He glanced down at his watch. Just about half-past one in the morning. He used the back of his hand to stifle a yawn just as a new round of laughter rose within the bar. Closing time would be in another half hour, but the people inside wouldn't start rolling out until well after the sun began to rise. It was their bar after all. No one would be ushering anyone out.
The laughter rose again almost as soon as it had begun to peter out. He couldn't see what exactly what the laughter was all about; most of the laughter was centered on a small group of people located near the back of the bar. Most of Frank Zuko's boys. He didn't really care much for Frank Zuko's boys. Not that it mattered much to anyone who he did and didn't care for.
He finished the last of his drink and tossed a twenty next to his empty glass-not for the drink since drinks were always free for Danny McDohll's boys (and he supposed Frank Zuko's boys now, too)-but for the bartender. The man had hit his prime thirty years ago and could barely see through the cataracts anymore but he could still put together a pretty mean whisky sour. Maybe because there wasn't much to put together.
He stood and headed toward the door, giving the crowd near the back one last look before grabbing his jacket he had hung on one of the dozen hooks Kelly the bartender had installed decades ago. He caught a nod from Kelly as the twenty was pocketed, which was returned before he slipped out into the cold. It was too early for any of the crew to be ducking out of the bar, but he really wasn't part of the crew anymore so what did it matter? No one was really going to miss him unless they needed some stolen cars disappeared or a ride for themselves for whatever reason. And no one was going to need that tonight. Tonight was all about Frank Zuko and his boys, welcome to the family, have a few drinks on us. Biggest mistake ever, in his opinion, not that it mattered.
He slid behind the wheel of his most prized possession, a work in progress 1972 Chevy Camaro. More important than anything in his life, which was one reason he would be returning to an empty apartment tonight and every night for the past six months, and it would have been finished by now if the boys hadn't been hounding him with requests for the past year or so, another reason he would be returning to an empty apartment. There was a third reason Jenna had screamed at him as she was storming down the hallway, one suitcase bouncing off a thigh as she walked, the other following behind on wheel, occasionally tipping to one side which caused her to become even more agitated and even louder and forcing even more neighbors to curiously poke a head out to see what was going on. But what that third reason was, he couldn't remember. Mainly because he had already slammed the door to their apartment shut and had begun to work on the bottle of vodka that had been waiting patiently in the freezer for his return.
The Camaro started on the third crank of the key, which was normal for his little work in progress, and the heater thankfully decided to work today. It was supposed to be just above zero tonight, but the wind had kicked in unexpectedly from the Lake and it felt at least twenty degrees colder. Hell, with weather like this he should be thankful his little work in progress had decided to start at all. He figured he wouldn't be so lucky in the morning, or rather in four hours when he had to be up for work.
He headed south on Halsted before taking a right on 31st. His apartment wasn't too far away, chosen for that very reason. He only traveled a couple of blocks before turning left on South Morgan and following that until he hit 38th. His building was right there on the left. It took him almost as long to find a free parking spot as it did to get him home, but he finally found one on 38th Place, right beneath a 'No Parking Between The Hours Of 6AM And 10PM' sign, one of many in the neighborhood. I wouldn't be a problem, as long as he beat the tow truck. He would have to remember to set the alarm for 5:15 instead of 5:30.
His apartment was dark and nearly as cold as it was outside. He made his way to his bedroom without turning on the lights, or the heat, and switched on the portable heater next to his bed. Leaving the apartment heat off had saved him a lot of money over the past six months, even though he wasn't exactly hurting for cash. But old habits died hard and messy and he remembered those days he was strapped for cash and had to make a choice between food, alcohol or the rent. Usually, alcohol won that battle. Any battle when it really came down to it. Maybe that was the third reason Jenna had been screaming about six months ago. Did it really matter? Not really.
He collapsed into bed without taking anything but his shoes off, and buried himself beneath the heavy blankets without remembering to make the corrections to his alarm clock, or even remember to turn it on.