The air was thick with cigarette smoke but that didn't seem to faze anyone at Hank's Bar. Though smoking in bars is no longer legal in New York City, Hank didn't seem to care, nor did his patrons. Since it’s located in a bad area – an area that the Mayor and police don't seem to care about – they never got fined for breaking this particular law.
Hank's Bar was fairly empty, even for a Wednesday night. The place wasn't particularly large but you could fit a good number of people in it. The bar itself was big enough to sit at least 10 people comfortably. Then there were three tables in the middle and four booths on the far side. Toward the back, past the bar and the bathrooms, was a pool table that was in very poor condition. Not many people played pool at Hank's Bar and the people who did, did not play often. In the front, by the door, was a jukebox with severely outdated music.
Behind the bar were two TVs. They were just regular TVs, not big or flat that most places have upgraded to. They were at either side of the bar and were showing the same football game. The sound was turned up since no one was using the jukebox.
Two older men sat at the end of the bar – furthest from the door to the outside – just staring at the screen. They didn't particularly look like they were very interested in the game yet they never took their eyes off of the screen. Perhaps it was their way of avoiding talking to each other. They were drinking their beers and barely touched the plate of chicken fingers that was between them.
The tables were empty and only two of the four booths were being used. The first booth had two guys and a girl talking amongst themselves. None of them looked even close to being of legal drinking age. That was okay though. Along with ignoring the no smoking law, Hank's Bar also sticks to a strong policy of not checking IDs.
Rob sat with three of his boys in the second booth. Just barely legal themselves, they came to this bar every night after a hard day of sleeping in their own rooms at their parent's house. This was like their home away from home. Of course they preferred the weekend crowd because there is a better selection of women. Even though a lot of these women are still in high school, it didn't matter to Rob and his crew. They weren't picky.
Rob was getting bored with the conversation he was having with his friends when he noticed a beautiful woman come in and walk to the bar. She had to be about five foot four with long red hair, though it wasn't her hair that first attracted Rob. It was her curves in all the right places.
“Excuse me, guys,” Rob said as he stood up. “I think I found something, or should I say someone, to do tonight, if you know what I mean.” His friends snickered as he walked up to the bar.
Rob sat next to Michele, his back to the front door, as she waited for her drink. She looked nervous and uneasy. He looked at her and smiled. She smiled back and lowered her head. She definitely looked out of place in this bar.
“Hi there,” Rob said, turning on the charm, “my name is Rob.” He held out his hand with his introduction. Michele blushed a little bit.
“My name is Michele,” she said, taking his hand.
“That is a very pretty name,” Rob said sincerely. Michele seemed pleased with the compliment. “So tell me, Michele, what brings you here tonight?”
Michele took a deep breath. “I just needed to get out of the house and unwind. Just had a fight with my boyfriend . . .”
“Your boyfriend?” Rob asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Yeah, I have a boyfriend,” she responded, sheepishly.
Rob nods and looks away for a moment. “I have a goldfish,” he said plainly.
Michele looks at him, confused. “Huh?” she asked, not knowing what his point was.
“Oh, I'm sorry,” he apologized, “I thought we were talking about things that didn't matter.”
Michele smiled approvingly, as she took a sip from her drink. She said nothing else but looked at Rob with a smile that Rob knew well. The bait was taken and now it was time to reel this fish in.
“Well I think you are way too beautiful for this place,” he said, taking great care to keep looking into her eyes instead of the assets he was more interested in. “How about I take you . . .”
“Rob,” came a voice from behind him. He turned around and saw Julie standing there. She looked very distraught, as if she had been crying for an hour. When he saw her, he let out a sigh of disgust. “Can I talk to you?”
“No, you can’t,” Rob said, not even trying to hide his disgust. He turned his attention back to Michele and his smile returned as if nothing had happened. “I’m busy right now.”
Michele looked from Julie to Rob, feeling very uncomfortable. “Who is she?” Michelle asked, feeling very guilty even though she hasn't done anything wrong, yet.
“That is someone who matters less than my goldfish,” he replied, not even bothering to look back at Julie.
