes train on him. The relief fades away into mortal terror. It was one thing to have a single customer like that. But how would they allow two, on a DAY like this? Clinging to each other, they tremble as they watch the man takes large steps towards the salad bar. Scoffing at the contents, he takes his own off-white plate, and grips one, two, three potatoes in the foil. A second plate is suddenly seized up, and Goldlewis takes a moment to thunder right up to Bob's side. He keeps his voice low, as he whispers over.
"Hell of a venue you picked, Hoss. Sorry I was late."
Bob's eyes move toward the door at the steady thump, but he keeps working his way around the buffet until the two men meet in passing.
"I thought it was something we might both agree on," Bob answers with a smirk. "But don't worry about it. I'll get us a corner table."
And so Bob moves on to the table, pausing briefly at the meat station. For a moment, he starts to approach, but then suddenly comes to a stop for a kid to dash by toward the ice cream machine. Before he can begin a second approach, a waitress flags him down, her ponytail swinging behind her as she jets by in a frenzy.
"Sir, I can show you to a table?"
"Ah, yes," Bob says quickly. "Could I get somewhere in the corner, please? I'd prefer--"
"Oh, noooo worries, sir! I'll get take you right there."
"I say- I say, I absolutely must have to have some restraint."
"After all, I got a physical coming up. Need to make sure I get those healthy calories. More of those fats and proteins, with the right kind of carbs." He looks towards the soda machine when the duo is stopped. He was interested in the grill, as well as the challenge. "Maybe a diet soda, or an iced tea."To be honest, I wasn't sure you'd show up." "Goldlewis looks about ready, as something seems to move faster than the eye. The sound of a lid opening and closing, the clattering of plates.
One of the potatoes were missing.
Goldlewis himself seems distracted from the flurry, as he is paused, eyeing some of that homestyle fried chicken. Distractedly, he takes those pinchers. "I must confess, I had the impression you'd skip out, after what I was upfront on you about. Missing children, assassinations, something called keijo." He loads his plate, squinting an eye at the potatoes. Placing the claws down he looks to the waitress, and gives his smile. "That would be mighty fine of you, ma'am." He nudges Bob.
"It's amazing how this place can have great table service too, hoss."
"It's a favorite for a good reason," Bob says, "not just the portions. Please," Bob nods his head deferrently. "Go ahead and lead the way miss."
"Ah," she looks up at Goldlewis, then over toward Bob. She tugs at her collar, briefly, and adjusts her nametag. "Right. Right this ways, sirs."
Bob follows along behind, one hand balancing his plate and the other holding that red plastic cup. Faux glass, if you will.
"And oh, macronutrients, good and bad carbs. All very important. The grilled tilapia is a good one. This place also has a great macaroni salad--" Bob set his wares down on the table and slid into a chair with a creak.
"Oh, I'll go get the uh, special seating," the waitress said. "Just a moment."
"Anyway," Bob continued. "I'm hard to chase off, sir, don't you worry. Though the uh, keijo thing, that came pretty close. Not exactly my forte." Bob says. "Well, the other stuff. If good people are getting hurt, I can't just walk away from a problem, you know?"
The deep rumble comes as the pair come towards their seat.
Goldlewis eases down the coffin in front the table. Shortly afterwards, it seems that seven different plates are placed down as well in front of it as well. There is a clicking sound, as the lid shuts. Goldlewis places his plate down, swaying a bit as their special seating is set up (The location was well regarded for plus sized customers). He adjusts his collar a bit, as he wipes his mouth, feeling mighty peckish. "I even read a report about a certain rumor involving Paciano and his birthday... of course, I was more concerned about some less flattering reports."
"Have you ever thought about any enemies you've made over the years, Bob?"
Bob blinks a few times at the sudden appearance of all the plates, but he does not comment yet. "Ah, that was uh, quite a mix-up, I suppose." The blond reaches up and scratches the side of his face. "...but it sounds like you've got a lot of little birds passing things along, huh?"
