Introit black dog, p.1
by Oliver J Olinger
Copyright 2014 Oliver J Olinger
by Oliver J Olinger
Paul Auxten felt several sets of eyes on him as he mixed a complex series of cocktails with the expert flair of a practiced vaudevillian. The fluid and harmonious beauty of his skilled movements stood out in diametric contrast to the Epicurean sloppiness of Amand's Ale Tank. This filthy dive of a saloon was shoehorned between an antique furniture shop and a consignment store in a small, mostly-deserted suburban business district. A few of the slightly-less-inebriated patrons cheered him on with a piercing loudness typical of those more practiced in the art of binge drinking. One set of eyes, however, sat uneasily on Paul's face, rather than on the performance of his impressive talent. A small, 30-something man sat, partially obscured in shadow, in a remote corner of the bar. He watched Paul with a sober intensity rare in such an establishment.
This mystery man had only requested a simple glass of ice water upon his arrival, before retiring to his dark corner. Paul finished pouring his freshly mixed cocktails into a cascade of stacked serving glasses and instinctively became aware of the mysterious customer, despite the fact that he had approached the bar quietly, outside of Paul's field of vision. “Another Sunset Martini?” Paul asked, peaking around the edge of a bar-adjacent, structural support pillar, behind which stood the unknown man.
“If 'Sunset Martini' means a glass of ice water, then yes.” answered the stranger.
“Yes, sir.” Paul responded as he ran another patron's credit card at the register.
“My name is Toma Pietruszka,” replied the small, scrawny man as he emerged from his hiding place behind the support pillar, “...and may I ask why you call it a Sunset Martini?”
“I used to bartend at a club on the Sunset Strip in L.A. They watered down the booze so much that we always joked about how our martinis were more water than martini. The name eventually stuck and I brought it down here to middle-of-nowhere Florida when I moved.”
“Ah,” chuckled Toma, “I think I'll work that into my personal lexicon. It's humorous.”
“I thought so when I coined the term,” answered Paul, with a quizzical look on his face. He quickly brought a freshly printed credit card receipt and a pen back to a hammered customer who had obviously forgotten that beverages ordered at a bar required payment. The angry drunk attempted to deny the charges, and Toma watched as Paul placed the pen firmly into the man's hand and subdued him effortlessly with one hand at the bar with quick and effortless pressure point persuasion. The drunk man reluctantly signed the credit slip. Paul thanked the injured drunk and walked back over to Toma, scooping up ice and filling a glass with water in one, fluid movement as he approached. He slapped down a napkin and set the glass noiselessly on top of it, right in front of Toma.
“You're not our usual brand of customer, Mr. Pietruszka. What do you want?” Paul stated in a blunt and straightforward manner. Toma was slightly taken aback.
“No, I suppose not,” he answered, “I was strolling by and only stopped in for some re-hydration, but I couldn't help but notice that you aren't a typical bartender, either.”
“Of course not, I'm an outstanding bartender.”
“Oh, I think you're a little more than just that.”
“OK... What makes you say that?”
Toma looked around the room briefly, at the many faces deeply involved in an overabundance of levity and joyousness. “Just a few seemingly insignificant things, that are in reality actually quite significant.” he answered in a low tone.
“Well, I guess seemingly insignificant behaviors stand out like a black lab in a poodle factory to an attentive gentleman like yourself.” Paul responded, quickly giving the bar a once-over to see if any customers were ready for a refill. Toma's eyes widened at the statement, so much so that Paul took a precautionary step backward. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“What made you pick that particular analogy?” Toma asked in a slow and deliberate tone.
“I don't know...” Paul wore a slightly uncomfortable expression as the conversation began to take on a bizarre tone.
Toma quickly regained his composure and returned to a regular. conversational tone, “Never mind. I'll just cut to the proverbial chase. I need to hire somebody for a job..., and I'm willing to pay that person two thousand dollars for services rendered.”
Paul raised his eyebrows slightly, “Hire someone for what?”
“Nothing immoral or unethical, Mr. Auxten, I can assure you. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Just meet me here tomorrow morning,” Toma slid a business card across the bar on top of a crisp hundred dollar bill and turned to leave the room.
Paul looked at the card, which had a local hotel name and address written on the back. He called out after Toma, “I'm not promising anything.” But the pub door shut behind Toma before Paul finished his sentence. He looked at the business card again and flipped it over to read typewritten text; 'Toma Pietruszka- Paranormal Researcher' along with a cell phone number and an email address.
Introit- Black Dog by Oliver J Olinger / Horror have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes