This is not a Halloween story. I just added the bit at the end in honor of the holiday. Hope you enjoy.
He just showed up one day, and the bar owner did everything but kiss his ass in front of everyone. He even set up a small table in the back near the restrooms, and no one was allowed to sit there except him.
The place had been a working class bar forever, but when the economy went bad and manufacturing dried up, all that was left were the unemployed and the retirees. The owner was just about to shut it down. He must have come up with some money, because he remodeled, brightened the place up a little, and put in a state of the art jukebox with an amazing sound system. Gradually it went from retirees to young professionals, because the drinks were reasonably priced, and the place was right on the edge of the business district. We were mostly secretaries, data geeks, and very junior management. Plus, the owner and his bartenders really kept an eye on things, diffusing trouble early on, taking keys, the owner sometimes poured one of us into a cab and paid the fare.
The man stood out, especially in a place where the clientele were usually under thirty, he was old.
Not ancient grandfather old, but old enough to have iron gray hair. It was long, I mean down past his shoulders long, falling in thick gray waves. And it wasn't dirty, it kind of shined. And he was neat, always dressed in tight blue jeans and a black t shirt that featured Harley dealerships from different states. His body was not grandpa either, he was borderline built. You could see the muscles ripple across his back and in his arms, and his stomach was tight. There was even a hint of a six pack.
I saw him smile once, surprised at his straight white teeth. He saw me looking and the smile immediately disappeared.
He would come in, talk to the bartenders for a minute, then sit down. He drank three beers in two hours on average. He always had a book or magazine in his hand. How he could read when the crowd showed up and the music started was beyond me. No one knew what he drove, he seemed to just appear, and then you'd look up and he would be gone. For a big man, I'm guessing a bit bigger than six feet and well over two hundred pounds, he moved like a ghost. I was on the back deck once and he walked right by me, and the shaky old floor never creaked or seemed to move. He was within three feet of me and gone before I even knew he was there.
Of course we were intrigued. We made up wild stories about him.
He was a hitman laying low, or an ex Navy Seal hiding from the Taliban. He was in witness protection. He was a cop, he was a mobster, and so on. We nicknamed him the Gray Ghost.
We had just about worked up the nerve to talk to him when an incident occurred that changed our minds.
Eric was big, six four and over two fifty, very little of it fat. He thought he was the meanest man in the place, the one everyone else walked around, especially if he had been drinking. And he drank a lot. The bartenders had already warned him, one more incident and he was barred permanently.
His asshole buddies, knowing how he was, waited until he was half wasted and started in on him over the Ghost.
"He's laughing at you, man. Bet he could take you down in less than a minute."
"Yeah, you can tell he's not impressed. Looks like there might be a new big dog in the pound."
Eric had heard enough. He staggered over to the table and leaned down, putting his hands on the table.
"Who the fuck are you? I hear you been talking shit about me."
He looked up, calmly, while he rolled the magazine he had been reading into a tight little cylinder.
"Who I am is none of your business. I'd have to notice you to talk about you, and frankly, you don't look interesting enough to warrant my attention. Now stagger back to your table like a good little boy, and we'll forget the whole thing."
Everyone had stopped talking. It was the first words any of us had heard him speak, and the calm tone totally belied his words. Had he really just dissed Eric?
Eric was confused for a minute, trying to process his words through his drunken brain. When he finally filtered it through he turned bright red.
"Asshole! I'm gonna fuc..."
That was all he got out before the Ghost poked him in the eye with the magazine, and didn't do it gently. Eric roared and staggered back, holding his eye.
"I'm gonna kill you!", he screamed.
The Ghost stood in one fluid movement and poked him in the other eye. Temporarily blinded, Eric swung wildly.
What happened next was a sight to behold. The older man swung the magazine, slapping him across the bridge of his nose. It rang out like a shot. Eric opened his mouth to scream, and he shoved the magazine down his throat, yanking it back quickly. While he stood gagging, the older man proceeded to rake the magazine back and forth across his face, the slaps echoing through the bar. Eric finally went down with a whimper.
