I was on my third whiskey sour when he sauntered in to the bar. The place was something out of a film noir, without the cloud of smoke. I was dressed the part in a casual wool suit and a fedora and I could imagine myself a private dick. According to my ex-wife, I’m just a dick.
“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked me as he parked his seat on the barstool beside mine. The place was almost empty, so there were plenty.
“That depends. If you’re expecting a roll in the hay afterwards, I’m not that type of guy.”
He chuckled. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Just arrived in town.” I slugged down the rest of my drink and tipped the glass to the bartender.
“Get me one too Marty,” said the guy to my right. “I’m buyin’.
“So what brought you here?” he asked.
“No friggin’ clue,” I said, catching the bitter scent of lemon on my own breath.
“My guess would be a bad case of heartburn, amIright?”
“What are you, a mind reader?” I looked at him then. Really looked at him for the first time. He wore all black – had on one of those hoodies with the hood up, the way the young people all seem to wear them these days. A unibrow the size of Manhattan drew a bristly line across his forehead. Other than that he wasn’t a bad looking guy. I think if I swung that way, I might do him.
“Nah,” he said. “I see enough guys come through here who look like you. Folks don’t tend to stick around long.
“Sure are,” Marty said, putting our drinks down on the bar. Mine went right in the ring of condensation the last one had dearly departed from.
“Seems like a decent enough place.”
“It does now. But wait until midnight.”
I checked my watch. Tapped it.
“Time goes by slow in these parts.” He wasn’t just a guy, now he was a stranger: things were getting stranger by the minute. Or were they? I checked the clock over the bar. Eight. Just like when I’d walked in.
“You’re gonna want to be movin’ on too, amIright?”
“Where else is there to go? My wife kicked me out five minutes ago.”
“I would say she did more than kick you out, buddy,” said the stranger. “Why don’t you stand up and look in the mirror?”
“Not interested, thanks.” I knocked back half my drink with a shaky hand. Sure, I wanted to get out of here now.
“Hey Marty!” called the stranger down the bar.
“What’s this guy got in his chest?”
“That’d be about a six inch blade, judging by the handle,” Marty nodded.
I slammed down my glass, sloshing what was left of my whiskey sour way beyond its preexisting puddle.
“Hey fella.” The stranger leaned on the bar, talking to me in a confidential tone. “There’s a elevator through that door there. You can go up, or you can go down. Or,” he lifted his drink in salute, “you can stay here and drink with me as long as you like.
“What do you say, Marty?”
“Last car goin’ up leaves in twenty seconds,” Marty replied.
I jumped off my barstool and made a beeline for the elevator. Some private dick I’d make.