Coal was off early, speed-kissing him through a cloud of Issey Miyake Pleats Please, and murmuring something, on her way out the door, about going to see the mayor. 
     For Lincoln Ford, it was hard—virtually impossible—to bring together Coal and the avoirdupois Mayor of Toronto in the same sentence, especially in a sentence that stood there shivering by itself in time and space, beyond the reach of coffee and therefore vulnerable to misinterpretation.  Coal Blackstone sitting and talking demurely to His Worship Cass Tamberlaine?  He must have misheard her.
     But anyhow, Coal, he knew, could take care of herself.  The only danger he could envisage was her gradually expiring of boredom in conversation with the Lardly Cass.        
     But now his need for coffee was urgent, and while he usually made espresso for the two of them, he decided that just for this morning, Coal being off to the lair of the Mayor, he’d go visit his friend, dear old Peter of the Athens Astoria.    
     A diet’s a diet right enough, he thought as he came blazing up out of the parking garage in his red, 1960 Austin-Healey 3000, but a Greek coffee with a Greek custard pastry is something else again.
     Linc liked sweet stuff for breakfast and he particularly liked cold, creamy, pudding-like things—such as this devastatingly mild, milky, lemony custard Peter, the owner of the Astoria Athens, made fresh every day.
     Peter’s name was Peter something or other and while Linc had known him for seven or eight years now, he still had no idea what his last name was.  Linc knew a couple of things about him, though.  He knew, for example, that before he came to Toronto and opened his dark little restaurant on Bloor Street West, Peter had worked as the cook on a Greek freighter and made breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for twenty-five shipmates.
     Peter was a dab hand with Moussaka and with heavily herbed baked chicken legs (just the legs, never the breasts; what does he have, thought Linc, against chicken breasts?) and with olive-oil-soaked peas and rich, sodden but delicious green beans.  Sometimes he would make stuffed tomatoes and stuffed green peppers, and occasionally—all too rarely—he’d prepare his really spectacular stuffed zucchinis baked in a rich lemon sauce.  Still, it was Peter the Baker that Linc cherished, Peter the maker of morphologically inventive baklavas and innocent, angel-touched-custards like the tray of them sitting milky cool and buttery on Peter’s counter. 
     Peter had never learned much English, and a hearty “Yassou!” pretty much exhausts Linc’s Greek, so they simply nodded and smiled a lot.  Peter seemed remarkably fond of Linc and was very paternal towards him, and so whenever Linc would order a custard pastry and coffee—like this morning—Peter would bring him the coffee and two slabs of the custard.  Which he then had to consume (no problem!) with a sustained gusto (also no problem!) or Peter’s feelings—which were immense—would be hurt.
     Peter brought the two pastries to the table.  Two heavy, creamy portions of the gelatinous custard on flaky, slightly sharp, slightly vinegar’d phyllo pastry—each with a dusting of fine cinnamon on top.  Linc tucked into them—and was as delighted as always.
     “Delectable as usual, Peter!”
     Peter smiled and went to fetch coffee.  When he got back to Linc’s table with it, his hand was shaking.
     There’s been a change in Peter, thought Linc.  Every time now when he brings coffee to the table, his hand shakes.  And it’s getting worse.  Last week, Linc remembered, Peter had brought coffee and his hand had trembled so much that most of the coffee ended up in the saucer.  When that had happened, Linc had simply taken the saucer carefully from underneath the dripping cup and poured everything back inside again.  No need to mention anything.
     Today Peter’s hand was shaking so violently the full cup of coffee rattled in the saucer like castanets and the liquid brimmed over everywhere—onto the floor, onto the counter, some of it even dropped back into the cup.  Peter looked at Linc, wounded, humiliated.  Linc smiled encouragingly.  
     “Thank you,” said Linc, adding cream to the little bit of coffee that was left. 
     “You’re welcome,” Peter replied.  Linc had never heard him say that before.
     Linc was halfway through his second custard when an odd thought occurred to him.
     “Peter,” he asked, “does the mayor of Toronto ever eat here?”
     “The Mayor?  No, never.  Why?”
     “Oh I don’t know.  I was just thinking about the Mayor.”
     “Why would you think about the Mayor?” Peter asked.  “I bet he never thinks about you!  Why not think about that beautiful lady you live with instead?  Much more happy a thought!”
     “Coal?  Well, I was, as a matter of fact.  She’s in his office right now.”
     “Apparently he’s been receiving death –threats.   She’s fascinated by things like that.”
     “The beautiful detective.”
     Linc smiled.
     “Tell her to be careful,” said Peter, attempting to refill Linc’s cup without slopping most of the coffee into his saucer.