After four tumblers of whiskey, it was better to plant myself on the barstool than risk driving home right away. By the time the room stopped spinning, it was late and the bar was closing down for the night. Or maybe, I should say morning. Down the way from me, an old man was snoring. The booze took him pretty early and the barkeep was anxious to leave.
I felt sorry for the old coot. He was nothing to me, but I know my old man often closed dives like this down over the years and it seemed right to help him out.
“He with you?” asked the bartender.
“Naw, but I’ll get him out of here.”
“Who’s gonna pay his tab? He owes $50.”
“He’s drunk, but he didn’t drink that much. How about you give me the right number?” I’m an easygoing guy, but don’t piss me off. My family always told me I’ve the got the Jekyll/Hyde thing going.
The bartender looked away. I’d caught him in a lie and he didn’t like it much. I didn’t care.
“Alright. He owes $20.”
“That’s more like it.” I pulled a twenty and a five out of my wallet and laid it on the bar. Then I hoisted the old man up, hoping he wouldn’t wake up just to puke on me. Instead, he put a ticket stub in my hand and mumbled the word Schwartz. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
I dragged him outside, hoping the cold air would wake him up. No dice. I was trying to figure out what to do next, when I heard a loud noise and the man jumped. He said,
“Give it to my daughter.”
Then he fell. I felt something wet on my hand. When I looked, it was blood.
An hour later, the cop kept trying to change my story.
“You’re telling me that somebody shot this guy while you were holding onto him?”
“I’ve told you what happened three times already. Do you want me to draw you a little picture?”
The cop grabbed my coat and pulled me close.
“Look buddy, I don’t need your lip. I can get you locked up in a heartbeat and there’s nothing you could do about it.”
“Officer Stanton, let that man go,” said an approaching officer.
We’d known each other for years and I’d called him first before calling in the locals. I knew this mess wouldn’t look good and I needed backup.
The officer pushed me and walked away.
“Sean, what the hell is going on here?”
“Thanks for coming Dan. Damned if I know. Was trying to help this old guy out and he gets shot.”
“Any idea who he is?”
“Naw, I got nothing. Just some drunk at the bar.”
Dan grimaced and said, “Why don’t you head home. I’ll get an ID on this guy and call if we need anything.”
I turned the night’s events over in my head. Why would the old man give me a ticket stub? How was it connected to Schwartz? I pulled out my cellphone and searched the name to see what it might turn up.
One of the first results was for a storage facility on 37th. I caught an Uber and twenty minutes later, I was given a green duffel bag. No questions asked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open it. At least not right away.
I dialed Dan.
“Did you get an ID on that guy?”
Dan knew that I was onto something.
“His name is Parker Knowles. Lives in Brooklyn with a daughter named Cara.”
“Has the daughter been notified yet?”
“Not yet. You going to see her?”
“I’d like to.” I responded.
Dan was quiet. I could hear the wheels turning. He gave me the address and hung up.
Fifteen minutes later, I entered an apartment building in Brooklyn. I didn’t think I’d been followed. At least not until I heard the click of the gun cocked and pressed into my back.
“Hand over the bag and we’re good.”
Without turning around, I gave it to the guy. He took off.
I found the right place and knocked on Cara’s door. She opened it with a little boy sleeping on her chest.
“I’m here about your dad. He wanted you to have this.”
I pulled a different bag from inside my coat and handed it to her. She opened it to find bundles of 20’s stacked inside.