Sometimes the best burgers aren't from the big companies that have millions of their restaurants open all around the world. Though Alfred would eat them when it was a long day at work and he didn't have the time to cook something up or drive too far, there was one place he knew he could sit down, take his time, and enjoy a burger- that was at Ivan's Burgers. On a slow night, the American sheriff would call his friend, Mayor Kirkland, to join him for company. The other man may not eat with him, he would simply sit across the booth with him sipping on some fresh tea the establishment offered, but he was a close friend and good company. The place was never too busy, it was private and a bit away from town, and it was just the place for Alfred to go. It was somewhere he could go in almost secrecy, no one expect Mayor Kirkland, the owner Ivan himself, and a few people who also ate here knew of him munching down on a hefty burger here of all places. He would call it a guilty pleasure, but everyone knew the man loved hamburgers. Everyone also knew that his doctor had told him to cut down on them.
The place itself used to be an old cafe that was run by a German family who sold all types of their native dishes, but soon business grew bad and they were forced to pack their things and leave. About a year after, Ivan and his two sisters bought the place. Alfred had no idea where they lived before they came here, he only guessed they were people coming from Russia and were here to make a living in America. Quite frankly, he didn't care where these people were before here. All he knew that the people they lived with were some of the luckiest people in the world. The burgers these people made were the best things that Alfred has ever tasted. They made a variety of burgers which all tasted great, but there was one that stood out among the rest- A Man Burger.
Alfred loved to sink his teeth into the two fatty patties stuck between toasted buns, gooey cheese, three strips of bacon, fried onions, and grilled mushrooms. It was so amazing that the American could never get the words out to thank Ivan for the meal or describe how much he loved eating his food. Alfred loved meat, loved anything grilled or fried, this was the best thing that has entered his life. He's been to so many places and every burger has tasted the same, but not this one. The meat just had a flavor and texture that captured the sheriff's taste buds and made him come back at least four times a week. Bad for his health? Without a question. Bad for his soul? That was something completely different.
"Hey Alfred, how's your cholesterol?" Arthur asked from his place across the booth. "Surely it can't be good with you eating like this all the bloody time. Does your girlfriend know that you're here eating? You know how she worries about you."
"Horrible but ya know... I come here with you for a reason Artie. It's like impossible to go out with her since she won't let me order any of the good stuff," Alfred complained before taking another hefty bite into his burger.
"You're going to get yourself killed. You're a young man and already having health problems because of your eating habits. I worry about you too, but even if I do ask for you to stop eating those things you'll just come here without me. You're stubborn," the Englishman chuckled slightly, sipping on his tea with a content sigh.
"Yeah about that, I'm pretty sure my girl will kill me before all of this fat will," he laughed, picking up a stray mushroom on his plate and plopping it into his mouth.
Setting the fragile cup on a saucer with a silent clink, the mayor silently breathed out, "Maybe she's our culprit..." his forest green eyes gazed down into the brown liquid as his thoughts ran wild.
Alfred didn't know whether his friend was joking or not. The topic was on the man's head a lot lately so it was obviously going to be discussed at some point during the night. On his mind or not, there are some things that are not joked about.
"Don't think that's it, but glad to have some suspects," he laughed dryly, taking a much smaller bite of his food and a couple of fries. "There's another one missing as of yesterday... name was Kiku who lived in that old place on the edge of town. He did a bunch of jobs to keep up on his rent. He fixed my computer and printer a few times... I hung out with him a few times, he's a great guy. But... he's gone. Just like that."
"Are you sure he's another victim? He could have moved with his parents or some friends out of town," Arthur tried to rationalize.
The American shook his head and continued to take bites out of his burger. "Don't think that's it," he said once there wasn't any food in his mouth. "For one thing he's got friends out here and they didn't say anything about him planning on moving. Then, when the team and I went to investigate his place, all of his stuff was still there. Everything he spent years saving money to buy, things from when he was a kid- everything. I know there's people who just get up and go without taking anything but Kiku wasn't that type of man. Sure he was pretty poor and almost at a point where he would beg for cash but he never did, not to his friends or strangers. He wouldn't get up and leave for somewhere else if everything he ever owned is here."
