It was one of those nights, the ones where the wind shrieks in your face and the rain falls hard as hail. The nights that
last longer than they should, where it's hard to imagine the sun will ever rise again. These were also the nights Bill went
to the bar. He went to the bar other nights of course, pretty much every night that he wasn't on a job, and that wasn't
often anymore, but these nights, these were the ones where it felt right.
Tony's Bar was the watering hole of choice. Bill wouldn't go so far as to say, "It's grrrreat!" but it was alright. If all you
wanted to do was drink. Alone.
It was a hole in the wall. Seven rickety chairs distributed around three tippy tables, and a fifteen-foot stretch of grungy
counter. The lights were dim when they worked. The paint on the walls was peeling. The jukebox only half worked, the
speakers often changing from blaring to whispering in the same lyric. The peanuts were old and stale, but everyone ate
them. The patrons were as dirty as the establishment, grubby clothing and grim faces. As always, Bill felt at home as
soon as he walked through the door.
Tony himself looked 70, short, threads of gray hair on the wrinkled skin that was the top of his head. His eyes were
beady behind little glasses. He was thin as a stick except for a pudgy pot belly that stuck out over his hiked up jeans,
bottoms rolled up revealing his stick legs stuck into brown leather shoes. He wore a rumpled plain t-shirt that
stretched tight over his belly, crammed into his pants and tightened with a belt.
"What'll it be, Bullet?" Tony asked, wiping a filthy rag over the grimy brown counter. He was always doing that.
"The usual, Tony." Bill said taking a seat at the end of the bar, two seats down from the nearest patron, a gray-bearded
bald fellow with a Harley Davidson leather jacket.
Tony filled a highball with cheap whiskey. Bill watched the amber liquid fill the glass container with anticipation. Tony
put it in front of him. "Got money this time?"
"You know me Tony. If I had it, I'd pay it, but it's hard times. Put it on my tab."
"Same excuse every time. Maybe you should put your investigative skills into finding where all your money's gone."
Bill took a long drink. "A girl, Tony, it's always a girl."
"Hell if you had a girl you wouldn't be in here every night. Sometimes I can't tell if you're a dick or an asshole. I'll shut
you off eventually ya know."
"As long as it ain't tonight, thanks, Tony." Bill said with a grin and another swig. Tony walked down the bar and began
rubbing a spot on the dirty counter with the dirty rag. Maybe there was a clean spot.
There was a small tv set up in the corner above the bar showing that apparently some local police had busted a drug
dealer and pimp by the name of Day Jay who'd resisted arrest and been killed. Bill stopped watching, wasn't anything
new these days.
Bill was onto his third drink and first cigarette when the woman came in, and Bill knew immediately she wasn't his type.
The jukebox was blasting a strange assortment of sounds that was almost music. Every head in the place turned and
every face was surprised. She wore tight jeans, showcasing her assets, a tight blue top with a neckline that wasn't near
her neck at all. Her bleach blond hair was cut haphazardly short, as if she did it herself with a pair of scissors in about
five minutes. She wore too much make-up, and streaks of mascara ran down her cheeks from her pretty blue eyes.
She'd been crying, but her eyes looked fierce and angry now.
“Fuck you lookin' at?” She spat. Everyone turned back to their drink. Maybe it wasn't a big surprise she was drinking at
Tony's. She stalked over to a table and sat down. She pulled a tiny plastic bag of white powder and a credit card out of
her purse.
“Miss?” Tony said. “Miss!” Louder when she didn't respond.
“What are ya gonna do, call the cops?” She asked, pouring some powder onto the table, making a line of it with the card,
and snorting it up her nose. She gasped and sighed.“Go ahead, call 'em. Git 'em down here.” She leaned back in her chair
and closed her eyes, sighing wistfully. Bill couldn't help but watch, curious. She wasn't beautiful, too thin to be healthy,
and pale like she hadn't seen the sun in years. She noticed Bill watching and their eyes met for a moment. She smirked
and raised her hand, rubbing her thumb and middle finger together making the worldly gesture for money. Bill turned
back to his drink.
After getting over his shock, Tony shuffled his way over to the table. Bill was thinking about her smirking face and those
baby blue eyes.
"Need a drink, miss?” Tony snapped, a little put off with this woman.
“Water."
