Parker stood on the street corner outside the bar, his white suit jacket and pants dirty and stained from the bushes he had inhabited for two hours earlier in the evening. The neon sign hanging above his head read "Fat Tony's" in flickering red letters. The faded paint was peeling off of the walls, the door hung crooked on its hinges, and dust clung to the windows in thick sheets. It wasn't much to look at. Of course, the rest of the town wasn't much better. At least the bar showed some signs of life. Parker sighed heavily. So much for civilization.
Another siren echoed thorough the night air, fainter and much more distant than the others had been. Parker glanced back down the road. The cops had probably found the car by now. They had been more persistent than usual after that business with the sheriff and the stolen beer crates three days back. It was getting harder to stay ahead of them. Parker rubbed his chin slowly. What was he going to do? He had no method of travel, no money to obtain one, and not enough time left to figure it all out.
The siren sounded again, closer this time. Parker jolted out of his musings. He needed to get out of the open. As for transportation, well, things would happen how they happened. Opportunities would present themselves; they always did. And in any case, he still had his suit, even in it's current condition. Losing it would have been simply unbearable. Parker almost shuddered at the thought. Brushing some of the dirt off of his lapel in a rather futile gesture, he walked into the bar.
The air inside was thick with smoke and the smells of sweat and alcohol. Bare bulbs hanging from the low ceiling cast dull pools of light around the tables and stools. Men sat eating and drinking cheap food and beer, or swearing at the stuttering jukebox in the corner. No one seemed to be enjoying themselves. They sat with the hunched posture of men nursing the aches of a hard day's work with the certainty of another one tomorrow. People weren't here because they wanted to be here; they were here because there was nowhere else for them to go.
Parker strode through the haze, faces looking up as he went by. He stood out, and not just because of his soiled suit. Parker had style. It wasn’t what he wore, it was in how he walked, how he stood, in the tilt of his head and the look in his eyes. It was simply what he was. Even while covered in grass and dirt, he was the most fashionable thing in the room and he knew it. It was gift, one which he put to good use in his chosen field.
Reaching the worn bar, Parker dropped into a seat at the end. Eyes looked away, heads turned back, people returned to their own business. So, the stranger in the nice suit was dirty. So what? There were real problems to deal with. Tomorrow the stranger would be gone, but there would still be work to do and rent to pay. Who cared?
Parker snapped his fingers at the bartender. "Whatever’s good tonight, and make it quick."
The bartender, a scrawny man with a full beard, stared at him in confusion for a moment, then decided it wasn't worth it. "Booze is the same as always."
"Yes, I would like a glass of whatever you would recommend." Parker paid little attention, his eyes fixed on the other patrons of the bar. Somewhere in here, there must be something he could use, a useful angle to exploit.
The bartender seemed to be having trouble grasping this concept. "A beer?"
Parker sighed again. "That will be fine" No matter how many bad bars he went to, which was a considerable number by now, it never got any easier. Shame.
The bartender set a glass of beer in front of him. "You have money?"
Parker did not. "Yes of course sir. One moment, please." He stood up and walked towards the door marked "Bathroom." As he did so, he bumped into another man leaving his own table and neatly transferred the contents of the man's pockets to his own. After apologizing profusely, he ducked out of sight into the men's room for a moment, then returned to the bar.
"Here you are sir." Parker passed the bartender a folded bill, giving him his best smile as he did. It was a good smile. It got a lot of practice.
The bartender grunted, pocketing the bill. “So, what’s your story? Don’t get many new faces in here, that’s for sure.” His voice was genuinely curious, no that he'd been paid.
“Just passing through.” Parker casually flipped open his stolen wallet and rifled through it. Damn. Not nearly enough cash. Barely enough for another drink. He looked back at the bartender. “I’ve been away on business, and I’m trying to get home in time for my niece’s birthday. She would be just heartbroken if I were to miss it.”
“Huh.” The bartender was absently rubbing a glass with a rag, paying almost no attention to it. “Your business usually make you dress like that?"
"Car problems; they're rather common in my line of work," said Parker.
"And what line of work is that, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Parker’s lie was as smooth as polished hardwood. “I’m an investment banker. Managing the flow of money, and all that jazz.” He took a drink and turned away to scan the room again. The bartender grunted again and began polishing his glass with a little more vigor.
It wasn’t a total lie. Parker certainly did manage the flow of other’s money. Usually the flow of it from them to him. He was a con man, a pickpocket, a grifter, a professional thief. And right now, he had just spotted the greatest treasure a con man could want. It was an opportunity.
Across the bar, through the smokey air and tired faces, were two men sitting in a booth by the door. The one facing Parker was large and brawny, the other was smaller with long, greasy looking hair. They were both bent low over their table, talking in hushed voices. The smaller one kept making short, emphatic jabbing movements and shooting furtive glances to either side. Whatever they were discussing, it was obvious they did not want to be overheard.
Parker took a long drink satisfied drink. “Now what could you two be discussing in a place like this that you don’t want anyone else to know?” he murmured to himself. And if they wanted it kept secret, all the better reason to find out what it was. Time was running out. Opportunity was knocking, and he would be a fool to ignore it.