A Man Walks Out of a Bar
The natives were getting restless. She was the only bartender on duty and it was heading into the peak busy hour of the night. She cleaned a glass with a rag without really paying attention; she was just spreading dirt around. Jamie was worried she was starting to have a mini-breakdown. Her co-worker, an Eastern European immigrant girl with architecturally big hair, was an hour late, and Jamie was pretty certain she was at home fucking around with the new grease ball she had nabbed from this very bar a week previously.
"Hey, we asked for a pitcher over here! Step on it, will you? We're starting to get sober." A round of slurred laughter issued from a table in the center of the tavern. Jamie set down the Collins glass with a heavy sigh, grabbed a plastic pitcher and held it under one of the domestic taps. The idiots didn't care what swill they drank, as long as it counted as the three-dollar pitcher special that was currently drawing in this sophisticated set of clientele.
Muttering under her breath, she brought the beer over to the table. A backwards-cap wearing lug was currently setting fire to a cocktail napkin by holding it over one of the cheap candles in a votive jar that counted for ambiance in the place. "Hey, cut it out," she said, slamming the pitcher on the table and sloshing some onto the drunkard's lap. "You're going to set off the sprinklers."
Doing his best to keep a low profile, Jensen watched the commotion at the table from his station in the far corner of the bar. He wasn't necessarily here to drink -- though there was a half-empty beer in front of him -- Jansen was testing himself. He wanted to see how long he could last within the company of the waitresses and some of the other clientele in this dive without completely losing it. If he was to begrudgingly oblige to the sheriff's request, Jensen at least wanted to know that he could do it.
So far, so good.
He shook his head in amusement; the things humans would do when they've had a few drinks in them -- not to mention the vehemence with which they would ask for more drinks. He supposed it wasn't unlike a vampire's fixation to blood; the high wasn't as long, but it was definitely more powerful, and Jensen wondered -- if humans knew of the true power and taste of their own blood, would they act like mentally-challenged apes for it the way they did their precious beer?
If nothing else, this little experiment was a fascinating study of human behavior.
They didn't seem to hear her. Jamie used her surprisingly strong grip on the guy's wrist, wrenched the napkin away and dropped it into the cold beer. "There. Enjoy your drinks." She whisked the candle away, blowing on it as she spun on her heel and returned to the bar. Before she could get very far, a hand grabbed the back of her black apron, and the strings came loose, spilling her meager tips over the sticky floor.
"What the fuck?" Jamie turned around to see one of the guys from the table standing, holding onto her and looking livid.
"You ruined our beer. Get us a new pitcher."
Well, this was getting interesting ... so much so Jensen was ignoring the drunk patron sitting to his right who'd suddenly burst into horribly off-key renditions of Jonas Brothers songs. As entertaining as that might've been, watching a man in his 60s try to sing teenage boy band "rock" -- watching the scene unfolding between drunken hick guy and the waitress had its own sort of pleasure.
On most nights, that woman would be Jensen's ideal target. Not tonight, though, because frankly, he thought the guy holding onto her was an idiot. Lighting napkins on fire in a crowded bar, completely ignoring the inherent fire hazard ... didn't that freak know that one slip of his wrist could set the whole place ablaze?
Call Jensen paranoid, but he hated fire.
Standing, Jensen cleared his throat and approached. "Look," he offered, holding his hands in front of his chest to show he meant no harm -- yet, "I'm one who believes the customer is always right, but this? This is no way to get what you want. You gotta ask nicely, say please and thank you ... and don't go grabbing the waitress when she tries to get you to stop acting like a fucking retard.
"Now, apologize to the nice lady and pick up her tips for her."
Jamie's face was turning blotchy, and she could feel her blue eyes stinging -- she had the supremely annoying habit of crying whenever she was mad. She was able to keep rein over it, though, because the rage was broken by the stranger stepping in. She looked from the man to the other guy, wondering what was about to transpire, and whether or not she should hightail it to the back room, lock the door and call the cops. For a girl who talked to dead people, she could be kind of a wimp.