Tony hesitated, before heading back behind the bar and looking around. Bill wondered if anyone had ever asked for
that before, or if Tony even had water. Maybe he'd have to go to the bathroom and fill a glass from the sink, which
would be unfortunate for her. The bathrooms were worse then the rest of the place. The woman puffed on a cigarette,
pulling out her cell phone and looking at it.
Bill snuffed his own cig into a nearby ashtray, glancing at her every now and then. She was keeping a close eye on the
door. He wondered who she was meeting.
...
Bill had a few more drinks as the night went on. The woman was still alone, puffing on another cigarette, staring at the
table in front of her. She kept glancing at the door and chewing on her lower lip. Her paraphernalia was put away back
in her purse, but she kept sniffling and wiping at her eyes with a tissue. Bill didn't think it was from the drugs.
The door to the pub squealed open, revealing a short man, bald with a narrow face, a large nose and beady eyes that
looked around the room nervously. They stopped on the woman for a moment, and the man took a deep breath before
looking away. Bill noticed it, and also noticed the man's jacket seemed to hang down more on his right side, as if there
was something heavy in the man's jacket pocket. The woman also looked up expectantly, but then back down,
frowning. Bill figured this guy wasn't who she was supposed to meet. The newcomer made his way to the seat beside Bill
and ordered two shots of whiskey. The man was sweating and kept licking his lips until the liquor was poured. He threw
down a couple fives and downed the shots. They seemed to calm him down. He stepped from the stool, hand going to
his jacket pocket. Bill turned, instinct telling him something was wrong.
The man walked to the table where the woman was. He pulled a pistol but it snagged on the jacket pocket for a moment.
The woman eyes widened as she caught sight of the gun and screamed. The man finally yanked it free and the woman
ducked out of her chair as he fired, missing. Bill had his own gun out, but hesitated. The man crouched to see under the
table, pointing the gun at the woman and Bill couldn't wait any more. He fired. The man staggered sideways and fell
over onto the floor, gun falling out of his hand and clattering to the floor.
"What the fuck!" The woman stood up, her body shaking. She looked at Bill, her blue eyes wide with fear for only a
moment. She closed them and shook her head, slowing her breathing down. She opened them again and they were no
longer afraid. Strong woman. "Jesus christ. Who was that guy?"
"You mean you don't know this guy? A guy who just tried to kill you?"
"Hell no, should I?"
Bill sighed, holstering his gun. "If someone wanted me dead, I'd probably know why."
"Whatever, man." She spat. "He could just be some psycho or something."
"Who only went after you? After chugging two whiskey shots to work up the courage?" Bill went to the man's body and
started going through his pockets. Blood oozed out of the bullet hole in the side of the guy's head, about two inches
higher then the top of his ear. No wallet, no identification, just a wad of hundred dollar bills. He turned to look at Tony.
"Better call the cops, Tony."
Tony picked up the phone by the bar and started dialing, as his customers began paying their bills, putting on their
jackets, and clearing out of there. A bunch of ex-cons, nobodies and gang bangers didn't want anything to do with the
cops.
As Bill waited for everyone to leave, the woman grabbed the gun off the floor and then snatched the wad of hundreds
out of his hands. She walked towards the back door.
"Hey!" Bill called out. "What in the hell are you doing?"
She turned to him and waved the money around. "He doesn't need it anymore and he tried to kill me. I think I deserve a
little fucking compensation. I'm gonna need therapy after this." She laughed.
Bill walked after her, wondering how coked out of her gourd she was. "And where do you think you're going?"
"You think I'm waiting for the pigs? Fuck that, they're probably..." She gave him a suspicious look. "Never mind. Thanks
for cappin' that guy and saving my ass. Seeya later." She walked past the bathrooms and the old out-of-order payphone
out the back door.
Bill hesitated. He looked at Tony, who just shrugged.
"It's your funeral."
"Don't I know it." Bill replied going after her. "Goddamnit." Someone wanted her dead. He went after her.
...
He emerged into a back alley worthy of the name, green dumpster, broken glass and trash on the ground, hell, it even
had a druggie sitting on the ground, back to the wall, snorting coke. She was startled as he opened the back door, nearly
spilling her baggy of white powder.
"Jesus, you spooked me, asshole."
Bill didn't even know how to respond. She was doing coke out back of a pub where someone just got shot and the cops
were going to show up in five minutes. "Well pardon me."