But the next comment causes bob's brow to furrow. He looks down, poking at his salad. "...I imagine I have, but sometimes that's how it goes, I guess. Can't please everyone, and some guys don't like it when someone meddles in their best made plans."
"A whole flock of them, erm, pardon me."
General Goldlewis takes his seat, and almost immediately he reaches for a potato. Unpeeling it from it's foil shell, he pops it into his mouth like a cherry tomato. After a brief chew and swallow, he grunts. "It's more than just making people a bit mad at you. Course, Hoss, with a pretty boy like you, you're probably not used to someone having a vendetta." The lid opens, and there is a blur of movement, of... hands? One of the plates are suddenly picked clean, and next to it is a piece of paper. "Check that there document, Bob. You've managed to get Shadaloo targeting you over that little cut and run, especially with those children. Tokugawas wanted your head for a while too, and even the NOL think your suspicious. But that there, that there is what caught my eye." He taps his eye patch.
"What do you remember about your job at the Southpoint Canine Lab, hoss."
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far, but I did have an angry boyfriend come after me once or twice..." Bob tugs on his collar slightly and looks away with embarrassment. "Not from anything I did, mind." He looks at Goldlewis out of the corner of his eye, turning his head to meet it. "But you've certainly done your homework. -- is the Tokugawa girl doing better? She was in a bad situation there, and--
Southpoint Canine Lab. Bob strokes his chins. "Something about Gears, and that Russian Spetsnaz agent. Or was it GRU?"
Goldlewis actually furrows his brow.
He could hear the words that Bob was saying. Another plate is cleared, and a third. But for a moment, Goldlewis could barely chomp on his potato, deep in his thoughts. He doesn't introspect long; it wasn't his style. "Spetznaz, though operating under UN authority. Those Ruskies were a favorite with some of those UN stooges. As for the girl, well, she's recovering. She's back in school, from what we can tell. The Tokugawas dropped their charges but- well son." Goldlewis slurps down the potato, and chews. Swallowing hard, he leans over.
"Son, I am getting the impression that you are a real boy scout."
He leans back a bit. "You've run in with the Gears and on what was basically government research gone rogue. I can neither confirm or deny what was going down there, but that's illegal skunk works that you were documented on investigation. Espionage, trespassing, if you look there, you'll see that some fine young gentlemen want your head for it. Now I came here, hoping I'd have a bit of a troublemaker. One of those hellions, like those Ladykillers. But hoss, I need to admit something to you." He pats himself on the leg.
"I can't pick a single bad bone in that body of yours."
He tugs the chicken on his plate. "You're slick son, I can tell that. Smooth and slick; no wonder they say you are a charmer. And unflappable. I heard the only thing that could get you worked up was the head of Shadaloo coming down on you. But that's the thing. All the world's greatest dangers, and you always seem to be just at the edges. I'm trying to look for that edge. But I keep seeing what really does seem like a nice guy who wants to help people. Waiting for the kids. Your manners with the people here, the waitress trying her best to keep you away from those steaks. You're one of the nicest men I've ever met, Bob. Now, I say, I say don't worry about any of those recommended charges, by the way." He looks up over at the buffet lineup, as he pulls the chicken in and out of his mouth, bones cleaned. "Do they have biscuits and gravy here?"
"I don't know why but I am craving some biscuits and gravy."
Bob has been a bit more paced, steady. Perhaps he's giving the people time to make sure everything's in stock. He has, however, been clearing out rolls as the waitress brings them. He pushes the basket toward Goldlewis this time. "Hm. I think I need to get some of those potatoes. And maybe that steak..."
"But I'll take care of that in a bit," Bob smiles. "You think so? I just try to do what I think is the right thing to do. Maybe self-improvement's just kind of a perk along the way, y'know?" Bob frowns. "But I do hate to hear that there's a little ... trouble about that. Not that I'm surprised. There were definitely some things there, I imagine, that people wouldn't want leaving that place." Bob is suddenly brought a plate.
