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A Night at The Dead Rabbit

 

    “Honey?”

    “Hmm?”

    “Honey?”

    This time there was no response, save for the sudden eruption of a grating, grinding snore as he opened his mouth wide, his head tilting back as she could see up his nose and smell his breath.  Instantly the last glass of punch she’d downed was there in the back of her throat, attempting to abandon ship as she moved away just in time. Clapping one hand over her mouth she collapsed next to her husband on the padded sofa in the private room, doing her absolute best to not vomit all over the sofa, the plush carpet beneath her feet, or the dress that had cost her way, way too much for a singe date night.

    It took some doing, but she kept it down, gasping as she took her hand away from her mouth, looking around desperately for a way out, or something that she could use to her advantage.  It was no use though, there was nothing in sight that she might use as a weapon and anything she might have thought about throwing was either bolted to the floor or too heavy for her to lift.  They were going to die and her husband, God love him, was too drunk to even notice.

    A loud snort, followed by an eye-watering explosion of gas that wafted up cheerily from the cushions, caused her to retch again as she was forced to stand up.

    “Well I’m glad you’re so concerned,” she muttered, still looking around the room. Wringing her hands she couldn’t help but smile at her husband as she tried to look back and envision just how things had gone so horribly wrong tonight.  Only a few hours ago they’d been on a lovely date, laughing and enjoying themselves and all but forgetting the rut they’d sunk into over the years.  It seemed almost too tragic to believe that they were about to end it here, in a pub named after a dead mammal and run by a bunch of thugs.  Of course they hadn’t know that coming in, they’d just wanted a night out on the town, a chance to be free and wild without their three children. 

    Her husband shifted in his seat, the cushions shaking again as he farted loudly once more.  Shaking her head she held her nose as she attempted to find another way out of this mess.

                                                         *                        *                       *

 

Earlier that day….

 

    “Mom! I can’t find my socks!”

    “They’re in your drawer,” she called out from downstairs, “Where I put them!”

    “Why did you put them there?” called her eldest child, Miranda, sounding put out that her mother would actually do something right.  Instead of replying out loud again she muttered, “Because I’m a mom, and how dare I do anything that makes sense.”

    Hair disheveled, wearing clothes that hung on her like rags, Mackenzie Morris was the stereotypical house mom, or at least appeared to be.  In truth she was continually busy each day, from the moment she and her husband, James, woke their three wonderful, caring children-

    “Mom where did you put my books?!”

    “Mom I need my shirt ironed!”

     -to the moment they came home, when she began to imagine strangling them one by one.  She loved her family dearly, but living with three teenagers and a husband that was at times more like a stranger passing in the night had begun to wear on her only two years ago.  She hadn’t said anything for so long that it felt like she too was beginning to fade into the background. Her own business, a freelance writing site that she’d begun just three years prior, had taken off and become a lucrative idea that she no longer had to run on her own, which was one of the few upsides to her life. It was run primarily by those she had hired, placed in charge, and instructed not to screw up her business. They were people she could trust and easily monitor as she did each day.

      Her family, on the other hand, was not so easily handled.

     “Your books are on the living room table where you left them Jarred, and you know how the iron works Jamie.”

     “But mom,” came the answering reply, which was eerily close to sounding like a chorus of the damned as she closed her eyes, standing near the staircase of their two-story home and raising her voice just enough to be heard by all.

     “So help me children if I have to repeat all that verbatim I will be forced to go Full Goonie on all of you! Do you want the Full Goonie??”

     For several seconds, blessed silence reigned. Then the front door opened, and her husband, short, dark, and pleasingly handsome, walked in with a gentle smile as he stepped close, going hip to hip with her as she smiled in return, giving him a small kiss as he gently swayed back and forth, their rhythm calming her just enough that she felt harmony for that brief moment.

    “Full Goonie?” he asked, to which she nodded.  “Must have been a good day then, the kids aren’t hanging from the ceiling yet.”