"What the hell do you want, anyways?"
"Jesus christ. I didn't save you just so you could OD on cocaine."
"Well maybe you shouldn't have fucking saved me then. Nobody else has before and it's not like I asked you to.”
Bill wiped his face with his hands. He pulled a flask from inside his jacket and took a swig. Thank god for that little bit of
solace. "We need to get outta here."
A pile of cardboard suddenly shifted and a leathery face of an old man poked out. He eyed what was in the woman's
hand. "Can I have some of that?"
"Fuck you, old man."
Bill grabbed her arm and picked her up. "Put that shit away and let's go." He began pulling her down the alley, away
from Tony's.
She put her paraphernalia in her purse and jerked her arm free. "You don't need to drag me, jesus. What a buzzkill."
Bill just shook his head. At least she followed.
"I thought you wanted to wait for the cops anyways."
"Well someone tried to kill you and I shot them. That's usually a situation for the cops to handle. When you run from a
murder you committed, it's usually not very good for your reputation. Besides, I figured you'd want their protection."
Bill replied, looking her up and down. "Though now it's quite obvious that was a dumb idea."
"Protection? I got loads of protection." She laughed pulling out a string of condoms. "Want one?"
"No thanks."
“Suit yourself.”
...
"So where we goin'?" She asked as they walked down the street. Sirens could be heard in the distance. Soon, Tony would
be telling the cops what happened, and soon after thatt, they'd be knocking at Bill's door, wondering why he left a crime
scene after killing a guy.
"I don't live far from here." He replied, trying to form some plan in his head. It was getting lighter out.
"Oh so you want some of your own 'compensation', don't ya?" She giggled.
"No thanks."
"Why not? Don't ya think I'm pretty?" She stopped, grabbed his arm and tried to pose but ended up nearly falling over.
He caught her and held her up. "Or do ya have a little wifey at home?"
"Had."
"Oh? What happened?"
"Nothing."
"Nothing?"
"We're here." Bill said as they came to a dreary gray apartment building.
...
He opened the door and went straight to the cramped kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard and
set about filling his flask. He'd probably need it before this night was through.
"Man this place is a shit hole." She smirked, looking around the tiny apartment. Dirty dishes stacked up in the sink and
on the counter, ratty couch and old antenna tv in the living room, and the door was open to the bedroom revealing a
mattress on the floor with a sprawled blanket and one pillow.
"It's my shit hole." Bill said, taking a swig from the bottle.
"It's worse then my fucking place."
"Well we'll get to compare because we're going there next."
"My place?” Her eyes widened and her voice changed, the light jokey tone gone. “Why?” There was a hint of fear. She
didn't want to go home.
"I was thinking maybe there's some clues as to why somebody wants you dead. You know, figure out why someone
tried to kill you?" He took the bottle back and capped it.
She shrugged as if it wasn't a big deal. "You're a real stickler for figuring out shit, aren't you?"
It was Bill's turn to shrug. "It's my job. I'm a private detective."
"But I ain't your client."
"You are now."
"Well I ain't paying"
"I used my highly developed skills of detection to realize that already."
She sighed. "You really need a fucking hobby, you know that?"
“Tell me about it.”
She took a seat at the kitchen table.
“I thought we were going.”
She pulled out a cigarette. “Got a light?”
He gave her a lighter. After a moment, she was blowing out a plume of smoke and sighing.
“I know why someone wants to kill me.”
Bill took a seat across from her, chair creaking. He started a cigarette of his own. He could see her through the haze of
smoke, smelled her perfume over the tobacco. She wasn't giggly any more, or angry. “So you do know who's after you.”
A shake of the head. “Not exactly.” She grabbed something from her purse, a thin see-through cd case. “Got a
computer?”
...
As the dusty old desktop started up, hard drive revving up like an engine, Bill turned in his chair.
“It'd help if you told me how you got this, or why you don't want to go home.”
She looked down. “It isn't my home. Never was.”
“Did you live with your pimp?”
She shook her head. “Just other whores. Like me.”
Bill put a hand on her shoulder. “What happened?”
She looked up and noticed the computer had loaded up. She shrugged his hand off. “Let's see what's on this fucking
thing.”
