I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around to find that the hand belongs to Harry Hearsay.
“Next time you creep up on me like that you’ll get a sock on the jaw, hand knitted” I tell him.
“Didn’t mean to startle you. I got some news”.
He sits down next to me. We’re in a bar. Can’t say which one. Sometimes it’s best to keep quiet about certain things.
He orders a drink. That much I can reveal.
It’s a bottle of blue moon.
Maybe I’ve said too much.
“You remember that dame from Lucky’s Casino you were making inquiries about?” He says.
“I just asked if you knew her name, that’s all. I’m not looking to marry her.”
“Well I’m talking to the guy who runs the casino. I casually mention the dame in question. I say to him ‘you know the red-haired broad who works the bar, I forget her name’ I click my fingers a few times to make it look like I’m trying to jog my memory. ‘Oh yeah’, he says. So I’m thinking he’s about to tell me her handle when he says, ‘yeah the red-haired broad that works the bar. What about her?’ I have to think quick. I tell him she sure knows how to mix a drink and mix it good, then I pick up my hat and leave the joint quick so I don’t arouse suspicion.”
“That’s pretty smart. Good job.” I tell him, but he keeps on talking.
“I decide to go back in there the following night. Maybe one of the regulars knows her. I get talking to a few of them, make like I’m interested in their gambling tales and country music. After a couple beers I mention the red-haired broad, just slip her into the conversation like it’s no big deal……..”
I stop listening to him at this point. I get distracted by a guy who walks into the bar wearing a beard. The only guys who wear beards are sailors and drunks. And this guy is no sailor. He staggers up to the counter, right next to me, signals to the bartender and takes off his hat.
“Pardon me ma’am, could you tell me if I’ve been in this joint before?”
The bartender takes a good look at him and says:
“Ain’t never seen you before.”
“Give me a double scotch” he says, and sits down next to me.
Looks like the poor sucker is banned from so many bars he’s lost track.
I avoid making eye contact with him and turn my head back around to give my full attention to Harry Hearsay.
“Don’t you think that’s kinda screwy?” he says.
“Screwy, kooky, maybe. Or maybe the dame has no name.”
He lays his beer down on the counter, it lands with a thud.
“That’s exactly what I’m thinking” he says. “It’s the only thing that makes any kinda sense. Somebody at Lucky’s Casino would have to know her name. How many barkeeps have red hair?”
“Was she working there the night you went in?” I ask.
“Yeah. And nobody used her name. They just said ‘bartender’ or whistled”.
“So why didn’t you just go up and ask her for her name?”
The look on Harry Hearsay’s face tells me this is something that hasn’t occurred to him. There’s a pause in the conversation, just enough time for the guy with the beard to chime in.
“I know the dame’s name. She kicked me outa the joint one time just for being a little tipsy at the craps table. Strong as a horse. Picked me up and threw me out the door like a dude. I’m Billy The Bard, by the way” he says as he reaches out his arm to shake hands.
I notice the owner of the bar coming out from the back room. He seems kinda agitated about something.
“And what’s the name of the dame in question?” Harry Hearsay asks.
“The name of the dame in question is……..”
“Billy The Bard!” yells the proprietor as he leaps out from behind the bar. Glasses and bottles fly off the counter. I’m already holding my bourbon tight just in case of this very circumstance, or something similar.
“Didn’t I tell you to never come in here again? You’re Barred Billy!”
He grabs him by the lapels and lifts him, with the bar stool still attached to his rear end, dragging both him and the stool across the wooden floor toward the exit. The bar stool is professionally removed from all parts of Billy The Bard. A door swings open, then slams shut. A light city breeze sweeps thru the saloon for a brief moment. Then stops.