“Rob,” Julie said, pleading. “Please don't say that.”
“I already did,” Rob said, still looking at Michele. “Now do me a favor and get out of here.” He was starting to get agitated because he could tell from the look on Michele's face that the sure thing he thought he was going to have with her wasn't much of a sure thing anymore. If only Julie would go away so he could regroup.
“How can you say that,” Julie said, fighting off her tears. “I thought . . .”
“See, that is your problem right there,” Rob said angrily, now turning toward Julie. He knew that Julie wasn't going to leave. “Girls like you shouldn't think, you might hurt yourself.”
Michele, now feeling very uncomfortable and a little bit disgusted with Rob, started to stand. “I think I should go,” she said, really wanting to get out of there.
Rob turned back to Michele, trying to salvage the night. “No, please don't go,” he said as if he was hurt. “Don't let this nobody bother you.”
“Rob, please,” Julie pleaded, as tears started to roll down her face. “If it’s something I did, I can change. Just give me a chance. Don't do this to me.”
Rob now saw the look of disgust on Michele's face and knew that there was nothing he could do to salvage this opportunity with this smoking hot redhead. And it was all Julie's fault. All because he was nice to Julie so he could sleep with her a few times and she took it as more than just sex. He was furious with her and it was now time to make her pay.
“Julie, stop making a fool of yourself!” he exploded as he turned toward her. “You’re a loser and you always will be. Now get out of here, you make me sick!”
Julie took a step back, feeling her heart being crushed in her chest. Though he was being cruel to her, she knew he could be very loving. A loving she needed so bad and a loving she could not live without. “Please, I will do anything,” she begged and meant it.
Rob took a deep breath to calm down. “Do you want to talk about this outside?” he asked, calmly.
Julie felt hope well up inside of her. If only she could make him see that they were meant to be together. She would do anything to convince him of this fact that she knew deep down in her heart. She needed him more than anything and she knows that without Rob her life is meaningless.
Julie smiled and nodded. She turned around and headed for the door. Rob stood up and kicked her in her behind. Unprepared for this attack, Julie flew forward and landed on her face. Rob laughed and stood next to one of the tables in the middle of the bar.
The bartender just shook his head as he poured another drink. He truly felt bad for Julie but Rob was a regular and brought in good money. Best to stay out of this little scuffle.
The two older guys at the end of the bar looked to see what was going on but found little interest in the conflict. They turned their gaze back to the TV screen and took another sip of their drinks.
The booth with the kids started cracking up laughing at what just happened. The girl with them missed the whole thing because her back was turned. She turned around, smiling, to see what was going on.
Rob's boys were also hysterically laughing. They were watching the whole event with anticipation. They threw in some insults toward Julie for good measure.
Julie lay on the ground, not finding a reason to get up. She felt as if her whole life was destroyed as she listen to Rob and his friends laugh and taunt her. She didn't cry though. The pain in her heart was much more intense than the pain from the fall. It was all over and she knew what she had to do. Everything was very clear now.
Michele looked at Julie on the floor in complete shock. As Rob laughed, and his friends made jokes, she felt disgusted with herself for even considering being with him. She actually felt sick to her stomach. She gave Rob a dirty look, but he didn't see it. He was too busy laughing at Julie.
Michele pushed past Rob, to try and help Julie up. Before she could reach her, Julie turned around with a gun in her hand. Michele jumped back in fear. Everyone stopped laughing as Julie carefully got up with her gun trained on Rob. In shock, Rob stepped back with his hands in the air. The situation was no longer funny to him.
The bartender also raised his hands and put his back against the wall. The two older men jumped and ran behind the pool table. It became very quiet at both booths as terror started filling their hearts. Everyone wanted to run out of the bar but they couldn't do so without passing Julie and her gun. No one wanted to chance that.
“Why, Rob, why?” Julie screamed, hysterically.
“Okay, now,” Rob said, trying to defuse the situation, “put down the gun.”
“You hurt me so bad,” Julie called out through her tears. “I can't do this anymore, I just can't!”
