The Cocked Hat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A character study building to a suspenseful, shattering climax. A waitress, a bartender, a customer, a husband... which one will survive?

WARNING: Adult language

Submitted: October 28, 2007

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Submitted: October 28, 2007

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The Cocked Hat
by Gerard Lebel

THE DIMLY LIT DINING ROOM in its resounding splendor of yesteryear, covered a multitude of sins. There was faint, filtered sunlight streaming in through partially closed, mini-blinds from a large window alongside the dark and dank double door front entryway. Enough light escaped to see the oily, chestnut paneling and chipped, charcoal gray painted ceiling, harboring a middle row of unlit, obtrusive brass lighting fixtures, lending an air of eerie, uncomfortableness to the setting. Feeling this awkwardness, Geoffrey Slater turned to exit, as an explosion of incandescent light burst forth from both the brassy ceiling and wall fixtures, filling the room with a shower of stark, white light.

The sudden blast of brightness exposed a faded, worn and stained, burgundy carpet with matching burgundy leather and wooden booths along one side of the wall and a long row of wooden, formica topped tables with a myriad of chairs on the other. Before Geoffrey had a chance to make a quick exit back to the real world, a deep, resounding voice from the other end of the restaurant bellowed,

“Hi there… sit anywhere you like!”

Geoffrey turned back toward the dining room and sheepishly obeying the thunderous command, proceeded to the first booth closest to the door, just in case he needed to make a precipitous getaway. The chilly breeze from the overhead air conditioning vent felt soothing against Geoffrey’s skin as he sat on the cold leather booth seat. There had been an official summer heat wave declared in Boston that morning as three days of 90 degree plus temperatures had besieged the city.

Geoff usually worked four ten hour shifts Monday through Thursday at Dyna-Tech Industries in the sales department, having Friday through Sunday off but with all the scheduled vacations, illnesses and the heat wave taking its toll with attendance, Geoff had gone in to help with some paperwork this Friday morning and to help man the phones.

Wearing his favorite pair of navy blue, Bermuda shorts for dress down day, he felt the sudden sting of the cold, hard leather against his bare legs. It actually was refreshing but took some getting used to after the initial shock. A truly devoted Red Sox Nation fan, who missed nary a game all season, Geoffrey had worn his official red, white and blue designer Red Sox shirt and his 2004 world championship baseball cap to work. The cap sat upon his head rather awkwardly as his thick, full red hair emerged from all sides, appearing at first glance to be a reddish - orange trimming sewed on around the edges of the cap.

With a swarm of dark freckles scattered about his face, even at thirty-two, he had that typical, boyish look of a true diehard Sox fan! Since the Red Sox were in first place, seven games ahead of the evil empire New York Yankees, Geoff wore his official shirt and cap every chance he could for good luck, so today was no exception. He had planned stopping somewhere for a bite to eat before heading over to Fenway Park for the big game against the Yankees, which delivered him to this unnerving place.

Appearing out of the shadows at the back of the room, swaggered a tall, heavy set, middle aged woman. Long, straight black hair pulled back into a semi-braided, ponytail accentuating a pair of extra long silver and black dangling earrings, framed her full dark face. Wearing tight black slacks and a black collared short sleeve jersey with a cocked hat logo embroidered on the lip of the chest pocket, she was a rather imposing figure as she approached Geoffrey’s booth. Handing him a plastic coated menu, he couldn’t help but notice a lovely wisp of gardenia which stirred his senses, awakening the memory of his mother and that each of her fingers was adorned with shiny, sterling silver rings, some accented with various shaped black stones.

“Hi, my name is Sunshine,” the deep, gruff voice announced.

“Welcome to The Cocked Hat. The dining room just opened… that’s why the lights were out,” she said with a broad smile and a hearty chuckle. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“Umm, I guess just a Diet Coke for now, please,” replied Geoffrey.

“Diet Coke, coming right up,” she sang to a made-up tune, with a little cha-cha shuffle of the feet as she danced off to get his drink.

