Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena: Chapter 2

The Blue Benjo liked neon, cheap liquor, and, despite its logo looking like the dog from Blues Clues, was known for housing Silver City’s lowlife. With a population of 400,000 and a top ten university in the heart of the city, Silver City had quite a few places like this. It was easy to see as I walked into the dimly lit but crowded bar who was a college student braving the place and who belonged here. With my leather jacket, ripped jeans, and messy bun, I could have been either. But the taser in my pocket and the fact that the bar keeper smiled when he saw me definitely put me in the category of belonging.

green translucent glass on table
Photo by Mirco Hunziker on Pexels.com

“Asena.” Peter, the Benjo bartender, had always reminded me of a duckling, with his fine, bleach blonde hair sticking up and his gangly limbs always making him look uncoordinated despite the fact that I had never seen him so much as spill a drop of alcohol. He couldn’t have been much younger than thirty, but I was sure he was carded every time he bought a drink.

“Hey Peter,” I said and leaned against the bar.

“Haven’t seen you here in awhile,” he remarked as he poured a cranberry and vodka.

“Awe, did you miss me?” I asked, dropping down on a stool, dragging my usual drink towards me.

“Last time you knocked out one of my customer’s with that taser that’s probably in your pocket right now. The break’s been nice.” His voice was hard but a smile played at the corner of his lip.

“C’mon, he grabbed her. What could I do?” I smiled a big toothy grin.

“Let Bruce take care of it,” he replied. I knew bouncer, a mountain of a man, would have squashed that guy but not soon enough for my taste.

“I promise I won’t taser anyone who doesn’t really deserve it,” I said and crossed my heart with my finger.

“Are you here to reminisce or harass more of my customers?” he asked wryly, wiping the bar down with a stained rag.

“Just one. Some guy named Francis?”

“That hot shot? Hannah broke his hand for something stupid and I told him next time Bruce will break more than that. That was,” he leaned against the bar, thinking, “last Saturday?”

“Great,” I groaned and took another sip. “You haven’t heard anything about this guy he’s working for, have you?”

“Hey,” a man plopped down on the stool on my left. The bloodshot eyes, the stench of whiskey, and the mussed hair made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I leaned away, my eyes staying on the slightly melted ice cube in the middle of my bright red drink.

“Moira?” I stiffened at the sound of my mother’s name but refused to look over.

“C’mon Moira, you ‘member me. Berny? That rat you call a husband screwed me over ‘bout five years ago. C’mon, I’m sure he told ya ‘bout it.” The words were slurred together but the meaning was clear enough.

“I’m sorry, I’m not Moira,” I answered, my voice biting. I straightened up as I turned and stared him down with as much authority as I could muster. I hoped his blurry eyes could make out the difference between us and just leave me alone.

“Naw, you’re a young little thing,” he said and  his shoulders slumped. He leaned against the bar, pushing himself up from his stool. He stopped though and looked at me through narrowed eyes. His chest puffed up as an idea seemed to take hold. “But he did have a kid.” He sat back down, ordering another whiskey. Peter didn’t move and instead glared, but Berny didn’t seem to notice.

“You talked with ya old man? I can’t seem to find him,” he said. He reached out and twirled my pony tail slightly. I yanked my head away from his sticky fingers.

“I don’t talk to him,” I answered through gritted teeth. I slipped my hand into my pocket and grabbed hold of my taser.

“Every daddy’s got a soft spot for his girly.” He leaned back, looking me up and down, and rubbed his bushy mustache. “Wonder what he’d do to get you back?”

Bruce seemed to materialize from nowhere and set a large beefy hand on the guy’s shoulder.

“I think you should be moving on, friend,” he said. His voice came out in a low deep growl and any sane man would have run away. Or at least any sober one.

“I think you should butt the hell out, pal,” Berny said and pushed the hand off his shoulder. “Me and the lady got some business.”

“Actually we don’t,” I said and stood up. I took a step back and he reached out faster than I expected, clasping my right arm in a surprising tight grip. Unfortunately that was the arm that was holding my taser, which was now pinned to my side.

“Sir, you don’t want to do that,” Bruce said as he stepped as far between us as he could, our arms almost wrapped around him.

“I said, this ain’t your business,” he growled and shoved Bruce as hard as he could, in the process releasing me. I skipped away and the movement caught his eye. “Come back here,” he roared, lunging over the stool towards me.

Bruce, who regained his balance quickly, reached him before his grasping fingers reached me. I backed up even further, knocking into a wooden, round table.

