Joe flashed a toothless grin. He took a long sip of beer from his mug and wiped away the foam from his mouth. He sat by himself at the bar, listening to an instrumental version of “Going to California” play in the background. A Guinness poster hung on a brick wall behind the counter.
“Hell of a night, ain’t it,” said a man in a black pin-stripe suit. He sat down next to Joe.
“Buddy, you look like you came out of the wrong movie,” Joe said.
The bartender, Betsy, leaned over the counter, her black v-neck revealing her cleavage. “What’ll it be?” she asked.
“Whiskey sour,” the man in black said.
“Whatever you say boss,” Betsy said.
Joe smiled at the man. “Strangers don’t come around here very often.”
Betsy slid the whiskey sour to the man in black. He took a sip, let out a sigh, and smiled back at Joe.
“That’ll be five bucks,” Betsy said.
“Put it on my tab,” the man said.
Betsy shot a glance at Joe and back at the man. “I’m going to need a credit card to do that.”
“My apologies, miss, I must have confused the times.” The man reached in to his pants pocket and dropped a large silver coin onto the counter.
Betsy picked up the coin and flipped it in her hand. She smiled and raised the coin into the light. “Says 1882 on it. This ain’t a fake is it?”
“For five bucks, that’s a worthy gamble, wouldn’t you say?”
Betsy dropped the coin into her pocket. “Don’t worry about the tip.”
The man in black turned to Joe again. “So Joe, how many drinks have you had tonight?”
Joe’s toothless smile turned into a frown. “How the hell do you know my name?”
“I’m here because of you.”
Joe chugged his fourth mug of beer, then eyed the strange man. The rest of the bar was empty. “You a cop or something?” he asked.
“Quite the contrary. I’m merely a warning. Your time has come.”
“Betsy. You hear this fuck? He says he’s here to give me a warning.”
Betsy looked on as she washed a glass behind the counter. She put the glass down. “Ain’t my business.”
The man in black continued: “I know you well Joe. You’ve been coming to this bar now for ten years. Every Sunday night. And every time you stumble out of here, refusing a cab. You get on that bike of yours and drive away.” He nodded towards Betsy. “She still has to face her demons for not stopping men like you from driving drunk. Imagine all that guilt, having to see the souls in the eyes of men like you die, slowly, over the years. And Joe, you’ve been dead a long time.”
Joe eyed the man then Betsy. “You two must be in on this.”
“I’ve never seen this guy in my life,” Betsy said.
“Bullshit.” Joe said. “Acting like I done something wrong. Get me another beer.”
The man in black waved his hand at Betsy before she could grab a mug. “Get him something harder.”
Betsy shook her head and poured a shot of whiskey and slid it across the bar to Joe. Joe slapped a five down on the counter.
“Maybe you should slow down,” Betsy said.
“Whore,” Joe said, throwing the bill over the counter. He downed the shot and let out a wheeze.
The man in black took another sip of his whiskey sour. He put the glass down on the counter, reached into his pocket, and pulled out another coin. “What do you say I buy us a few rounds? Go the distance?”
“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Joe said. He grinned at the man. “You ain’t so bad. All that talk about being a warning, I can take a joke.”
The man in black ordered twelve shots of Jack Daniels. Betsy frowned at the man but kept quiet. She lined the shot glasses in a row on the counter. She spilled whiskey as she poured the drinks.
Joe took a shot, slamming the glass on the counter. “That’s one,” he said.
They went through two rounds. The man in black hammered the last shot down and slapped Joe on the back. “Another go?” he asked.
Joe burped and shook his head, resting it on his arm on the counter.
Betsy picked up the glasses. She looked at the man in black. “I’m calling a cab.”
Joe’s head popped up. “I ain’t getting in that cab. I brought my bike with me. That’s how I’m leaving.”
The man in black waved his hand to Betsy. “There’s no use arguing with the man,” he said.
Joe stood up, knocking the bar stool over. He leaned toward the man in black. “Thanks for the drinks.”
The man grinned. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Joe.”
Joe turned, walked to the door, and stepped out into a heavy fog. He stumbled through the parking lot and fell, got up, and found his bike, an all white Harley Davidson. He drove to the exit, stopped, waited for any cars. As he slowly drove out the bike fell from under him.
A white Toyota pulled up behind Joe. Two men in their 20s sat in the front. The driver rolled down the window and leaned his head out. “You okay?” he asked.
Joe stood up. “I’m all right,” he said, getting back on the bike. He drove off into the night, the fog swallowing him.