“Hey Kevin, Diet Coke please,” yelled Sunshine twirling her ponytail as she approached the service area of the bar which separated the lounge from the dining room, each having their own private entrances.

“I’m telling ya‘, Kev, I’m not gonna’ take Stan’s crap anymore. We had another huge fight last night over a stupid tv program. Can you believe it? I know damn well that Ugly Betty is on Thursday nights, it’s my favorite program and I’m able to watch it because that’s my night off from this hole in the wall but he insisted it was on Tuesday nights. ‘Course he’d had quite a few shots of Jack Daniels when he started flailing his arms and yellin’ and swearin’ and threatenin’ me with that damn, filthy voice of his. Lord have mercy!”

“I don’t know why you put up with him, Sunshine,” Kevin said, drying off his wet hands on his black bartender’s apron. A short, attractive looking man in his late thirties with a dark, handlebar mustache, Kevin continued.

“One of these days, girlie-girl, somebody is going to get hurt and I hope to God, it’s not you. I think It’s time you made a change. Okay, here you go… Diet Coke, love.” He turned and placed the tall, frosty tumbler on a small, damp serving tray and added a lemon twist.

“Okay, thanks hon… Well anyway, I was convinced he was gonna’ hit me this time Kev,” Sunshine blurted, “And hit me hard he did. I turned quickly so he got me in the shoulder blade instead of the face but Jesus, it hurt! You should’ve seen his wild eyes and his slobbering all over his beard. He hasn’t been taking his meds, you know. I swear to heaven, he looked just like he was playing that Charles Manson character in a movie! So I decided I better think of somethin’ fast and jump the gun first, so to speak.”

Leaning in toward Kevin, cupping her mouth with her hand and speaking in a more private, hushed tone, she said,

“I grabbed him by the balls, sq1ueezed ‘em as hard as I could and then kicked him to the floor and sat on his chest, you know like straddling him with me facing him eye to eye! I was determined to teach him a lesson this time, Kev. I just kept slapping his face back and forth until he promised to stop behaving like such a goddamn jerk. I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the friggin’ cops!, God forgive me for using such foul language, Kevin. That man just brings out the worst in me, I swear!”

She haphazardly tore at the paper wrapping exposing a tall, transparent plastic straw, and vigorously shoved it in the glass of Diet Coke, swishing it around…. poking and stirring, agitatedly as the ice chips made a crackling sound.

“Course, I could see that all consuming anger on his distorted face which made me a wee bit nervous but after a spell and a few more shots of JD, he seemed to settle down. We didn’t speak the rest of the night. He went off to bed sometime after midnight and I slept on the couch. At least I had the television for company. I almost woke him up about 1:30 in the morning when an ad came on for “Ugly Betty” announcing it was on Thursday night. Did you hear me? THURSDAY night just like I told him! He was still in bed sleeping it off this afternoon when I left the house to pay the cable and electric bill and come to work.”

Sunshine scooted off to deliver her diet coke to Geoffrey, her lone customer at the furthest end of the dining room. Placing a couple of white paper cocktail napkins on his table, she announced,

“Here you go, sir. A nice, cold Diet Coke,” centering the glass meticulously on the napkins.

“Not all the waitresses here use the cocktail napkins in the dining room, you know” she managed in a pleasant, friendly tone, “but I like to use them ‘cause these glass tumblers sweat a whole bunch and the moisture drips onto the table and makes these little puddles of water all over the place.”

Sunshine was good at making small talk with customers and Geoffrey chuckled out loud at her remarks and she joined him with a hearty laugh. Even with her deep, explosive voice, her overwhelming presence and a sort of ‘wrong side of the tracks’ carriage about her, Geoffrey enjoyed Sunshine’s natural, ‘what you see is what you get’ persona.

“I see you’re a big Red Sox fan like me,” she said, pointing at his shirt and hat. You goin‘ to the Yankees game tonight in all this heat?”

“Yes, I am. I hope they sweep the weekend series,” replied Geoff.

“Me too.“ blurted Sunshine. “I hate them damn Yankees! Well, are you ready to order or would you like a few more minutes?”

