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The Messenger

A Bound By Blood Short

Finley Scott

Copyright 2017 Finley Scott

Akansa Press, LLC

Smashwords Edition

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Also by Finley Scott:

Trouble: A Bound by Blood Short
Bad Blood: Bound by Blood Book One

If I hadn’t needed the job so badly, I would have told the old man where to stick it, but I was two months behind on rent and dangerously close to eviction. Jobs were hard to come by, so when I saw the Help Wanted sign in the window of Big Whiskey’s Bar and Grill, it seemed like a dream come true. Never in all my 25 years had I seen anyone except Whiskey behind the counter. At first, I thought the old man must have died and his heirs were looking for someone to run the joint. Except Whiskey didn’t have heirs. As far as anyone knew, Whiskey never married, never had kids. After spending five minutes in conversation with him, I understood why.

“No consorting with the customers—even during off hours.” His voice was all gravel and cheap booze.

“But—“ I tried to argue, but he cut me off.

“No buts,” he snarled. “It’s bad for business.” He threw back a shot of acrid amber liquid and sighed. “What if you mess around with one of the customers and it ends bad? You’re here, so it’s awkward now. She don’t come here no more. She’s gotta find a new place to go for drinks. Her friends can’t let her drink alone, so they go to this new place. The men go where the women are. Pretty soon, I don’t have any customers. See? Bad for business.” His logic was flawed, but I couldn’t exactly figure out how to poke a hole in it. “You ever tended bar before?”

“No.” I felt my heart plummet. Of course, he would want someone with experience. It was the same problem I ran into all over Memphis. No experience meant no job. Of course, no job meant no experience.

“Me neither when I bought the place. You just be good to the customers, keep an eye out for trouble, you’ll be fine.”

I felt a bubble of hope swell in my chest. “When would I start?”

“Now.” He dropped a large brass key on the table between us. “We close at 1:00. Make sure you lock up.”

I stared at the key as though it were a rattler poised to strike. He was leaving me by myself? “What about my training?”

“What training?” His laugh echoed off the scarred hard-wood floors. The few customers in the bar looked up to see what Whiskey found so amusing. When all they found was me, their attention returned to their drinks. “What training? Someone orders a beer, you give them a beer. They order a whiskey, you give them a whiskey. Take their money and put it in the register. Lock the door at one. Sweep the floor and turn off the lights. It’s not hard.” He stood and dug in his pocket, pulling out a second, smaller key. “This is to the room upstairs. It’s not much, but it beats sleeping on the street.” The key clattered on the table as he tossed it toward me. I barely caught it before it hit the floor.

“What room?”

“You aren’t real bright are you?” He rolled his eyes. For all that a network of lines framed them, they were sharp and knowing in his walnut brown face. “Try to keep up. Isn’t that why you were looking for a job? You need a place to stay, don’t you?” I didn’t even want to know how Whiskey knew that. “The room’s part of your pay.” Whiskey stretched with a mighty groan. “This is my first early night in over 20 years. Think I’ll take a little walk, see what Memphis gets up to when the sun’s down.” And with that, he left the bar before I could ask another question.

My eyes drifted around the room that was suddenly my domain. I stepped behind the bar and found an old apron that might have been white once, but was now a muddy gray. I made a mental note to buy bleach. Whiskey had the bar well-organized. Cold beer was in bottles in the cooler behind me. Liquor was organized by type: vodka, gin, bourbon, tequila, and whiskey. Clean glasses were on shelves under the bar out of the sight of customers. On the end of the bar sat an enormous old-fashioned cash register that looked like Whiskey stole it from a museum.

The late afternoon business was sparse. A Fae sat in a corner booth, his nose stuck in a book while he nursed a gin and tonic. A group of old goblins sat around a table in the middle of the bar, playing a game of dominos. I can do this, I thought to myself. Then one of the goblins spied me from across the room. A sly smile spread across his face as he sidled up to the bar. “Where’s Whiskey?”

“Whiskey is taking a break this evening.” I tried to keep my voice from cracking.

“And who are you?” His voice was mulish, the confrontation a simmer just below the surface.

“I’m Vincent. Is there something I can do for you?” The goblin’s dull eyes took on a predatory gleam as he looked from my eyes down to my crotch. “There’s a lot of things you could do for me,” he leered. “But how about we start with a beer?”

My skin crawled, and I was suddenly glad for Whiskey’s prohibition against consorting with the customers. Not that I was averse to being with a man, but goblins old enough to be my father…well, a lot of shifters had daddy issues, but I wasn’t one of them. I sat the beer on the bar in front of him, being careful not to touch his fingers. “That will be $3.00.”

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