“I prefer a stiff drink over a stiff man.” Laughter bubbled over my lips as Gin explained herself with blunt description. It was the fourth Thursday since we had met and every night ended the same; teeth crashing, tongues dancing, and lips melting together. I didn’t know much about the enigma that was perched upon the barstool in front of me. I only knew that she was obsessed with Gin and tonic, gorgeous beyond measure, a phenomenal kisser, and loved to be unknown. Sometimes I think she said things just so I would ask questions she would never answer. Not much has changed now, even in death she has left me with unanswered questions. How did she get my watch? Why did she take it in the first place? Who would hack her to almost unrecognizable pieces? She was grace and hope, beauty and elegance. Gin was Princess Diana meets Marylin Monroe and all three of them gone before their time. “A stiff drink over a stiff man” and now rigor mortis was setting in.
That statement reminding me of an encounter I witnessed on that fourth Thursday between Gin and a man stiffer than the drinks she swirled and sipped. He was taller than most, which sooted him well because I could tell he was looking down on us. He was the only man in a suit, and even with layers, the tailored attire revealed lean muscles and broad shoulders. He had a thick beard that he most likely groomed every time a mirror presented itself. Most of the guys that come to No Chaser and get a little rowdy I end up dealing with, but this man could be trouble. I used to wrestle in college so I was stalkier than him but he probably had better reach. Where he had thick facial hair I was clean shaved, his hair black mine blonde. His ebony suit combo was also a polar opposite from the collection of blue and red v-necks I would often sport. The ladies told me my green eyes always played toward my All-American look, so I’m sure his blue eyes and dark hair got him a lot of Clark Kent references. Good looking guys like us often came in standard type sets. I’m not sure why I was sizing this man up and already planning on how to take him out if need be. I guess it was that sixth sense, the sixth sense most men have when another man covets what they consider theirs. He must have felt it too because he placed a gorilla-like hand onto Gin’s exposed thigh. Looking me square in the eye he squeezed her porcelain skin just a little too tight. This bar in the city of angels was purgatory. Where angles like Gin touched wings with demons like the man before me. Everyone in between danced in circles around them, drowning themselves in lust and liquor. A melodic Frank Ocean song plays as flashing red, orange, and pink, dance across the bearded jawline of this man. Finally, he spoke to Gin and his voice sounded liked sandpaper and an old saxophone.
“Where have you been the last month? We’re going home, we need to talk.” Everything about this man was telling me to intervene but as possessive as I felt, I had no claim to Gin. Furthermore, she didn’t strike me as the type to need a night in shining armor. She grabbed his hand and removed it from her leg. The red mark he left didn’t go with her black and grey tweed skirt. Unless you were looking for the red mark the pulsing lights from the bar concealed it.
Gin pushed her shoulders back, pressing her chest against her white sleeveless blouse. She crossed her legs over the hand mark that was left and took a long slow sip of her drink before speaking. “I can’t recall the last time that place felt like home, can you? Why would I leave with you now?” I was lingering at this point but I wanted to know the man’s answer to her question. Gin spoke in circles but when confronted with someone she knew from outside these brick walls she had to confess details of her life.
The man didn’t speak in reply to her question. Instead, his hand dove into his jacket pocket and started fishing around. He gently placed a small boulder on the bar in front of Gin and every bit of light seemed to be drawn to the princess diamond cut wedding ring before her. Never putting down her drink, Gin brought the ring to eye level, appraised it, and slipped it on her left ring finger. It was a substantial piece of jewelry, the band also filled with diamonds twisted and crossed around. The main diamond itself was shaped like a heart and almost the size of a real one.
“Well Martin, if you’re dragging me all the way to Malibu at least have a drink and let me finish mine.” Instead of taking a seat, Martin moved the barstool to the side and leaned one elbow up against the bar. This move put his back to everyone but more significantly he’d become a barrier between Gin and the rest of the patrons. I’d been lingering, only serving drinkers near these two, and cleaning the glasses until they become almost invisible. Martin waved two fingers toward me and I took my time as if I wasn’t hanging on every word of their conversation.
“I want a martini, Guillotine Vodka, shaken, with extra olives.” You can tell how controlling someone is by how they order their drinks. I nod my head and get to work on his boring concoction. There’s zero haste in my movement, I want to hear more about the women I’ve been making out with every Thursday night; the married women. Even so, I don’t use the chilled glasses, those are for Gin and Gin alone. After I make Martin his drink I’m called away by the growing rush on the other side of the bar. I sneak glances back at the two outliers but I can’t see Gin past the wide back of Martin. An alarm begins to set in but I ward it off by staying busy and hoping to return soon. I make three long islands, a cosmopolitan and a sidecar before I get a chance to try and sneak my way back.
On my journey back I see Martin lean in to whisper something in Gin’s ear and a portrait of horror is painted in her eyes. As I get closer I also see the hand he’s placed around the back of her neck with the same force he placed earlier on her thigh. The alarm I felt before rises up like a geyser and drenching me with terror. Martin has guided Gin through the dance floor towards the back door of the bar, the same back door we sneak out of when we can’t keep our hands off of each other any longer. I’ve already taken my fake smoke break of the day, helping rearrange Gin’s bra and mess up her lipstick, so I can’t sneak off unnoticed. Now she was exiting that same door with a man that wasn’t me. Before Martin pulled her through the threshold, she looked back and our eyes locked immediately. That’s the first time I’d ever seen fear in the eyes of the fearless.
I start to hear footsteps and I’m plunged back into the present day, Gin in my arms cold and empty. Her signature smell of Chanel number five starting to mix with the smell of decay and rotting meat. Bile rises in my mouth and I swallow it back down. I should call the cops, someone needs to know what’s happening. The footsteps get closer and I think someone might be here to help. Blue and red lights flash off the alley walls and I assume the lights are from the dance floor of the bar. Another bartender must be taking a smoke break or just trying to get away from the chaos of the night. A grumble of a voice arises sounding like sandpaper and an old saxophone.
I don’t turn to the stranger. I can’t stop staring at the horror scene before me. I swallow down more bile, the few shots and the Reuben sandwich I had earlier, and try to speak to the stranger before me. “Can you call the police, something unspeakable has happened?” Tears from my eyes rain down and splash on Gin’s face.
“There’s no need for that, what have you done to my Gin?”
His Gin? I turn around and I’m eye-level with a badge clipped to this strangers belt, that reads detective. When I raise my vision to confront this man in the ebony suit who has yet to call the cops, I see the same asshole that put fear in Gin’s eyes all those nights ago, Martin. Sirens sound, the blue and red lights are from a cop car and they dance off the alley walls. Martin grabs my arm with the same force I’ve seen him apply to Gin back when her heart was beating and her eyes were shining.