“I prefer a stiff drink over a stiff man.” Laughter bubbled over my lips as Gin explained herself with blunt description playing with the silver ring that was too big for her finger. It was the fourth Thursday since we had met, and every night ended the same; teeth crashing, tongues dancing, and lips searing 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. She asked me one time why I enjoyed her company so much.
“You remind me of everything I hate, and you make me love it.”
Sometimes I think she said things just so I would ask questions she would never answer, and 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? Her body seemed nearly torn to shreds, the way you destroy a secret note after reading it. Before, 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.
I had seen death before up close and personal, my family loved their annual dear hunts, I had even shot and killed a few myself. Killing and destruction seemed like something reserved for the beast, not angels like Gin, but what had I known about her?
I had lost count of how many Thursday’s Gin and I had spent together, but this time she was followed in by a man almost twice her size. His ape-like size seemed to soot him. It would have been hard to look down on all of us if he was a b=moodest 5’10. There was nothing modest about this man. I could practically seem him holding his breath as he entered the dive close on Gin’s heels. He was the only man in a suit, and even with layers, the tailored attire was bursting at the schemes with muscle. His hair was a mix of gel and gray, and he had a thick beard that he most likely groomed every time a mirror presented itself. Not a hair was out of place.
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 a longer reach. Where he had thick facial hair, I was clean shaved, his hair black mine sandy. 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. Whisk must have seen me staring. “If he moves in on your girl, we can jump him.” Whisk was smiling, but this wouldn’t be the first time we got in a scuffle together and had to send some cocky ass holes to the hospital. When you’re younger kids will try to bully you and pick on you for no reason, it just so happen a lot of kids didn’t like because of the pompous, arrogant family I came from.
I stayed busy cleaning glasses as I started teasing Whisk, “Who needs her when I got you to keep me warm at night?” Whisk laughed and jabbed me in the shoulder, but I never broke my stare. I guess I was staring because of a sixth sense, the sixth sense most men have when another man covets what they consider theirs. The man must have felt my stare, or maybe it was his own sith sense because he placed a gorilla-like hand onto Gin’s exposed thigh as she took her seat.
Looking me square in the eye, he squeezed her tan 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 like sandpaper and an old saxophone.
“Where have you been the last month? We’re going home, we need to talk.” I was a bit shocked to hear that they shared a home. 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, her sheer top ruffled from her waste. 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 I prepared without her asking 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 something the size of a small boulder on the bar in front of Gin, and every bit of light seemed to be drawn to the monstrous 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 central diamond itself was shaped like a heart and almost the size of a real one.
Gin barely blinked as she spoke between long sips. “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 almost sparkled. Martin waved two fingers toward me, and I took my time as if I wasn’t hanging on every word of their conversation. Gin played with the industrial bar in her ear, possibly nervous.
“I want a martini, Guillotine Vodka, shaken, with extra olives.” You can tell how controlling someone is by how they order their drinks. I nodded my head and got to work on his boring concoction. There’s zero haste in my movement, I wanted 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 broad back of Martin. An alarm begins to sound in my mind, but I ward it off by staying busy and hoping to return soon. Isn’t that what most of life is, staying busy? The wife who has kids, so she is too busy to deal with her husband and then finds hobbies to become too busy for her kids. The husband staying late at work for the same reason? I make three long islands, prepare a tray of tequila shots, make a cosmopolitan, and a sidecar before I get a chance to try and sneak my way back. “Hey, Whisk, can you handle things here for a bit?”
Before he can respond, I’m on my journey back. I see Martin lean in to whisper something in Gin’s ear, and her face transforms into something I’ve never seen. Her eyes are the portrait of horror, the hair on her body attempts to pull from her flesh, and any humor held in her smirk instantly fades. 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. I’ve seen this type of control before all too well. Then it was a vision of my mother pinned against the hallway by my father, me peeking through the cracked door of my bedroom.
Martin began guiding 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’d already taken my fake smoke break of the day, helped rearrange Gin’s bra and mess up her lipstick, so now it would be hard to sneak away again. She was exiting that same door with a man that wasn’t me. Maybe I was just as possessive as Martin or my father. Before Martin pulled her through the threshold, she looked back, and our eyes locked immediately. That was 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 No.5, starting to mix with the scent 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; hopefully, Whisk was coming to the rescue, or a party-goer 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 stranger’s 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.
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