Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019

The Bar

The bar was new but did an amazing job of looking like it had been there forever. It wasn't popular, per se, but it had enough people that you could charitably call regulars to keep its head above water.

Most people outside of that rather unique circle wouldn't recommend it to anyone. That area of town had something of a reputation. And the violent history to earn it.

Admittedly, there was a peace between the various groups that existed on this side of town; a welcome reprieve to the few years prior. Some people like to think that they, themselves, had a starring role in whatever myth passed by word of mouth to explain the lack of violence lately, but the truth was that there had been no fights at all since the bar went up.

His name was Jerome and while most of the bartenders knew his name, he wasn't what any of them would call a regular. He was said to have the ear of a higher up in one of the gangs, one that, if you believed the gossip and hearsay, held a significant financial stake in the bar itself. He would never admit to it, but it was telling that he acted as a sort of bouncer if anyone started trouble within the premises.

It was a typical winter’s Friday night when a haggard and weary woman in her mid-50s entered the bar. A freezing gust blew in with her and a few of the people sitting around the tables complained impotently for a few seconds before going back to their business after the doors swung shut again.

The woman staggered up to the bar and let out a heavy breath.

“How can I help?” the bartender said, eyeing her, not suspiciously, but with the attitude of a man who had seen a lot and who knew trouble when it walked into his bar.

“Something strong, make it a double,” her voice was like gravel walking over a smokers cough.

At the other end of the bar, Jerome recognised it immediately. “Cath,” he said simply, raising his glass.

“What do you want?” she snapped.

“Heard you left town.”

“Well, it wasn't by choice. But, look, I’m back,” she gave him a smile that didn't get past her mouth.

“Well, welcome back. Drinks on me,” he smiled back and went back to his glass.

For the next hour or so, everyone sat around in relative silence. The bartender wondered to himself how he was supposed to deal with trouble when it was the bouncer who was causing it.

Across town, a meeting had convened and a dozen or so burly men sat in anxious murmurings, waiting for proceedings to start.

“Hello, folks,” another man, this one not burly and not dressed in the usual gear of someone who rode motorbikes for a living. “My name is Stevens, and you can call me that or Mr Stevens. Your choice. I’m here to lay out the conditions that allowed certain things to come to pass in your town that has prevented you from getting any real work done over the last few months.”

“It’s those damn foreigners,” someone yelled.

“Now, now, we will cover all your concerns in due course, but first let me tell you how I see it.”

The man named Stevens spoke at length about the influence of a city council that looked down on what he euphemistically called motorcycle clubs and the alleged crimes they had either committed or allowed to happen within their ranks. While he was clearly very well educated, he spoke to the men as if he was one of them. He didn't accuse them of anything, nor did he coddle them. And throughout his presentation, he had a smile on his face which some – although none in this room – would consider devious.

Dark clouds settled over the town; a menacing omen of things to come. As the evening progressed, the clouds got thicker and darker. The street lamps glowed orange in their attempt to beat back the darkness, and until the snow started to fall, they might have even been doing a good job.

It started light and fluffy, the snow all school-aged children dream of when winter starts, but within a few short hours, it had devolved into a blizzard; not that the town wasn't used to blizzards, but they certainly weren't used to one this early in the season.

In the bar, patience was growing thin.

“Listen, Jerome,” Cath said through gritted teeth. “I’m not here to start anything with you. My family is waiting for me back home and I would just as soon leave here as you would have me leave.”

“Believe me, Cath, I am not trying to stop you from leaving. But I feel a tug of responsibility for the patrons of this bar, as they have always treated me well. This storm is too heavy for anyone, even someone as,” here he paused, “experienced as you,” he finished.

“Horseass,” Cath snapped back. “It wouldn't surprise me if you had something to do with driving me out of town in the first place.”

“You insult me, old friend. I have nothing but the utmost of respect for you and yours, and I would never play a part in what happened.”

“Not if you thought you would get caught.”

“Accusations without proof blow away in the wind, you know this. But back to the point, I'm trying to help you here. You won’t make it across the parking lot in this weather.”

Cath looked out the window into the darkness. She could hear the wind through the window, but the lack of light prevented her from seeing exactly how bad this storm was.

“See?” Jerome said “The snow is so thick you cant even see the street lights.”

Cath reacted sharply when she realised this and shuffled back to her bar stool in silence. The bartender, who had been watching in interest, poured her another drink and waved away her attempt to pay for it.

“I don't need money tonight, ma’am,” he replied. “Least of all from you,” the two exchanged a look that drove a spike into Jerome’s chest. Tonight was going to be a long one.