He's Not a Man Who Misses Much
She has a good memory for faces, so she knows as soon as he walks in that he's never been here before. Her throat tightens as he pauses just inside the door, looks around. But after a moment, he simply walks up to the bar and greets her with a smile.
He is gorgeous, sex appeal incarnate with hazel eyes, a hint of freckles dusted across nose and cheeks, eyelashes out to here and lips made for kissing laid over a core as latent with dangerous potential as a sleeping tiger. His smile is incandescent. Any other night she would have been instantly intrigued.
This isn't any other night.
She smiles back, struggling for natural. Knows her every move is being watched.
"Evening," she says. "What can I get ya?"
"Whatever's on draft," he answers easily.
She draws the beer, action so familiar she can do it on automatic despite the trembling in her hands. When she returns, he has a cell phone to his ear.
"Hey, Sammy," he is saying. "Listen, man, I'm at Smoky's Bar on Clayton. Looks like a jumpin' place. Why don't you meet me here and I'll buy you a brew? …Awesome…See ya in a few."
He stashes the phone as she sets the beer in front of him. "Six bucks," she tells him, still on automatic. "Wanta run a tab?"
"Naw," he says, retrieving his wallet. He pulls out a five and a one, lays the cash on the bar but leaves his hand on it. He is tapping his index finger on the bills absently. Tap…tap…tap…
She almost doesn't catch on in time. He taps a fourth time and raises his finger for a fifth, but she snatches the bills from beneath his fingers before he completes the action. She stares into his eyes, notes his almost imperceptible nod.
He knows. Somehow, God knows how, he knows.
She grips the back edge of the bar as a wave of dizziness washes over her, not sure if it is terror or relief or some combination of the two. But his eyes flash a warning and she fights for composure.
"So, you guys do food?" he asks.
"Uh, yeah," she replies. "Nothing major. Cheeseburgers, cheese fries, grilled cheese sandwiches."
"Anything with cheese?" he asks, amused.
She laughs, a little too loudly. Catches herself.
"Cook's on break," she says, taking a chance. "I can have him fix you up in a few."
"Just you and the cook?" he asks casually. "Place this size?"
"No, we've got a waitress somewhere around." She drops her gaze to the floor briefly, wondering if there is a chance in hell he'll get the message.
Mitch and Shelly are in the basement storage room, hostage to two guys with cold eyes and guns. Two more are up here, one at the end of the bar, the other at a table to the left of the door. They are waiting for something. She's pretty sure she knows what. Mitch is sweet and he more or less knows his way around a grill, but he's an idiot. He has been dealing out the back door of the bar for months. Mostly small stuff, but lately he has been excited and on edge. She thinks he might have been scaling up, and she was about to call him on it, but now it's too late. He has pissed somebody off. The wrong somebody. Now they are lying in wait, for Mitch's supplier, maybe, and they will more than likely take them both out.
They won't much care who else gets caught in the crossfire.
When she looks up again, he has turned his back to the bar and is leaning on one elbow. He takes slow pulls on his beer and shows no particular interest in the other patrons of the bar. She moves away instinctively, checking on other customers—just a few, thank God, it's slow tonight—returns only when he sets his empty glass on the bar and signals for another. As she is retrieving his glass, another stranger enters the bar, reconnoiters briefly, then heads straight for the first man.
"Hey, Dean," he says, grinning and socking the other man's shoulder. "I'm glad you called, man. It's been a while. Good to see you."
"Back at ya," Dean responds. "Hell, what's it been, Sam? About four months?"
"That sounds about right," Sam answers.
Sam tops Dean by several inches, and Dean is by no means a runt. Sam is lean but solid, has longish dark hair, some of which threatens to flop into his warm brown eyes. His smile is engaging and makes him look quite youthful though up close he bears the subtle marks of someone who carries burdens beyond his years.
The two men do not resemble one another physically, but she is suddenly sure they are either related or have known one another for a long time. Their bodies speak the same language and the same hidden knowledge moves in the depths of their eyes.
She brings their drinks and lingers nearby as unobtrusively as possible, listening to them talk. Their exchanges seem innocuous, casual chatter about nothing of great consequence. But this close to them and she can see the communication going on beneath the words. Glances and gestures and shifts of emphasis convey volumes of information beyond what is actually being said. It is fascinating, almost frightening.
Strangely, though, as compelling as she finds them, the other patrons in the bar, especially the two who matter, do not seem to be taking much notice. It is as though they are able to create a vacuum around themselves from which neither light nor sound can escape to trouble the rest of the world. Hiding in plain sight.
"Let me get the next round," Sam announces, motioning to the now empty glasses, reaching for the back pocket of his jeans. He checks the other pocket, frowns. "Shit, I must of left my wallet in the car. Hang on, man, be right back."
He turns and strides out of the bar.
"Which way to the head?" Dean asks her, although she's pretty sure he already knows. She points to her right at the shadowed hallway where the restrooms are located, feels her heart flutter anxiously as he moves away from her. He passes the locus of threat at the end of the bar without a glance.
Time seems to stretch, but she thinks it is only in her own mind as no one else seems disturbed. Then Sam comes back through the door and everything speeds up like a videotape on fast forward. Sam stumbles against the table to the left of the door, turns the stumble into a smooth pivot and suddenly his left arm is around the neck of the thug seated there and his right hand is pressing a gun to the thug's temple. He hisses something in the man's ear and the man let's the gun he himself has been holding under the table clatter to the floor.
