It seems like just yesterday that Stephen was telling Joanna, Matt, Leigh, and Jim about New Year’s Eve at Stenny’s—it was an uneventful evening except for a fight between Ben (he of the many clashes) and Billy (he of the bullshit stories).
But it’s actually six weeks later, two days after Valentine’s Day. None of the four was in on VD (as Joanna likes to call it). If New Year’s Eve and other holidays are amateur nights, Valentine’s Day is amateur night on anabolic steroids.
It’s Sunday night and Stephen is bartending. Stenny’s is pretty quiet, so Stephen has time to chat, and he has a story to tell.
“I take you didn’t hear what happened on Friday?” he asks after serving their first round of drinks, which are the usual usuals—Beefeater’s straight up for Matt, Tito’s on the rocks for Jim, a Leightini for Leigh, and a French Martini for Joanna.
“On Valentine’s Day?” Leigh asks. “No, did someone get engaged?”
“If so, that’s lame,” Joanna says.
“You are about as romantic as a rock, Jo,” Jim says. “I like that about you.”
“No, no engagements. It was more of a disengagement,” Stephen says. “From life.”
“Someone died? Oh, no, not Ray!” Joanna says, with a stricken expression. She may be unromantic, but she is not heartless.
“No, not Ray. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. He wasn’t even in,” Stephen says.
“Smart man,” Matt says. He shares Joanna and her dad Lou’s opinion that bars and restaurants are places to be avoided at those times when others flock to them.
“So who?” Leigh asks.
“You know Salome, right? The Black Widow?” Stephen asks.
“Oh, no!” Joanna says again. “She died? That’s awful!” After a brief pause, she says, “And ironic.”
“No, not Salome. The guy she was with, from her insurance agency,” Stephen says.
“Her boss?” Joanna asks.
“You know him?” Stephen responds.
“No, but they were here a few weeks ago. Long Haul, Melissa and I were trying to figure out if it was just a business thing or if they were together in Salome’s usual sense. If he’s dead, I guess it’s the latter.”
“So did Salome tell you how he died?” Leigh asks.
“She didn’t have to,” Stephen says. “It happened here.”
“Holy shit!” Jim says. “How?”
“I need to back up a little,” Stephen says. “They came in around seven. Sat right where you and Leigh are. Salome looked amazing, but she always does. She seemed excited to introduce him to me.”
“What’s his name? I mean what was his name? Poor bastard.” Jim says.
“Peter. I don’t remember his last name,” Stephen says.
“How did she introduce him? Who did she say he was?” Joanna asks.
“She said she worked with him, and that he was the love of her life.”
“Salome has had a lot of those,” Matt comments.
“That’s true, but she really looked besotted,” Stephen says.
“Be who?” Jim asks.
“It means in love,” Leigh says. “Continue, Stephen.”
“I got them drinks and went off to wait on other people. It was getting crowded, and I didn’t get back to them for about 20 minutes. Or back to her.”
“He was gone?” Leigh asks.
“Yes, Salome said he got a call and was taking it in the lobby. I didn’t think anything of it. I got her another drink and went off again.”
“What was she drinking?” Joanna asks.
“How does that matter?” Matt asks.
“It helps flesh out the scene in mind.”
“Whiskey sour,” Stephen says.
“On the rocks or straight up?” Joanna asks.
“Jesus, Joanna!” Matt says. “Can’t you just imagine one or the other?”
Stephen wisely sidesteps this exchange. “Straight up. Anyway, about 15 minutes go by and I hear this scream right outside that window,” Stephen says, pointing to a window at the end of bar. “From the parking lot. Most everyone else at the bar heard it too.”
“Was the window open?” Jim asks.
Matt is getting frustrated. “Why do you need to know that?” he says.
“Trying to gauge how loud the scream was.”
Stephen again sidesteps. “It was closed. The scream must have been very loud.”
“Sorry, Stephen,” Matt says. “Go on.”
“I ran out the back door to see what was going on. The first person I see is Salome. She was the one who screamed. She’s still screaming. She’s on her knees, bent over a dark form. It’s crazy, but the first thing I thought was that it was a deer.”
“Not so crazy. This township is rife with them,” Leigh says, drawing a glare from Matt.
“Well, as I guess you’ve figured out, it was Peter,” Stephen says.
“What happened? Heart attack?” Matt is ready for this story to be over. He’s almost ready for another Beefeater’s.
“Nope. It’s Salome we’re talking about, remember. That’s way too normal,” Stephen answers. “I had to piece it together later, but the call he had gotten was from his wife.”
“I thought he was married,” Joanna said, with a strong emphasis on the word thought. “He was wearing a wedding ring the night I saw him.’’
“Right,” Stephen says. “She called and Peter apparently agreed to meet her in the parking lot.” He sees a quizzical look on Leigh’s face and says, as a forestalling tactic, “I don’t know what she said to get him to agree.”
“What did the wife do? Run him over?” Jim asks.
“Bingo,” Stephen says.
“Oh shit!” Jim says. “I was only kidding! She ran him over and killed him?”
“She ran him over, but I think it was the golf club that actually killed him.”
“Oh, this is awful!” Joanna says. “She hit him with a golf club?”
“No, that was her brother,” Stephen says. “From what I can figure, he was pissed on her behalf about Peter’s affair with Salome. And I guess he’s a golfer.”
“Oh my,” Leigh says. “How tawdry.” Leigh is not a fan of tawdry.
“Did the police catch them?” Matt asks.
“Yeah, easily.” Stephen says. “They didn’t even try to run. Stayed put.”
“They’ll get off,” Jim says. “Crime of passion.”
“This must have been on the news,” Matt says. “But I didn’t hear it.”
“You don’t watch local news,” Joanna says. “You only watch Fox. I doubt Megyn Kelly reported it.”
“Should we start a pool on how long it will take Salome to get another one killed?” Jim asks.
“As an employee of Stenny’s, I can’t officially sanction that,” Stephen says. “And it’s not very kind.” He pauses briefly. “Make it an over/under pool and put me in for 12 weeks.”