Agnes Ketch smiled as she emptied her ladle into a haggard man’s cup. “Thanks so, Aggie,” he said, giving her a slight bow before turning away to make room for the next. “You enjoy that, Harry,” she replied as he walked off. She dipped the ladle back into the tureen for another helping. So many faces today, but there always were on stew day. Many of them she knew, many she didn’t. There were just too many new faces for her to keep track. Too many refugees from the countryside. The raids had been getting bad. People didn’t feel safe, so they came to the city. Except, in its own way, the city wasn’t safe either. With so many people, it was hard to find work food. At least it was getting close to the end of the lunch shift, and the crowds were thinning out. The line was almost empty.

“Agnes?” the next man in line asked. “Miss Ketch?”

“That’s me,” she replied looking out at the man. “What can I do for you?”

“The sisters at the Temple over on Biscay street sent me down your way, Ma’am,” he said. “They’ve been running a collection for you folks. I’ve got a driver waiting out front with a few boxes, if you could show me where you want them.”

“Oh, excellent news,” she cried, clasping her hands. She turned to a young girl that had been sitting nearby. “Jenny, dear, take over here will you? I’m going to see to the new supplies.” Jenny nodded and took up a place behind the tureen, greeting the man in line behind the delivery fellow. Agnes stretched a bit and rubbed her back. “Give me just a moment,” she said to him as she loosened up, “the old back isn’t what it used to be these days.”

He smiled at her. “Nonsense,” he said, “you don’t look a day over forty, I’d say.”

“Ha!” she replied, gesturing in the general direction of the wrinkled skin and gray hair she had earned so long ago. “Thank you for the thought, though. Now, show me to these supplies.”

“I’ve got to admit,” he began as they made their way toward the front of the cafeteria, “I’m a bit surprised. When the sisters sent me over here, they said these supplies were for an orphanage. I wasn’t expecting to find a soup kitchen.”

“Oh, it’s an orphanage all right,” she replied, ruffling the hair of one of the younger kids sitting at a table as they walked past. “Twenty kids here under my care, which is no cake walk, I can assure you. The soup kitchen was the kids’ idea. They saw the people out on the street and decided they wanted to help out, so who was I to tell them no?”

“That’s really nice of them,” he replied, “admirable for children.”

“Well, we couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for folks like you and the sisters, so we thank you for that.” She led him to the side of the room and pulled out a key for the storage closet. “Here we go,” she said, “we should have plenty of space in here, I think.”

She had barely began to unlock the closet door when the doors to the street flew open, and a large group of rough, armed men rushed into the cafeteria, fanning out to face all of the tables.

“Listen up!” the man at the back of the group yelled. “Nobody move! I regret to inform you, but this is a robbery.”

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