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A Typical Thursday

by Julie Eller


I work as a medical transcriptionist in a trauma center in Seattle. I've been writing seriously for three years, have one full-length novel being reviewed by a major publisher at this time, and another manuscript nearly completed.

She sat alone at the bar, luxuriating in the smoothness of the booze as it ground the rough edges of her tension down to a manageable level. The anger, now, that was a different story. It would probably take enough alcohol to float a small battleship to effectively wash that away. But even that wasn't an altogether unpleasant notion. The night was young. 

Draining the last of her third Bloody Mary, she pushed the empty glass across the bar toward the bartender, diamonds and ice chips flashing crystalline in the dim light. 

"How about another, Jerry?"

Retrieving the glass, the bartender nodded agreeably, giving the bar a quick wipe with the damp towel in his right hand. Resting her chin on her hand, she watched dreamily as her drink was built, then nodded her thanks as she slid another five dollar bill his way. Swiveling on her chair, she raised the glass to her lips again, casting a glance across the room, then turned back to face the bar. "So, Jerry,", nodding in the general direction of the other patrons, "Is this your usual crowd?"

Occupied with drying glasses, Jerry nodded noncommittally, "Pretty much," then continued casually, "though I must say we don't usually see your sort around here, 'specially on a Thursday night." 

Stirring the ice cubes with the narrow cocktail straw, Celeste queried, "My sort, hmm? And what exactly is my 'sort', Jerry?"

Now stacking clean glasses in a pyramid, Jerry glanced over his shoulder, "Well, your sort -- the kind of woman who wears what amounts to my whole week's paycheck on her back on a Thursday night, and my annual salary in jewelry to boot. That sort."

Feeling her lips tip upward in a smile, Celeste raised her glass in a mock toast, "rich bitch."

"Now, I think that particular expression is a little shopworn myself. Personally, I prefer 'real world challenged'."

With a snort, Celeste drained her glass, then returned it to the bar smartly. "Now, why is it that men automatically assume that a wealthy woman is a dumb woman? Or one that hides from the world whenever the going gets rough."

"I'm listening."

Indicating the empty glass with a manicured hand, "Let's try something different, Jerry. Black Velvet. If you please. Straight up." Then leaning forward intently, "Tell me my story, Jerry. Dig down deep in that bartender's treasure trove of insight and tell me about myself. From where you sit. Or should I say from where you're standing? Tell me a story."

Eyeing his customer, Jerry worked silently for the length of time necessary to prepare her drink, then placed a clean napkin on the bar and set the glass upon it. Black Velvet. Appropriate for a woman dressed in an elegant cream silk and lace chemise, black velvet jacket and matching skirt. A bit warm for a July evening, but hell, to each their own, he shrugged silently. 

Resting his elbows on the bar, he reflected, "Okay. 'Bout 35 or so, good body and face and enough money to keep 'em that way. Natural redhead. I can tell by your skin tone. My first wife had that real coppery hair and milky skin. But she wasn't in your league, sister. More's the pity. Anyway, and that rock," gesturing to the wedding set that, given her fluctuating mood at certain moments, produced a swell of conflicting emotions. "Now, that's a rock. What, about five carets?"

"Eight."

"Yeah, well, what the hell do I know? I'll tell you one thing I do know -- that's some serious ice in your ears, too."

Celeste arched a questioning brow, "They could be fake."

"Yeah, and on somebody else I'd guess they probably were. But you, now, you don't seem the type who'd have a lot of use for cubic zirconia. Just this man's opinion. And that pendant, sister, you just about need another c-cup just for that extra bump on your chest. Pardon my crudity. So, how am I doing so far?"

Fingering the glass, watching the wedding band shoot fiery light, she nodded slowly, "Not bad, Jerry. I've heard worse stories in my time. And for the record, you're correct on both counts. Red's certainly my color tonight, and I don't waste my time on cheap imitations. Wish to God I'd learned that lesson just a little sooner. But as they say, 'Once burned, twice shy'. And I'm really shy now, Jerry. But do continue, you've got me hooked."

