by Alex Knight
The phone rang at 2:37 A.M. That didn’t surprise me, what surprised me is that it hadn’t rung earlier. It had been eleven days since I had been called out in the middle of the night. Before turning in I made sure everything was ready for a quick start. In fact by midnight I was in bra and panties; an hour later I had donned a tank top and jeans. I stretched out on top of the comforter and cat-napped while I waited for the inevitable phone call. I was not disappointed.
“Can you come get me?” Martin whispered but the quiet tone did nothing to disguise his fear.
“Where are you?” I was already pulling on my boots.
“I’m not sure. Take my GPS reading and get here as fast as you can.”
I heard loud banging and yelling.
“You cannot hide in there the entire night, mate.” A muffled voice threatened.
“I’m on my way. Just stay put.” Once before when I was called out in the middle of the night the rescue turned into a search and rescue. I wasn’t playing that game again no matter how great the pay was and insisted he had a chip implanted. Telling him to stay put wasn’t really necessary; regardless of where he was I could always find him now.
“Expect trouble Anya.” He cautioned before ending the call.
“Oh Martin,” I sighed aloud, “with you I always do.”
Anya isn’t my real name but it was the name I was using three years ago, the night Martin and I first met. Actually it was the first time I had saved his butt. Several hours later I agreed to become Martin’s personal bodyguard because apparently his butt needed saving often. It isn’t that he looks for trouble but somehow it always just seems to find him. That night still brings a smile to my face.
* * *
I entered the biker bar looking for Pete, a snitch who was stupid enough to go looking for his ex old lady. He knew it was a bad move as soon as he made it and phoned me to get him out of there. The bar was next to deserted, surprising for the hour. There was only a bald dude behind the bar and two patrons; Pete was nowhere to be seen.
Putting on my best Russian accent, I asked about Pete, claiming he owed me money for some goods I had sold him.
The three of them claimed no knowledge of Pete. As I was going out the door I heard one snicker, “Dumb broad, that’ll teach her to get her money up front. Maybe she can collect from Pete’s next-of-kin.”
“Hey baby, come back.” One of them called out. “I got some money for you.”
Apparently they all found that hysterically funny.
Since there was nothing in it for me, I decided to let them have their little laugh, and I kept going. I was upset, not that I had any real connection to Pete, but that I had received his call for help too late. Pete was dead and my body guard fee was dead with him. I’d need to find another contract soon.
Just then a drunk in a suit that cost more than my Silverado stumbled past me. The guy was not only drunk but he was suicidal. What was he thinking going into a place like that, especially in his condition? I hung back for a minute until I heard the breaking of glass.
The suit was holding a broken Jack Daniels bottle in front of him, waving it in a sweeping arc. I knew that wasn’t going to hold three gorillas back for long.
“What is going on?” I asked, accent still in place.
“Mind your own business,” baldie snarled at me. Disregarding me he turned back to the suit. Big mistake; I broke a bar stool over his head. On his way down I kicked him in the face. Edging in closer to the suit we were soon back to back.
“Who are you?” He inquired, rather ungraciously.
“I’m the person who’s saving your butt, although I’m not sure why.”
While he attempted to keep big red busy, I dispatched no-neck, took care of big red and started pulling the suit to the door.
“For what, them to regain consciousness?”
“My wallet, the bartender grabbed it when I was paying him for the Marlboros.”
He grabbed the smokes and his wallet and we got the heck out of there. I followed him back to the Interstate where we found a truck stop.
“Martin Fisher” the suit said, extending his hand.
“Anya Orlova,” I offered. I’ve used many names before that and several after, but from that time on, to Martin I was always Anya.
“Russian?” he asked.
“Insane?” I countered.
“I needed a smoke, made a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of trouble,” Martin said. He shook a cigarette out of the pack. I snatched it and the pack before he knew what happened.
“Don’t you know yet that smoking can kill you? You just quit,” I announced.
“By the way, thanks for your help back there.”
Help? I took all three of them down while he danced around with a broken bottle held out in front of him.
“You are very welcome.” I replied more magnanimously than I felt.
“Please don’t take this personally, but are you legal to work in the United States?”
“What?” He was insane, how could I not take that personally?
“Sorry, no offense is intended. If you don’t currently have a job I would like to offer you one.”
“I’m thinking something along the line of personal bodyguard.”
“So what, I’m attached to your hip, go where you go and all that?” I dropped the Russian accent. If there was a real job being offered, we should put our cards on the table; well most of them anyway.
