"So, this spy, you say he was a Negro?"
General Smith leaned in his chair. He nodded. "We need him captured and returned to us immediately. Quietly. Can you do it?"
The man smiled…"Yeah. I can."
"You had your fill?" Mary asked as she cleared away the table.
Eli nodded. He hadn't had a meal that nice since…well technically, since he wasn't born yet, he hadn't had a meal ever.
"Thank you so much." He said. He reached down for his wallet and-
"Oh no. There's no need for that." Mary said. "It's on the house." She smiled and walked to the sink.
Eli felt a little relieved, Fury had told him any small changes in this time could be disastrous, who knows what would have happened if a quarter from his time was in circulation decades before it was supposed to exist.
But…he couldn't just eat and run, that was something his grandmother taught him. He gently rose from his table.
"Ma'am. Please, at least let me do the dishes." He looked around, the place was dirty, it could use a nice sweeping. The counters were sticky, and the floors could use a nice bit of polish. "And maybe I could do a little cleaning?"
It was the least he could do.
"Naw, I couldn't ask yo-"
"Ma'am I insist." And he wasn't going to take no for an answer. He did have a mission to complete, find out what the threat was and neutralize it. But that could wait a little while, couldn't it?
He grabbed his dirty plate from Mary and went to work. He filled the sink with subs and began scrubbing as hard as he could (well, as to not break the plate). He wanted those plates to shine.
"W-well, alright. If you insist. But don't work too hard, a'right?"
He made no promises. What time was it anyway? What year was this? He knew it was the 1940's, and the World War was well under way, but what did that mean for him? Right now, was his grandfather rotting away in some American prison? Was Cap already frozen in ice? Was Bucky being tortured by enemies across the seas?
What was going on?
He placed his clean dish into the cabinet and went back to finish the silverware. His grandmother always said that cleaning helped the soul. "It lets you concentrate on the big picture and the little details."
Every day he was beginning to sound more like her. How was she? It had been years since he had visited her place. How was grandpa? Did he still look out his window with that same dull expression? Perhaps he had gotten better since he said his goodbyes. Or perhaps he had gotten worse.
Eli shook his head. He couldn't think about that now. Not when there was so much at stake.
"Just focus on one thing at a time super soldier."
He placed the cleaned silverware in the drawer. There, now he could start work on the floors.
"So, you got our money or not?" Came a voice from beyond the kitchen. It sounded like it came from the restaurant. Who was that?
"Listen, business has been slow…" that was Mary's voice.
"Woman I don't care. Alls I care about is my money. Where is it?"
Eli poked his head out from behind the door, and he instantly scanned the scene. Mary was backed into a corner by a large man, dark skin, who smelled of cigarettes.
"Listen Jo-Jo. I been tellin ya' before."
"Naw, you listen Mary. I'm the only one keepin' those white turkeys from burnin' down this place. I deserve a little reward." He moved closer and rubbed his hand against her cheek. "Don't ya think?"
She closed her eyes and shook.
"Get your hands off of her."
Eli found himself standing in front of this complete stranger. No shield, no gun, no weapon, just himself.
This poor thug was already finished.
"And just who the hell are you? Some kind a' super negro?"
Eli didn't know what made him angrier, the fact that some creep would strong arm a sweet lady like Ms. Mary, or that he was using their own situation against her. Protect her from arsonists? It was one thing to strong arm someone, but it was another to try and tread on people who were already too marginalized to fight back. He was walking on his own people with no remorse.
It was guys like him that gave black men a bad name.
"I told you to let her go." Eli said again, his hands clenched so hard he felt his nails digging into his palms. This guy was getting on his nerves.
"Listen boy, why don't you go back to your tree house." He turned to Mary, "Schlubs been reading too many Captain America comics." Jo-Jo raised his hand to Mary's cheek. "No…where is my-"
And in the wave of a flag, Jo-jo was on the ground, his jaw feeling as if it had been hit by a train. And there stood Eli, in-between him and Mary, with a scowl across his face.
"I think you should leave now."
The man scrambled to his feet and ran through the door as quickly as Eli had ever seen (they guy could have given Tommy a run for his money).
He turned to Mary. "Are you alright?"
She looked to him in horror. Her face becoming paler with each passing second. It was then that Eli realized…he might have made a mistake.
"What did you say your name was again?"