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Robert A Francis 1988 (Maryland)
Leaning a little too far back on a rickety old barstool made me catch myself real quick with my one free hand. In my other hand was a half pint of cool, refreshing Bud Light, and thankfully, I didn’t have my usual cigarette in the other. Hell, even if I did, I’d still catch myself from falling over. Maybe with a little burn on the finger or palm… It ain’t like it’s never happened before. Damn cigarettes come with an array of unwanted burns, ashes, and smoke… along with a collection of other bad things, I hear so at least.
It was a very cool Thursday evening and I’m at my local dive. It was a fairly quiet night with the normal group of regulars just moseying about. Some playing 8 ball, some throwing darts, others making small talk, and the rest just trying to drink their life’s sorrows away; like me. I was about halfway through my nightly routine, a.k.a, about 5 beers and a couple shots of whiskey. I start the night with two shots of whiskeys to get the blood pumpin’, and then, finish the evening by drinking beer the rest of the night. Any more hard liquor than that typically finds myself in some sort of trouble.
A normal night here at Mingo’s was full of lowlife rednecks, hooligans, ex-cons, and the other various lots you’d prefer not to see in daylight… or at all; but I fit in. I’ve done time. I’m not too happy about it, but life happens without warning. Now, anyways, back to me almost falling flat on my ass off a barstool. A short, attractive brunette in a clean, tan overcoat had just walked in from the freezing cold and took a seat at the opposite end of the bar.
Asshole one and his two brothers between us at the bar immediately start ogling her which impedes my ogling ability from my own side of the bar. So, I felt like leaning back a lil’ was the best possible solution to getting a better view. Shitty barstool with a bum leg almost made me spill my drink, but as I was leaning back… I saw her taking off her coat and saw that she most definitely did not belong in a spot like this. She had gorgeous curves in a dark red dress with pearl earrings and a matching string pearl necklace.
After regaining control of myself, and my beer, I thought about lighting up a cigarette and returning to my sorrows. But the group of assholes sitting next to me started making loud, inappropriate conversation regarding our lovely new guest. Instead of letting this go on any further, I chugged what was left of my beer, pocketed my smokes and other various items and got up. I walked around the heathens, much to their dismay, and took the empty chair next to this mysterious woman of the night.
I introduced myself, “Hello miss, my name is Frankie. I don’t want those group of guys giving you a hard time, so do you mind if I get you a drink?”
She had beautiful eyes, first of all, a hazelish-green color, that gave me a look of concern at first, but then, a quick glance over at the 3 Stooges instigated a quick, “Sure,” as a reply.
“Well,” I said, “Good, because I’d feel awkward ordering just one for myself. Hey Darren! Get me another Bud Light, and what would you have miss…?”
“Miss Erynn and I’d like two shots of vodka please,” she said. Wow, I thought. She must’ve been having one hell of a rough night to be starting out this hard and to especially wind up in this place.
Mingo’s is not your typical nightlife hangout for this type of woman. She belonged more at penthouse parties or fancy city bars. The kind where sideboys in tuxes opened car doors for you. The type where servants walked around with cocktails on trays and offered various hors d’ouvres. Basically, any place except Mingo’s, where you’re more likely to get tetanus from a rusty nail on the wall or choke to death on stale bar pretzels.
“I won’t judge ya’ for it, but two shots of vodka isn’t my typical opening drink for a woman. You in some kinda trouble Miss… Erynn?” I said.
She looked at me for a moment, contemplating an answer. The nervousness and concern in her behavior really made me think something terribly wrong was up. Right then, Darren comes over with our drinks.
A kind interruption, at least, which leads to a short, “Cheers!” We both clink our glasses and take our drinks.
She states, “I hope you don’t mind if I finish the other one.” And then chases it down straight after the first. Yeah, this woman is going through something alright. She puts up two more fingers to indicate two more shots to Darren.
“So,” I asked, “What brings you to a kind of dive bar like Mingo’s on a Thursday night?”
Her answer was to hold her head in hands for a little; maybe to let the effects of the back-to-back shots reside. “WOO, I needed that!” she exclaimed.
“I just happened to be in the neighborhood and really, realllllyyy needed a drink,” was her pretending-to-be-already-drunk reply.
This woman is 5-foot gorgeous; I think she’s part-Russian, and no way in hell would be in this part of the neighborhood unless she was in trouble. So, I pressed the issue.
“Look, Erynn, you don’t wind up on this side of town without a fairly good reason, and I might be the only genuine bloak you’ll meet at this bar. Fortunately, you have me here for a great time, but it might be wise of you to get out of here soon. It can get a little rowdy here late night.” I implied, indicating the rest of the crowd.
“It’s okay Frankie. I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. Look at you being all protective and sensitive,” as she gives me a soft push and beautiful smile.
Now, I haven’t been with a woman in a few years and this one was way out of my league. Like, the best I could potentially ever have AND she’s flirting with me right when I’m feeling my mid-drink buzz. Tonight, might be a good night!
Of course, asshole and his compadres have had enough and aggression over the lone female sets in. The littlest gets up first and comes around on the other side of Erynn.
