Use short words, Evan
He gave it a minute and
then ordered a beer from the bartender's back. With an exaggerated sigh the guy
turned away from the TV and pulled Evan's beer. Then he walked down and started
talking to the three guys at the end of the bar. That sort of put an end to
Evan's plan of having a quiet word in his ear. He might as well jump up onto
the bar, clap his hands and ask for everyone's attention.
He heard the rattle of
ice cubes in a glass beside him and turned his head. One of the guys from the
table behind him had come up to the bar and stood a couple of feet away,
swirling the last of his drink before tipping it down his neck. The bartender
came back down and started serving him and Evan took the opportunity to get a
better look at him. He was tall and obviously Hispanic, and Evan knew his first
impressions were right; he definitely wasn't one of the regulars—one, he wasn't
a loser and two; this place was strictly white trash. You could feel he was
confident walking into a dive like this knowing there was nothing in here that
he couldn't deal with. If the guy had bottled it, Evan would have bought some.
The guy looked across and gave him a small nod, then carried his drinks back to
The bartender was about
to rejoin the guys at the end when Evan called him back. Automatically he
picked up Evan's glass, then saw it was still half full. He looked at Evan with
an aha look on his face: now we'll get to the real reason . . .
'I'm looking for
somebody,' Evan said.
'Uh huh.' He cocked his
head like he didn’t understand what that information had to do with him. 'Isn't
'I think he comes in
The bartender gave what
he probably thought was a smile, his bright, mean eyes crinkling at the
corners. 'I suppose there's more chance of me knowing him than if he'd never
set foot in here in his life.'
The inbreds at the end
had stopped talking again and were paying close attention to the conversation.
The bartender looked down at them and winked. They grinned back. They looked to
Evan like they'd have trouble spelling gum and chewing it at the same
'His name's Richard
The bartender creased
his forehead and tugged his chin as if he was giving it some serious thought;
his eyes flicking sideways to the inbreds, then shook his head. 'Never heard of
There was a titter of
laughter from the end of the bar. The bartender gave Evan a big up-yours smile.
'Everybody calls him Dixie,' Evan said, feeling stupid as he said the name.
The bartender gave a
half-hearted nod. 'That's nice. Still never heard of him.' He started to move
'I've got a photo of
The bartender made a big
fuss of stopping in his tracks and turning around. He came back and stood in
front of Evan and spread his hands on the bar. He wore a couple of heavy rings
on each hand, the knuckles criss-crossed with faded, and not-so-faded, scars.
Evan assumed the display was for his benefit and felt like pointing out that
the liver spots that were starting to appear spoiled the effect somewhat. He
got a powerful draft of stale cigarettes. It made him think, between the guy's
fists and his breath, he'd go for the fists every time.
'I've got you,' the
bartender said. 'His name's Richard something, everybody calls him Dixie but I'—he jabbed his thumb at his chest—'might know him as Bill or George?' He looked
at the inbreds at the end of the bar and got a bunch of you-tell-him head
Evan wanted to come back
with some equally smart ass reply but it wouldn't get him very far. Not that
being nice as pie was getting him anywhere, either. The bartender was just one
of those guys who wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire.
'Just take a look, will
you?' he said wearily, pulling the photo out of his pocket.
The three guys at the
end were really paying attention now. Evan couldn't blame them—in a place like
this, when somebody puts their hand into their pocket it normally comes out
with a switchblade.
Evan put the photo on
the bar top. The bartender looked at it as if Evan had placed a steaming dog
turd on his nice clean bar, but then his curiosity got the better of him.
'It's been cut in half.'
Evan slapped the heel of
his hand against his forehead. 'I was wondering what happened to it.'
The bartender looked up
from the photo and gave Evan a withering look. 'No need to be a smartass.'
Clearly that was his job.
'Do you recognize him?'
The bartender took
another quick look and pushed the photo towards Evan. 'Sorry.' Evan didn't
think he looked sorry at all. 'Why do you want to find him anyway? You don't
look like a cop.'
'No, I don't suppose I do,'
Evan said. All your customers would be long gone if I did. 'I'm a
The bartender nodded as
if that explained a lot. 'You working for his wife?'
'No, just someone who
wants to find him.' Evan got out his wallet and pulled out one of his cards.
'Can I leave this with you?'
Evan could see him
thinking it looked a bit small and inflexible to wipe his ass with but he
didn't say it.
'What? In case a guy
I've never heard of or seen in my life just happens to pop in one day?'
Evan looked around the
bar and smiled. 'Who knows? Even if he doesn't, one of your customers might
want to hire me.'
The bartender walked
away and laughed over his shoulder. 'I think you'll find the people who come in
here have their own way of dealing with problems.'
Evan sat at the bar and
wondered what to do next. He picked up his glass and was just about to down the
rest of his beer when a shoulder slammed into him, sending the glass flying.
One of the inbreds from the end of the bar continued on his way to the men's
room without looking back. Behind him, Evan heard the others laughing. He
turned to look at them and one of them raised his glass in an up-yours cheers
towards him. He felt a hot little worm of excitement in his gut and reckoned he
had about a minute—long enough for the guy to take a leak but not long enough
to wash his hands—in which to decide what to do. He only really had two
options; he could get up and leave or he could wait and deal with what happened
when the guy came back.
The bartender walked
slowly down the bar making a tut-tutting sound and made a big point of bending
over and picking up the broken glass. He straightened up and his gaze snapped
back toward Evan, his lips curled into a smile, eyes full of gleeful
anticipation, like a fat, spoiled kid on Christmas morning.
Evan decided to stay; he
didn't want to disappoint the guy. Apart from the damage to his pride if he got
up and left with his tail between his legs, they might decide to stop him from
leaving anyway. Besides he'd never been one to let prudence or reason cloud his
He kept his eyes
straight ahead as he heard the door to the men's room open and swing shut.
Along the bar, the remaining inbreds had stopped laughing, although they still
had the stupid grins plastered across their faces. The pool players in the back
had paused their game. The two Hispanic men sitting at the table weren't paying
the slightest bit of attention.
Evan took his right foot
off the rail and placed it squarely on the floor, bracing himself. He could
feel the adrenalin sledding through his blood as he locked his right arm solid
on the bar and tensed. The guy walked up, an ugly smile on his lips, and swung
his shoulder into Evan on his way past. Or that's what he tried to do, because
this time, instead of knocking Evan into the bar, he bounced off and stumbled
against one of the tables. The shock on his face turned quickly into anger as
his friends sniggered again, but this time at him. What a fun afternoon it
was turning into.