“Turn off the signs, I’m locking the door.” The Bartender snatched up his keys and dashed over to the front door just as a group of late night patrons climbed the steps of the tiny pub on the corner of Market and Elm.
“I already called last call. Sorry, guys,” he announced as they staggered in place on the doorstep.
Disappointed, the group quickly shuffled down the street in search of another in-town bar that may still be open.
The Big Tipper pulled the chain on the neon Miller Lite sign hanging in the left front window, and Pretty pulled the chain hanging from the Guinness sign which adorned the right front window.
Keys rattled, locks clicked, and The Bartender emptied his pitcher of tips onto the bar. His Girl started smoothing out and organizing the bills. This was The Bartender’s favorite time of night. Just him, His Girl, and a few choice regulars whom he allowed to remain after closing time: The Big Tipper, The Fat Guy, Pretty & Prettier and most importantly, The Dealer.
“I thought that last couple was never going to leave,” remarked The Bartender as he filled his friends’ empty glasses.
“Me neither!” said The Fat Guy whose patience for a fresh beer was beyond spent. “You killed the music and turned off most of the house lights. How much more of a hint did they need?”
“I didn’t like that woman’s hair,” said Pretty.
“Me neither,” agreed Prettier. “The highlights were sloppy, plus she shouldn’t have worn those shoes with that dress. Does she live in the only trailer in the park without a mirror?”
“Good one!” said Pretty as they simultaneously glossed lipstick atop collagen.
“I thought her dress was nice,” said The Girl.
“It would’ve been okay four seasons ago. Betcha she goes dumpster-diving up in Roosevelt Hills.”
“You women are so mean!” said The Big Tipper.
“We’re only being observant and honest, that’s all.”
The Self-Made Big Tipper could have given the women a lecture on cost verses value and not being judgmental. The women could have listened attentively and learned a few new things, but that conversation wasn’t going to happen because just then The Dealer silenced the room by pulling out one of the many cocaine-stuffed small bags lining his pockets.
He asked, “Anyone got a straw?”
Six people eagerly said yes as they dug in purses, pockets and bar top straw dispensers. Then each of them immediately feared sounding too eager. The room remained quiet as The Bartender pulled a mirrored tray from a shelf underneath the bar and set it in front of The Dealer.
“Do you need a card?” he asked.
“Nope,” responded The Dealer. “Don’t really like cards, I’ve got a blade.”
Twelve wide eyes stared as line after snowy line was chopped. This was the reason they had been glued to their barstools this Saturday evening. They had hoped The Dealer would show up again, as he had the previous Saturday, and the one before. This guy had the best stuff in town.
The Big Tipper pulled cash from his wallet, but the man with the razor gently halted him with a gesture of his hand. “Let’s worry about that part later.”
The Dealer’s finished product was a white work of art—seven lines shaped into a perfect spoke pattern. Being a gentleman, he slid the mirrored tray in front of The Girl. “Ladies first.”
Officer Hayes eased his patrol car into the center of the mostly vacant large parking lot across the street from Mahoney’s Pub. He turned off his lights and checked the time—2:41 a.m. He was early. While sipping diet soda from his Big Gulp cup he watched the patrol car of Officer Pierce glide into the same parking lot and pull closely into an ADAM 69 formation. Officer Pierce was early too.
“Quiet night, Pierce.”
“Yup, don’t know why, but I’ll take it after last night.”
“Don’t even get me started on last night.”
Pierce laughed and inhaled vapor from his e-cig.
Hayes checked their surroundings then double checked.
“Is he in there?” asked Pierce.
“Yeah, he’s in there. Strolled in around midnight while I was cruising by.”
“Is he alone?”
“He went in alone, but some people are still in the place. It must be the bartender’s little after party, but they should all be leaving soon.”
“Good. I don’t like having extras around—things can get messy.”
“What do we know about this guy?”
Officer Hayes scratched the dandruff from the back of his scalp. “He goes by Siggy which is short for Siegman—first name, Sig.” “Sig Siegman?”
“Yeah, it’s a fake. Most everyone just calls him The Dealer. Back in Detroit he was known as Johnny G, and in Flint he called himself The Walrus.”
“What’s the word on his product?”
