Red Mist, Chapter 9
Updated: Apr 22
J.M. Gin’s, which everyone referred to as Gin's Joint, specialized in Asian fusion cuisine and was the place to be on a Friday night, with every seat in the house occupied, despite the late hour. The smell of grilled bulgogi, sausage yakisoba and live pop music filled the spacious diner.
Koga squeezed past a trio of men sipping whiskeys near the front door, when he spotted Rawlings at a table tucked away in the far corner of the bar.
Rawlings waved his arms in the air. “Hey Max, over here,” he shouted.
Using his right hand as a wedge to slice his way through the crowd, Koga worked his way to the table where Rawlings and Denise Johnson were already on their second drinks of the evening. A couple of light hugs later, Koga sat down between them.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said. “No Raj?”
“He doesn’t drink. I think he’s still working on those photos you gave him,” Denise said.
A brunette waitress, dressed in a black T-shirt and a matching waist apron, walked up to the table. “What can I get you?” she asked Koga.
“He wants a whiskey straight,” Rawlings answered.
“Make that a light beer. And put everything on my check,” Koga said, taking his wallet from his front pocket and handing her a credit card.
Rawlings clapped in approval. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.”
“We can’t let him pay, Donald. It’s still his first day on the job,” Denise said, but her words fell on deaf ears because both Rawlings and Koga had turned their attention to a woman who had just entered the restaurant.
The newcomer looked to be in her late twenties, wearing a black felt hat over medium-length platinum blonde hair. Her face was partially covered by a pair of tinted spectacles with large turquoise frames, but they revealed enough to show that she was Caucasian and very attractive, her face highlighted by high cheek bones and full ruby red lips. A designer scarf hung loosely over a black V-neck shirt, and her skin-tight black jeans hugged her long, thin legs. She strutted over to the bar, seemingly aware that the majority of men in the room were watching her, and sat down onto the only empty bar stool.
The bartender went straight to her for her order.
Rawlings got up from his seat. “Hey yo, I’m going to see if I can get her number before someone else beats me to it,” he said.
“I thought I was your date tonight,” chided Denise, but he was gone before she finished her sentence.
Not more than a minute later, Rawlings returned.
Koga couldn’t help but snicker. “A swing and a miss,” he said in his best Vin Scully impression, mimicking a batter swinging a baseball bat.
“What happened?” Denise asked.
“Not a thing. Our conversation consisted of three words. ‘Hi’ and ‘Not interested.’”
The waitress returned and placed an Amstel Light and a dirty martini on the table in front of Koga.
“Miss, I didn’t order this,” Koga said, pointing to the martini.
“That is compliments of the lady over there,” she said pointing to the bar.
The platinum blonde woman looked Koga’s way and flashed a smile that could put a politician behind bars.
“Whoa, did you see that?” Rawlings exclaimed. “Dude, you need to go over there right now. Get me some revenge. Let her know who’s the big daddy in this town.”
“I wouldn’t put it quite poetically as that, but he’s right, Max,” Denise said. “You should definitely go see what her deal is.”
“Yeah, I guess it couldn’t hurt,” Koga replied, pulling out a Xanax pill and popping it into his mouth.
“What the hell was that?” Rawlings asked.
“Just something to calm the storm. Don’t worry about it,” Koga said, rising from his chair with the martini in hand.
When he reached the bar, he cleared his throat, prompting the woman to spin in her seat. Her perfume had the aroma of sweet jasmine.
“How did you know I liked martinis?” he asked coolly.
“You look like the martini type,” she answered in a low voice.
“I’m grateful for the drink. Thank you.”
“I’m not into Asian guys, but for some reason, you caught my eye.”
“Thank you...I think. My name is Max,” Koga said, putting his drink on the counter and extending his hand.
The woman picked up her purse and slid off the bar stool. She was taller than him, which he didn’t mind at all, but what did bother him was that she ignored his outstretched hand.
“Maybe I’ll see you around again. Enjoy the drink,” she said and walked past him towards the exit.
Koga watched her squeeze through the crowd without looking back once.
After standing dumbfounded for a good fifteen seconds, he returned to his table, leaving his martini on the bar counter.
“No, don’t tell me,” Rawlings said when he saw Koga approach alone. “Not you too.”
Koga shrugged his shoulders. “Fraid so.”
“Well, at least you got a martini out of it,” Rawlings noted, taking a swig of his beer. “I didn’t get jack.”
Denise, who was now smiling from ear to ear, said, “I kinda like her style. Did she say why she bought you the drink?”
“Nope. Only that I caught her eye,” Koga answered.
“Maybe she didn’t like what she saw when it was up close.” Rawlings said with a laugh.
Ignoring the remark, Koga gazed at the entrance of the bar and watched as several patrons slowly made their way out.
“Well, here’s to us,” Denise said, raising her glass. “Here’s to Argon.”
“That’s right,” Rawlings said. “There’s a lot more fish in the sea.”
“Not many like that one,” Koga responded. “Don’t ask me why, but there’s something oddly familiar about her, like I’ve seen her somewhere before.”