Returning to work on a Monday morning should be illegal, but after enjoying a long, much needed vacation in the mountains of Vermont, he was more than ready to get back to his job in Maple Glen. 

Knowing the mounting pile of paperwork he’d left on the corner of his desk was waiting for him, he would have to make it quick at Fran’s Coffee. Where he would normally stay and visit a while, that wouldn’t be the case today. 

Fastening his gun belt, he checked his appearance in the mirror one last time before reaching for his keys. It was important to maintain a professional appearance while upholding the law, and as a deputy of Maple Glen, that’s exactly what he was going to do. 

Climbing into the driver’s seat of his vehicle, Vince checked the time and radioed in to dispatch. Within a minute, at six a.m., he would officially be on duty. Something he had yet to get used to even though he had been doing the job for the last two years. He had never been a morning person, but with the help of Fran’s Coffee, he made it through the rough patches.

“Welcome back, Suga’,” Louise called back after a few minutes of silence. 

His lips formed a smile at the term of endearment she used. “Thanks, LuLu. I’m back and ready to take on whatever you’ve got.”

Chuckling over the radio, Louise said, “Okay, but just remember that you asked for it.”

“Ten-four,” he replied, clicking his mic back into its clip on the dash. He’d come from a busy city life where officers couldn’t catch a break. Here, in Maple Glen, it was the complete opposite. Robbers, gunmen, and drug addicts didn’t exist. The crime rate was close to nonexistent, and the worst crime to ever take place in the history of the town—to his knowledge—had happened last summer when one of the old ladies from downtown beat up a gentleman at the bingo parlor for patting her on the butt. 

Shifting the SUV into drive, he headed in the direction of Fran’s Coffee. It would take only a minute or two to grab a steaming cup of coffee to go. He would have to make good with Fran for grabbing and leaving, but he wouldn’t mind hanging around the shop tomorrow. At least he would have his paperwork caught up by then.

A rusted out car caught his attention as he turned the corner onto Main Street. Had he known who it belonged to, he would have let it be, but he’d never seen the car around town before now. It only made sense for him to check on it. 

Pulling into an empty spot next to it, he checked the license plate, running the number off over the radio. It was parked in a no-parking zone—from the non-spot it was currently residing in to the corner. 

“Comes back to a Cara Mitchell of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Suga’,” Louise replied, followed with a rundown that was nothing short of a clean record. He made a mental note to talk to Louise about calling him Suga’ while he was on duty. He didn’t need the townspeople to overhear and make something out of nothing. 

Touching the cold hood of the car helped determine his suspicion that it had been sitting here awhile. He could easily go knocking on each and every door inside the apartment complex, but at this hour of the morning, he decided not to. Instead, he wrote a ticket and called it good as he stuck it underneath the windshield wiper. 

He knew the Mitchells were a prominent name in Maple Glen. They owned over half of the small businesses scattered throughout town, but he had no clue who Cara was. He hated leaving a ticket, but she had clearly parked in a restricted zone. He figured he would be nice enough and save her the expense of having the car towed as he climbed back into his SUV. 

He radioed into his mic. Upon hearing back from Louise, he informed her of his decision to leave a ticket and reported himself clear and ready for the next call. 

He would be ready for whatever Louise threw his way today. Whether it be a stray dog on the loose or a bat flying around some elderly woman’s living room, he was more than ready. But first, coffee. 

* * *

Pulling into an empty spot in front of Fran’s Coffee, he killed the engine and made his way inside. The bell above the door announced his arrival before Fran’s eyes landed on him. 

“Well, if it isn’t the part-timer himself,” Fran called out, a bright smile lighting up her face followed a friendly wave. 

Laughing at her insinuation, he made his way to the counter and pulled up a stool from a nearby high-top table. “Takes one to know one, huh?”

Fran feigned offense, holding a hand over her chest. Smiling, she asked, “How was your vacation, dear?”

“Actually, it went well,” he said, thinking back to the time he’d spent in the mountains. He’d taken his time hunting deer. While he hoped to shoot one with a large rack, it wasn’t meant to be, and he came home empty handed. 

“Were you expecting it to be horrible?” Fran asked, concern etched across her wrinkled complexion. 

“Not at all, but having been unable to take time off in so long…”

“I hear ya there,” she interrupted with a light pat on the top his hand. “What can I get you to drink?”

“The usual, please,” he said, watching as she headed for the coffee pot. “Can I get it to go? I’ve got a lot of paperwork to take care of this morning before the calls start rollin’ in.”

Fran shook her head, a silent chuckle escaping before she said, “I suppose, but I was hopin’ you’d stick around for a bit. There’s someone I’d like for you to meet.”

Curiosity had always been his weakness, and it was proving difficult to not ask questions. He wanted to know who she wanted him to meet, but at the same time…

“Maybe tomorrow? Is tomorrow okay?” he asked, knowing if he could get out of it today, he could more than likely bypass it tomorrow, too. “I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on, otherwise I would have no problem meeting…” He dragged out his final word in hopes that Fran would let him off the hook.

“That’s fine, dear,” she said, handing him the to-go cup full of coffee. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

He smiled, realizing she wasn’t about to reveal who this person was she wanted him to meet. Taking his coffee, he nodded and put the stool back in its spot at the table. “I’ll see ya tomorrow around nine.”

She smiled and nodded. “Nine sounds terrific.”

Curiosity would eat him alive through the rest of the day and into the night. He was quite nervous when it came to Fran wanting him to meet someone, but he trusted her, didn’t he? She was, in fact, the town’s matchmaker, and if he were to be honest, it was about time he put himself back out in the dating world. 

But first, paperwork.

©2019 by Author Christina Butrum.