- Summaries (2)
Mike travels to a lonely roadside diner to meet the representative of a gang that stole a valuable jade chess set, in order to pay the ransom for its return. The man he is supposed to meet is a no-show as a hurricane blows through, stranding Mike and a group of fellow travelers. When the power goes out and plunges the café into total darkness, one of the customers is murdered with a steak knife. With a restaurant full of suspects, Mike wonders if the dead man is related to his insurance case.
On a day that a storm seems to be brewing, Mike, with Pax at his side, is at Verna's Café, an isolated combination roadside eatery/general store/bus stop, where he is to meet a "Mr. Smith", the alias for this meet of the man who stole a jade chess set from a private collection in return for the ransom Mike has brought and has now hid in one of the establishment's lockers. Instead, a disparate group of people convene at the café, most waiting for the bus which may or may not be coming because of the storm, which threatens to become the next hurricane to hit the Gulf coast. They include: Verna, the proprietress; Dunstan, a soldier just completed a muster duty; Flecker, a traveling encyclopedia salesman; Aiello, a seemingly reflective seventh grade teacher; and fighting married couple Edward and Liz Royce. They are eventually joined by Haines, who they believe to be a fisherman based on the fact of him wearing a slicker. Not knowing who Mr. Smith is, one of the aforementioned people may be who Mike is to meet. As the storm rolls through, the phone lines go down, and the power goes off for a few seconds. An event at the café changes the nature of Mike's stay at the café from a ransom drop to a murder investigation, the two which may or may not be related.
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