The leprechaun sat down next to him, but Angel ordered his beer anyway. Angel knew to take things in stride when he was drinking, and this was the third bar tonight where the leprechaun had showed up silently at his elbow.
Angel took a good look at him when the leprechaun was calling out his order to the bartender down at the other end. The leprechaun wore a plaid green jacket over a green shirt, no tie, nice slacks and shoes. He had short red hair, and a red face and nose that showed signs of drink. He probably stood less than 5 feet tall.
This leprechaun, whom Angel imagined was 50 years old, looked more like he would have some nasty tricks than a pot of gold.
If Angel was a little unnerved, it might be because the leprechaun kept showing up, every night, wherever Angel went to drink.
Still, leprechauns were the least of Angel’s worries. These bars around the Aerospace companies, Angel knew, were the battlefield of the Cold War. The KGB, in skirts and suits, spent more money at these bars than anyone. Recruiting efforts. One inadvertent slip of a code word, and you became a traitor.
One should feel a bit twitchy, he thought.
Angel drank most nights at one bar or another, or several. He drank so that he could not think about why he drank. He smothered his unspeakable, insane wish for magic. Now his unconscious mind heaped that fantasy on the leprechaun, whom might be a Defense Industry spook, a good guy, with a secret message for him.
Your father is alive, the leprechaun would say, We’ve taken him deep underground for security reasons.
He’s alive. He’s safe. He wants to see you.
We had to put the KGB off the scent. Sorry about the death-by-cancer ruse, but this is war.
What was real?
Angel stared a little at the leprechaun. The leprechaun half-smiled at Angel, without ever looking directly at him, as if they had an unspoken connection.
Angel took a deep draw on his third, at this bar, pint. The girls, oh so young and cute, paid him no attention. He figured the leprechaun was some sort of pedophile, hanging out at these bars where the staff was lax on checking the young girls’ drinking age.
Angel never noticed the second man; the man in the back of the room watching Angel, the man made invisible by the attention the leprechaun drew. The second man watched Angel constantly, looking for signs of weakness.
Angel drained his beer glass. He stumbled out to his car, but he found his pocket empty where his keys should have been. He stumbled back into the bar to look for them.
Angel saw the leprechaun standing close to the second man, whispering.
Angel lowered his face and squeezed through the crowd with a laser focus on his lost keys, which he saw gleaming on the floor. He scooped them up and whirled smoothly around, not quite toppling a bar stool.
Slipping by in the crowd, he overheard the leprechaun speak to the second man in a low tone, in Russian.
“On tot, Sammy.”
A patrol car followed Angel for a block, then turned down a side street, lights flashing and siren wailing.
Angel kept an eye on the rear view mirror all the way home. He swore to himself that tomorrow – tomorrow – he would quit drinking forever.
Tomorrow he would steel himself for this Cold War, where nothing was as it seemed and no one could be trusted. Tomorrow Angel would enter the boxing ring of the 80s, with eyes of stone.
The world had grown cold. His father was dead, and tomorrow he would stop drinking.
But not all these things were true.