Ms. Grundy and the Bone Ghosts (2)

Lloyd the bartender looked across at Mary O’Shea. His eye sockets seemed far too large for his skull. “You know, Mary,” he said. “I’ve been known to satisfy a few ladies in my lifetime. In fact, a couple of the dames were so worked up that they had to be physically scraped from the ceiling of my love lounge… That’s my bedroom, of course.”

Mary did a pffft sound with her mouth. “Come now, Lloyd. Are you saying you want to get with me? Are you actually telling me that you’re the male specimen I should climb aboard for a pleasure cruise?”

Lloyd grinned like a horror movie. His eyes flipped toward the ceiling. “Did you know, Mary, that I take residence right upstairs? Right above this very bar? Why, we could be grinding pelvises in short order.”

“Lloyd!” Mary O’Shea burst. “You’re much too old and gross. And I imagine your breath tastes like baby diaper charcoal and your meat and two veg are most likely shriveled up beyond recognition.”

“Ouch,” Lloyd said. “I may not look it, Mary O’Shea, but I am a human being with a certain degree of feelings. How can you be so cruel?”

She motioned for another pour of whiskey. “I’m sorry about that, Lloyd. I suppose I’ve swallowed a few bitter roots today. It’s that damn Allison Grundy. She has a gift for turning the sweet to sour.”

“Oh, Ms. Grundy,” Lloyd said, his hands on the edge of the bar and his expression one of sympathy yet irritation. “I swear, that woman was born with a puckering pickle in her mouth.”

Mary O’Shea slammed the shot, ran the sleeve of her Navy blue business suit jacket across her mouth, and sighed. She was beginning to wobble with unpleasant drunkenness. “Well, Lloyd,” she started out. “I’m afraid I’ve lost my hankerin’ for a spankerin’. But thanks for everything.” She carefully got down off the bar stool and turned to make her way to the exit.

“You be careful now, Miss Mary,” Lloyd called out to her. “I don’t want to find out in the morning gazette that you wrapped your car around a tree. I could call a taxi for you.”

She turned and waved him off. “I’ll be fine, Lloyd. You don’t have to care for me so much. Focus on yourself for once. Maybe consider consulting a plastic surgeon.”

“A plastic surgeon. What on Earth for?”

“Your skull, Lloyd. Your skull.” And with that she hobbled to the doorway and disappeared into the remains of the day.

With a day off and in his apartment above The Village Fig pub, Lloyd the bartender looked at himself in the singular bathroom mirror beneath a yellowed glow. He grasped his jaw and turned his head this way and that way to study the skull that encased his eyes and brain and teeth and muscles and sinuses and canals and blood. He stretched his wide eyes even wider. The bony sockets did seem too large — as if his death skeleton was forcing an early appearance.

He looked at his teeth. They were small and slightly yellowed but not chipped or uneven. He stuck out his tongue as far as he could and studied the bumpy wet organ. “Uh huh, uh huh,” he clumsily muttered aloud. “What’s a man to do when time is his greatest enemy? I can’t grow younger, Miss Mary O’Shea… Fiddlesticks! Maybe I do need to see a doctor.” He gave up on his self-inspection, turned off the bathroom light and went to the living room and glanced out the window that overlooked the halfway quiet street below.

Lloyd noticed that Constable Harley O’Shea was leaning up against a lamp post and gnawing on some sort of nasty Greek wrap, it was the pale pita that gave it away. And then as if some invisible spirit whispered something to him, he suddenly looked up at Lloyd in the window. The constable’s mouth was agape, his eyes narrowed. Did he know something? Lloyd wondered. Had he been watching, listening to things inside the pub? Did he have a spy set on his wife’s tail? And he thought of her tail. That plump rear-end.

Lloyd moved away from the window and went to the nurse-white neatly cluttered kitchen and fixed himself a cold chicken sandwich with salted cucumber wedges on the side and a fat glass of Ovaltine. He sat at the small table for two that rested between the kitchen and the living room — furniture with function, a wall without a wall. The moment he bit into one of the cucumber wedges there came a loud pounding at his door. He jumped for it was a violent noise, like NCA raid knocking, a battering ram in the ready perhaps.

Lloyd moved toward the door and peered through the peephole. Constable Harley O’Shea peered back. “Open the door, Lloyd. We need to talk.”

Lloyd cautiously opened the door, only about four inches though, and looked out. His heart pounded like a tom-tom. “Yes? What can I do for you, Harley?”

Harley moved closer to the crack and peered in. His eyes danced over the scene inside as much as they could. “I’ve got some questions. May I come in?”

“Questions about what?”

“I’ll let you know when you let me in.”

Lloyd conceded and opened the door all the way and the bulbous constable strolled in. “Thank you, Lloyd.”

“What’s this about?”

“It’s about my wife, Lloyd. I’m sure you know Mary, right?” He paused and grinned at Lloyd. “Of course, you do.”

“Has she been hurt? Is she missing?”

“Why. Did you hurt her? Did you kidnap her?” Harley suggested with a sneer.

“No… It’s just she had a few too many yesterday. I didn’t want her to drive. I just hope nothing bad has happened to her.”

“Is that right? Do you care that much for her, Lloyd?”

“Well, I mean. I would be concerned for any of my customers that had too much to drink.”

Harley O’Shea tried to step further into the house. “Do you mind if I look around?”

“Look around?”

Harley tugged at his belt. His belly had an annoying habit of pushing it down. “That’s right. Look around.”

“Look around for what?” Lloyd was unnerved and wanted to know.

“Oh, you know. Things.”

“What sort of things?”

“Things. Things like maybe a stray high-heeled shoe. Maybe a pair of women’s underwear. Maybe the lingering scent of a perfume. Maybe a lipstick-stained wine glass. Maybe a bottle of personal lubricant. Things, Lloyd.”

Lloyd scoffed. “There’s nothing like that in my apartment.”

Harley shrugged. “Then there’s nothing to worry about.”

“I think you need a search warrant.”

The constable laughed. “Is that right, Lloyd?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

Harley roughly clamped a chubby hand on Lloyd’s nimble shoulder. “Look. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way would be to just let me have a little look around. You said yourself there’s nothing for me to find. So, there you go. Easy peasy. We both go on with our day. But, if you want me to go through all that trouble of getting a search warrant, well, then I’d have to come back here with a pack of men, and I wouldn’t be in a very good mood, and I’d just have them toss your place good. It would be a horrible mess, Lloyd. Horrible. Now, do you want all your things just thrown everywhere? I mean, especially since you apparently have nothing to hide. What do you say, Lloyd?”

“But I still don’t understand why you want to look around? What am I being accused of here?”

“Well, I suppose I do owe you that… I’m accusing you of messing around with my wife, Lloyd.”

“I don’t think that’s a crime for the law to be involved with,” Lloyd snipped.

“It’s not? I beg to differ, Lloyd. It’s a crime against me. It’s a crime against my Mary. It’s a crime against the sanctity of our marriage. Hell, it’s a crime against the very foundation of a decent society.”

“I haven’t done anything criminal,” Lloyd said. “All I did was do my job. I served your wife drinks and we talked. That’s it. It’s standard procedure in my line of work.”

“Well, Lloyd. Then you won’t mind me exercising my standard procedure. Now, just step aside and let me do my job.”


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