“Hey!” I looked back and I had spilled a bit of beer on one of the three guys sitting at the table.

‘Sorry,” I offered, swiveling back. Bruce had Berny in a tight head lock, with his cheeks turning a reddish purple, and was dragging him towards the door. I exhaled, loosening my fingers from the taser.

Berny thrashed his legs as he struggled against Bruce but the choke hold almost effectively incapacitated him. I started to turn back, ready to make a real apology. Before I had though, I watched as Berny make a connection with a table top. The four guys crowded around it had been laughing at Berny’s misfortune, but started spewing profanities as their pitcher of beer went flying and splattered them all.

Bruce was only steps from the door and chucking Berny out of it, but the soaked men sprang up, red faced with hands in fists. They reached the struggling pair and the first of the four punched Berny in the side. Berny gasped and Bruce was forced to let go as the other three started circling them. Bruce pushed the first guy back while Berny struggled to regain his breath. Before I could blink, the other guys were reacting and pouncing on Bruce. I watched the brawl unfold, speechless. The guy whose beer I spilled stood up slowly, looking between the two sides, unsure of who to join.

“Sit down,” I snapped. To my surprise, he sank back down and heeded my death glare. His tensed and his eyes darted behind me. I turned in time to dodge a tackle from Berny. I banged my hip on their table and felt a hot burst of pain.

I focused back on Berny who had stumbled into a bar stool and was attempting to disentangle himself. I gritted my teeth as I yanked my taser out, doing my best to ignore the steady throbbing on my hip. Berny lunged again and I sidestepped his drunken stumble, able to stick the taser into his side. I pressed down till my finger hurt. He jolted hard as the electrodes spewed out a charge and crashed to the ground. The now exposed end of the taser continued to spark for a moment until I let go of the button. The table guy was standing now, his eyes wide as he looked at my taser. He wasn’t the only one, but most eyes were still watching Bruce struggle with the others. Two were on the floor, either unconscious or staying down.

I debated jumping in with my taser, though I was slightly worried I might hit Bruce. Before I had time to decide, the door banged open.

“Police, break it up,” the blue shirted officer yelled. He quickly took in the ruckus and yanked a guy off Bruce. The last guy stopped and backed away with his arms up. I froze, the taser still in my hand. My lips twisted into a frown as I stared at the cop.

A grin spread over his face.

“Asena, why are you always in the middle of a bar brawl?”

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Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena; Chapter 1

Welcome to Sunday Segment. Each week, I will post another chapter from the ongoing novel. If you have an idea, story prompt, question, or direction you’d love to see the story go, either comment or send me a message using my contact page and I’ll see what I can do.

Today you’ll meet Asena, a 23 year old PI. Let me know what you think.

grayscale photography of person with knit pompom cap sits in front turned on light post at night
Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

