“…That is Thaddeus Everett Pinfield, the Third,” the bartender pointed toward the door at a couple as they walked in.
“And, her?” I asked.
The bartender shrugged. “Who d’hell knows.”
“Seen her before? With him?”
“Any time before?”
“Nope. You’ll want another, I ‘spose,” the bartender said, nodding toward my half-full beer.
“Nah. Oh! Umm, yes, of course.” I said, picking up the bartender’s clue. I put a 20 on the bar. The bartender flicked his fingers toward him. I put down another 20. The bartender stuffed the bills in his pocket and walked away.
I had been intently watching the crowd at The Brick and Mortar through the mirror behind the bar since I arrived, waiting for the slick looking man in the picture I had in my jacket pocket to show up. None of the men in the place looked anything like him. I wondered if I had the right place. I showed the picture to the bartender when I sat down at the bar.
“Yeah, he’s a regular. Probably’ll come in today.”
“What’s his name?” I asked, making sure I also had the right guy.
“Thaddeus Everett Pinfield, the Third.”
The confirmation cost me my first 20, and the beer.
Even though the man in the picture didn’t look like he belonged here, I guessed the place was full of the usual crowd; construction workers and contractors from the Local 835, drinking a beer and shot, and shooting a little pool before heading home for dinner with the wife and kids. Only a couple of women were among them. Girlfriends? They didn’t look like the prostitutes that worked this part of the city. This didn’t seem like the sort of place guys typically brought their wives and girlfriends, so I was interested. Professional curiosity, I suppose. Something to do to pass the time while I waited for Pinfield the Third to show up.
Over the next half hour, people came and went. Then a caricature of a gentleman walked in with a young club-hopper on his arm. I was taken aback. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and these two looked like they were on their way to some fabled late-night uptown penthouse party.
The bartender came over to me. “That’s him…”
Thaddeus Everett Pinfield the Third was dressed in an expensive blue, double-breasted three-piece suit, starched white shirt, and a gold silk tie in a Windsor knot. He had a matching gold silk handkerchief folded with 3 peaks in his breast pocket, and a large gold signet ring on his left pinky finger. The faceted red gem in the middle of the ring reflected the afternoon sunlight, pouring in from the open door behind them, in crimson streaks shooting out in every direction. His salt-and-pepper hair was perfectly coiffed in an old-fashioned pomade Marcel swoop, and his black wingtip oxfords were impeccably polished. He was clearly self-possessed, with an easy grin showing off perfectly straight, gleaming white teeth.
She, on the other hand, looked awkward, and, when I thought about it, a bit frightened. Her long blonde hair hung past her shoulders in those long, inward coiled curls that ended in unfinished, stuck out ends, like women wear their hair these days. She had on a loose, hot pink satin camisole over her obviously bra-less torso. Her top was tucked into a painted-on tight black skirt that went down only as far down as was decent to be seen wearing in public. Long, bear legs directed the eye down to bear feet in strappy, grey crystal-studded stiletto platforms. Both earlobes sagged low from the weight of her Swarovski crystal chandelier earrings.
Good luck sitting down in that get-up, little girl, I smirked to myself. Unless you want every man in the place vying for a glimpse of what they hoped would reveal a Brazilian wax job.
Pinfield the Third escorted his bit of stuff to the other end of the bar, where he graciously seated her in the last stool against the wall before taking a protective position beside her, with his back to the room, virtually blocking the bar’s view of her. I stood to approach but stopped to glance in the mirror. Looks of disappointment passed over the men’s faces, obviously realizing they weren’t going to get a floor show after all. I inwardly laughed as I turned my attention back to Pinfield the Third and Club Girl.
He chatted with the bartender while her eyes roamed around the place. Her expression was confused and increasingly angry. Her face told me to wait a bit before proceeding further, and so I sat back down. The bartender returned with a Scotch, neat, for him and a glass of red wine for her. The smile never dropped from Pinfield the Third’s face. He raised his glass to the bartender and then gave Club Girl’s wine glass a gentle clink.
“This it?” I read her lips. She was glaring at him. He smoothed the front of his attire and took a sip of his drink. His stance was such that I couldn’t see his mouth, but he had a lot to say, whatever it was. He gestured with his drink in one hand, and then gestured with his other hand, in soft, sweeping loops.
“You said we were going out!” I saw her say.
Thaddeus Everett Pinfield the Third took another sip of his Scotch and again talked and gestured.
“TO HELL WITH YOU!”
Wine was dripping down his face. The red stain on his shirt grew with every drop that fell from his chin. The rest of the bar did a lousy job pretending they didn’t hear or see a thing. Club Girl threw her glass on the floor, sending the shattering glass flying.
“HEY!” the bartender yelled. “Rein in your wild cat!”
The bartender threw a clean bar towel at Pinfield as he walked to the other end of the bar for a broom and dustpan.
“WELL?” the Club Girl yelled.
