"You got any ham today?" Willm asked.
"Yup," the owner said.
"Ham and cheese sandwich. Mustard. No mayo," Willm said.
"Good, we're out of mayo," she replied.
Finally, what has it been, two months? Willm thought. As he waited for his sandwich he heard the door open behind him but he didn't look around. Two men sat down, one on either side of him. He knew one better than the other.
"Willm," Mrko said.
Mrko was only slightly older than Willm but he got the sense that Mrko had lived hard. Mrko ran one of the smaller ReeL teams.
"And you know my associate Lrz," Mrko said, gesturing to the large man on the opposite side of Willm. Lrz said nothing, he did not smile.
Willm looked around nervously.
"Don't worry, don't worry, no exchange of goods today. We would never do business here. This is more of a social visit," Mrko said.
"Oh?" Willm said. The owner of the diner put a plate with a ham sandwich on it down in front of him. He looked at the sandwich with regret.
"Yeah," said Mrko, "so how's the ReeL trade these days—you sell stuff to that guy at the market? Millr?"
"That's right, Millr," Willm said.
"Newest ReeL is popular, very popular I hear," Mrko said. He ran his finger down the five or six items on the menu in front of him.
"Oh yeah? Didn't know that," Willm said, glancing sideways at Lrz, who remained expressionless.
"That's the word. Problem is, from my point of view anyway, is that it's not one of ours," Mrko was grinning.
Willm felt uncomfortable. Lrz reached over and picked up half of Willm's sandwich. Willm didn't look but he could hear Lrz biting and chewing.
"Lrz is hungry I guess," Marko said offhandedly. "I'd love to meet this new ReeL maker, something this popular. There are probably a ton of things I could learn from them. Who did you get the ReeL from?"
"Bug," Willm said after a brief pause. He considered lying, but realized it was futile. Mrko would find out eventually, and if Willm lied he'd get a bad rep. Everybody knew what everybody else was up to.
"Bug," Mrko repeated.
"Yeah I'm guessing he knows the makers, he seems to know a lot of people," Willm said, glancing down at his plate.
"He does. We know Bug too," Mrko said. He tapped the menu absentmindedly. "Well, thanks Willm. We'll ask Bug about this rising star. There aren't many of us that do this, you know? We've got to stick together."
Mrko stood, slapping Willm on the back. Lrz stood, and placed unfinished crusts from the sandwich back onto Willm's plate.
"Lrz thanks you for lunch," Mrko said. "Alright Willm, we'll see you soon I'm sure, have got some great stuff in the pipeline."
"OK, see you," Willm said.
After they left he mechanically ate the remaining half sandwich and paid. The owner raised her eyebrows at him.
He knew that ReeL was something special, just like he told Millr. The price would go up, maybe a lot. He wondered if he could find Bug before Mrko did. He'd see if there were any more ReeLs, he didn't have any idea about how quickly these new makers worked. And he wondered what Mrko would do. He had resources, maybe he'd buy all the new ReeLs that he thought were competition and sit on them. Certainly wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. But this one was special. Willm couldn't explain it. He wanted everybody to see it. He didn't want these kinds of ReeLs to disappear. He didn't know why it was important, but it was important.
Outside the diner he sat on the stairs and retied his sneakers, securing the laces tightly.