A Scene

The Haven was run by a man known only as Speak Easy, whose name Flint had never really accepted. (“Did he put any imagination into it at all?” he’d commented to Percy, “I’m almost offended at the lack of effort.”) Speak Easy had made a fortune during prohibition, running liquor from Canada and distributing it throughout the Eastern Seaboard. It was never Flint’s job to enforce The Noble Experiment, a good thing, since he’d stopped subscribing to temperance around the same time that he tied on the mask. The Haven might have existed before the 18th amendment, but as far as anyone could recall it seemed to only have sprung up at the moment of ratification.

The myriad gangs of New Amsterdam, the police officers, the masked villains, and Osiris Flint all rubbed elbows at The Haven. It was neutral ground. Speak Easy didn’t take sides and he wouldn’t allow any blood to be shed in his establishment. There had never been a skirmish within a two block radius of the bar. It was, perhaps, the only rule in New Amsterdam upheld by everyone.

Flint pulled his motorcycle to a stop at the curb. The bar’s entrance was in an alley. At the street was a sign that read, “Haven Beverage Distribution, LLC.” Below that hung a shingle with the lines, “No Guns, No Blades.” The smells of spilt whiskey and stale beer made Flint realize that he hadn’t had a drink since the night he was shot. His mouth went dry at the thought. He steeled himself and shoved shaking hands into his pockets. He pushed the door open with his foot.

The inside of The Haven was hazy. Smoke filled the air from a foot off the ground to the ceiling. Gas lamps flicked and hissed along the walls. There were no open seats at any of the tables, and the bar was full too. But as Flint approached the bar, a heavyset old man stood up, tossed a bill on the counter, nodded at Flint, and moved to join another table. Flint nodded in return and took the seat at the bar.

“Action Man. I heard you were dead. Caught two from some pup?” Speak Easy stood on the other side of the counter. He was built like a gorilla, with brawny arms that hung to his knees. His voice never rose above more than a whisper, but Speak Easy never had any difficulty being heard in his bar.

Flint knocked on the bar, “Dead where I stand. Fix me a double.”

“And yet here you are. What it’s been, a week? You got out on good behavior?” Speak Easy pulled a bottle of Scotch from below the bar and set a tumbler in front of Flint. He filled the glass to the rim. Before Speak Easy could put it away, Flint grabbed the bottle and placed it on the bar next to his drink.

“It’s a hospital, not a prison. Doctors said I was sound as a pound.” Flint finished his drink in two gulps and refilled the glass, “What do you know about the ‘pup’?”

Speak Easy scratched his throat and looked down the bar. He set his hairy knuckles onto the bar and leaned in close, “Never heard peep about the kid before he popped you. Now I can’t wipe my ass without hearing his name. Unfortunately, that’s about it.”

“You lie worse than your breath smells.”

“No lies. Look, the kid was here. Once.”

“When?”

“Night you were shot? Came in here, barrel still hot, and hollered everyone had the chance to buy a drink for the man killed Osiris Flint.”

“Any takers?” Flint emptied his glass again.

Speak Easy smiled “Not a one, Action Man. They might hate you, but at least they respect you. No one here even snapped their fingers in response to the pup. He stood there, eyes not believing the lack of fanfare, then he turned around and left. Haven’t seen him since.”

“Kid wants me dead. Wants it bad. And for no apparent reason but the simple satisfaction of the kill. I need to find him.”

“Don’t tell me this is your first death threat.”

“It’s not, but there’s something different here. Other guys, other villains, they’d kill me as means to an end, but I’m not their primary target. This guy, I’m afraid he’ll kill however many it takes just to get to me. I can’t have that.”

Speak Easy pushed back from the bar and shook his head, “I’ll never understand this game you boys play. You get all costumed up and dance around each other. It’s all mischief and mayhem. It’s still a wonder to me that any of you survived The War.”

Flint met Speak Easy’s eyes, “The War was real.”

“And this isn’t?”

“It’s a different beast. This hero thing might echo into the whole world, but it really only involves us. The War involved everybody. I watched men die in those trenches. Too many men.”

“Action Man, here’s my take even though you didn’t ask for it. It’s all posturing. Now this pup shows up, offers real consequences and you don’t know what to do. Now there’s something at stake.”