Three files. Names, Drug Deals, Prostitution. Bill clicked open the Names first. A bunch of pictures, head shots mostly,
with names beneath them. There were twenty or so and Bill recognized at least half of them. The pieces of the puzzle
were coming together.
He went to the other folders, both full of mp3's and video clips, all showing various people, the ones named from the
other folder, buying drugs or paying for sex. There was one guy who wasn't on the list of names, and was in pretty much
every video. Bill recognized him from the tv at Tony's.  Day Jay.
“You know him, don't you?” Bill pointed at the drug dealing pimp in one of the clips.
She just looked at him, then away.
“What happened before Tony's?”
She pressed her hands to her eyes. “We thought we were gonna be ok. Day was gone, maybe we could...move on, ya
know? Get a real job and just...try.” She shook her head. “I found the cd in my purse, I didn't know what it was. Next
thing I know, the cops were at the door and they didn't even try to arrest us, they just started shooting.” She was crying
now. “I just freaked and ran.”
Bill stood up and took her in his arms. She felt so small, weak now that her walls were broken.         She sobbed into his
shoulder.
“I think I know who's behind it.”
She pulled back, tears sliding down her cheeks. Her eyes were fierce and beautiful. “Let's fucking kill them.”
...
Bill drove and smoked a cigarette, trying to clear his mind. He had all the pieces, now he just had to figure out how they
all went together.
"I don't even know your name," he suddenly realized.
"It's Candy.” She sneered, staring out the window.
“I want to know your real name.”
She sighed. “It's stupid.”
“Tell me.”
“It's Grace.”
“I like i-”
“Cut the crap.” She turned to him, managing a smile. “You never told me about your wife.”
“There's nothing to tell.”
“Tell me anyways. Just talk, I don't like sitting in silence.” Silence leads to thinking, thinking leads to remembering,
remembering leads to mourning. She wanted a distraction.
“We met. We danced and dated. We had a kid and got married on the promise I would quit drinking.”
“And you didn't quit.”
“I did, just not for very long. Now they both hate me and I can't say I blame them. She's remarried so I just...stay away.
They're better off.”
They rode a few minutes in silence. Grace touched his arm lightly. “How long has it been?”
He took a deep breath. “Awhile.”
She looked out the front. “So, where are we going, anyways?”
“Did you recognize any of those names on the cd?”
“A few regulars of Day's.”
“Any in particular?”
She looked at him shrewdly. “Maybe. How did you know?”
“You were meeting someone at Tony's, I'm guessing someone you thought you could trust and you hadn't looked at the
cd yet. I'm guessing his name is probably on that list.”
“You're kind of good at this shit, you know?” She nodded. “A guy named Harry. I thought he was a friend.”
“He's a friend of mine too.”
She glanced at him, startled. “You've figured this all out, haven't you?”
He shrugged. “We'll see.”
..
Bill pulled into an empty parking spot next to an apartment building. He looked at Grace. She was staring at him with a
look he couldn't read.
“What?”
“You're doing a lot for me. You already saved my life.”
“Call it instinct and curiosity.” He went to open his door.
She grabbed his arm. “Is that it?”
Those damn baby blues. “Who the hell knows.”
“You don't have to go up right away.” She leaned over, pulling the seat release and pushing the back down, until Bill
was lying on his back.
He gulped, not sure what to do. “It's been awhile.”
She smirked. “I know. You told me.” She maneuvered over the middle console until she was laying on top of him. She
lay her head on his shoulder. “Just...hold me awhile.” She sounded so tired.
He put a hand on her back and one on the back of her neck. “I can do that.”
...
It wasn't easy to get out from under her and out the door, much less while trying not to wake her, but he managed it
after a few minutes. He quietly shut the door and spent a minute, watching her serene face and her chest move
smoothly up and down. He headed into the building.
He found the apartment and knocked on the door, which was quickly opened, revealing the bear of a man that was
Harry. Gray beard, hard eyes and a grim mouth, which smiled at the sight of Bill.
“Bill! What the hell ya doing here? Isn't it a little late? Come in, come in. I'll grab a bottle of the finest.”
Bill entered the apartment into the kitchen, threw his coat over a chair, and pulled off his shoulder holster, gun still in
it, dropping it on the kitchen table. Harry brought a bottle and glasses with ice over as Bill took a seat. Harry poured,
took a seat across from Bill, and grabbed Bill's gun.
