Monday, December 8, 2014

The March, Chapter 55: An Opportunity Arises

Chapter 54

Let's have a bachelor party with chicks and guns and firetrucks and hookers and drugs and booze

-Bachelor Party

Mondays were a day for various March related administrative chores: scheduling, inventory, paycheck pick-up, etc.  On any given Monday afternoon, you’d most likely find an irritated Caleb sitting at the bar or in the office with papers and a cup of coffee in front of him.  March employees came in and out, usually grabbing a beer along with their paychecks, chatting with Mary before heading on about their day.  John Farebrother liked to visit The March on Monday afternoons.  He whiled away the hours in a comfortable corner, sipping beers and observing the hubbub of tavern-y administration.  It was a little like being backstage.

On this particular Monday, John Farebrother was enjoying an Old Style and watching the Cubs.  Mary perched on a barstool behind the bar, highlighting a brief.  Caleb wandered in and out of the office.  Karl Rafferty sat at the small table by the jukebox, working his way through a pitcher, agitated.  Rafferty was tired of waiting.  He was ready to unload.

He kept looking up at John Farebrother.  Farebrother looked like a man who’d be receptive to a story. Raff was right, Farebrother was a man who was receptive to a story and he’d noticed Rafferty’s frequent glances in his direction. He ordered a shot of whiskey and then nodded over to Rafferty, “Care to join me, friend?”

Rafferty nodded cheerfully and carried his pitcher over to the bar.  Mary poured another shot of Jameson for Raff and then returned to her brief.

They drank their shots, Farebrother toasting to easy Monday afternoons.

Raff rolled a cigarette and the two sat in friendly silence for a bit, sipping their beers, watching the game.  After a few minutes, seemingly by way of icebreaker, Rafferty said sort of generally, “I used to work here, you know.  It’s been a long time, but I used to.”

“Mm hmmm,” Mary said noncommittally.  She was used to people from the Before Times strolling in and trying to recapture the glory days.  She was usually charitable enough to indulge them in their remembrances, but there was something about this guy that put her off.

“It was different back then,” said Raff, looking around.

“Everything was, my friend,” said Farebrother.

“My name is Karl Rafferty,” said Raff.  “Most people call me Raff.”

“John Farebrother,” rejoined Farebrother, more in tune than Mary to the potential for a good story.  “How about another Jameson, Raff?  Mary set us up, would you?”

Mary grabbed the bottle and shot an irritated look at Farebrother.  Why was he encouraging this weasely guy?  Farebrother was such a shit stirrer.  He ignored the look and turned his attention to Raff.

“Thanks,” said Raff, tipping the shot back without waiting for Farebrother.  And then, with a pitiful attempt to feign casualness, continued. “There was a bartender here, back in the day, named Bulstrode.  We called him Bully.  He still around?”

“Owns the place now,” said Farebrother, certain that Raff knew that already.

“Really,” said Raff, enjoying his strained subterfuge.  “That’s a neat trick. Didn’t have two nickels to rub together back when I knew him.”

“Doing pretty good now,” said Farebrother.  “Owns this place and a slew of others.  He’s a very successful man.  Hard to picture him slinging drinks.  He’s not really a people person, if you know what I mean.”

“He was back then,” said Raff.  “The ladies loved him.”

“Really,” said Mary, surprised.

“Oh yeah,” said Raff.  “He’d do this thing where he lit a girl’s cigarette while looking her straight in the eye. They’d practically throw their panties at him.”

Mary rolled her eyes and decided she was done with that conversation.  “That’s fucking lovely,” she said, gathering up her things and moving down to the far side of the bar.  She determined to make drink orders an onerous task for the creepy little man.

“Mary,” said Caleb, who’d stationed himself at the far end to work out the schedule.  “Can you hand me the phone?”

Caleb was uninterested in joining a walk down memory lane.  He was too busy navigating the irritating corporate interest L.G.E. had taken since the rebrand.  Tré had scheduled another one of his little promotions at The March and Caleb was unsure how to staff it and unhappy to have to deal with it. 

