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Adermoor Cove Part 1: The Rainbow Beret - 1. Chapter 1

Brendan McCoy went to The Rainbow Beret faithfully every Friday. Friday was always payday at the factory where he worked, manufacturing water bottles. He made just enough to pay the bills and come to the Beret at the end of the week to have a couple of beers. He mostly went to see if he could find someone who wouldn’t mind spending the evening with him - ultimately curbing the loneliness that came with being an aging bachelor.

The Rainbow Beret was a small bar on the side of I-70; wooden walls, L-shaped, the exterior lined with neatly trimmed bushes. Outside there was a sign with the words THE RAINBOW BERET in blinking rainbow-colored letters. At the moment the W and T wasn’t working and Phil, the owner of the bar hadn’t put the effort into fixing it. Despite the name, the place looked just like any bar a person might stop at after a long night. For convenience’s sake a hotel called The Mountaintop Inn was directly across the street.

If anyone were to stay long enough it wouldn’t take long for them to realize the clientele were gay.

Here it was Friday night again, in the middle of September. Brendan sat at the bar with a bottle of Heineken in hand, watching the bartender. He was handing Lenny Smidt a five dollar bill back in change. Lenny was a regular at the Beret. Lenny gave the bartender a gap-toothed smile that was both comical and nauseating in its lustfulness, and told the bartender to keep the change. The bartender offered Lenny a smile in return. To Brendan the smile looked too forced to be genuine.

Brendan couldn’t help but be curious. The bartender looked sorely out of place, his presence breaking up the easy, calm country-vibe of the place. A majority of the clientele had greying hair, wore flannel shirts, faded blue jeans, and cowboy boots. No graphic Ts or Skechers here. Everything had a pre-twenty-first century fill to it.

He’s new, Brendan thought. Phil must have hired him real recently because he wasn’t working here last week.

The bartender hardly looked old enough to work at a bar. He had a wiry body, almost anemic looking. His hair was jet black and spiked into a mohawk, the bangs left slightly long. His left eyebrow was pierced with a silver hoop. Intense, dark blue eyes. Eyeshadow smeared all around like bruises, perhaps intentionally. Dressed all in black: A Led Zeppelin T and black jeans, and Converse. The bartender’s arms were covered in matching tattoo sleeves of flames that went from wrists to shoulders.

Strange. Very strange.

Brendan was oddly turned on. He didn’t usually like the goth twinks.

“Can I help you?”

The bartender stood before Brendan, leaning casually against the counter, one hand placed on the oak countertop. Brendan noticed for the first time, in the way people notice some things later rather than sooner, that the bartender’s fingernails glittered with black polish.

“I was just admiring your tattoos.” Brendan gestured at the bartender’s arms with his beer.

“Oh.”

“I like ‘em.”

“Thanks.” The bartender rubbed a hand nervously over his arm. He didn’t seem to be aware he was doing it. Brendan thought he detected a drawl when the younger man spoke. Midwestern from the sound of it.

“When did you start working? I come in every Friday and I didn’t see you here last time.”

The bartender opened his mouth and then hesitated, as if unsure whether or not he should answer. He cocked his head to the right, his eyes shifting in the same direction. It was as if he was listening to someone whisper in his ear even though Brendan and Lloyd were the only ones at the counter. Brendan had enough time to think, What the hell?, before the bartender said, “Tuesday. I started Tuesday.”

Brendan felt a chill go up his spine. A small, quiet voice in the back of his head told him the best thing would be to get up and walk away, because what he’d just seen was something crazy people did. But he didn’t want to walk away; not really. Some curious newly awakened part of himself wanted to learn what this kid was about. He was fascinated.

“I’m Brendan.” He offered his hand not knowing he had less than a month to live.

The bartender hesitated again. He looked down at it mistrustfully at first and then shook it. One pump, two pumps, three pumps. “I’m Lane. Lane Hardy.”

 

                       

 

To Lane Hardy, The Rainbow Beret was just another job at another bar. Within the last six months he’d had three different bartending jobs: a Mexican restaurant where he mostly served margaritas and shots of tequila, a bar called The Rap in Tennessee, and an Applebees in South Carolina.

On his first official night in Colorado he’d checked out The Pride and Swagger, a gay bar in Denver. He’d found a hiring ad for the Beret push-pinned to a bulletin board, next to a poster promoting safe sex (PLEASE USE CONDOMS!!!). Lane went into the Beret after renting a room at the Mountaintop Inn and managed to sweet talk Phillip into giving him a job. Not without effort.

Phillip was an older man, sixty going on eighty from the looks of it, who always wore stained polos, the backs of his hands pocked with liver spots. “This is a fine establishment. I don’t want a crackhead working in my bar,” he’d said.

