Pizza Bones Pizzeria
The open sign flickered off when last customers left the shop.
“How are the numbers?” He asked, smoothing his Italian silk tie.
Her brow furrowed. A pencil protruded from her disheveled black hair.
“Looks like you’re not getting paid tonight,” she said.
He reached in his pocket and placed the bills in the tip jar next to the register.
“I have not received a paycheck for three months,” he said.
She poured him a glass of wine.
“On the house. A perk of knowing the owner,” she said.
He swirled the red liquid in the glass. Recalling her vitality in the photos hanging on the wall.
She nodded, revealing puffy eyes while counting the money in the tip jar.
He poured her a glass of wine.
“Cent’ Anni,” He said.
She raised her glass. “To a 100 years,” she said.
“You have a big day at the bank tomorrow. Go home and I’ll close up shop,” He said.
Her elusive smile made a rare appearance.
“Thank You Enzo, I appreciate all your help.”
The warmth of the brick oven was the constant in her life.
“How did it go?” Enzo asked?
Her shoulders slumped as she scanned the room.
“The bank didn’t offer the loan. I have three months to cover expenses before the restaurant is closed forever.”
She slid a cardboard box across the bar.
“This is taking all our business.”
Enzo turned the box around to read the name.
“Pizza Bones? Dumb name for a restaurant. You waited in frigid weather for this?”
She rubbed her temples and sighed. I bribed a delivery driver for his order. The line for pizza wrapped around the building.
“They must be doing something right. Our place is empty. I think we need to tweak our sauce or maybe change the crust.”
Enzo slid the box away and sat at the bar.
“Luna, we are not changing the ingredients or anything else. Dad had confidence in your ability. I sold my shares in the restaurant because I knew you would make unnecessary changes because of the competition.”
She looked at the pizza box, deep in thought.
“You know what else they have? A walk up ordering counter like in New York. They even had a section for dogs to get pizza crust. Maybe we should remove a wall and add a walk-up window.”
Enzo’s deep baritone laughed made her feel better.
“Now I get the name Pizza Bones,” Enzo said.
A serious tone displaced the laugh.
“We are not changing anything. Remember when the factories closed in the early 80s?”
“All I remember is grandfather parading me around the restaurant while talking to the customers. He said my smile could sell more pizza than he could in a week.”
Enzo crossed his arms.
He missed the vibrancy of the restaurant and sometimes regretted taking a job in finance; he thought.
“Grandfather knew all the angles. He removed the walk-up window when the factories were closed, but added the bar and more tables. He never changed the recipe or the way we prepared the food,” Enzo said.
She furrowed her brow and traced the outline of the logo on the pizza box.
“Dad emphasized consistency, quality and personality,” Enzo said.
A faint smile smoothed the frown lines from her mouth.
“I remember him yelling CQP from the back of the house. Those were the days. We still thrived even with 3 other pizza places in walking distance.”
Enzo motioned for her to sit next to him.
“This place has history and personality. You can’t duplicate those intangibles. I think you made the right choice investing in the remodel. You always had a sense of style,” he said.
She removed her hair tie, allowing for a moment of relaxation.
“Maybe I should have listened about opening other restaurants and franchising. I know Dad never gave you the time of day,” she said.
Enzo flicked a wine glass, causing it to resonate.
“I would have stayed if you agreed to expand, but I am here now.”
She hugged her brother.
“Your right Enzo. Dig in and help me deconstruct this pizza.”
Luna opened the box.
“If you can’t make a cheese pizza, attempt nothing else,” Enzo said.
The crust was light with a good balance of fresh ingredients.
“Wow, this is good. A consistent bake and no greasy cheese,” Enzo said.
He wiped the pizza sauce from his face. Oblivious to his sister’s reaction.
“Where are you going?” Enzo asked.
Luna returned with a slice of their own cheese pizza, fresh from the oven.
“Taste this,” she said. Handing him their slice of pizza.
His eyes closed, savoring the flavor of the family recipe.
“Finish chewing and take a sip of water.” She said, pouring him a glass. Now take a bite of theirs.
He put the half-eaten slice of pizza on his plate.
