After relieving Johnny Dawson
Kilgore of their stolen drug money and then stranding them in Salt Lake City,
Claire Morgan has established herself in the Bay Area.
Dark Alley is located off Grand Avenue in Oakland. Its dive bar vibe told Claire
that this might
be a good fit for her. Also, it was just
a few blocks from her new apartment, so transportation wouldn’t be an issue.
looking for an afternoon shift bartender,” said Claire. “That works for
me. I’m taking a few morning classes at
Berkeley. The BART takes me back and
forth in no time so I could easily do some two-to-seven shifts and work some on
don’t know,” said Ronnie Jackson, the owner of the Dark Alley. “We
get the occasional rough character in
here; do you think you could handle that?”
make lousy bartenders,” interrupted a scruffy guy nursing a beer. “I’d
go with a guy if I was you.”
what I mean?” said Ronnie. “You okay
not “okay” with that kind of crap, but I can still do the job,” said
Claire. “Guys like that are usually all
ya see?” said the guy. “Already
insultin’ a payin’ customer and she ain’t even got the job yet.”
down or leave,” said Ronnie. “I’m tryin’
to conduct an interview here.”
customer got up from his barstool grumbling to himself and headed for the men’s
me a minute, will ya?” said Claire. “I
need to use the facilities.”
walked past the women’s room and stepped into the men’s. Ernie Bisbee,
the guy who had been spouting
off at the bar, stood in front of the urinal reading the graffiti in front of
walked up to Ernie and grabbed a handful of greasy hair on the back of his
head. She smacked his face against the
wall two quick times and Ernie fell to the floor moaning.
washed her hands and walked out without a word.
can start tomorrow afternoon if that works for you,” said Claire.
so fast,” said Ronnie. “I ain’t offered
you the job yet.”
then Ernie stumbled out of the men’s room and headed for the door. There
was blood smeared on his face and he
spit what looked like a tooth on the floor as he walked past the bar.
said Ronnie. “What happened to you?”
looked at Claire but didn’t say anything; he just kept walking.
do I have the job?” said Claire.
here tomorrow at two. I’ll show you
where everything is and you can take it from there.”
be here,” said Claire. “Thanks for the
has been working at The Dark Alley for six months now and things have been
was the occasional interesting customer from time to time that she enjoyed
Alex Gentry, for example.
seem like a nice person. What are you
doin’ workin’ in this dive,” said Alex.
are trained to be “nice” to the customers,” said Claire, eyeing up Alex while
rinsing a glass. “Just because I smile
at you and support your attempts at humor doesn’t mean I’m a nice person when
I’m on my own time.”
and I suppose being friendly to the customers is good for tips too,” said Alex,
putting a couple of ones on the bar in front of him.
can be fun, I like it, but what most people don’t realize is that we do have
other lives after work.”
have other lives too,” said
Alex. “What time do you get off?
We could show each other our respective other
done at 10:00 if you want to hang around
that long. I have a loft two blocks down
the street; you can walk me home.”
over on the couch, Claire woke up first.
She was holding her .38 loosely in her hand, and if she hadn’t fallen
asleep it would have been pointed at Alex instead of lying in her lap. The last
thing she remembered was things
starting to get fuzzy. She didn’t
remember taking her pistol from the coffee table drawer in front of her and
must have done that on automatic pilot.
scruffy Salvation Army wingback chair across from her, Alex slept on; unaware
of how close to death he was.
looked into their drink glasses. A
little residue had settled to the bottom of each glass. The residue in her glass,
still half full of
vodka, had a bluish tinge. The little
bit of residue resting in the bottom of Alex’s glass of whiskey was some specks
of white powder.
was a good thing she had set her drink down unfinished at the first sign of
shook her head a couple of times to clear the cobwebs and then walked over and
nudged Alex awake.
What?” he mumbled. When he saw the
barrel of the pistol a few inches from his face, he came around quickly.
put something in my drink,” said Claire.
“If I’d drank it all, I’d probably be dead, right?”
you put something in my drink too,” said Alex.
“What’s up with that?”
first,” said Claire. “What’s your “other
really don’t want to know. Let’s just
say I’m in town for a job.”
guess that calls for a belated pat
down. Get up. Slowly.”
took a Glock from Alex’s shoulder holster and a knife from a sheath on his
sat back down.
I assume I’m not your “job”,” said Claire.
“Why’d you agree to come home with me and why’d you put something in my
I could catch a few hours of sleep
and be gone before you came around. Skip
the hassle of a hotel. The job will be
finished by 6:00 AM and I’ll be out of LA before noon. Your turn.”
why’d I spike your drink?” asked
Claire. “It’s sort of a hobby.
Once every month or so the right guy comes
into the bar and things fall into place.
I bring him back here, put him out, take about half his cash, and send him
home when he starts to come around.”
they ever get pissed and smack you around?” asked Alex.
with Mr. Friendly here pointed at them.
Nope, they head out the door and consider themselves lucky to be alive.”
some hobby,” said Alex. “You sure
you’re, ya know, mentally stable?”
the guy who drugged me,” responded Claire with a smirk. “Oh, and
I also take a picture of them
sleeping with my phone and send it to theirs.
Just to let them know I’ve got something on them. One guy did stop
in at the bar maybe to make
trouble, but when I took out my phone he made a U-turn and headed out the
take my picture?”
have time,” said Claire, still pointing her gun at Alex. “Just woke
up. Didn’t get your money either.
got up from the chair, still a little wobbly, and said, “Well, no pictures and
no money. I’ll take my knife and gun and
be on my way. You’re in way over your
head here, Claire. Let’s call it a
thought about it, realized a cell phone picture wasn’t going to be a deterrent
to somebody like Alex, and handed him his knife and Glock.
ya, Alex. Maybe we can do this again
likely,” said Alex as he went out the door.
“Not bloody likely.”
realizes Alex may be right. This “hobby”
of drugging and relieving men of some of their cash before turning them out
onto the street could be too dangerous.
decides to concentrate on school and bartending. Until her imagination next
stirs something else
up, that is. Claire’s not content unless
there is a bit of drama in her life.
Roy Dorman is
retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the
submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and
flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle,
Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk
Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number
of other online magazines.