by Daniel Gee Husson
Part Three, Down the Pub
The man watched the head of his newly poured stout settle upward. The large man and his sandwich lingered in his mind. Shame I couldn’t have followed him, the man thought.
He took a slow, thoughtful sip of his pint. The man was always very careful to wipe his mustache after every sip. No point in looking like a slovenly brute, he thought. The man reached in his back pocket and pulled out his trusty hankie. It had been his grandfather’s, brought back from some far away place. He thought of the first time Grandfather had taken him out to follow someone. “Human hunting,” he called it.
It had been fall near the first house the man had ever called home. There were horses and chickens. On Sundays, the man learned to hate croquet. One Monday, when there was no school, Grandfather took him to the local, a small tavern in town with on dartboard and a back garden.
The talk was loud and the smoke was deep, the man remembered, that first day in the pub. He had his first pint at fourteen.
“Wipe your mouth off,” Grandfather had said then, throwing the handkerchief at the man’s face. “You look disgusting.”
The man did what he was told and handed it back.
“Keep it,” his grandfather said. “You’ll need it.”
That was also the first day the man learned of Grandfather’s “human hunting” game.
The game was simple, but had very strict rules:
First, figure out who was worthy of your time. No simplefolk, no one average.
“A pretty girl isn’t good enough, either,” the man’s grandfather had said. “There’s got to be something that draws you to a person.”
Second, decide why this person is interesting, either through direct interaction with them or with the imagination. Grandfather was a big fan of imagination. The man would pick a target and Grandfather would say, “Why? What’s their story?”
At first the man would stutter trying to find a good enough reason.
“Nope! Dull! Boring!” These were the responses from his grandfather.
“You have to tell yourself a story about what they’ve done wrong, what they’re hiding. What is it they do, alone, in the middle of the night? What’re they afraid of?”
Third, and this was very important, no sneaking under any circumstances.
“Your prey must see you,” Grandfather said. “They must see you and think nothing of you. Make yourself as boring as possible.”
So the man did. He sank into the background of everything. He became so nondescript that many of his victims thought he was several different people.
He shook his head to banish those memories and bring himself back to now and his pint—and his next target.
She sat in the chair next to where the man stood. Her brown hair was tied back and large golden hoops hung from her ears. She sipped on a purple concoction in a tall flute. Probably a botched Kir Royale, the man thought.
The woman with the golden hoops in her ears searched her bag for her ringing phone. The ring tone was some group the man was sure he’d heard piped into a grocery store.
“You know I don’t want to talk to you,” the woman said. “Why do you keep calling me… None of your business where I am… I will not come home… I’m never coming home… Goodbye.”
Under these circumstances, a normal bystander would chime in, the man thought. Best to let it be. She’ll open up to him if it’s right. He could feel her looking at him, wanting him to engage. The man stared straight ahead, contemplating his next beverage option.
Two quick nods and he had ordered another pint and a whiskey for himself and whatever that purple thing had been for the woman.
As she started talking, the man was unsure if he even wanted to follow this one. Heartbroken and alone, she didn’t seem quite interesting enough for his attention. There was something behind the eyes, however, that made the man want to know more. He couldn’t look away.
The man woke in a strange bed with no clothes. Rolling over, tangled in crunchy sheets, he found a phone on the bedside table and dialed.
“Roger, come quick. It’s happened again.”