The Blue Benjo liked neon, cheap liquor, and, despite its logo looking like the dog from Blues Clues, was known for housing Silver City’s lowlife. With a population of 400,000 and a top ten university in the heart of the city, Silver City had quite a few places like this. It was easy to see as I walked into the dimly lit but crowded bar who was a college student braving the place and who belonged here. With my leather jacket, ripped jeans, and messy bun, I could have been either. But the taser in my pocket and the fact that the bar keeper smiled when he saw me definitely put me in the category of belonging.
“Asena.” Peter, the Benjo bartender, had always reminded me of a duckling, with his fine, bleach blonde hair sticking up and his gangly limbs always making him look uncoordinated despite the fact that I had never seen him so much as spill a drop of alcohol. He couldn’t have been much younger than thirty, but I was sure he was carded every time he bought a drink.
“Hey Peter,” I said and leaned against the bar.
“Haven’t seen you here in awhile,” he remarked as he poured a cranberry and vodka.
“Awe, did you miss me?” I asked, dropping down on a stool, dragging my usual drink towards me.
“Last time you knocked out one of my customer’s with that taser that’s probably in your pocket right now. The break’s been nice.” His voice was hard but a smile played at the corner of his lip.
“C’mon, he grabbed her. What could I do?” I smiled a big toothy grin.
“Let Bruce take care of it,” he replied. I knew bouncer, a mountain of a man, would have squashed that guy but not soon enough for my taste.
“I promise I won’t taser anyone who doesn’t really deserve it,” I said and crossed my heart with my finger.
“Are you here to reminisce or harass more of my customers?” he asked wryly, wiping the bar down with a stained rag.
“Just one. Some guy named Francis?”
“That hot shot? Hannah broke his hand for something stupid and I told him next time Bruce will break more than that. That was,” he leaned against the bar, thinking, “last Saturday?”
“Great,” I groaned and took another sip. “You haven’t heard anything about this guy he’s working for, have you?”
“Hey,” a man plopped down on the stool on my left. The bloodshot eyes, the stench of whiskey, and the mussed hair made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I leaned away, my eyes staying on the slightly melted ice cube in the middle of my bright red drink.
“Moira?” I stiffened at the sound of my mother’s name but refused to look over.
“C’mon Moira, you ‘member me. Berny? That rat you call a husband screwed me over ‘bout five years ago. C’mon, I’m sure he told ya ‘bout it.” The words were slurred together but the meaning was clear enough.
“I’m sorry, I’m not Moira,” I answered, my voice biting. I straightened up as I turned and stared him down with as much authority as I could muster. I hoped his blurry eyes could make out the difference between us and just leave me alone.
“Naw, you’re a young little thing,” he said and his shoulders slumped. He leaned against the bar, pushing himself up from his stool. He stopped though and looked at me through narrowed eyes. His chest puffed up as an idea seemed to take hold. “But he did have a kid.” He sat back down, ordering another whiskey. Peter didn’t move and instead glared, but Berny didn’t seem to notice.
“You talked with ya old man? I can’t seem to find him,” he said. He reached out and twirled my pony tail slightly. I yanked my head away from his sticky fingers.
“I don’t talk to him,” I answered through gritted teeth. I slipped my hand into my pocket and grabbed hold of my taser.
“Every daddy’s got a soft spot for his girly.” He leaned back, looking me up and down, and rubbed his bushy mustache. “Wonder what he’d do to get you back?”
Bruce seemed to materialize from nowhere and set a large beefy hand on the guy’s shoulder.
“I think you should be moving on, friend,” he said. His voice came out in a low deep growl and any sane man would have run away. Or at least any sober one.
“I think you should butt the hell out, pal,” Berny said and pushed the hand off his shoulder. “Me and the lady got some business.”
“Actually we don’t,” I said and stood up. I took a step back and he reached out faster than I expected, clasping my right arm in a surprising tight grip. Unfortunately that was the arm that was holding my taser, which was now pinned to my side.
“Sir, you don’t want to do that,” Bruce said as he stepped as far between us as he could, our arms almost wrapped around him.
“I said, this ain’t your business,” he growled and shoved Bruce as hard as he could, in the process releasing me. I skipped away and the movement caught his eye. “Come back here,” he roared, lunging over the stool towards me.
Bruce, who regained his balance quickly, reached him before his grasping fingers reached me. I backed up even further, knocking into a wooden, round table.
“Hey!” I looked back and I had spilled a bit of beer on one of the three guys sitting at the table.
‘Sorry,” I offered, swiveling back. Bruce had Berny in a tight head lock, with his cheeks turning a reddish purple, and was dragging him towards the door. I exhaled, loosening my fingers from the taser.
Berny thrashed his legs as he struggled against Bruce but the choke hold almost effectively incapacitated him. I started to turn back, ready to make a real apology. Before I had though, I watched as Berny make a connection with a table top. The four guys crowded around it had been laughing at Berny’s misfortune, but started spewing profanities as their pitcher of beer went flying and splattered them all.
Bruce was only steps from the door and chucking Berny out of it, but the soaked men sprang up, red faced with hands in fists. They reached the struggling pair and the first of the four punched Berny in the side. Berny gasped and Bruce was forced to let go as the other three started circling them. Bruce pushed the first guy back while Berny struggled to regain his breath. Before I could blink, the other guys were reacting and pouncing on Bruce. I watched the brawl unfold, speechless. The guy whose beer I spilled stood up slowly, looking between the two sides, unsure of who to join.
“Sit down,” I snapped. To my surprise, he sank back down and heeded my death glare. His tensed and his eyes darted behind me. I turned in time to dodge a tackle from Berny. I banged my hip on their table and felt a hot burst of pain.
I focused back on Berny who had stumbled into a bar stool and was attempting to disentangle himself. I gritted my teeth as I yanked my taser out, doing my best to ignore the steady throbbing on my hip. Berny lunged again and I sidestepped his drunken stumble, able to stick the taser into his side. I pressed down till my finger hurt. He jolted hard as the electrodes spewed out a charge and crashed to the ground. The now exposed end of the taser continued to spark for a moment until I let go of the button. The table guy was standing now, his eyes wide as he looked at my taser. He wasn’t the only one, but most eyes were still watching Bruce struggle with the others. Two were on the floor, either unconscious or staying down.
I debated jumping in with my taser, though I was slightly worried I might hit Bruce. Before I had time to decide, the door banged open.
“Police, break it up,” the blue shirted officer yelled. He quickly took in the ruckus and yanked a guy off Bruce. The last guy stopped and backed away with his arms up. I froze, the taser still in my hand. My lips twisted into a frown as I stared at the cop.
A grin spread over his face.
“Asena, why are you always in the middle of a bar brawl?”