For those just tuning in, I'm running my recently published short story, "Dark Days in Bright City," in installments over the next few days. The story originally appeared in Fissure Magazine's November issue (available for purchase through Shadow Archer Press). And now I present to you Part Two of "Dark Days in Bright City:"
“Ah, Herr Doctor!” Burly man’s voice booms, but thunder covers rest of voice. I quickly unfold Collapsible Listening Cone and press to ear.
“… enter this fine establishment?” Butcher’s nasal voice grates on ears. “It is far too cold out here for any lengthy discourse.”
“Ja, of course. Fair warning the beer is piss here.” Big man leads Butcher into bar. I stuff cone back in pocket, and stride across street. Men outside bar stare at me, and I touch throat in unconscious salute. Men repeat gesture, and I know they were once Navy. Thought of former comrades here warms me. Perhaps I will have allies tonight.
I enter bar and push goggles onto head. Loss of sight from fogging glass is not something I can afford. Air inside bar hangs heavy with smoke and smell of stale beer. Is stark change from outside, and I do not see Butcher or companion at first. Sailors and dockworkers fill bar with singing and loud talking, while fat bartender serves pints from long oak bar at back.
I scan room, and see half dozen men in black longcoats in corner nearest door. They give appearance of being uninterested in surroundings, but one’s eyes flick to me every few seconds. Could be soldiers watching for trouble; could also be brigands. Either way I am on guard.
I pick my way through press of tables and people toward bar. Though I feel eyes of men on me while I move, I do not turn. Let them wonder if I see them or not. Stairway and twin doors at rear of room offer escape if needed.
I catch sight of Butcher when I pass group of dockworkers at fireplace. Butcher and his friend sit with heads close together in booth near kitchen door. I flex my fingers to stop reaching for gun. Stick to plan. Killing Butcher in room full of witnesses is not good idea. Follow him, kidnap him, put fear into his heart. Is better use of talent.
I sit on barstool in corner opposite from Butcher. This allows keeping of watch without appearing to do so. I glance at mirror behind bar, where light from lamps and fire reflect in orangey glow. Men in longcoats near door try to study me without notice. Gloopiye obyez'yani. Never did I see such poorly trained spies. Capture even by bad spies would be inadvisable. If they guard Butcher, they will attempt to take me to dungeons.
Bartender waddles over. Bulge under apron is wrong shape to be bellyfat of man, and tucked strangely into belt. I glimpse shape of gun barrel when he turns. Da, of course. Bartender is smart to carry iron in unsavory place.
“What’ll it be, sir?”
“Bottle of Fantovan semi-dark please, barmyen.” I wave him close, and bartender leans in. “Tuck iron in trouser pocket, not apron. Easier draw and less danger.”
Tomorrow: Part Three of the story.
NOTE: You can read Part One here if you missed it, and all previous installments can be found by clicking here.