"Fuck you, dad," said, the belligerent patron, a disgusting string of spit landsliding down his lip. Another round of laughter from the table. "The bitch spilled beer on me and then tossed shit into it."
A flare rose up within Jamie, and she couldn't stop herself. "You're the bitch. You're just showing off for your drunk friends, and I want you out of this bar before I call the cops."
Grabbing the drunken man by the back of his head, Jensen yanked him forward so their faces were but inches apart. The gaze in the vampire's eyes was empty, and though he hadn't yet bore his fangs, Jensen was hoping to get across to the man in his tight grasp that this was not a fight he wanted to pick.
"Maybe if you'd stop setting things on fire," he mused, "the waitresses wouldn't be forced to do such dishonorable things as pour beer on you and put napkins in it. I understand you're a man of class -- you try to keep your three teeth clean, you don't want any pit stains on your sleeveless plaid shirt -- but generally speaking, Larry the Cable Guy, if the waitress pours beer on you, you probably deserve it."
Tossing the man to the floor behind him, Jensen turned his attention the waitress, all the while keeping his ears open for possible movement. "You alright?"
She nodded mutely, re-tying the apron around her denim shorts. Jamie looked down at the dollar bills strewn over the floor. "Yeah, I'm fine," she said finally. "Just another Thursday night." She shook her head, her long dirty-blonde hair wavering. "Thanks for that, um ... I'll get you another beer. On the house, of course." Motioning him toward the bar so that the fight had a chance to de-escalate.
Jensen walked over to the bar, sliding into one of the stools and glancing over his shoulder. The two other men who had been sitting with the drunk man were staring in speechless awe. Jensen chuckled and the sight, shaking his head. He at least hoped they were sober enough to remember what happened to their buddy; that way, none of them would have the future inklings of trying something similar.
"What's your name?" he asked, his ears picking up the sound of the man getting back to his feet and approaching the bar. Peering out of the side of his eyes, the vampire saw the man's right hand clenched in a fist, his teeth gritted in an amusing look of drunken rage. Jensen swiveled in his seat, never getting up as he again placed his hand on the back of the man's head, pushing forward until the man's nose connected with his knee. The man fell back to the floor in a heap at the same time Jensen's next beer appeared before him.
"I'm Donald," he said with a self-satisfied grin, raising his beer glass. "You can call me Don."
Jamie appeared unfazed as she placed the open bottle of Old Style in front of Don. "Name's Jamie," she said, standing on tip-toe to peer over at the unconscious man. "You know that piece of trash has a kid at home? Every week his wife comes here with the baby on her hip, scrapes the mess off the floor and takes him home. I think they'd both be better off without him, honestly. But people are so weirded out by the idea of death. They're clingy, you know?"
She poured herself a shot of rum. She wasn't much of a drinker, but sometimes she needed something to take the edge of the night off, and the Mr. Coffee was broken.
Jensen glanced at the floor again, arching his brow. "Death," he repeated. "That sounds a bit ... harsh."
Then again, if that was what Jamie wanted -- or what the drunk man's family needed -- then maybe Jensen would oblige. Let Finn get on his case for killing someone else with a family; if this guy's death would make life better for his wife and child, then Jensen would deserve a fucking Medal of Honor for doing it. Pretty sure he'd be the first vampire ever invited to the White House.
He looked Jamie's way again, watching her down the shot before taking another swig himself. "Unless you know something about him. Or someone else."
Setting the empty shot glass upside down on the shiny bar top, Jamie shrugged. "If he really cared about them, he'd leave ... one way or another. I see him here every week, and every week I hate him a little bit more. Especially after tonight." The blonde was getting into one of her weird moods, and she worried she'd be getting another 'visitation' tonight. The thought almost made her pour another shot for herself. Instead, she pulled a clean glass from the shelf and filled that, offering it to the gray-haired man sitting across from her.