“Now take a bite of their pizza,” Luna said.
She scowled as he turned his head in disbelief.
“It tastes like ours,” he said.
She crossed her arms.
“They stole our great grandfather’s recipe!” she said.
She closed the Pizza bones box and threw it in the garbage.
“I admit their pizza is good, better than good, but stealing our recipe?”
She paced behind the bar in disbelief before she locked eyes with her brother.
“How else do you explain the consistency? Their pizza looks, smells and taste like ours,” she said.
He took another bite from each slice.
“Even if they had the recipe, local fresh ingredients and leavened the dough, they still lack the most important variable,” he said.
Enzo pointed at the pizza oven in the kitchen.
“Do you think a former employee took pictures of our oven and equipment?” she asked.
He finished both slices, convinced they were the same.
“We can check the security footage, but I doubt it,” he said.
She opened the laptop to check the restaurant cameras.
“Even if an employee stole our secrets, it does not account for how the pizza place appeared overnight,” he said.
She scrolled through the footage.
“Nothing from the cameras.”
He peered over her shoulder at the laptop screen.
“There is nothing on the interment about Pizza Bones Pizzeria,” she said
He pointed at the search engine results.
“Click on this article,” he said
She scanned the article.
“It’s an opinion piece about a local crazy reporting a UFO siting the day before the storm that knocked out power in town.”
Enzo stepped away from the bar and looked at the empty restaurant.
“I don’t care about aliens. How can a vacant building for 40 years be ready for a restaurant overnight?” he asked.
He looked outside at the snow falling to the ground.
“Our oven went out of production before WWII. I want to know how they cloned our pizza,” he said.
She closed the laptop.
“You need to find out more about Pizza Bones Pizzeria,” she said.
Enzo saw his sister on the phone.
“A delivery order?” he asked.
She crumbled the paper.
“No, a bill collector calling our takeout line.”
Enzo handed her a napkin and avoided eye contact while she blotted her eyes.
“Scoundrels, they have they no shame,” he said.
Luna regained her composure and continued cleaning the tables.
“We can’t make it too our 100th year anniversary at this rate. Any info on Pizza Bones?” she asked.
Three tables of customers for lunch is better than yesterday, he thought while helping his sister bus the tables.
“Never made it inside to check out their operation. They had 2 cops directing traffic because of the number of people stopping at the restaurant. I also found out they are open 24 hours a day,” Enzo said.
Luna pushed in the chairs at the table.
“That is it?” she asked with her hands on her hips.
Enzo closed his eyes, thinking of any other details.
“Animal control had their hands full with stray dogs waiting for free pizza bones at the window.”
He hesitated to continue.
“Stray dogs? I never recalled seeing any in our town,” she said.
He motioned for her to look at his cell phone.
“A trucker posted this video of packs of them entering the town,” Enso said.
She gave Enzo his cell phone and looked out the window.
“Our suppliers told me Pizza Bones does not have any accounts set up with them when I called to cancel our orders,” Luna said.
Enzo counted the cases of wine behind the bar.
“How are they replenishing supplies if everyone in town is eating at their restaurant?” Enzo asked.
Luna motioned for Ezno to take the container of dirty dishes to the kitchen.
“Get a job at Pizza Bones Pizzeria. It will help us cover expenses and you can snoop around their establishment, Luna said.
“Are you sure you can handle this place all by yourself?”
“Look around. I think I can handle an empty restaurant,” Luna said.
Enzo could not find a website, social media or any advertising for Pizza Bones on his phone.
“Hey buddy, you have any money?” a homeless man asked.
In a few weeks, I might be in your position, Enzo thought.
“You want some pizza from this place?”
The homeless guy motioned for Enzo to lean closer to him.
“You don’t want to eat their pizza.”
A few stray dogs noticed the homeless guy and Enzo.
“Get out of here, you stupid hounds. Dogs have overrun this town since they arrived,” the homeless man said, pointing at the restaurant.
Enzo took a step back from the homeless guy resting against the building.
“What is your name?” Enzo asked.
The homeless man pointed at a group of dogs.
“My name is Josef Allen Henrick, but call me Allen.”