Rob was about to say something when Julie put the gun to her own head. He sighed in relief, lowering his hands. He let out a little laugh.
“I want you to see this and remember it for the rest of your life,” Julie said, determined to end it all.
Rob couldn't stop smiling. He had girls do all types of things for him. Their subservient attitude always made him feel powerful, which was a great feeling. Having girls do what they didn't want to do for him was great, but to have a girl kill herself for him, now that’s true power!
“On second thought, don't put down the gun,” Rob said, laughing. “Pull the trigger. You’re not going to amount to anything anyway.”
“Rob . . .” Julie said, shaking. Rob was filled with so much anger his face didn't even look human.
“DO IT!” He screamed with disgust. “You are a waste of life and nothing will make me happier than knowing you’re no longer wasting air that I breathe!”
“I will,” Julie screamed. “DO IT!”
“Stop using your mouth and start using your trigger finger!”
Julie took a deep breath and shut her eyes tightly. She prepared to pull the trigger and end it all. She was scared but knew there was no other way out of the pain she was in. She knew she could never live without Rob's love. It was time to end the pain and time to get some rest.
“Jules?” Julie was shocked to hear her nickname, a name no one has used in a long time. The voice was very familiar though she couldn't place it. She opened her eyes and pointed the gun in the direction of the voice. Everyone gasped in fear. They looked where she was looking and then back at her.
Coming out of the bathroom, wiping his hands with a paper towel, was an old friend of hers. A friend she hadn't seen in a long time. A friend she was once very close to a long time ago.
“Chris?” Julie asked with confusion, “Chris Justes?”
Chris didn't even flinch, even though Julie was pointing a gun at him. He took a step forward as if he didn't even notice the gun. “It's been a long time, Jules.”
“Get out of here, Chris,” Julie demanded. She felt a little annoyed that he was here. “You can't stop me.”
Chris ignored her demands and walked to the end of the bar where the older men were once sitting. He picks up one of the chicken fingers from the plate and looks at it. “Have you ever had the food in here?” Chris asked, looking at the chicken finger as if he was going to be sick. “Oh man, is it awful! Reminds me of the food we ate that time we were hiding out at that rinky dinky motel.” He puts down the chicken finger and looks over at Julie, trying to remember something. “What was the name of that place?”
“I don't remember,” she said, shaking her head as the memory returned to her. “It reminded me of the Bates Motel.”
“It sure did,” Chris said, shaking his head and letting out a little laugh. “Do you remember that night?”
“How can I forget,” Julie said, nodding. She never stopped aiming her gun at Chris. “We almost died.”
“But we didn't”
“I wish I had.”
“But you didn't.”
Rob stared at Julie, confused. “What are you talking about?” he asked with confusion and disgust. “Bates Motel? Just shut up and kill yourself already.”
“Don't listen to him,” Chris said with authority. “The only voice you need to listen to right now is mine.”
“Why?” Julie asked, curious.
“Why what?” Rob demanded.
Chris sighed and walked towards the booths. Julie kept the gun aimed at Chris as he walked. As he walked behind Rob, it looked like Julie was pointing the gun at Rob. It was only a second she had the gun pointed at him but it felt like a lifetime to Rob. He sighed in relief when Julie's aim past him.
Chris stopped and looked around. “This place is such a dive,” Chris said, nauseated.
“Chris, please leave,” Julie pleaded.
“It has a really bad smell,” Chris said, ignoring Julie. “It also smells really familiar though.”
“It smells like that train station,” Julie said plainly.
“Yes, that's it,” Chris said, excited that she was able to place the smell. “Do you remember that train station?”
“We almost died that night too.”
Chris slowly started walking toward Julie. “And you know why we didn't?” he asked, compassionately.
Julie looked at Chris as if it was for the very first time. “You,” she said realizing something really deep. “You always saved me.”
Julie’s gun was now only a few inches from Chris' chest. “That's right,” Chris said, lovingly. “Now here we are again, facing the darkness. The situation looks grim and there is no hope in sight but I am asking you . . . I am begging you,” Chris reached his hand out to Julie. “Trust in me and we will make it.”
