I walked on the uneven concrete up to the barb wire gates. It was a fortress and a city. A place where you could find anything. I needed to find something. An important something. My contacts would be here. That's what the message read anyway. I was to give my notes to the redheaded bar girl. I was hoping this would be easy. I hated hard. Life was hard. I knew this something that I wanted, would not come cheap. It would not be easy.

I walked into the bar known as Hell. I don't think a name could have been more accurate. I kept the hood of my jacket up and sat at the bar and kept my head down. I listened to the clown singing on the stage. His voice was like velvet. It melted into me.

A tall man walked over and with a frown asked me what I wanted. I put a .45 shell on the counter and asked for Ky. Whiskey. He laughed. I put down another shell and he gave me the cheaper side of Ky. Heaven Hill, just the shot. At least, the glass was clean. It burned all the way down, liquid fire, and a storm in my belly. The wrong kind of courage, but I would take it.

I wrote out my request for a meeting and a price for the something I was looking for. I caught the arm of the pretty redhead walking by with a bar tray. I put the note on her tray then put down a pure silver ring. You could tell by the way it bent from being worn.

I waited and then she came back with a note and before she left she whispered another offer in my ear, it made me wish I had brought more jewelry with me. I declined, and I turned to read the note. It was going to take some doing. I scribbled my acceptance of the price, and the pretty redhead walked the room then came back with a meeting date and place. I crumpled it into my pocket and left the bar.

I scavenged for weeks before the meeting. I was having trouble meeting the high price. I only had a third to go, but it wouldn't be enough. I slunk back to the bar. I kept my hood on and kept my face low. I sat down but did not drink. The meeting was in two days. That clown was singing again. It put me at ease. It was single-handedly the most beautifully sorrowful sound I had ever heard.

I caught the redhead again and put the note on her tray, This time, I put my grandmother's engagement ring on top. It was the last thing I had that wasn't going to the thing I had wanted to find. I waited a long time. The girl who passed our notes walked the room about three times before she came back with a note. I was relieved. The note said they would help me with my request. It would now be all on me.

Two days later I walked into the bar. No hood. I had with me the bulk of the asking price, plus some guns thrown in for good measure. I knew I was short, but I had managed to close the gap further in the last two days.

I walked in and gave the bartender two shotgun shells. He discreetly nodded to a couple sitting at a table quietly arguing. I sat down and waited for them to notice me.

"We lost a man on this job." The woman growled.

"I can't pay for that." I was surprised at how calm I was.

"Then what can you pay for?" The man scowled, and put his knife into the table hard next to my hand to intimidate me. It worked. Sort of. I smiled trying not to laugh. I had made peace with this two days ago.

"I have only this to offer," I said as I pushed my pack across and put the unloaded guns on the table beside it.

I watched them rummage through it all. Biting gold and silver rings. The redhead walked by and winked at me. I wished for another lifetime and a bottle of real bourbon whiskey, like Woodford Reserve. The trouble we could make. I winked back, even though I knew the outcome of tonight would not be favorable.

"Let's go talk in the back room," and the man got up and nodded to the bartender. The bartender motioned to his left, and I was led in that direction.

They beat me good. The bruises were quick to come up, and deeply satisfied they walked out and left me coughing up blood. The door opened again. This time, it was a person with a gun.

"I'm sorry, this can't fall back to me." he said.

"I know." I was still surprisingly calm.

"You have a good heart," He said as he was about to pull the trigger.

"Just tell me she's safe," I begged. I couldn't die without knowing. She had to be safe.

"Yeah. I moved her. So what is she to you? Family?" he asked genuinely curious.

I tried to laugh and shook my head to indicate a no, as the blood spattered on the floor in front of me.

"Then what?" I could tell not knowing was eating him up.

"She was a 13-year-old that had no business being in a whore house." I coughed up more blood and then I wheezed from the effort of speech.

"Then is there anything you want, like a last request?" he shrugged

"Sing me out." I requested with a smile, and he shot me in the abdomen and sang to me as I bled out. I tried to laugh. How fitting, I was shot by a singing clown.


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