“Don’t start with me, okay? Just don’t start.” Liam removed his jacket, laid it neatly across the back of the chair, and collapsed into it.
“Did you bring them?”
Liam scoffed, looked hurt. “What is this, a business transaction?”
“I’m hurt, Chef.”
“If you’re going to be a grumpy bitch, this will be a short meeting. If you can put on your big girl panties, I’ll treat you like it.” Chef raised his glass and drained it. He waived it around in the air, and a waitress sauntered over to the table. “Can I get another of these, and whatever he’s drinking?”
“Scotch.” Any sense of Liam’s depression disappeared, replaced with a winning smile and a wink. His gaze lingered on the waitress long after she walked away from the table, he gave no apparent effort to hide that he was watching the sway of her hips.
“You kiss your wife with those eyes?”
“Ex. Well, soon-to-be ex wife, I guess.”
“What? What happened?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really.” Liam held up a hundred dollar bill that was snatched up by the waitress, who deposited a glass in front of the two men. “Thanks. Keep these coming, baby doll. Yeah, Kate’s taking the kids and moving out. Filed divorce just yesterday.”
“Oh, just some bullshit. She brought me lunch at work, and caught me with my assistant. It wasn’t even my fault, she told me she would be busy all day.”
“Your assistant.” Chef placed his glass on the table and laid his hands flat.
“Lauren. She’s twenty-three, right out of college, hottest piece of ass I’ve seen in years.” Liam swirled the scotch in his glass and drained it.
“You truly are a despicable human being.”
“What? Oh, don’t give me your self-righteous bullshit right now, Chef. You don’t know the first thing about me. I have needs, and if that bitch won’t give them to me, then I have every right to go out and get it.”
“So you get it from a twenty-three year old? You’re old enough to be her father, for God’s sake.” Chef took a quick swig of his beer.
“Do you know what I was doing when I was twenty three, Chef?”
“Fucking twenty year-olds.”
“I was studying to become a lawyer,” Liam said, ignoring his friend, “and a brilliant one, at that.” He swirled the scotch around in a new glass, gesturing widely. “I was studying to gain the wisdom and power to defend the powerless and protect the hopeless.”
“The only thing I ever heard of you studying, I would have guessed you to be in school for gynecology.” Chef smiled and picked up his beer. “Or theology, given the young ladies’ passionate acceptance of God, some of those nights.”
Liam laughed aloud. He slapped the table and leaned his chair back, reveling in it. His laughter died, and the smile drained from his face, gone as if it had never been there. It seemed he took as much an interest in his scotch as he had the waitress’ ass. “I get the feeling that I missed out, man. Like I lost something, and I can’t even begin thinking of where to find it. I’m not happy. I can’t remember a time when I was.” He sipped his scotch. Ice rattled in the glass before he could set the glass back down.
Chef looked around the bar, trying to find words. College kids circled around pool tables smiling and laughing, shouting threats and jokes at each other in equal . Along the outskirts of the darkened room in ultra modern leather chairs and sofas were the late twenty-somethings trying to gain the affections of another with varying degrees of desperation. It was getting late. The bar held people like Liam. People that looked ready to lay down on the floor and accept whatever fate had coming to them; people that couldn’t find it in themselves any more to care.
“You’re old, my friend, married, you have kids. Your life isn’t about you or your happiness. Same with me, Liam. Everything I do is for my wife and kids, because I love them, and as a husband and father it is my job to protect them.”
“Is that why you do this?” Liam reached into his briefcase and extracted three folders. He waved them in front of Chef’s face until they were snatched from his hand. “Is that why you spend thousands of dollars a month, using me as your PI so you can keep track of these criminal pieces of shit?”
“It is,” Chef said softly. He ran his fingers over the top folder.
“Well, great, you get your rocks off on crime, and I don’t get to have any fun, myself.”
“No, you get your rocks off on your assistant. Or is it in your assistant?” Chef pulled an envelope from his pocket and slid it across the table. “Liam, you know I love you, but Kate is a good woman, and your kids need a father. They need you more than you need to fuck some kid barely out of college.” He stood, finishing his beer. “Now, I still expect you and Kate over on Sunday; wife and I are going to be grilling up some steaks. Good ones, too, not the slop I feed to my customers.”
“It’s all the same meat, Chef. All it is, is dead cow.”
“Sure,” Chef said, waving the folders. “Thanks for these, by the way.” He smiled and winked at Liam, and walked away. "It's time to go hunting."