“Steph, Steph,” Alan beamed as he came through the doors of Dragon's Lair Bar And Grill. He stepped down a marble platform and high stepped to the bar. Stephanie Mills, tall brown haired woman sat at the bar, looking uneasy. She was dressed very elegant in a green dress that was off the shoulder and seemed rather too short for a woman of imposing ladyship qualities. Her hair was drawn back in a bun, her makeup perfect. She was a bit thin, but her dress clung to her, showing her better assets.
Stephanie tried to ignore Alan at first, then noticed he was standing beside her. He didn't realize what she was doing, Alan was always lost in his own little world. “My God, Steph,” Alan bent down kissed her neck, breathing in her fragrance of Lilac perfume. “It has been at least five years since I last saw you. Where was that? Bree and Colin Hamper's party in Canton.”
“Alan. Alan Drake. Wonderful looking as always. Yes it has been that long, I can't believe it.” Stephanie looked away, took a sip of her Martini.
“Still drinking sour apple martinis I see,” Alan leaned on the bar, caught the bartender's attention. “Vodka and water, old boy.” He said.
“What ever happened to Bree and Colin?” Stephanie felt frail at that moment. What were the odds she would see someone from her college days. A whole other world millions of miles from the one she lived in now.
“They live in the big apple now. He's a banker, she works for the school system. Haven't changed much, just don't drink as much. Saw them a few weeks ago.”
“No children, then?”
“No, no. I'm afraid it wouldn't be right to raise children in that environment---- I mean they don't have much time...even for each other.”
There was a silence, both looking around the bar, listening to a thinning group of patrons conversations, comings and goings.
“So what is it you do now?” Stephanie said.
“Nothing at the moment,” Alan chuckled. He ordered another drink for the two of them, offered to move to a table. Stephanie politely refused. “Anyway, I don't feel as I wish to have another job just now. I made a good investment, plastics company, made out very good.”
“What do you do, Steph?”
Stephanie thought a moment. “I'm a Hostess. For here, to be exact.”
“Really? I wasn't aware they had that sort of thing here. Not exactly exclusive for our kind, would you say?”
“No. I suppose not.”
“Steph,” Alan took a couple of bills from his wallet, paid the bartender. “You don't ever...think of us...do you?”
Stephanie touched Alan's hand. “Quite often,Alan.”
Alan looked behind him. He saw a tall olive-skinned man standing at the entrance of the bar, looking very hard at Stephanie. The man was dressed in a white sports coat, a thin black tie and red boots.
Alan chuckled to himself. “I believe some man dressed very tacky, wishes to speak with you. He's been trying to get your attention for sometime.”
Stephanie saw the man and cringed. She looked away quickly.
“Who is he?” Alan chuckled again. “Someone needs to give him GQ or a man's fashion magazine for advice.”
“I—I suppose I should go and have a word with him. He-uh- works for the same firm as I do. I'll be right back. You understand?”
“Of course, Steph. I'll be here, still.”
Stephanie ambled over to the olive-skinned man standing at the entrance. She took a deep breath, stopped short of him. He reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her into the foyer. Stephanie squealed as the man twisted her arm.
“Where is it, bitch!” He spoke in broken English with a Spanish accent.
“You're hurting me, Tony!” Stephanie screamed back.
Tony let go of her arm, then took hold of her dress, pulled her close to him “I want it back, now,” He said.
“I don't know what—”
“My watch, you bitch. You stole my dead Father's watch---I know you did. I saw you--”
“Here!” Stephanie wrangled it off her wrist, a gold watch, missing several links.
The nostrils of Tony were flaring, like a bull ready to strike. He kept those small beady eyes on Stephanie as he fixed the watch on his wrist.
“Who is that guy? I've seen him in here before,” Tony said.
Stephanie fixed herself, checking her makeup in her compact, trying to catch her breath. “He's a friend,” She said. “Just a friend from the old days. College.”
“No shit,” Tony smiled a toothy grin. “You went to college? Now you're a whore just like me. I only went to the seventh grade. No shit.”
“Look, Tony, I'm real sorry about the watch. You know how it is? I got that problem...I see something someone else has...and I just want it...i have to take it. I—I'll make it up to you later if you want.” She touched his arm.
Tony looked at where her hand was. He moved his arm away, smiled. “Not tonight, baby. Tony got his rich old man to play with. He ugly, but pay good.”
“Alright.” Stephanie was disappointed. She turned to walk away, Tony touched her arm. She faced him, her eyes averted.
“Hey you be careful at this joint. A cop has been floatin' around. That's why I ask who he was,” Tony pointed to the bar.
“Just be careful, eh?” Tony looked around the corner at Alan. They locked eyes for a moment. Tony shot back around. “No. I don't think he's a cop. I saw him in here a few nights ago with a man and woman. They didn't look happy to see him. Maybe he's a drug dealer. They gave him a gym bag. I don't know. Just be careful, eh?”
“Okay, Tony,” Stephanie barely managed to say. No, Stephanie thought. No way Alan could ever be a drug dealer, too stiff for that.
When she returned to Alan, he was curious, but standoffish.
“A friend, I presume.” Alan said, sliding a cigarette between his thin red lips.
“I told you,” Stephanie barked at him. “A colleague.”
Alan took a curious item from his coat pocket. A golden colored lighter in the shape of a monkey. Alan pressed the tail, the monkey opened it's mouth and a flame was produced. The lights overhead shimmered off the monkey, catching Stephanie's eye.
“Where d id you get that dreadful thing,” Stephanie's laugh was throaty, almost like a cough hacking something up.
Alan annoyed. He stuck out his bottom lip, as if he had been chastised by a parent. “God, Steph. You can be so judgmental. Haven't changed much.”
