The short story that follows is my contribution to the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge. Enjoy!
“What the hell were you thinking?” Sam chastised herself as she caught her reflection in the antique bar back mirror.
What was it her realtor mother told her? “Location, location, location!” Yeah, this place had none of that. There was no parking, the cars shook the top shelf liquors as they passed over the bridge, and if there was room for 20 customers she would be lucky.
“Ambiance counts for something,” she sighed under her breath. A local artist had been commissioned to create the new sign. Sam’s Place would be welcoming, friendly, and unassuming – just like her.
She had rehearsed all the criticisms her father would have. Crowded, questionable egress, poorly ventilated, inaccessible, horrible location, dark, and musty. Other than those few faults, surely he would think it was charming.
”Well, hey there friend. You open for business?”
Startled, Sam turned to see a slightly unkempt man standing in the narrow beam of light streaming through the open door.
”Oh, umm, hello. No, no, I’m sorry. I should have locked the door.”
”Oh, don’t worry. It was locked. I just used my key.”
Sam stared in disbelief as the man tipped his hat and walked past the bar top into the back room.
“Excuse me, where do you think you’re going?” She threw her wet rag into the sink and followed after him. “Sir? Hello? You cannot be in here. How did you get a key?”
The back room was small – adequate to store a few cases of beer without going downstairs – so it took no time to realize her surprise visitor must have gone into the basement. She had watched this scene play out in horror films too many times to risk going down those steps in pursuit.
Cell service inside the bar was lousy so she stepped onto the corner to call her realtor. When Marci did not answer, Sam decided to lock up and drive to the police station. She fought the urge to call her father for advice knowing where that conversation would lead.
After a too-detailed explanation to the officer at the front desk, Sam was asked to take a seat in the waiting room. Luckily, this was a small village and crime wasn’t exactly running rampant in the streets – only on her corner it seemed. She was finally called back to meet with a slightly balding, slightly overweight officer, Sgt Matthews.
After relaying the story yet again, the officer rolled back in his chair and smiled. “I think I know who your culprit is. Mr. McCreely. We haven’t seen him around much lately, but a few people told me they saw him milling around down near the tavern.” The officer described the man and the description matched perfectly.
”Well, how did this Mr. McCreely get a key to my bar? Explain that!”
”Oh, that’s easy. He used to own the place. He’s a likable fellow once you get to know him.”
”I have no intention of getting better acquainted with him. I insist you arrest him for trespassing. Can you come with me now? He is probably still there.”
”I’m afraid I can’t do that ma’am.”
”And why not?” Sam was furious now.
”I’m afraid dear Mr. McCreely died two years ago.”