Kelly ended up getting to the bar well after 2:00. Still wearing her nice dress, she tied the full kitchen apron around her waist and hurried behind the bar.
“How’d it go?” Sass whispered to her as she poured Owen a beer.
“He’s coming, no more than two days. Probably less,” she muttered back. Sass swore under his breath.
“Now, have you grown to like me that much, Mr. Sasway?” She said quietly, sliding the pint down the bar to Owen.
Elek huffed. “Don’t call me Mr. Sasway, reminds me of the schoolroom. How did it go with the Admiral?”
“As well as can be expected, I suppose. He’s very efficient.”
“That’s him,” Elek said, heading off with a sausage platter for a table outside. Kelly smiled to herself and began taking inventory.
All day, patrons would ask her strange questions. How was she holdin up? How was the case lookin? Did she need anythin? Kelly wanted to tell them, “How do you think I’m doin? My husband was murdered, I’m accused, I standin trial for a sheriff’s crime. I need to win an impossible case; I need to find somewhere I feel safe.” But she assured everyone that she was just peachy. Word had spread remarkably fast in the small town of the Admiral’s involvement, and the impending arrival of the opposing sheriff. Even the bar girls had run out of any gossip but her. One of them even told her of a rumor that Sheriff Gio was helping with more than just her case. “What?! Who says that?” She demanded. The bar girl quickly assured her that no one of any merit believed it, and she would correct any who did, as it was unequivocally false.
The day seemed to drag. Sass mostly left Kelly behind the bar, while he did most of the cooking. There was little conversation to be had; even her regulars seemed to get quiet when she approached. She assumed that by now everyone knew that the opposing sheriff was on his way, and the trial imminent. Now that there was no mystery about the event happening, people were less inclined to be seen with her, lest the verdict be guilty. They all supported her, but were hedging their bets (in some cases, literally). It was a very lonely way to be supported, Kelly thought.
By closing, she was relieved to see the back of Owen, though he had been the only one to act as though nothing had happened. He tipped his hat to her, and disappeared into the night. She was wiping tables down with a rag, taking as long as was reasonably possible, when she noticed Sass leaning on the doorway to the kitchen.
“Are you trying to tell me to get on?” Kelly joked, still wiping. It didn’t come out as light-hearted as she had hoped.
Sass smiled. “No, I’m not. Come on, leave it. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Kelly straightened up. Elek never ‘did it tomorrow.’ Not with the Goose. “Leave it?”
“Yeah. Come on to the bar. If you’re going to try and stay here, you might as well have a drink.” He saw her hesitate. “Oh, now, it’s just a drink. Are you really thinkin I’d do somethin unsavory?”
Kelly laughed. “I can’t imagine you bein unsavory, Sass. I just don’t wish to keep you here if you’d rather head on home.”
“Actually, I find there’s no place I’m wantin to be more.”
Kelly didn’t quite know what to say to that, so she didn’t say anything except, “Oh, alright.” Sass disappeared into the dry room for a moment, and reappeared holding a dark, rectangular bottle. Kelly settled on a stool, eyeing the bottle warily. “What’s that?”
“A while back, one of the guys Gio caught on bounty was transportin stolen bootleg whiskey. Rumor was, he’d pulled off a heist on the mob in Chicago to get it, and was hightailin it to San Francisco. This is the best stuff you can’t buy. We confiscated his cases and I took ‘em for special occasions.”
“You kept his illegal whiskey?”
“Kelly,” Elek said, pouring some sugar, syrup, and whiskey into two short glasses, “Haven is full of criminals. Of course I took the whiskey.”
“Does Gio know?”
“He’s never asked. Where’d you put the muddler?”
“On the third shelf next to the Rye. So he doesn’t know?”
Elek gently muddled some orange peel into the whiskey mix. “He know the crates never made it back to Chicago. The authorities comin to take the guy back never thought to ask for it. Not the cleverest boys. Now here,” he said, pushing her a glass, “try this.”
She took a sip. “Lord Above, but that’s delicious!”
“Oh good, then I’ll have one too.” Sass dropped more orange peel and simple syrup into a glass as Kelly laughed. “Cheers.” They clinked.
“So,” Sass said, leaning forward across the bartop from her. “Tell me about yourself.”
Kelly sighed. “Sass, I really don’t want-”
“No, not about the case. I heard nothin about your case all day.”
