Fiction Contemporary Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“Welcome to the Avalon, sir! Say now, I haven’t seen you in a good while. Must be at least six months, or maybe longer. So I’ll say, welcome back to the Avalon, sir!”

“Where the Hell is everyone?”

“Well, you’ve almost got the whole place to yourself tonight, sir. Plenty of seats at the bar over here. And, if I remember, you’re beer and a shot, Scotch, right?”

“You remember right, but hold on. Waddaya mean, almost? I just bumped into a guy who was on his way out, when I was comin in. Now I’m the only one in the place.”

“Not quite, sir.”

“Waddaya mean by that? Is someone in the can? I don’t see anyone else around.”

“Well, I’m here, sir.”

“Hah, well ya got me there, Steve! It’s Steve, isn’t it?”

“Jason, sir.”

“Hah, well I was close. I guess it was Steve at the other place.”

“Will you have that drink now, sir?”

“Yeah, well maybe I will have one, before I go and find some place more lively. I gotta catch the red-eye at midnight. But skip the beer. I’ll just have the shot.”

“So, you’ll be leaving us again then, sir.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Well I flew in from the coast this morning, and I’ll be goin back again at midnight. Catchin the red-eye. That’s why you haven’t seen me for a while. I been out there for almost a year now.”

“Greener pastures then. Well, welcome back, even if it’s only for this evening. What kind of Scotch can I get you, sir?”

“Yeah, greener pastures, better pickings, call it what you want. What kind of Scotch do you have? Got any of the good stuff? Somethin a little more upscale than regular bar whiskey? I think I need to celebrate a bit.”

“How about some single malt? Always good for a celebration. I have a few back there, a decent selection. Here, I’ll turn the back-lighting up just a tad. Now you can see them, read the labels there in the mirror. Take your pick.”

“Well Hell! Too many, too far away and too blurry. And me without my glasses. How about you read them to me? Tell me what you got.”

“Here’s a ten-year-old Macallan, can’t go wrong with that. This one is a Balvenie, spent twelve years in the cask, very smooth, and….”

“What’s that one over there?”

“That’s a Laphroaig ten…. very discriminating, different…. and I’ve also got an eighteen-year-old Glenlivet.”

“Laphroaig, that’s the one they let the cows walk around in for a bit before they put it in the bottle, isn’t it?”

“Some people have said that, sir. Yes, very distinctive taste. Very peaty.”

“Naw, I won’t have that one. I’m gonna go big-time, tonight. Set me up with the Glenlivet. That one costs extra, doesn’t it?”

“Well, usually, sir. But why don’t we say, just for today, and for an old and valued customer, all the single malts will be the same price.”

“Say, now, that’s more like it! That’s the spirit, George!”

“Jason, sir.”

“Right, that’s the spirit, Jason! Hah, spirit, see what I did there, Jason? In that case, make it a double.”

“Four fingers of Glenlivet eighteen, coming up. Would you like to hang up your coat, sir?””

“Huh? Naw, I don’t think so. I’ll just keep it here on the seat beside me. That way nobody will steal it and it’ll be close. I’ll have the one drink to celebrate and then I’ll pop around and look for a place with a little more action, before I catch the red-eye at midnight.”

“What are you celebrating, sir?”

“Say, this is good Scotch. What am I celebrating, you ask? Well, I made two pitches today, and scored big with one. So I’m battin five-hundred, ya might say.”

“Very impressive, sir.”

“Yeah, I deserve it. When this deal goes through, it’ll set me up solid again for a couple, maybe three months.”

“What is it that you do, sir?”

“Huh? Not sure what you mean.”

“Your profession, sir. Your work. I remember you from when you used to come in here a lot, with a group of friends, but I never knew what it was you did.”

“Oh yeah! Back then, this place was jumpin. An those weren’t friends. They was customers, or maybe customers. Gotta prime the pump, y’know. Hah! An I remember you now, you was the bartender from back then. I knew I seen you someplace.”

“Yes, I used to work here part-time, back then.”

“Yeah, those days. Like I said, where the Hell is everyone? It’s like a bloody morgue in here. The last time I was here, this place was on fire. What happened?”

 “Well, you know, crowds. They can be a fickle bunch. We get a few people in now for a drink after work, but most of the groups that you probably remember, have moved on.”

“Huh! So where’d they all go?”

