Paranoia Part 3

By Joseph Logsdon

Fred Norton was helpless as he brooded inside a lonely saloon. The bartender, though strange and emotionless, seemed to sympathize with Fred. Nothing seemed to come between them, not even the sound of the piano. Fred was, at the end of the day, lonely and depressed. Seemingly, the bartender was his only friend.

"Mike, I'm glad I saw you tonight," Fred stated.

"Why is that?"

"Out of all the people that I've seen, you're the only one who doesn't ask questions," Fred stated.

"It's not my job to ask questions," Mike replied.

"Tell me, Mike, are you married?"

"Marriage is too much trouble," Mike answered.

"What makes you say that?"

"One minute you're making love, the next she's trying to kill you," Mike stated.

"I couldn't have said it better myself," Fred stated.

"You know, if it were up to me, marriage would be illegal," Mike stated.

"Why?"

"That way, there would be no promises to be broken. People could fuck and enjoy life, but they wouldn't have to stay committed."

"You act like you've been married before," Fred laughed.

"The day I get married, will be the day I finally tell everyone about my secret treasure," Mike laughed.

"Treasure? What treasure?"

"I shouldn't have said that," Mike stated.

"Do you have money stashed away somewhere?"

"Even if I did, it's none of your business," Mike stated.

"Could you give me some of that money?"

"Why do you want it?"

"I want to leave the country, that's all," Fred stated.

"Why?"

"My family is an incestuous abomination," Fred stated.

"Still, why should I give you anything?"

"By the way, how is your relationship with the government?"

"What are you talking about?"

"It doesn't take a smart man to know that you're keeping money from them," Fred laughed.

"How do you know anything about my affairs?"

"I've known you for years, after all," Fred stated.

"Okay, I'll give you some money, but only if you promise to keep this between us," Mike stated.

"Well, do we have a deal?"

"Sometimes, I really hate you," Mike replied.

"So, when can I get my hands on the money?"

"Unless you have a way to discreetly remove me from the property, I suggest you wait until morning," Mike stated.

"You'll be here, right?"

"I don't have a choice," Mike replied.

The following morning, Fred returned to the saloon. As he approached the counter, Fred noticed that Mike was nowhere to be found. Suddenly and without warning, a man grabbed Fred's shoulder.

"What are you doing here?"

"Where's Mike?"

"Are you drunk?"

"Where's Mike?"

"I don't know any Mike," the man answered.

"He said he would meet me," Fred stated.

"He must have given you the wrong address," the man laughed.

"Mike is the bartender here, isn't he?"

"If he is, I didn't know it," the man stated.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm the bartender," the man stated.

"That's not possible," Fred stuttered.

"Look, why don't you come along with me?"

"Why? Do you think I'm crazy?"

"You're not crazy, you're just a little confused," the man stated.

"I'm not confused, you're confused," Fred stated.

"That's it, I've had enough. If you don't get out of my saloon, I'll call the police," the man threatened.

"You don't have the nerve," Fred stated.

"Are you trying to provoke me?"

"What are you going to do about it?"

Having no patience left, the man pulled out a gun. Normally, a weapon would frighten Fred, but given his current state of mind, nothing frightened him.

"Get out of here," he commanded.

"Make me," Fred replied.