“No, I’m thinking more of an on-call basis. And what happened to the accent; I suppose Anya isn’t your real name either. Never mind, it doesn’t matter actually I like it and think it works better. I would hate to think of you as a Helen or Barbara.”
“So it’s not a full time job then, but a full time commitment. I just sit around and wait for you to call?” Maybe this wasn’t going to work after all.
“It’s a full time commitment and more than generous full time pay. You do whatever you want whenever you want, but when I call, you drop everything and come running.”
I was seriously considering it and he obviously took my silence for indecision. When he mentioned an outrageous salary, unbelievable perks and a new vehicle I knew I couldn’t walk away. We shook hands and sealed the deal.
* * *
I had been driving almost an hour and the GPS tracker showed Martin was just a little over five miles east of me. I saw the Martin’s Mercedes parked among the weeds before I saw the bar.
It was a quaint little tavern in the woods. No gaudy flashing neon announcing the name. I wondered how he had found it.
I opened the door of The Mermaid and Dolphin and felt like I entered another era. Authenticity like this cost mega dollars to achieve. I wondered what Martin had gotten into now. Apparently he was still barricaded on the other side of door the big burly man and barmaid were pounding on. I gave a discreet cough and she was at my side in seconds.
“Can I help you, miss?” She said the word miss with a sneer. Apparently my jeans, leather boots and short hair didn’t meet with her approval.
“I’m looking for my friend Martin.”
“Oh that one. He owes my father money and both of us an apology as well for treating me like some harlot that can be had for the price of a pint. My father will kill him like as not.”
“No, I don’t think there will be any killing here tonight. How much does he owe?” I gave her the once over. If she was as pure as she let on, I was a natural redhead.
I could imagine what happened. She sidled up to Martin and gave him an ample display of her cleavage as she set his beer on the table. Thinking she was game, Martin made a pass at her or possibly copped a feel.
He tried that with me… once. Eight weeks later the x-ray showed his hand was completely healed. He was lucky he could blame it on being drunk. We never spoke of it and we both knew he would never touch me again unless invited. We also both knew that would never happen in this lifetime. It isn’t that he isn’t attractive, he is and he does have the kind of looks that have always appealed to me. It’s just that I learned long ago that mixing business and pleasure affects your objectivity. As much as I liked Martin and was attracted to him, I was never going to cross that line again, with him or any other employer.
“Father, come and tell the lady how much Martin owes.” Again her tone was insulting. I had a feeling that I might have to teach her to show a little respect before all was said and done.
“He owes for several pints and for offending my daughter’s honor.”
I seriously doubted Martin drank several pints; in fact two has been his limit since the first time I rescued him. However, I’d gladly pay for twenty if it meant a peaceful extrication. I pulled out my Amex, “Just charge whatever you think is fair on that and we’ll leave quietly,” I promised although the fingers of my left hand were crossed behind my back.
“Is this some kind of joke?” His face purpled and the veins in his forehead bulged.
I looked around the bar. There were no credit card decals anywhere but I thought that was just a credit to the décor.
“Okay, do you have an ATM on the premises?” I didn’t see one, but I was hopeful.
“I don’t know what this ay-tee-em is, but you had better have genuine coin-of the-realm to offer if you think either of you will be leaving here this night.”
I backed up to the door they had been pounding on earlier.
“Martin, unlock the door and come out now, we’re leaving.”
“Is everything under control Anya?”
“We’re good, c’mon out.”
He opened the door cautiously and saw the owner and the barmaid advancing on me. He was about to close it again.
“Martin don’t you dare close that door, get out here now.” He knew my tone brooked no argument.
The owner pulled a bone-handled knife and with the girl moving in and Martin closer than my shadow, I had little freedom of movement. It might not have been fair play but I maced him.
“Father,” she cried as he staggered backward. She grabbed the knife and lunged at me.
I had had enough of both of them and this place. I punched her in the face hard enough to break her nose.
Shrieking, she dropped the knife and crumpled to the floor.
I picked up the knife, old-fashioned to be sure, but extremely sharp. I turned to Martin.
“Go wait in the Jeep.”
“What are you going to do?” He asked; he doesn’t usually.
“Just a little lesson in manners,” I smiled. As soon as he left I took the knife and advanced on the girl.
“Please don’t kill me,” she begged.
