Chapter 1.0 A Night on the Town

In a messed-up world full of the stubbornly mundane trying to be superficially extraordinary, drunk nights could be impossibly trite. At least for a truly wasted person who wanted to be more plastered than he ever was in his life.

It was the fourth bar for Jake. He had meandered along in a drunken daze along the brightly lit strip the locals called Pleasure Row. After drinking beer or whiskey at the bar, he had left the other three for purely subjective reasons.

The first was a favorite watering hole for apparently successful yuppies. The bright, young faces glowing with the aura of shallow success, the branded and fashionable attire on casual yet arrogant display, the way the guys looked like they were already sure of scoring for the night, all just made him more miserable. A few beers and he was out of the pub. The damned place even smelled of expensive perfume.

The Copa Bar was a little better though it was filled with employees out for a night of drinking. At first, he didn’t mind the loud voices bragging about promotions, projects done, and inter-office fucking. But little by little, the nonsense topics started to remind him of what a loser he was.

How he got fired three days ago – being absent from work when he sent back the divorce documents his bitch of a wife sent him. It just took him an hour of not being around, a freaking thirty minutes. It was time enough for hackers to devastate the entire data system of the company. It was his shift as the Cyber Security Supervisor and the whole team got fired.

And now, office mumbo-jumbo assaulted his ears. Not that he could tune the conversations out. His years of training and traitorous instincts wouldn’t allow him.

What a way to get drunk, he mused. You get reminded over and over again on what a loser you were.

All Jake wanted was a quiet night of drinking out, one last look at the world which fucked up his life. He couldn’t even drink at home. The repo man had fun with it five days ago.

That humiliating episode was on the heels of receiving divorce papers from that back-stabbing slut, his wife. The bitch had the gall to file for divorce! After spending and running off with Jake’s hard-earned money. With her bastard stud. She did have the brilliant survival sense of moving to another state on the other side of the continent.

Bed and board gone, the nook he had found was far better than the isolated and dangerous spots Jake had the displeasure to use when on deep missions in the rocky crags of Afghanistan and Syria. Some assholes tried to disturb him while he was sleeping, seeking to practice armed proselytizing about their lofty aim of spreading the principle of unequal distribution of wealth.

They now have to worry about dislocated bones and hematomas. Jake did seriously consider a permanent retirement for a few of the extremely unsavory ones, but regretfully reconsidered. Beatings, no matter no matter severe, might be overlooked by those with shiny badges, but dead bodies would.

That was for a night, because Steve found out about it. Jake had left his meager belongings with his friend. When Steve discovered the truth, the man insisted that Jake stay with him. He finally agreed, but asked to live in the garage. Steve had a great wife, and Jake didn’t want to impose more than he had to.

The third bar was a mistake. A large group of jeering neurons was loudly laughing at him for barging into the place. All he wanted was a joint where the liquor was cheap and plentiful. And a quiet corner to drink himself to oblivion.

What Jake got was an LGBT singles club. After some beers and a few flirting passes directed at him, he gave up and went out. A few free drinks from admirers was a bonus. Once outside, bleary eyes looked at the name of the bar: Michelangelo. He mentally kicked himself.

The fourth drinking spot was an out-of-the-way bar, with a small neon light and a single door to mark its existence. If his drunk senses hadn’t noticed a figure jumping over a wall in the alley, he couldn’t have discovered the place. The door of the establishment, called Vita Bebe, was locked and soon became the target of furious knocking on his part.

The door opened, revealing a tall and muscular black man.

“What do you want?” came the terse query.

“You got whiskey? A double of Johnny B.,” Jake drunkenly asked. He could hear music in the background — nice and soothing sounds. The smell of cigarette smoke and furniture desperately in need of airing flowed out. Laughter could be heard, and a strange excitement was in the air. He didn’t give a shit.

“Yes, sir. But this place is for members only,” came the answer, though after the yes, Jake didn’t hear the rest of the reply. He pushed the door back and barged in, his momentum and sudden movement enough to put the bouncer off balance. The man’s fingers landed on his shoulder, trying to grab him as he made his way past the guard. Jake’s right hand instinctively reacted to the offending digits.

A scream came from the black man as he sank to his knees, clutching his broken fingers. Jake didn’t pay attention to it; he was focused on the bar where a small, thin and impeccably dressed man was serving drinks. The residents of entire place suddenly fell silent, leaving only the music to disturb the air. Eyes followed Jake as he wove his way to a vacant chair.

Several figures came from the shadows and started to move toward the uncaring Jake. A soft whistle sounded, and they stopped in their tracks. As if a switch was thrown, the silence which ruled the atmosphere disappeared as laughter and the sound of conversation returned. The door closed and the crippled bouncer was led to another door.

Jake watched with unfocused eyes as the man was helped from the entrance by two black-suited men. He raised his glass of whiskey to the whimpering bouncer, a skewed and alcohol-glazed smile on his face. The drink had appeared on the bar counter as if by magic. The bartender was a fast dispenser of the delights of Dionysus.

I might be in the right place after all, thought Jake, his happily soused brain remembering how quickly the double shot of whiskey appeared. On the rocks, at that.

The hubbub was just at the right level: no loud conversations, groups of twos and threes among the tables and the many secluded private cubicles. Men and women were languidly dancing, their faces and figures only coming to view only when lit by the revolving and throbbing multicolored lights focused on the dance area. Dim illumination, to the point of being dark, lit the rest of the place.

He emptied the whiskey glass and turned to the bartender, but another full glass was already before him.

Love that man, he happily thought as he toasted the drink in the direction of the bartender who was on the other side of the counter. As he did so, the man looked at him with an expressionless face.

“Love you man!” Jake cried out and then threw the drink down his throat. As he put the shot down, another glass was already waiting for him. Jake happily smiled.

“Yep! A double love, bro!” he added.

The bartender looked at Jake, face blank as ever, and with a quick nod, acknowledged him.

A sudden movement caught Jake’s attention; a man had moved onto the seat beside him. Though soused, the stubborn part of his mind which refused to get drunk noted that the area of the bar counter where he sat was unoccupied, two seats on either side were vacant. The other sections of the long counter were crowded.

He examined the newcomer out of the corner of his eyes. Quite young, around 26 to 27 years old, with an expensive looking blue blazer over a tee shirt, jeans, and trendy loafers. The bartender immediately produced a drink which he put down in front of the newcomer.

Must be a regular, thought Jake. Then he went back to the business of being drunk as hell.

“Hi, you must be a new member,” said the man.


“Man, this is a member’s only club. And what you did to Roger wasn’t nice. Though impressive. He’s a Ranger veteran, after all. I didn’t even see what you did. It was that fast.”

The voice was friendly. Calm. Collected. With just the right amount of arrogant superiority. Not enough to raise Jake’s hackles.

“A Ranger, huh? Must have gone soft. He should have thought twice before laying hands on a stranger. Had his chance the moment I entered the door,” slurred Jake.

“Oh. You’re a vet? What unit?”

“Sorry. Classified as hell. I could tell you, not that it matters now anyway. But no. Too many bad memories.”

“No problem, Jake.”