Blue Johnny’s was a shithole, a place where the sad and desperate funneled cheap beer and rotgut whiskey to forget about their past, present, and lack of a future. The only illumination in the bar was half a dozen sickly yellow lights and red neon.
It was Jasper’s sort of place, a little hideaway where everyone knew his name. Or at least they knew Arn West, the name he gave them when he moved to Rook Point, a town in the ass-end of nowhere, years before.
Blue Johnny’s, however, was not a place for the woman who was eyeing him from the bar as she caressed the top of her dirty glass with her middle finger. She was about thirty years younger than the rest of the clientele, dressed too nice, and when she smiled, she looked like she had all of her teeth. Jasper couldn’t figure out why she was here and why she was looking at him. Was she a cop? Did they find him after all this time?
If she was a cop, there would be more waiting outside. She was probably just here to get a good look at him, to make sure they had the right guy. Grey hair covered his head. Wrinkles lined his face. He looked nothing like the photos the FBI was still using.
Screw it. Jasper was too old to run. He was just surprised it took so long. He ordered another beer, possibly his last, smiled at the woman, and waved her over to his table.
The dark-haired woman was beautiful, and didn’t look a day past thirty. It was hard for his eyes to tell much of anything beyond that in the dim light.
Jasper stood and pulled out a chair for her, a habit from when he was younger. He wasn’t sure if women today cared about such things. Hell, he wasn’t sure if they cared back in the day. It was just the way he was.
“Hello,” she said, slipping into the seat.
“Evening,” Jasper said. “What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?”
“Really? That’s your line?” she said.
“Old fashioned. But an honest question. This place doesn’t get clientele like you too often.”
“What type of clientele is that?”
“Young, pretty, a whole life ahead. This place is a musty coffin that doesn’t have any music past 1978 on the jukebox.”
“I like old music,” she said. She reached across the table and took Jasper’s hand in hers. “Call me Issy.”
He took a long drink from his beer, looking at her over the rim of the glass. Something about her seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Like a wispy memory, a ghost.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said.
Half an hour later, they were at Jasper’s cabin. He paid for it in laundered cash from the last job he did — the Wellington Armored facility in Los Angeles. The job where everything went tits-up thanks to a trigger-happy security-guard.
The cabin had three bedrooms, a garage, a lake with a dock, and areas to hunt on his fifty acres. The furnishings were rustic, but he splurged on a fancy kitchen. He offered to make Issy breakfast for dinner and started cutting up potatoes for homefries.
She leaned back against the granite countertop beside him. “You got any family?”
“Never really got around to it. I was never much good at that sort of thing.”
“I’ve been retired for a long time,” he said. “Now I just waste the days I have left.”
“Must’ve paid okay. This is a nice place.”
“It’s enough. But I gotta ask: what did you think you would get coming to my house? You seem sweet, but you’re a bit young for me. You aren’t from Rook Point, and I don’t know many traveling hookers that pick up old men at Blue Johnny’s.”
“My mother died two months ago,” she said. “Wasted away from cancer.”
“I’m sorry. About the hooker joke and your mom. Losing folks is hard. Didn’t answer my question though.”
“Before she died, she told me something.”
Jasper put the knife down and looked at Issy, trying to gauge her intent. “What did she say?”
“Mom told me about you. Not Arn West, but you. Jasper Brooks. You pulled bank jobs with my dad. You were with him when he died.”
That was where he knew her. The eyes. Her father’s eyes. Little Isabella. He kicked himself for not seeing it before. A surge of sadness and regret rose in him like bile. He hadn’t seen her since her first birthday party. Seeing her or her mom after the job, even just pictures, would have hurt.
She continued. “Someone’s been sending me and my mom ten grand a month for decades, from random places around the country. Paid for me to go to school, too. She figured it out a long time ago but kept it quiet.”
“She told me where to find you.”
“So, what’re you doing here? You come here to kill me? Turn me in? I’m fine with either. I’ve had the image of my best friend dying seared into my head for too long. Money doesn’t wash that away. Do what you want, kid.”
“I came to thank you. Money doesn’t replace my father, but it made life easier for us, especially when Mom got sick. You didn’t have to do that.”
“It was the right thing.”
“I need something else,” Issy said, tears in her eyes. “I was a baby when he died. I never knew him except in pictures. Mom didn’t want to talk about him. She said it hurt too much. Can you tell me stories about my dad? The good times.”
“I can do that.”
About the author:
Jason M. Tucker is a full-time writer living in Southern California working on a range of freelance projects, crime fiction, horror, and fantasy. He’s had numerous stories in various genres published over the years, including several recent crime stories with Shotgun Honey.
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