It was late, Rocky knew, the sun having long since slipped below the Mississippi's cool dark waves, and the sky was littered with many glowing white stars. Rocky didn't believe in any religion, but his Aunt Nina liked to believe that God made sure that every day was a new day, no matter how mundane it was.
It was sort of true. Being a wine runner for the Lackadaisy Speakeasy meant that he had his fair share of brushes with Death's icy kiss, from patrons who were very loose-lipped to…heh, Pig farmers, he thought, hearing the distant bellow of a train's whistle. That sting op nearly left him dead, flattened like a flapjack on a stove, and somehow, his cunning wit and almost endless stream of luck kept him alive, long enough to see the sun set and rise another day.
Rocky sighed, feeling his dry lips. He knew that he would have to accept his fate one day, either from rabid FBI agents or other gangsters of the same breed as he was, working for other speakeasies and other club owners. His luck wasn't like the endless supply of whiskey shipped into the cellars of the Lackadaisy. But each day brought a new stroke of luck, no matter how bad or good it was. He checked his watch, a birthday gift from Ivy. Knowing her, she was off in some far-away speakeasy, dancing for all to enjoy.
He sighed, again. He could really use a drink right about now.
Fortunately, a bar on the waterfront wasn't that hard to find, especially since most of them were empty, the patrons having hightailed it back to their homes. Rocky envied those people. Sleeping in a car tended to get uncomfortable at times, especially in the humid summers, but when you are a wine runner for the largest speakeasy in the United States, options are few and far between. Either you will get backed into a corner by an FBI agent who is working their ends off to track you down, or by gangsters hoping to make the last moments of your life miserable.
He found a bar named "The Faulty Spigot" and entered through the door, feeling the cool air hit him.
"Whew," he sighed. "Looks like the waterfront wasn't a bad option after all. But, next time, get in before the humidity boils your ass."
He scanned the bar. It was empty except for a female bartender at the counter, cleaning a glass. She caught his glance and smiled. He smiled and waved back, taking a seat near a radio. Quiet jazz flowed through the speaker as the bartender seemly glided over to him.
"Welcome to The Faulty Spigot," she said, her voice smooth like caramel. Rocky could see that she had striped caramel fur, hazelnut eyes that shone brightly even in the dim light of the bar, and a cool looking face, coupled with licorice-black hair that fell neatly between her shoulders. It reminded Rocky of sailors and soldiers arriving home after the Great War was over, eager to see their girlfriends again. "What would you like, mister?"
"Um," he said, swallowing a blush that had risen in his cheeks. "If I would like a look at the menu, please, miss. You don't have to stare at me like I'm a war veteran."
She laughed a delightful little laugh and gave him the menu. "You're a particularly fine lad. We don't get young folk like you after the sun has set," she said, continuing to stare in his eyes.
"R-really?" he said, raising the menu a little higher to block out her stare. By all the damn stars and whiskey bottles out there, she was gorgeous looking. "I guess." He pursued the menu. "I'll take a shot of Glennfiddich on the rocks, please."
"Excellent choice," the girl said, sliding back and retrieving his selection. Rocky lowered the menu and watched her work. She moved fluidly as she popped the bottle of scotch and poured the selection in the ice-laden cup with the grace of a ballerina. Rocky tried to hide his blush behind the menu as she returned with the selection.
"Here you go," she said, passing him the glass. She then caught his expression and gently lowered the menu to reveal his red face.
"Oh, I get that a lot," she muttered, taking the menu back from Rocky's limp grip. "At least you have the decency to treat a woman with respect, not like an object, like I had been so many times in the past."
"Oh, sorry," Rocky said, some of his bravado fading. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few bills. He put them on the table, but the lady scooped them up and gave it back to him.
"Consider tonight's rounds on the house, dear," she said, smiling.
"I'll drink to that," Rocky said, tilting the glass towards her and swallowing the whiskey. It burned a path through his throat, leaving the finest taste of chocolate and lime on his taste buds.
"Ooh, that's some good-ass shit," he said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. "Not like the cheap-ass liquor of other brands."
"You work for one of them speakeasies?" the girl said, pouring herself some water.
"Yup," Rocky said with pride. "The Lackadaisy. You know, the one in the cellar."
"I go there often," the girl said, sliding up beside him again. "The service is good. What's your position?"
Rocky looked skeptical. Before he could think further, the girl laughed. "Oh, don't worry. I don't work for any large gang or anything like that."
"Runner," Rocky said. "I find shipments of shit coming up the Mississippi and take them for granted, though with the…occasional stir-up." He flashed her a toothy grin. "Don't worry. My luck is as thick as the finest chocolate in the world, though I have had my close encounters."
"That bullet hole in your ear," the girl said, pointing to it. "That come from a sting op?"
"Naw," Rocky said. "Had an accident years prior. Let's just say… I need to be more careful around firearms."
The girl chuckled. "Rough Rocky Rider," she said.
"Pardon?" Rocky said, about to take another sip.
"They might call you that," she said, looking at the radio. "You've been through so many sting operations and so many hardships growing up that you refuse to quit." She grinned, showing her white teeth. "And your fur. Reminds me of the Grand Canyon back home."
"You from Arizona?" Rocky said, finishing his drink.
"Yup," the girl said. "Moved up here because the fishing business is great."
"Huh," Rocky said, handing her his empty glass, but she just filled it up with another round of Glennfiddich. "Then how the hell is this bar still standing? Thought it would be demolished by now."
"A little loopholing can work wonders," the girl said, handing the glass back to him. Rocky knew what she was talking about. Although the new laws enforcing prohibition were strict, there were a lot of loopholes and vague statements that people learned to exploit very quickly. Add that to police officers accepting bribes from rich crime families, and you got yourself a functioning bar or speakeasy. "Although, we are a sort of poor family. We need the money earned by fishing and by this bar to live." Hearing this, Rocky reached into his pocket and put the bills she gave back in her hand.
"Just this once," he said with a grin, and leaned back and sipped in his drink. He suddenly felt a warm paw on his hand. He looked down to find the girl smiling at him.
"Thank you," she said. Rocky smiled back and continued sipping his drink.
They were silent for a while. Rocky finished his drink and glanced at the radio, hearing something about The Spirit of St. Louis.
"The Spirit of St. Louis," he said, extracting his paw from under the girl's. "I have no idea what it is like to be Charles Lindenburg, but it must be awesome."
"I know," the girl said. "It must feel amazing, soaring above the sea like an eagle." She then glanced at the radio as well. "Speaking of which, mister, did you know what you want to do if you had the money?"
That was a question Rocky hadn't been expecting, but he still pressed on. "I dunno. I'm going to continue to run for the Lackadaisy for a few more years, and then, find somewhere to retire and maybe get into a small job." He shrugged. "You?"
"I haven't thought about that yet," the girl said. "Maybe it's not too late to decide."
"Speaking of late," Rocky said, checking his watch, "I better go. Thanks for the drink, miss…"
"Amanda," the girl said, holding out a paw. "You?"
"Just call me Rocky," Rocky said, taking her paw and shaking it.
"Rough Rocky Rider," Amanda said. Rocky smiled and chuckled. Waving goodbye to her, Rocky stepped outside into the humid streets, but it didn't feel so humid anymore. He glanced behind at the bar to see Amanda polishing glasses again.
"Rough Rocky Rider," he said. And, chuckling to himself, disappeared into the night.