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  • Nine 'o Clock On a Saturday

    Nora Sheeley

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    "Nine 'o Clock On a Saturday"

    Title credit to Mr. Alec Walker (No relation to Johnny Black, Double Black, Blue, Red, etc.)





    Nine 'o Clock on a Saturday evening used to be early by New York City standards … and, it still was by most reckonings. Especially a steel magnolia like Nora Sheeley from the Crescent City of New Orleans. The brunette didn't think twice about comfort level when she entered The Black Mask in Manhattan's Soho district. It's British flare did not exude its exquisite charm nor a particular elitist clientele. She wondered if anybody else in the wide world knew there was a Soho in London as well and that maybe this was why the Black Mask may have found its home away from home there even though in New York it meant something entirely different, especially after the 'event.'


    Nora leaned forward on the barstool, stretching already faded jeans even more across her thighs and derrière to reach on the slightly lower shelf on the other side of the bar and grab an extra green olive when the bartender wasn't looking. She was on her second dirty martini and this one was being sipped at a much slower clip for the exhausted investigator. Sitting down on her seat, she used her free hand to pull down the black t-shirt that had hiked up her midsection beneath the cropped, worn black leather jacket.


    Fishing out her phone as she popped the extra olive in her mouth, Nora squinted at the screen in the dimly lit, dive bar. The stench didn't bother her - after all - she'd seen her share of Mardi Gras over the years. This seemed pretty tame by comparison, at least so far. Her hazel eyes heavy on the green adjusted to the bright little screen and softened. Crossing her legs, one Doc Marten boot swung in time with the melody of the piano man playing in the corner. She chewed her olive and wiped her fingertips on her thigh before she shot off a quick text.


    Glancing up as the corners of her lips were coaxed into a genuine smile, she saw a hefty man swagger towards the piano and withdrawal a harmonica from the front pocket of his wine-stained button down shirt. The place was starting to stir, the crowd and din growing before there were a few eruptions of boisterous encouragement as they heard the beginning of "The Piano Man," by Billy Joel start.  She shook her head, but her eyes were glimmering with good humor.


    No way.


    Nora swung around in her stool, an elbow on the rail with her back to the tender facing the duo and sipping her martini, which she had made the mistake of jokingly ordering as 'shaken and not stirred' earlier in James Bond fashion to a very tough crowd in the bartender who schlepped her the drink. She watched him make the second one carefully, wondering just how 'dry' the English gent's sense of humor truly was that evening. Pleased that he had done it properly, sans his 'forgetting' to put three olives in instead of the one, Nora trusted the drink enough to enjoy it as she immersed herself in the music and watched the crowd's reaction. Seemed everyone loved a bar song, no matter the genre or demographic.

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    Son of a... [walker] BITCH! [/walker]


    Passersby were treated to a short burst of anger, peaking out at about 100 decibels. Alec had just felt the impact of what felt like a piece of hail on his head, but there was no precipitation. Slowly, a hand reached up to feel for the impact. Maybe it was just air conditioner precipitation.


    Sticky. Of course it couldn't be water. Some kid had thought it funny to drop his chewed gum out a window, and Alec now had a bright pink glob of it on his head.


    He pulled as much of it off his head as possible, and looked about for a friendly door which might have a bathroom with a mirror he could use.


    Perfect. Dive bar. No one would care there, and Alec knew a few of the bartenders. He headed on inside, waved a hello to Sal, and motioned towards the bathroom quickly.


    Five minutes later, Alec walked out, the offending gum safely removed from his head, hair shining with water. [Walker] Sorry bout that thar rush in, Sal. Got hit with a gum glob on the way home.[/walker]


    Sal was a short guy. Italian family. Always happy. [Npc] Damn kids, huh? What can I getcha? [/npc]


    [Walker] Got an IPA? Dogfish head?[/Walker]


    [Npc] God bless good beer, huh? [/npc]


    Alec had to chuckle at that. [Walker] God bless good brewers, more like it. [/walker]


    [npc] I'd drink to that! [/npc]

    He paid and grabbed a seat at the bar, finally listening to the sounds of the bar and observing it's patrons. A few familiar faces he knew from passing encounters, a few new faces, and one he'd encountered quite recently.