“There have been things at stake before. I know how real this can get.” Flint poured another drink, “Now, is there anyone here who might put me onto The Smoking Gun?”

Speak Easy pointed down the bar and moved on to help another customer. Flint turned to where Speak Easy had pointed. At the end of the bar sat a grey-haired man in a white swallow-tail and top hat: The Great Escape.

As far as past villains went, The Great Escape had a minor role in Osiris Flint’s career. Escape’s real name was Gustave Fortune. He was a vaudeville magician who turned to crime after the death of his wife. Escape was never very interested in pulling off whatever heist or destructive plot he had worked up. It was all about evading Flint and escaping capture. Often, he would conduct his nefarious plans restrained in a straight jacket and dangling upside down. After The War, Escape, like many of the others, had given up villainy. He returned to the stage and used his infamy as a marketing tool. But he still had connections. They all had connections.

Flint carried his bottle and glass down to Escape and sat down in a newly vacated seat. Escape looked up when his former rival placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Osiris. To what do I owe the honor?” Escape removed the top hat and smoothed the thinning hair on top of his head. His scalp was splotchy and pink.

“Escape. What has it been? Two years?”

“Too long, old man. Too long. I’d offer to buy you a drink, but.” Escape gestured at the bottle. Escape had a half empty martini glass sitting at the bar before him.

“I need some information, Gustave. I’m sure you’ve heard about the shooting.”

“I did indeed. I had even dusted off my black suit, in preparation for a funeral. Quite the scare, Osiris. Glad to see you managed to… er… escape Death?”

“This time,” Flint took a drink from his tumbler. His hand shook and the glass rattled as it was set back onto the counter.

Escape’s eyebrows lifted, “But perhaps not for long?”

Flint dismissed the comment with a trembling wave of his hand, “That’s why I’m here, Gustave. I need to find the kid. What do you know?”

The Great Escape chuckled nervously. He finished his martini in one swallow and waved his hand down the bar at Speak Easy, “He showed up in New Amsterdam at the beginning of the month. Kept a low profile, stealing from gun shops and the like. The first time anyone paid any real notice of him was the night you were shot.”

“Old news, Gustave. I need personal information on this kid.”

“Understood, understood. His real name is Francis Lancaster. He’s of money, which makes me wonder why he’s stealing all of his hardware. Probably for the reputation, who knows. Anyway, I know he stayed with Dire Wolf for a few nights when he first got into town. Wolf didn’t want anything to do with him, but the kid cited the Charter”

“The Charter? I thought that was just something that Sphinx made up. A joke.”

Escape’s face dropped at the mention of Sphinx, but he regained his composure with a laugh, “I thought so too. But apparently Lancaster had heard of it, and I’m sure he made himself pretty persuasive with his big guns and all. You know how Wolf gets around firearms.”

Flint nodded and poured himself another drink. Speak Easy had stepped over to them and was shaking another martini into Escape’s glass. Speak Easy dipped his head at the two men and then walked away.

“Charter or no Charter, Wolf let the kid stay at his place. I’ll believe that Wolf was under duress, God knows that man went through enough on the front lines, but that means Wolf and I need to have a little chat. I need to find this kid before someone gets really hurt.”

“Someone other than you, you mean,” Escape raised his martini glass and took a sip.

“Other than me. This kid is bad news.”

“You can say that again, old man.”

“Gustave, this is probably unrelated, but have you heard anything about Sphinx lately?”

Escape swallowed hard. He tapped on the bar. “Only that he’s fallen off of the radar.”

Flint looked at Escape without saying anything. He fingered the rim of his tumbler. The noises of the bar surrounded the two old men. Flint snorted through his nose, “That’s what I thought. It’s a little too quiet on the Western Front, if you ask me. Well, keep your ear to the ground, Gustave. I might need your help again in the near future. For now, I’ll go scratch up Dire Wolf and see what he has for me. Keep your nose clean.” Flint stood and tucked the nearly empty bottle of Scotch into an inner pocket of his coat. He squeezed Escape on the shoulder and headed for the door. He caught Speak Easy’s eye on the way out and said, “Put it on my tab.”

 

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One Response to “A Scene”

  1. Some Dude Out West of Town Says:

    I can taste the stench of the bar and the din of conversation. I’m starting to get a handle on the characters.

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