Well, here it is, the last day of Story A Day May. If you haven’t visited the Story A Day website, I heartily endorse it. It’s a great place to meet other writers and get one-stop assistance and pointers on everything from action scenes to … to something about writing that begins with the letter Z.
I’ve had a blast this year, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my stories. Some mornings have been more of a challenge than others, but, as always, it’s been a great workout.
I still blog every day, but my fiction will be done off-blog until next May. Meanwhile, I invite you to visit my Free Reads page, and to sample my books and published short stories (links below the story).
Steffie at the Bar
by Marian Allen
As Steffie polished the long mahogany bar counter prior to locking up, she paused. The action was reminding her of something. A quick riffle through her television memories brought up The Karate Kid – wax on, wax off – but that wasn’t it. After a few more circular swipes, she had it: Jackie Gleason as Joe the Bartender.
She was still chuckling at the thought when a dumpy little woman walked in. Bridget Macintosh, as she was calling herself on this assignment. Steffie knew all about her enemy counterpart’s present job, but it had nothing to do with her. Perhaps, of all the gin joints in all the world, Bridget had just happened to walk into her current cover.
“Sorry, Miss,” Steffie said. “Closing time.”
“Aw, just one? Not even a cocktail, just a shot?” There was a sly jokiness about that last word that alerted Steffie’s every spy sense.
“Why not? On the house, since it’s after hours.”
“It’s never after hours,” said Bridget, and Steffie knew that, if Bridget hadn’t been instructed to kill her as a sub-sub-secret part of her assignment, she had been given the go-ahead after she had reported Steffie’s presence in town.
Oh, well. It had always been a possibility.
Steffie pulled a tall, slim, frosted-glass bottle with a lemon peel emblazoned on it from under the counter. “Might as well have some of the good stuff.”
Bridget was partial to vodka, and could afford to buy the best, but even she had never flown as high as this brand.
Bridget cocked an eyebrow. “Generous.”
Steffie poured two shot glasses full and lifted hers. “We, who are about to die, salute you.”
They each tossed back the shot. Bridget nearly closed her eyes in pleasure.
The women were evenly matched. As they shared shot after shot, each, with finely honed instincts and perceptions, noted the other’s intentions and ever-so-slightly conveyed counter-intentions. It was like a knock-down-drag-out fight-to-the-finish played out in subliminal micro-signals.
The last of the bottle didn’t quite fill both shot glasses.
“Next!” said Steffie, reaching beneath the counter again.
Bridget didn’t even twitch. If Steffie had come up with a bazooka, she would have been ready. But Steffie came up with another frosted-glass and lemon-emblazoned bottle.
She finished filling Bridget’s glass and filled her own.
“Here’s mud in yer eye,” she said, and they downed the shots.
Bridget feigned blowing fire from her mouth. “Is this stuff getting stronger?”
“This bottle’s probably from a different batch. They have a still, not a distillery, so each batch is a little different.”
“Thou hast saved the best for last,” said Bridget, as they tossed back another shot.
Steffie’s throat began to burn and her stomach began to churn. She could see that Bridget felt it, too.
“I’d better have some water,” said Bridget.
“Me, too,” said Steffie. Under the cover of the counter, she ran water into one glass and water mixed with more of the lemon-flavored bleach she’d bottled as personal-stash expensive vodka, just in case Bridget should show up at the bar.
She gave Bridget the doctored water and, in the groove of competitive drinking, they each chugged the tumbler dry.
Bridget groaned. “You b—” Another groan cut her off. She clutched her throat.
Then Steffie pulled a gun. “Just sit tight. I’ll call an ‘ambulance.’” She dialed the private number of her handler, Pete, and gave him a sit rep.
Bridget, now on the floor, clutched her throat with one hand and her belly with the other. She moaned and spat and drooled.
Steffie said, “Oh, stop whining, you big baby. It won’t kill you. I drank some, too, and you don’t see me making a spectacle of myself.” Of course, she had become accustomed to the occasional cleansing tot of bleach when on assignment in areas where the water was contaminated. She was also pouring herself a tall, refreshing tumbler of milk to counteract the effect, a remedy she withheld from Bridget.
After Pete had collected the gagging counter-agent and carted her away (making a date for a celebratory dinner with Steffie while he was at it), Steffie finished her cleaning.
Naturally, she finished with a bit of song. “A wild sort of devil, but dead on the level,” she sang, “was myyyy gaaaaaaal Saaaaaaal.”
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Clorox, Jackie Gleason’s Joe the bartender