10:24 p.m. Wednesday, October 31, inside the Broken Oar Tavern:
Skye blew smoke rings as Theresa, the bartender, counted them.
"One… two… three… four… awww, that last one was almost five. See?" Theresa said triumphantly, "I knew you couldn’t do five in a row, so pay up, man!"
"Come on, that last one of mine should've counted. At least say we're tied. What do you think, Rob?"
"Sorry, Skye, I've gotta agree with her. That last ring of yours wasn't closed all the way."
Theresa swiftly slapped her palm on the bar. "That's right. We're not playing horseshoes, so give me my five bucks."
Skye removed his tan top hat and took money from inside its lining.
"Didn't you comb your hair today?" Theresa chided.
"Why would I bother combing my hair if I knew I was going to be wearing a top hat?" He replaced his headpiece. "By the way, how do I look?"
She sized him up. "Pretty good, but I thought the hat was supposed to be black."
"Look, my daughter's obsessed with that movie so I've seen it dozens of times. I'm positive that hat is black."
"Yes, in the Johnny Depp version, but I'm doing the Gene Wilder version."
“You need to get more up to date. The newer one was so much better."
"You're crazy! Original films always beat out the remakes."
Rob downed the last of his Captain and Coke. "Can we not get into this again? They were both great movies, let's leave it at that."
Theresa, who usually chose fight over flight no matter how miniscule the situation, shook her lit-cigarette-armed hand close to Rob’s face. “Listen, mister, unless you wanna die of thirst I wouldn’t be interjecting anything. Who are you supposed to be, anyway? Is what you’re wearing even a costume?”
“Of course it’s a costume—I’m Elvis.”
“Really? You look more like Fonzie than Elvis.”
“Are you kidding? Elvis and Fonzie look nothing alike.”
“I didn’t think so either until you showed up. You went too cheap on accessories. What are you two guys dressed up for anyway?”
“Yeah, but our costume party’s not until Saturday.”
“We know. We’ll just wear the same thing this weekend.”
“Hey, when in Rome.”
The door to the bar opened and a group of women loosely resembling the Pussycat Dolls strolled in.
Theresa shouted toward them, “The costume party’s not until Saturday night!”
The girls looked embarrassed, turned and left.
“Good,” Theresa said as she opened another can of PBR for Skye, “I didn’t like them anyway. Look around this place, most everybody’s dressed up and it’s a Wednesday!”
“It’s the thirty-first.”
“I don’t care if it’s the thirty-second, there are posters all around the joint clearly announcing that our official Halloween costume party is this coming Saturday. Can’t these idiots read?”
“Who’s playing in the back room tonight?” asked Rob.
“Some guy from Lancaster who had issues the minute he showed up. The start time’s too early, the PA system is too old, he forgot guitar picks, the lighting’s too dark, the pay wasn’t what he negotiated. He complained a lot, which would be okay if he were a blues singer, but he’s not.”
“Yeah, it sounds like country music from here.”
“Exactly. I thought he was a folk singer, which I can tolerate, but country? Puleeze.”
The tavern door opened and a man entered, wearing a checkered shirt, blue jeans, a cowboy hat, and a bandana covering the lower half of his face. Patrons stared as the newcomer stealthily walked to the far end of the bar and placed a machete on its worn wooden surface.
“Oh joy, what now?” Theresa walked the length of the bar to stand in front of him. “And who are you supposed to be? We’ve got the country music theme covered, although we could use a rodeo clown.”
“Give me your money,” the man said in a quiet monotone from underneath his bandana.
Unruffled, Theresa leaned in close and said, “I’m not giving you anything until you take that thing off your face.”
The man stood still, his eyes fixed on the bartender’s.
“I said, give me your money,” he repeated.
Theresa leaned in even closer, “And I said I’m not giving you anything until you take that thing off your face.”
The man’s stare turned into a glare as he remained motionless.
“No? Well then you’re not getting anything.” She sauntered slowly back toward where Skye and Rob were seated. “Alright, fellas, which one of you put this moron up to this?”