"Okay. My guess is that you caught the old man doing the horizontal boogie with, who? His secretary? Am I right? So, your feelings are hurt and you're more than a little pissed off and looking to even the score. And you're sitting here greasin' the machine, so to speak, getting your Irish up so you can pick a likely candidate for some serious payback. So that's my behind-the-counter analysis of the situation. What'd you say your name was? Serene?"

"Celeste. Celeste Godinger." 

"Okay, Celeste Godinger, how'd I do?"

Raising the glass to her lips, she took a deep swallow, closing her eyes as the Velvet burned its way to her gut, then opened them slowly, a dangerous smile lingering on her lush mouth. "You're truly a wizard, Jerry, both in bartending and psychoanalysis. So tell me, how are you in the bedroom?" 

Raising his hands in classic gesture, "Oh, no, not me, sister. See, my first wife was a redhead but the one I have now has short hair, short enough she could pass for a drill sergeant and has a temper to match. So, appreciate the thought, but I'm partial to keeping my skin, and what hair I have left."

With a shrug, "Suit yourself, Jerry."

Debating, he finally continued, "See, the thing is, Celeste Godinger, I've seen a lot of people come through this place in your situation, men and women both. And if I had a dime for every time somebody's hooked up out of revenge, or whatever you want to call it, I could retire next week, without the drill sergeant and her paycheck. And there's been more than a few times that somebody's wound up dead. Not here, thank God for small blessings, but you get my drift? All's I'm saying is, don't do something you're gonna regret later on."

Straightening her spine, Celeste met Jerry's frank gaze with her own, "You don't need to worry about me, Jerry. Honestly. And there've been very few things I've done in my life that I've regretted later. Things have a way of working out the way they're meant to, don't you agree? I mean, considering the way my night was going before I came in here, who would've guessed I'd be so relaxed now, or that we'd have had such an interesting conversation."

"It's certainly been that, all right."

Gathering her purse, Celeste slid from the stool to the floor, taking a moment to gain steady footing on her high-heeled pumps. "Something told me I shouldn't wear these shoes tonight but hell, they came with the outfit. So what can you do? Anyway, nice to meet you, Jerry. You make a killer Bloody Mary. And if anyone knows about Bloody Marys, it's me." Sliding a twenty across the bar, with a grin, "So, here's a tip. Be good to the sergeant, you never know what tomorrow will bring." 

"You take care now, Celeste Godinger."

"Always, Jerry. Never doubt it."

He watched as she moved through the darkened bar, finding her way through the tables, finally illuminated in the street lights, copper hair burnished to a glorious shine. Shaking his head, wondering if he'd ever see her again, he made his way to the end of the bar, reached for the remote and switched the channel to the local news. 

"And now for breaking news. A short time ago, the bodies of prominent Seattle attorney, Clint Godinger, and his wife, Mary, were discovered in their Mercer Island home. One of the most vicious double homicides in recent years, the Godingers' housekeeper discovered the bodies in their bedroom a short time ago. According to the witness, the Godingers had celebrated their wedding anniversary this evening, a tragic ending for this couple, and unfortunate news for the many charities the Godingers have been involved with over the years."

Attention riveted to the television set, Jerry's mind ran in fevered pitch -- Godinger. Clint and Mary Godinger. Bloody Mary. 

As though the woman was sitting across the bar now, he heard her words once again, "Red's certainly my color tonight," then, "Considering the way my night was going before I came in here, who would've guessed I'd be so relaxed now?"

A reporter appeared live at the scene with the visibly shaken housekeeper. "I have Doris Pratt, the Godinger's housekeeper and the person who discovered this horrible crime in this exclusive Mercer Island home tonight. Ms. Pratt, you've already told the police that you believed the couple may have interrupted a burglary in progress?"

