The distinctive smell of flat stale beer and the omnipresent haze from a number of lit cigarettes both past and present, announced to the senses that I had walked into Callahan's.
An Irish Pub by designation was this neighborhood watering hole, which sadly, served as a home away from home to its usual cast of characters. Many of them were already assembled as often was the case by this time of the afternoon.
Mickey, a Goliath sized man with hands resembling that of a full sized Kodiak bear sat next to his long time friend Bruce Tate. They were jawing back and forth about something of little consequence as was generally their M.O. Politics I think it was today, but it could have easily been about the raw deal their foreman was giving them, or how much those god-damned A Rabs, as they so eloquently called them, were getting for a barrel of crude oil. It mattered not, because the subject of their debates may have changed from one day to the next, but their disdain for nearly everything outside of a couple of whiskeys was the one constant in their pathetic lives.
In the back corner, the only spot in the place with decent lighting was Frank. He was on his fourth of fifth pint by this point and his dart throwing skills were already showing the ill effects of his buzz. He'd only be another beer or two away from challenging anyone and everyone who'd pony-up a ten spot for a game. It was downright comical watching him drop his money repeatedly each time he'd get a taker. Still he tried and still he failed miserably.
Vivian was sitting at the end of the dark mahogany bar intently eying the door in anticipation of the next businessman to walk in. Her advancing age and less than attractive lifestyle had deposited deep lines upon her face, much like a well traveled road in need of significant repair. Trying desperately to compensate for her shortcomings for what many would consider beauty, she typically wore bright colored, tight fitting tops with a low cut opening in front. Showing off her ample size on top she found, helped draw men in much the same way sugar beckons ants to come closer and have a taste. It seemed to be an effective ploy, because the upholstered bar stool next to her never stayed empty for any length of time. Another mark in her favor was the dim lighting of the old pub which helped her cause immensely.
Then their was Shamus, the owner and barkeep of this padded sewer. He was dressed in his usual attire of black slacks with a permanent crease from their no-iron polyester chemistry and a white button down the front shirt with sleeves rolled up just past the wrist. He also wore a hunter green apron that hung just below his stomach and a matching bow tie. His once auburn colored hair gave way to more of a gray hue these days, and his voice once strong and boisterous was now subdued and scratchy from years of inhaling the toxic smoke of his patrons.
I ordered a bourbon and coke and retreated to a table along the south wall. There was a cribbage board sitting on the table that had four matchsticks placed in the holes replacing the colored pegs that had long since disappeared. From their positions I could tell the last game had not ended well for one of the players. The one using matches that had the burnt tips had been skunked, most certainly giving bragging rights to his partner.
I moved the wooden game board and deck of old stained playing cards to the adjacent table and opted for the newspaper that was there instead. The front page headline immediately caught my eye.
"Gruesome discovery leaves police questioning why?" was stretched out in bold black letters. I felt a warm rush as I dove into the words that followed. The police had discovered the remains of at least four bodies so far and were continuing their search, it explained. My fingers tugged playfully with the curly brown hairs adorning my chin and a content smile washed over my face.
"The police may have questions," I thought, "but I have all the answers."
About this same time Shamus reached up to the TV set that was perched above the end of the bar from a large metal arm. Pressing the inset button on the panel, he turned up the volume to hear the newscaster announcing some sort of breaking news.
It was channel eight and Kohr Daniels, the regular evening anchor chimed in, "We interrupt your regular programming to bring you this special report. Police have descended on a local home and at this moment are searching for yet more victims following yesterday's terrible discovery of four bodies in rural Brunswick County. We take you now to Crystal Chong who is live at the scene."
The steel faced anchor with the square jaw continued with, "We're getting reports that the police have found at least three more bodies. Is that right Crystal?"
Video coverage from their news helicopter showed an all too familiar location as the smooth skinned Asian reporter provided the commentary.
"That's right Kohr." Chong said with a voice that was strong, yet conveyed a feeling of concern.
"As you can see, local police as well as a host of other agencies have converged on this once quiet suburban neighborhood."
"It's an unbelievable scene here." she continued, "Right now they are using ground penetrating radar and are looking for voids in the subterranean surface in hopes of finding what they think will be quite a number of previously missing people."
"What kind of sick bastard does something like that?" Shamus uttered, just loud enough for everyone to hear.
Quietly I got up, folded the paper and tucked it under my arm as I started for the door. I knew I needed to get going before they showed a picture of the owner of the home they were at. I knew this because they were at this very moment, digging in my backyard.