Current lunar phase: Waning Crescent

JULY

2009


Lunch at the bar

Bar scene

Illustrations by Aurora Andrews

I walked into the bar and my eyes adjusted to the light or lack there of. It was ten-thirty in the morning and the third shifters and late dayers were lightly sprinkled around well-worn wooden chairs and stools. Sean, the bartender, was wiping down the mahogany and putting away glassware. This placid scene just proved again that it was the end of the line for the dries. Everyone knew it: the raids were over, the “bars” were back to being bars. Short of delivery trucks with Jameson painted on the side, everything was back to normal. Looking around, the thought flashed through my mind that maybe the temperance folk were right, and this juice dispensing was no good for us: how in the world did Sean have customers before noon? Since I was one of the thirsty ones, I didn’t dwell too long on the subject as I sidled up to the bar.

“Scotch neat, rocks on the side.”

“Why the hell you ordering the hard stuff so early in the morning? You’re not Irish.” He eyed my trench and the tie peeking out at the collar. “And you’re not getting off work.”

“Leave me be. I’ve got a new client and I’m celebrating.”

“Well, why didn’t you say? Don’t let me stop you my boy. Have a double.”

Watching the room sparkle through a finger of amber fluid, I walked to the corner and slung myself onto the last stool along the line. A radio saxophone played low in the background. The music was barely audible above the din of Sean’s clattering housecleaning and the collective murmur of the morning clientele. Two fellas across the room were getting hot about something, but below their exclamations was a layer of heavy breathing from a crowd of solitary, tired men.

Sitting with my back against the wall, I thought about my new client’s low cut dress and what I really wanted private detective/client privilege to mean. My reverie was cut short when the music stopped and our local intrepid cut in.

“A body has been fished out of the East River. He is reported to be six two and weighting around 215 pounds. Brown hair, crooked nose. He was wearing a suit. No identification was found on his person. If anyone has any information, please call the New York Police Department.”

I don’t know why, but I felt this was my guy. Business had been slow all month, and by now I deserved a lucky break. I asked Sean for his thoughts on the matter.

“What do you think!?” I shouted a little to be heard over the washing. A few patrons turned. “This guy on the radio, you think it’s my guy?”

“What are you talking about?” Sean shouted back, then turned the faucets and walked over.

“Sorry.” I returned to my regular volume. “The new job we’re drinking to...“ I raised my tumbler and he lifted an empty glass he was drying in return salute. “I am looking for an out-of-towner, nothing special, just a turkey from the Big Easy.” I pointed to the radio. “But he matches that description to a T.”

“Well, I can tell you this. If you are lucky enough that out of all the millions of people in NY, your needle just got delivered to you by RKO, then I would put on your bowtie and saddles and head over to the club. Bet on the damn ponies. Hell, even if that stiff’s not your break, I’d play a couple and ask around with the fellas at the club. If your Southerner was looking for action, one of the gentlemen over there might have seen him.”

“True.” I watched my drink. “You know, I’m in no mood for horses, but there’s plenty of inside southerners that make that place a habit. Or maybe I could check in with the coppers, see if I can see the body and get an ID on the guy.”

Sean’s face dropped. “You know how I feel about those crooks.”

“I know, but don’t worry. The dark days are almost done.” I threw back the rest of my Scotch in one hot swallow, and pushed the empty glass towards my keep. “Thanks Sean. I’ll take a coffee with sauce to go.”

Head to the gentlemen’s private club.

Go over to the police station.

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