Arthur blinked in surprise. Alfred was rarely this serious about anything and this was about the longest speech the man has ever given. What shocked him was that it was about the subject of people disappearing around town lately and that talk was considered to be a sort of taboo. For about the last two years this has been happening. It wasn't to people that were well off in life, the targets were people who were dirt poor and struggling to make ends meet as if no one would notice them missing. No bodies have been found or any evidence as to where they have gone. Every time there was a report about another missing person, the mayor's stomach would twist and turn. All of this was bad news. In all honesty, the situation was pushed aside. It wasn't looked to fully in because it was happening to the lesser people of society. For the major to give the okay to make this a big deal would give him a bad name as well as the town council and other people with power in town. He knew there were people who wanted to build over where all the cheaper homes stood now; they thought these disappearances were a sort of blessing.
"But you have no real proof until he or his body his found Alfred," the Englishman finally spoke out. "You're probably jumping to conclusions again. Perhaps you should wait a bit longer before you come to any real conclusion."
"Yeah? So how much longer d'ya want me to wait?" Alfred grumbled, wiping his face with a cheap, wrinkled napkin. "Arthur, I'm pretty damn sure of myself. These people are being kidnapped or murdered and I got at least fourteen cases that can totally prove it. And hey, who knows how many more people could be missing from around these parts? It's seriously time to contribute and give us police guys some help. You can send in investigators- the pros! Seriously Artie we need people who have seen some serial stuff before!"
"You listen to me here and now Alfred," Arthur's voice was dangerously low and cold, more menacing then when he raised it to a yell. He took another sip at his tea and placed it off to the side to place his elbows on the table and leaned in close toward his friend. "I repeat- do not jump to any conclusions for any reason. We've waited this long and we can wait longer if we need. Until you get some more hard breaking evidence, I'm not going to spend any money on the matter and have you come up with nothing. And if you really think about it..." he leaned back slightly and gave a charming, friendly smile. "Who's to say we have a real problem? We offered them free bus passes and even helped with their rent, as far as i'm concerned, it's someone else's problem now."
The American looked dumbly to his companion. Since when was Arthur this cold toward others? Sure he wasn't the sweetest peach in a tree but he would never bash people like that. He was too stunned to reply to those harsh words and couldn't think of anything to say. Alfred almost let out a breath of relief when the door swung open to the place, ringing a bell for the whole building to hear. In walked Antonio, the town's grocer, carrying a clipboard in one hand and a tomato in the other. His assistant, Lovino, strolled in behind him with the normal annoyed expression on his face. The young Italian, Alfred knew, had a few minor jobs other than helping Antonio. His younger brother was ill and had to do anything he could to help pay for both his medical costs as well as rent, food, and other necessities.
"Hey! It's looks like anyone who's anyone is eating here today!" the Spanish man said cheerfully as he made his way to the table where the sheriff and mayor were seated. "Hola amigos! How are you two doing?"
Alfred put on a jolly face of his own, grinning before taking another bite of his burger and setting the half eaten meal on his plate. "How do ya think? I'm eating the best burger in the whole freakin' world!"
"Oh you torture me so mi amigo," Antonio laughed. "Ivan always insists on me munching down one of those every time I come to take a grocery order. Gotta say no though," he patted his stomach. "I got to keep up my shape right? I don't know how you do it though Sheriff. For all the times I see you here and yet you're still running around town catching the bad guys? I could never do that on that diet," he took a bite of his snack, the ripe, red tomato in his hand. "It's hard enough trying to get Lovino here to stop eating all that bread and pasta without him working out after all he eats."
"You bastard!" the Italian shouted, smacking his boss on the back of the head. "I can watch my weight just fine grazie!"