Julie looked at Chris, feeling unsure. Could he be right? Could there be a way out of this pain? Is Chris the way out of this pain? She couldn't take her eyes off of Chris. In his intense eyes she saw hope. A hope that she hasn't had in a long time. She saw warmth that her heart could feel.
Julie put the gun in Chris' hand and broke down crying. Tears of a different kind now rolled down her face. Tears, not of desperation but of relief. She almost collapsed to the floor but Chris caught her. He held her tight and ran his fingers through her hair.
“It's okay,” Chris whispered in her ear. “Everything is going to be okay.” She believed him.
* * * * *
Detective Danielle Brown showed up at the scene in front of Hank's Bar. She walked past the squad car in which Julie was sitting in the back. Julie just sat there with her head lowered. Danielle walks up to a Police Officer that is questioning Michele.
“So, what do we have here?” she asked as she looked at the other bar patrons who were just staring at the car that held Julie.
“They are all saying the same thing,” the Police Officer reported with a confused look on his face.
Danielle looked at the Police Officer waiting for him to continue. When he doesn't she asks, “Which is?”
The Police Officer looks at Michele. “Tell her what you told me,” he said plainly.
“It was crazy,” Michele said looking at Danielle. “I was talking to this guy and this girl comes in threatening to kill herself, then she starts talking . . .” Michele looks down as if she is trying to make sense of the night.
“Talking?” Danielle asks, confused.
“Yeah,” Michele answered, looking back at Danielle. “One moment she is going to shoot herself in the head then she has this whole conversation.”
“Conversation with whom?” Danielle asked, not understanding.
“With herself,” Michele blurted out. “I mean she was having this whole conversation as if she was talking to someone, but nobody was there. The jerk I was talking to kept screaming at her to shoot herself but it was like she couldn't hear him after a while. Then she dropped her gun on the floor and it really looked like she was holding someone and crying.”
“She wrapped her arms around herself?” Danielle asked, as she took notes in her little flip pad.
“No,” Michele said and looked off into the distance. “That is the freaky thing. It looked like someone was holding her as she cried. Like there was an invisible person there holding her up.”
Danielle looks at Michele for a few moments before nodding. “Okay, thank you very much,” she said to Michele then looked at her pad.
Michele nods her head and starts to walk away. She then stops in her tracks as she realized something. She quickly turns to Danielle and says, “Chris Justes.”
“Who?” the Police Officer asked, confused.
“She mentioned a name when she was talking,” Michele explained. “It was Chris Justes.”
Danielle nods with a smile. Michele turns around and walks down the street. The Police Officer watches her walk away and shakes his head. He turns toward Danielle and takes a deep breath. “Weird night, huh?” he asks as Danielle just looks at the squad car Julie is in. When Danielle doesn't acknowledge him, he says, “Have you ever heard anything like this before?”
Danielle looks at the Police Officer. “As a matter of fact I have,” she said with a smile. She looks all around her. “People have been seeing this Chris Justes a lot in this area recently.”
“What do you make of it?”
“There are a lot of theories,” she says and sighs. She turns her attention to the Police Officer. “I personally think it is an anagram.”
“An anagram,” Danielle responded. She turns to a clean page in her pad and starts writing in it. “When you rearrange the letters of a word to get a different word.” She rips off the page and shows it to the Police Officer. He looks at it then back at Danielle, surprised. They both then look at the squad car Julie was in.
The page read:
C H R I S J U S T E S J E S U S C H R I S T
* * * * *
Julie sat in the squad car looking at her cuffed hands. She sees a hand reach out and touch hers. She doesn't have to look to know it is Chris that is sitting right next to her. “What's going to happen to me?” she asked, still looking down.
“Whatever happens, I will always be with you,” Chris said lovingly, filling Julie with peace. “I will never leave your side.”
“Promise?” Julie asked even though she knew the answer.
“Of course,” Chris said as he smiled. “I died for you.”
Julie closed her eyes and smiled. Tears of joy rolled down her face.
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