“Yes, really. The best stuff in town.” Officer Hayes slurped the last of his diet soda as he stared at Mahoney’s Pub. “Come on people, leave!”
“What are they doing out there?” asked The Fat Guy forty minutes later. He stretched his neck to look out the window from his barstool, sniffed hard then swallowed.
The Big Tipper cautiously peeked through the bottom corner of the left window. “Isn’t it obvious what they’re doing? They’re plotting something and we’re all in deep!”
“Why won’t they leave?” asked Pretty. “I don’t like this—they’ve been sitting there way too long.” Her jaw twitched as she pressed a finger on the right side of her nose to shoot her sinuses the remains from her running left nostril.
Prettier downed a chilled double shot of Patron. “I don’t get it. Don’t they have better things to do? I mean there’s real crime going on in this city—why don’t they do their job?”
The Girl agreed, “Break-ins, domestic violence, kids out past curfew lighting things on fire, random shootings. But oh no, let’s patrol an empty parking lot—that’ll accomplish something.”
The Bartender was the most nervous. “This isn’t cool. Not cool one little bit. I don’t trust it—they know something. If I get busted for serving after 2:00 I’ll be fired for sure.”
“You can serve after 2:00, you just can’t ring up the sale,” said The Fat Guy.
“I don’t think it works like that,” said The Girl.
“They don’t know anything,” calmed The Experienced Dealer. “They’re just bored and trying to throw their weight around by intimidation. They can clearly see us and are probably waiting for someone to leave to fill their quota of DUI’s.”
The Big Tipper jerked himself away from the window. Eyes darted back and forth as each wondered who would be the unlucky one to get popped.
“It ain’t gonna be me—I walked here,” said The Dealer. “In fact, I should really get going.”
The Bartender shook his head. “No way, man—you can’t walk home! They can arrest you for public drunkenness and when they do, they’ll find your stash. Then they’ll link you with me and me with the bar and there goes the liquor license.”
“And there goes your job,” added The Girl.
“Fine, I’ll call a cab.” The Dealer pulled his phone from his pocket and pressed its top button but nothing lit up. “Stupid battery. Can someone else call a cab?”
“We should all take a cab,” said The Girl as she scrolled through her phone for Yellow Cab’s number.
The Fat Guy agreed. “Great idea. Plus my inspection ran out. If I drive my car out of the lot they’ll stop me for that, then I’m screwed. They’ve probably already noticed the sticker and are just waiting for me to leave. Bastards!”
“I don’t want another DUI,” said Pretty.
“I don’t want a third,” said Prettier.
“What the hell’s going on in there?” Officer Hayes twisted his body around in the drivers’ seat. “This is ridiculous, and I really have to piss!”
Officer Pierce’s eyes switched back and forth between the front and back doors of Mahoney’s. “You shouldn’t have drunk that whole Big Gulp.”
“Probably not.” Officer Hayes took off the lid of the empty cup and dumped the leftover ice out his open window. “That’s sick, man.”
“What else am I supposed to do?”
“Don’t think I can.”
“Why aren’t those idiots leaving? Can’t they see us?”
“They’re probably all geeked-out and paranoid.”
“Well they need to pull it together. All this waiting around is getting on my last nerve.”
Officer Hayes laughed. “You should be used to that by now—half of a cop’s life is spent waiting!”
“This is too long, though. Maybe we should call the bar to hurry things up or knock on the door.”
“Are you kidding? Don’t be stupid. If we call or start walking over there it’ll cause all sorts of issues. Stick to the plan. After they leave we’ll move in and grab him.”
“What if he leaves before the others?”
“Then we’ll grab him and hope the others have enough sense to stay inside.”
Officer Pierce shook his head. “I don’t like it. The more time that goes on increases the chances for things to go wrong. Those people in there are gonna panic and do something stupid then all hell will break loose. Watch!”
“Why aren’t they answering?” yelled The Very Frustrated Girl as she redialed the number for the third and final cab company in her phone. The dispatcher from company number one only spoke Spanish. Company number two was short on drivers and their only cab in service was out on a long trip to Muskegon. Company number three wasn’t picking up at all.
“Do you think the Spanish lady understood you? You did yell out the name Mahoney’s several times,” asked The Bartender.