"Oh, thank you, ma'am. Don't get yourself in trouble though, even if I'm a regular, huh?" Bob smiles at her, waiting for her to leave before continuing.
"--I wish I could have done more there. He's bad news, and that was a dead-end. Those parents deserve better, and the kids definitely deserve better."
"--huh. Well, I appreciate it, sir, though I feel like there's probably something I'm going to be asked about, here. I'm hoping it's something that I'm comfortable helping with.
"Brown or white?" Bob asks. "They have both, but I do need to make a trip over there myself..."
"Oh, I'd take the white please; it's better for my throat, but..."
Goldlewis hefts up into a stand. Not only was his plate clear, but so where the other seven. "I have to make a second trip too. Looks like another round of vittles." Pulling the coffin along, the duo begins their trek towards the buffet line. "What I wanted to ask is if you could help us out. I mean, not the government, I- I think I know why a good man like you has never found an opportunity with the police force. But a good man like yourself, I would move the heavens and earth to have a good man like you helping the world out. We have the likes of Chun-Li, Ryu Hayabusa, Major Charlie, and Potemkin working together, as an international task force to deal with a crisis building near the Tateyama. So let me ask you. WOuld you want to join a team of folks like yourself." He thunders towards the grill, where a line was already made for the latest in steaks.
"Or do you feel you do better on your own?"
"Huh," Bob said, moving alongside Goldlewis back toward the buffet. "Those are some pretty remarkable names. Couple of folks there I'd like to meet myself sometime." The big blond shuffled into line alongside Goldlewis, but not without sneaking a carby plate of French fried potatoes, and some biscuits and gravy. He'd started to work on them to give him a breather before speaking again.
"Well," Bob continues, "As you said, I'm finding myself off the Christmas card list of some powerful players, so having some people to rely on might not be a bad idea." Bob grinned. "Provided, of course, I still have some room to operate on my own when it's needed."
Goldlewis gives the faint smirk.
Bringing the coffin to the line, he lets it save his place as he does a proper lineup. This time, he goes right for the Bourbon Chicken. You can't enjoy the Gilded Trough without having their Bourbon Chicken. Sure, they don't use real bourbon anymore since the riots (not the Metro City incident, but the one associated with Lockdowns (But not the Lockdown incident either)). Piling on the meat, he adds on after Bob returns back in line. "Well, I'm glad you feel that way hoss. Normally I'd take this moment to talk about bugaboos, but well."
"To be honest Bob, you don't seem to have them."
He takes the tongs to load up on biscuits after Bob, before slipping back in line. It seems that the steaks were beginning to be fewer and fewer. But there, sizzling there on the grill, Goldlewis stares at the behemoth. The 69er, suddenly on the grill. His mouth waters. "I'll chalk that up to healthy living, and a positive outlook in life. I think they'd be relying on you a lot more than you think."
"Good men are hard to come by this day and age."
"Isn't that a shame?" Bob says, forking a whole half-biscuit into his mouth, still maintaining his place in line. Still waiting for that precious meat miracle that is the 69er. He would move to keep up with the general, but the truth is, much of the space in the area is already occupied (by them).
Another customer slides by, prompting Bob to lift his plate high and suck in to let them slip by without a collision despite their hurry. He doesn't comment.
"So if you don't my asking...what kind of problems led you to me, of all people? There were some big names there."
"Big problems, and small problems."
"There are a lot of big fighters in the world with big issues that cause big problems. Some of them are causing bigger problems than others." Thoughts drift to a certain Akuma. "You need to understand though. Big names... aren't a big deal, hoss." Goldlewis says firmly. He turns to Bob, his own gut briefly touching on Bob's own. The coffin was now at rest in front of the grill. Goldlewis released the chain, letting himself to tap himself on the heart.
"What matters is that you are big in other ways."