With conviction, Geoffrey said, “I guess I’m ready to order. I would like the Grilled Salmon Filet with a side of angel hair agli olio, please.”

Handing the menu back to Sunshine, he continued. “And I’d also like a glass of Orvieto with my dinner, if I could.”

Replying in a sweet, uncharacteristic, high pitched voice, “Why yes, indeed. An excellent choice and the perfect wine to compliment your dinner selection,” remarked Sunshine with a smile and a wink, mimicking one of those highbrow cocktail waitresses. They both snickered as in her natural voice now she bellowed, “Yes sir! I’ll put that order right in for ya‘!”

As she took a few steps from the table she turned back announcing, “Hey, our cook, Dante… well, he’s on his way back from the local fish market at the pier and is due any minute now. In the meantime, how about I make ya’ some nice, warm garlic bread, on the house? I can stick some in the oven for ya‘.”

“Yes please, thank you” replied Geoffrey, checking his watch.. “That would be great, although I have plenty of time, so don‘t worry about it.”

As she began her jaunt down the center aisle of the dining room, out of nowhere came a crashing thud like a huge boulder being dropped on the floor and the raucous sound of two or three disturbed voices coming from the lounge side of the service bar, freezing Sunshine in her tracks. She turned back, looking at Geoff with a frightened expression on her face as they listened to the roaring voices.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing, mister? You almost broke the door, for God’s sake,” shouted Kevin as he served a bottle of Coors Light to one of the two remaining customers sitting near the end of the bar.

“Where is she?” screamed the disheveled, wild eyed man with an overgrown beard and long, dirty-looking, straggly hair in need of a good shampoo. Wearing a soiled and stained pair of gray fleece sweat pants and matching, long sleeved zippered jacket, certainly not meant as heat wave attire, he was a scary sight to behold, dripping of perspiration.

“Come on now, calm down mister. Where is who?” replied Kevin in a softer voice, trying to restore some tranquility to the situation.

“Where the hell is that fat assed wife of mine? Where the hell is Sunshine? he demanded as Kevin stood horrified realizing that this was Sunshine’s husband.

“Give me a shot of Jack Daniels,” Stan insisted. Not wanting to provoke him any further, Kevin poured a shot glass full to the brim.

“Goddammit… I said where is she?” slugging down the booze and slamming the shot glass hard on the bar, pointing at it, indicating to fill it again. “I know she’s here, her car is in the lot out back. Listen, I’ll blow your friggin’ brains out NOW WHERE IS SHE!” He slugged down the second shot and threw the glass forcefully against the wall behind the bar, breaking a bottle of Bombay Blue Sapphire gin on the top shelf.

With stilled voices prevailing, Stan proceded. “You think I’m God-damn kidding, don’t you? I‘ll show you who‘s kidding,” the earsplitting voice exploded as he withdrew a small caliber handgun from his jacket pocket, took aim and began counting.

“One…

Two…

Three…”

He squeezed his finger fiercely against the trigger. A deafening gunshot blast filled the air and reverberated off the walls. And then another… and then another still, spattering globs of blood across the barback as Kevin and the two customers collapsed in a heap on the floor. The Cocked Hat was now strangely consumed by the monumental sounds of silence.

With the resonance of gunshots still echoing in his head, Geoffrey called to Sunshine to get down as he instinctively slid under the table to the floor, dropping to his knees in the dark, musty underbelly of the booth. Pulling out his cell phone, he quickly dialed 911 for help while Sunshine stood transfixed in the aisle of the dining room, realizing that this was the day Kevin had warned her about.

“Quick, get the hell out of here… NOW! Get some help at the fire station down the street,” Sunshine whispered to Geoffrey. “Stan is a sick man and he’s been drinking and not taking his meds for several days now. This is my battle and there’s no need of anyone else getting hurt.”

With no time to think about it or mull it over, Geoffrey was ready to make a mad dash out the front door but in a split second decision he didn’t or couldn’t move an eyelash. Sunshine stood stoically in the aisle and called out to Stan.

