The Last Stop
In every area of life there is tragedy. I never needed to look far. It always seemed to find me. I always wanted to get out of town, take the red eye, and wake up somewhere clean. Instead here I was in L.A. on a dark rain soaked night in a dive bar. The bar was called The Last Stop or at least something like that. The sign was nearly gone and no one cared to remember. I was drinking to forget, leaning heavily on the bar. I had little to my name, a pack of Camels and an old military issue pistol. I lit a cigarette and exhaled slowly.
I had a girl on my mind. She was a lovely creature with long golden hair, a singer. Her stage name was Rapunzel. She belonged to Harry Wilcott and Harry kept her locked up. He was the jealous type and wouldn’t let her be seen. I was a detective but I’d also worked for Harry, been on his payroll. I had learned to look the other way, keep Harry’s interests in mind.
I had first seen Rapunzel singing in a jazz bar. Amidst the marijuana smoke and the gin she had hovered. She was like a mirage in the desert, unreal and out of reach. She had seen me watching and her eyes met mine. Her smile was dazzling and more intoxicating than the cheap whiskey I was swilling.
I saw her in person a few days later. I was at Harry’s house; one of his guys had shown me in. Harry was out and Rapunzel had played hostess. She was clearly bored and she toyed with me. She poured me a drink and sat close, her breathing seductive. She caressed a cigarette. I lit it.
She blew smoke rings into my face. I leaned in close and our lips met. Harry walked in and all hell broke loose. Two of his guys held me down and Harry yelled in my face. He was pissed. He hit me in the mouth and I spat out teeth.
Rapunzel was locked away in her room. Harry took my eyes. He gouged them out and consigned me to the dark, to a lifetime in solitary. He tossed me out into the street, blind. A sightless man, lost to the dark alleys, whores, criminals and reefer addicts. I was broken. They took my badge, gave me a watch in its place.
So here I find myself, in a dive bar like any other, five years on, jaded and forgotten. I’m the flotsam now, the scum, a barfly. In the Last Stop I wait for Harry. He fucks girls here; the waitresses do more than serve drinks. I lean on the bar, alone in the dark. A girl approaches me; I can smell her perfume, heady Moroccan Rose.
“Looking for a good time?” She asks. I turn my head towards her, lighting my smoke, revealing my empty eye sockets.
“Perhaps looking’s the wrong word,” I say. “I’m waiting for Harry.”
I know she knows Harry. Harry is a favourite here. He spends money like it has one meaning. She sits next to me.
“What happened to you?” She asks. I smile, gap toothed.
“A girl,” I say. “Is Harry here?”
“In the back, playing cards. You want to join him? You’ll need money,” she says.
“Just take me to him,” I say.
The girl takes my hand and leads me. We pass through a door and the noise from the bar becomes muffled. I follow the sound of her footsteps. We turn a corner and I sense we are no longer alone.
“Harry,” she calls “Someone here to see you.”
Bad choice of words I thought. Harry won’t recognise me. Time changes a man’s appearance at least. I hear his footsteps approach.
“Who the fuck is it? I’m playing cards.” No change in Harry I notice. I offer my hand, Harry takes it, and I pull him in close. He notices my sightless gaze and my toothless grin. I pull my gun from my pocket and press it close, right into his gut.
“You’ll remember me,” I say as I pull the trigger.