    She closed her eyes. “Yet” she mouthed silently. “Full Goonie” was a term that they had developed when the kids were still little.  What it meant was kind of goofy, but as it had developed over the years it had come to mean that mom and dad were about to blow their stack and take drastic, over the top measures to insure that their home didn’t become the madhouse it usually threatened to be.  Only once in the past few years had she been forced to go Full Goonie, and that had been highly satisfying, but a lot of work.  She had in effect taken a page out of the 1985 film, “The Goonies” for which their family threat was named, and concocted a brilliant scheme to wake the kids up without having to be in the room to shout at them over and over.

     It had been complicated, but effective. Now whenever  the term “Full Goonie” was uttered, the kids fell into step without question.  Unfortunately, that had been the high point of their lives for quite a while, as she and James hadn’t been away from their kids for more than a single night in three years.  They attended social functions, birthday parties, and even family functions, but it wasn’t the same. She hadn’t gotten him alone and to herself for so long she was beginning to forget what dating was even like. 

     “Hey honey can I see you in the kitchen?” James called out, causing her to frown in confusion. Normally when he came home from work he would grab a beer, head for the couch, and only move again if she needed something or when dinner was ready. Intrigued, she made her way into the kitchen, but almost stopped when Miranda called down.

     “Hey dad?”

     “Full Goonie!” James thundered from the kitchen, startling Mackenzie even as she smiled. Miranda, predictably, did not call out again.  As she walked into the kitchen she discovered that her heartbeat was elevating just a bit, though she couldn’t figure out why.  James was there, beer in hand, but in the other hand…

      He was holding out a glass of wine. This was so mundane and so out of the blue that she couldn’t help but gape at him as he offered her the glass. He was smiling at her as he raised his eyebrows up and down in a suggestive manner.  It was still early evening, neither of them was drunk, and he was making a move?  Mackenzie quickly took the glass and clinked it against his bottle, raising her own eyebrows as she moved closer to him.

      “What’s the occasion handsome? You know I can’t resist alcohol and eyebrows.”

      He grinned at her as he took a swig of his beer, “We, my dear, are going on a date.”

      She didn’t know how to respond at first, it had been so long, but as he wrapped one arm around her Mackenzie didn’t fight it, grinning warmly as she put her free arm around him. 

     “Mmm, how nice.  Where is my husband and what have you done with him?”

    James grinned wide, “Well, for tonight Missus Morris, your husband is away, and Mr. McManus wants to play.”

     She stopped, only an inch from kissing him as she frowned, still smiling, “Come again?”

     James’s grin widened as he pulled back just enough to view her fully as he said, “I got this great idea from Josh at work-“

     “Josh, the I’m-a-pervert-and-proud-of-it Josh?” she asked sarcastically.

     “Yeah him,” James said, going on despite the look she gave him. “He gave me the idea that we could spice up our marriage a bit by playing out these different roles,” he was still grinning, “We meet as strangers in a bar somewhere and just start talking and see where it goes.”

     “Spice up our marriage?” she asked incredulously, “Are you serious? You took advice from a guy who thinks monogamy is a type of wood?”

     James looked just a bit crestfallen, though she wasn’t buying into it. A tiny spark of something, an idea, or maybe hope that she could go along with this, was pulsing in the back of her mind, but she couldn’t commit quite yet.  It was almost offensive to think that James would feel the need to be someone else with her.  But then, they hadn’t been the same people for a number of years now. So why not?

     James was trying not to look dejected as he continued, “I just wanted a night out, a night where we don’t have to be ourselves.  I wanted to do something, a little different.”

    “What’s wrong with being ourselves?” she asked, though she was quickly trying to see the upside of this. It might even be a little fun.  But making him work for it was fun too.

    “I dunno,” he said, now looking fully dejected, “I just thought, you know, it might be fun to play a role. Just to see how it goes and all.”

   She sighed, shaking her head as she looked away. On one hand her husband was being spontaneous, something she loved and did not get nearly enough of, but on the other, it almost seemed insulting that they couldn’t just love each other the way they were.  But if she was going to be honest, who they really were had been kind of dulled down around the edges ever since the kids had been born.  James had tried, but over the years their sex life had kind of, fizzled, for lack of a better word. So really, what could be the harm?