“I’m in here, Stan. I’m in the dining room,” she instructed him as she took a few steps forward down the aisle toward the service bar and the entryway to the lounge. She had heard the loud thump of Kevin and the other men as they fell hard to the floor and realized that being shot at such close range, they must be dead. Now seeing Stan beginning to emerge out of the dark shadows of the bar, she held out her hand and softly spoke. “Now give me the gun, Stan and we’ll sit down and talk.”

As he appeared at the top of the aisle, now in the full, bright light of the dining room, Stan stood dazed and motionless having retreated somewhat from the ranting and raging of a mere few moments ago. There was a glassiness to his wide open eyes and his head was slightly bowed with arms dangling at his side. His right hand firmly clutched the pistol with his index finger resting against the trigger and the barrel aimed at the floor. He began to shake and quiver gently as he stood immobile… attempting to move his lips to speak but unable momentarily, with tears and sweat blending, trickling down his cheeks as one.

“What are you doing, Stan? What the hell are you doing? Is this all over last night? You hit me Stan… what did you expect me to do? You can’t go around shooting people because you’re angry with me about some Godamn television program,” Sunshine pleaded, her voice growing with intensity. “Please… for God‘s sake, Stan… Give me the gun!”

A sudden, unexpected burst of malevolent laughter erupted from Stan’s mouth as he threw his head back violently and roared, louder and louder with his eyes appearing ready to pop from their sockets. “You think this is just about last night, you friggin’ moron? Huh? This is about ALL the nights like last night! This is about ALL the times you’ve humiliated me. This is about ALL the ‘Not tonight dear, I have a headache’ nights! This is about you being a godamn fat slob, Sunshine! Did you hear me Minerva? What‘sa matter? You don‘t like being called by your real name, Minerva? skinny Minnie… skinny Minnie…,” he repeated tauntingly.

“STOP IT! STOP IT! Stop it right now, Stanley!

Sunshine wept from the depths of her soul. Stan’s cackle abruptly began to wane again and moving his right arm slowly upward, he suddenly pointed the gun inward as his mood now swung back to that of a tragically desperate, feeble man. Sunshine took a couple of stumbles backward, grabbing the back of a booth and catching her breath as he placed the barrel tip of the gun against his right temple and held his finger firmly against the trigger.

“No, no… NO! God, PLEASE… NO! Stan… don’t do this,” Sunshine screamed in horror at his implication of doom.

At the sounds of Sunshine’s desperate cries and a police siren drawing near, Geoffrey could keep silent no longer. He arose from the squalor of the floor beneath the booth’s table raising his arms as if surrendering to an enemy.

“Hey listen, man… don’t do this,” he said, inching his way forward. You don’t really want to do this and hurt your wife this way, do you? Why don‘t you put the gun down and we‘ll help you.”

Ignoring Geoffrey’s very existence and possessing a blank, vapid presence while talking over Sunshine‘s wailings, Stan spoke calmly.

“I don’t understand what has made me do and say the awful things that I have in this lifetime. I love you, Sunshine, I really do love you… I have always loved you… my head just gets so mixed up sometimes… like right now… there is only one thing left undone for me to do. I knew I must find a way to stop making these same mistakes over and over and over again… and now today… it’s come to this. I’m sorry, baby. I‘m sorry we couldn‘t work it out,” he said, as he suddenly moved the pistol barrel from his temple, extending his right arm straight out. Taking a deep breath to accommodate a new outburst of sinister laughs, he tossed his head back and forth, squeezing the trigger, first hitting Geoffrey, tearing his chest wide open as he collapsed to the floor and then stepping forward for a much closer second blast to Sunshine‘s upper face… ripping off the top of her head as her body folded into the corner of a booth.

A vacuous stillness overtook the room. The shrill police siren approached. Stan, crazed and blood-spattered, sat rocking on the floor… waiting.

Copyright 2007 Gerard Lebel
All rights reserved

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© Copyright 2017 gerabel. All rights reserved.

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