Skye shook his head. “Not me.”
Rob shook his head. “Me neither.”
Theresa scanned the room for the potential perpetrator of the joke. Her eyes locked onto sleazy Scott Roberts who was standing in the entranceway to the back room.
“Roberts!” she shouted. “Did you put this masked weirdo up to this?”
Scott nervously choked on his drink. Once recovered, he smiled in her direction then meekly shook his head no.
“I think he’s got a crush on you,” said Rob.
“Don’t make me puke. That guy’s not worthy to take out Courtney Love.”
“I thought he was gay,” said Skye.
“Hopefully,” said Theresa. “He needs some type of personality to make him interesting.”
She looked around the costumed crowd, pointed at the machete man and loudly asked, “Alright people, fess up! Who’s idea was this?”
No one in the place admitted to doing anything, all the while the masked man remained standing firmly in his spot, concentrating his attention on the cash register.
“You pussies! I’m gonna find out, I swear! You’ll get drunk as usual and rat each other out.”
She walked back down toward the mystery man. “Maybe you’re flying solo and this is your own sick idea. Take that thing off your face and let me see who you are—this game’s over.”
“I said give me your money… now!” he growled, louder and firmer.
“Screw you, man. We play by my rules here. You’re not getting a penny or an ice cube until you do what I say!” Theresa walked back towards her favorite spot, lit a fresh Marlboro and sat down atop her barstool. “Alright, Skye, you ready to lose more money? I betcha ten dollars I can blow five rings in a row.”
As Theresa breathed deeply in and out, preparing her lungs for the challenge, the man at the end of the bar quietly picked up his machete, turned around and slowly exited the tavern.
“What a loser,” said Rob.
“It’s good you didn’t serve him, Theresa. He was probably already drunk or on something when he walked in,” said Skye.
“You two need to shut up, I’m trying to concentrate!” She shut her eyes and continued to breathe deeply.
4:07 p.m. Thursday, November 1, opening time at the Broken Oar Tavern…
Theresa picked up the evening paper from the building’s top outside step, then unlocked the door and entered. She flipped on the light switches and walked behind the bar where she put on a pot of coffee. While it brewed she sat down and opened the paper to the Living Section where she scanned the pages for the Broken Oar’s ad promoting the upcoming costume contest and prize give-aways.
“What? This was supposed to be a half page ad not a quarter page! Those bastards.”
She checked out her horoscope, read the funnies then started in on the crossword puzzle. As she pondered what a five-lettered word was for medicate, Skye rushed through the door and over to where she sat.
“What’s gotten into you?” Theresa asked.
“Have you seen it?” he panted.
“The article in the paper!”
“Yeah, I’ve seen the ad—it’s not big enough.”
“Not that!” He rummaged through the newspaper atop the bar until he found the front page. “Look!”
The headline of the evening paper read:
MASKED MAN GOES ON ROBBERY SPREE
Yesterday police received several reports of a man entering local business establishments and demanding money. The bandana-masked man, approximately 6 ft., wore blue jeans, b/w checkered shirt, and cowboy hat while brandishing a machete. He stole $655 from Damen’s Deli, $372 from Myron’s Shoe Source, and $294 from Nature’s Bounty Soap Shop. Early this morning his shirt, cowboy hat and bandana were found in a dumpster located in an alley behind The Broken Oar Tavern. The identity of the man remains unknown, although several eye witnesses are working with a police sketch artist. Investigators are asking anyone with any knowledge of the man in question to please call the Penbrook police department.
“It wasn’t a joke!” Skye said breathlessly. “He wasn’t in costume, it was for real!” Theresa put down the paper, lit a cigarette and pressed the power button on the TV remote control. “They didn’t have to mention this place’s name.”
“Aren’t you happy?”
“Happy about what?”
“Happy you didn’t give him any money and didn’t get hurt!”
“No I’m not happy. How can I be happy? Freaks walk through that door every single day. But since they mentioned the name of the bar we might not get a good turn out this Saturday, and I’m counting on that tip money to make my car payment!”