Change of Attitude

By Dale T. Phillips

The guy was going to be trouble, that much was for certain. He had that look about him, the clothes, the hair, the attitude. Tough guy when he was on top.

He took a table near the back, where he could watch everything. Looked around with a glare, then leaned back and spread his arms on the bench support like he owned the place.

After he got his drink, a top-shelf Scotch, Amber went over to strike up a conversation, in hopes of some business. It was a slow night, after all. She came back in less than five minutes, her cheeks red, and took her usual seat at the bar.


She nodded. "Rude, crude, and socially unacceptable."

"Ah, well, no accounting for manners."

Amber looked up. "And he wanted me to do a line with him right there."

"Hm. And you said...?"

"I told him drugs weren't allowed here, and he'd better put them away and not say any more about it."

"And he said..."

"He told me I was pretty stuck up for a whore."

I glanced at the guy, who was sipping his drink and looking over, without trying to seem like he was. Oh yeah. He was waiting for it.

"Was that the end of the conversation?"

"He grabbed my wrist under the table, and said a few other things. Pretty ugly stuff. I didn't respond, so he let me go."

"I'll have a word with him."

"Should I leave?" Amber said. "Because I wouldn't mind staying to watch."

I studied him. "He doesn't look quite stupid enough for rough stuff. He'll understand when I lay it out for him."

Amber took a healthy sip from her drink and swiveled in her seat so she could see what transpired.

I walked out from behind the bar and made my way over. He watched my every move, his eyes half-closed and dreamy. He'd done this before, probably relished it.

I stood next to his table.

"You want something?" His voice was sharp. "Little lady make a complaint, maybe?" He nodded over in Amber's direction.

My gaze was steady, my voice low. "Sir, I'm going to do you a big favor."

He grinned, showing teeth. "Is that so? Well, that's mighty nice of you. What are you going to do for me?"

"I'm going to let you pay your bill and walk out of here."

He snorted. "You are, huh?"

"This offer has a limited availability."

He leaned in and put his forearms on the table. His face went from a smirk to a hard stare. It looked like he might have practiced it in front of a mirror. "Got any idea of who I am?"

"You're obviously from out of town."

"How do you know that?"

"Because you wouldn't be acting like this if you were from here."

"Why's that?" His lips hardly moved. A real tough guy.

"We have a code here. It's well-known. We don't like people who break it."

The guy pulled away his jacket to show the shoulder rig and gun I'd known was there since he first walked in. He tapped the butt of the gun. "My friend here says I don't need to give a shit about your code."

"Your reliance on your friend has got you into some bad trouble."

"No, he gets me out of trouble. Now you listen to me. You just keep your mouth shut, and trot back behind that bar and keep the Scotch flowing. Because I am one badass mofo, and you do not want to get on my bad side."

I looked at him. "I'm very sorry, sir."

His smile was triumphant. "Well, that's alright then." He held up his glass. "Gimme another."

"You don't understand. I'm sorry for what I now have to do."

He set the glass down, one corner of his mouth cocked up. "You gonna get rough with me?"

"No. I'm going to make a phone call. And ten minutes after you leave here, you'll be in the trunk of a car, headed to a warehouse. There, a couple of men with a toolbox will show you the meaning of pain for a few hours. They will videotape your suffering. When they're done, they'll take away whatever's left of you and put the remains somewhere remote. No one will ever know where you went."

His eyes were wide, his brow furrowed.

"You see, sir," I went on. "There are people who are business partners with this establishment. I'll tell you just one of the names."

I said the name, and all the color left the guy's face. He gulped as if he couldn't get enough air. I couldn't tell if he'd wet himself, but if I'd been in his shoes, I would've.

He put his hands palm down on the table. "Would you please accept my sincere apology?" His voice was strained, weak. "I'm afraid I may have shot my big mouth off. I regret that. I would like to go now, and I would very much appreciate if you didn't make that call."

His hands trembled as he took out a thick wad of bills, and dropped two hundreds on the table. "Will that cover my bill and compensation for any inconvenience I may have caused?"

I nodded, my eyes never leaving his face. "You've been given a great gift, sir, and I hope the insight will stay with you the rest of your life. Remember, even friends such as yours are of no use if you don't have control over yourself."

He nodded, and stood with a wobbly, awkward motion, as if his knees were buckling a bit.

"Thank you," he whispered. His color still hadn't come back.

He walked out as Amber called over, "You have a great day now, you hear?"

Dale T. Phillips is the author of two Zack Taylor mystery novels (Briona Glen Publishing). Book #3 in the series, A SHADOW ON THE WALL, is due out soon.

He also has a number of story collections published in book form.

His most recent story appeared online in Fiction and Verse. He's published over 20 additional stories.

Last September his story "The Mousetrap" was published in omdb! online.

Copyright 2012 Dale T. Phillips. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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