    She seemed focused on the music, an amused look on her face at a true bar classic. Alec would not intrude on her quiet night drinking without a good reason. Some people still drank for no reason other than some comfort in their existence-an assurance that one can always feel even less.

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    It had been a while since she'd be out to a bar and she figured the night air could calm her nerves. Earlier she had had an unexpected guest show up in her apartment asking her to figure out who killed him and yadda yadda yadda. Sometimes she wished she could put up signs saying, "No spirits allowed" around her apartment, but then she figured that they would know she could she them then and come in after the fact. So she had told the ghost that she would, but that he would have to leave her apartment and promise to never intrude again. For the most part that always worked. She seized the moment and left the apartment.


    Her eyes stayed straight ahead as she made her way to the bar, making sure to not make eye contact with any roaming spirits. After making it to the bar with no spirit interruption she let out a soft sigh of relief. What was even better was that getting at least a little tipsy seemed to help her ignore or turn off her ability to spot the spirits. Her eyes did seem to pass over her surroundings once she entered the building and was glad to see not a spirit in sight. At least for now there wasn't. She made her way to the bar and smiled at the bartender as he walked over. [aingeal]I'd like a bourbon and coke, please.[/aingeal]


    [npc]Comin' right up.[/npc]


    After her drink arrived she gave a quick nod to the bartender and picked up the glass, taking a slow sip. Her eyes closed for a second, feeling the liquid go down her throat. It was nice to have some hard liquor for a change. Normally for her it was just malt beer's at her apartment. It wasn't that she didn't want to keep liquor in her apartment. It was just she didn't want to turn to the bottle every time something unwanted popped up. Earlier it would have been impossible to not turn to a bottle of bourbon or any kind of hard alcohol for that matter.


    She turned her around, keeping the drink in her hand and once again moved her eyes around the bar. She stopped on the piano player and the man with the harmonica. She thought they were both pretty talented, but it was just such a common place song to play in a bar. Sure she enjoyed the song, but she always loved hearing original pieces. 

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    The door opened. Just as quickly the woman at the threshold to the less-than-stellar bar visibly flinched, sighed, and turned on the spot to leave. It wasn't worth it. How did she know it wasn't worth it? Because any source worth her time wouldn't be found curled up in some dark, seedy corner of a rundown establishment like this one when there were plenty of other, far more upstanding ones nearby. Obscurity providing a bit more security for a meeting? Only by virtue of the stench, perhaps. No, it couldn't possibly be worth it.


    A figure that'd been sitting at a table let out a few soft 'No, no, no' utterances as he darted toward the door to catch the hand of the over-dressed -- or, perhaps, under-dressed -- woman. is free hand beckoned her in as his lips moved quickly full of assurances and promises it was the right place and there was much to tell her.


    Morrigan's bright, golden eyes fell to the short creature that begged an audience. His disheveled appearance also foretold of a wasted evening. Oh by the Ancestors she would only come to regret this.


    Led to the man's tables, Morrigan didn't bother paying attention if any found her black dress unsuited for the venue. It was buttoned at the front at a single point, which provided a deep neck line and left her belly exposed. Tight, black pants hid the flesh of her legs and two knee-high boots cushioned all her journeys. Automobiles were a necessary evil in her opinion; best avoided whenever possible.


    She found a seat, which soon found an adjacent one occupied by her 'informant.' Immediately he leaned in with beady eyes darting every which way as if they were being watched; the ramblings began, which only slightly held the Mage's attention. Her staff she continued to hold in one hand straight up; this was sure to be a decidedly short meeting so why bother getting comfortable?


