SIX – BOTTLED UP
Randolph “Randy” Byrd sat in BJ’s Bar and frowned into his beer. Ten of his co-workers from Winslow Construction—most of Green Hills’ lead people—sat clustered around him in the rustic bar’s dingy interior.
Karl Carter, Phil Cosczinski, and Jeb Smith leaned over the table with Byrd. José Martinez, Joe Rathburn, and Farrah Smith, Jeb’s sister, sat around the next table over. Joe carefully nursed a ginger ale so as not to fall off his perpetually shaky wagon.
At a table on the other side of Byrd’s, Vince Connors flirted with Bobbi Weis. Rob Keiser and Tyrone Williams, seated with Vince and Bobbi, just grinned. Like Randolph, they knew that Vince had no chance with the pretty blonde. Weis had about as much need for a man as a cat needs a dog.
Despite seeing Bobbi and the camerawoman from WFST making eyes at each other that afternoon at the site, Vince remained blissfully unaware of which side of the plate Bobbi swung from. Byrd almost chuckled at the idea, but the gloom of their situation—his situation—quickly consumed him again.
“I knew this kind of shit was going to happen,” he remarked sullenly. “Ever since the old man died and that kid took over. The only green thing about this project is Winslow—and what’s between his ears.” The other two at the table rumbled in agreement with him.
“Sure ain’t gonna make us any green money,” added Jeb.
“Shut up, Byrd,” Bobbi Weis shot at him from her table. “At least you can always get a job in your brother’s car dealership if this project goes flat.”
“Maybe he could,” said Vince, “if he and his brother were speaking.”
Asshole! thought Byrd. Always jumping to that dyke’s defense. Can’t you see she’s stringing you along?
“Randy and Jeb are right,” put in Farrah. “Grant doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing. He’s gonna run this company into the ground.”
“It’s not like he cares,” said Phil. “He’s got all the money in the fucking world. It won’t matter a lick to him if we’re on the unemployment line.”
“Hey, that’s not true,” said José. “Grant’s showed us a lot of respect. More than his uncle ever did. He told me just this afternoon that there’ll be work for us even if the cops keep Green Hills shut down for a month. Old man Winslow would have laid us all off until this thing blew over. Remember that time with the building inspector at Winslow Heights? Grant’s a right guy. We’ll have work. All of us. Even you, Randy.”
“Work doing what? Cleaning the bathrooms in his mansion?” asked Byrd. “We spent two months fixing stuff in that place—and the stuff we ‘fixed’ was fine the way it was. I’m telling you: I don’t need any snot-nosed kid telling me how to do my job.”
Phil and Karl nodded.
“You know, Randy,” Bobbi said, “you’ve had a king-sized bug up your ass ever since Grant inherited the business. It’s not his fault the old man cut you out of the will.”
Randolph Byrd pounded his fist on the table; Jeb, Phil, and Karl grabbed their drinks so they wouldn’t spill. “The old man didn’t leave a fucking will! That’s why that socialist tree-hugger got the business in the first place. Abner promised the fucking company to me!”
Tyrone got up and put on his coat. “Looks like the old man kept that promise about as well as he kept others he made,” he noted quietly. “I’m all in. See you at the site tomorrow.” He headed for the door.
“If there is a site tomorrow,” commented Farrah.
“Ty’s right,” said José. He, Rob, and Joe got up, too. “Everything’ll look better in the morning. Don’t worry about it. Grant’ll take care of us. You’ll see.”
Most of the others took this as a cue, got up and moved toward the exit as well.
“Let’s hope so,” said Karl, putting his hat on as he headed for the door.
“Yeah, Randy, Grant’ll take care of us just like the old man did,” Jeb whispered to him.
Byrd frowned and lifted his nearly empty glass toward the bar. “Hey, what’s your rush? Who’s for another?”
Most of those at the door shook their heads and grumbled about it being late and needing to get home. Then they stepped out into the night.
Bobbi Weis paused momentarily and adjusted her scarf at the threshold.
“You know, Byrd,” she said, “no matter how much you drink, you’ll still be an asshole.” She exited quickly and shut the door behind her.
Byrd threw his beer at the door, smashing the glass into a million pieces. “And you’ll still be a fucking dyke!” he yelled after her.
A waitress came over and gave him a new, full mug. “We’ll add that to your tab,” she said cheerily.
Byrd scowled. “Yeah, yeah, sure. How about you Jeb, Farrah? Have another with me?” Only the siblings remained with him in the bar.
“Better watch that dyke crap,” Farrah said cynically. “Or she’ll have you up for harassment.”
“Or Grant’ll use it as an excuse to fire you,” added Jeb.
“Let him try. I’m the fucking heart and soul of this company. I’m the guy who knows how things work. The whole thing’d fall apart without me.”
Jeb and his sister looked at each other, as if coming to a silent agreement between themselves. “Yeah, well maybe Grant don’t see it that way,” said Jeb.
“We better get going,” said Farrah. “Got that strategy meeting with Grant tomorrow morning.”
“Fuck the meeting,” said Randy. “I ain’t going.”
The siblings shrugged in unison. “It’s your job, Randy,” said Farrah. They both left the bar.
Randolph Byrd downed what remained of his drink and waved for another.
He was about halfway through the mug when a familiar face came through the door.
Byrd hadn’t seen the man since… when…?
The old man’s funeral. That was it. Or maybe just after the funeral.
Had the man behind that rugged face quit, or had the kid fired him? Byrd couldn’t remember.
The man nodded in Randolph’s direction. He was big, like an ox, and dressed in a black wool coat and wide-brimmed hat. He had the brim pulled down so low that Randy couldn’t see his eyes.
Byrd smiled and gestured toward him. “Hey, Stroika! Long time no see! Pull up a seat.”