A Simple Act

OutPastBarBaja

“You keep looking at it any longer you might swim in it.”

Harry Morgan’s voice knocked me out of my trance, away from the dark liquid abyss I held in my hands.

“I can’t swim,” I answered, gulping down the whisky that tasted more like kerosene. I never really enjoyed the hard stuff. There were times, however, when I needed it, to get the haze and warmth quickly before I had to go to work. Harry was always there to supply, dependable Harry. He’d been doing this for ten years. Opened the joint shortly after returning from Korea in ’53. I needed cheap booze like a mosquito needed blood and Harry’s was the place. The bar was up on the hill near the waterfront, most of the regulars here came from the docks needing a little libation to rest their bodies and souls.

“Don’t look so hot today,” Harry said leaning against the bar table.

“Just living in my head,” I answered. I always told him that when he saw me looking down at my drink like some alien examining alcohol for the first time.

“What the hell you day dreaming for?”

“No reason. Just like doing it.”

“Ain’t you gonna see Lily tonight?”

Now my eyes sparkled. They always did when her name was mentioned.

“Yeah. Got something to take care of first, though.”

“Last time I saw her, maybe six months ago. You brought her here, first time a dame with class ever crossed those doors. Course both of ya were pissed drunk, but she still had class stumbling everywhere.”

Lily claims to not remember that night. Me, clear as fucking crystal. I tend to remember drunken nights better than sober ones. She and I had some dinner over on Mission street, cocktails on Filmore. Lily wanted to keep the night going and I wasn’t gonna stop her. I mentioned Harry’s and off we went. The waterfront was the one place in the city she never explored. When we entered she shook the place, knocking the normal dull mood into a cocked hat. People there that night remembered her, and it made me feel, at the time, that much better about being with her.

I stood up and put a five and four singles on the bar top. “Always generous,” Harry said. I took my hat, gave my goodbyes to him and left.

 

The night air was chilly and the damn Chrysler took forever to heat up. Keep telling myself to trade up. I drove up Fourth Street towards Crescent Avenue. Traffic was light on Tuesdays. I checked my watch, 9:20. I parked the car next to the Sherwood Hotel. The meters stopped running at this time, so free parking. I entered the hotel and planted a seat on the lobby sofa. A few guests were in the place, paying me no mind. I scanned the place, not much going on. Took a newspaper that laid next to me and thumbed through it.

Twenty minutes later I spotted him. Grey suit and hat, brown briefcase in hand and black glasses. His face looked long, I could see the bags in his eyes. Busy man tonight. He fetched his key from the desk, which was my cue to follow him. We squeezed into the elevator and rode up to the seventh floor. The whole time the man kept his eyes on the number display, ignoring me. I noticed his fingers fiddled with the handle on the case.

We got out together. I kept a distance of six paces between us. I rummaged through my pockets pretending to search for my room key. Kept up my ruse as I neared the man, who just got the door to his room opened. Saw my chance.

I shoved his back with my shoulder, sending him tumbling down. He smacked his face on the floor hard, his glasses and hat falling off. I slammed the door shut and withdrew my magnum from the holster. I aimed the heavy black steel at him. The look on his face showed he didn’t need his glasses to know what was gonna happen next.

“Who-who are you?” he said still lying on the floor.

“The briefcase. Give it to me.”

His hand reached slowly, trembling, for the case; his eyes stayed on the gun. I kept still, my hand steady on the little piss-ant in front of me. The man grabbed the briefcase and flung it at my feet.

“On your feet. Against the wall, now!”

He did as he was told. The man had his hands up, shaking with each step until his back was pressed on the wall.

“Who gave you this?” I said holding up the briefcase.

“I-I think you know.”

“You’re right, but I want to hear it from you.”

A knock came at the door. I kept my position, not flinching. “Go and open it,” I said to him. The man clinched his jaw, his breathing became heavier. Another knock at the door.

“Better answer it,” I said. I moved closer to him and grabbed his collar, the man needed a little encouragement. I moved him to the door and prodded his back with the gun. I hid behind the corner of the entranceway when the door opened.

“Frank,” said the voice. I just snickered.

“Frank, what’s wrong?” Footsteps coming towards me.

