What follows is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, currently titled Paco. I am hoping to release the book sometime this summer. Please watch for further details about its availability in the coming weeks.
By 1:30 a.m., the remaining patrons had left The Boony Bar, allowing Mike and Eric to get an early start on clean up duties. Mike was giving some beer mugs a final wipe with a towel and setting them on a shelf on the bar when he heard the old stairs leading to the lobby creak. Knowing it had to be Paco on his way into the barroom, Mike set down his towel and waited for the old Mexican to come through the door.
Paco appeared without his cap, something he always had on in public. He still wore his work clothes, spotted with white paint from the work he was doing above the urinals in the men’s washroom earlier that day. He walked straight to the bar in front of Eric. His eyes were red and swollen from weeping. He looked more tired than Mike had ever seen.
“Whiskey-wadda, no ice,” he half-whispered. It was a request he didn’t need to make, as Eric already knew the order.
Paco took his glass and limped solemnly to the table reserved for him. After setting his drink down, he stared at a spot on the wall. Tears welled up in the corner of his eyes. He wiped them away with his stubby, paint-splattered fingers.
Paco made a fist and rubbed a knuckle on some unseen spot on the wall in front of him. When he removed his hand, Mike spotted just a hint of a dent in the plaster where he had touched. Paco opened his hand and rubbed the spot up and down before taking his chair and sipping his drink. He buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shuddering as he began to cry.
Mike was frozen in place at the end of the bar. He had no idea why Paco was so emotional, but felt compassion for him regardless. Mike thought about walking over and putting an arm around the old man, but stayed where he was.
The creak and slam of the back door to The Boony pulled Mike’s attention away from Paco. The dark shadow that filled the doorway made a ball of anxiety form in Mike’s throat. Brian Langlois walked to the middle of the room, removed his plaid jacket and put his hands on his hips. An arrogant smirk crossed his face when he eyed Mike. His gaze moved to Paco sitting alone sipping his drink and crying.
Langlois rolled up his shirtsleeves and started for the old man. Eric began to move around the bar, but Mike held up his hand motioning for him to stop.
“I’m going to end this,” Mike said. Perspiration was already beginning to bubble on his brow.
“I’m right here,” Eric said.
Mike strode toward Paco to head off Langlois.
“What do you want?” Mike said, standing face to face with the thickly built former junior hockey player.
“I gotta settle a score,” Langlois said. He wiped his mouth with his thumb then wiped his thumb on the chest of his shirt. “I owe grandpa here a gawd-damned lump on the head.”
“Just leave, Brian. All this stuff between you and him – and you and I – it’s over. Just leave and don’t come back,” Mike said as sternly as he could manage. “Eric’s calling the police. Leave now and there’ll be nothing to lodge a complaint about.”
Eric scrambled to the end of the bar and grabbed the phone, punching the speed-dial button for the RCMP.
Langlois wasn’t going anywhere. He reached around Mike and nudged Paco firmly on the shoulder.
“What’ya drinkin’ old man?” he said.
Mike took another step towards Langlois. He stared up into the intruder’s eyes. Langlois glared down at him.
“Leave him alone and get out,” Mike growled.
Langlois pushed Mike hard in the chest, sending the smaller of the two stumbling backwards onto Paco’s table.
“Get the fuck outta here,” Langlois snapped at Mike. “I’ll take care of you in due time.”
Mike caught his breath and checked on Paco. The old man still had his face buried in his hands, seemingly oblivious to the tense situation developing beside him.
“Get up, you old bastard,” Langlois yelled.
“Get the hell out of here!” Mike screamed, returning to his position between Langlois and Paco.
Langlois laughed and pushed Mike even harder, forcing him to the floor.
Eric ran around the bar, but Mike shook his head at him as he got back up.
Paco stood, slurped the last of his “whiskey-wadda,” and stepped away from his table. He turned to face Langlois head on. The old man’s forehead barely reached Langlois’ chin.
“Mickey say you gotta go, you gotta go,” said Paco.
Langlois threw a jab at Paco, but the old man sidestepped the speeding fist, putting Langlois off-balance. Paco leaned over to the rack of pool cues on the wall and pulled one down. He stood calmly beside the pool table as if waiting for his turn to shoot.
“You wiry old son of a bitch,” Langlois said as he charged forward for another shot.
Paco flipped the cue over and clubbed Langlois in the ear with the thick end of the stick. The force of the blow made Langlois scream and paw at the side of his head. He looked at his hand and saw blood. It dripped from behind his ear, down his lobe and onto the collar of his shirt.
“You better go before you get hurt,” Paco said to him calmly.
Langlois shook his head to clear the stars he saw after the knock with the pool cue. He wiped blood from his ear again, looked at it then took a third run at Paco, who was standing about ten feet away.
As Eric jumped the bar, Mike dove to tackle Langlois before he got to Paco, but missed and crashed into a table and some chairs.
Paco quickly snapped the pool cue over his knee then pointed the jagged end of it at Langlois as the giant began raising his right arm for a punch. His fist connected with Paco’s chin just before his momentum carried both men over a table. They spilled to the floor, neither of them moving.
Mike rushed to Paco's side. The old man clutched his chest, his face twisted in pain. Langlois groaned beside them. Mike rolled him away. The pool cue fell out of a deep puncture in Langlois’ abdomen. Thick, red blood was already pooling on the carpet underneath him.
“Eric! Call an ambulance!” Mike screamed.
Eric raced back around the bar to the phone. Mike removed his shirt, balled it up and pressed it against the wound in Langlois’ belly. Then he turned his attention to Paco.
“Hang on, Paco,” he said, tears already coursing down his cheeks. “Please hang on.”
Paco grunted, unable to pull air into his lungs. When he did manage to, it was a quick gasp followed by a gurgle. The old man squirmed from the lack of oxygen and the unbearable pain in his chest.
Mike reached for one of Paco’s hands and squeezed it.
“Please, Paco. Stay with me. Stay with me,” Mike pleaded.
Paco’s face went blue, then grey. His attempts at breathing slowed. His eyes went dim. Mike was sure he was watching his old friend die and there was nothing he could do to save him.