Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
The downstairs portion of the Black Horse was crowded, more crowded than Scott had ever seen it. Canned music was playing over the speakers as the crowd milled about. On the temporary stage, the drum set and instruments were waiting for the musicians. Scott recognized a classic Hammond B3 Organ that somebody had managed to shoehorn onto the riser. He wondered what the organ was like to move from gig to gig.
Scott did his best to keep Janie from being jostled by the crowd, but it was hard work even with his size advantage. He kept his temper and resisted throwing an elbow or two. He tried to move them toward the bar.
The crowd parted and Scott realized why. Yegor was coming through. He wore a red t-shirt with the Black Horse logo and the word 'security' printed across the shoulders in block letters.
"Boss," he shouted.
"Working?" Scott asked.
"I am security tonight."
Well, ask a stupid question, he thought. "Yegor, this is my girl, Janie."
"I am pleased to make your acquaintance," Yegor rumbled. "I am also sorry. Miss Shirl says no exceptions, may I see your ID card?"
"No need, I'm only nineteen," Janie said.
"Then this is for you." Yegor lifted her hand and applied an ink stamp with delicate precision. Yegor cleared a path the rest of the way to the bar where he spoke to a young woman. "Elena, this is Mr. MacIntyre and his Janie."
She was a petite woman with bright dyed blonde hair and the build of a gymnast. Yegor had evidentially placed her at the end of the bar near the pass-through so he could keep an eye on her.
"My wife, Elena," Yegor said.
Janie and Elena exchanged greetings and Scott shook her tiny hand.
"I must return to work," Yegor announced. He moved off into the fray, like a duck through an algae-choked pond, with the crowd parting around him.
Elena's English was much better than her husband's. "You made a lasting impression upon Yegor, Mr. MacIntyre."
"Please, call me Scott, and Yegor made a big impression on me too."
The girls chatted. Janie was fascinated by Russia, and Elena and Yegor's experiences in the States.
Scott watched the crowd and listened with one ear.
Todd, the bartender, caught Scott's eye, but he waved him off. They didn't need any drinks at the moment.
Shirl snuck around Scott from behind and waved to Elena. "Ladies can I borrow him?"
"Take him," Janie laughed.
"Shirl runs this place," Scott said. "Shirl, this is my, uh, girlfriend, Janie Mendoza."
Janie stuck her tongue out at him.
"I'll bring him back, I promise," Shirl said.
Scott and Shirl walked into the back where it was quieter. The manager gave him a rundown on the door take, how much they were paying the band, and what the restaurant had done in turnover.
He stopped her, "Shirl, are you working too hard?"
"Only every day," she replied.
"I know," she raised her arms in futile gesture. "I offered Todd the new assistant manager position tonight."
"Good," Scott said. "You should think about scheduling some vacation time."
"When I'm dead."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"I'll take vacation in the summer," Shirl said. "That's our slow season."
"You'll take at least two consecutive weeks," he said.
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"Anyway," she said. "I got you something." Shirl turned around and took a bottle wrapped in a paper bag from a shelf.
"What's this for?"
"That's for not having us serve your underage date."
"Shirl, I know how valuable our liquor license is." He peeked in the bag. "Is this stuff any good?"
"The wine rep was by. He's trying to get us to stock a more upscale selection. I guarantee it will do the trick."
"The girl's pretty," Shirl said.
"She's special," Scott replied.
"Don't tell anyone where you got that," Shirl said. "You'll ruin my reputation."
At the bar, Janie was having an animated conversation with Taylor and Elena. The pass-through gate was open and she was standing in the void.
"He said I could stand here," Janie said, indicating the bartender.
Scott slipped by her and made a show of stashing the wrapped bottle of wine behind the bar.
Todd was mixing a drink and drifted his way. "You guys are fine to stand there, boss."
"If you need me to grab some stock, or move, just holler."
The bartender hesitated.
"What do you need?"
With one hand shaking the cocktail, Todd slid the lids of the bottle cooler open with his other. "We're almost topped off, but you better give me two cases of Bud, one of Shiner Bock, and a case of Coors Lite."
"You got it," Scott replied.
The girls stopped talking when he passed them heading to the cooler. He could only imagine what Taylor was filling Janie's ear with.
The bite of the air in the cooler cleared Scott head. The difference made him realize the close packed bodies on the main floor were generating a ton of heat. He liked what he saw in the cooler. The kegs were neatly organized and there was room to move around. Most importantly, it was clean and brightly lit.
He hefted the four cases.
Janie scooted out of his way as he burst out of the back and toward the bar. He set the load down and began to shuffle stock in the cooler.
On the stage, the musicians were assembling. They began to tune their instruments and check sound levels. The sound check sparked a last-minute surge toward the bar.
Scott started taking orders, for bottled beer only, and stayed busy until the rush passed. He had a surprising pile of tips for his efforts, which he dumped in Todd's jar.
"Hey, if you need a job," Todd said.
"I'll keep that in mind. By the way, congratulations on your promotion. Shirl was pleased you accepted."
"I like working here," the bartender replied.
The band started playing. The tune was instantly recognizable as they warmed up with a long introduction to 'Sweet Home Chicago.'
A second bartender arrived and started washing drink glasses.
Scott made himself scarce before he was drafted to help. He joined Janie at the pass-through, it was a good vantage point and out of the way of the main floor.
The music was loud, so she spoke in his ear. "You've made some friends here."
"You notice they're almost all women?" she asked.
"Is that a problem?"
"No," she said.