Copyright 2000 by Eric J. Juneau. All rights reserved.

This story is in no way intended to infringe on the established copyrights and trademarks of Monolith Productions, Inc. It is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended for sale. It may be freely distributed providing that no alterations to the story are made. The characters and incidents portrayed and the names in this story used herein are fictitious and any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person, living, dead, or otherwise, is purely coincidental and unintentional.

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Strangers in the Night...

By Eric J. Juneau

God, I never would've believed it. Never in a million years if I hadn'a been there.

I'm a bartender at The White Zone, a small bar for a small college town. I eke out a meager living working there. Never did very much with my life, didn't get much past high school. I tried community college, but, long story short, it didn't work for me. Frankly, I'm surprised I made it this far in life, but at least I made it out of my parents' basement.

Being a bartender, I get asked a lot about what's the most fucked-up thing I've ever seen. Probably, bartenders and cabdrivers get asked that the most. And for me, I can only think of one thing. It'll probably be the only thing I take with me when I quit this job.

I was working one night, black as oil. Small-sized crowd, plenty of people on shift, nothing I couldn't handle. At about midnight this badass dude walks in. Intimidating mother. Black trench coat and a matching fedora hat down over his eyes. Thought he was a vampire at first.

He stepped up to the bar and took a stool, real slow like, like he had all the time in the world.

Being the bartender that I am, I asked him, "What can I get you?"

"Jo-Jo's Black Label # 47."

I had no idea what Jo-Jo's was.

"I don't think we carry that here."

He kept his head down, his eyes covered by his cap. He growled to himself angrily, gritting his yellow teeth. He was rigorously unshaven, like he'd been through hell and back. I'd say he was about twenty-five, but looked 40.

"Bottle of Ol' Red."

Ol' Red whiskey. Strong stuff. Barely passes legal standards. It's the sort of thing you drink to forget... the last six months. But it's not my business to be telling people how to live their lives, just to tell them when they've had enough (and with this stuff that wasn't going to take long) so I poured him a shot of the dark red whiskey and set it in front of him. He picked it up and took a sip.

"Long night?" I asked.

"You think I'm drinking for my health?"

"Alone tonight?"

He just grumbled again. He had a real raspy voice.

"Don't worry about it. You can pick up someone real easy in this bar."

He lifted his head slightly, not enough for me to see his eyes. "Listen, pal, you only know two things about me: Jack and shit. And Jack left town." He put his head back down. "So get the hell away."

I held up my hands in a sign of surrender. "Jeez, sorry." I went back to my business with the other customers and left his self-pitying ass behind.

I kept my eye on him though, he was too weird for me not to. Every so often he'd take a sip, real slow like, like he was enjoying the burning sensation of all that alcohol. When the rerun of the 10:00 news came back from commercial he seemed to pick up his ears.

"In business news, Cabalco Industries has announced yet another merger, this time with DataDyne systems, a company known for combining military weaponry and computer technology."

The screen showed a clip of Cabalco's CEO and a blond business woman, presumably CEO of DataDyne, shaking hands at a press conference while white flashes of camera lights flickered.

"This makes the sixth major company Cabalco has acquired since the beginning of the year."

I looked back at the mysterious fellow. I could tell he was listening intently, but still staring blankly down at the table, holding his shot glass with his fingertips. His hand began to tremble, shaking the liquid. The glass cracked with a small *chink*, a sharp jagged line formed down the middle. Other smaller cracks wrapped around the glass. I was astonished and a little scared at this show of strength. I couldn't take my eyes off him at this point. I saw a small chip of glass from the rim fall into his drink, making a small ripple. He lifted the shot up. I jerked forward starting to warn him, but he downed the contents in a single gulp. I stood motionless. He set it back down, and continued sitting there like nothing happened. He surely must have felt that. If not now, then later. I approached him.

"Sir, there was a chip of glass in there that you just swallowed."

"Ya need stronger glasses."

I wanted to say 'Hello!? Can't you feel it shredding your insides?'.

"I think I should call the hospital."

"Don't waste my time."

