This is one of the few bars left in San Francisco that has a jukebox that still takes change and still plays vinyl, and that's why I love this hole-in-the-wall.
Did I say "hole in the wall?" Yeah, there’s that too, from where Jay slammed an unruly drunk into the corner, just right past the last booth. That was last week, and he just duct-taped a plastic sheet over it this morning and called it "fixed."
What I don’t like here is Annie Lennox in the blue dress.
She’s not Ms. Lennox herself, but close enough that David Stewart would want to start a reunion tour with her. She has played “Sweet Dreams” ten times in a row, which is about four times too many even for a Eurythmics fan, which I am not. She has on a $400 electric blue dress, yet the nail polish on her fingers and toes is chipped. She never strays far from her raggedy purse, but that’s to give her .40 caliber Glock a reassuring (and what she believes to be discreet) pat.
She is from the Pamela Anderson School of Acting, with her ersatz twitches and faux withdrawal symptoms. She might use many things, but I doubt she uses meth, coke or heroin. Everything about her, including her high-end salon dye job, clashes with these surroundings, and who she is supposed to be. Jay will see through this right away, and he will bypass slamming her into the wall for cutting her up in the basement.
“It’s gonna be awhile. Jay went to the bank to get change…so you might want to go somewhere else,” I mention.
"Do you know when he's going to be back?" she asks firmly. She's trying to seem braver than she feels, and I used to be scared like her, too, but that was more than a lifetime ago.
I swirl and sip my shot glass of rotgut like it’s fine cognac as I say to her, "He's not holding today."
"That's not why I'm here," she blurts.
"So you're here to meet a date?"
“No,” she says with the all the warmth of Finland in February.
“Then you’ll probably want to go where you’ll find one.”
“Are you the owner?” she demands.
“I’m just watching the joint for him,” I mumble, and shake my head. She sizes me up for the first time and sees an old barfly in a denim outfit that’s older than she is. She looks away and instantly writes me off…big mistake.
“Then pour yourself a glass of ‘Shut The Fuck Up.’”
I pour myself another shot and I say, “Noroc!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means ‘to your health’ in Romanian.”
“My dear, I’ve been the same that I’ve always been…it’s the times that have gotten stranger. If you live long enough, though I don’t see this happening, you will come to realize this too.”
I close the distance between us and her eyes widen as I get closer, then they go blank. Her mind is…malleable, though not enough to get her to leave this place. I sniff around her and I was right; other than her beauty, she lacks that certain something. Jay enters the bar and the sunlight from the door snaps her out of it.
“I’ll see you sooner than both of us would like,” I whisper, but her attention is already completely focused on Jay. He has that effect, and we both want Jay…for the wrong reasons. This time he’s not alone; he has some psycho named “Daily” with him. I don’t know how that sociopath got his name, but I’ve seen him stab people over $5 bets. The Lennox clone, a.k.a. Officer Newcomb, has arrested him before, yet she unfortunately doesn’t recognize him.
I leave this bar and maybe I leave my conscience there, too.
I have lived a long time, a lot longer than my apparent age and longer than you can imagine. Still, I have just thimbleful of wisdom to show for all that time. So I have to work hard at most things, just like anyone else…sometimes, more so. It would be easy for me to leave Officer Newcomb to her death in the basement, because all I want out of the equation is Jay and saving her would jeopardize that.
As I slip in behind them, she trembles with her own gun being jabbed into her head by Daily. Being a coward, he has blindfolded her. All the better to do what needs to be done, which should lessen the need for no unnecessary explanations later on. Daily is easy to subdue, Jay…much less so, though I knew that going in. I leave Officer Newcomb still trembling down in the basement; she’ll come around, though I don’t know if she will ever recover.
As for Jay, my rare AB+ treasure, I have to figure out how to get him out of the building without being seen. I wish I could explain everything to Officer Newcomb. How we don’t run around in tuxedoes with our hair slicked back, and we sure as hell don’t fucking glitter. But I have no faith in her intelligence, because she came into a place like this without wearing a wire or having any backup. So I doubt that she would ever understand the ways of the Nosferatu.