“Sit here with a glass in front of you long enough and I’ll start to look Irish,” Junior said, turning to size up the new customer at the bar. The pale skin beneath the man’s eyes was stained as dark as his unshaven jaw, but he had a generous smile. Whatever was ailing him, it hadn’t beat him yet.
Junior had been working at Paddy O’Reilly’s since he was a teenager, first in the kitchen and as soon as he was of age, behind the bar. He recognized thirst in all its varieties and he had a knack for easing its pangs.
“Guinness?,” he asked.
The man shook his head and looked past Junior at his own reflection in the bar mirror. He spoke to himself, “I hear you make a drink I would really enjoy. A Crossroads Cocktail?”
“You local?” Junior picked up a rag and dried a glass out of the sink.
“Nah,” the man said. “I have a cousin in Storm’s Pass.”
“And he said you would enjoy a Crossroads Cocktail?”
“I think the word he actually used was ‘need’,” the man said and looked away from his reflection to offer Junior a smile.
“Then you know what you’re in for,” Junior said and disappeared into the back to make his signature drink. He returned with a highball glass filled to the rim with a dark concoction and a single cube of ice. He placed a square paper coaster in front of the man and set it down.
The man sipped it and raised an eyebrow. “There molasses in this?”
“Sure,” Junior said, because this was all he ever said when customers quizzed him on the ingredients.
“I was told to drink this slow and I’ll find direction at the bottom of the glass.”
“You believe that?”
“I don’t believe anything,” the man said.
“So you believe everything,” Junior said.
“I believe I have choices. Take the money to the cops. Run with the money. Give the bad men their money. Do nothing at all. Doesn’t matter though, I’m dead.”
Junior nodded. “Drink it slow then,” he said. He knew all about tight places and impossible decisions. He had lost everything to them when he was barely old enough to walk.
Junior finished washing glasses while the man scrutinized his reflection taking slow sips. He was nearly finished with his drink when Junior turned his back to work his knife in a steady rhythm across a dozen limes. When Junior heard the bells on the door jig and chime, he turned to see the empty glass and grinned. The coaster with Officer Cormac McHennesey’s number scrawled on the backside was gone along with the man.