“How about a drink, sir?” The bartender leaned over the bar’s counter, a linen cloth clamped under his arm while he directed his attention to a patron.
The man at the counter tipped the rim of his black top hat. Vermillion eyes. Those were the one’s that met the waiter’s gaze. A grin tugged at half of the patron’s lip, revealing rows of white teeth interrupted with golden and silver implants to boot. His smile was a fake one, naturally.
“A drink would do nicely.” A refined accent left from the stranger’s mouth. It was both smooth and cultured, a timeless combination. “Bourbon, top of the shelf. Have a tip while you’re at it.”
The peculiar man with the top hat dug his hands into his pockets, all the while the waiter observed with narrowed eyes. Out of the stranger’s pocket came a silken-gloved fist. The weird man opened his palm, upon which twinkled a single platinum coin. The peculiar man’s grin widened.
He flicked his finger and the coin bounded on to the counter with a metallic rattle. The boyish bartender was at a loss on what to say. “A handsome chap like you ought to have a sweetheart or two. Why not take her out for dinner tonight?”
The bartender’s eyes beamed. He brought forth a hand but held it in midair for the span of a few moments. The patron in front of the counter raised a bushy eyebrow at the hesitant waiter, whom gave him a glance that desired the peculiar man’s approval. Being a in a good mood after a productive week, the top-hatted stranger nodded. The bartender raked the coin from the counter into the palm of his own hand and clenched it to his heart. Commoner’s had an amusing way of acting around large sums of money.
“Bourbon it is, sir!” The bartender glided over to the racks of bottles that were all lined behind him. In seconds, the bar was overtaken by the noise of clinging glass.
The strange man had yet to wipe the smirk off of his face. Holding back a gentle chuckle that wanted to leave his system, he sauntered over to one of the lone corners of the bar. Swathed in a shawl that was as dark as the hairs that were planted to his scalp, it would have been an understatement to say that the man did not draw attention in his gait. His pleasant stride was marred by pairs of eyes that would peer over the rims of their mugs, whispers that conspired amongst one another, and the screeching chairs of men that would rather sit anywhere else in the bar that was not close to the strange person.
Downtown pubs…what else could I expect? He wandered past the sharp eyes of workers with woolen shirts that held splotches of charcoal smeared over them. A lithe waitress with freckled cheeks gasped when she turned around to see him and a cup shattered from behind the counter as the weird man’s shadow was projected on a busboy.
By the time he’d reached the opposite end of the bar, all other patrons had migrated in the other direction. A single oaken stool stood empty while it faced a dirty window. He could see blurry cars, with steam that sputtered out of the exhaust pipes, dozens of them zooming in past both ends of the street. Aside from that, grime was the only other thing that the man could see in past that glass. There was no doubt that he was in a downtown pub.
He approached the stool and he sat down.
His eyes drifted toward a set of faded paintings clinging to wall whose wooden interior was exposed. There had been a portrait and rectangular landscaping scene depicted in them. As typical, they were so aged he could not make out the details.
“H–here you go, sir!” The man turned to see a glass with brandy inside of it. Before he could tell the bartender that he was given the wrong drink, the older man behind the counter had already flown to the other side of the bar.
“Damn it all.” The stranger pondered on whether he should complain to the management at the bar, but he decided against it. He was in too good a mood that day. “Brandy should do, I suppose.”
He lifted the sniffer and brought his lips toward the rim of the glass. The hot aroma reached his nostrils and the caramel liquid streamed down his throat. He removed the cup from his lips and when his eyes peered pas the sniffer, they caught on to a strip of paper. Curious, the man removed the sniffer from his face, he bristled his moustache to get rid of any drops that might have seeped into it, and then took the paper in his hands. It was a torn scrap, that had been folded into a square. He opened it.
Let’s have a chat.
It’ll be worth your time.
– F. D. W.
“Well I’ll be damned…” he crumpled the letter in his hand and tossed it to his left. He’d come down to the pub so that he could unwind, the last he needed was some stranger trying to chat him up.
“I think you dropped something.” He turned to his left to see a figure with a grey trench coat approaching a nearby stool. The figure pressed forward a hand and dropped the crumpled paper inside of the man’s brandy. Moistening, the paper shriveled within the sniffer.
The man tsked and shook his head. “And a fine drink that was too. Regardless, what’d you come here to do? Would like to talk, maybe have a drink or two with the oddest man in the bar?”
“Let’s not play games anymore, I was never fond of them.” The figure chuckled from under the rim of the fedora that it wore. It was a feminine voice that came from it, but the man would have to be careful, it could easily be an android in disguise. “I know who you are. You’re not just one of those eccentrics that shows up around here on occasion. You’re Archibald of Newlenburs.” the figure pivoted its head in an all encompassing glance, only to lean down and whisper afterwards. “You know of the Turtillians, I presume?”
“Too much.” Archibald drummed his fingers on the edge of the counter. “We should cut to the chase then. What do you want of me.”
The figure lifted its fedora just a tinge from its face. She exposed moist lips, red with lipstick that had been applied only minutes earlier. One drop of sweat slid down from Archibald’s temple down his cheeks. If he could have his way, he’d already be kissing her with an unhinged lover’s passion. But he was a gentleman, and he had no intentions of changing that.
Her thick, scarlet lips curled into a playful smile “We can’t speak here,” she pursed the lips again, and drooped her head downwards “too many ears. It’d take me a world of explanations to tell you what I want. Meet me tommorow afternoon. Fordshire Manor.”
“I haven’t even said that I wanted to come yet.”
She got off her stool in the bar, a perfumed scent lingering in the spot on which she had sat. She made for the other end of the establishment, Archibald’s questing eyes following her every movement. She turned half of her face to him, exposing a fair cheek “I know you’ll accept.” She raised a delicate hand to her lips, and blew a kiss.
Archibald was left a stuttering mess after the maiden’s tempting display. He pondered what kind of charming words he could use to sweep her off of her feet, but by the time the beginnings of a word reached his mind, the bells to the pub jingled as she exited the tavern.
Archie took in those final wafts of perfume before they died in her stool. One after the other these days. It shouldn’t be THAT bad. he thought to himself. The bourbon he’d ordered earlier had already been plopped down while he wasn’t paying attention. He twined his fingers through the long glass stem and took a hot swig of the drink. He wiped a stream of it that trickled down his chin with his white glove. He finished his drink, dusted his shawl, and in minutes was already on his way out of the bar. He payed one last glance to the lone corner he had sat in.
The crumpled note still sat on the counter.
Previous Archibald Story: “The Philosopher’s Garden”