Tré was always scheduling these promos at The March these days, trying to increase business from the yuppie crowd.  It wasn’t a group that Caleb was particularly eager to court and Tré’s promotions always seemed like more trouble than they were worth.  This one was a goddamn martini event.  Martinis were a pain in the ass to make. Martini glasses broke if you stared at them too hard.
Caleb took the phone from Mary and called Tré.  “Do I need extra staff for this martini thing?  And I’m going to need more goddamn shakers and martini glasses.”

“Love the enthusiasm, Caleb,” said Tré, sarcastically. “Regular staff will be fine. I’ll bring you down some glasses and shakers myself.  I was planning to anyway.”

Tré was growing weary of the resistance to his events from staff.  Martinis were making a comeback and the L.G.E. flagship needed to be out in front of these trends.  Caleb was a nice guy, but he cried foul if asked to do anything beyond pouring shitty domestic beer out of a tap.  It was working on Tré’s nerves.

Caleb would have balked at Tré’s assessment of his professionalism.  But it is true that Caleb believed that no drink should include more than three ingredients.  And ice is an ingredient.  He handed the phone back to Mary and glanced down the other end of the bar at Raff and Farebrother.  Raff was talking a mile a minute and Farebrother was clearly very interested in what he was saying.  But Farebrother collected stories the way other people collect stamps.  Caleb doubted Raff had much interesting to say.

Caleb was wrong.

Tré walked into The March about 15 minutes later, followed by Gio and Brooke, who’d come in to collect paychecks.  Gio and Brooke sat down next to Caleb.  Tré stood behind them with his box of glasses and shakers, looking around, marveling at how great the place looked.

“Everyone hates a fucking martini promotion, Tré,” said Mary, breaking into his reverie.

“Here we go,” thought Tré. 

“Seriously, man,” said Gio. “They’re pretentious and people who drink them tip for shit.”

“Tip for shit and get wasted because they don’t understand it’s four bounces of straight booze,” said Mary.

“I hate those glasses,” said Brooke. “When you wash them, it seems like the stems just fall off.”

“Jesus Christ, you guys,” said Tré, feeling besieged.  “It’s just a fucking martini, it’s not that hard.”

“You sound just like a guy who’s never tended bar in his life,” said Gio.  “They’re a pain in the ass.  There’s always someone complaining that their dirty martini isn’t dirty enough or that they wanted vodka instead of gin.”

Brooke felt sorry for Tré.  “Well, we’ll survive,” she said. “It’s not like Tré is trying to piss us off.” 

“Yeah, you’ll survive,” said Tré, misreading her tone. “And if any of you have other ideas for promotions, all you have to do is let me know.”  He set the box of martini glasses down on a stool and looked behind the bar.  “Hey! What happened to the blender I sent down?”

“It broke,” said Mary, smiling slyly.  “Someone dropped a fork in it and when I turned it on, it just broke.”  

“That’s the third blender to break here,” said Tré, silently giving up on blended drinks at The March.  “Must be some kind of blender curse.”

“Must be,” said Mary, gratified to sense him admitting defeat.  She liked Tré, but he was a company man, Bulstrode’s boy.  She didn’t trust him.  Gio was a little leery too.  Tré was too tight with the corporate types.  Gio was attached to The March, as much an idea as a place, and he didn’t want it fucked up.  Brooke liked Tré and she trusted him.  She was abidingly grateful to Tré for sensing the value in her recycling idea and had faith that his corporate endeavors came from a place of good faith.

“Do you need any help rolling out the recycling plan at the other places you’re rebranding,” she said.  

“I could help.”

“No, I’m good,” Tré said, grateful for the change in subject.  “Bulstrode is totally on board, which means it’s happening.”

As he spoke, Raff walked past them and into the bathroom again.  He didn’t notice Tré. When he came out, he was wild-eyed, picking at the shirt in front of his chest.

“Shit,” said Tré.  “I don’t think that guy is supposed to be here.”