                                                         *               *                *

 

    They were out the door only a few hours later, the children being given explicit instructions on how to behave, where the food was at, and that they were not to call unless someone was near death or otherwise in mortal danger.  The threat of “Full Goonie” had been firmly laid down, and the kids knew better than to challenge this. 

    The trip into the city took only a short ride from their home, and before they knew it they were there.  Despite being a pub, The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog Shop was quite an attractive site from outside, and once inside Mackenzie could definitely see the allure of the place. It was old-fashioned and hearkened back to simpler days when New York had been much different, but the atmosphere of the place was quite lively.  It would appear that this place was a favorite hangout of Wall Street brokers as the place was teeming with them. 

    James disappeared as they had planned, making his way to the upper room that he’d discovered online, presumably to wait for “Ms. O’Toole” who was supposed to be joining him shortly.  Dressed now in a slinky evening gown that accentuated her figure, earned after years of constant jogging and fitness routines, Mackenzie was getting appraising stares from many of the younger men in the crowd, which she didn’t mind to be honest. She and James had prided  themselves on staying in shape throughout the years, and it obviously agreed with them.

     More than one younger man attempted to buy her a drink, but she politely declined as she made her way upstairs, feeling positively sexy now that so many men were paying attention to her.  Mackenzie felt a flush rise to her cheeks as she wondered just how far James was willing to play this, discovering that she felt almost sure that she might be up for anything, or at least, whatever her husband was comfortable with. As she neared the bar she could see James, no, Mr. McManus, appear as though he was waiting on someone. Time to make her big entrance then.

    “Mr. McManus?” she purred, going so far as to allow her fingers to drift seductively along the back of his hand.  The man of her dreams turned with a gentle grin upon his grizzled features, one eyebrow rising slightly as he replied, “Yes. And you are?”

     “Bethany O’Toole,” she said softly, her eyes alight with excitement. So invested in her role was she that Mackenzie did not take note of the bartender’s slight frown, nor his silent signal to someone in the near distance. “Care to buy a lady a drink?”

    “Barkeep,” he said without looking, “a Scotch for the lady, neat.” He held up two fingers, still grinning as he continued to face her.

    “Oh my,” she managed to blush, “How did you know?”

    “I have a way with people,” he said in a seductive tone, “Women especially.”

    She managed a girlish giggle as she turned away demurely for a second. Oh yes, this was so much fun! But then she gasped as she looked at his ring finger, deciding to up the ante just a bit to see what he would do.

     “Oh, it’s too bad,” she said, pouting slightly, “I didn’t know you were married.  Perhaps I should wander along now…”

     “Nonsense,” he said, picking up immediately as he winked.  She had him, and it was good. “What my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt us.” 

    She made a shocked O with her lips, though her eyes still sparkled. Any other woman might have belted him across the mouth just then, but deep down she was thrilled.  His wink had already alleviated any concerns over whether or not he was playing the role, and at that moment she felt an electric jolt of excitement that demanded they continue.

     “Mr. McManus,” she crooned, “You are a naughty, naughty boy!”  She moved closer, licking her lips as she could see that he was getting good and excited.  It was just then that the bartender cleared his throat to gain their attention, a development that caused them both to turn towards him, faces still pressed in close. 

     “Did I forget to tip?” Mr. McManus asked, looking absolutely perturbed.

    “No sir, not at all,” the bartender smiled warmly, “I just thought that you and your companion might be better served to visit one of our private rooms, with our compliments to you Mr. McManus.”

    James’s mood changed swiftly to one of gratitude, though Mackenzie felt just a mild stab of uncertainty.  Before she could voice a concern however the bartender spoke again.

    “Don’t worry over your drinks. We’ll have them brought right up, along with a complimentary treat reserved for esteemed guests.”

    “Well,” James, Mr. McManus said with a smile, “I thank you my good man. I believe a tip is in order.”

   “Not necessary sir,” the bartender smiled, “It’s a pleasure to serve men such as you Mr. McManus.”

