The guy at the end of the bar looked like a lifelong homeless man at the end of his final bender. His clothes, which were numerous and layered to make up for how thin they were, didn’t have a spot that wasn’t soiled. He stunk like an abandoned Honey Bucket. His hood was pulled over his head and the other drinkers gave him a wide berth, because of the smell or the look of desolation Victor couldn’t tell. Not that The Lair was a respectable joint, it was a dive bar with poor lighting to hide all the stains from bodily secretions of every kind. Criminals would’ve loved to turn into a den of dealers and pimps, but it was Vic’s place and that didn’t fly.
Ronnie had brought the man to Vic’s attention.
“You want me to toss him out?”
“No, he looks like a stout fella. I’ll take care of it.” Ronnie looked relieved.
“Thanks boss. You know I don’t like…” He made a pushing motion with his hands. “Confrontation.”
“Yeah I know Ronnie. That’s why I hired you.”
Which was the truth. Vic learned the hard way that he had be careful not to get some dip shit kid looking to make a name for himself. Ronnie was perfect, meek, friendly when you got past his shyness and smart. Vic could handle the heavy work. He thought of working with Doctor Zartron in the good old days. It brought a smile to his face and he wondered how Doctor Z was doing.
“Alright. Time to eighty-six the homeless guy.” Vic said to Ronnie.
Vic walked over and stood next to the man. I’m gonna’ smell you for weeks, he thought. The man didn’t move didn’t acknowledge him in any way.
“Hey buddy.” Vic said.
“Are you the bartender?” The man asked.
“The owner. No offense pal but you have to go, you’re hurting the business.”
The man didn’t say anything. Vic leaned forward to look past his hood.
“Hey look at me. You on drugs? I don’t want to call the cops but I will.”
“I’d like your cheapest vodka, pleas. I have money.” His hands shook as he pulled a handful of dirty bills and coins from his pocket and placed them on the counter.
There was something familiar about his voice, Vic couldn’t place it but he was sure he heard it before.
“Look pal. We’re not serving you tonight. Take your money back and get lost. I ain’t asking nice again.”
The man turned to face Vic. His face was grimy and bruised with dried blood on his lip and cheek. His eyes were empty, a man waiting to die. Ready to move on and meet the next life or no life.
“I just want a few drinks. I don’t cause trouble.”
Vic just stared at him, wide-eyed. He was looking at a ghost. Trent Snow was dead, better known as Quicks, but still dead. Trent stood up and broke Vic from all the questions running through his head.
“No. Don’t worry about it. Wouldn’t throw a man out who’s clearly had a rough night.” Vic said with an awkward smile. “Ronnie line him up with a nice vodka.” Trent tried to object. “Don’t worry I’ll give you the good stuff for the cost of the bad.”
“Thank you you’re a kind man.”
Trent grabbed the glass as soon as he Ronnie poured it. Ronnie gave a Vic a questioning look.
“Leave the bottle. It’s the least we can do.” Vic said. Trent finished the first glass and poured himself another.
“What’s going on boss?” Ronnie asked when they were at the other end of the bar.
“I don’t know, but you should take the rest of the night off. Let the regulars know we’re closing early and then lock the door on the way out.”
“Okay. You’ll let me know?”
“Soon as I do. Ronnie do it slowly. I don’t want the guy at the end of the bar to know.”
Ronnie nodded and went back to cleaning behind the bar. Stealing glances at the man at the end.
Vic took a seat in the back corner booth and made a call. He kept his on Trent.
“Brainiac what’s the good word?” Vic said.
“The good word is I’m free, clean, and not interested in any of your schemes.”
“Alright. Take it easy I’m not calling about a scheme. Jesus how long has it been 10 years?”
“Still the same Vic.”
“Man that is hardly fair. How long are you gonna hang Claire’s death on me?”
“Maybe until she comes back to life is that fair!”
Vic almost snapped the fun in his hand. He breathed deeply and reminded himself Trent Snow, aka Quicks was a live and drinking in his bar.
“Look, I didn’t call for a fight. I just wanted some information on those Quicks theories of yours.”
“You laughed at me the last time I brought those up. Why the change of heart?”
Vic paused. “No reason, just settling a barroom wager.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“What do you mean what’s in for you? I just want a little information Brainiac.”
“Search the net and my name is Brody.”
“Yeah, but that’s the name for a douchy jock.”
“It’s my name Victor.”
“Fine. What do you want, Brody?”
“My support group needs a better place to meet. I hear you have a bar.”
“We’ll, no guarantees on it being a better place. I’ll give you Sunday mornings.”
“That’ll work. What’s your email address?”
“Ahh, firstname.lastname@example.org. Why?”
“So I can send you the research I’ve done, Jesus you were never the brains.”
“Yeah not my gift. Thanks for the help Brainiac.”
The phone beeped twice and Vic slid it back into his pocket.
A few of the regulars were already heading out they gave him a nod as they left. Good job Ronnie, Vic thought. Quicks still sat slumped at the bar. The bottle almost empty. What the hell happened to you? Vic pulled the plug on the open sign by the door. Across the street was an SUV decked out in bullet proof armor with a grill guard a warlord would envy. This part of town wasn’t bad enough for reenforced muscle like that. Some war-zones aren’t bad enough. The lights flicked on and the motor turned over. It had powerful roar but an odd electrical hum. You’re getting sloppy old man, shouldn’t have been gawking at our friends for so long.