I shoved the gun in Lily’s face. She let out a gasp.

“Surprised, hon,” I said. “Missed me?”

“Why-why are you-Frank..Frank what’s happening?”

“Frank’s in the same boat as you. Take the money and run? That’s the plan, right. The money I helped get for you. For us.”

“Please- please don’t,” Lily said. “I can explain…”

Funny, I really couldn’t hear her voice anymore. Just a mouth flapping air, flapping and flapping.

There was a time when I did love her and would’ve done anything for her. That money, that was my love, all of it, for her.

I pulled the trigger. Simple as that.

 

THE END

 

Last Call For The Barkeep

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    I wiped away the liquor from my eyes, the massive tool’s insults stabbed my ears.

    “Fuckin’ pole smoker. Stick it up your ass and the fuckin’ Giants, you piece of shit.”

    Just another friendly baseball conversation.

    “I’ll toast one to the Royals for their graciousness in losing,” I said, smirking. The man lunged at me, two big hands grabbed his shoulders and pulled him down. The little asshole was being led away by his friends, a couple of stumbling idiots that didn’t want the night to lead into anymore trouble. The midget shot me the middle finger on his way out, an unoriginal way to make an exit.

    My phone vibrated in my pocket. I looked at the message and ignored it. I ignored all of them, phone calls and text. They weren’t getting anything from me that’s for goddamn sure. I grabbed a glass and poured myself a drink. Eight hours here and a drink thrown at me, I deserved a little libation for my troubles. One shot and I’ll start cleaning the place before closing.

    A woman walked in, her heels clicking on the hard wooden floor. I was tempted to say “we’re closed,” but a look at her legs and raven hair kept my lips sealed. She wore a white blouse, black coat and skirt. Lawyer, office worker, call girl? I had my hunch, but wanted to give the benefit of the doubt at this late hour. She took a seat at the bar.

    “Bit late tonight,” I said. I stole a glance at her gray eyes.

    “Yeah,” she said sighing, “just the nature of the beast.”

    “Want you want?”

    “A beer.”

    “Any particular poison?”

    “I’m not picky.” I handed her the cheapest glass of cold piss water, some Korean brand called Hite. When I hear cheap this is want I give.

    “What you do that’s got you running around this late?” I asked. Those gray eyes were sharp and cold like a knife.

    “Just a working girl,” she replied with a smile. I guess my hunch was on the mark.

    “Least you’re getting some fun.”

    “I wouldn’t call if fun, just good at what I do. Bit tired though, had a rough one tonight and I got one more in a bit.”

    High end kind of girl. Heard of them, never seen them in the flesh. The clothes and the body, that sharp, attractive face. What was the going rate, I wondered. There were faint dark circles around her eyes. They didn’t take away from her looks, but they showed the wear of her work.

    “How about your night?” she asked sipping her beer.

    “Not bad, except for the facial of Jack and Coke.”

    She chuckled. “Someone did that?”

    “People got to show their frustration somehow.”

    “You set him off or something?”

    “Just talked baseball. Alcohol and sports, always a good mix,” I said, smiling. She finished her beer and set the glass down. I refilled it without her asking. My phone vibrated again. I took it out of my pocket, looked at it and put on the bar.

    “Not going to answer?” the woman said.

    “Don’t want to?”

    “Some problem?”

    “Yeah, but it’s nothing. Nothing important.” The phone vibrated again.

    “Really hounding you, aren’t they?”

    “Hounding is one way of saying it.” I switched the phone off, that pulsing vibration got on my last nerves.

    “Probably shouldn’t have done that?” the woman said.

    “Fuck them.”

    “Should have talked to them now, Max.”

    I stood still, my eyes staring at her. Not a trick, no auditory miscommunication. She said my name with a sense of familiarity, like she already knew me, or knew about me.

    “How?”

    “Robert says hi, by the way.” Her hand reached into her purse. “He was going to give you one last chance to pay up, but I guess by that tough talk of yours that’s not going to happen.” The barrel of the gun stared right at me, that single hole housing the metal that was going to tear my flesh apart.

    “Sorry, Max. Harry said this was your last call.”

    She got that right.