Slick Mitchell was pissed. His sister had been kidnapped, his confidante was a wuss, and he was no closer to solving the mystery of who this Mickey Burger idiot was.
He'd gotten the text telling him to be at Tommy's at midnight. He'd almost missed it between all the rants and complaints from Reeve Stockwell about some ridiculous PVC incident, and some exotic dancer bologna.
He didn't care about exotic dancers, not much anyway. Granted, he always wondered when he got a wadded up sweaty pile of one dollar bills, from some toothless guy who looked likely to be arrested while lurking around a college campus, but it wasn't his business. Money was money, regardless of whose thongs it had been tucked into.
Slick sipped his beer from the bottle, something he normally didn't do, but Bitsy's was the ultimate dive, and he didn't dare drink from a glass. Louise, the star witness in what was likely a variety of crimes, was tending bar, waiting tables, and lurking around like a stalker. Slick didn't like her, but figured she was harmless.
Sonny Brooks was ten minutes late. Slick watched as he came into the bar, looking like someone who expected to be mugged any minute. Sonny's eyes were wild and he looked terrified, and Slick imagined he'd spent more than a few minutes stuffed into his locker with his undies pulled up to his ears.
"You're late," Slick said, and Sonny sat down, but not before wiping the booth with a hand wipe he peeled from a little white wrapper.
"I know. I wanted to make sure I wasn't followed," Sonny whispered. Slick only heard half of what he said, and he rolled his eyes.
"Don't make fun of me," Sonny whined.
"I'm not, but if we're gonna do this, we have to speak in a volume that humans can hear," Slick advised.
In the kitchen, Toothless Louise's ears perked up like a rabbit in a game of prey and predator. She listened closely.
"Larry isn't here yet, so you're off the hook," Slick said, taking a long pull from the bottle. He called for Louise, who scurried over like a rat, and ordered another beer. "You want one?" he asked, looking across the table at Sonny.
"No. My wife hates it when I drink," Sonny said.
"You always do what your wife says?" Slick asked, and Louise circled like a vulture.
"You met her?" Sonny asked.
"Then don't criticize. She's a peach as long as I behave myself."
"No beer for you, Sonny?" Louise asked, then paled.
"How'd you know my name was Sonny?"
Louise paused but barely missed a beat. "I call everyone Sonny."
"Oh," Sonny said. "I'll have a milk. Chocolate."
Slick Mitchell rolled his eyes again. If he didn't stop, he'd be facing some ocular disease, but after what he'd seen, he didn't think he'd mind being blind and led around by an actual dog.
"Do I look like I serve milk?" Louise asked.
"No," Sonny said softly. "Can I get a Shirley Temple?"
"What are you eight?" Slick asked.
"Shut up," Sonny mumbled. "I'll have a Coke."
"Certainly," Louise said, leaving in the same disturbing manner as she'd arrived.
"Who's Larry?" Sonny asked, recovering from the emasculation served up by the world's worst waitress.
"Larry Dale. I'm bringing him into our confidence," Slick said.
"Bad idea," Sonny mumbled.
"There you go, talking in that grumbly shit I can't understand. Speak up or leave. I can do this without you, but I'd rather have your help."
"Larry Dale is a bad idea. Kitty's crushing on him, and he says he's married, but I don't think so. He doesn't act married, and he admitted to sleeping with Mick Daniels. Maybe he's bicentennial," Sonny said.
"He's what?" Slick asked, trying not to laugh.
"Bicentennial," Sonny repeated.
"He's two hundred years old?" Slick said, nearly gagging on his laughter.
"No. He's probably like forty two or so, but he sleeps with more than one species," Sonny said, and Slick let out a ferocious bellow of laughter.
"You mean bisexual and more than one gender," Slick said when he'd recovered.
"That is what I said," Sonny mumbled.
"Right," Slick said.
Back in the kitchen, Toothless Louise rolled on the floor clutching her sides, as Coke spilled over the top of an almost-clean glass, onto the floor.
"Sonny, I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but are you medicated?" Slick asked.
"Maybe a little," Sonny admitted.
"You are acting like a genuine dumbass," Slick said.
"The doctor says it's stress. It's a situational disorder from working in a haunted location," Sonny explained, and Slick pounded his fist on the table.
Sonny jumped and almost peed himself.
"That is the kind of stuff that upsets me," Sonny whined.
"My store isn't haunted," Slick said.
"Is so," Sonny mumbled.
"Look it. Larry Dale just walked in. He is willing to help us crack the case of what's going on in the store, and he's willing to do it for the thrill of the chase. If we solve the mystery, the money is yours. You in, or are you too STRESSED from ghosts and shit to give this your all?"
"I'm in on one condition," Sonny stated.
"What's that?" Slick asked.
"If I hear any spirit voices coming from anywhere, like the intercom system, the walls, the phone or the computer, I'm out and I get the money," Sonny declared.
"You want the money if you hear weird voices coming from the paging system?"
"Yes. It would prove I'm right, and the place is haunted," Sonny declared.
Larry Dale stood at the bar. He waved when Slick looked over.
"I'll tell you what, Sonny. If I hear weird voices coming through the paging system, thus proving your theory that my business is haunted, I'll give you the money and I'll double the offer, but that is never going to happen."
Somewhere a rambunctious parrot with a love of parodies was preparing to prove him wrong.