May 24th, 2023
Joe's Tavern, Brooklyn, New York.
A man sat alone at the bar; mid-thirties, sporting a brown leather trench along with a vest, white dress shirt, black tie beneath and slacks. His tie was loosened, his frown was stern as he clenched his teeth and watched the two ice cubes melt inside his glass of whiskey. It was late and no one else was at the bar; most of the regulars either had left or were passed out in the back alley outside.
The bartender, Joe, approached the man. Joe had seen the man before--one could say they were acquaintances from a time before--but one could also say they were complete strangers to one another. It really all depended on who you asked.
"Penny for your thoughts, friend?" Joe asked the man, as he wiped a glass with his rag.
"Do you believe people can change, Joe?" the man replied. "Or are we simply destined to stay the way we are for all of eternity?"
"Ha, eternity you say? Well, I don't know about that, friend, but I do believe people are capable of some kind of change. Even in the slightest."
"This is where I have to disagree with you, Joe, I don't believe that at all."
"Why do you say that?"
"There's... this old acquaintance of mine. We met years ago, and we used to be close--well, not so much anymore. Some might say we had a falling out. Thing is, I am pretty sure to this day, he is still the same man."
"I don't follow," Joe stood confused, but kept listening.
"He is... a fixer of sorts. He takes out the trash, if you get my meaning."
"More of a hunter, to be honest. He tracks down people like me."
"Ah.. now I follow," Joe said as he poured himself a glass of whiskey as well.
"Back then, he didn't know--he wasn't aware. So we became friends, we were close up until that very moment when he--"
"--he discovered you were enhanced."
"Yes exactly. You see, ever since then he's had this thing. He comes looking for me for some sort of... parlay. A piece offering for lack of a better word. Too busy hunting others, you know, but he hasn't forgotten about me. And he likes to make it perfectly clear."
"That's the thing, Joe. Our latest meeting, I'm afraid, starts the minute he walks in through your doors." The man took his glass and drank it all in one shot. He smacked his lips and savored the aftertaste. He let out a sigh and turned to face the entrance to the bar.
"Wait a minute..." Joe stood perplexed, looking at the doors as well, and setting down his drink without taking a sip.
There was silence; silence that felt like it contaminated the air for hours, even though it was mere minutes--minutes before a shadowy figured entered the tavern and stood there, observing. He scanned the entire room and started walking up to the bar where the man was sitting.
When the shadowy figure got closer, Joe could make out the details. He must have been around mid fifties, scrawny beard, grey coat, three piece suit beneath, but rugged, like he had just came from a scrap with a bunch of the regulars in the alley. Clothes were wrinkled, dirty--old. And the wrinkles in his face told Joe this man had seen some shit. His shoes were covered in mud, he really could pass up as homeless more than anything. And Joe thought maybe he was.
"Welcome to Joe's Tavern, fella, I'm Joe. What'll be tonight?" He said calmly so to not come out as hostile, given what his pal at the bar had just told him.
The man ignored Joe and walked up closer to his pal. He took out a pack of smokes from his coat and lit up a cigarette. He took a couple of puffs and blew smoke in their direction. He coughed lightly and got closer without saying a word or taking his eyes off his pal.
"Well, well, you look worse for wear, old friend," the older fella finally let out some words and they were not directed to Joe at all.
"I could say the same thing about you.... *old friend,* but then again, who are we kidding right? We both have seen better days, haven't we?" the man said sarcastically, quickly grabbing Joe's still untouched drink and approaching the older fella.
"Careful, you might be onto something; but as they say, seek the truth and you shall find him." The older fella met up with the man, face to face, inches apart, eyes locked on one another, you could feel the tension in the air, and Joe was not having it.
"Well, yes, indeed, but we can be civil about it, like old times, yeah?"
"Right. So the hard way then." The older fella took his coat off and dropped it to the floor, to Joe's surprise, he sprouted wings. He stood behind the counter with his hands now holding the rifle he had in his hidden compartment.
"Listen, fellas, whatever it is... please take it outside," Joe said calmly but finger on the trigger.
"Listen, Joe, you know I love your bar... so believe me when I say this, when this is all over, I'll cover your expenses and we'll have this place looking spiffy once more," the man took a swig of Joe's drink, and dropping the glass to the floor, charged at the older fella. Before the glass even touched the ground to shatter, they were both fighting and tossing the place apart. Feathers and blood and broken furniture flying across the room. Joe, hidden behind the counter, holding his rifle for protection but in fear, started to shake and scream, hoping it would all be over soon.
Joe's Tavern would close indefinitely the next day. Only one casualty would be filed on the police report, and the building would soon be shut down, foreclosed, and become a home for all those transients who used to get piss-drunk and pass out in the alley behind it.
No one would mourn Joe, well, except for the man, for he had outlived his family and friends and had no one else left.
And every year, the older fella would chase down the man to wherever he was, have the same short conversation, and someone else would be filed in a police report as a casualty to which the media would later refer to as a casualty of "an enhanced nature."
But the media would never tell you the whole story, no--and you could try and search for more information online but, it wouldn't help you. No.
You'd have to hire someone like me if you were, say, interested in learning more about the truth.
And trust me, the truth and I, we go way back. Some could even say we're as close as brothers. And trust me, because, why would I lie to you?