“I'm really not...not anymore. I've had things happen lately...to reduce me to a small size, Alan.”
Stephanie kept her eyes on that lighter. That golden monkey had almost hypnotized her.
Alan was speaking now, but she hadn't heard a thing he said. She was infatuated with that smiling monkey, even to the depths of imagining her lighting a cigarette for Tony, with that thing.
Stephanie found her hands were on on Alan's, stroking gently. He was leering at her, the way he used to do when they dated in college, sometimes that used creep her out. When he spoke again, it brought her to that reality.
“You want to get out of here?” Alan said.
Stephanie wanted to pull her hands away, but convinced herself not to, just for the sake of a trick. After the sex, she would explain to him what she was. Alan would understand. He would give her the money she needed.
Stephanie smiled. “Yes,” She said.
“I'll just pay the tab,” Alan tapped the plastic counter of the bar.
Alan laid the golden monkey on the bar. He caught the bartender's attention. Stephanie moved her hand over the lighter, gently moved it toward her. She quickly picked it up, dropped it in the opening of her purse.
Stephanie tried to forget about last night. It was no easy task. She was wreck after what happened. She was at the Dragon's Lair bar again drinking more scotch and water the bartender had ever seen.
“Geez,” He said setting down the eighth glass. “I'm going to have to cut you off, lady. You ain't gonna be able to drive.”
“I don't drive anyway. Any calls for me?” her voice creaked like the floors in an old dark house.
“No. Why don't you get a cell phone?” The bartender said.
“I have one,” Stephanie slurred. “I couldn't pay the bill—asshole.”
Why didn't Tony call her back? He must had to have heard her message. She called him from the department store phone down the street, left messages on his phone.
“You're a what?!” Alan's voice rose. He was standing over top of Stephanie after he had punched her three times in the face. He was naked, his shriveled up penis dangled in her face. “You're telling me you could have given me the clap....possibly AIDS!”
Stephanie began to sob quietly. “I thought you would understand.” He put his foot in her face and kicked her backwards.
He walked away. Stephanie noticed Alan was standing in front of the open window of his hotel room, four flights up. She leaped to her feet and sprinted. She closed her eyes. With both hand stretched out, Stephanie piled into Alan, knocking him over the ledge. She could hear him screaming all the way down.
Stephanie looked out the window. Alan was a spot on the busy intersection, traffic stopping all directions, car ramming into each other, horns and car alarms sounded off in a wicked symphony.
I a mental haze, She ran to get dressed. She rifled through his wallet, took a few hundred from. She rushed around in circles, not knowing what to do next. She went to the closet for no apparent reason.
That's where she found the gym bag Tony was talking about.
Stephanie took it over to the messy bed, sat it on the stained pillows. She slowly unzipped it. There was stacks of bills neatly on top of each other. She didn't count it. No time. But she did have an idea what to do next.
Stephanie found some stationary by the hotel telephone. She retrieved a pen from her purse. She started to write as fast and sloppily as she could. Who the hell knows how a suicide note is suppose to look like.
“I have done terrible things,” She read as she wrote. I am ashamed of everything I have ever done.”
She went on to list all sorts of seedy adventures in short erratic paragraphs. Everything from rape to blackmail. She signed Alan Drake after Yours Truly.
It was only after daybreak that Stephanie decided to call Tony. “Please come and meet me at Dragon's Lair, Tony.” This was the fifth message she left. “I have the money for us to go to Miami, be with your mother. We can help her...live together as a happy family...I love you.”
Last message was very desperate. “Tony...call me..I'm in pieces...please....”
Six hours later, he still had not called, nor shown his olive-skinned face at the bar.
“I'll buy her another drink,” A big husky man said. He was sitting next to her at the bar. He was bald, wore small rimmed glasses that were too small for his large square head. He was wearing a leather jacket and an AC/DC shirt.
Stephanie turned to him, almost fell off her stool.
“Sir, I think she's had enough--”
“Okay. I'll take another scotch and a beer.” The man said.
The bartender cut his eyes at him, went away. He returned with a beer and a scotch. The man moved the glass toward Stephanie. She tried to focus on him, everything was becoming blurry, unstable.
Stephanie raised the glass. “Thank you,” She said. “I really needed this.”
“It's no problem. I understand how things can be. Sometimes life looks better after a few.” The man sipped his beer.
Stephanie finished her scotch, gingerly sat the glass on the blurry counter, making sure she didn't miss it. “So are you from around here?”
The man shrugged. “I'm from all over. How about you?”
“I can be from where ever you want me to be.”
The man laughed. “Is that right?”
“Yeah. And...and that's not a come on. It's my job.”
“Your...job, you say?”
Stephanie took out the golden monkey, lit her cigarette. “My profession is to be any kind of girl you want,” She slurred.
The man did a double take. He stared at the lighter in Stephanie's hand. She waved it around like it was a light saber. “That sure is an interesting lighter you have.”
“This?” She leaned in toward him, nearly falling off her stool. “This?”
“Yeah....what is that? A monkey. I see. Where did you get that?” The man reached into his back pocket, took out his wallet.
“A friend gave it to me. A dear...dear friend.”
“Did you know a Bree and Collin Hamper?”
“I know them yes.”
The man showed Stephanie his Identification. A badge next to it. “Should say it in the past tense, miss. They were found dead in their home two days ago. Both were shot twice in the back of the head. The only thing missing, according to Collin's mother-in-law, Collin was very proud of that item. It was a strange lighter in the shape of a golden monkey. If you look on the left side, the initials C.H. are engraved. How did you get it?”
Stephanie dropped the golden monkey on the floor. She stood, backed away from the bar. The man grabbed her arms, pulled her to him.
“It was spur of the moment....just something I had to have.”