Nodding eagerly, the woman replied, "Why, yes. You see, it's the strangest thing, I spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Godinger as they left this evening and she was wearing a new black velvet suit and her good jewelry. They were going to have dinner at that new restaurant on Queen Anne, the one that requires that men wear ties and jackets. She'd just gotten the suit, I picked it up from the tailor's just yesterday. But when I found them tonight, she was naked, I mean naked to the skin, even her underwear was gone. And her shoes -- those high-heeled pumps that she was so worried about twisting her ankle in."

Interrupting, the reporter asked, "You mentioned jewelry. Was the jewelry missing as well?"

Nodding, "Why, yes. Her diamond earrings and pendant. They were her anniversary gift from her husband. I hate to think of what they must have cost. Oh, and her wedding set was gone as well. So that's why it must have been a burglary, although thinking about the thief taking those earrings out of her ears just gives me the willies."

The reporter continued, "My understanding is that the murders were, well, quite grisly. Don't you find it strange that the thief would steal clothing items that were quite probably damaged by the attacks?"

"Well, yes, unless the killer made her take off her clothes and jewelry first, because he wanted them."

"I suppose anything's possible. Thank you for speaking with us, Ms. Pratt."

"You're welcome. Oh! I should tell the police -- well, I just was going to say that they really should look for Mr. Godinger's secretary. Her name is Celeste Rawlins. She's about five feet eight and has red hair and green eyes. I think she's been obsessed with Mr. Godinger. She calls here all the time. Well, called, I should say. And one time she showed up drunk and picked a fight with Mrs. Godinger, told her that Mr. Godinger was in love with her. What a night that was, I can tell you!"

Tuning out the rest of the interview, Jerry stood silently below the television set. He considered calling the police, then quickly discarded the idea. After all, what information did he truly possess? A woman matching the description of Clint Godinger's secretary, wearing clothing similar to that which Mary Godinger had allegedly worn earlier in the evening. A diamond pendant and matching earrings. And a large caret wedding set.

But Seattle's a large city and in a population boasting over a million souls, is it really beyond the realm of comprehension that there could be more than one auburn-haired woman wearing a black velvet jacket and skirt and diamond jewelry? Ridiculous, really, when one really thought about it.

Coincidence. Simple coincidence. 

Mind relieved, he set about sweeping the floor, stacking chairs on tables and preparing to close up. Hopefully Marian had kept some of that beef stew back for a late supper. And wouldn't it be great if she'd made some of her buttermilk biscuits, the way she usually did when she made stew?

"You make a killer Bloody Mary. And if anybody knows about Bloody Marys, it's me."

Shivering, Jerry stood still. Unwittingly, his hand strayed to the telephone, when Celeste's last words floated through his memory, and he dropped the hand to his side once again. No point in rocking the boat, not when he really didn't have any hard evidence about the woman. And Lord knew that people who'd had enough booze were liable to spout all sorts of nonsense. It would be foolish to risk running off customers by reporting every suspicious conversation to the cops.

"So here's a tip. You never know what tomorrow will bring."

A shiver trickled down his spine. No, he decided firmly, He'd say nothing. And when Marian asked how his night had been, he'd tell her it had been slow. A typical Thursday.

"Things have a way of working out the way they're meant to, don't you agree?" 

"I'll drink to that." Jerry decided, flipping off the lights and locking the door behind him. 

"Jerry?"

A muffled shriek escaped his lips as he whirled to see her standing in the shadows. Feeling his heart thudding, he struggled to speak in a calm voice, "What are you doing here, Celeste?"

"Watch the news tonight, Jerry? Don't bother to lie to me, I've been watching you. That stupid bitch of a housekeeper's next on my list. After you, that is."

He never saw the blade as it found its home.

"You shouldn't have turned me down, Jerry. I never could stand a man who turned me down."

Wiping the blade on his apron, she replaced it in the pocket of the raincoat she wore. One more stop and then she'd be able to sleep. 

Bloody Marys and Bloody Jerrys. Had a nice ring to it.

For a typical Thursday. 


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