Making her mine was the only goal I truly cared about.
Sometimes I think Silas thought I didn’t notice him. Sure, he became a fixture after a while, but the man didn’t exactly blend in with the carpet. Six foot three, two hundred pounds of muscle, a stunning face that had been brutally lacerated to the point that it was hard for some people to look at him. I kept my head down and just did my job, but I looked at him whenever I got a chance, and little by little I got used to the rugged scars. Customers were scared of him and he was a blessing on nights the bar got rowdy. People didn’t break bottles or throw chairs when Silas was lurking in the shadows. From what I could tell, the guy didn’t smoke, he barely even drank—a beer here and there, but he never got drunk from what I could tell.
He hired a security guard, the best thing to ever happen to Sutton Place.
“Thanks, Ralph!” I felt like it was all I ever said to the guy. He kept everyone in order. Ralph was a vet, shiny bald head, dog tags, nearly three hundred pounds. He kept things in working order whether Paul was there or not.
“Thanks again, Ralph!”
“Night, Olivia!” I could actually sleep knowing Ralph would be out front. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t live in an apartment at the back of the bar, but Paul had blown all of our assets on drugs, so beggars couldn’t be choosers.
Of course we didn’t pay Ralph’s salary, Silas did that. I was smart enough not to ask questions. My mother taught me to never look a gift horse in the mouth.
The years went by and Paul wasn’t counting. I was working hard, but I didn’t forget his promise. It was all I could do to keep Sutton’s afloat. If the ship sinks, everybody goes so I managed the bar. I couldn’t keep track of the rest of Paul’s debts, but I was aware that time was ticking.
Thanks to Ralph we almost made it three years without a single serious security issue. But then Ralph needed a vacation just like anyone else. He was taking his wife Shirley to Acapulco and he’d talked about it for months. He was worried to leave me alone, but I reassured him that I’d handled things just fine on my own in the years leading up to his arrival—albeit miserable, but I didn’t need to burden the poor guy with my problems.
“Olivia, where’s Ralphie tonight?” He was a regular. I recognized him as one of the guys who Paul considered a friend.
“Vacation,” I said hesitantly. I didn’t want it to get out to the crowd that Paul and I were flying solo that night.
“Who’s gonna look after you then?” The guy eyeballed me suggestively. My hand flew to my chest and I buttoned the top button of my shirt which was already closed to my neck. I had a bad feeling about this guy, but I stood my ground and stared him down like I wasn’t scared.
“What’ll you have?”
“Give me a tap beer. Keep the change. Give me a call if you need help holding down the fort.”
Fat chance, loser. I’d be staying far away from him and everyone else.
I locked the door behind the last customer and found Paul passed out in his office. I took his pulse, thwarted off the urge to cry, pried off his shoes and dragged him over to the couch. He stunk, his face was covered in stubble and he’d lost enough weight for me to lift him. The couch in his office wasn’t the cleanest place to lay your head, but it was better than his desk chair and I was pretty sure that he wasn’t going to be feeling a thing. I covered him with a threadbare blanket and softly closed the door. Stepping into the main bar room, I decided I’d sweep in the morning. I was bone tired and my hands were screaming for lotion after pouring all night. I clicked off the lights at the fuse box and the bar went pitch black.
The toilet in the men’s room flushed.
Gooseflesh erupted straight down my back. I stood frozen in my tracks unsure of what to do. I wanted to scream for Ralph, but I knew the whole reason whoever was here was because Ralph was on a plane bound for paradise.
I fought the urge to run back to Paul who’d be as good as dead anyway. I grabbed the mop instead and decided I could fend for myself.
When I clicked the lights back on, the tap beer jerk from earlier was zipping up his pants.
“Bar’s closed,” I said. I tried to muster my fierce self, tried to put on a brave face.