By now the older man was breathing a little heavier. He looked over at the table of guys who had put Eric up to the confrontation.
"This dumbass isn't smart enough to do this on his own. Which one of you assholes put him up to it? I'd like a word with that individual."
He started walking across the floor, idly popping the magazine across his thigh. They all looked at Tom, the ringleader, and realizing he had been made, he turned and fled out the door, the magazine hitting him in the head before it swung closed.
The bartender was helping Eric up, telling him loudly he and all his friends were barred permanently, and not to ever come back. Ghost hadn't even stopped, calmly walking through the door and into the night.
I glanced down and saw the magazine, and picked it up. The Smithsonian, a little highbrow for this crowd.
Two weeks later I stepped out of my car. It was pouring rain, matching my mood.
"Great" I thought, "just great. I'll look like a drowned rat before I get to the door."
Suddenly It seemed to stop raining. I'd already had two beers at home, and it confused me. I looked up, seeing a large umbrella. I followed the handle down to the arm, and the arm up to the face. The Ghost!
He didn't say a word, taking my elbow gently and escorting me to the door. As I entered he actually smiled, before disappearing into the night.
My life was a mess. Kelly Pinckney, dweeb extraordinaire. Twenty five. No college degree. No great career. No lover. Well, not anymore.
I actually went to college, still needed a year to get my degree in finance. I loved numbers, loved the research I did, trying to determine the variables of the stock market in this economy. It was all just for my amusement. I had no money. Had no prospects to get any, holding an entry level position that was very little more than a glorified secretary.
My love life was now nonexistent. Had a boyfriend, was thinking long term when he surprised me by dumping me.
After I cried and whined he told me the truth.
"I don't want to hurt you any more, but the truth is you're boring, in and out of bed. You don't want to try new things. You haven't changed your hairstyle or bought different clothes since I met you. For God's sake, Kelly, you're twenty five, not fifty five. If we stay up past eleven you're nodding."
He waved my attempt to argue off.
"I'm sorry, I really am, but it's true. You have potential Kelly, but you won't do anything about it. I think there's passion in there somewhere, but you won't let it out and I've given up mining for it. Find an older guy, someone more your style, pop out a couple babies. Be a housewife. It'll suit you."
He didn't know how close to the truth he was. I DID want to be a housewife, with kids. But I wanted a loving husband, passionate, skilled, who could help me reach the sexual heights I desired.
In the end, I wanted taken care of. I know, terribly old fashioned and out of date. I wanted a man who would look out for me, make the hard decisions, surround me with love. Like I was ever gonna find someone like that.
I determined to drown my sorrows. My friends knew I had been dumped and were supportive, but I saw the looks they gave each other when they thought I wasn't looking. Loser. It may as well been tattooed on my forehead.
The jukebox started up, and my friends got asked to dance. No one asked me, I guess one look at my face told them I wasn't in a dancing mood.
I had switched to whiskey, not a good thing. I was getting maudlin, also not a good thing. I was thinking abut calling a cab, going home to my tiny apartment and cry into my pillow, knowing I was going to be alone the rest of my life, I could tell. Maybe I should get a cat. Wait, my lease wouldn't let me. I really was going to be alone. Damn, damn, damn.
I had to pee, really bad. I got up and semi staggered to the bathroom. Washing my face, decided fixing my makeup was a waste of time, and started back to my table, to finish my drink and wait on the cab, when I saw him.
The Ghost. Somehow he had slipped in and was at his table, reading a book.
I looked around the bar. The girls in their flirting clothes, the men, mostly professionals, in their conservative casual. Only two had on jeans, and they were designer, to be seen, not worn.
He had on Levi boot cuts, a pair I bet he had owned for quite a while, judging by the fade.
"Now there's a REAL man" I thought, and before my brain knew what my body was doing I walked to his table and plopped down.
He looked over the book in surprise, before a slow smile took over his face.
"Hi. I'm Kelly."
.... There is more of this story ...