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Time for Death
by Christie Silvers
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1

“Come on, Liz. You know it’ll be a blast. We always have fun when we go out to Fosters Cemetery,” Rick begged while straddling a bar stool in front of me as I poured long-time patron and mother-figure, Adele, another shot of Jack Daniels.

 

Rick’s green eyes sparkled with the thoughts of our previous romps around the county’s supposed haunted graveyard. Not that I blame him. We do always have a good time out there. I resisted the urge to swipe his blonde hair away from his face—it would just provoke him further—and started wiping down the bar counter top instead.

 

I’ve known Rick ever since high school. He was the small, skinny, geeky guy friend that most girls have, hanging around like a lost puppy, trying to include himself in any activity I was involved in until I finally gave in and noticed him. He’s been one of my best friends ever since, even though he has wanted more than that from the beginning.

 

Two years ago, a drunken, lonely evening turned us into a little more than friends. He’d always had his women, as I’ve had my men, but we also had each other when things went sour in our other relationships. As it always does. I suppose it was natural we’d finally gravitate toward one another after all these years. Not that we were technically dating, or linked by any other means, but everyone who knew us referred to us as “Rick and Liz”.

 

“Not right now. You can see how busy it is tonight.” I waved my hand around to acknowledge the sizable crowd waiting in line for drinks. “Susan didn’t show up for her shift and Chad doesn’t know how to mix drinks.”

 

Susan, my longtime waitress-slash-bartender, has trouble remembering to come to work sometimes. I often wonder why I keep her around. Chad… Well, Chad may be smoking’ hot, but he was only trained as the bar’s bouncer.

 

“Please, Liz,” Rick pleaded. “Just for a little while?” He batted his eyelashes and stuck out his bottom lip in his favorite pouty expression.

 

I couldn’t help smiling at his persistence. I knew I was the only girl who’d go romping through the graveyard with him. His eagerness was showing, and the begging was distracting me from my duties behind the bar.

 

Shouting over the roar of the blender, mixing yet another strawberry margarita for the petite red-head in the corner, I conceded to his pleas. “Okay, go away and I’ll meet you after I close up.”

 

He flashed his bright smile at me and hopped off the bar stool instantly. “Victory!” he shouted, throwing his hands up in the air in triumph. I rolled my eyes, switching off the blender and pouring the icy mixture into the awaiting glass. “I’ll see you later, then,” he smiled, with a quick peck on my lips before dashing for the door.

 

I knew I shouldn’t, but I glanced over at Adele. She was grinning like a loon, and even though she hadn’t spoken yet, I knew what she was thinking. “Don’t say it, Adele,” I pleaded.

 

But she did anyway.

 

“That boy has the hots for you more than you realize, Liz. When will you put him out of his misery and just marry the guy?” she asked with a sincerity that I imagine my mother would have if she were still alive.

 

“Ah, Adele. I don’t know about that. Rick enjoys having a willing fuck-buddy, but I doubt he’s the marrying type,” I replied with a wink and a smile, before mixing a Long Island Iced Tea for the next customer in line.

 

With a shrug, Adele’s interest quickly returned to her third serving of Jack. It would be her last one for tonight if I had anything to say about it, and I do since it’s my bar. I went back to handing out drinks left and right, bottled and draft beers, daiquiris, more margaritas and many shots of my stronger liquids until the crowd slowly dispersed.

 

It didn’t take long for Adele to finish that last glass. When she held it up for another, I simply shook my head and she knew I’d cut her off for the evening. She stood up, a bit wobbly, blew me a kiss and started for the door. However, before she got there, I motioned to Chad. He nodded back and gracefully pocketed her car keys before helping her into an awaiting cab. We always have one waiting for her, or anyone else who needs it. Better safe than sorry when it came to the locals and their lives.

 

Adele had been like the mother I didn’t have. Well, when she wasn’t drunk. She’s been around to support me through thick and thin, ever since my mother passed away from cancer five years ago. She and Mom had been the best of friends all their lives, so it was only natural that the one woman I cared for as much as my mother would be the one to help me get through such a hard loss.

