From The Ashes – Part 4
“I got myself one more beer and tried to fade into the background. The place just felt strange. Way too trendy. Lots of twenty-somethings pretending they are rich when you know their parents still pay half their bills,” Jason continued.
Jason nursed a beer as Nick danced with a circle of girls who didn’t seem old enough to get into the bar, let alone be the birthday boy’s date for the night. He didn’t notice Tara as she sat down next to him and leaned over the polished wooden bar to whisper her order to the bartender.
“He’s having some fun, huh,” Tara commented.
It took Jason a minute to realize the pretty blonde was talking to him.
“Oh. Yeah,” he said, turning to her. “It’s his birthday. He’s turning thirty. I think he needs young female attention to make himself feel better about it.”
Tara laughed as the bartender placed her drink in front of her.
“So you know that guy?” she asked. “The big one surrounded by the jailbait?”
Jason answered, “Yeah, that’s my buddy, Nick. I’m going to let him enjoy himself. He’s had a rough time.”
“You’re a good friend. I’m Tara, by the way.”
Jason shook the hand she extended to him and said, “Jason.”
“So this Tara is the girl in the alley?” Warley asked.
Jason nodded and said, “Tara Simon. I gave evidence the napkin she gave me with her name and number.”
Jason shifted in his seat. The more he talked about the night, the more details were resurfacing. He was remembering the girl more and what happened at the bar, but he knew he was getting to the part of the story where things got jumbled. He looked at his captain and saw the older man staring at him, waiting for him to continue. Warley nodded subtly, gently coaxing his officer to continue his story, even if he couldn’t remember part of it.
“We chatted. Just small talk. I could barely hear her, to tell you the truth. I think she said she was in grad school, but I didn’t hear where or for what. I’m pretty sure I told her I was a detective.”
Warley jotted notes as he asked, “How long did you chat?”
“Only a few minutes. I felt so awkward in that place, and I knew I was on early today. So I told Tara, ‘nice to meet you, but I need to go.’ That’s when Nick came over to the bar.”
“Hi, darling. Thank you for entertaining my boring friend here,” Nick slurred, draping an arm over Jason’s shoulder.
“He’s not boring,” Tara said with a flirty grin.
“Wait, are you drunk? Jason is totally boring. Unless, Jay, you have developed a personality in the last half hour.”
Jason rolled his eyes and said, “Funny.”
Jason leaned toward Tara and tried to pull away from Nick’s drunken posture.
“I’m sorry. He’s had a lot to drink.”
Nick laughed and shouted, “Nonsense!”
Jason’s eyes squinted as he tried to remember details for Warley. He recalled Nick stumbling into him and trying to use his beer as leverage, despite the fact that the bottle would never support anyone’s weight, especially a drunk Nick.
“His whole hand covered the top of the bottle, and I swore he was going to cut himself on it,” Jason recalled. “He stumbled into me, mumbled something about almost knocking over my drink, and then turned his attention back to Tara.”
“Whoa! Almost knocked that right down!” Nick said in her face.
Jason tried to pull his friend away from the girl. He was getting too close to her, and he was either going to be inappropriate or a danger.
“I apologize for all this. I really do,” Jason said.
Tara giggled and said, “Don’t be silly.”
“I’m just kidding about Jason. He’s a good guy.” Nick began, regaining his balance. “Fine upstanding police detective. Always saving the world and all that crap. I love this jerk.”
“Well, I like him, and I hope to get to know him better.”
Nick slapped Jason’s shoulder before commenting.
“You’re finally talking to a female who wasn’t your partner. I don’t want to get in the way of you getting any action. I’m going to dance.”
Jason looked away awkwardly, but he could see Tara was smiling.
“Sorry about him…”
Tara interrupted him by pulling out a pen from her purse and grabbing a bar napkin.
“Before you leave, take this,” she said. On the napkin, it read: Tara Simon 212‐555‐2343
Jason swallowed before continuing.
“This is where I lose it. I got up from the bar and walked toward Nick. I don’t remember talking to him or saying goodbye, or leaving the bar. The last thing I remember is taking a few steps toward him on the dance floor. Next thing I know…I’m in an alley with a dead girl. I’m sorry, Captain.”