    As he went on, Morrigan's eyes slid toward the bar where a vaguely reminiscent figure sat. Hard to tell from where she sat. It was at least a welcome, mental reprieve to contemplate where she might have seen the other woman. If the man's nonsense didn't start leading the Mage to something of importance soon she might very well silence his wagging tongue sooner than later and seek better company.


    Or a place that did not reek. She hated being indoors.

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    Nora kept her eyes mostly trained on Billy Jr. and his fat friend, periodically sipping her martini while crooking one elbow on the rail and the other relaxed around the slender step of the glass that rested on her thigh. Billy Joel had been old even when she was young, but she still remembered the thick dark hair he had in her early days before the majority of it disappeared.  His likes had been long lost before the catastrophic event that changed the world. The music took her back to a time when things had been deceptively simple.


    The bustle of folks milling about as well as those clustered in their dark corners only intrigued mild attention. What caught relentless notice that Nora could not tear her eyes away from when they had glimpsed it, was the woman, Morrigan, whom she had met back in Woodmere. It was the staff carried as much as the outfit that drew her vision to the woman herself with an acute interest, though short and sharp before she caught the ARMA representatives eye and gave her a nod of acknowledgement, understanding smile and raised her glass in a silent faraway toast. Whether Morrigan remembered Nora or not, Nora certainly remembered the larger than life character who had entered the crime scene as if she were the commanding officer in charge.


    Green eyes were alight, shards of soft russet warm as the tore themselves away from Morrigan. As Nora turned back towards the bar and set her drink on the counter, she caught another familiar face down the way. Her smile was a wider grin stretching from ear-to-ear now as internal thought gave the woman further amusement. What was this, an ARMA hangout like cops used to do when they went to the local watering hole after work? Liken to a 'cop bar,' maybe this was an 'ARMA bar.' Breathless laughter was lost in noise of The Black Mask after the music ended and another round of cheers went up.


    Beyond Alec sat a stunning female with model good looks - great facial structure and perceptive eyes as she watched the duo wrap the song up. She seemed slightly out of place in the sea of average looking people - or at least the kind that may have been stereotyped to frequent such establishments. Then, again, here she sat and taking note of two ARMA mages - and not just any. These two, she had met. There were follow-up questions she was hoping to ask regarding the case they had met on and a few things that concerned her. Contemplative, she popped another olive in her mouth and washed it down with another sip, veiled lashes eyeing Alec from beneath since he seemed the logical place to start, given Morrigan was busy.


    The chatter in the tavern wasn't terribly loud considering the amount of people. Then again, this was a dive well-suited for dirty deeds done dirt cheap, it seemed. The thoughtless lyric coming to realization had her smirking terribly as she loosened up a little bit. She wouldn't let herself go entirely 'loose' though. This was still The Black Mask, and sure enough, there would damn well be a bar fight on the horizon one way or another, Nora suspected. Besides, like her element, she wasn't one to let that stone wall guarding sensibility down easily.

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    • 2 weeks later...

    Alec downed his beer, placing the glass down on the bar contentedly, and continued to observe the people.


    There were quite a few here, so he picked about four faces and observed them. Hopefully they were drunk enough they wouldn't notice the mage staring. Wouldn't notice or wouldn't mind. Either worked for him, since he just wanted to relax by doing some bar-watching.


    Nora was an interesting character, but he'd met her before. Not the kind of person who'd grab your attention out of the blue. Plus, she seemed to be enjoying the solitude as far as he could tell.


    Morrigan was always weird. Weird was interesting. What kind of crazy woman wears something that revealing on a cold November night? Plus she seemed to be having a conversation with someone. Maybe worth keeping an eye on. Definitely not going to interrupt, though. 


    Then there was the girl who looked like she'd spent too long turning guys away. She'd probably just leave if she got an eye of someone watching her. 