Quicks here, an unmarked g-man carriage parked across the street. This night just keeps getting better. “Yo Ronnie.” Vic waved him over. “Call a cab for everyone on my dime, one for you too.”
“You sure? I’m just two blocks up.”
“Yeah I’m sure. Get everyone out of here now don’t worry about spooking our friend I’ll just freshen up his bottle.”
Vic poured the remaining liquor into Snow’s glass. He dropped the empty in a bin under the bar and pulled out another bottle. “Ta-da.” Vic said as he knocked on the bar.
“You still with us?”
Snow lifted his head from his arm. “Yeah.”
Vic tapped his full glass.
“I can’t afford that.”
“How about a trade? Tell me what happened to you tonight?”
“One or two assholes having some fun with someone who doesn’t matter.” He grabbed the glass and took a long drink.
Vic opened the fresh bottle and topped off the glass.
“These assholes have it in for you?”
“They have it in for everyone.” He took another long drink and Vic filled the glass.
“You hold your liquor well.”
“I have a fast metabolism. You have any pretzels?”
“Yeah. One sec let me get the bowl.”
At the other end of the bar he saw Ronnie heading out with the last of the customers. The bowl of pretzels looked barren he picked up the bag to refill it, but stopped. “Awe fuck it.” He said and carried the half empty five-pound bag back to the other end of the bar.
He set it with the mouth of the bag facing Snow. “Help yourself.” Snow looked at the bag then looked at his hands. “Don’t worry you can take the bag if you like them.” He reached in and grabbed a handful and set the pile down on the bar. Snow popped them into his mouth one at a time.
“Why are you being so nice to me? I can’t do anything for you.”
“Can I ask you something? This might sound crazy but how did you get to be here?”
Snow slammed the glass back in one shot. Vic filled it again and he drank it even faster.
“The same way we all do. Bad choices. Trusting the wrong person.” He tapped the glass for another refill.
“Whoa buddy I don’t want to kill you.”
“I haven’t done it in 10 years, I doubt you’ll do it in one night.” Vic noticed his words picked up a slight slur.
“Okay, but you have to tell me your name.”
“Trent Snow.” He tapped the glass.
“Trent, the names Vic.” He filled his glass almost to the brim. “What did you do before all this, Trent?”
“Why do you care?”
“Just curious. You don’t seem like the type of man who ends up homeless. You have a family?”
Trent finished the glass of booze and stood up. “Thanks but I have to go.”
“Whoa easy. Didn’t know family was a touchy subject. Sit down I’ll pour you another, you don’t have to answer anything.” He filled the glass again.
“You do. What do you want from me?”
“Nothing. You just remind me of a guy I used to know. Long time ago he did me a huge favor and I never repaid him. We cool?”
“Yeah.” Snow sat back down. Vic pulled out another bottle of liquor.
“I’ll leave you be.” Vic said. “I’m heading into the back to do some, inventory.”
“Yeah,” Vic smiled, “it’s a slow night might as well get something done.”
Trent looked around the room realizing it was empty for the first time. “You’re not worried I might steal something?”
“No, something tells me I can trust you. You need anything help yourself. Radio’s across from the register.” He walked off into the back room.
He sat down at the overflowing desk and turned on the monitor that showed the bar. Snow was knocking back bottles of liquor like they were cans of beer. Christ, Vic thought, this is gonna cost me more than I thought. When he finished his last bottle he moved from the stool to behind the bar and back to the stool so fast he barely left a streak on the monitor. “Quicks.” Vic said. A harsh light filled the bar Snow turned just as the door burst open. “What the fuck!” Vic yelled. Snow was gone before he finished yelling.
Outside in the cold Trent Snow ran faster than light. The world stopped, light became patterns of colors rolling like waves in an ocean. He smiled. The pain was a dull throbbing in his head thanks to all the liquor Vic had given him. He felt good, the best he’d felt in years. Tears streaked off his face and became motionless before falling behind him.
Vic ran out to the bar and a sonic blast knocked him to the end of the bar. He crawled out from behind the bar and saw four people standing in front of him. Three men and a lady. All wearing corporate suits all tactical and drab, no sense of style. The lady lifted him up, impressive as she barely reached his chest. She was strong, and from the looks of it some sort of rock mutation afflicted her skin. It was off grey and tiny pebbles blemished her skin. She shoved him against the wall. “What did you give that man? What did you tell him” She demanded in a gravely voice.
“What man? What the fuck are you talking about.”
Her hard stone hand struck him across the face. Vic was starting to get mad.
“Listen sweetheart I got rights and until I see your writ for use of meta powers I’m not saying shit, but get the fuck out before I call the cops.”
“No writs needed when intervening in a meta crime. Looks like Mr. Fix-It has returned to his old ways.” One of the guys in the back said.
Vic shook his head. “You fucking moron. My old ways of robbing my own bar! You want it the hard way that’s fine, I could use the exercise.”
Energy grew and crackled from the hands of the douche bag on his left. That ones raring to go, so he’ll go first, Vic thought.
“No that won’t be necessary.” The tall one said “Base wants us back on target. Consider this a fortunate night.”
“What do you care about some bum?”
The tall man stepped forward. “I suggest you forget about him, if you value keeping this dump.”
Vic drove his hand up and between the rock ladies arm and yanked her off-balance. He punched her in the face and she staggered back. She turned to strike him but the tall man placed an arm on her shoulder. “Not now Roxy.”
Vic stood with his hands to his side. “Get outta my dump.”