I have several rules about bars I go into.
- No Karaoke.
- No coin operated pool tables.
- No quarter drafts or pitchers of beer served.
So, here we sit. This bar not only has all three, it is adding insult to injury by playing country music, at least what passes for country music these days. Basically the industry is re-labeling old Rock and Roll songs as country because country died a long time ago and they can’t admit the market is gone. I can remember when the Eagles were young and releasing their first few albums. They were banned from country music stations because their music was Rock and Roll. Now those same songs are somehow labeled Country. Yes, the bull shit just keeps getting piled deeper. If it was horse shit, it could at least be used to grow mushrooms, but bull shit can’t be used for anything other than dung beetle food. Perhaps we shouldn’t call ourselves people, just refer to ourselves as two legged dung beetles.
Why am I in this God forsaken place? The guy sitting straight across the U-shaped bar from me. Henry, my partner. Henry is the name he chooses to use when we haven’t been given our new names. We tend to have a different name every few weeks in our line of work. It doesn’t matter what place we end up in, Henry can find the lowest of the low life dives given no more than 10 minutes to search.
You know you are in a great place when you ask for a glass of Chardonnay and the girl behind the bar asks “is that wine?” Some people may remember that scene from “The Blues Brothers” movie where they asked what kind of music the bar had and the bartender responded “Both kinds, Country and Western.” The scene was only slightly different here. You didn’t ask what kind of music they had, but when you asked what kind of beer they had the answer was “Both kinds, Hamms and Pabst.” Yes, we are rolling with life’s winners tonight! They don’t even have a box of wine in the fridge or a bottle with a lovely screw on cap. Yes, we have a wide array of drinking options tonight. Draft in a plastic cup, or you can buy a can, shots and mixers come in little plastic cups too, no glass. I guess the sink behind the bar is just there for decoration.
At least this establishment had the vision to put a guy behind the bar along with what they were offering up as “eye candy”. In the dim light these women could almost pull off the Daisy Duke look they were trying to sell. At least until they smiled and made you think of hockey players and scenes from Deliverance. The guy appeared to be serving as both bouncer and brains behind the bar. Oh, I’m not being cruel or demeaning. I’ve been here well over half an hour and haven’t seen either of these girls manage to make correct change. Most of the customers seem to have adapted to the situation by always handing one dollar more than the cost of their round and telling them to keep it.
I know people who will keep milk in the fridge well past the date on the container. Every day they sniff it to see if it is still “good enough to use.” Were any of them here tonight they wouldn’t be able to resist walking by the cigarette machine in the back just to confirm it only had “Lucky Strikes.” Thankfully I don’t’ smoke and I don’t feel the urge to look.
We got into this city four hours ago. The instructions were to check into a hotel and wait for a text message giving us an email account to use for further instructions. As always, we are supposed to keep a low profile. Little chance of that with Henry making the decisions. I’ve been with him six months. Only 18 months left to go before I’m re-assigned. I could even opt to retire if I wanted. No, we aren’t cops.
Look at the size of that woman he is talking with! She must only date guys driving a circa 1976 or older pick up truck, not because she particularly likes beater pick up trucks, but because she needs the full bench seat that era came with. A modern day 60/40 split seat with a console in the center simply isn’t going to let her get inside.
I had heard the rumors about Henry before being assigned to him. My guess is I really pissed someone off around the same time my rotation came up. While the rules of our organization are quite clear on what happens to someone who offs their partner, they are rather fuzzy about what happens when you maim someone in management. I do intend to find out who stuck me with Henry and pay them a visit before my time with him is over. Perhaps I’ll even have Henry cook them supper before I shoot them in the spine.
Most people don’t believe the rumors about Henry until they actually see him. Henry is a shrew, not in personality, but in image. Some people used to refer to him as a Hobbit, but that is being unkind to Hobbits. I have met people that don’t understand what you mean when you say someone is “mousy” One look at Henry breaks all language barriers. He stands about 3′ 7” in shoes and weighs about 87 pounds soaking wet. A bald head with a short ring of hair around it framed by thin wire glasses completes the picture. Size has little to do with being “mousy” though. One look at his face and you can’t help yourself. Watch him for a little while and you will notice how he curls the fingers of his hands and bumps them together like a mouse about to wipe his whiskers after eating cheese. I must admit I’ve even stopped at truck stops and bought packages of cheese for him when he was asleep. Of course, when Henry is allowed to pick the hotel, a box full of shredded newspaper would be considered up-scale compared to his choices.
One might get the impression from Henry’s choice of hotels and clothing that he is cheap. That would be an incorrect impression. It has taken six months, but I’ve figured out his pattern. He won’t spend a lot on clothes because he doesn’t want to stand out in a kitchen, yet, he will dress up and drop a grand at a high end sushi place without batting an eye. Funny, I didn’t think mice liked raw fish.
Just lovely. Turns out this woman is married and her husband just got done “shootin’ pool.” Now he’s getting all Neanderthal towards Henry. A sane man would quietly slip out of the bar and send Henry a Christmas gift every year without a return address. This guy apparently wasn’t burdened with an over abundance of education or the cerebral muscle to do even moderate lifting.
You know, times like these find me wishing I knew just exactly how many members our organization had and who they were. The rule about offing your partner is that the entire organization must hunt you down before taking another assignment. If you want to get rid of your partner, you have to make sure they die during an assignment, at least then it would go to the council for a decision. I told you once already, we are not cops.
Why in God’s green earth are the guy’s buddies coming over to help in this situation? When Henry stands up his nose is going to be at the center of the guy’s stomach. Well … the center of that stomach is kind of difficult to determine … but the top of his head definitely won’t be over chest high.