“I must say, you’re taking this awfully well.”

Gerry Michaels, owner and pitmaster at Sizzler’s BBQ, shrugged. “It was never about the money, Nate. It was about the meat, about doing it for love of the game.”

Nate nodded, wiping his hands on his embroidered Sizzler’s apron. “Yeah,” he said. “But even so, this is still taking it really well. I mean, when we close, that’s it.”

Gerry remained focused on the meat in front of him, basting it with spice and sauce as it cooked over a wood-fired grill. “It is what it is,” he said. “And I’m not letting any of this stuff go to waste. Sunk costs, you know? Can’t return it and the food pantry won’t take it, so might as well go out in a blaze of glory.”

Sizzler’s had a bad location, right off the highway; people were practically past it by the time they realized they could stop, and if they were westbound they were pretty much out of luck entirely. It was too far from town for the city crowd and too close to it for the country one, and the building had a ramshackle appearance–on the outside, anyway–that was a function of it being the largest place that Gerry could afford with his savings. The property crash hadn’t helped; Nate had gone with Gerry to the bank when they’d foreclosed, trying to refinance, remortgage, re-anything. He’d gone to the investors, too, all local notables Gerry had known in his former life as a jobsite manager for a construction company and a deputy Tecumseh County sheriff.

“Going out in a blaze of glory doesn’t preclude a few middle fingers to people that screwed you over, Gerry,” said Nate.

“Sure it does,” Gerry replied. “Waving fingers around doesn’t solve or change anything.”

Based on the way they’d been treated by men who they’d called friends, Nate had said at the time, if anybody had cause to be bitter it was Gerry Michaels. Instead, he’d declared a gala going-out-of-business event to use up the supplies on hand: one invitation-only event for the bankers and investors, and another for the general public. Both free, what few expenses there were covered out of Gerry’s small pockets and volunteer labor from Nate.

“I’m just worried about you, that’s all,” said Nate. “I don’t want you having a heart attack on me or anything. Stress doesn’t help, and you can’t tell me you haven’t been plenty stressed trying to keep this place afloat. I know I have.”

“Go home, Nate,” Gerry said with a smile. “If I’m taking it well, so should you. Go on. I can handle this place myself, especially with only a half-dozen people coming to eat.”

Nate, reluctantly, agreed. He made to hang up his apron one last time, but Gerry stopped him. “Keep it,” he said.

“Thanks, Gerry. Good luck with the meal. It sure is a decent thing of you to do. I’m sure it’ll be a feast to remember.” Nate left through the back door, and a moment later Gerry heard his car coughing to life and rattling away down the road.

Gerry turned away from the sizzling meat for a second to retrieve a small, locked box from beneath a nearby countertop. He popped the lock with his keyring, and removed three items:

His lucky butcher’s knife with the name of Harold’s burned into its handle–the old greasy spoon, long since closed after Harold’s death, where Gerry had learned many of his tricks as a spit-turner in high school.

A tub of arsenic-based rat poison.

A Tecumseh County Sheriff’s Department .38 special service revolver, oiled and loaded.

“A feast to remember,” Gerry said softly. “A feast to remember.”

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