The door to the bar swung open, and a frazzled-looking man dressed entirely in black strode over to where Jamie stood. "Listen," he said, sounding like a crack fiend. "I need to do another session." He slapped a crinkled and damp one hundred-dollar bill down. "Just fifteen minutes. I hit another wall in my writing, and if I can just talk to her again ..."
She glanced at Donald nervously before leaning toward the newcomer and lowering her voice to a barely audible whisper. "Okay, look. This is not the time or place, you know that. Call me later, okay, and we can set something up. Trust me, your dead girlfriend can wait."
Jensen raised his brow again, listening to the conversation with the Johnny Cash wannabe. Between the off-hand comment about death regarding the drunk man, and what he was now hearing about Jamie talking to this guy's dead girlfriend, the vampire found himself quite fascinated with her. Not in a I'm going to eat you sort of way, but a genuine curiosity.
Watching the man leave, Jensen set down his glass. "This place attracts quite the crowd."
Laughing offhandedly, Jamie pocketed the cash so swiftly, it would have made a sleight-of-hand artist envious. "I think it's the cheap prices," she quipped. "So hard to resist, especially in this economy." She looked up at her would-be defender, catching his eye. "I've never seen you here before, though. Are you new to the area?" She was just making conversation to cover up the awkward moment that had just taken place.
Great, she thought to herself, now this guy is going to think I'm a drug dealer or a prostitute or something.
"Nope, Chicago born and bred," he said, raising his glass once more. "Just figured I'd try a little more of the city. I've been here for decades, and there are still parts of the city I've never seen."
He wasn't thinking that drugs were involved -- Jensen had been around long enough to know there were all sorts of weird things out there, and not all of them had fangs -- but he couldn't help but wonder just what Jamie was. She was obviously human on some level; he could hear her heart beat thudding away in his ears, and she didn't have that pasty, I've-been-dead-for-100-years look.
Still, she seemed to have something. Why else would emo dudes be coming in asking for her help to talk to lost loved ones? Unless the guy was stoned out of his mind; Jensen supposed that was possible, too.
She caught sight of the hour hand on her watch. "Shit," she said, then looked up at him apologetically. "I close up in about half an hour." Jamie watched as the drunk finally stirred, picking himself up from the floor on unsteady legs. He looked blearily at her and Don, then back at his now-deserted table. His friends had left without him, and there was no sign of his wife tonight.
"Fuck all ya'll," he managed to say, swatting the air ineffectually with a meaty arm before stumbling out of the bar.
Jamie gave him a winning smile. "Right back at 'ya." Rolling her eyes once he was gone, she started wiping down the counter.
"No thanks," Jensen quipped at the departing drunk. "I like 'em a little less hairy. Sober helps, too."
Finishing off the rest of his glass -- and still not feeling the slightest bit intoxicated -- Jensen gave Jamie another smile. He reached for his wallet, before remembering that she said the drinks were on the house. It was nice knowing common decency hadn't completely died over the years; just because Jensen was a monster, that didn't mean he couldn't appreciate civility toward others.
He stood, wondering ... if Jamie had this big ol' death mojo thing going ... could she tell he was undead? Probably not; she would've either said something or freaked out if she knew. Either that, or she did know, and she was playing it really close to the chest.
"Well, maybe I'll see you around some more," he said, sliding a five along the bar anyway. Tips also never went out of style. "Hopefully, it won't involve me peeling some douche bag who smells like a 24-pack off of you."
"It's a hazard that comes with this fine career." She nodded toward the tip. "Thanks." The guy was a bit odd, but he seemed decent. He was a lot better than most of the people who wandered into the watering hole. Jamie reached under the bar and started locking up the tills. Marty, the owner, came in the morning to count all the loot; he was too lazy to worry about middle-of-the-night break-ins.