Neon

A splash of cold and murky water jumps up and soaks the leg of his pants as he strides forward onto the sidewalk. Up ahead under the glow of bright city installed streetlights, is a bar full of shelter seeking pedestrians all looking for refuge from the night’s freezing rainfall. The façade of the establishment is lined with people huddled under the tiny awning that hangs below the never ending row of streetlights and glowing neon signs that span as far to the left as it does the right.

He tugs his coats collar up against his neck in an attempt to keep warm, which is ineffective due to every inch of him already being soaked through with cold water. As he gets closer to the entrance, the mixed glow of colors from all of the neon lights overhead wash over him. Advertisements, location markers, and other messages all violently glow against the nighttime city landscape. He looks up at the sign glowing above the entrance.

“This is the one.” he states to himself.

He enters the sea of people all waiting out the rain in the safety of the sidewalk adjacent bar. He pushes his way inside and scans the dimly lit room, stopping for half of a second on each of the faces in the room. Some seated, others standing, some with their backs to him. One in particular has a hood on and is seated by himself against the far wall, and has his back to the rest of the room.

He looks to the bar. Behind it is a young woman. Blonde hair that’s pulled back, and brown eyes that look like they haven’t been shut in a very long while. She looks worn out. He walks up to the woman behind the bar as she is wiping down glasses with a white towel in her hand, steam still coming off of the just washed glass in her hand.

“Busy night tonight? Looks like a full house from out there.” He says. He is climbing onto a bar stool.

She shakes her head and doesn’t look up. “Just looks that way. They’re all just hiding from the rain. None of the fuckers wants to buy a drink though. Of course.” She stacks the tumblers upside down on top of each other after she wipes them down. “What’ll it be for you, stranger?” She pauses with the glasses and looks up at him, soaked through with his collar sticking to his neck from all the wet from outside.

“Oh, I’m not thirsty. Not yet at least.” Says The Stranger. “Just came in to warm up for a moment.” He leans one arm onto the counter top, placing his elbow on the surface. His other arm remains in his pocket. Drops of water run down of his sleeve and begin to congregate around his elbow on the counter top. She picks up her towel again and begins her glass cleaning once again.

“Of course you are.” She takes her eyes off of him and continues on with her work. “If you aren’t going to buy anything then get off my bar top. You’re dripping all over the god-damn place.”

The Stranger looks down at the surface and see’s that he is resting his elbows in a puddle of water. He quickly pulls away from the small pond he created. “Sorry about that.” The woman shakes her head, and goes on working.

He turns away and scans the room again. People are scattered around the interior. Empty tables filling in the spaces between pairs of people dispersed here and there. One individual is sitting by himself, hood over his head and back to the bar. He stares at him for a few seconds longer. He turns back to the bar and puts his exposed hand inside of his coat, digging around his inner pocket.

“Listen.” Says The Stranger. “This is yours if you can answer something for me.” He leans onto the counter again. He pulls out two pieces of paper from his inner pocket. One is a one-hundred dollar bill. The other a photograph. He places them both on the counter facing her. “If you can tell me if the man in that photograph is somewhere in here tonight, the money is yours.”

She stops her cleaning and looks up the money, then the photograph, then at him. “You some kind of cop or something? Fuck off.”

The Stranger smiles out of the corner of his mouth. “Trust me, I’m not a cop. Look at the photo. Face look familiar?”

She pauses again from her glass polishing and looks up into his face, leaning in. “Hey asshole, you don’t listen very well. I told you to fuck-off. No cops in my bar.”

He taps the counter with his finger a few times, his eyes studying hers. She resumes her focus on wiping down the tumblers. He reaches again into his coat pocket and pulls out another bill. He rests it on top of the other. “Double or nothing.” He says. The Stranger watches her eyes as they quietly light up. She is trying to restrain her excitement at the sight of the two bills.

Her eyes look at the short stack of money. She bites her lip, and then looks up at him. “Why do you want this guy? What did he do?”

“That’s no concern of yours. Yes or no, is he here tonight?”

She looks at him for a moment, and exhales heavily. Her eyes look over his shoulder at the man seated on the far side of the room by himself with his hood up and back to the bar, and nods.

He turns to view the object of her gaze. He turns back to her and slides the cash toward her with his exposed hand.

She quickly reaches for the money, but her wrist is grabbed by him. Reaching across with his opposite hand, his reach reveals a robotic arm. Its metal fingers, painted black and red wrap around her thin and pale forearm.

“Are you sure that’s the man in the photograph?” says The Stranger.

Frightened at the blend of wires and iron that has grabbed her, she nods frantically. He looks into her eyes for a second, and slowly releases her from his grip. She takes a step back against the wall lined with glass bottles after picking up the money, and tries to catch her breath.

The Stranger leans back into his seat, exhales slowly, and rotates himself on his bar stool to face the room that was behind him. Reaching across into his still dripping wet coat, he reveals a large pistol the size of a child’s leg, grips the handle, cocks back the hammer, and points it at the back of the man seated opposite the dark room.

He fires a single shot. The hooded man’s head violently jerks and twists forward while simultaneously bursting into a wonderfully red spray. A vibrant streak of color is splashed against the otherwise lifeless wall and onto the table as well.

A second or two of silence. Heads quickly turn to the morbid scene that now decorates the bar’s inter and one by one the realization of what just happened settles in. One woman screams, then another, and the room quickly leaps into mayhem. Screams and yells from the people inside the bar as well as outside can be heard, and the sound of tables and chairs scraping over the floors surface fill the air.

The Stranger returns the smoking pistol to the inside of his coat, stands up, and walks over to the now slumped over man who once had his hood pulled up with his back to the bar. He grabs his shoulder and pulls him upright in his chair and looks at what was his face. A nightmarish mess. Blood pouring over the table and down the hooded man’s chest with bits of brain, skin and tissue hanging in strings from what was left of his head are everywhere. The Stranger reaches into his coat and pulls out a two pronged device from his pocket. He clicks it on, and stabs the prongs into the man shoulder. He waits for a few seconds and hears a cheerful beep. He retracts the prongs and looks at the tiny screen that is in embedded into the handle of the device. “Confirmed” reads the scrolling screen. He wipes the prongs on the back of the jacket of the deceased man and places the device back into his own coat pocket.

The Stranger walks back to his seat at the bar, the small puddle of water he created with the rain from his coat still lie in a pool on the countertop. He retakes his seat. “You know,” says The Stranger to the blonde haired, brown eyed woman. “I think I will have a drink after all.”

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