by evilgrin on 02 Jan 2006, 20:20
Title::STILL LIFE WITH TAYLOR::
Pairing:: Taylor Reese/ Christine Cameron (OFC)
Rating: nc–17, violence, language and sex
Disclaimer:any characters from KAG, are, of course, not mine…everything else is out of my demented little noodle…the bar regulars are friends, who were mightily amused to, once again, end up in something I’ve written…
summary:a new bar, a new town, and an old feud, but the bartender’s nice
Feedback:In this thread only please. No shreds; I write for fun only
notes:: as with everything else I end up writing, the other guys thoughts and conversations are always going to be in italics, to make it easier to keep it all straight…
The bar’s changing owners. Again. It’s no big deal, to me, obviously. Third time in two years. You get used to it. These new guys are supposed to be connected. Most places around here are. Connected to somebody, anyway. Bikers, triads, the mob, dirty cops. We’ve got it all here, and more. A quiet war going on for a little while. I guess that means I’m going to have to ignore missing cases of booze, and put up with dumber waitresses.
Sure, I could do something else. It’s not like I can’t. I just like what I’m doing. The pay’s alright. Gives me time to paint. Like the routine. Been a bartender at the Busted Skull for six years. Of course the place isn’t called that. It started out as the Dusty Gull. Stupid name for a bar. Started calling it the Busted Skull when the bikers took it over for a short while.
The original owner had this whole nets and fisherman thing. To be expected, I guess, so close to the docks. The nets went, along with the fake seagulls everywhere. A gaff still sits on the back of the bar, within reach, like I’m supposed to use that when it gets too rowdy in here. I’d rather trust the doorman, that’s what I tip him for. We have an arrangement. Failing that, there’s a shotgun under the bar. I’ve only ever pulled it out once.
A beautiful sixteen foot stretch of bar remains, burnished to a deep golden brown glow under countless layers of spar varnish, and the scarred wooden tables to match. The brass all tarnished, a couple of years back, except for the stuff right at the bar, the spots that got used, that got sat in, night after night.
It’s quiet right now, at the back of a rainy Sunday night. The music’s an afterthought, turned down low, some rainy city jazz Hendrix brought in one night. Hendrix and James sit at the end, leaning heavily on their drinks, as though their pint glasses were the only things keeping them up. The other regulars have gone home, but Hendrix has gotten himself dumped again. Asking James what it all means. The gods help him looking for answers there. James’ been married, and divorced, four times. He always said he would have divorced even more often, but he can’t find another woman that will marry him first.
I’m cleaning out the wells, wiping glasses, not really trying to look busy. Everything that needed doing got done hours ago. It’s Sunday, what can I say. I’ve got the drop ready. I paid the two regulars’ tab about an hour ago, out of my own tips. They’ll pay me before they leave. That way I don’t have to be sitting here counting out money in an empty bar when the new guys show up.
I usually walk with the cook, down to the bank, do the drop, and walk home. Don’t know if the new guys want that to continue or not. If they’re legitimate, they’ll leave things pretty much as they are, and I’ll continue doing the drops every night, with the rest of the bar business the same. If they’re not legit, then it will go a different way, and this place will be gone in six months, either way and I won’t have to worry about it.
I have no idea when I’ll get out of here. I’ve worked in a connected bar before. Bring their friends around after closing, drink until dawn. So I leave the taps on. Bucket of ice in the fridge, in case I need it. I don’t even know who they’re sending. Someone’s supposed to come meet me, to deal with the money at the end of the night. Can’t get a damned thing out of these waitresses. Not that I’d expect anything. Like I said, I’ve worked in this situation before. These guys never seem to have any last names, part of me doesn’t want to know anyways.
“Goodnight my angel….”
“‘Night, Hendrix, James”
I’ve been called worse. If that sweetheart wants to call me his angel, I can live with it. The place is empty. Shut down the lights. Pour the last of the black coffee in a pint glass. Now it’s just the small pots over the bar. I like the music just fine, leave it on. Go lock the doors. These guys’ll have their own keys, I’m guessing. Get comfortable in a club chair in front of the bar, drink my coffee, and wait.
They’re on time, I’m surprised, I was prepared for a wait. Only about quarter past twelve. An odd time to meet your new boss for the first time, I agree.
Being a woman left in a bar after hours will make you size up anyone, so that’s what I do, when they come in. Hell, I have to read people all day, it’s not like I could stop myself even if I wanted to. I consider it one of the luxuries of the job.
The smaller of the two. I know he’s my new boss without him even saying anything. Carries himself with an authority his size doesn’t back up. Black suit. Clean lines. That didn’t come off any rack. Good shoes. Dad always said you could tell a lot about a man by his shoes. Black well kept hair, pays someone a lot to make it look like he doesn’t do anything with it. Clear, intense blue eyes, eye contact. Good, I like that. I hate shifty-eyed men, and I’d like to know what the deal is right away so I know how this will all play out.
Firm handshake. If I was a guy, that is. I get the fingertips squeeze, and, instead of a kiss on the hand, which I believe it would be if this were not business, his other hand over the top. A sweet gesture. He’s been well brought up.
“Hi, I’m Matty, please sit down, miss…?”
Yep, no last names. “Chris Cameron”
“Just Christine. I left the taps on, can I get you a drink?”
