Shadow of the Barkeep


It was a cold January night; the wind had picked up and shifted the white stuff into drifts.  The door slapped shut behind him as O’Brien brushed the light dusting of snow from his winter coat.  He surveyed the tavern; scanning for any witnesses but O’Malley’s was empty.

O’Brien spotted his partner MacLeod taking up residency in the shadow of the barkeep.  He lumbered over, pulled up a stool and removed his hat.

“You got some nerve showing up here, O’Brien.  The boss said you wasn’t needed here tonight.”

O’Brien scoffed.  “That a fact?”

The late game between the Canucks and Predators illuminated from the old tube TV barely hanging from the ceiling.  Luongo just stopped a Webber slapshot and the crowd was coming unglued.

“O’Brien,” sighed MacLeod, “What exactly did you think was going to happen?”

“Let me ask ya, Macleod,” He pointed to the screen. “What do you think the Canucks’ chances are this year?”

“O’Brien, I asked you a fucking question.  I wanna know how a person would think they could rip off the boss and not pay for it?  A guy can’t be that fucking stupid, can he?”

O’Brien asked Jimmy for a beer.  He had been coming to O’Malley’s for years, parking his ass at the bar and jawing with Jimmy about hockey, politics and anything else the two deemed fit to bullshit about.

Knowing all this, the tension was still radiating from Jimmy.  He had been nervously cleaning an already spotless mug, his eyes darting from the floor to the exit, anything to avoid eye contact with the two thugs before him.  He knew O’Brien as a friend but he also knew who lined his pockets and he wasn’t sure which one showed up tonight.

Truthfully, O’Brien couldn’t count all the cash he’d squandered in this dump, how he’d kept Jimmy and his money pit afloat.  Sure, there were other guys who threw some cash Jimmy’s way in exchange for some quarterly compounded interest but then again, they were smart enough to keep their lips off a bottle.

O’Brien recalled walking in one night, blood still drying on his hands for Christ’s sake.  He’d asked Jimmy for a Bud and passed a stained ten his way, Jimmy never asked questions.  Jimmy was a goddamn saint.

In fact, it was O’Brien himself who brokered the deal between Jimmy and the boss.  But after the payments stopped coming in, the decision was made to close the O’Malley’s account and the news hit O’Brien harder than a shot of Bacardi 151.

MacLeod turned his attention to Jimmy, “Now, I’ll ask you the same fucking question asshole, how do you think you’d rip the boss off and not pay for it?”

O’Brien narrowed in on his own reflection in the grimy mirror behind the bar, “Don’t do it, MacLeod.  I told ya, he’s good for it.  Give him time.”

MacLeod laughed, “Now I know you’re fucking nuts.  Do I need to remind you who keeps your head above water?  Don’t go and drown on me, buddy.”

MacLeod rested his cannon on the scratched up, dented bar.  “Now, I know you know what this is Jimmy and I think you know why it’s here.  The boss wants a return on his investment and by the looks of it, you ain’t got it.  Now, you knew what you were getting into when you accepted his help -”

The blast tore through the air, reverberating off the bottles and empty glasses.  MacLeod’s hulking frame tumbled to the floor, his gray matter and blood coating the wall.  The gun was still smoking when O’Brien tucked it into his coat.

The mug Jimmy had held shattered to pieces on the floor, he didn’t appear to notice.  His mouth hung open, his eyes were wide.  His arms shot up, he was trembling in front of O’Brien.

Weber fired one past Luongo, the Predators won it in overtime.  O’Brien finished his drink; he wiped the corner of his mouth on his sleeve.  Jimmy watched him walk out and barely heard him say, “Fucking Nashville.”

~ fin ~

For the past seven years, Brandon Sears has been running a book blog entitled Every Read Thing.  Outside of that, he's an Insurance Advisor by day and a constant reader by night.  He lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his partner Alaina and their cat, Agatha Kitty.