Chris saw an Ambassador police car parked outside the donut shop. He saw the dress shop, the hardware, the bakery, the butcher, and a very big toy shop. He had another thought. “That was a time machine and we went back to 1957.”
“No,” Plum laughed. “Middleton is not reached by time travel, though the town is stuck somewhere in the early sixties. I always figured about 1965 or 66.”
Chris stopped. Plum bumped into him for not watching where he was going. Mary let go of Chris’ arm and looked worried. Roy got their attention.
“It is getting late. We better get rooms before we eat.”
“Lilly came this way.” Mary said as a statement to Chris, but her voice made it enough like a question for Plum to answer.
“She did. We are certain about that. Roy and I will have to spend the night detecting to figure out where she went from here. But she certainly came here, so we are on the right path.”
No telling what Chris thought.
Everyone stared at Chris, to make the decision. He pointed as he spoke. “So, we get rooms at the Holiday Motel before we eat at the Yuletide Diner.” Everyone breathed, and Roy started walking. They followed, but Chris had not finished speaking. “Then I think you all have some explaining to do,” he said, with an especially sharp look at Mary.
The diner looked like a train car right out of the 1960s. They had a speaker with a volume control at each booth for whatever might be playing on the jukebox. Chris turned the speaker off when he looked at the menu. There were enough speakers in the place turned on, so he did not need it blasting in his ear. Chris sat on the outside with Mary next to him, while Plum squeezed Roy up to the window on the other side.
“The french-fries here are really good,” Plum said, before he swallowed. Maybe he should not have said that. He got busy with the menu.
Chris gave him a hard look and got ready to ask a question, but he got interrupted.
The waitress, in a green uniform with a red apron, and a silver and gold bell lapel pin that jingled every time she moved, brought waters in hard plastic red cups and asked if they were ready to order.
“Sure,” Chris said. “I’ll have the turkey and stuffing. Mashed potatoes and…” he looked at Mary.
“Green beans,” Mary said.
“Green beans.” Chris said, and shrugged.
“I’ll have the same thing,” Mary agreed and handed the menus to the waitress.
“You want gravy on your potatoes?” the waitress asked.
Chris and Mary said, “Yes” at the same time.
“Gravy on everything,” Mary said.
“Except the green beans,” Chris countered.
“Except the green beans,” Mary nodded.
“And coffee,” Chris added.
“Yes, coffee, please,” Mary agreed, and looked around the diner, being uncomfortable under Chris’ stare. Roy and Plum ordered, and then they had to wait. Elvis finished on the jukebox, and Gene Autry came on, singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Roy looked out the window, being next to it. Plum twirled his fork, and looked ready to whistle along with the music. Mary found something fascinating about the couple two booths down and across the aisle. At least she stared in that direction, effectively taking her attention away from Chris’ eyes. Chris thought of all sorts of things to say, but only one thing bothered him.
“So, where is Lilly?”
“We honestly don’t know where she may be at this point,” Plum spoke right up.
“But you have been to this place before. You said they have good fries here.”
“Yes, yes,” Plum admitted. “I’ve been to places further on, too, a bit. The thing is, we don’t know which way she may have gone from here.”
Chris turned to Mary. “1965?” he asked her. Mary shrugged, but looked nervous. She bit her lip, but decided for the sake of her feelings for Chris, she had to tell the truth, even if she did not have to tell everything just yet.
“It is Christmas eve here, and tomorrow will be Christmas day, even though back at the apartment it is still a week before Christmas. I don’t know how it works, but I know that is true. The motel diner will be open tomorrow so we can get breakfast, but after that we will have to depend on these two…fine gentlemen to lead the way. As far as Lilly goes, you know what I know, and I am as worried about her as you are, but we have to believe she is fine and well.”
The waitress came with supper, and Chris paused in his questions, though he did not stop staring at the three while everyone ate.
Chris had a lot to digest beyond the turkey and dressing, which tasted good. He had been hungry, but now, as he satisfied that hunger, he began to think again about what he was doing, where he was, and when he was. It did not make any sense. They left his apartment on Monday morning, a full week before Christmas. He had every hope of finding Lilly safe and sound before Christmas. But Mary said they were in 1965, or 66. And even if they were actually still in regular time, she said it was Christmas Eve, like he lost a whole week of time. That did not make any sense.
The waitress came to fil their coffee cups, and he asked. “So, this is Christmas Eve…” He let his voice trail off and tried to sound casual about it.
“That’s right,” the waitress said, with a smile. “You expecting something special under the tree tomorrow?” She smiled harder, like she thought that might be a good idea. “Merry Christmas,” she said, and left.
Chris stared at Plum who picked at his food. Mary stared at him with her big eyes, but said nothing. Chris ignored them and focused on his food, as Roy turned on the speaker.
Cue: White Christmas
Bing Crosby (1942) Original Version
Chris considered when they left the minister, not much more than an hour ago. The police car with the flashing lights made plenty of noise when it arrived. He went through what looked like a back door to a warehouse—maybe a six-story building. The sound, flashing lights, and everything cut off instantly. He stepped through a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet, and came out in this place, where the white snow made deep piles beside the well plowed road, and the old winter trees stood as tall or taller than any of the buildings. He looked back and saw no sign of a six-story warehouse, much less the eight to twelve-story apartment and office buildings that filled the previous area. More than that, he heard nothing. The traffic and general sound of people on that busy street should have been obvious, even a block away.
Chris looked at Mary, and she quickly turned her eyes to her nearly empty plate. He said something she did not expect. “Apple pie?”
Mary looked up, her face trying to smile, but looked ready to cry any moment. “Yes, please,” she said.
Chris got the waitress and ordered. Fat Plum wanted Figgie pudding. Tall and skinny Roy stayed away from the sugar. With one last hard look at his companions, Chris explained.
“The important thing is to find Lilly, safe and sound.” He looked away, though the others all stared at him, like the condemned, awaiting their sentence. “For some reason, you people seem to know where she is, or at least where she is headed. I figure, if the only way to reach her is to follow you, then that is what I must do, no matter how strange the journey gets. You said a week.”
“Maybe not so long,” Mary interrupted, and immediately covered her mouth and quieted.