“There’s a new place that opened up over on Elgin, the Excelsior. It’s a bar and lounge, like this one. Not much different, really, but a few of the regulars here decided they wanted something different, and most of the crowd followed them.”

“The Excelsior, huh? So that’s where all the action is tonight?”

“I expect so, sir.”

“Say, would y’happen to have the time? My damn phone died about an hour ago and I forgot to pack the stupid charger this mornin. So I’ve been flyin blind since before I came in here. It’s drivin me bloody crazy; can’t check the news, can’t make a call, or even check my e-mail.”

”It’s, uh, ten of nine, sir.”

“Hmmm, a couple of more hours until I have to grab a cab or an Uber for the airport. I gotta catch the red-eye back to the coast at midnight, I probably told ya.”

“You did, sir. And I can certainly call for a taxi, when you’re ready to go.”

“Yeah, well hold off on that. I’ll just finish my drink and go check out the action at this Excelsior, or whatever it’s called.”

“Right, sir. Oops, careful there, your coat just slipped off the stool beside you. It’s there, on the floor.”

“Oh, damn! Hang on, I’ll get it.”

“Looks like there’s something on the sleeve. It’s wet-looking, some sort of a stain, maybe?”

“Yeah, could be. No big deal.”

“Looks like it may be a wine stain. I could get you some club soda, if you’d like. It’s good for helping to get out a wine stain.”

“Naw, don’t worry about it. I’ll get it dry-cleaned when I get back to the coast.”

“That didn’t happen here, did it? When it slipped down on the floor? I’d feel bad if it did. I try and keep that area clean.”

“Naw. Don’t worry about it. It probably happened before I came in here. Oh, damn! I just spilled my drink.”

“Here, I’ll get it. Got a wipe-cloth under the counter, here. Just be careful not to get any on your coat.”

“Yeah, the coat. I’ll just tuck it down here beside my stool, out of sight, while you swipe off the bar-top. Say, I didn’t notice this before. Didn’t this top used to be wood?”

“You’ve got a good memory, sir. Yes they changed the surface to zinc during the pandemic. Just a precaution. It is supposed to kill bacteria and such.”

“Good idea, I guess. I thought it looked different from when I was in here before.”

“So, are you on your way then now, sir, or shall I get you another Scotch, for your celebration?”

“Yeah, well I definitely have somethin to celebrate. Maybe just one more, before I go and check out the action. Same deal as before? The good stuff for the regular price?”

“For an old and valued customer? You got it, sir.”

“Right, then. I’ll have another double.”

“Four fingers of Glenlivet eighteen, coming up. You were going to tell me all about your work.”

“Oh, yeah. What’d you call it? My profession. Well, you’re standing across from Gerry Kenton, entrepreneur.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. So you’re in business then. Well, I’m pleased to meet you now officially, Mister Gerry Kenton. I’m Jason Downing.”

“Right, Jason the bartender. See, I remembered from before.”

“Yes, that’s right. And what kind of business are you in, Mister Kenton, that you are here in the exclusive Avalon lounge, celebrating with eighteen-year-old Genlivet?”

“Micro breweries. I set em up, turn-key. Millers, brew kettles, brites, heat exchangers, wort pumps, filtration system. You name it, I put it in the package! Gerry Kenton’s packages are the best; finest in the business! But, why am I talkin here, doin a sell job on you? You probably never heard of this stuff, you bein a bartender and all.”

“Well, actually I do know what you’re talking about. I studied computer science and the company that I worked for after I graduated assigned me to a team working on a project to develop brewery software. I wrote brewing-process code, and coded brewing-industry back-office-management software, as well. To do that, I had to learn about how breweries worked.”

“Whoa, surprise a minute in this place! Computer geek, huh? So, waddaya doin here now, servin drinks to people like me?”

“I worked part-time here at the Avalon tending bar to make some money while I was a student. Then I lost my regular job coding software with Venion, during the pandemic. I might have been called back, but the company went bankrupt. I sent resumes out everywhere, but no one was hiring out-of-work coders. So when they offered me this job here, full-time, I took it.”

“Well, that’s a comedown!”

“Some people might think that, probably do think that. But actually, it’s not been that bad. Things are pretty lean here right now, but when business was good, I made as much money here, with tips, as I did working in computer software, with a lot less pressure. I’ve learned that there’s such a thing as a healthy work-life balance. Money isn’t everything.”

