A coin slipped into the jukebox, and a record clicked into place. Suddenly, a slow tune swam through the air and a mood of melancholy and loss shifted the patrons’ faces into frowns.
The girls stared at the fat man, and Jeremiah stared at Sandy. But no one would voice what they were thinking. Everyone took a sip of their drinks as though they had planned it that way.
The door slammed open to break the silence. A bulky man in a leather vest held the arm of another man. He was drenched, his fancy coat dripping water onto the floor and he clutched at the hat on his head, eyes wide in fear.
“What’we have here, Jake?” The bartender asked, back to cleaning a cup.
“Found him wandering out in the lot. Figured he needed a drink. He didn’t have a car that I saw. Maybe he’s waiting for someone. But he won’t tell me. Doesn’t look worth calling the cops over, though.”
Jake shoved the rain-sodden man further into the bar and he stumbled over his shiny black shoes. He stared around at them all and then slid onto a barstool without a word.
“Thanks Jake.” The bartender nodded at him, and he retreated from the room.
“What’s yer name, fella?”
His eyes darted around the room before falling on the bartender’s face. “Uhm. Dr. Stevenson.”
“Okay, Dr. Stevenson. What can I get you to drink?”
“Uhm. Scotch. Please. Thank you.” He held one hand to the hat on his head.
“Coming right up. And you can relax. No one’s gonna bite ya.”
Sandy giggled and puffed smoke in his direction. “Bite ya, no, we won’t do that.” She slid closer to him. “Tell me what’s on your mind, hun.”
Dr. Stevenson shivered and looked her up and down quickly before he turned his attention back to the bar. “Nothing much to tell. Sorry.”
Sandy blew a giant smoke ring over Dr. Stevenson’s head. “Oh, come on, now. Everyone has a story.”
“I uh, I uh…” The bartender set down the glass with the amber liquid and Dr. Stevenson downed half of it in one gulp. Then he turned to look Sandy full in the face. “I killed a patient this morning. It was awful. Should have been a routine procedure. Very routine. I knew that surgery like the back of my hand. But. But then I went in there and… and it was a mess. A real mess. And she died. And it’s all my fault. And. And. And then. I. I.” He stopped and swallowed the rest of his drink, banging the cup on the counter for another.
The bartender obliged at once, everyone hanging on his every word.
“And then you what?” Sandy purred.
Dr. Stevenson pulled off his hat and exposed a ragged exit wound in the back of his skull. “And then I shot myself.” He stuck his finger into his mouth, miming a gun.
Jeremiah dropped his cup with a clatter and Judith let out a little scream. But the big man didn’t look shocked. He took another sip of his beer and chuckled a little.
“Nice one,” he said.
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