    So, who else could he look out for? There was the piano player, coming to the close of his song. There were the buddies drinking at the little tables in the back. There were some women with fruity looking drinks clustered at the end of the bar. Alec scoffed, and turned back around to flag down Sal. 


    [walker] Hey, Sal. Think it's time to step it up a little bit. What ya got back there in the whiskey vein?[/walker] 


    Sal gave him a nod as he slipped away to check the well-aged whiskey stores in the back. Alec turned round again, and Nora caught his attention. She'd been watching him too. Might as well have a chat with her anyway. Bars were social places. Alec stood, grabbing his Jacket, and made his way down to a barstool near Nora. [walker] Hey. Fancy meetin' you 'round here.[/walker] 


    He gestured to the stool next to her. [walker] Mind if I sit?[/walker]

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    Nora nodded to Alec after she saw him making his way down towards her for a conversation. Didn't take  a rocket scientist to see he grabbed his jacket and was on the move. In fact, Nora was looking forward to picking his brain, though Carroll's words had been like a seed planted in already familiar, fertile soil. Part of her wanted to smack him, while the other wanted to smack his lips sometimes.


    "Be my guest. Real nice to see another familiar face - hey, you mind if I ask you a question?"


    She awaited his response, claiming a sip of her drink before resting it again on her thigh, slender fingers halfway between entwined and firm around the thin, martini stemmed glass. They were a cumbersome drink glass not meant for any who didn't harbor the grace or skill to drink them, which may have surprised a few who viewed Nora Sheeley. Did people see her as a vodka martini woman, as she was right then and there, or did they see her as beer and pretzels.


    She must have been losing her touch even thinking such human thoughts. But, that was the trick of staying sharp. Get your head into someone else's cranium and dissect every iota of their perception. It was a stellar way to blend into a crowd and anonymity was an ex-spy's best friend. Even more so, an independent, for-hire private investigator and consultant in a still ever-changing world.


    Nora felt her grasp slipping on it all sometimes. She'd be a fool not to admit that to herself. She was only as good as her weakest point and that is why she continually kept honesty with herself on the forefront. This was no time to allow herself to get sloppy. It was, however, a time to start getting more creative of about her work. Which is just exactly what Alec's appearance along with that of Morrigan inspired.

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    • 2 months later...

    After the music had ended she kept herself faced outward from the bar, looking over the patrons of the bar. Her gaze stopped on a few people that were sitting and talking. Some of them seemed to be having serious conversations. Her gaze shifted once more and for a split second she thought she saw a spirit drift though the wall from the outside of the bar. She turned her body back toward the bar, looking down at her drink and taking another sip, acting as if she hadn't noticed the spirit. After a few minutes she raised her eyes up and looked down one side of the bar, noticing two people chatting at the bar. She smiled slightly and moved her eyes back down to her drink.


    It seemed like no one she knew was here tonight, which meant that her friends must be at some other bar or night club. They had called her earlier in the day, but she had gave some lame excuse as to why she didn't feel like going out, but after sitting at home for an hour or two she change her mind and decided to go out. She hadn't wanted to text or call her friends because she thought they would think she had been lying earlier. Inwardly she sighed as she spun the glass slowly on the countertop, wondering if she should take her leave and just head back home.


    Her eyes lifted up once more and looked down the bar once again, this time noticing a spirit at the end of the bar. She dared not let her eyes rest on the specter and moved them down to look at her drink once more. [aingeal]Not now...[/aingeal] She whispered softly to herself and then took a long and slow drink, finishing it off. She placed the glass on the counter and figured she must need something a little stronger. She lifted her head and caught the attention of the bartender. [aingeal]Can I get a shot of whiskey, please?[/aingeal]


    The bartender prepared the shot and set it down in front of her. Aingeal wasted no time in picking it up and drinking it as quickly as possible. She put the shot glass back down on the counter and took another look down the bar, not seeing the spirit this time. She smiled to herself and said a silent thank you.

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