Cameron O’Toole took another shot of golden brown Irish whisky. He was down and out, slumming it in a bar down the sleazy end of town, and he was lower than the hem of a fifties Catholic novice’s habit. He rolled the highball glass watching the light, from the half-dozen bulbs that lit the back of the slug-dented expanse of timber that served as a counter, reflect off its heart warming contents.
Two years ago Ruth- Anne Royce had left him, and he had felt relieved for awhile, but she emptied the savings account and hadn’t paid the landlord for two months before she left. She’d detested the fact that he moonlighted as a PI, and had harangued him mercilessly from dawn to dusk. Tonight he was as restless as the son of an Irish redhead, and a Scottish rebel was genetically modified to be, and as disappointed as a man five feet from the girl he loves, but serving as a stand-in body guard while she flirted outrageously with handsome Squatter Taylor, the lowest sneaky snake this side of the Yarra.
Jemima Sutherbourne, as sweet and curvy a blonde as a man might ever lay eyes on, had a taste for the bad boys gone wild. He had half a mind to call her rich old man, a judge who lived to put away the type of slimy low downs she was making conversation with right now. His thoughts were interrupted by twenty one year old Jim Jackson, the tough orphan who ran the bar: if not on paper, in reality. His old man had disappeared when he was fourteen in a shipping disaster, and his old lady was very fond of the perks of running a bar this end of town. She was a retired and rich widow now, while Jim was as tough as seasoned Kangaroo hide. His punch was fast as a whip and harder than a cricket ball, and he took no nonsense, especially if he thought his profit margins might be affected. His twice broken and overly large nose was the distorted image through Cam’s smeared highball glass now. He spoke low and insistently, “Cam, sober up or I’m, gonna get Bruiser to drag you off that side of the bar, and shove you in a yellow cab.”
Cam gulped. You didn’t argue with Jim. Cam spoke, and even he was seriously surprised at how hard it was to articulate what he wanted to say. “ Pleass, I’m meant to be looking after Miss Sut-terburn over there. Don’t put Bruiser onna me.” Jim glared at him for a second, and then snatched away the whisky. “Coffee for you, Cam. You need to sober up if you’re gonna be drivin’.”
Jim sent Molly his attractive barmaid and worthy waitress out with a mug of black coffee and scrambled eggs on toast. She was a bouncy brunette with bountiful bazoomas, and a sweet sincere smile. She swayed past Cam with the refreshments and placed the dishes on the counter of, and her backside in the seat of, a booth in the darkest corner of the bar. She crooked her finger at Cam and patted the seat next to her, and smiled her most winning smile. He pulled myself up on the bar, and walked slowly towards her.
“You’re not too sozzled, Cam. This’ll put some zip back in ya. I cooked the eggs the way you like ‘em.”
Molly never failed to cheer Cam up. He said, “You’ve been workin’ hard all night, let’s share the eggs.” She smiled at him again, and he wondered why she didn’t fire his engine,raise his blood pressure, anything. They’d almost been an item many a time, and young Jim wasn’t past being a match maker when he thought no-one gave a two-up penny. She had her back to the bar, so Cam sat on the other side of the booth. She got that damned crease between her pretty eyebrows, and then smiled again and leaned over the table giving Cam an eyeful of her choice cleavage. Molly had beautiful bazoomas, not a doubt in anyone’s mind, but Jemima was his serious sheila of choice. He’d had a drink with Moll once, but they hadn’t even kissed. He had a strange moment of clarity. Is that what’s wrong with me? I can’t enjoy what’s freely available. He was staring down Molly’s cleavage, unaware that she had got that crease between her eyebrows again, when two unexpected things happened.
A hand as hard and cold as a slab of ice slapped his face backwards, and a shot rang out at the front of the room. He was shaking his head and moving forward as fast as he could, when two things hit him with the force of the Wangaratta express. Jim was lying in front of the bar bleeding from a shoulder wound, and Bruiser was knocked out next to him. The broken shards and unmistakable smell of a two pint bottle of whisky were all around his body. Jemima, Squatter, and his two pugilistically countenanced mates were nowhere in sight. She’d left in such a hurry her sequin-encrusted purse was laying discarded alone, inside the open front door. Jim gasped, pressing his wadded up jacket to his haemorrhaging shoulder, “She didn’t want to go with ‘em. She was looking for yur.” Jim passed out, and Cam stood up, shaking like a sapling in a storm. Molly was behind the bar calling for an ambulance. “Bloody hell!” I yelled. Every face in the ominously silent bar turned towards me. The dismal draft through the empty doorway sobered him, and froze him to his leather-clad feet.