The Red Rose wasn’t on any tour guides, and for good reason. Built before the influx of trendy condos and lofts, it was primarily a gathering place for dock workers and barflies. Carruthers pulled into a parking spot, tires crunching on broken glass. He remembered this neighborhood, back when he was on patrol.
Peeling paint on faded signs drooped from adjacent buildings. It once had been home to vibrant district of manufacturing and retail, but both had been subsumed into the great digital collective. The Red Rose stubbornly refused to join the online club, it didn’t even have a website.
Carr was pretty sure that the owner didn’t even know what a website was. Stepping to the curb, and double-checking that his door was locked, he made his way over drifting papers and discarded styrofoam cups swirling in the evening breeze.
The Red Rose had an equally red door, dinged and scraped like someone had tried to push a cargo container through it. Carr leaned on the heavy door, parting the red beads draped near the entrance. The smoky interior was just like hard drinkers liked it.
A small string of bulbs near the bar, just enough to see the glass in front of you and not much else. Low amber glow from filaments inside hand-blown bulbs. They looked like relics from the 1900’s, and possibly were. A few patrons sat at the bar, one had his head down and was snoring.
Carr took the last seat and let his eyes adjust to the dim interior. Framed pictures lined the walls, grinning faces from local celebrities and random party goers. A stark contrast to the state of things now. Carr was staring at a large bottle, trying to figure out of it had been opened in the last ten years when the bartender came out from the back room.
“Hey buddy, what’ll it be?”, his face was scarred like he had been in a few fights, crooked nose from where it had been broken and set wrong.
“Not here to drink, just need to ask some questions.”, Carr took out a headshot of the body cooling in the morgue, pushing it across the bar top.
The bartender started for a second, then slowly put the bottle of liquor down.
“I ain’t seen nobody like that. Friend of yours?”
“Not the kind that keeps talking. Look closely. You’ve never seen this person before?”
The bartender squinted, shaking his head.
“Nope. Can’t help ya.”
“I see. Hurt your hand recently?”
The bartender had some gauze wrapped around his left hand, tacked in place with two dirty pieces of cloth tape. If he worked anywhere else, it might be a hindrance. As it was, he probably could serve everyone here with one arm tied behind his back, while wearing a blindfold.
“Cut it on a broken glass.”
“Sorry to hear that. Is the owner in?”, Carr peered at the back entrance, but it was too dark to see anything.
“Nah, he doesn’t check in like he used to. Maybe if you call, he’d meet you here.”
Carr nodded, standing up from the stool.
“Sure thing. Appreciate the help.”
Walking outside, Carr pulled out his phone. Something didn’t feel right about how the bartender answered his questions. The bandaged hand didn’t make sense either. Why would you wrap up your entire hand to the wrist from a simple cut? There had been no blood seeping through, either.
The line rang a few times, faint signal making for some slight distortions.
“Sorry to bother you Ray, I have a few more things I wanted to follow up on.”
“No problem, come on by when you get a chance.”
“Will do. Thanks, Ray.”, Carr ended the call and pocketed the phone, walking towards his car.
It just didn’t add up. A bar that didn’t have more than five people, and the bartender didn’t see the victim? The body had been found just a street or so over, within easy walking distance. There were other threads to pull on too, but Carruthers had a hunch.
He had to talk to Ray again. It might help string some of these dangling bits together.
Starting the car, he pulled on to the rainy street. Fat drops fell from overhead, smacking the windshield.
Like weeping angels, he thought. The dead need no mercy, but the damned wail until the moon sets. How perfectly morbid. This assignment was seeping into his brain like a dense fog. He shook his head, rolling up to a flashing traffic light.
The rain intensified, mist curling off of the car hood. Carr drove up the street, back towards the morgue. He had more time than answers, and it was bothering him.
(To be continued.)