“Do you know him,” asked Mary.  “He looks pretty rough.”

For some reason, Tré didn’t feel like he ought to tell Mary how he knew Raff.  He suspected Bulstrode wouldn’t like it.  “He looks wired, is what he looks,” was all he said.

“I think you’re right,” said Mary.  “What do you think, Dad?  Should I give him the boot?”

“Yeah,” said Caleb, checking him out.  “Go take his pitcher.”

Mary walked to the end of the bar and removed Raff’s pitcher and glass, saying, “Sir, I think it’s time for you to go.”

“What the fuck,” said Raff, rubbing hard at the skin over his chest.  “Why are you taking my fucking beer?”  He looked at Farebrother.  “Can you believe this shit?”

“I tend to side with Mary in situations like this,” said Farebrother.  “Perhaps you’d better move on.  But I have really enjoyed talking with you.”

“Fuck you,” said Raff, outraged. “I’ve barely had two beers. Do you know who I am?  I know Bulstrode.  I fucking own him.  This is on its way to being my bar.  You’ll be working for me soon, you bitch.”

Mary was a pro at cutting people off and wasn’t too bothered by the invective.  Caleb was bothered.  He approached Raff and said in a steady, warning voice, “It’s time for you to go, sir.”  (Ever notice how people only get called ‘sir’ when they’re in trouble?) 

As he spoke, Gio and Tré moved to stand behind Caleb.

This is an effective technique when it comes to removing an obstreperous guest from a bar.  Don’t touch him, don’t use harsh language, just make sure he can see he’s outnumbered and that there’s no way he for him to win the fight.

Tré tried to keep his face behind Caleb’s head, worried about what would happen if Raff recognized him. Fortunately, Raff was focused on Caleb..

“Fine,” he said, face florid.  “I’ll fucking go.  But I’m going to tell Bully what you guys did and you’ll all be fucking fired.”

Farebrother shook his head.

When Raff left, Brooke asked, “Do you think we should call the police?  He didn’t look so good.”

“How much did you serve him, Mary,” asked Caleb.

“Half a pitcher of beer and a couple of shots of Jameson that this fucking idiot bought him.”  She pointed at Farebrother.

“Hey, I was just listening to a pretty entertaining story,” said Farebrother.  “It was definitely worth the cost of a couple of shots of Jameson.

Caleb ignored Farebrother. “Well, I’m pretty sure whatever he was taking in the bathroom had more to do with how messed up he was than the booze we served him.  Regardless, he’s gone now.  Lookit, Brooke, can you pick up a waitressing shift on Thursday?”

People getting kicked out was part and parcel of running a bar. No one thought too much about it after he was gone.

Caleb and Brooke huddled over the schedule. 

Mary and Gio carried on complaining about the martini promo.

Farebrother sipped his beer and weighed the likelihood of truth behind the titillating tales that Raff had told him.  They seemed oddly likely.

Tré suspected that Raff would make good on his threat to visit Bulstrode, so he headed into the office to use the phone.

“Mr. Bulstrode,” he said when Bully answered his direct dial.  “Rafferty is on his way to see you.  He was hanging out here at the March, doing a pile of shit in the bathroom.  I think he either did too much or did something bad.  But he’s messed up and on his way to the office.  Maybe you should just lock up and leave.”

Bulstrode hung up the phone.  It was just going on 4:30.  There was no one else in the office.  Tré was right – it would be best to avoid the confrontation.  But, before he left, Bulstrode unlocked one of the liquor cabinets, the one that held the expensive stuff. He left a bank deposit sitting on his desk.  When he left, he made sure to click on the security camera.  He neglected to lock the door.
Finally, though Bulstrode, walking out the door.  An opportunity.

When Bulstrode came into work the next morning, he expected to find the money and some booze gone.  Instead, he found Karl Rafferty slumped over his desk, a bottle of good cognac on its side, the bank envelope in his fist.

Karl Rafferty was dead.  His heart had stopped beating three sips into the bottle.