Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.
‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.
Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking – that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.
A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.
‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.
She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.
‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’
‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.
Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.
‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.
Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.
A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.
James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.
Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.
‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.
There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.
‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.
Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.
As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,
‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.
The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.
(c) Paul D. Brazill.
This yarn first appeared over at SHOTGUN HONEY.