“Not about the case?”
“No, you. Who’s the girl workin behind my bar?” Sass watched her over the rim of his glass.
“Well that’s an awfully big question.” Kelly thought for a moment. “I’m an only child. My parents are back in Sheriff Thomas’s town. I miss them, we’re very close.”
“Did you go to school?”
“Yes, I adored it. I was too sassy though. I daresay my teacher was right happy when I got engaged.” She took a drink. “I especially liked grammar and composition. My teacher wanted me to be a writer, but of course, married girls don’t write. Or go to school.”
“Do you still want to write?” Sass swirled his glass.
“I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to be good at somethin, I guess. Writing seems like a good place to start.” She drained her drink and looked at him. “What about you? Who’re you, Elek Sasway?”
“Me? Oh, I’m borin. Born and raised in Haven. Parents got here on the same train as Gio’s, so we grew up together. Mine came from Lithuania, by way of New York. Gio’s maybe four months older than I and mostly what’s happened to him, happened to me. Except Mary, of course. Still not sure how he managed to marry the prettiest girl in Haven.”
“Are we a tad jealous?” Kelly teased, pushing her glass across to him.
“Oh Lord no. He has his hands full.”
“Well,” Elek said, muddling her another drink, “she certainly knows what she wants and when she wants it. She’s remarkably focused and bright, and none of this is to blemish her character. Mary is a wonderful woman. Gio loves her more than life itself, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them. I was Best Man at his weddin, he cried through his vows.”
“And I assume you differ here in that you aren’t hitched?”
“Nope,” Elek said cheerfully, shaking his head. “Never really wanted to be.”
“Why?” Kelly genuinely seemed to want to know his answer, and not to be reprimanding.
Elek slid her newly refilled glass back. “I want to fall in love, get married, have a family, all that posh. But I need to be sure, y’know. I want to marry someone whom I trust; who can love the Goose and Pip like I do myself.”
He saw her smiling behind her glass. “Don’t say ‘that’s just like a man,’ please, I hear it enough.”
Her eyes widened. “Why would I think that? No, your reasonin is excellent. You know what you need, you’re not willin to jeopardize that.”
“Thank you.” Elek clinked his glass against hers.
They found themselves covering every topic people talk about late at night: a mix of hopes, fears, opinions and stories. It was the sort of conversation that was both extremely serious and utterly trivial, deeply meaningful to both of them and yet carelessly held. As the second drink came to a close, Kelly gazed down at her glass and asked, “Hey Sass? What happened to the guy transportin this whiskey?”
Elek was quiet, spinning his empty glass. Finally he said, “We gave him a trial. He lost, so Gio turned him over to the authorities from Chicago.”
He sighed. “And then he was shot. Probably by the mob he cheated.”
“Hmm.” Kelly stared at his spinning glass. Her cheeks had a touch of flush, though now she looked decidedly sober. She looked down at her drink and suddenly threw back the dregs, holding it out again. “Then I suppose I’d better have another. For luck.”
Elek laughed, and grabbed the muddler.
Around 4:00 in the morning, one of the bar girls had to use the restroom. She quietly slipped away from the snoring form next to her, and eased open the door to her room. Instead of hurrying out, however, she froze with the door open just a hair. She took in the shadowy scene before her. Sass was coming up the stairs from the bar, wobbling slightly but securely carrying Miss Rose. The lady was already asleep, and the content smile on her face was reflected in Sass’s eyes. Her white dress bunched in Sass’s arms, falling haphazardly below her.
The bar girl drew back as they passed, then saw Sass gently open the door to a vacant room. The washroom was next to it at the end of the hall. The bar girl slipped out her door, picked up the hem of her nightgown, and silently ran down the hall. As she dashed by, she glimpsed Sass lying his charge on the bed and tucking her hair back.
The bar girl, experienced in gathering such snatched information, avoided the creaky floorboards and managed to close the washroom door without any discernible noise. She completed her business, then waited until she heard Sass’s footsteps on the stairs. She slowly walked back to her bed, turning this scene over in her mind. For now, she would say nothing until something was confirmed, and now she knew what to look for. What would be a new bit of interest for anyone else would be proof of her new discovery. As every bar girl knew, a secret is the most expensive commodity, and Sass’s secrets were worth their weight in gold.