    Perhaps it was just part of being a parent, but alarm bells were ringing in her head as Mackenzie followed her husband without another word as they were led from the bar by a tall, dour-looking younger man.  She wanted to say something, but she didn’t want to ruin the evening either.  So, following behind, she hoped and prayed that her misgivings were completely off kilter at that moment.

                                                         *                      *                        *

 

    There were moments she really hated being right.  They’d been shown to a private room as the bartender had said, which was quite lavish in design and comforts.  The large, sectional sofa that dominated the wall to the left of the door was very nice, and the open bar across the room was stocked full of vintage alcohols that their guide had informed them were there for their pleasure.  

     When their drinks had arrived, they had also been given a medium-sized punch bowl of some colorful, fruity concoction that Mr. McManus had thoroughly enjoyed. In fact he had enjoyed it so much he had promptly passed out after his second glass.  Finally dropping the Ms. O’Toole persona, Mackenzie had attempted to make herself feel better by curling up beside James, who had been fast asleep, sacked out on the couch much as he might have done at home.  A faint smile had creased her lips as she lay against her husband, feeling his warmth and reminding herself that no matter what, the roles they played and the reality they shared were what she wanted the most. 

    Of course, much as it happened in the movies, such tender moments spent in a strange place with one of the characters already experiencing feelings of unease were meant to be shattered.  Just as she had been about to fall asleep on her gently snoring husband, the door had crashed open and no less than six hardened, very dangerous-looking thugs had filed into the room, one of them, obviously the leader, staring down at them with obvious disdain.

    “This is McManus?” he asked the others, one of whom happened to be the bartender, “This weak puke? And who is she?”

    “Some broad he was meeting,” said the bartender, glaring openly at her, and the dozing McManus. 

    It was absurd, but Mackenzie was suddenly rooting around in her small purse, opening the clasp and searching for her wallet. “I knew we should have tipped you,” she said quietly.

   “Keep your money whore,” the lead man said, forcing a shocked O to form on Mackenzie’s lips again as she frowned in displeasure.

    “I am not a-!”

    “Just shut it!” the lead man said, looking as though he might soon smack her.

    “You shut yer…zzz…filthy…zz..pie-lickin’…”  James jerked slightly where he lay, but did not wake as snorted and then went back to snoring.

     “He’s three sheets to the wind,” the leader said in disgust, turning on the bartender, “I told you to keep him subdued, not plowed!”

     “It’s not my fault!” the bartender cried, “Normally people only take one glass of punch. Most people think it’s too sweet and don’t bother with more! How was I going to know they’d drain the whole thing?”

     “Rugger’s not gonna be pleased,” the leader said, “He wanted McManus awake and alive to see what he was gonna do.”

     Mackenzie seemed to have been forgotten, but as she spoke up she did her best to keep her voice from quavering.

     “Sir, I don’t know who you think we are, but I-“

     “Oh shut it,” he said with a growl, “We know too well who this lump of nothing is,” he pointed at James, “He’s the bookie that cost our boss a whole ten grand on last month’s race, and the boss wants to make an example of him.”

     Her mouth formed a shocked O again, but this time it was terror that stained her gaze, not anger.

     “Nothing to do for it,” the leader said, shrugging with disgust, “We’re going to have to wait until he comes to.” With that he motioned for the others to leave, following after with a snort of disgust at Mackenzie and James before slamming and locking the door behind him. 

       And with that, they had come to this present moment, stuck in a room with armed thugs who would eventually return with their boss in tow. 

       James snorted, coming awake suddenly as he tried to sit up and groaned from the headache he was no doubt suffering at that second. 

      “Ooooh.  I’m sorry honey, that last one really put me out.”

      “James we’ve got to get out of here,” she said hurriedly, “We need to leave, now.”

      “Well Ms. O’Toole,” he began with a sordid chuckle.

      She pursed her lips, “Honey I appreciate the gesture and everything, but Ms. O’Toole has gone off to soil herself for the moment and Mrs. Morris is desperately in need of her husband.”

       He frowned, not understanding, but as she told him what had just transpired only minutes before his eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped as the implications quickly set in.  His eyes scanned the room, doing the same she had done when she had been debating what to use as a weapon.  The bar was the obvious answer, as the bottles could be used as ranged and up close weapons if pressed, but she was certain that the thugs had guns, and so would their boss.  Still, it was better than nothing.

