Michael stretched out his leg avoiding a puddle as he pulled himself out of the taxi. It had been a few days since his talk with Cas, the sergeant, at the police station. Throughout his life, Michael learned the importance of planning ahead. A rush to act landed far too many of his peers in hot water so he understood how vital it was to prepared for anything, especially when dealing with criminals. Even so, long periods of inactivity made Michael anxious. Since the identity of the intruders was revealed down at the station, Michael agreed to lay low at some decrepit motel on the outskirts of the city; graciously provided by the police department. Now was the day he had been waiting for, it was time to get himself out of this mess.
The sky was a misty gray as wisps of clouds rolled in from Lake Michigan. The Pfister Hotel was still an impressive building over a hundred and twenty years since its doors first opened, and decades since it was a favorite haunt of the city’s organized crime. But old habits die hard and gangsters still like to show out. With its elegant architecture and extensive Victorian art collection, it was easy to see why the Pfister remained a staple for the city’s elite, and for its vain. While the “golden days” of the mob had long since passed and even as the Pfister became more of a tourist novelty, Michael knew that remnants from the old days remained. It was still true that if you sat at a certain place at the bar, at a certain time, and asked the right person, you might just get some attention; maybe unwanted attention depending upon what you were looking for.
After the breakfast rush ended and the aging couples and out-of-town families dispersed, a skinny kid with a shock of orange hair was cleaning glasses behind the bar. Michael stepped down the stairs to the sunken room, separate from the dining room and ornate lobby, but with open views to all and large windows allowing in what light had cracked through the clouds outside. Michael strategically positioned himself near the end of the L-shaped bar within earshot of an imposing man sitting alone, reading the paper. It was obvious to Michael that the large man in the suit was a goon belonging to someone, probably the local outfit. He certainly wasn’t there like the other bright-eyed businessmen congregating for the annual Northwestern Mutual conference held down the street. Michael waved his hand to get the attention of the young, lanky bartender and ordered a gin and tonic.
Getting towards the bottom of his drink, Michael chopped at the ice with a cocktail straw. He had observed a round, balding man, probably into his sixties, shuffle in and out of a back door carrying bar supplies and occasionally giving orders to the bartender. When the freckled kid asked Michael if he wanted another drink, Michael gestured for him to come closer and told him that he was looking for work.
“First you have to fill out an application,” the awkward bartender offered.
“No, no, no, I’m looking for work,” Michael stressed, slightly raising his voice, “not here to fill out an application.”
Before the kid could form a rebuttal, he glanced over Michael’s shoulder, in the direction of the lone man that Michael had spotted earlier as a gangster. The young man’s entire disposition changed.
“Here, let me get you my boss,” the wiry kid quickly spat as he rushed away, disappearing through the back door.
Michael collected himself and thought back to a happier time with his brother. It felt like a lifetime ago since they were little boys chasing frogs around the pond, trying to sneak up on unsuspecting turtles sunbathing on fallen trees in the water; he always loved the water, they loved the water. And despite the unfortunate predicament that he was in, it wasn’t lost to him that they should be on a boat together somewhere, exploring the world. That was their plan and it was still the plan even if his brother couldn’t be with him.
The back bar door suddenly sprang open and the stocky, older man Michael saw from before, who was giving the bartender orders, wobbled over.