Joe Samuelson sat at the end of the bar near the place station where the waiter picked up drinks, to carry to the tables.
The Round Up was the third bar he stopped in on his walk home. At each place he had a pint and a shot, talked for a little bit with whoever would listen before moving on.
There were two more bars along the way he would stop at before getting home, but with the rain pouring down like it was Noah’s flood, Joe decided to stay in place and enjoy the company of the strangers he counted among his friends.
He sat on his stool next to a little man, barely three feet tall, they talked a bit about the numbers game, and the man offered to take a bet for him. Joe had talked to him before, though he could not remember his name, and he declined to place any bets because he wasn’t a gambling man.
The bright-eyed dwarf turned away from him and moved into the shadows then.
There was a group from the ROTC singing in the room. One of them was the older brother of Tom the barback. The whole group of them were having a lively time drinking with their captain at the center of it all, encouraging them to have a good time.
It was a welcome change of mood, Joe thought, compared to the atmosphere of desperation and fear that had fallen over Lake Street in recent years.
He ordered another beer and hummed along with them.
Joe had his nose in his pint and his head in his hand when there was a sudden commotion at the door.
A dark-haired giant walked in, and with him a murmur swept the room touching everyone but the gang of boys in uniform.
The giant went to the bar and ordered a round of Aquavit for everyone.
Joe had no idea who the giant was, but Gary Holmes did, the man who owned the bar, and he approached the juggernaut with hesitation, trembling, but not showing any sign of deference to him as he helped Tom pour the round of shots.
Joe watched as they spoke in low tones for a minute.
They appeared to be having some kind of argument, Gary shaking his head telling the big-man something the giant did not want to hear.
He was threatening as he encroached on Gary’s space.
Gary’s voice grew louder. His trembling and shook. His face reddened, as his body surged with adrenaline.
There was shouting.
Gary stomped his foot and ordered the man to leave, pointing at the door, his arm outstretched.
The giant’s hand shout out with blinding speed, he tapped Gary on the chest with two fingers, sending him flying backward into the wall of liquor bottles.
And with that mayhem broke loose.