Pinfield gently wiped his face with the towel and futilely dabbed at his shirt, saying nothing. The girl grabbed her evening bag and marched to the door, shoving Pinfield into the bar. She passed close to me. I was surprised to see she wasn’t wearing make-up. Not even lipstick. I watched her as she slammed her full body into the front door, throwing it open with incredible force.
There was something incongruous about her. I couldn’t tell what, but one thing I knew for sure, she was no regular club-hopping tramp.
I walked over to Pinfield.
“You’ve been served. Twice, by all appearances,” I said, unironically as possible, as I handed him the subpoena I had folded in my jacket pocket along with his photo. I then walked out of the bar and went after the girl. I caught up to her three blocks away, trying to hail a cab.
“Hi. I, uh, I was at the bar just now. The Brick and Mortar? You OK?”
The girl frowned at me and turned away, waving at the cabs as they passed.
“You’ll not get a cab here. Not dressed like that,” I offered. “They don’t pick up business…uh, please! Let me help. OK?” I stepped in front of her and held out my hand at the first cab that approached It stopped. I opened the door for her, and hesitating just a moment, got in after her.
“Hey, man, thanks and all, I get it, but…” she cautioned.
“I don’t want anything. Seriously. Where you headed?”
The cabby looked impatiently at us through his rearview mirror.
“I’m serious, too,” she said, doing her best to pull the hem of her tight short skirt down as far as possible.
“Look, I just want to help…be the good guy here. Let me escort you out of this neighborhood to, uh, wherever you need to go.”
“Good guy? hmph. Right.”
“C’mon, lady,” the cabby snapped. “Where to?”
“Alright, alright!” The girl pointed at me, indicating my place was on the other side of the cab. “Well, I actually hadn’t thought about that. Ummm…shit! Can’t go back to Thadeus’ place. Not now. And I live too far out. Shit! I don’t know. Downtown? Uh…8th and Olive.” She then muttered, “I’ll text my roommate to come get me.”
The cab pulled into traffic and the girl thumbed a message on her phone. Then she turned to look at me.
“What’s your name?”
“Bill.” I held out my hand, which she took.
“So, why you wanna help me?” Her un-made up face had an easy, gentle beauty that looked out of place amid all the glitz and glam of her get-up.
“Well, actually, I was at the bar to serve Pinfield with papers, and,” I shrugged. “Don’t know. I felt sorry for you, I guess.”
“Really? He got served?! HA!”
“Any way you look at it, looks like your big date was over before it began, I guess.”
“No shit. I mean, OK,” she sighed, and then continued, “He calls, says, get dressed up. Babe, I’m taking you out on the town tonight! And I say, you know I don’t own anything nice! So, anyway, I borrow this stupid…” she grabbed at the hem of the skirt again, “slutty outfit my roommate wears when she goes clubbing, and then we get out of the cab, in southside? Seriously? I thought … oh, never mind. Sorry. I’m a fuckin’ idiot.” Vicki turned away, but then slowly smiled. Looking back at me, she said, “You actually served him papers?”
“Should’ve seen that coming, I guess. So,” Vicki quickly changed tact. “You really feel sorry for me, or you just hoping to get you a little sumpin’ sumpin’ tonight for your effort. ‘Cause you can forget about that. Had my fill of smooth-talking assholes for the rest of my life.”
I laughed at her bluntness. “You…remind of someone. Someone who could have used a little help when she was in a similar situation. It didn’t…turn out… good, for her, and…well, anyway. I’m helping you out.”
It had been years since I thought about the night my family got a call from the police announcing that my oldest sister had turned up in an emergency room, brutally beaten and raped. She was in her first, and what turned out to be her last, year at college. She and her boyfriend were out at a bar and they got into an argument. In a fit, she ran out into the street and decided to hitchhike back to her dorm. She became an angry, sullen, withdrawn hysteric, disappearing into alcohol and drugs. Eventually she got her life back together, but during those lost years, I missed having my sister around. A lot. I missed my sister a lot.
The cab pulled over at 8th and Olive and a car parked across the street honked and flashed its lights.
“Damn, she was fast!” Vicki turned to me and held out her hand. I shook it. “Thanks,” she said.
She awkwardly got out of the cab, holding down her skirt. She turned back to me and said, “Thanks. I mean, I…could I, like, buy you a drink, maybe dinner, or something? I have to invite my roommate to join us. I mean, I can’t let her just sit…fuck, she’s probably pissed with me, but, she’s alright. She’d be cool about it. You…”
“No, no. Thanks. You go on. But…take care. I mean it.”
Vicki took a moment to realize I actually meant what I said. “I will. Promise.”
She shut the cab door and waved, then ran across the street, wobbling on the crystal studded stilettos.
“Where to, man?” The cabby asked.
“Home, I guess.” I gave him my address and then pulled my phone out of my jacket. I looked up my sister’s number and pressed ‘dial.’
OLWG prompts this week are: The last time…; Let her go; The usual crowd was there.