 

Unfortunately, Adele’s drinking problem had gotten worse over the years. It seemed my mother had more control over Adele’s life than we thought. Adele never discussed it, but there were slips of the tongue during late nights here in the bar where she’d mention being a stronger person when my mom was around to help her fight the demons. I’d assumed that “the demons” were a reference to her alcoholism, but later discovered there was much more to it than just whiskey.

 

Some would wonder why I didn’t just cut her off entirely and force her to sober up. Well, I considered it a few times, and she’d tried rehab a time or two, but then she’d slip and buy it at some liquor store. I’ve often feared that she would drive home and kill someone, or herself, along the way. It’s much safer for her to be here where I could keep an eye on her and have Chad make sure she gets home safely.

 

“Don’t you have plans?” Chad asked, startling me from my thoughts enough that a glass slipped from my fingers and crashed into the sink. “Oh, shit! Sorry Liz. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

 

“Mother fucker!” I shouted. After a second, and some deep breaths, I replied, “That’s okay, Chad.” He helped me pick up shards of glass and toss them into the nearest trash can. “Yes, I guess I did promise Rick some play time tonight.”

 

Chad’s golden cheeks blushed ever so lightly. “Well, I locked everything up, and you already have everything put away. Why don’t you head on out and I’ll finish cleaning this up for you?”

 

Chad has always been such a helpful guy. At only thirty-five (a few years older than me), he has the hard, deep brow lines that make him look a decade older. Contradictory to those lines, he has the body of a healthy twenty-five-year-old. Once, I even rubbed up against his rock-hard abs—completely by accident, of course—and nearly lost an eye because I wasn’t paying attention to a fork being tossed my way.

 

Chad, an ex-cop who left the job early after a traumatic incident that he won’t talk about, was Athena’s protection. He received a very generous early retirement package to keep him from filing charges against several members of the local police department. He’s been in therapy for a couple of years now, and has a tendency to be a pretty quiet person.

 

He’s single, has money, and doesn’t even need this job. But he gets bored being alone, so he’s my bouncer and I’m happy to have him around. Maybe in another lifetime we could have been more than just boss and bouncer. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind him bouncing me. Ohhh…

 

My face flushed at the thoughts of Chad and his abs. I quickly nodded, thanked him, and rushed for my car keys before he could see my predicament and inquire about it. He shouted, “Bye!” from behind when I stepped through the door. I waved, but didn’t look back.

 

It was already after midnight when I walked out the door of my bar-slash-nightclub, Athena’s Ambrosia. Even though it was the middle of the hottest July on record, there was a cool breeze blowing through my hair. When the sun goes down, it’s common knowledge that the temperatures are supposed to go down with it. Not around here, though. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, once summer arrives, Tremmel Crossing is always a hot, humid mess. And might I add it plays havoc on a girl’s hair; even the straightest of hair goes all frizz-ball.

 

Tremmel Crossing is just like any other small town in Georgia. It sits at the foot of several mountains, has a main street full of shops no one goes to because the next town over has a Wal-Mart, several grocery stores with half-empty parking lots, and teenagers ready to make a break for it in order to escape the confines of Small Town, America. I’d been one of those teens at one point, yet ended up staying to make a life for myself. It doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s more out there for me, because I do. I just don’t know what that more is right now.

 

My bar is on the backside of an old shopping center in the middle of town. The front side of the shopping center is decorated to make the shops look like fancy brick buildings. The city required all the shops redone in the last year with matching red brick in their attempt to increase tourism. It looks very nice, but at the same time, it looks extremely fake to the locals. We know the truth, and no amount of makeup will improve the town and its corruption.

 

The bar sits on the backside of all that fakery, and all you see is the normal ugliness of the buildings back there. A big parking lot surrounded by air conditioning units, delivery trucks at all hours of the day, and many trash dumpsters are the best visual attractions the bar offers its visitors… on the outside, anyway.

 

I made sure Athena’s interior was a warm, soothing atmosphere, with cherry hardwood floors, secluded candlelit corner booths, and a separate dining room for those who liked to have privacy from the rest of the bar. There’s even a dance floor and game room for the ones out to have a good time. I wanted to have a place no one has around here, a place for people to come back repeatedly just to have an enjoyable night out. And it turned out to be just that.

