Stopping in mid-slurp, Randall Lark dropped his oyster on the half-shell loaded with horseradish and hot sauce. Wiping his mouth and hands on a white cloth napkin – RayRay insisted on white cloth napkins for the bar no matter how dirty they got or how much it cost to have them cleaned – he prepared for a showdown. Narrowing his eyes like an assassin looking through shutter slits in a dank motel he honed in on his quarry.
There he was.
The killer cop.
Marty Durkin offered a big goofy grin and wave to the Happy Hour regulars who now recognized him as one of their own as he waltzed into the Elbow Room beach bar like king of the sand dunes. For a moment, wearing an orange polo shirt decorated with gulls gliding in midair he bought at Target, Durkin didn’t have a worry in the world.
“Nice shirt,” Kim said.
“I’m feeling tropical,” Durkin said.
Heavy under Randall’s arm the semi-automatic pistol hung grip down and ready for action. Feeling his pulse in his throat, Randall’s thoughts raced through his frazzled mind, confusing and motivating him as he stood at the crossroads of his life with his conscience losing to the voice of vengeance.
Do it now. Just stand, walk slowly to the bar as you draw, tap Durkin on the shoulder, look him in the eye, say “This is for Tyrone,” and pull the trigger. Then split. Buy a plane ticket to Jamaica. Smoke weed and drink rum all day. Enjoy life as a free Black man.
Randall stood. Randall started walking. Randall quickly closed the distance and started to pull the firearm when Durkin turned.
“I spotted you soon as I walked in,” he said.
“I have a gun,” Randall said.
“So do I,” Durkin said.
“Me, too,” said RayRay from behind the bar.
“And me,” said Kim sitting beside Durkin as she slid her hand inside her black leather fringed shoulder bag that lie on the bar.
Nobody got hurt.
Dillon squawked from his spot at the end of the bar where he sipped a margarita on the rocks through a straw. Although the bar mascot parrot with a birdy beer belly sometimes came up with original words and phrases he learned from TV comedies he watched, his best responses came in reaction to a trigger word. This customer exchange overloaded him with one super trigger word.
“Gun?” Dillon screeched. “Gun?”
Conversation stopped as fast as an inebriated NASCAR driver at the Daytona Speedway.
“Shootout at RayRay’s,” Dillon said. “Shootout at RayRay’s.”
Nobody who knew what was going on laughed when everybody else at the bar did.
Durkin calmly spoke to Randall.
Turning, Randall Lark hurried past vacationers gobbling grouper burgers and locals banging down two-for-one tequila sunrises. Picking up speed and stepping fast once he hit the street, he disappeared into the salty night.
“You knew he was coming,” Kim said.
“Only a matter of time,” RayRay said.
“At least I know he’s here,” Durkin said.
Just the week before Durkin told Kim and RayRay the whole story about accidentally shooting Randall’s brother, leaving out nothing and explaining everything. Now he expressed concern that he would put everybody at the bar in danger if he continued to frequent the Elbow Room.
“I value our friendship too much to do that,” Durkin said.
“I can handle it,” RayRay said, immediately thinking about the Popov brothers showing up unannounced to try to take him by surprise and get the tapes.
“Tell me about it,” Kim said.
With that Tara and Shannon slowly came to in Kim’s mind, cranky and hungover after a long drunken nap, double-trouble split-personality devil twins ready to party at all costs.
Durkin teared up, overcome by truly understanding how much he meant to his new friends. RayRay made him promise to continue to stop by for Happy Hour. Kim found the courage to invite Durkin to rent the extra bedroom in her condominium at a reasonable monthly rate.
“That sounds great,” Durkin said. “I’ll move my stuff in tomorrow.”
All three had quickly grown close. Fate sometimes brings danger but destiny also can heal. Real friends stick together no matter what happens when the shit storm hits. Ask wanted man Sam Bennett, who brought on a deluge all by himself and seemed no worse for the wear, actually proud of himself for going to the trouble of standing up for his rights and for theirs.
Ruby appeared from the kitchen holding a dinner check.
“I got this,” she said as she paid Randall Lark’s tab – a dozen uneaten raw oysters and a pint of untouched Barracuda Teeth Ale. “He seems like a really nice guy.”
Just then a voice exploded with the surprise intensity of an avalanche at a Siberian ski resort. Russian villain Ivan Popov stood swaying drunk at the doorway slurring a verse from the “Internationale,” the old anthem of the now defunct Soviet Union.
“So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.”
Also standing drunk and grinning, Borys Popov swayed like a MIG pilot who just successfully defected to Las Vegas with the dying swan lead dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet. He sang a different verse of the song from the long ago Communist workers’ movement.
“And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.”
No one mistook their Marx/Lenin disharmony for a Lennon/McCarthy song.
“I buy vodka for whole bar,” Borys said to RayRay. “Then you give me dirty tapes. We live happily ever after. Now I buy house a drink!”
“Dirty tapes,” Dillon screeched. “Dirty tapes!”
Many of the Elbow Room patrons, some who were so confused by the disruption they stood and placed their hands over their hearts as the men sang, accepted Borys’ offer of a free shot. RayRay lacked a stock of good Russian vodka but had a couple of cases of Grey Goose a shady truck driver who recently stopped for a beer said fell off the back of a truck and sold to RayRay at half price.
Ruby barely heard the throaty whisper emanating from Kim’s mouth in a thick Irish brogue.
“Make mine a double,” Tara said.
Ruby also heard the second different Irish accent join in the ensuing confusion.
“Oh, shit, he’s cute,” said Shannon.
“I want the fat one,” Tara said.
“I’ll fight you for him,” Shannon said.
“I have a gun,” Tara said.
“I have two,” Shannon said.
Dillon heard the Irish accents and immediately launched into his own slurred version of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day jukebox favorite, “The Unicorn.”
Just like nobody ever sees a unicorn, nobody in the bar saw what was coming next,
Just like nobody ever hears the shot that kills them.