I loved Charlene. From the moment I walked into the bar she caught my eyes and they spun like the numbers in a slot machine. Of course I wasn’t alone in that regard, she was being surrounded like a cow walking through a river full of piranha, just because I was a little bit late. But she had her eyes over the head of these fish-types, and they were staring right into mine. I felt as though I had sat on a reddened stove. I always felt that way with her.
She parted her suitors like a ship plowing through broken ice, sending men, and a couple of women in broken waves, some crashing into the wall in a furious outrage. They glared at her momentarily, but brought the full intensity of their focus on me. I was hated for no other reason than a fortune of birth; extremely good looks, and Charlene.
Both her hands reached out for me and I let her place her ever-so-soft hands in mine. I gently caressed them as they slid across my palms for a moment, then pulled away again, leaving a cold void in my palms. A quick kiss, almost on the lips, and she was away to the powder room. I was heavily disappointed as the once parted sea of males swept up behind her, watching her every move, and she had some tremendous moves, without intentionally flexing a muscle.
The bar was rough, not even smoothed by the thousands of glasses slid across its wooden surface. Perhaps it was because of the hardness of the wood, but it was more likely because of all the glasses and bottles that had been smashed into it. Weapons of glass were nothing new to this bar, they were used only slightly more than those with polished handles, some for playing pool, some only used for murder.
This was a corner bar in a corner of the city that breathed smoke daily, slid in grease and the sweat of hard work, and was always full of people seeking to forget their jobs as soon as they left it for the day. That was probably the better element of the clientele. There were also scum that would rob you of ten bucks if they just happened to be short for their bar tab. Perhaps this was an exaggeration; after all, they would probably pick your pocket before that.
Between the powder room and the bar was the men’s room. I wasn’t sure just why this was, after all, it seems that the women probably made more trips to the bathroom than the men. It was their only choice for relief after all. Nevertheless, that was the way it was, and you had to go past a disgusting clog of men on your way through. I had found it no better and used the outside facilities more often than not.
The air was pierced by a scream that threatened every bottle and glass in the place. The high pitched shriek caused a sudden flood of people from the hallway and into the bar. Some of them stopped and turned, looking back at where they had been. Others kept running, avoiding the pool table and shooting out of the door like they had missed their girlfriend.
I was shaking heavily myself. I had wandered too close to the hallway and had been shuffled several feet down the dark passage. I wondered at the time how I had gotten in the way of so many people at the same time, but I had no answers. My aversion to it made me struggle as hard as I could. Besides disgust, I also hadn’t gotten my drink yet, the whole reason that I was so close to the bathrooms in the first place. The only opening between bodies pressed into the bar was there, and I couldn’t reach over the two person deep column. I also couldn’t shout over the usual din within the bar. I had just escaped when the high pitched signal caused a blockade of bodies that threw me against the bar, bending my back over the rail until the mass had separated, some headed for the door.
In horror I tried to pierce the darkness of the hallway, but my eyes were too used to the flashing and irritating lights of the bar. I shielded them with a hand cupped over the top of them, letting the form of a slender woman appear against the wall. I recognized her at once as Charlene. The blond hair shone as though it was absorbing every bit of light available around her. As my eyes adjusted more I could see her clearly, her back pressed on the wall, slumping over slightly from the waist upward.
The eyes of others must of began adjusting as well, and the screaming and gasps overcame the music screaming through the bar. Then there was a wave of sickness and more running, fear and panic choking some, enabling the feet of others.
It was clear that she had been stabbed. The knife still protruded from just below her chest. A huge stain of red covered her everywhere below the blade of the knife. It ran down her dress and made rivulets that continued to run across her stockings. A pool had already formed until the surface tension broke and it burst, flowing every direction and through the cracks of the wooden floor.
I was too sickened to understand any of it. From behind I put my hands on the bar and tried to lower myself on an empty stool that had been filled only seconds ago. It was a high stool and I needed to raise myself to get onto it, but after several attempts I used it to lean against instead.
It was easy to solve the murder. She had been backed against the door of the men’s room on her return from the powder room. As she tried to squeeze through the mass of bodies someone had stuck a knife through the flimsy door and into her back.
The clumsy attempt to get away with murder was thwarted by his attempt to drive the knife as deeply as he could. As he thrust, his hand drove through the door, catching itself in the shards and splinters of wood, trapping his hand from being removed. As they swung the door open, he was still buried into the door right up to her back.
He glared at me and cussed as though I had personally framed him for the murder. He screamed with rage, his eyes as bloody as her body, his hair was wet with the sweat of guilt and capture, it flicked around as he shook his body at me, save the bleeding arm as he tried desperately to remove it.
I sat on the floor as I never made it to the top of the stool and collapsed down its shaft. I shook until I was sure all my bones were rattling. I never tried to move as Charlene was removed as well as her murderer. She lay across a stretcher, he was carried by his shoulders by the police, thankfully not caring that he was dripping blood from beneath the handcuffs.
I shook off the tendered assistance, not wanting to be touched for any purpose. I sat there crying for Charlene, the horror of it all, and for the knowledge that I had been pushed back against the same door just a minute before she had. My position hadn’t been an accident like Charlene’s.