Allen motions for Enzo to sit next to him.
“Keep your voice low so they can’t hear us,” Allen said.
Enzo glanced at his watch.
“Here’s some money. I am getting a job here.”
Allen snatched the money with his dirty hand.
“Oh, they don’t hire people. They brought their own staff and never leave the building,” Allen said.
Enzo took a picture of the empty parking lot reserved for employees with his cell phone.
“Did you see any trucks unloading equipment or contractors renovating the building?”
Allen removed a pencil from his pocket and began drawing on a piece of cardboard.
“Allen, I am talking to you. Did you see any activity before they opened the restaurant?”
Allen slid the drawing over to Enzo.
“I saw them and they did not arrive in trucks.”
Enzo looked at the drawing and rolled his eyes.
“I don’t know what all those dots and lines mean.”
Allen pointed at the sky.
“It is a star chart. They are not of this world.”
Enzo brushed the dirt from his slacks.
“Allen, you take care. I doubt aliens are making pizza for our town.”
Allen erased the star chart.
“It’s true. I saw them during the storm. They caused the power outage, not the storm.”
“Where were you when you saw the alien spaceship?”
“I never saw their spaceship. I was sleeping in the building to avoid the storm when an intense blue light filled the building. The building was full of activity the next morning.
“You saw them?” Enzo asked.
Allen scratched his beard, recalling the following morning.
“Do you want to see them? I can get you in the building?”
“Yea, show me how to get into the building, Allen.”
Allen tipped his hat and smiled.
“Meet me here around 3:00 today when the dogs are taking a nap. Also, bring 100 dollars and one of your XL large pizzas.”
Extraterrestrials or illegal aliens kept against their will while making pizzas were of no concern. Enzo had to learn more about their operation.
“You were gone for a long time. When do you start?” Luna asked.
Enzo checked the temperature in the oven.
“They are not hiring. They don’t have a website or advertise. It’s like they don’t exist,” Enzo said.
Luna stopped stretching the pizza dough.
“They exist because they stole our recipes and our customers,” she said.
The pizza oven is our unfair competitive advantage and I will not lose our legacy, he thought.
“I may have a lead on how to get inside the building.”
He scrubbed his hands in the sink and began prepping the XL pizza.
She whispered in Italian to the yeast. The little helpers who encouraged the dough to expand to its true potential.
“I was talking to a homeless guy outside Pizza Bones Pizzeria. He offered to show me how to enter the building and observe their operations.”
He slid the pizza into the coal fired oven.
“What does he want?” Luna asked.
In previous years, they hired people to fold the pizza boxes to meet demand.
“This extra large pizza and 100 dollars. Told me his name was Josef Allen Henrick.”
He checked the pizza for the signature blackened crust before removing it from the oven.
“Crazy Allen, the homeless guy in the park?”
Enzo slid the pizza into the box on the prep counter.
“You know him?” Enzo asked.
It was nice to see her smile, even if it was at his expense.
“Allen was a scientist at the government lab. They fired him for a classified information leak. A national television show interviewed him. I thought you would have remembered him,” Luna said.
Enzo secured the pizza in the delivery bag.
“I did not follow town gossip when I lived in New York,” Enzo said.
“He was a brilliant scientist before his nervous breakdown. The government closed the facility and his 15 minutes of fame ended,” Luna said.
He considered telling her about Allen’s UFO story, but he stayed quiet.
Enzo shimmied through the unlocked window of the building attached to Pizza Bones Pizzeria.
“Adjust the matchbook wedged between the widow lock, otherwise we will be stuck,” Allen said.
The inside of the building was a time capsule with tarps covering filing cabinets and industrial equipment.
“Follow me and don’t hit your head on the low hanging pipes,” Allen said.
Enzo suppressed a laugh when Allen did not heed his own warning.
“What is this place?” Enzo asked.
“It was a warehouse for materials used in making cars. My dad had an office upstairs and on weekends he would take me here. I would roam around the building while he worked.”
A plume of dust like talcum powder filled the air when Enzo pulled on a tarp.
“Touch nothing. If you cough, they will hear us,” Allen said.