“Still got the same old piece I see.”
“Still works pretty well.” Bill sipped at the whiskey on the rocks. His buzz was coming back, but it also seemed to clear
his mind. Harry was a friend. A friend who was now holding a gun.
“You know you'd get issued a new one if you joined the department. Hell we could work together, you and me on a
case, just like old times, how 'bout that?” Harry was grinning and chuckling, but it sounded forced to Bill. Fake. “You
might get some money for some new clothes, too. Get a new jacket rather then that ratty trench coat you always wear.”
He was still holding the gun.
“I don't need any money right now, Harry.”
“What are you talking about, Bill, you always need money. Find a rich client? Is it a girl, Bill, the perfect one? Find some
rich girl to settle down with?” Harry laughed.
“I found a girl, alright, but she ain't perfect, and she ain't rich.”
“Is that right?” Harry scratched his chin. “Got another mystery to solve? Bill the bull still charging into china shops?
You ain't drunk, are ya Bill?”
Bill sipped. “I don't think so.”
“Aw hell, you've been to Tony's again. I thought you told me you weren't going there anymore.”
“Better then drinking at home alone.”
“Yeah, sure. Drinking alone at a bar is much better.”
“Something happened at Tony's.”
“That's a first.” Harry joked.
Bill stared into Harry's eyes, ignoring the gun in his friend's hands. “Woman came into there, odd lookin', snorted coke
right there in front of everyone.”
“That don't sound too surprising, considering the establishment.”
“Then things got complicated.”
"Complicated?"
"Someone tried to kill her, Harry. Cops are involved too."
"Got it all figured out, Bill? Like the old days?" Harry's tone was no longer friendly.
Bill shrugged. "The pieces are coming together. Here's the situation, Harry, as I see it. Basically, some cops were
involved with some pimp named Day Jay. This guy was smart though, kept some incriminating evidence on a cd which
he slipped to one of his girls. The cops find out about this evidence, so they send someone to kill the girl and someone
else goes to her place to make sure the whole situation is taken care of. The only problem was the guy they sent to kill
her fucked up and it just so happened a down and out private detective was in the right place at the right time."
"Or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it." Harry shook his head. "Once you get ahold of
something, you just don't stop, do you?"
Bill nodded. "I figure shit out. It's my job."
"It's your fucking life." Harry raised the gun. "And now it's over. I'm sorry Bill, but I'm going to need that cd."
Bill chuckled, sipping at his drink. "I kept wondering why she showed up at Tony's, at that particular pub. It was
because it was a hole in the wall, a place where nobody goes, and I'd told you I stopped going there." Bill shook his
head. “I was a bit surprised when I saw you on that cd, Harry. My old friend Harry, the goody-two shoes detective,
buying some coke and paying for sex? You were on there, and you liked one of them girls in particular, am I right? You
liked Candy and you know what, I think she liked you too. You coppers must've freaked when after getting rid of Day
and his girls, you still didn't find the evidence, but then of course Candy saved the day, calling her dear friend and
nearly giving you everything on a silver platter. Couldn't let that evidence get out. Just because cops break a little law
here or there, doesn't mean they're not good people, right? What's a drug dealer and a couple whores compared to
them?"
Harry looked up, and Bill saw tears. Harry wiped his eyes and pointed the gun at Bill. “I'm sorry Bill, I really am.”
“Me too.”
-Click-
Harry looked at the gun and then shook his head. “I should've known. You don't trust anyone.”
That's when the front door opened. Grace emerged into the room, gun from Tony's held in her hands.
Harry's eyes widened.
"You fucking asshole." She spat, walking up to the table.
Harry opened his mouth to speak and the gun jumped in her hand. The bullet struck Harry in the chest as the bang of
the gunshot rang out. She fired twice more and Harry's body slumped sideways onto the ground.
She placed the gun on the table. Bill looked into her eyes which were staring fearfully at Harry's body.
“Is it over?” She whispered.
Bill stood and embraced her. “Yeah.” He just held her shaking body for a few minutes before breaking the silence. “We
need to get out of here.”
“Where are we gonna go?”
“Tony's got a place, it's not much but we can lay low there.”
“I don't think that pudgy bastard likes me.”
“Yeah well, he doesn't know you.”
“Neither do you.”
“Yeah well, I'm trying.”

by Ben Adams