“Easy for you ta say, sonny. Ya don’t have my expenses. Money is everything when ya don’t have it ta feed the bloodsuckers.”

“Well, each to his own, I guess, Mister Kenton. I see that you’ve finished your Scotch.”

“Yeah, and I’m startin ta get lightheaded. I didn’t eat since about noon. Ya got any food around here?”

“I’m sorry. The restaurant on the other side of the wall there closes at ten and the kitchen shuts the grills off about now. I do have a bag of cheese puffs here.”

“Yeah, toss em over and add em to the tab. An I still want to go and find some action before I leave to catch the red-eye. But I will have another one of those Scotches before I go.”

“Sure thing, Mister Kenton. And why not? You’ve got lots to celebrate.” 

“Ya got that right. Today, I signed a deal for a brewhouse package worth three-quarters of a mill.”

“Three quarters of a mill…you mean seven-hundred and fifty-thousand…. dollars?”

“Waddaya think it was, donuts?”

“Well, no, I mean I’m impressed.”

“Well, ya should be. That’s not small change. And my end is twelve percent. So I’ll gross ninety grand before expenses, about seventy-five net. Ya run up a few expenses flyin back and forth from the coast.”

“Well here you go, here’s your double Scotch, and congratulations on closing the deal.”

“Yeah, and that’s not all. I don’t mind tellin ya, I also got a monkey off my back today. I won’t have ta be payin the ex anymore. That’s worth a big-time celebration.”

“You mean your wife?”

“Ex wife! Ex wife! As of today, I’ll be up five grand a month. No more of those big fat checks to her, ever! No siree, Bob! Damn, this is fine Scotch! And it’s startin ta work on me. My tongue is getting numb.”

“Well, you’re catching a cab to the airport, not driving. But I’ll put the bottle away if you’ve had all you want.”

“Naw, naw, leave it out, leave it out. I’m gonna definitely go and catch some action before I’m outa this city for good at midnight. But we can’t party-poop a celebration, can we? Hah!”

“You’re the boss, Mister Kenton. I’ll leave it over here in plain sight, for now. So, none of my business, really, but it sounds like you’re also celebrating a divorce.”

“Naw, I shoulda divorced her a year ago when I went to the coast, but fumbled that one good. I had my eyes opened tday, by jeezus. But it worked out. She won’t get any more blood out of this sucker. Listen, set me up here again, willya? Another double of the good stuff!”

“Really, Mister Kenton, you knocked that one back pretty fast. Why don’t you slow down a wee bit. Or I’ll have to call time, even for an old and valued customer.”

“Listen, sonny! Set me up again! This is my day! My celebration! I made ninety grand today and fixed a problem that was costing me a fortune. I’m a free man now! Can you top that, Mister geek smartass-bartender?”

“Mister Kenton, I’m going to leave that bottle over there for a while. You should just sit and relax for a few minutes, and I’ll call you a cab. You said you made a pile of money today, saved a bunch more, and you’re a free man. Sounds like there’s more to that story. Why don’t you tell me about it?”

“So, ywant a story, huh? Ya wanna hear my story! Then we’d have a secret, you and me. The entrepreneur an the geek bartender. Well, can’t hurt. I’m catchin the red-eye at midnight, so I’ll be outa here in a wink.”

“Sure, lay it on me, Mister Kenton. I hear all kinds of great stories, working behind this bar. I’d love to hear yours. And then maybe, if you still feel like it, you can have one last drink for the road, before you catch that cab to the airport.”

“Hey! I’m still goin out an find some action, before I catch that plane! They useta be lined up two-deep back from the bar here, and ya couldn’t ever get a bloody seat at a table. Now, this place is dead! But, what can it hurt ta tell ya? I won’t be comin back here from the coast.”

“So, we won’t see you again?”

“Naw, now that she won’t be in the picture, I’m gonna pack everything up here, sell the house. I won’t be comin back. So I might as well tell ya, spill everything.”

“Sure, get it off your chest. I’m listening.”

“Jeez! I need another drink. Well, no matter. I’ll get one when I go over to, whaddayacallit?..the Excelsior?...for more action than I’m gettin here! But, what the hell. Sure you won’t change your mind about that Scotch?”

“Why don’t we wait a while? I’ll pour you one before you catch the cab for the airport.”