“Hey love, how about you ditch this piss ant and come hang with us? We’re a lot more fun a group than this dipstick.”
Asshole two says, “Ditch the zero, get with the hero!”
I reply, “Guys, guys, the lady is not up for sale here. She just came for a few drinks and I’m just here keeping her company.”
Asshole one, the big one, “It looks like you’re hogging this shorty all for yourself. How about you move along, head home, you’ve had enough.”
I looked at Erynn. She looked directly back at me and slowly put her hand on my knee. She knows where this is going. She knows a fight is brewing, but she also really needs my help. I whisper to her, “Do you want to get out of here?” A very quick nod was her reply.
I say, “Yo Darren! I’ll close out my tab this weekend buddy! Thanks for the drinks!” She begins putting on her jacket, and then I realize I left mine over by where I was sitting before; past the assholes.
I start walking in that direction and both asshole one and two stand up immediately. I try to shimmy and shift my way around them, but it was no use. They wanted a confrontation. I say, “Look fellas, we’re about to head out of here, don’t want no trouble tonight so take it easy.”
Asshole one, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere with her bud.” And pokes me so hard in the chest I am knocked back a step. Oh well… they asked for it.
Step one, take out the biggest one first. His hand was still outstretched from the poke, so I grab his arm, pull him towards me and spin him onto the ground. His arm locked behind his back, I offered him one last warning, “Asshole, leave us the f*ck alone or you will regret it.”
He begins to say, “You stupid motha… AHHH,” as I break his arm. I let go quickly and knee asshole two in the nuts. He bends forward in which I grab his head with both hands and introduce him to my other knee. He’s out cold. Asshole one is screaming on the floor but tries to get up. He looks like he’s trying to awkwardly pull out a weapon from his side. I grab the nearest bottle off the bar and smash it on the back of his head… which only stuns him; still reaching for the weapon, which I see is a pistol. Not taking any chances, I grab the barstool he was seated on and crash it against his head. That one did the trick.
I quickly grab my coat from the barstool next to the one I was sitting at and say, “Sorry Darren,” as I head back to the girl and there he was, the little guy. He was standing there with a knife to Erynn’s neck.
I said, “Let the girl go man, you saw what I did to your brothers, we don’t want no trouble here.”
He replies, “Oh, you’re going to get what you deserve, but that will come in time. For now, Miss Erynn Volstein needs to come with me. Someone’s waiting on her.”
Erynn’s eyes, beautiful eyes, light up with fear and struggles to get away. She elbows skinny in the chest which causes him to make a light cut along her jaw line, but she breaks free. As this is happening, I am running forward, careful not to trip over the bozos on the ground and get set to leave this dude with a large right haymaker on the cheek. Unfortunately, he’s fast and can work the knife. He gashes up my arm and tears a hole in my sleeve and a decent cut across my tricep. This corner of the bar is small and hand-to-hand combat without a weapon versus a knife is not the smartest idea. Luckily, Erynn has made it away to the door and is looking on hoping for me to follow. I am the only thing standing between skinny and her.
I yell, “Go ahead and run! The cops will be coming soon! I can handle this guy!”
She yells back, “But Frankie! I need your help! Please!”
My life sorta flashes before my eyes at this point. I don’t know if it’s the alcohol, the adrenaline, or the strange familiarity I find myself in this situation. I have lived a rough life, and this was not my first knife or gun fight. I had a wife, but she left me because my drinkin’. I had a career, but I lost it all gamblin’. I had a dream, to be free of this mess and relax on a warm, tropical beach somewhere in the Caribbean. But now, I’m fighting for my life, and Erynn’s life. I feign the charge. Skinny’s eyes light up and goes for the counter, but since I wasn’t actually charging, I rotate left and grab his right hand, his knife hand by the wrist. It is now firmly broken. I take the knife out of his now fractured arm and hold it to his neck now.
I ask, “Who in the world is after this Erynn? Why are you trying to grab her?”
He looks at me and snears, “I’ll neeevvveerrr tell, but your ass is deader than a door nail. See ya Frankie.” I stomp him 3 times, his face twice and once in the junk, because it’s time to leave. The sirens are close, and I need to get Erynn out of here. She’s still waiting for me at the door with her coat on and we both dash out.
We make it about 3 blocks before we stop down an alley. I need to put my coat on and examine the cut I have on my arm. It’s pretty bad… definitely is going to need some stitches. I rip off the rest of my sleeve and cover it to stop some of the bleeding. I then throw the coat on. Erynn has been running in high heels, which also was another reason for our stop. I look at her and say, “I bet you’re regretting walking into that bar now!”
She simply replies, “No, because I found you! However, I could’ve done without vodka!”
Her cut on her cheek is shallow and has basically stopped bleeding, but she looks so scared and lost. I knew I had to help her get out of whatever situation she was in. I mean, what else did I have going for me? Nothing.
I take a clean napkin that I found in coat pocket to wipe her face and that’s when I realized how warm she was to the touch and how soft her skin was. How can anyone hurt something as amazing as this woman? Why is she being threatened and who is the one threatening her?
To be continued…
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