The snow was cold, the wind biting, and the frostbite a little too close for comfort. I wiggled my fingers deeper into my pockets as I scanned the sidewalks around me. I desperately wanted to enter the coffee shop just a block away, heat and steam rushing out the door every time someone entered.
But, I knew that for a meeting to be clandestine, it couldn’t have a dozen nosy college students listening in to every word in a desperate attempt to avoid studying. Instead, I waited on the bench which opened into Milmones Park, a small patch of land in the middle of the city.
I hated winter in this business. Anyone who wanted to talk to you would want to meet outside where the wind would rip the words away before anyone might overhear. Or being forced to hunker down in a dozen blankets in the front seat of your car because you needed that photo but turning your car on would send up a literal smoke signal to the guy you were tailing.
The guy I was meeting was an informant for the most part, though he’d call himself a friend. He had sold pot to afford his schooling when I was at college and after I tipped him off that the cops were on to him, he’s owed me ever since. You’d think with studying Criminal Justice for four years, my morals would stop me from helping the criminal, but unfortunately, my dad’s lessons ran too deep.
I saw him long before he saw me. He had his head down, avoiding the light snow that was blowing. He walked down the street, busy with cars but barely another person in sight. His jacket was thick and reminded me of a gray Michelin Man. His face wasn’t covered, which I thought was ridiculous. My face was covered with a scarf all the way up to my eyeballs and a hat shoved down so nothing was exposed but my eyes, which I had covered with a pair of bulbous sunglasses to stop the glare coming off the snow.
He was handsome, stupid, and annoyingly good with information. People tended to tell him things, which he took to be part of his charm and I took to be part of the job. It’s a lot easier to get info from someone who’s stoned than someone who’s on their guard.
He stopped at the corner and looked around, his shaggy brown hair standing up as the wind got a hold of it. He saw me and I raised my mittened hand for just a second before he started hustling over.
“Damn, couldn’t we have met in there?” he said, gesturing with his head to the coffee shop.
“You really wanna talk about your clients in there?” I asked, pulling my scarf down to reveal my lips.
“Hey, the government’s making it so things are legal, Asena. I won’t need your protection much longer,” he said, rubbing his face.
“Well, Emmett,” I replied, “when you start telling the government about your business, we’ll talk. Until then, you should be a lot nicer to me.”
He laughed and his dimples showed. I gritted my teeth. “You sure are one feisty lady,” he said. “Bad guys don’t know what to think when you show up, do they?” His teasing annoyed me, since I knew that he was right. As a five foot four woman, most criminals didn’t think twice when I pulled up and explained they would be going to jail. It was beyond obvious I wasn’t a cop, from the ease which I picked locks to the way I had no problem breaking a guy’s finger if he tried to get fresh. But, I had a degree and a PI license which meant I was a problem, even if they didn’t know it yet.
“Shut up,” I snapped. “I need to know about the robbery on thirtieth street two days ago. Have you heard anything?”
“Well isn’t that vague.”
“C’mon, the Pembrook case. Thieves stole a couple hundred in cash, some family jewelry, it’s been all over the news,” I answered. I crossed my arms over my chest, but I knew it simply made me look cold rather than intimidating.
“Oh that one,” he said. “So what? Pretty straight forward, shouldn’t the cops be able to handle this without you?”
“One of those jewels was stolen fifteen years ago from an antiques dealer,” I replied. “Whoever took it seems to know a lot about my client.” His eyes widened.
“Well, I may have heard something,” he drawled. He stuck out his lip, giving me that perfected puppy dog pout.
“The cops have been watching eighth and Broadway, they think there’s been somebody making deals there,” I offered the information I had overheard last time I had been at the precinct. My dealing with the cops put Emmett in a precarious situation. He knew that the moment someone overdosed or got hurt from his dealings, I would become his worst nightmare. But until then, I was his best chance of staying out of jail. So he kept meeting me and letting me know what was going on in our city’s seedy underworld.
“I don’t think you want to get involved in this one,” he said, shrugging.
“I’m already hired,” I retorted. He gave a deep sigh as if to say ‘I warned you.’
“The guy’s name is Francis, I don’t know the last name. But he hangs around the Blue Benjo.” I narrowed my eyes at him. This was specific and very helpful, neither of which Emmett tended to be.
“Someone hired him and he made a good chunk of change off this. He’s tight-lipped about the who, but he showed up at the Benjo a few days ago, talking about this job he pulled and how he’s got a stack of unmarked bills now burning a hole in his pocket. Bit of a creep though, he kept feeling up his waitress. She finally smashed his hand with an empty bottle. Nothing broken, just some bruising but should help you spot him.” He smiled wolfishly and I could tell he was happy the guy had got what was coming to him. I knew he had a little sister and tended to get protective, a feeling I had for years done my best to dodge every time it was focused on me. “But, this guy he’s working for, he’s bad news. Francis won’t say a word. I thought he was just trying to keep the cash cow for himself, but he’s scared. And he’s too stupid to be scared by anything small.”
“So someone is pulling the strings?” I mused. “I hope Francis is as stupid as you say. I’d love to get this wrapped up before the holidays.”
“Asena, this isn’t a joke. This guy is dangerous,” he said, staring at me with a seriousness I hadn’t seen before.
“I’ll be fine,” I answered, smiling and patting his arm. “I’ve dealt with worse, trust me.”
“I’m not so sure. I’ve seen some scum around this city, but nothing that could scare someone like Francis this much. He was drunk and not saying a word.” He stood up, rubbing the tips of his ears to regain some warmth. “That’s all I know. Stay safe out there, Asena.” He gave me a roguish grin, but I could still see the edge of worry.
I watched him walk away, giving him a few minutes before I decided to walk into the coffee shop to unthaw and figure out how to best to become friends with Francis.