“Sure, sure, I’ll have it then. Calm me down for the flight. Well, here’s the thing, y’see. After I close the deal this afternoon, I’m feelin good, ya know? So I Uber it out t’the house, thinkin I’ll surprise her. We haven’t been gettin along. Only time I ever hear from her is when she wants money.”

“So, you’re separated from your wife?”

“Yeah, you can call it that. I’m out on the coast, an she’s here in my house. The house I’m payin for! So, I get there an there’s no one home. Car’s gone, an all the lights is out. So I let myself in, an as soon as I get in the door, I hear a noise upstairs. Someone’s burglein or burgarlizin or whatever, the place. So I slip out to the garage and look for an equalizer. I can handle myself, y’know, but, just in case.”

“Whoa, Mister Kenton! That’s some story!”

“Yeah, wait’ll ya hear! So there’s this claw hammer layin on an old chair there in the garage, see. It’s a big one, heavy, maybe two pounds. I remember buyin it at Home Depot when she wanted me t’hang a picture.”

“So, you went in and confronted the burglar!”

“Well I started to, y’see. I slipped inta the house with the hammer, and went easy up the stairs t’make no noise, and then I see them. She’s on the bed, legs in the air, gaspin an moanin, an he’s on top pushin and gruntin, his arse in the air for all the world t’see. So, I did em both!”


“Yeah, I told ya. That monkey’s off my back now, for good! She won’t be tappin me for any more cash, ever!”   

“And the stain on your coat sleeve…?”

“Blood! Ain’t no club soda will ever get that out, sonny!”

“Oh my God!”

“I told ya we’d have a secret, you and me, and secrets can be dangerous things. Ya better slide that phone of yours over here ta me. I’ll call my own cab, when it’s time to go. Can’t have ya talkin ta anyone before I catch that red-eye. An, I’ll have that drink now, pretty please.”

“Jesus! Jesus! Here, take the bottle! But first let me pour one for myself!”

“Fill yer boots.”

“Mister Kenton, you’ve just made me accessory to a murder!”

“Well, two of em, if we’re bein technical. Hmmm, this is damn good Scotch.”

“I don’t see how you can think you will get away with this. I don’t know what to say!”

“Ya don’t say anything! Remember, I know your name, and where ya work! Wait, who’s that just comin in? Oh, shit……….!”


February 20, 2023 16:32

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Jen Thompson
16:47 Mar 02, 2023

Ohhh I love this! I was wondering what that stain was about! At first I thought maybe the bar tender was going to poison him! Such a great twist!


Richard E. Gower
18:18 Mar 02, 2023

Thanks so much for having a read, and for the compliments. Reader appreciation means a great deal, and it's what keeps all writing. :-)


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Wally Schmidt
06:29 Feb 26, 2023

Was wondering how the 'dialog only' prompt was going to work out for people, and you really nailed it. The story is kinda spoofy, and very fun. You can practically feel the bartender's regret when he realizes 'he's an accessory to the crime'. Good stuff. Keep writing


Richard E. Gower
11:00 Feb 28, 2023

Many thanks for your kudos and warm words of encouragement. They mean a great deal...😊


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Wendy Kaminski
17:18 Feb 20, 2023

Wow, talk about a big reveal, Richard! This was absolutely engrossing, and the more liquid lie detector he got in him, the freer things got (I bet the bartender was regretting that, by the end...). I thoroughly enjoyed the story and couldn't put it down - excellent address to the prompt, and very readable in addition to being just good storytelling!


Richard E. Gower
17:42 Feb 20, 2023

Thanks so much, Wendy.-:) Liquid lie detecter...lol...if you haven't got a copyright on that, I'd like to file it away for use down the road...if you want royalties, we can talk...-:)


Wendy Kaminski
18:48 Feb 20, 2023

All yours! :D


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Wendy Kaminski
02:22 Feb 26, 2023

Richard! You're on the Recommended Reading list! That is a pretty huge deal... that's where they pick the winner and shortlisters from, at the end of the week. It's an achievement of its own, really, regardless of how it turns out, so congratulations! :)


Richard E. Gower
10:57 Feb 28, 2023

Oh, WOW!!! I am dumbstruck,,,many thanks for this gen, Wendy, and for your steadfast encouragement. It's the fuel that keeps a writer energized. I'm very grateful. 😊


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