“Honey, you aren’t worth killing, but you will remember me for a long, long time.” She sobbed as I hacked off her hair. For good measure I cut it an inch shorter than my own do, which really wasn’t all that short.
Martin was sheepishly waiting in the Jeep.
“I didn’t really do anything Anya, honest.”
“I think you looked like an easy mark and they were going to get as much as they could out of you. They can’t make much money in that place. How’d you ever find it anyway?”
“I got lost when I turned off of the Interstate and the next thing I knew I was here at a wonderful little old-fashioned tavern.”
“Kinda reminds me of how you ended up at the biker bar.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
We both turned back to look at the tavern, or rather to where the tavern had stood. There was nothing there except the Mercedes parked nearby among the weeds.
“What the devil?” I got out of the Jeep and headed to where the tavern had been. I saw my empty mace can on the ground. Getting down on my hands and knees I carefully felt the ground all around.
“What are you looking for?” Martin shouted.
“Found it,” I answered as my fingers gripped the knife. Although dulled with age I knew it could be polished to brilliance and honed to sharpness once again. It was just another little souvenir to add to my collection, but I particularly liked the feel of the bone handle.
I raised the knife to show Martin, but he was nowhere in sight. Once again I was inside the bar.
The burly dad and the buxom barmaid spotted me and as a one they advanced.
“Can we help you, miss?” The barmaid snarled. Apparently my lesson hadn’t improved her manners any. In fact, her hair was as long as it had been before I cut it and her nose was decidedly unbroken.
I grasped the knife and struggled to my feet as the two of them were about to pounce.
I heard the horn blasting as Martin drove the jeep through the front door. He didn’t even slow down when I leapt into the back. On the other side of the tavern it was once again just the two of us – the tavern was no longer there.
“That’s a switch!” I laugh.
“For a change you saved my butt. How did you know I needed help?”
“I didn’t really. You were on your hands and knees searching for something one minute and the next you had disappeared from sight. What the heck happened here tonight?” Martin was still trying to comprehend everything that transpired.
“I’m not sure, but I’m not leaving until I check the grounds out thoroughly and I have no intention of doing that until daylight.”
“I have a board meeting I should probably show up at, especially since I called it…” His voice trailed off. Martin was torn between his sense of duty and a sense of intrigue.
“Okay, I’ll stay – you go.”
“What, and miss all the fun?”
At first light we started our search.
“Just what are we looking for? Everything looks the same.”
“I’m not sure; I just hope we know it when we find it.” This was unusual, even for me. I always have an idea who or what I’m looking for. It’s one of the secrets of my survival.
For some reason the tavern and its occupants were not at rest. I hoped to remedy that situation.
It was over two hours before I found the first unusual pattern in the earth. Martin grabbed the small shovels from my Jeep and we began to dig. The skeletal remains indicated that the victim’s throat had been cut so deeply, the head was nearly severed from the body.
“Do you think he was just a thirsty traveler who stopped at the wrong bar at the wrong time?” Martin was wondering if that would have been his fate.
“Could be, it’s a male but looks too small to be the owner.” I whispered a few words, took out a flask and sprinkled the remains before covering them up again.
“Holy water?” Martin eyebrows rose in surprise.
“Could be.” I smiled enigmatically. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was committing these poor remains back to the earth with a final toast and a shot of over-proof vodka.
We found seven more skeletons and repeated the process each time. I was dismayed that we hadn’t found the owner or his daughter yet. It would be dark soon.
Martin found the next skeleton. It was smaller than the others and had been bound in chains.
I was about to perform my little ritual when a voice roared behind me.
“What the devil do you think you are doing?”
“Can I help you, miss?” She snarled as she attempted to stand.
I sprinkled her anyway, flicked a lighter and lit her up. She screamed and her father rushed past Martin to save her.
I splashed the last of my vodka on him. As he embraced his daughter he became engulfed as well.
Feeling queasy and in need of fresh air, Martin stumbled out the door. I stayed behind to fan the flames.
“Anya!” Martin called out.
I spun around and stared at him. I realized that while I was in the middle of where The Mermaid and Dolphin had once stood, the tavern no longer existed.
“Did contact with holy water cause them to burn like that?”
I looked down at the empty flask I was still holding and tossed it to him.
“Actually it was the vodka.” I confessed.
Alex Knight is the author of What Luck! It can be purchased as an e-book directly from her website www.alexknight.ca or from Booklocker.com It is also available at Amazon’s Kindle Store. Readers can contact Alex Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org