I was astonished. Did this guy care at all that he could die? "Look, are you sure you're all right? Do you need a cab or something?"

"You deaf or something? I don't need babysitting."

I wondered what they were thinking when they let this nutcase out of the asylum. This guy doesn't need a drink, he needs a straitjacket. I didn't know what else to do so I went back to my bartenderly duties.

"Hey, leave the bottle."

I did so and left to clean some glasses. A fine-looking blond came up to him.

"Hey, baby. How're you doin' tonight?"

The guy turned his head slightly, looking at her long legs. "Oh, yeeeaaah, I couldn't be better. If I said you had a great body, would you hold it against me?"

She giggled. "Listen, tall, dark, and handsome," she continued, "If you're looking for a good time, why don't you and I go back to my car."

Another man, burly guy, construction worker, yelled from across the bar, "That's it, Shawna." He slammed his drink down on the bar, splashing drops of bourbon everywhere. He rose and began walking towards the blond. "I'm tired of this shit. You're not gonna go over to some guy just to make me jealous."

"No, Rick, I just do this to piss you off."

"Goddammit, Shawna, I've had it with this shit!" He declared as he pounded the bar, making a spectacle of himself.

"Now, now, no need to get worked up," the guy said quietly.

"What? Get out of here, dickhead. What the hell are you, some kind of bad Indiana Jones?" Rick drunkenly slurred.

"You sir,... are no gentleman."

"Get the hell out of here before I pound you."

"I wouldn't be so rude, if I were you."

One thing I know from doing this job so long - a lot of people go into bars for two things, sex or violence. If I could package those two things in a bottle and sell it, I'd be a rich man. In any case, I was looking at an example of both happening right in front of me.

"Are you looking for a fight?" Rick said.

"Nope, found one."

That enraged Rick to the point where he reared his bulky, hairy arm back to punch his lights out.

What happened next I can't even describe. It happened too fast for me to even remember. All I know is the next moment, Rick was slammed on the floor with the dark guy standing triumphantly over him, calm as anything.

"You must have blinked," he said.

"Wha... huh?" was all the stunned Rick could utter.

The patrons of the bar gasped in horror. I know my heart was beating in my chest faster than I've felt it in years.

The guy, reached down and leaned in close, put his face right up against Rick's. I've never seen a more scared man. The guy breathed hot stinking breath into his face.

"I'm your best reason to be afraid."

He grinned evilly, showing more teeth than Julia Roberts. Fast as anything, he grabbed Rick by the shirt and threw him over the bar, smashing into all the glasses and bottles on the shelves. I stepped back to avoid the flying shards of glass. He laid face-down, stunned for a moment, then shifted around. I saw his face was all cut up with red streaks. He reached into his pocket for something and pulled out a snub-nosed silver revolver he had hidden in his trousers. He stood up as quick as he could and pointed it at the guy.

Unfortunately, he already had a sawed-off shotgun pointed at Rick.

"Mine's bigger."

The two stood there in a stand-off for a few tension-filled seconds. The entire room waited in awe and terror.

"Hey man, don't... don't kill him," I stammered.

The trench coated man didn't move at all. He looked like he couldn't resist pulling the trigger.

"Please, don't kill him."

Silence...

"Of course not," he responded in a gravely voice like sandpaper. "If I kill him... he won't learn nothin'."

He lowered his shotgun an inch and fired. A booming crack filled the room. Rick's hand was blown clean off. The revolver flew away. Blood and flesh spurted everywhere, spattering vermillion against the glass. Rick cried out in blood-curdling pain, cursing a blue streak, staring wide-eyed at the bloody glistening stump.

Everyone in the bar ran out the door, all the bartenders either hid under the table or ran out through the back room. I hid. Peeking over, I saw people clawing, scrambling over each other, to get out the door. The guy was just standing there as the ruckus surrounded him, his gun resting on his shoulder, looking down, waiting. When everyone left, the roar drained to not even a whisper, the guy cracked a sharp-toothed smile.

"Chaos, panic, disorder. My work here is done."

He turned and walked casually out of the bar, resting his gun on his shoulder, whistling, "Strangers in the night... exchanging glances."

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