Early in the evening before the crowd of regulars typically arrived Sky sat on the dirty floor of ‘Cuffs with opened wooden boxes scattered around her. She took her time to carefully inspect the contents of each box as she continued her conversation with Scottie and Junie, “I just cannot imagine that tasting good. Espresso and absinthe?!”
Scottie chuckled as he shook a large green bottle with a dark liquid in it, “You’re going to sit there sorting fruitcakes and question if other things taste good? If alcohol is involved people will love it.”
Sky responded with a loud laugh, she knew he was right.
Junie smiled from her perch on the counter, cigar in hand, watching the fruitcake fiasco. “It might taste odd at first,” she said, “but with enough sugar I’d be willing to give it a try.”
The door then creaked open and they all quieted. Sky glanced over her shoulder to give Scottie a nod which meant he could take care of the customer without her. A man wearing a beat up uniform overcoat and sidearms walked in, pulling his large scarf down from his face to speak. “Gods it’s cold down here! It should only feel like this above 4,500 metres!”
There was a quiet chuckle from the floor near the boxes, and Junie turned to give a glance and a polite wave. Scottie put down the bottle and moved towards the man with a smile, “Welcome to ‘Cuffs, sir! Yeah, it’s damn cold outside. Can I get you something to warm you up?”
“A bourbon, a broad and a beach. And aye, I do believe I would like them in that order,” the man gave a bellowing laugh as he kicked the snow from his boots.
June merely rolled her eyes and drew on the cigar, but Sky froze, her hand wedged in a fruitcake box. That laugh seemed familiar.
Shaking his head and laughing Scottie said, “I can fix you up with some bourbon. And I hear down in The Gut there might be some ladies who could keep you company. Not sure what to do about a beach. We have shoreline…”
The man held his gloved hand up to stop Scottie’s helpfulness, “Naw. Blue skies, sunshine and heat is what I want. And I know I’m not going to find that here.”
Sky’s mind raced as she pinpointed the voice in her memory. It couldn’t be him, could it? Oh, if it was him he’d be lucky to leave alive.
The man then sighed nostalgically, reciting to no one in particular, “To ride the warm winds, to taste the sand in the air. Oh there be no greater joy, no life as fair…”
Those words were all Sky needed to remove all doubt from her mind as to the man’s identity. She removed her hand from the box and grabbed a nearby lid. Gritting her teeth, she jumped up and took a few steps before hurdling the counter near Junie. Scottie’s mouth dropped and Junie let her cigar fall to the floor as they watched the wooden lid connect with the side of the man’s head. *CRACK* The lid broke in two and Sky landed on the man, her knee pinned to his chest. With fire in her eyes she growled in the unconscious man’s face, “That’s for the Steel Raven, you bastard.”
Scottie rushed over and pulled Sky off of the man, holding her back, “What the hell, honey?”
Junie jumped to her feet and walked quickly around the counter, stooping to closely examine the man. She was not only curious but also growing sincerely concerned. Looking closely at his face, her fears about the man were confirmed. Junie pressed her hand against the man’s wrist to answer the question they all were wondering. “He’s still alive.”
Sky muttered under her breath as Scottie still held her fast by the arms, “Too bad…”
Junie stood up and took a step towards Sky, meeting her gaze with a crooked, almost embarrassed smile. A bit awkwardly, she said, “Well, Sky, it seems as though you two are already acquainted…but I’d like you to meet my cousin, Henry Sharp.”