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Chapter Four:  Cheers

Jeff Kozzi

Business boomed at Public Tap No. 1. The crowd, larger than normal with commuters seeking temporary refuge from a sudden downpour of driving late spring rain, bustled at the bar with calls for drafts and pats on friends’ backs. Bartenders Mick and Lisa mixed, opened, and served while two cocktail waitresses navigated the after-work crowd. The barback sloshed glasses and slid unopened containers across the bartop. Three twenty-seven inch satellite TV’s provided the largest single source of light in the atmospheric tavern. The televisions’ flickering auras reflected off wet hair and cast shadows on the patrons’ faces.

Umbrellas dripped onto the floor from the stand beside the door, into a well-worn indenture caused by accumulated water damage over the years. The television cornered from the door showed a baseball game. The set on the opposite corner of the outside wall played a soccer match with the sound muted. The set above the bar played Channel Nine, the local network affiliate. The current popular syndicated family sitcom ended with an outtake of fat parents checking their children for guns and knives before allowing them back into the house after school.

Regulars lined the bar stools, stacks of bills wet with melted condensation from chilled mugs. Most ignored the sitcom. Closest to the TV, Jenny Maher checked her fingernails while Ed Ellings, one hand on Jenny’s far shoulder and the other between her slender thighs, leaned closer and nibbled her earlobe. To Ellings’ left, Barry Russel blackened the wet eyes of Alexander Hamilton with a felt tip marker. Walt Myzkowski tapped Russel’s shoulder and said, "That’s Hamilton! You should be drawing a bullet coming out of his skull."

Russel put the pen down and stared at Myzkowski with a blank look. "Just watch the teevee, willya Wal?"

Bass drums rolled with the opening of Channel Nine’s Six O’clock NewScene. Actors posing as cameramen scurried about in several three-second flashes of performed investigative action. Channel Nine’s reporters spun and twisted in imperative action shots that had been recorded in the safety of the studio in front of still shots of Lincoln’s landmarks.

Lisa muted the baseball game as an unseen announcer introduced the NewScene, Lincoln’s least-respected and most watched station, one known and renown across the state for anchorwomen who sometimes wore semi-transparent blouses with nothing underneath. "Now! Danielle Servien and David Hawkins with the Channel Nine’s Six O’clock NewScene lead story: today’s apprehension of alleged murderer of Lincoln’s own Mrs. Reginald Worthington."

The crowd quieted as they all turned for first witness of the excitement of local murder. Murder was always big news, but the gawking community usually had to settle for distant stories of murders and other entertaining miseries, because Lincoln was a perfectly quaint little community where things like that just didn’t happen.

Danielle Servien’s pretty face scowled with performed lamentation, until her news director indicated that she should express some measure of gay relief for the perpetrator’s apprehension. Beside her, anchorman David Hawkins nodded impassively.

Danielle cocked her head to one side. "Police today apprehended the man who allegedly brutally murdered Dorothy Worthington in her home this morning."

The telecast changed to a prerecorded segment. Plainclothes detectives led a man from a three decker tenement. The prisoner wore a London Fog knee-length jacket, leaving the handcuffs clearly visible to the viewing public. Unlike usual busts, the prisoner, not a day over twenty-five, made no effort to either hide his face from the cameras or drape the raincoat over his arms to hide the cuffs. A ponytail restrained his thick black hair in a style slightly out of fashion. His angular face pointed directly ahead, without acknowledgment of his surroundings. The rich blue color of his eyes looked hazed with psychological distance, revealing depth that bored deeply and directly to his soul. Wild and dilated pools remained visible. He did not blink, even as camera flashes sparked in his face.

Barry Russel spat in the glass ashtray. "He looks like a freaking twisto."

Lisa scowled at the glob soaking into the ashes then turned to watch the TV. "Look at his eyes. He looks queer."

"If he really knew what he was doing, he’d be hiding those handcuffs like a professional and walking tall," Jenny Maher said.

Danielle’s voice overdubbed the picture. "Lincoln Courthouse was the scene today as Michael Hanover was arraigned for the brutal murder of seventy-one-year-old heiress Dorothy Worthington, wife of belated industrialist Reginald Worthington. Here’s Katy May live with the story."

The screen shifted to a pretty strawberry blonde reporter in her early thirties. She stood under the cover of an umbrella at the bottom of the courthouse steps. Rain poured around her, an almost solid curtain behind her as water drained off her angled umbrella. In the background, late-departing attorneys and paralegals cowered beneath their umbrellas and briefcases.

