When a stranger walks into the neighborhood bar, The Fine Kettle O’Fish, Finn and the others aren’t sure what to think of him--at first.
Soon, it’s apparent that Malcolm, the new guy, is bothering everyone’s favorite striptease artist, Violet, who has had a rough time climbing out of the gutter. Something is lurking in Mal’s past, and something has to be done. A short story.
Fin sat up straighter when a new guy walked into the bar. He looked like trouble. Joe, the bartender, caught Fin’s eye and gave a nod. Joe agreed. The new guy lurched across the floor to take the stool next to Fin, even though there were empty ones all up and down the bar. He ordered a beer and a shot. The alcohol reek said it wasn’t his first drink of the night.
“How many does this make?” asked Joe when he set the bottle and the glass in front of the guy.
“Never mind,” he mumbled. “None of your business.” He tossed back the shot. He was as dark complexioned as Joe, who wore a permanent five o’clock shadow, but this dude’s black hair bristled on his head like a wad of steel wool. His face sagged on his bones, like some hard living had dragged him down by his skin.
Fin swiveled to face him. “What’s your name, pal?”
“Malcolm Barnard. My friends call me Mal. You can call me Malcolm.” His eyes were naturally narrow and with his squint you could hardly see his black pupils.
“OK, Malcolm. Just want to set you straight. It is Joe’s business how many you’ve had. He loses his license if he serves you the one that puts you over the limit.” Fin was pretty sure, though, that Mal was already there.
“What’s your name, anyway?” Mal was in a belligerent mood tonight. Unless he was always that way.
“Phineas Pudlow.” He waited for the guffaw. And got it. “My friends call me Fin, but you can call me Fin, too.”
“I ain’t callin’ you anything. I want you to shut up so I can drink.” Mal grabbed the can, crushing the thin metal slightly in his paw, and lifted it for a long swallow.
Joe did a quick shake of his head at Fin. Fin knew Mal wouldn’t be getting any more to drink from The Fine Kettle O’ Fish tonight.