"I love it when the bar is like this," she says through red lips like moist pillows.

"You mean empty?" I light a cigarette and watch her doe eyes frown at me: a physical opposition to the happiness of her curling lips. 

"No," she laughs and smiles as she speaks.  "All shiny and fresh.  All mirrors and polished wood.  And the music sounds better when no one's here.  Plus, I don't have to worry about you checking out any other women."

It's now my turn to smile and laugh.

"Come on," I say.  "I'm still not even sure I have a chance with you."

The bartender, a meaty ex-football player with a deep tan brings over our martinis. 

"You didn't bet on the Birds did you?" I ask him. 

"No, I took the Astros.  Thanks to you, Nate."

"Well," I force a humble laugh.  "You made money off the ‘Stros.  That's quite exceptional.  Even the City of Houston hasn't found a way to do that."

"Funny," he says and walks away. 

"He didn't laugh," she says. 

"What?" I ask. 

"He said it was funny but he didn't laugh."

"Don't sweat it, Leigh.  He lost his sense of humor in Iraq.  I guess a lot of men did."

"So it was funny?"

"I guess not."

"It could have been.  I just don't know baseball."

"It's funny how much I love it when you don't know something."

"Why Nate," she affects her southern accent.  "I do declare: you make a woman feel like quite the catch.  We both know I'm not the brains of this-a-here operation."

A petite Asian waitress brings our meals—steak salads, both of them—wordlessly.  She stands at attention until I nod for her to leave. 

"How come you've never brought me here before?" she asks after three or four "ooh"-filled bites. 

"Come on, I can't give away all my secrets."

The bartender arrives again, takes our empty glasses and replaces them with fresh drinks.  I loosen my tie and look through the nearest window.  The man in the red cap walks by whistling. 

"There's your man," I say. 

"Really," she whines.  "But I haven't finished."

"Well baby, he's not gonna rob himself."

"Fine," she sighs.  "There really is no rest for the wicked."

She stands and walks out and for a moment I understand what she's saying about the beauty of this empty hotel bar.  But then she's gone and it's just, well, another empty bar. 

"Bartender," I say to the meathead wiping glasses.  "Mind if you keep me company?  She's gonna be gone for a little while."

"No problem, Nate."

I sit at the bar and light another cigarette. 

"Where'd you find her anyway?"

"I grew up with her in St. Louis.  Stay away, man.  She's trouble."

"I don't know man; sometimes I like trouble."

"Yeah, I guess I know what you mean."

Through the window I see the man in the red hat and a cocktail-dress wrapped Leigh get into the same cab.  Bartender follows my gaze but turns too late to see them enter the cab. 

"Years ago I made a decision, a decision that cut people like her from my life for the most part.  I wanted to be a good person, the kind who doesn't like trouble."

"Yeah, and how's that working out for you?"

"Pour me another drink you fucking mook."

"Yeah," he smirks.  "That's what I thought."

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