The two long-lost friends sat across from each other, at one of the small tables inside The Dockmaster. Mallory Peck found herself looking at a friend who hadn’t changed too much since the last time she saw him. Granted the black, short-trimmed, beard was new and the face of the tan-skinned, Pakistani male in front of her had aged some, but these things only added to his already dashing good looks. With his looks and the stylish, tailored, navy blue suit he wore, Daniel Lovely definitely stuck out in the old fisherman’s bar. “Looking great, Lovely!” she said.
“And you seriously haven’t aged one bit, Peck!” said Lovely.
Peck felt him assessing her and it made her feel a bit uncomfortable. Not because he was gazing at her dark skin and her bushy, curly, black hair with a lustful gaze. All the years she has known him, Lovely has never looked at her in that way. No, she knew he was trying to crack the code to her still youthful appearance. A secret she didn’t want to discuss with him…ever.
“Bring a bottle to share a drink.” said a soft, gravelly voice, on the other side of The Dockmaster. The only other patron in the place; an old sailor sitting in shadows, leaning his chair back against the wall. Lovely seemed to ignore the old sailor, but Peck picked up on the statement and used it to change the conversation.
“So, thanks for abiding by the house rules,” she said as she started pouring the bourbon whisky Lovely brought with him, into two shot glasses. She pushed a glass towards him and said, “I would’ve hated to kick out a newcomer from our cozy, little, watering hole.”
“Oh? This isn’t one of those roughneck bars I’ve heard so much about, is it?” Lovely asked with a smile before taking a sip from his glass.
“Oh yeah!” said Peck. “Can’t ya tell?” She stretched out her arms wide to soak in the near empty ambience of The Dockmaster. “This place gets rowdy! You should see Trivia Night. Gets down right dangerous!”
The sound of Lovely gently tapping twice on his whisky glass alerted Mallory Peck of her surroundings more than a gunshot would have. She already knew Lovely wasn’t here for idle chit-chat and possibly catching up on old times. Lovely entering the bar meant that a job needed to be done, but those two taps told her that she was in danger.
“So, a bartender these days, eh?” asked Lovely.
“Yeah. Sorta.” said Peck. Her focus wasn’t fully on the conversation at hand, but with the item Lovely tap his glass with. He was wearing a ring on his pinky finger. A thin, silver band with two, small ruby settings on top. Peck had questions but knew she couldn’t ask them just yet. The Job comes first. So she faked a grin on her face and said, “I work the bar most days and live in the cozy little apartment upstairs.” She gave a shrug and took a drink from her glass before she added, “I just needed something simple while I sort some things out.”
“Bartending is simple?” Lovely asked as he took a glance towards the door. “Myself, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Rum & Coke, and a Cuba Libré.”
“What?” Lovely responded. Looking back at Peck, he pushed his empty glass towards her and got up from his chair.
“The difference between a Rum & Coke and a Cuba Libré.” Peck noticed that the ring was gone from Lovely’s pinky finger. She got up from her chair as well and collected the whisky bottle and their shot glasses. “A Cuba Libré has a lime in it. Rum & Coke doesn’t.”
“Now you know.”
“Gratitude is nice. Gratuity is better.”
Lovely gave a smirk and then took out his wallet. He placed a twenty on the table. “I’m staying at the Elysian Hotel, downtown. I’ll be in town until the end of the week. Come see me.” He walked over to the door of the The Dockmaster and placed his hand on the handle to open it. “You will come see me, won’t you?” he asked.
“Sure.” replied Peck. She had already stuffed the twenty dollar bill into her pocket and was placing everything else on the bar. She didn’t look back at him. She didn’t want to. She just sighed and said, “I’ll be there.”
The door to The Dockmaster closed behind her and after a few minutes, the bar once again became cold and silent. From the shadowed corner of the bar, the soft, gravelly voice spoke again. “Your friend seems…lovely.”
“Shut up, old man.” said Peck.
All she heard, as she walked towards the storeroom in back, was a hoarse chuckle from the old sailor. At least he seemed amused by his little joke.