To Barry’s left, twenty-seven year old luxury car salesman Walt Myzkowski tapped his empty mug to gain attention. Lisa remained fixed on the TV, staring intently and chewing on the fingernail of her right pinky. Grumbling, Mick crossed zones of the long bar. "That’s so stupid!" Walt sighed as Mick drew from Walt’s stack on the bar. "What’s the use of going live to a courthouse when the damned place is closed? I hope she falls down the stairs again."

Mick grinned. "Good P.R. ‘Channel Nine is on the scene’."

Barry sucked the head from his new beer. "Katy May’s probably ‘tuting to the judges."

Oblivious to the assault on her chastity, Katy May stood professionally in the rain. "Thank you, Danielle. Mr. Hanover pleaded not guilty in district court today to the charges of assaulting and murdering Mrs. Worthington, the surviving widow of Reginald Worthington. When Judge Calvin Jacoby asked if he had a statement, Mr. Hanover said, ‘I loved her. I couldn’t kill her.’ Mr. Hanover continued repeating this, over and over and over and over until silenced by his public defender."

To the right of Barry, another regular, fiftyish attorney Ed Ellings sneered and leaned intimately closer to his twenty-three year old receptionist. "That’s disgusting, a man like that porking an old woman!"

Jenny drew her brightly colored lips apart with a sickened "tsssk!" Her high voice, appropriately bubbled to match her enhanced breasts and dainty but flexible build, whined loudly in perfect absent agreement. "Isn’t it?"

Lisa huffed through her teeth and turned sharply away from Jenny. "He loved her! Hah!! I wonder where he met an old woman like that anyhow."

Myzkowski raised his hand and shuffled on his stool. "I know! I know!"

Lisa turned to him. The used car dealer was usually her best source for accurate information. He kept abreast of Lincoln’s gossip via private talks with his customers and people in the bar, and he was generally well-read in all the latest biographies and newspapers ranging from the New York Times to the local advertising papers where his car ads ran. But his occupation as a used car dealer combined with his frequent bouts of inanity to foster a reluctance on Lisa’s part to ask. "Okay, Clarissa, tell all. Where’d they meet?"

"At the Bakery Thrift shop."

She squinted at him. "Where’d you hear that?"

"Well," he smiled, "I didn’t really hear it. But I think it’s a safe assumption."

"Why?"

"Hell! It’s where I would go to find an old tart."

She threw the wet bar rag at him and turned back to the television.

Katy May continued. "Mr. Hanover’s bail has been set at fifty thousand dollars. Federal income tax records indicate that Mr. Hanover earned less than sixteen thousand dollars as a freelance artist and part-time waiter last year. A neighbor reported that Mr. Hanover has been dating Mrs. Worthington for a period of more than six months."

"Absolutely sickening," Ed Ellings bellowed.

Lisa eyed Ellings and his little tramp reprovingly and peered towards the eighteen-year-old barback she’d been sleeping with for the past month. "Tell me about it."

Katy May’s face softened, a more professional tautness replacing the contempt. "As you know, Danielle and David, if the Grand Jury indicts Michael Hanover on these charges, the trial could be Lincoln’s—and America’s—first telejury trial."

"What the hell’s that?" Jenny Maher sighed.

Catlike, Lisa pounced. "I thought you worked in an attorney’s office."

Jenny shook her face. "Duh! That means I know everything?"

In absence of a leash, Mick gripped Lisa’s elbow.

Barry Russel turned to Ellings and Maher instead. "No one would ever say that about you, Jenny-dear."

"Good thing," she warned.

"The telejury is supposed to save taxpayer’s money," Ellings explained, more to divert the unfelt attacks against his mistress than to genuinely inform her of something she needed to know. "It’s been over the news since the governor passed it. Instead of drawing in twelve or fourteen people, making them lose time from work, and sometimes separating them from their families, they’re going to broadcast the trial to all citizens, so the jury of that pervert’s peers—all of Lincoln’s registered voters—can make the jury’s decision by phone or modem."

"I voted against it," Myzkowski said.

"Me too," Mick whispered.

"That’s because you’re both silly old men afraid of some good change for this great nation," Jenny said. She shuffled in her seat, huffed at Lisa, and settled into a look of cartoonish importance, with her enhanced breasts prominently propped.

Barry, feeling the five-and-a-half beers drank in the last forty-five minutes, hooted like a sportsman in a stadium. "Fry the freak! Fry’m!!"

 

1.  Homicide

2.  Adam-12

3.  The Practice

4.  Cheers

5.  Family Ties