Dim sunlight cut through the wooden blinds and struck the bar like muted blades. The cycling wicker fans overhead were a mild nuisance, as were the disturbed fake palm fronds that reached towards the 20-foot-high ceiling. As I focused on the differences in lightness and darkness on the damp bar, I found myself becoming distracted by the fans and the gently agitated palm fronds.
I decided to focus more intently on my Old Fashioned. Delaney, the blond Asian barmaid, was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps her day off? That was okay. She did tend to harass me about my lack of coaster etiquette more than normal. Raul, her temporary replacement, seemed to be more interested in working for tips with the older female clientele, at least I assumed it was tips he was after.
Reptiles populated Habanas.
Some of them sitting at the bar, others behind it.
The spies did seem to be out in force, more Middle Easterners and Chinese than usual. Their prey, the tech guys who worked locally and thought these women (and men) were legitimately interested in them, were being screwed by their new-found friends.
The din of their conversations drowned out the sounds of the canned Cuban Jazz. Normally I would be annoyed by this… today it didn’t seem to bother me that much.
“I thought I would find you here, Steven.”
I felt my muscles tense. I recognized the voice immediately and, honestly, was not in the mood for deep cosmological discussions today. Yet, he was here for a reason. He always seems to have a reason.
I moved my eyes from my Old Fashioned and glanced to my right. Sitting next to me was Gabriel in all of his splendor: his blazer and that flash of emerald silk out of the breast pocket that perfectly matched his cufflinks, as well as his eyes.
I took a sip of my drink and placed it back down on the counter.
“Afternoon, Gabriel… you on the clock or are you here for your own medicinal reasons?”
“No, Steven, as I am sure you have surmised, I really don’t need to drink… anything. I’m here waiting for a friend.”
“You have friends?”
“Steven, that sort of hurts…”
I looked back at my drink and halfheartedly chuckled.
“I didn’t realize someone of your cosmic eminence could feel pain.”
“Oh, we do!” he said with a hiss that quite literally terrified me.
He saw my reaction and started laughing. Hard. It was an honest laugh that he seemed to have a difficult time controlling.
“I’m sorry, my friend. I really am. We need to do that from time to time to get people’s attention.”
“You needed to get my attention?!”
“No… not at all… I just… I don’t know… It just sort of seemed like a fun thing to do at the moment.” He still had a broad smile and invisible tears in the corner of his eyes.
“Great. An angel who has a juvenile sense of humor.”
“Oh come on, my friend. Be a sport. Oh! Here he is now; let me introduce you!”
I watched as Gabriel stood up and embraced a man who had approached me from behind. He wore a suit similar to Gabriel’s, but his pocket square was blue… actually more opal than blue… it also matched his opal cufflinks and his penetrating blue eyes.
“One of your colleagues from upstairs?”
Gabriel’s friend turned to me and flashed a smile that quite literally terrified me. It wasn’t malevolent… it was just, terrifying in an undefinable sort of way.
“Hello, Steven. I’ve heard a lot about you from Gabriel.
I reached out my hand and shook his. The touch of his skin was more than warm; it was hot. His handshake was controlled, but there was an underlying power that suggested if he wanted to, he could have ripped my arm from its socket.
“Nice to meet you…”
“I’m sorry. Michael.”
“No, not quite. Just Michael.”
I sat back on my barstool and grabbed my drink and looked at him with a fair amount of trepidation.
“Getting ready to smite?”
Michael chuckled. “No need to. Your lot seems to have that about handled right now.”
I nodded. “Yes, it appears we do.”
“No. Gabriel suggested that I meet you.”
I glanced at Gabriel.
“Giving up on me, Gabe? Bringing in the closer?”
Gabriel smiled. “Nothing like that, my friend. Let’s just say making sure we all have each other’s numbers in our rolodex.”
“Gabriel. We don’t use rolodexes anymore.”
“You get my point, Steven.”
“So, Michael, as I am sure Gabriel has told you, I am not exactly your most ideal candidate for whatever it is you have in mind.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Steven.”
I took a sip from my Old Fashioned. The ice had completely melted from Michael’s close proximity.
“Yeah, I suppose flawed people are part of our charm.”
“Indeed… and you are quite charming, Steven.” Gabriel said with a grin.
I looked over at Raul, the bartender, who had become extremely interested in one of the women he was serving who looked about twice his age.
“Others are as flawed as me.”
“Indeed, Steven… but not all have the same mission you do. You fight for justice. We see that, and yet you are constantly disappointed in your achievements,” Michael said, with a clear sense of concern.
“Funny, Michael. It’s not so much justice right now. It’s responsibility. I train people to use… well… to use weapons of war against those whom would threaten their very existence. I push them to train, I cajole them, at times, I even blackmail them to train. Not all heed my message.”
“I know, Steven, we share the same problem.”
“At least your believers have a medallion they can wear with your image on it reminding them.”
“Your readers have your blog, Steven. All things can be a talisman.”