       “Get behind the bar,” he said quickly, joining her as he grabbed two heavy-looking bottles. She did the same, looking at him then as he looked back at her.

       “Honey, whatever happens, I love you,” she said, her voice strong even as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.

       “I love you too,” he said, “And I’m sorry I got us into this.”

      She smiled, shaking her head as she said, “Oh Mr. McManus. You certainly know how to show a girl a good time.”

       Just at that moment they could hear the lock being disengaged on the door, and as it opened a single figure entered, followed by the six same thugs that had been there earlier.  The newcomer though was about as imposing as a teddy bear, his height seeming to be the only part about him that might seem capable of making him a threat. Otherwise he had a great big belly, a walrus-like moustache, and eyes that sparkled with mirth as he looked around the room.  He saw James and Mackenzie instantly, and frowned as he spoke.

     “You idjits,” he fumed, “That isn’t McManus.”  The leader of the group quailed a bit as he backed away. The older man, Ruggers presumably, looked back to Mackenzie and James. “Folks, if you’d please lower the bottles I believe we might be able to sort this out.”

      “We just want to leave, peacefully,” James said quickly, still tensed to throw if it came down to it. 

      Ruggers held up both hands, “And I’d like to let you, preferably with that 30-year old bottle of Balvenie unharmed. It’s rather expensive you know.”

       James, who hadn’t known, placed the bottle gently on the bar with wide eyes and as much care as he might have shown while setting down a bottle of nitroglycerin. He mouthed the word “wow” as he let go of the bottle. 

       “Yes wow, on many accounts,” Ruggers said as he aimed a cross look at his small group, who were now filing out of the room in response to his glare. As he turned back around however he offered the couple a disarming smile as he crossed the room.  “Now, if I might implore you to grab us three glasses miss? I believe we can sort this out over a nice bit of that drink.”

                                                         *                    *                   *

 

       As it turned out being McManus wasn’t the wisest idea, but Ruggers had let them off with a friendly warning, and a promise that if they came into his pub again that they would be treated like royalty, with one request.  They could never, ever, ever, repeat anything they’d seen, which was very little, to anyone.  So far as anyone knew, The Dead Rabbit was and had always been a legitimate place of business, and would remain so.  It was an agreement that James and Mackenzie had made quite readily.

       “So,” Mackenzie asked as they walked along the waterfront, having decided to take a nice, relaxing stroll, “Do you think it’s a good idea to befriend a mobster?”

       “It’s better than telling him no,” James said, inhaling heavily through his nose as he continued to pay attention to his steps. They were walking by a large park that was draped heavily in shadows, the playground equipment swaying gently in the mild breezes that came off the water.  

       “He made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” she said, using her best impression of Marlon Brando, which was truly horrible. It made James laugh though, and that was worth it. 

       “It’s too bad they came crashing in though,” she said ruefully, “I was almost there.”

      “Would you have really?” he asked, knowing full well that she knew what he was talking about.

      “Oh honey, you act like I never have!”

      “So that’s how the kids were conceived…” he said, earning a laugh and a playful punch on his arm.  He looked around as they kept walking, “You know, no one’s around now, and I’m wide awake…”

      She stopped, frowning as she clucked her tongue at him, “Honey, we’re in public.”

      “So?” he said, “There’s no one around, and ah, I do owe you a pleasant end to a messed up evening.”

      Instead of continuing to argue against it she did a quick sweep of the area with her eyes. There was indeed no one in their immediate vicinity, and to be honest, there was a nice big play structure with plenty of room for two….

      “I suggest then, Mr. Morris, that you stretch first, because it might be a tight fit…” she said suggestively, starting to walk off towards the structure, swaying just enough to be enticing.  James grinned as he watched her go, undoing the buttons of his shirt as he began walking towards her.  After a few more steps she broke into a run, at which point it became a race to see who could make it to the structure first.  Giggling all the way, Mackenzie found that she couldn’t have asked for a better end to

 

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