Original Work, writing

Footprints

Characters:

Mallory-waitress at Hal’s Diner
Paul- Mallory’s eight year old son
Ron- Paul’s friend
George- Paul’s imaginary friend
Reggie- waiter at Hal’s Diner

Setting:
Winter. A block in a small town. A street with fresh snow on it. Stage left is the street corner. The street goes through center stage. Stage right is Hal’s Diner. Inside Hal’s Diner, booths and tables are spaced around, with one long bar going around with trendy decor. Behind the bar is a door into the kitchen. Mallory is wiping off one of the tables. Reggie is cleaning nearby. Paul and George are sitting across from each other in a booth. Paul is coloring in a coloring book. Ron and a few other boys are sitting at a table across the diner.

Scene:

Paul: Look George, isn’t it pretty? (holds up coloring book)
George: (nods) Its very pretty.
Paul: (sets down coloring book) Do you want to draw some too?
George: (smiles) No thanks. I like seeing yours.
Paul: Okay. (continues to color)
(Mallory walks over to the booth her son is sitting in. She doesn’t look at George.)
Mallory: Paul, don’t you want to go sit with your friends? (gestures towards the table of boys)
Paul: (stops coloring and sets down his Crayon) Mom, I’m sitting with George. (points at George who smiles)
Mallory: (looks blankly at where George is sitting. Can’t see him. Looks back at Paul.)
Honey, he’s imaginary. Don’t you want to go play with those boys?
Paul: (upset) George isn’t imaginary. You just can’t see him because he don’t want you to.
Mallory: (sounding concerned) Pack your things. My shift ends in a few minutes and we’re going home. (walks away)
(Mallory-exits through kitchen door)
Paul: (looks at George) Don’t worry, I know you’re real.
George: (pats his hand) I know you do pal.
(Ron walks over)
Ron: Paul, do you want to come play? We’re going to go sledding.
Paul: No, I have to go home with my mom and George.
Ron: (shrugs) Oh, okay. Tell George hi. (walks back to his table)
Paul: (lifts a backpack up and puts his crayons and coloring book in it) Do you want to go sledding, George?
George: Do you?
Paul: (shakes his head) Ya. It could be fun.
George: How about you go? You need to start doing stuff with your other friends too. I’m just here when you need another friend, not to be your only friend. So you go sledding and we’ll hang out later. Sound good?
Paul: (smiles) Ya, I’ll go ask mom.
(Mallory-enters though kitchen door. Walks up to Paul’s table with a jacket in hand)
Mallory: Come on Paul, time to go home.
Paul: (stands up) Mom, can I go sledding with Ron?
Mallory: (her eyes widen) I thought you didn’t want to.
Paul: No, I do want to. (shakes his head to make his point)
Mallory: (smiles) Of course. What about George? (frowns slightly)
Paul: (shrugs) He told me to go, but he doesn’t want to go.
Mallory: (voice slightly suspicious) George wants you to go by yourself?
Paul: He says I should spend time with my other friends too. He’s doesn’t want to be my only friend.
Mallory: (surprised) Oh.
George: When will she realize I’m only helping? (smiles at Paul)
Paul: (laughs)
Mallory: (suspiciously) What’s so funny?
Paul: George wants to know when you’ll figure out he’s just trying to help.
Mallory: (ignores the remark) Why don’t you go tell Ron you’re going. Then we can head home and you can get your snow stuff.
Paul: Okay. (Hops up and goes to Ron. Talks to him for a few seconds. Lots of nodding. Comes back to the table) Ready to go.
Mallory: Okay, let’s go. (They walk to the door. George follows. Mallory opens the door.)
Reggie: (Wipes a table and turns) Mallory, wait! (Walks up to her)
Mallory: (Stops and looks back) You can go on ahead, Paul. Wait for me at the corner.
Paul: (grabs George’s hand) Okay. (heads out the door and down the street They stop at the corner and Paul starts talking to George)
Reggie: Can you switch me shifts tomorrow?
Mallory: Sure but you’ll owe me. (turns around. Looks down the street.)
Reggie: Deal. Thanks (turns around)
Mallory: Reggie, look at this. (grabs his shirt. He turns around. She points at the snow leading up to where Paul is standing.)
Reggie: (looks at her hand on his shirt and then at where she’s pointing, annoyed) What is it?
Mallory: (lets go of Reggie’s shirt) Look, there’s two sets of footprints. No one else has been out yer. It’s like someone was walking with Paul. But,no one…(trails off)
Reggie: (frowns) That’s strange.
Mallory: (looks at him) Do you believe in imaginary friends?
Reggie: (laughs) Ya, when I was eight. (walks away and starts cleaning another table)
Mallory: (looks back at Paul who is chattering away, seemingly all alone. quietly) I think I do now.
(Lights go out. Curtain closes)