Allen removed a metal grate from the wall.
“I’ll wait for here,” Allen said.
Enzon inspected the low opening built into the brick wall.
“What is this crawl space?” Enzo asked.
The builders imprinted a stamped date of 1910 on the metal frame of the crawl space.
“A coal shoot with load bearing properties for the building. Inch yourself along until you reach the kitchen,” Allen said.
This building is older than my sister’s restaurant, Enzo thought.
Ten feet into the coal shoot, Enzo’s breathing increased and beads of sweat accumulated on his face. A blue light caught his attention. Another grate came into focus. Beyond the grate confirmed this was no ordinary kitchen.
Enzo poured himself a cup of coffee to calm his nerves.
“Luna! You will not believe what I found at the Pizza Bones Pizzeria.”
He saw his sister seated at a table folding napkins.
“Enzo, why are you covered in dirt? Go clean yourself up. We open in thirty minutes.”
Plumes of dust erupted from his clothes when he patted his jacket.
“Coal dust. I’ll explain in the car.”
Snow accumulated on the windshield when the car pulled into the parking lot.
“I don’t get it. Everything is gone?”
Enzo exited the car, canvassing the building before returning to the warmth of the car.
“What did you do Enzo?” Luna asked.
All traces of the restaurant were gone. The lines, the cops directing traffic, even the stray dogs hanging around the building.
“I climbed through a coal shoot and saw their entire operation and left without being noticed.”
Luna increased the heat in the car.
“Did you get proof they stole our recipes or copied our oven?” she asked.
Enzo removed his cellphone from his jacket and noticed the battery was dead.
“I got proof, but it goes beyond recipes. They don’t even have a pizza oven. I sent you the video of their operation.” He said.
“They are serving microwave pizzas?”
Her cellphone died before she could scroll through all the messages.
“Not exactly. A silver box provides the food. They remove the food already cooked, plated and with drinks. If it was a takeout order, they remove the food already in a box,” Enzo said.
She plugged in her cellphone.
“A magic oven? Do they have a magic dishwasher, too?” Luna asked.
He rolled his eyes and drove closer to the building.
“The dirty plates, utensils, cups and trash go into an incinerator. It’s all in the messages I sent you.”
“The unbelievable part is the kitchen is a military command post. Digital maps on the walls and the walk-up window for the dogs records their barking.”
Luna crossed her arms and sighed.
“What do you mean, recording their barking? The kitchen staff are taking orders from the dogs like a drive through?” Luna asked.
Enzo adjusted the rear-view mirror to monitor any approaching cars.
“They marked a location on a map anytime a dog barked at the window. I think they were searching for something. The dogs were reporting information. The restaurant was a ruse. A cover to disguise their real purpose.”
Luna rubbed her temples.
“Do you hear yourself? What you’re describing is crazy.”
Enzo checked the status of the phone.
“I would have preferred seeing a normal pizza operation killing our business, but I saw something beyond explanation.”
Luna unlocked the car door.
“What did the staff look like, Enzo? The ones conjuring the food out of a silver box and talking to dogs.”
Enzo furrowed his brow.
“There was a six feet Cocker Spaniel walking upright. He was in charge. The others were Pomeranians and walked on their hind legs.
Luna opened the car door.
“Everything is on my phone and in the messages I sent you. I reviewed the footage for hours. Allen explained the blue lights disguised the dogs as humans in the dining room. You could see their true form in the kitchen without the blue light. Allen thinks they are aliens from Canis Major star system looking for something on Earth.”
Luna exited the car.
“I don’t believe it,” Luna said.
Strange, his cell phone should have some charge by now, he thought.
“Dirty windows and dusty tattered tarps are in the dining room. A restaurant was never here,” she said.
She stopped walking and peered at the parking lot.
“What is it Luna?”
She ignored him while the snow drifted around her.
The crunching of snow under his footsteps caught her attention. She pointed at the parking lot.
“Snow is covering everything except the parking lot. Now look closer. Do you see the pentagon imprinted in the asphalt? Intense heat is required to melt the asphalt,” she said.
Thank You for Reading,
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