"In any case, your detective work would be invaluable on the street level. You are a very trustworthy guy, very affable. We have reason to believe that there are some trouble makers in some towns and villages that are looking to strike when the iron is hot. Big names can drive them underground. But big guys with big hearts, well, sometimes you need a real charmer to find the snakes, you understand hoss." He looks back at the grill. "Now I hate to interrupt, but we better hurry up and get a steak."
"Those things seem to disappear like flapjacks here."
Bob listens intently, the "snacking" (if one could call this quantity such) ceasing as he focuses. The two bump, but Bob rolls with it. Speedy as he is, Bob is used to tight spaces--though perhaps a bit less used to running into gentlemen who shop the same department as him.
"Almost sentimental, huh? But I do get it. Sometimes you need someone they don't expect, and I've got plenty of experience being unexpected." Bob smiles. "And rooting out those kinds of problems. You've got yourself that help you're asking for, Mister Dickinson."
"Oh! That's right." Bob turns toward the line, realizing he's now next up. He steps forward to the counter, ready to order his steak--
But he couldn't order it.
The 69er was already claimed.
Not by any man, no, not even by Goldlewis himself. But in the blink of an eye it was right next to the coffin. And like that, it was inside it. Gone. Imagine, a man in the Gilded Trough, expecting a full sized steak. A formidiable slab of beef, grilled to medium rare. The lid was slipping shut now, here in the twilight-
Goldlewis digs his fingers into the side of the coffin.
"Nope- NOPE!" He scolds, as he keeps the lid from closing. He hefts it up hard, struggling as he drags it over to the corner. People were clearing out of the way, as it seems that this man was fighting with- with a -coffin- in the Gilded Trough. Staggering back to the table, he actually gets his arm in. "NOOOOOOOPE" He continues, until finally, he pulls the plate out. It was the 69er, still steaming with eldritch blue light, and... glowing? Well the glowing was beginning to die down. Goldlewis breathes hard, staring at the plate on the table, chest pounding. He clears his throat.
"Sorry, I should have checked if you wanted it first."
The lid off the coffin snaps shut with a hiss.
"Yes, I'd like the--"
The steak is gone. Bob blinks several times. The casket closes, and the blond turns to look at it. He looks up at Goldlewis, then back at the casket.
"Uh," Bob says, "I think I'll ... pass. But can I ask you about the uh," He looks at it again. It is definitely a giant, reinforced coffin.
"Luggage that you're carrying?"
Goldlewis raises an eyebrow. Casting a glance to the coffin. "You wanna know what's in this coffin?" As he stares, the lid slowly begins to slide to the side. From it, a long, glowing blue arm stretches out. Finger glowing, it reaches out to grab the plate. From beside it, five other arms suddenly rise up from the depths of the coffin. Three have a fork, knife, and spoon respectively. A fourth had a napkin. And the fifth, is going over to snatch a dinner roll from Goldlewis's plate. And with that, all are drawn back in, and the lid shuts with a thump. Goldlewis, stone faced, looks at Bob.
"It is not aliens." He states flatly.
"Huh," Bob says, "definitely not aliens. I see. I'll not pry then, if you trust whoever's or whatever's in there." Bob takes a napkin and dabs his mouth before wiping his hands. He sets a plate in a nearby receptable.
"But in any case, you've got my help if you need it. Anything else I should know?" He pauses. "Be sure to try the key lime pie, by the way. Best I've had this far north."
"Just one thing you got to know."
Goldlewis casts his gaze to the dessert bar. He lowers his voice. "Don't stress about this stuff. There are a lot of big stuff in the world." Goldlewis stands up, getting ready to heft up the coffin. "Now, I say, I say I do believe I will get some of that key lime pie. Just one piece. We are watching out figure." He glowers at the coffin.
"Both of us."
Log created on 14:29:04 04/13/2022 by Goldlewis, and last modified on 13:27:39 04/18/2022.