“No. I think she thought I was joking because she kept saying, Bolognas? Bolognas? Then she laughed and hung up.” Defeated, The Girl dropped her phone back into her purse. “That’s all three companies. It’s no use.”
The Dealer, who had previously been calm, was now pacing back and forth, trying to think of a solution.
“Can’t we all sleep here tonight?” asked The Fat Guy.
“I can’t—I have a meeting in five hours,” said The Big Tipper.
“I have to pay my sitter then take her home,” said Pretty.
“We cannot sleep here overnight!” shouted The Bartender whose shirt was drenched in sweat. “Those cops obviously aren’t leaving until we do, and when the owner comes in for dayshift I’m pretty sure he’s gonna notice seven coked-up strung-out drunks crashed on his floor!”
“I have an idea,” said The Dealer.
Prettier sat to full attention, jutting out her bouncing chest in his direction. “Let’s hear it!”
“Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’ll all leave at once. There’s no way they can go after all of us. True, they can chase down two, but hopefully only one will get caught. What do you think?”
Everyone was silent while giving the plan some consideration.
“I don’t like it,” said The Fat Guy.
“I think it could work,” said The Big Tipper.
“Of course you think it could work,” said The Fat Guy. “You’re loaded! You actually can afford a DUI!”
“You don’t like the plan because obviously you can’t run as fast as the rest of us.”
“Low blow, making a fat joke—I already told you about my inspection sticker!”
“I’m in if everybody else is,” said Pretty.
“Me too,” said Prettier.
The Bartender nodded his head several times then clapped his hands together. “Let’s do it! Let’s all run out at once and see what happens. I don’t think I can stand to be in here much longer anyway. This whole situation is freaking me out!”
The Girl moved to wrap her loving arms around The Bartender but he was in no mood for any comforting cuddle time. “Get your keys ready, guys. I’m killing the last of the lights!”
The Girl looked upset and dejected as everyone jumped up and piled-in close to the front door. “Why are you so mean to me?” she asked as The Bartender jammed his key into the lock and readied himself to free them all.
“Not now, Girl, not now!” He placed his hand on the door and braced himself to turn the key. “Good luck everybody, here we go—on the count of three. One… two… three!”
The key turned and the door violently swung open from the weight of seven people. The Fat Guy bulldozed his way through first as The Big Tipper fell down the steps to the sidewalk. Pretty’s stiletto accidentally dug into the fallen man’s hand as she fled the confusion.
“I don’t understand why you have to push me away, especially during a crisis!” whined The Girl to The Bartender who fumbled with closing and relocking the door.
“I said not now!” He grabbed her by her wrist and the two of them bolted to a beat-up Nissan next to The Big Tipper’s Escalade.
Having no time for minor details, The Fat Guy pulled his seatbelt across his chest and tucked the latch underneath his right armpit. Gunning his car’s accelerator, he was first to exit the scene.
The Dealer tried to take off running down Elm Street but Prettier grabbed his arm and wouldn’t let go.
“You’re coming with me!” she said.
“But I, I—”
“Shut up and get in my Mustang—I drive really fast, and I’m not letting you get busted!”
The Big Tipper winced as he ripped off his necktie to wrap around his bleeding hand. He dashed toward his Escalade just as Pretty drove off down Market Street.
“Get in!” Prettier commanded The Dealer as she slid into her driver’s seat.
Just before ducking into the passenger’s side, The Dealer made eye contact with Officer Hayes in the closest patrol car, held up his phone with one hand while giving the head-cut-off gesture with the index finger of his other hand. He then mouthed ‘sorry’ while shrugging his shoulders.
“Get in, stupid!” yelled Prettier.
The Dealer got in and Prettier threw the vehicle in reverse, backed up, then sped violently out of the parking lot down Elm Street, barely missing a street-sweeping truck.
The Big Tipper and The Bartender side swiped each other as they recklessly drove toward the exit of the lot, but neither stopped as they took off in opposite directions.
“A dead cell phone? You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Officer Hayes.
“Guess that’s why he wasn’t texting back. This sucks—know anyone else?”
“Yeah, Pierce, of course I do but it won’t be the same.”
“Is it really that good?”
“Yeah—like I said, it’s the best stuff in town.”