A Katherine Kavanaugh Story
Friday night, the bar was full of men in business suits pretending they wanted to hang out with each other while constantly scanning the room for a woman who might be willing to bang them then take a taxi home. As if such a creature exists outside the fantasies of twenty-something douchebags. The drinks were two for one for ladies, which explained the groups of them clustered about, fully aware of the Neanderthal urges of the suits, and generally disinclined to play, but willing to get drunk on someone else’s dime. I didn’t blame them. The deck is stacked against women, for the most part. Might as well get free drinks with your inevitable harassment.
I wasn’t looking for the same sort of deal as the button-down types, but I can’t say my motives were any better. See, I steal stories right out of people’s mouths, twist them around a bit, stew them in a thin plot and season with salacious details. Then I pawn them off as original works of art. No one ever calls me on it, partly because there’s fuck-all they can do, but mostly because the sorts of things you tell a strange guy in a bar aren’t the kind of tales you want to repeat in front of God and everyone. Besides, it’s almost impossible to make a living as a writer, even a good one, which I’ve never claimed to be, so we’re hardly worth suing over a few pilfered memories.
The girl I wanted sat in the corner, nursing a mixed drink that looked more serious than fruity, not toying with her straw or eating cherries, and not accepting any drinks sent to her by various men. I’m sure they were all disappointed, since this girl reeked of money without trying. Her chocolate brown sweater revealed nothing, if you didn’t recognize cashmere or the silk collar of the shirt barely peeking out. Her pearls were real and perfectly matched, but not overwhelming in size or volume. The slacks she wore were off the rack, but the shoes might as well have been dipped in gold. That didn’t stop her from wrapping her feet in the rung of the bar stool. She couldn’t quite manage a slump, though she was trying to make herself as inconspicuous as possible. Not easy, considering her hair shone like a damned shampoo commercial. Her make-up was precise, understated, and completely unnecessary. That sort of presentation is learned from birth. People like her had no place being in a bar like this, even though it tried so hard to be upscale. Yet there she was.
I waited until the pretty little round girl, wearing a skirt two inches shorter than a whore would consider proper, hopped off the stool next to Rich Girl and teetered toward the bathroom on unsteady heels. I nudged the schlub in front of me and told him that plump little bird looked promising. He followed, probably because I didn't reveal that signs pointed to the tart being a mafia baby, too. Did I mention I’m not a nice guy?
Still, you never know. They could fall in love, run away from the lives they’d envisioned, and live happily ever after, despite coming from different worlds and having nothing in common. What? It could happen. And you could win the lottery, too. Go buy a ticket. You never know.
Rich Girl didn’t look at me when I sat down, which might have hurt my feelings once upon a time, but probably not. I didn’t look at her, either. That, she found surprising. I suppressed a smile at how easily some people are caught. Good thing all I wanted was her stories. I was betting she’d have doozies, maybe even some with names worth dropping. I could branch out to tell-alls if the angle was right.
“Bourbon, neat,” I said when the bartender looked my way, “and whatever she’s having, give her another.” I still didn’t turn my head.
“I don’t…” Rich Girl protested.
“Care,” I finished for her. “I know. I don’t actually give a damn if you drink it, either.”
“Then why buy it for me?”
“Because I may be the only guy in this bar who has zero interest in fucking you, with the possible exception of that ponce in the corner. He needs a better tailor if he’s going to get one of these jokers to hop the fence – or admit to being on his team.”
“That’s a shallow assessment,” she sniffed.
“But accurate. Appearances are bait in a place like this, which makes me wonder why you stopped in, when you’ve made it obvious you aren’t fishing.”
“And yet, here you are, trying to get all friendly with me while feeding me bullshit lines about how you wouldn’t have sex with me if I offered.” She took the drink I’d bought her.
“Never said that, love.” I gave her a tiny smile. “What I said was that I don’t want to fuck you, which I don’t. Seems to me that would be a waste of time and effort on both our parts, seeing as how it wouldn’t satisfy in the least. A woman like you deserves more than that.”
“I suppose you think you’re the one to give it to me,” she scoffed.
“Not at all. I’m not right for you. I’m too rough – unpolished, if you will – too blunt and honest. You want someone who can give you smooth lies and smooth rides on expensive sheets and reward you with a pretty sports car at Christmastime.”
She shook her head. “You got all that from sitting down next to me?”
“No, I got that from observing you from across the room, which is admittedly a bit creepy but one of the hazards of my trade.” I looked over at her. “The bag is Prada, but not the latest. You’ve had it for a while and you carry it because you like it, not because you give a shit about the name. You have a diamond ring on your finger, but it’s not yours. I’m going to guess it belonged to your mum, or maybe it’s been in the family longer. You got a manicure earlier in the week, and you threw on a pedicure at the last minute.”
“Yep, that qualifies as creepy.”
“It’s a curse. I have an eidetic memory, and I spent way too many hours in hospital waiting rooms reading fashion magazines and staring at people who were also marking time until someone they loved died. So don’t take it personally, peach. My ability to catalog your life through sartorial choices is just a party trick.”
She lifted her glass to me. “Then it’s a pretty damned good one. Thanks for showing it to me.” She started to gather up her things.
“Don’t leave in a snit. I’ll stop telling you about yourself and leave you to drink away your guilt over… whatever it is.”
“I’m going to regret asking this, but what makes you think I’m feeling guilty?”
“Because it’s true. I can practically smell it on you. You picked this bar because you’re unlikely to run into anyone you know. They either frequent classier joints or grubbier ones, the latter being the prowling grounds of your friends from university. For some reason, you don’t want to hang out with either crowd, and that, my girl, is very interesting indeed.”
“What difference does it make to you?”
“Personally? None at all. But I’m going to be completely honest with you. I think you have a story you want to tell someone, and you can’t bring yourself to tell it to anyone you already know. So, why not unburden your soul to a total stranger with a slightly appealing accent and nothing better to do with the next several hours than listen to your confession?”
“You are very strange,” she said into her glass. I liked the way it modified her voice.
“You’re lonely, too.” It was cute when they tried to play my game.
“On occasion, but we’ve established that you don’t care, and I’m not your type.”
She raised perfectly shaped eyebrows. “Did we, or did you make random guesses, despite knowing nothing about me?”
“Fair enough. Was I wrong about most of it?”
She laughed. “Not entirely. You totally hit the mark about this place being a mistake.”
I waited. It couldn’t be this easy to get her out of the increasingly loud bar.
“I haven’t eaten since breakfast, so before I drink more and start to find you charming, let’s get some dinner.”
“Aren’t you worried about going somewhere with a strange, irritating man you don’t know?” I asked.
She held out her hand. “Katherine Kavanaugh. And you are?”
Buggered. I shoved that thought aside and kissed the back of her hand. “Michael Stone.”
“Well, Michael Stone who knows everything with a glance, let’s get out of here.”
“You sure? I could be some mad, creepy stalker.”
She gave me a dazzling smile and patted her bag. “And I could have a nine millimeter Glock in my purse with an extra clip in case you get really frisky. You never know.”
She slapped a fifty on the bar and led the way out, the sea of inadequate men parting before her and one poor sod trailing behind, wondering if maybe this time, I'd made a mistake.