I strode into Red’s High Note that Tuesday night and immediately seized the attention of everyone in the room that possessed a Y chromosome and a heartbeat.
I have to admit, I love being able to do that. Part of it is professional pride, because I’m a performer, and part of it is because I’m a woman. Not all women will admit it, but we love attention and will do damn near anything it takes to get it.
That night I wanted and needed attention because I was there to get a man. But not just any man.
“Excuse me. I need help.” I shook water off my polka-dotted umbrella, closed it, and batted by big blue eyes at Red’s regulars. My auburn hair, all natural, thank you, was spread over my shoulders. I wore tight khaki slacks that looked professional but did nothing to hide my curves. I work hard for those and I like seeing when other people appreciate them. To complete my young professional disguise, I wore a canary yellow blouse under a short-waisted brown jacket. To the redneck crowd at Red’s, I was south of the tracks at the wrong time of night.
“What you need help with, miss?” The bartender leaned on the bar with both elbows and smoked a cigarette. Crow’s-feet tightened his eyes over a long nose and a shaggy mustache.
“My car.” I grimaced and pointed out toward the graveled parking lot through the fly-specked window with the flashing hot pink neon sign that advertised BEER.
“What about your car?” A pot-bellied man sitting at one of the round tables pushed back his grease-stained Peterbilt cap with a thumb. Then he scratched his chest through his wife beater.
Evidently you didn’t need a lot of class to become a regular at Red’s.
“It has a flat tire.”
No one said anything.
“I can’t drive it with a flat tire.” I explained that like I thought some of them needed the explanation. I suspect that some of them did. “I have a spare tire in the back. I just need someone to change it.”
Out of fourteen men, twelve of them looking physically well enough to do the job, I still didn’t have any takers. I decided then and there the young professional women didn’t get as much help in the world as they needed. If I’d shown up in the lacey, gauzy things I wear between sets at Nocturne Blues where I work, I’d have had to beat them back with a stick.
“I’m willing to pay.”
One of the big guys in the back looked at me. “How much?”
I hung my umbrella on my forearm, opened my pocketbook, and counted through the bills. I had a couple hundred dollars in there. I don’t like to travel around cash poor.
I smiled hopefully at the guy. “I’ve got three dollars.”
“Shit, lady, nobody changes a tire for three bucks.” He shook his head and turned his attention back to his beer.
“I have a credit card.” I took out the Visa card and waved it at them.
“Yeah, that’s great. Lemme run that down my ass crack to ring up the charge and I’ll get right on that.”
His buddies laughed at that and one of them slapped him on the shoulder.
Dickhead. I’m good with comebacks, and I’m quick too. That usually gets me into trouble. I wanted to tell him that his ass cheeks probably weren’t tight enough to get a print off anything except a Jell-O mold. But I didn’t.
Instead, I looked forlorn and pulled out the waterworks. I’m a good crier when I want to be. I stood there and let tears run down my cheeks. I even made my lower lip tremble.
Suddenly, to every man in that room, I was invisible. Because that’s what happens when men don’t want to see someone crying. They’re not comfortable with it, and I hadn’t exactly stepped into a sanctuary of guys who were good sympathizers. But I’d be damned if I was going to walk away without my man.
“Jesus, lady, don’t cry.” That was the bartender. I guess he felt like it was his job to do something to make his clientele comfortable and keep the beer and profits flowing. “Let me call you a cab.”
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocketbook. “I could call a cab. I don’t need a cab. I need my tire changed. I don’t want to leave my car here. Something will happen to it. I just know it will. I just got laid off and I’m just trying to get back home. I need my car. I worked hard for that car.”
For a minute I thought maybe that improv was going to bite me on the ass. Lots of people had lost their jobs lately and sympathy might motivate them more than pride, but they might also turn on me because I was a reminder of all that was bad in the world.
I was in luck though. No one at Red’s cared if I’d lost my job.
“Christ, lady, it’s raining like hell out there.”
I already knew that. San Antonio gets some real toad-stranglers this time of year, and this was an unseasonably wet season. But the bartender made it sound like the crowd at the bar were dry season kind of guys. Like thoroughbreds that aren’t good mudders.
I held up my polka-dotted umbrella. “You can borrow my umbrella.” See? I’m good at helpless and naïve.
“I’ll change your tire.”
I turned toward the guy dressed all in black sitting by himself at a back table. In addition to the black jeans and black tee shirt, he wore black sunglasses even though it was dark outside and had a black duster folded over the chair to his left. Three empty Coors longnecks stood in front of him. He was sipping on a fourth.
I crossed the hard wooden floor to him, my Manolo Blahniks tapped on the hard wooden floor with an anxious clatter. Normally when I walk a floor, I claim it like a queen, like the stage is sovereign ground, and my heels sound forceful and hard. I know what I’m doing when I walk. That walk pays the bills, for the nice apartment and the Camaro I normally drive.
“Thank you.” I held out three one-dollar bills.
He looked at me from behind those sexy wraparound shades. He was lean and athletic, taller than I’d thought he would be from his picture. I’m five feet seven, but I guessed he was six four. Broad-shouldered and rangy. The kind of guy who could take control in the bedroom.
I curbed those thoughts before I could get too far down that path. Damn, but I have gotten myself in trouble doing that.
He looked like he was in his early thirties, probably about five years older than me. His black hair was thick and unruly, the kind that makes you just want to run your fingers through it and smooth it out.
He shook his head. “I don’t want your money. Let’s just give the rain a minute and see if it slows down. That’ll give me time to finish this last beer.”
“Sure.” From the way he was sitting, I could just make out the Glock holstered at his back. That was in his paperwork too.
He gave me a perplexed look, shook his head, and motioned me to a chair. “Why don’t you sit?”
“Okay.” I sat in the chair beside him, which kind of surprised him, but I was female and he let it go. He probably thought he was getting man points for proximity.
Under the table I slipped the handcuffs from my pocketbook. I clicked one end closed around the table leg closest to him. Then I took his hand, held it, and pulled it closer to me. The thing about being a woman? I can take a guy by the hand and pretty much lead him wherever I want to go. Most women won’t let a guy do that.
“I really want to thank you.” I nudged his hand down closer to the table’s edge. While he was looking at me, I cinched the other cuff around his wrist.
When he felt the cold, familiar steel close around his wrist, he looked down. “What the hell?”
Then he went for his gun, reaching awkwardly behind his back with his wrong hand. It’s a lot harder to draw your weapon with your off hand.
It gave me plenty of time to slip by taser out of my pocketbook and taser the bejeesus out of him.