7 Fanta and Mickey

Hartog stepped away from the taxi and ran a smoothing hand through his hair as a hot breeze picked at it.

“Slow news day,” he said, motioning to the digital tickertap NewsFeed between the bar name and the top of the door. “Best we keep this quick so you can get back to making waves, huh?”

“That’s not news… it’s digital drivel.”

“Next you’ll be telling me what you do is art.”

“Compared to-”

Hartog snorted, and thrust his hands into his jean pockets.

“As if you’d know the difference, Detective.”

“You never know there, Newsmaker, I just might.”

Benjamin left Hartog for dead next to the curb and strode into the bar. He scanned his hand and looked around for a table in a semi-private area. Hartog caught up with him when a yell cut through the idle buzz of the chit-chat.

“Hey you. You can’t come in here with that.”

A middle aged woman, with badly dyed orange hair and a black Bonds singlet pointed at the two of them from her strong-hold point behind the bar. Hartog looked to Benjamin to see what he was wearing which could be in breach of some obscure dress code.

“No you pretty boy.” She pointed a bloated finger at him. “You can’t come in here in that coat.” Hartog frowned, caught out by his own tactics of disarmament, as Benjamin fought to suppress a smile. “There is a cloak room just off there.” She pointed to a tiny window with a red button beside it.

Hartog hesitated. He was never without his coat in public. Walking slowly to the cloak room he looked around him. Atop each table an interesting array of knives, guns, stunners, even a few targeted biological weapons lay forgotten beside their owners as they argued, laughed and drank. He was simultaneously annoyed and impressed at the bar’s open arms policy. It was a sure fire way, no pun intended he told himself, to avoid a blood bath in your establishment. Somehow he couldn’t see it catching on in the First though.

Taking a deep breathe he pressed the button and slowly took his coat off. While he waited, he divested the pockets of the most important items, stuffing his hologram badge into the back pocket of his jeans and the InfoCap into the front pocket.

Without warning the grille shot up and a teenage girl, before he could reconsider, snatched the coat, scanned the back of his hand and slammed the barrier down again. Hartog stood stunned, staring at the cross-hatched steel and wire.

Benjamin was surprised to see Hartog was well dressed beneath the tattered coat. A clean pressed white shirt clung with tailored perfection to his wide shoulders and narrow waist. The jeans looked new, no fraying at the pockets or hems, and if he wasn’t mistaken, they too looked ironed. But on closer inspection Benjamin saw the shirt was perhaps just an inch longer, the collar a slightly different shape and the jeans a shade or too darker than current fashion.

Hartog stripped naked strode to the bar and tried to park his arse on the nearest bar stool.

“Don’t sit there!”

Hartog wanted to yell ‘Why the fuck not?’ On the other side of town the bar wenches knew who he was. They didn’t scream across the room to take his coat off. They came to him with smiles,  plunging cleavages and his usual order.

He paused with his arse cheek midair. He wasn’t going to be pushed around by a woman with foul tangerine hair and a lip stick smudge masquerading as a mouth. Fanta – Fan-fucking-tastic. He placed one cheek on the bar stool.

She lent over the bar, her tuckshop lady arms taunting him. He tore his eyes away from the cussing mass of anaemic, cellulite-pitted flesh to return her stare.

“I said you can’t sit there.”

“No you said don’t sit there.”

“That is not your stool.” Come in Tokyo – the message was being received loud and clean. “That’s the cat’s.”

It was all the prompting Hartog needed, twisting around to pull his badge. He didn’t care if there hadn’t been a single reported infringement of a health related nature since the Department of Civil Welfare subsumed the Department of Public Health in a hostile merger. The by-laws were still on the codex and a live domesticated animal on a premise where food preparation took place, including a bar, was illegal and punishable with large fines and imprisonment for repeat offences. Faded Fanta looked like a repeat offender.

Benjamin grabbed his hand before he could pull the badge and hissed into his ear, “Leave it. You want to go down as the first officer in 10 years to charge someone with a public health violation.”

Hartog stopped and instead turned, made a mock display of tipping a hat. “As you wish ma’am.”

Benjamin walked off to the furthest booth.

“Are you always a prick?”

“Are you always so uptight?”

“My sister was murdered. What’s your excuse?”

The same young girl from the cloakroom came to take their order. ‘Mickey’ flashed the digital name badge pinned to her flat chest. Her mouth worked hard at a lump of greenish bubble gum which she blew the occasion bubble through. She grunted something Hartog construed as “Can I get you something.” But it was just a guess.

No smile. No whiff of customer service. Just enough metal pierced in every conceivable location to cause a metal detector to meltdown. Hartog’s eye took in the proliferation of studs, spikes, rods and guessed at the piercer’s showpieces waiting in other regions.

It had to hurt.

Pain playing at pleasure.

Disfiguration traded as cool.

Should he point out they had a way to fix her condition? Take the fucking lot out. He’d be a cranky bitch too weighed down by all that hospital grade stainless steel.

“You got surly on the tap here, right. I reckon I could go a pint.”

Her hand moved with lightning speed to the old style tazer clipper to her filthy café apron.

“Excuse my friend,” Benjamin butted in, leaning across the table as some type of peace keeping act. “He doesn’t get out much. We’ll have two pints of your home brew.”

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About Jodi Cleghorn

Emerging author, editor, publisher and innovator with a penchant for the dark vein of humanity. Creative Director (eMergent Publishing) and creative spark behind the conceptual anthology imprints Chinese Whisperings and Literary Mix Tapes. Author of ELYORA (Dec 2012), a horror novella set in rural New South Wales and co-author of the epistolary serial POST MARKED: PIPERS REACH with Adam Byatt. Known to dance like no-one is watching.
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