"Calm down mi tomate pequeño," Antonio smiled even as the other man started pulling him away by the back of his apron.
"We got work to do, we're not here for chit chat!"
"Wait a minute!" Alfred called before the two can go too far. "Toni, you gotta tell me what kind of beef Ivan uses in his burgers! Where do you get it? I'm pretty sure he's got a secret recipe and all but the beef itself can't be the same stuff in your store could it?"
He shook his head. "I don't have the slightest idea where he gets it amigo. In the time he's been here he's never placed a meat order with me. Everything else, sí."
"Does it get it from somewhere else?" the American wondered silently. For some reason, he thought it was suspicious. A part of his mind wanted to ignore it, that it was normal for someone to order meat from somewhere else. However, the other part of his mind that made him a cop stored the information away. He got a feeling that this was a fact that he might need to recall later.
"Well I got work to do Sheriff. Nice talking with you! Take care of yourself! You too Señor Mayor," Antonio waved as he and the other young man made their way to the back kitchen.
"Same with yourself Mr. Carriedo," Arthur bowed his head while standing. Though the only thing he payed for was tea, the blonde placed a ten dollar bill on the table. He leaned in close to Alfred once more, a cheeky grin on his lips. "Be patient and smart. Don't mess up the good things that are happening."
Alfred listened to the departing footsteps and the ringing of the bell over the door as it opened and closed. His blue eyes gazed at his half eaten burger with a sour feeling in the pits of his stomach. Behind thin rimmed glasses, his eyes grew clouded as he turned to look out the window to watch the mayor walk. He became lost in thoughts, a burden of a cop he could call it. When there was a case going on, his mind would always start thinking about solutions and reasons while suspecting everyone he had even the slightest bit of proof leading to them. He hated being so suspicious of others without a really good reason. Lost in thought, he nearly jumped out of his seat when Ivan, the owner himself, was suddenly standing next to him.
"Allo Alfred. Everyzink is good, da?" the Russian man questioned, smiling cheerfully down to the dirty blonde. Ivan was a tall man of nearly six feet high, he was somewhat lean with muscle, a light pink scarf was always wrapped around his neck, and was normally sober but everyone knew that on his off hours who would have a hefty bottle of Vodka in hand. He rarely talks to his customers but is cheerful and friendly when he does.
"Hey Ivan..." Alfred said uneasily, going back to staring at his food. "How long have ya been open here?"
"Hnmm..." the light blonde looked up toward the ceiling and pondered for a moment before speaking again. "I say about... two years maybe? Vill be in March."
"And um... where are you from? Before you came here but after you left Russia. You must have been to other places in American right?"
"Pretty far from here. No place you know," he chuckled. It was almost dark though, which made Alfred's already tight stomach feel like it was punched. His violet eyes still remained cheerful, but there was a slight guarded look there as well.
"And hey, I don't think I ever asked this but his Ivan you're real name? Like, your Christian name?" the American tried to keep his tone like he was having a regular conversation, but it didn't make the other man give any long answers.
"Da," another short reply. "Do you vant me wrap dat up so you can bring it home?"
Alfred bit his lower lip as he looked over his burger. By now it was cold with burger grease beginning to curdle on the plate, not exactly pleasing at the time. This would be the first time, though, that the sheriff didn't finish his burger. But hey, there has to be a first time for everything right?
"Nah, I'm good. I think it's about time I start following my doctor's orders. Maybe if I clear up my arteries now, I can come back when I'm all healthy," he laughed uneasily, looking up at the Russian.
"Vhatever you say. Dasvidania," Ivan took away the plate and headed into the back, only the slightest hint of his silvery blonde hair could be seen from the little window.
Alfred departed quickly after that, his stomach really in flip flops now and he was even feeling light headed. He really didn't want to loose whatever lunch he did eat. The American had to get to the station to make a call and do some research. If the mayor asked for proof, then he was going to give him some and tell him every time he found something out- whether he liked it or not.