 

I spent nine months with the architect planning, changing, and planning again before the bar was complete. The name itself changed six times during that time frame. And no, I don’t think the beer, hot wings, and burgers I serve are the ‘Food of Gods’, but Athena’s Ambrosia sure has a unique ring to it. You won’t find anywhere else in the area with a name even close to it.

 

The night sky was clear and filled with more twinkling stars than anyone would care to count. The moon was down to only a sliver of its former self, yet still bright and lovely. I caught the faint scent of lemons coming from the trash can outside the door as I passed it on the way to my car. There had been a lot of lemon garnishes tonight.

 

The lemons made me think of the small composting bin my mother used to have when I was a child. She would have chastised me severely for throwing those rinds in the trash. “It’s unnatural to throw it in the garbage, Lizabeth,” she says with a shake of her head. “We must give them back to Mother Nature to renew her and bring about more.”

 

A single light post in the center illuminated the parking lot. The yellow lines marking off each spot had long since faded away to mere shadows of color. My car, a ’95 black Honda Accord I’d bought off an old high school teacher, was parked so I had a straight shot out of the parking lot. Some people prefer to park nearest to the building, but I always backed in closest to the exits in order to make a speedy escape. Tonight was no different.

 

I climbed into my unlocked car (why lock it when determined thieves will get in any way) and flicked on the headlights. Something danced in the beams of light, startling me enough I let out a scream so shrill my own ears begged my hands to cover them.

 

“Booooo!” he shouted, flailing his arms around under white fabric. It took me a second to realize the figure in front of me was actually Rick, covered in a bedsheet.

 

Pissed, I jumped from the car and stomped over to Rick. “Hey baby,” he whispered from beneath the fabric. I reared my fist back and threw a punch with enough force to knock him on his ass right there on the pavement.

 

“You dumb ass!” I shouted, towering over his entangled body as he tried to rid himself of the disguise. “What the hell are you trying to do? Give me a fucking heart attack?”

Rick scrambled to his feet, fumbling to get the sheet off. When it finally loosened its grip on him, he balled it up and tossed it to the ground. His face conveyed a look of both amusement and shock that I’d caught him off guard. Served him right for scaring me half to death.

 

“Come on, Liz!” he shouted, moving just fast enough to dodge another swing from my fist. “I was just kidding!”

 

“Well, it wasn’t funny!” I yelled, turning away from him. “And, oh, you’re an asshole!” I shouted, turning to lunge at him for another strike. He took off running around the car, but he wasn’t getting away that easily.

 

“Okay, okay, chill out!” he shouted from the front end of the car as I stomped around to the driver’s side. “Are you ready to go out to Foster’s?”

 

The absolute gall of this man. First, he begs me to screw him, and then he scares the shit out of me like that. I’ll be damned if he even deserves my attention now.

 

“Why should I, after you act like that?” I climbed back into the car and turned the ignition key.

 

“Aww, come on Liz. Don’t be that way. Let’s go play,” he cooed, holding his hands up under his chin to beg appropriately.

 

I revved up the engine and put the car in drive, inching it forward rather slowly. Rick’s eyes grew wide. The palms of his hands landed on the hood of the car with a thud. As if that would hold back a car. I inched forward just a bit more.

 

He jumped backwards rather awkwardly. “Come on, Liz! Don’t be like that. It was all in jest. You won’t run me over for that, will you?” His face grimaced, awaiting my answer, and maybe a little concerned about his bodily safety.

 

I smirked at the whimper in his voice. As if he really thought I’d do that. I held my head out the window and shouted, “Are you coming, or what?” A smile spread wide on his face, brightening his eyes in the streetlight as he came around to the side of the car and hopped into the passenger’s seat.

 

“I knew you loved me,” he said with a wink and a grin, putting his hand on my knee and giving a light yet meaningful squeeze.

 

“Don’t make assumptions, mister,” I replied, pulling onto the empty street and heading toward Foster’s Cemetery.

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