Illustrations by me.
“Something strong,” the woman replied, slouched on her stool. “Anything strong.”
One look at her face, and Hannibal could tell she was in trouble. He tapped the counter and said, “Geoff? Put it on my tab.”
She looked over at him for a moment, then back to the bartender. “Whiskey?” she asked.
Geoff grunted and took out a highball glass. He filled it partway and slid it across the counter. “You having some troubles?”
“You could say that.”
Hannibal thought about moving over a stool to sit next to her, but decided against it. She probably wouldn’t take kindly to a man invading her personal space. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“Alana,” she said. “Yours?”
“That’s a funny name.” She didn’t look at him. She just sipped her whiskey.
“I could say the same about you. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Alana.” Hannibal tapped the bar again. “I’ll have what the lady is having.”
Geoff shrugged and poured Hannibal a drink. Just as he was finishing, Alana drained her whiskey in long gulps and said, “Leave the bottle.” He set the bottle on the counter with a soft clink. “Thanks.”
“Your troubles must be extreme,” Hannibal observed.
“How do you figure that?” she asked. She gave herself a refill.
“How couldn’t I? It’s two in the afternoon. You’re either an alcoholic or in dire straits, and you don’t strike me as the former.”
She raised the glass to her lips and took a swallow. “And you don’t strike me as the type to drink in an Irish pub. Not wearing that suit.”
Hannibal straightened his tie. “Never judge a book by its cover, Miss…?”
“Bloom, and I’m not a miss.”
“Mrs. Bloom, then. Tell me, what brings you here today? Perhaps I could offer some aid.”
She squinted at him as she took another drink. “What makes you think you can help?”
“I’m a psychiatrist,” he said. “It’s what I do.”
“Well then, Dr. Hannibal, go ahead and analyze me. But let me drink a while, first.” Silence, and more whiskey. Then: “My wife left me. What’s your advice?”
Geoff turned his back to them and busied himself washing glasses.
“My advice is it’s never a good plan to drink away your sorrows,” Hannibal said. Alana opened her mouth to protest, but he added, “Don’t worry, I’m not here to stop you.”
She nodded and dumped more whiskey into her glass. “I’m used to drinking away my sorrows,” she said. “Though it’s usually beer. No beer today, though.”
“What happened between you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Why do you care so much?” she asked.
“Forgive me. Sometimes my curiosity runs away with me.” He glanced at the clock. Close to two-thirty now.
She shook her head. “We fought. I left, and when I got back she was packing her bags. There’s not much else to say.”
“What did you fight about?”
She downed the rest of her drink. She was in deep, and fast. She’d be sloppy before long. “She cheated on me. With a man.”
“Does it bother you more that she cheated, or that it was with a man?”
“The man part doesn’t matter,” she said. “I don’t discriminate, either.”
“Is that so?” Hannibal asked. He took a chance and moved a stool closer. She didn’t object, so he pulled his glass to his new spot and settled in. “It’s a shame, really. I’d never cheat on a woman so beautiful.”
She wobbled back a little on her stool and gripped the counter to steady herself. “Are you hitting on me?”
“No,” he said. “Nothing so base.”
“Then what’s your game?”
“I don’t have a game,” he replied. “But you’re about to be very drunk, very soon. You should slow down on that whiskey.”
“Don’t tell me what I should do,” she said. She poured another two fingers and sipped.
“Drive here on your own?” Geoff asked, turning his attention back to them.
Alana blinked at him. “Yes,” she said. “Why?”
He stuck out his hand, palm-up. “Keys.”
“I’m fine. Really.”
“You’re swaying, if you didn’t notice. Now, keys.”
Geoff was right: she was softly swinging back and forth on her seat. She made a little harrumph, then, defeated, fished around in her purse. She dropped her key ring in his hand. “Happy?”
He grunted again in response.
“Shall I call you a cab?” Hannibal asked.
She shook her head. “I need more,” she said, glassy-eyed. She tipped back her head as she took her next swallow, throwing off her center of balance and threatening to send her tumbling. Hannibal pressed his hand into the small of her back and eased her upright again. “You didn’t have to do that,” she muttered.
“I know,” he said. “So, where do you intend to go now? It’s the middle of the day, and you’re incredibly drunk. Were you planning to sleep it off on the pool table?”
“I don’t need a cab,” she said. “She didn’t take a cab. She took her car. I don’t want to take a cab, either.”
“You’ll have to,” Geoff said. “Unless you’re going home with him.” He jerked his head in Hannibal’s direction.
Hannibal favored her with a smile. “That’s always an option.”
“It is?” she asked. “How can I be sure you won’t…”
“Won’t what? Take advantage of you? I haven’t the slightest idea why you would think that of me. I’ve been nothing but helpful.”
Alana went for the bottle, but Geoff took it away before she could reach it. “You’ve had enough,” he said, and returned it to its place behind the counter.
“You’re rich, right?” she asked Hannibal. Her blinks were heavier now.
He patted her hand. “Quite.”
“Is your house big like mine? What’s it like?”
“It’s beautiful, much like you,” he replied. “I could show you, if you’d like.”
She tugged a lock of hair in front of her face and looked at it curiously. “Alright. Okay. You’re an attractive man. I’m an attractive woman. You have an attractive home. So why not?”
Hannibal reached for his wallet and placed a hundred dollar bill on the bar. “That should cover our drinks.”
“And then some,” Geoff said. “I’ll give you her keys.” He took them out of a drawer and tossed them to Hannibal, who deftly snatched them out of the air. “Hannibal? Take care of her. She looks like a nice lady. A little lost, is all.”
“You mustn’t worry so much,” Hannibal told him. “Come now, Mrs. Bloom.” He rose from his stool and guided her to a standing position. Her swaying worsened on two feet. “Can you walk?”
“I… I don’t think so,” she replied. “I think… I think I need more whiskey.”
“I have plenty at home. You’re sure you can’t walk?”
She took a few clumsy steps forward before tripping over her feet and reeling backwards. Hannibal grabbed her before she hit the floor. “Definitely not,” she said. She grinned a stupid-drunk grin. “You really are attract—“ She hiccupped. “—Attractive,” she finished.
“You’re not thinking clearly. Here, if you can’t walk…” He hefted her up on his back, and she wrapped herself around him and nuzzled her cheek into his neck.
“Real romantic,” Geoff said. “Now get outta here before you run off my patrons with that suit of yours.”
“Don’t I always?” Hannibal carried Alana to the door without even a hint of effort. Alana was a feather on his back as he exited the bar.
“God, it’s so bright out,” Alana groaned. In truth, it was overcast. “Where are we…” She paused, searching for words. “Going! Where are we going?”
“To my home. We discussed this.”
“Oh,” she said. After he’d gotten her into the car, she asked, “Are we going to sleep together?”
He sighed. “Not with you like this.”
“What if I want to later?”
“Am I to be your rebound?”
“If you want,” she said, and hiccupped again.
“When you’re sober, I can be anything you want me to be.” He kissed her forehead lightly. She stirred in her seat and raised her head to meet his lips with her own. He didn’t stop her. Once she was satisfied with the kiss, he pulled back and said, “Now, let’s go for a drive, shall we?”
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