“Martini, dry, and a beer for my friend, please.”
“Vodka, or gin?”
No introductions of the second man, who takes a chair where he can watch the door. Swirl a drop of whiskey in the martini glass, let it run out while I fix the rest. Vodka. The good stuff. Grey Goose. Vermouth. Twist. And a Harps for the friend, I had to take a stab at it, but he looked like a man that would have no problem with good beer.
Around six two, but looks bigger somehow. Imposing figure. I’m used to being around big guys, hell, I’m a bartender in a place called the Busted Skull afterall, but this is different. No wasted movements. There is no bravado in the man, no swagger. He simply IS.
Jeans, boots, and a t-shirt. Leather jacket. Car length. As much a uniform as that worn by his friend I suppose. His clothes are clean. Boots are spotless. No accident, and it’s not through a lack of work. Where his friends hands are soft, his look like they are accustomed to work. Hard work. He carries himself with pride, but there is no arrogance in the man.
Skin the colour of pale coffee, nice brown eyes, if he ever smiles, that is. Then they might warm up a bit. Head clean shaven. Alert, always watching. I end up getting sized up too. Don’t know quite how to take that. Can’t tell if it’s sexual, or if he’s assessing a threat or what it is. His expression is unreadable, even when in the company of his friend. Hell, I’m hardly a threat either, but his face says distance, in a clear and unequivocal tone. This is a man you listen to, even when he isn’t saying anything. Hasn’t said a word as of yet.
Glad there’s only two drinks to serve. Don’t have to play games with protocol. Both drinks go down at once. Sit back, be quiet. That’s what I do. Serve people drinks, and let them get good and ready to talk to me. I’m a patient woman.
Mr. Matty NoLastName enjoys his martini thoroughly. Something I can tell before he’s even had the chance to compliment me on it. His friend, the Enforcer, is a harder read.
“We’d like you to stay on, and continue to take care of the bar for us at night, Christine. My partner will be taking care of running things.”
Again, with the no names. How the hell am I going to refer to this guy?
“Will everything else be remaining the same?” A harder question. I make a point of making direct eye contact.
“I don’t want to change things too much, and we’ve been watching the books for a while. This place is doing well. You’re doing well. We wanted to come by and meet you, see how things ran later at night.”
Some more idle chit chat, about food, and waitresses, and business. Pleasantries. Weather talk, for bar people. He’s feeling me out. Body language. His martini is finished. His friend has hardly touched his beer, yet Matty is up and ready to go. Hasn’t even noticed. Wasn’t paying attention. Expects that when he is ready to go his friend will simply follow. Power dynamics.
“Before you leave. You’ve sent home the first cook.”
They both just look at me.
“I’ve always done the drop, the cook and I are the last people to leave. He walks me to the bank.” The downside of being a woman, I guess. Sure, I could probably defend myself, if I had to, but let’s face it, I wasn’t built for it, and I don’t get paid enough to make it worth it. “I don’t mind doing it, but I’d rather not do it by myself at this time of night.”
This is where the chips fall. If they start doing the drop, I start worrying about skimming, and the place will go under quickly. There are so many ways to skim at a bar. I’ve always run clean. I want to know if that will change.
“My partner will accompany you to the bank every night, Christine.”
The hand squeeze, holding the elbow this time, standing closer. Friendlier. I guess I pass. The enforcer standing by the door, chiseled out of stone. Unreadable. This is just going to put fifteen minutes of joy in my day, if he walks me to the bank every night.
He continues, in that polite voice. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you finally, Christine.”
I’m behind the bar, shutting off the lights, the music, while he gets his coat. Matty walks across the street to the hotel, probably where they’re staying, who knows, I never bothered to ask.
The Enforcer takes the keys from my hands, when we get outside, and locks the doors, before handing them back to me.
Nothing. He just takes a measured pace beside me, my shorter legs must make that awkward. He doesn’t complain. Walking automatically on the curb side. I guess he was raised right too. It’s only a short walk to the bank, fifteen minutes or so, but he’s quiet the entire time, stopping only once to light a cigarette. I think I could be walking down the street with a wheelbarrow full of cash, while dancing naked, and I don’t think anyone would have approached me. Hell, no one even looked at me. Caught one look at the Enforcer, and got interested in just about anything else. A lot of shoe watching. In this neighbourhood, that’s saying something.
Get out of the bank. Ready to go home. “Thanks for walking with me.” Hell, I don’t even know what to call him. They both were cagey about names. Still don’t know how that’s going to work. Start making for home.
“Hold on. You’re not walking home by yourself.”
So he does talk afterall. A surprise in itself, I suppose. Beautiful voice. Heavy, deep and precise. Even in his voice, no wasted movements. He wasn’t asking if I wanted him to walk me home. He was telling me he was walking me home, and that there would be no arguing about it. Not many people argued with him, I’m guessing. I don’t like to be pushed around. Probably best to get that out of the way.
“I don’t even have a name for you. I’m not walking anywhere else with you until I know what to call you.”
Twitch at the corner of a lip, that just reached his eyes for a fraction of a second, before it was gone again, replaced with the steely eyed face that he wore for the rest of the night.
“Taylor. Taylor Reese”
“Hmmm. TWO names. You do me an honour, Mr Taylor Reese.”
Again, with that tiny smile. With that I let him walk me home.