Lane had to bite his tongue to keep from saying, I’m pretty sure over half the clientele who come in here are crackheads. Instead he smiled and went with the usual sales pitch: “I’m just a guy who needs a job and you look like you need a bartender.”

In the end it worked, it always did. Phil hired him - with reluctance of course.

And so it was Friday, Lane’s third day at his latest job. Things were going smoothly. Lane wasn’t ready to relax just yet. Something could still happen.

“How about another drink?” the old geezer at the counter said. He’d already guzzled down two. He’d spent those two beers watching Lane avidly. It didn’t bother him much. It went with the job and the geezer had tipped him well.

Lane busied himself with wiping down the table even though he’d just done it a few moments ago; Phillip would bitch at Lane if he caught him just standing around. The bar was fairly lax tonight. A group of men clustered around the pool table. Others sat at tables, their faces illuminated by the dim lights hanging from the ceiling. Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” played on the jukebox. Lane glanced at the deer head mounted on the wall. Someone had somehow put a condom on one of its antlers. Poor Bambi.

The door to the bar opened and a new customer stepped in. The man was tall, maybe six-four or six-five. Somewhere between his late forties and early fifties. Broad shouldered, solidly built, big hands. Medium-brown hair shot through with grey. Dark eyes. He wore a red plaid shirt with the button open at the collar. Faded blue jeans and steel toed boots. He kind of looks like Charlie, Lane thought.

Like a forbidden ghost whose presence was not wanted, Charlie appeared. Whether he was really there or not Lane was no longer sure; in the end Charlie’s ghost always seemed real. “They always look like me somehow, don’t they?” the apparition said.

Lane knew this to be true. Charlie liked to point out the truths Lane didn’t like to acknowledge. He’d told himself many times Charlie’s appearances were just a manifestation of his psyche, unresolved guilt for what had happened at the cabin in Michigan. Whatever the apparition was, it wasn’t the man Lane had known and loved and grieved.

The man who had just entered took the stool next to the geezer. They nodded at each other. Glad for the distraction, Lane asked the newcomer what he would like.

The man ordered a Heiniken in a gruff voice.

“Sure thing.” Lane took the offered five dollar bill and handed back a dollar fifty. He uncapped the beer with a bottle opener and set it down on the counter. Through the whole ordeal the man hadn't taken his eyes off Lane. Lane did his best to pretend as if he didn't notice but the man's gaze was like a heavy weight that wouldn't ease up.

He doesn't look like Charlie that much, Lane thought. Not really.

No,” Charlie said. “But if he's not careful he could end up just like me. You should have a sign tied around your neck: 'If you see Lane Hardy coming your way run in the other direction.’

(Shut up, shut up. You're not really there.)

Lane shoved the invasive thoughts from his mind and busied himself on tidying up again. Every now and then he glanced up at the clock; he wished he could make time go faster. It was 11:15, then 11:32, then 11:37. The group of men playing pool had left for the evening. If the last few nights was any indicator it would start to pick up again after midnight.

When Lane could no longer ignore the man's gaze he went over to him. “Can I help you?”

“I was just admiring your tattoos.”

“Oh.” It was all Lane could think of to say.

“I like 'em.”

“Thanks.” Lane's arm began to itch. He scratched at it.

“When did you start working here…?

There was Charlie again, like a pestering insect that just won't leave you alone. “He's trying to come on to you. Unless you want another dead body lying around I suggest you find some way to get rid of him.”

“Tuesday,” Lane said quickly. “Phil hired me Tuesday.”

The man gave him an odd look. Lane expected him to drop the conversation but instead he held out his hand. “Well I'm Brendan.

Lane looked down at his hand and wondered if he should shake it. He had the sense if he did Brendan's fate would be permanently sealed. And yet the man's hand looked as inviting and friendly as his face. There was no harmful intent there, only the desire to connect with another human being. And I want to connect with another human being too, Lane thought. Oh God do I. I've been on the run, looking over my shoulder for so long I've forgotten what that's like.

So he shook Brendan's hand and gave him his real name, not the name printed on his false ID.

Copyright © 2019 ValentineDavis21; All Rights Reserved.
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Ditto. I definitely want to know why & how Charlie— & soon, Brendan, if I sorted out the ambiguous “he” correctly — die. Does  Lane kill them directly, or is it just because they have come into Lane’s sphere?

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Hmmm, interesting. Was Charlie an ass in life too or is it something new he developed after death. Oh, and how did he die? Have others who come into contact with Lane died? Why? Does he have to touch them for it to occur? More please.

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An interesting idea. I'll be interested to see how it all pans out.

It took me a while to realise that the same scene was being described from both Brenda's and Lane's points of view in the two halves of this chapter.

I'm just not too sure whether I would have put the 'not knowing he had less than a month to live' piece in this early in the story, though... :unsure2:

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