Simultaneously, Dean has re-appeared from the hallway, locked down the second thug and appropriated his gun before he has a chance to react to his compatriot's peril. He exchanges a look with Sam, a question posed and answered silently.
The other patrons of the bar finally notice that all is not right with the world, but before any of them can panic and cause problems, Dean speaks in a quiet but commanding tone. "Okay, folks," he says. "Everything's under control. You probably want to leave now, but do it quietly. Anybody makes a fuss and things could get out of hand fast. Just walk away and pretend this never happened."
A couple of the regulars glance at her, the known quantity, and she nods encouragingly. As long as they don't stampede, the sounds of their departure won't carry to the hostage-takers down below.
Sam pulls a fat roll of duct tape out of his jacket pocket and proceeds to bind bad guy number one to his chair efficiently. He slaps a final piece of tape over the guy's mouth then tosses the roll to Dean, who catches it neatly, one-handed, and secures his target's hands behind his back.
Dean frog marches the thug around behind the bar and encourages him to the floor. He tapes the guy's ankles, but leaves his mouth free, digs in the guy's pockets until he comes up with a cell phone.
"Okay, pal, here's the deal," he says. "You're going to call your two friends in the basement. Tell them to leave the hostages and get their asses up here."
"Why would I do that?" the thug sneers.
This time Dean's smile is cold as ice and never reaches his eyes. He puts down the gun and picks up the knife she uses to slice citrus from its resting place below the counter, turns it slowly in his hand. "I don't usually waste humans in cold blood," he answers casually. "But I have no problem at all with a little non-fatal meat carving. Say, a couple fingers, maybe."
She believes he means it. The thug does, too. He opens his mouth to acquiesce, but Dean stops him with a hand under the jaw.
"Just what I said, nothing more nothing less," he cautions. "Get creative and I'll take out your tonsils without the benefit of anesthetic. Got it?"
The thug nods, gives Dean the number and then delivers the message, short and sweet, while Dean holds the phone for him.
"Good boy," Dean approves, then quickly slaps tape over the guy's mouth.
Sam has already moved into position on one side of the swinging door that leads from the back of the bar to the kitchen and service areas beyond. Dean takes his place on the other side, motions to her to duck down out of sight and range. She uses the immobilized thug for cover and Dean nods approvingly.
"I'll take asshole number one and you take number two," Dean tells Sam, and Sam nods his agreement.
It is no more than a moment before heavy footsteps announce the hostage-takers' approach. The first man pushes through the door and immediately finds himself pivoting on his heels around the fulcrum of a hard grip on his arm. He smashes head first into the edge of the bar's massive backstop and drops like a stone.
The second man has a split second longer to prepare and manages to get an arm across his face before the door hits him on the backswing with considerably more than normal force behind it. He staggers but manages to leap through the doorway and attack his ridiculously tall adversary on the other side. He lands one good punch to Sam's jaw before Sam kicks him in the side of the knee, straddles him as he hits the floor face down and shoves his gun against the back of the man's head.
Dean is there with the duct tape to secure the man's hands and feet. Sam gets up and collects the thug's gun, along with that of his unconscious partner, and lays them on the bar. He leans down and offers her a hand up from the floor.
"Go check on your friends," he tells her gently. "We don't want to scare them any more than they already are."
She nods, can't speak because her heart is pounding too hard in her throat. Shelly and Mitch are okay except for being tied up, gagged and pretty freaked out. She gets them loose, reassures them and hustles them back upstairs. Shelly is crying and she puts her arm around the girl's shoulders. Mitch doesn't look her in the eye, which is just as well. What happens to him now is up to her and at the moment she is mad enough to kill him. Her anger is the only thing keeping her from breaking down.
In the bar, she finds Dean wrapping ice in a bar towel and handing it to Sam, who presses it to his jaw. The unconscious man behind the bar is wearing duct tape now as well. Dean approaches the man lying face down on the floor, jerks his elbows together above his bound hands and secures them there tightly with more tape. It looks miserably uncomfortable and doesn't seem necessary to prevent the man from escaping.
"That's for punching my brother," Dean snarls. Behind him, Sam rolls his eyes but doesn't protest.
Mitch moves the still-sobbing Shelly down to the end of the bar farthest from the carnage and pours them both a shot of whiskey. She could use one herself, but first things first. She walks over to Dean and touches his arm.
"I don't…I don't know how you knew or how you did what you did," she says, "but you saved our lives. I just…I don't know how I can ever thank you." She half turns to include Sam. "Both of you."
"Forget it," Dean replies. He smiles lopsidedly. "Seriously, forget it. Give us ten minutes before you call the cops and forget we were ever here."
"But you…" she stutters, confused. "You saved us all. You're heroes. Why…?"
"Let's just say we prefer to keep a low profile," he answered. "Make up something to tell the cops. These mugs won't say anything. Trust me, you'll be doing us a favor."
She nods. She can only think of one reason why he doesn't want the cops to know about them, but she doesn't really care. At this point she'd lie to her own mother if he asked her to.
"Come on, Sammy," Dean says. "Let's hit the road."
She watches Dean and his brother walk out of the bar with a profound sense of having brushed up against something extraordinary. She will lie to the police and then she will never discuss this day or these men with anyone else again, even Mitch and Shelly who she coerces into silence as well. But she remembers, and she wonders.
She never sees them again.