“Chaz asked me again and I told him I didn’t do it, so he took the bat to my left and that’s how I got that purple one,” Jim touches the spot, “Chaz put the bat down and one of the guys handed him a razor and he put it just under my collarbone and asked again, I told him I didn’t do it.
“He dragged the razor all the way down to my hip and it hurt like a motherfucker, I’ll tell you that. He turned and told the rest to take hourly shifts interrogating me, and every time I gave the ‘wrong answer’ to cut me with the razor as slowly and painfully as possible–they did a helluva job on that end.
“A thousand times they asked me why and a thousand times I said I didn’t do it and a thousand times they cut me with the razor,” Jim pulls up his sleeves and shows them a thousand two-inch razor cuts evenly distributed throughout his arms, most have faded into non-existence.
“How did you escape?” Lucy asks.
“I don’t know,” Jim shrugs, “I passed out from loss of blood after the 500th cut or so, the next thing I know I’m in the back seat of someone’s car on the highway. The car pulled over and whoever took me pulled me out and left me there to live or die without a word.
“The razor cuts stopped bleeding and clotted and some shitty but stable stitchwork had been done on my chest, my left shoulder hurt like a mother and it took some time to finally get my legs under me.
“I hitched a ride with an elderly woman who offered to take me to the hospital and didn’t give me a choice in the matter, she said the nearest one was in Boulder, California and she drove the entire way.
“I woke up on a stretcher in E.R. with an oxygen mask on my face and doctors examining my body, I passed out and guessed they must’ve done surgery or something because I woke up in a hospital gown with bandages all over and tubes coming out of me, the top half of my body basically mummified.
“I looked at my chest and saw they redid the stitchwork and it was better, I had more flexibility. The nurse came in, asked me some questions, hit me with the hospital bill.”
They look at Jim with confused expressions.
“Yeah, more of a business than a hospital, really,” Jim shakes his head, “thing is, I made a lot of money being in the gang in all the illegal, and sometimes legal, ways you can think of. Stealing, drug-dealing, smuggling weapons, the black market, you name it, I did it.”
“You ever kill anybody, Jim?” Ron asks.
“No,” Jim says, “I wasn’t that guy. I was the bookkeeper, the handler, the concierge, so to speak. No, there were other guys who did all the killing and muscle work. Speaking of, I think it was those guys that shot me.”
Everyone’s jaw drops at the same time.
It takes Jim a minute to register their expressions. When he does, he smacks his forehead with the heel of his palm, “Right, getting ahead of myself–”
“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa,” Ron says, “when the medics examined you they didn’t see a bullet wound. Sure, it was circular, but they said there was nothing to indicate it’d been a bullet.”
“Did they?” Jim asks, “Well, I mean, it was probably because it tore through me when it happened.”
The room is silent for a long time.
After five minutes Jim says, “Alright, that’s enough story for the night. I gotta early shift in the morning so, get out.”
“Just like that huh?” Ron says.
“Well, I want to hear more,” Lucy looks to Kayla who nods in agreement, getting up and ready to leave.
“Well, you can come over again or I’ll see you in the bar,” Jim says, “I’ll be there at ten sharp like I always am.”
“It’s a date.” Lucy and Kayla grab their coats and bags and Ron walks them out to the door.
Ron asks, “you want me to close it?”
Ron closes the door and Jim listens to their footsteps fade in the distance and remains at the table and contemplates for a long time.
Lucy and Kayla sit on either side of Jim’s seat when he comes into the bar at ten o’clock. Jim sees them and they wave, he waves back and walks over then takes the seat.
They start off with pleasantries and perfunctory conversation and at about ten-fifteen, a group of bikers walk in. Jim looks over and immediately recognizes Chaz with his long blonde hair, trimmed goatee, and icy blue eyes, they lock eyes for what feels like an eternity but is only ten seconds. Jim looks away and Chaz and his bikers walk past him and the women without a word toward the back.
“You know them?” Lucy asks.
“No,” Jim says, “but they do look familiar, though,”
Jim calls Ron over and orders his usual and two margaritas for the ladies, Ron fulfills the order. At ten-thirty, after a couple of chuckles and light flirting, Jim looks at his watch and says he has to go, the women don’t want him to but Jim doesn’t relent.
He calls Ron over and gives him fifty bucks and tells him to keep the change; Jim hugs the girls and bids them goodnight, instinctively knowing this will be the last time he will ever see them. Jim walks out the bar into the night.
At ten forty-five, Chaz and his group of bikers get up and make their way out the bar without a word. Ron takes a look at them when they walk by and recognizes Chaz from Jim’s story, Chaz sees this from the corner of his eye and taps one of his guys on the shoulder and whispers something in their ear, the rest leave the bar and Chaz goes to the counter.
“What’s up barkeep,” Chaz casually leans on the counter.
“Nothing much,” Ron says, “just working hard and cuttin’ clean.”
“Working hard and cuttin’ clean,” Chaz nods his head, “I like that.” He continues, “you look like you recognized me for a second, wanna tell me where you might know me from?”
“I see a lot of guys that look like you,” Ron says while placing used glasses in the sink and filling another order, “but never anyone as chilled and laid-back. Most bikers come in here and start trouble, had to call the cops a couple times before they tore my bar to shreds.”
Chaz nods, “I see,” he pushes himself off the counter, “alright then, barkeep, you have a good night.”
“You too, man.”
Chaz leaves the bar and goes the same way Jim went when he left.
Kayla, Lucy, and Ron never see or hear from Jim again.
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