Part 1: Blue's Diner

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Jolie swerved around Latasha with her food tray, just missing her, hardly glancing up from the book she held in her opposite hand. She closed the book momentarily, holding her place with her thumb, and served identical Blue's burgers to two men sitting at the back corner booth: Lafayette Harris and Judd Tillborn—avid gator hunters. It was that time of year, after all—the time of year that all the gator hunters were coming out of the woodwork, and all of them seemed to like to hang out at Blue's.

It seemed like Jolie had been waiting tables at Blue's Diner for as long as she could remember. It was a small diner out smack in the-middle-of-nowhere-special, Louisiana, but it was a warm and friendly place, full of charm, and everybody knew everybody. Jolie could likely name each patron sitting in the diner at any given time. It was just that kind of a place.

She smiled and said sweetly, "Enjoy your burgers, boys," and was just turning around, about to resume her reading when Lafayette quickly spoke.

"Whatcha readin' today there, Jolie?" he asked, grinning ear to ear under his camouflage baseball cap.

Lafayette Harris was a squat little man, with round pink cheeks and not a lick of sense to him. But he was always nice to Jolie. He always took an interest in what books she was reading, and Jolie was always reading something. It was kind of what she was known for—actually it was the second thing she was known for. First and foremost Jolie Futé was known for being absolutely stunning. 

She was tall and slim, with the graceful figure of a ballerina, and her skin was slightly sun kissed from days spent tending to her flower garden in the hot Louisiana sun. Her eyes were like melted caramel sprinkled with shimmering brown sugar, and her hair was like chocolate melting down over her shoulders in thick, loose curls. She would have liked to be known for her brains rather than her beauty but no one could deny that she was lovely to behold. Even other women—jealous as they were—couldn't help but to be transfixed by her. 

She fixed her eyes on Lafayette, "It's a fairytale: Beauty and the Beast. "

Judd chuckled a little his mouth full of half chewed burger. Judd was the complete opposite of Lafayette. He was thinner than a lead pipe and no smarter than one, and most of the time Joli wondered whether or not he was malnourished or maybe hooked on some kind of drugs—he really was that thin. When Lafayette and Judd stood next to each other they looked like the number ten.

Lafayette laughed a little too, "What beauty's gonna go get with a beast, though, really?"

"It's just a story, Lafayette," she said patiently with a slight smile, "The moral is that it's what's on the inside that make people love you."

"So people's gonna love yer guts and stuff?" Judd chortled, a piece of ground beef drooping out of the corner of his mouth as he stifled his horrendous half-snort-half-laugh, which resembled a gurgled choking noise.

Jolie smiled at both of them with restrained distaste, and then headed off to serve her next table, which had suddenly become occupied. The man sitting there was not someone she immediately recognized, and she approached the table with curiosity, carefully marking the page of her book and pocketing it in her small black apron. The man had the same look as many of the other gator hunters, and she wagered he was probably just in town for hunting season.

Jolie pulled out her notepad when she reached the table and smiled as she said, "Welcome to Blue's Diner, what'll it be?"

The man didn't look up at her. He was staring at the long diner window on the other side of the room, seeming not even to really be looking out of it—just staring at it, blankly. He had a haggard look on his face. His eyes looked bloodshot but not really fatigued. He looked spooked, Joli thought. Like he'd seen a ghost.

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