“Don’t start with me today, Chef,” Liam smiled sadly at the exchange and sat down across from his friend. The waitress as much bounced toward the table as walked. “Hey, Babydoll, could I get a scotch, and another of what he’s drinking?”
“Thanks,” Liam said. He dug a hundred dollar bill out of his pocket and held it out toward her.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, your friend has already paid up front for your drinks.” She flashed a smile at Liam, one that he would undoubtedly interpret as a signal that she wanted to sleep with him.
“Always the gentleman, this guy.” The waitress’s smile waned, she turned before it fell from her face entirely. As she walked away, Liam didn’t so much as spare a glance at her ass.
Liam cleared his throat. “So, are you going to tell me why you’re plastered, at one PM, on a Tuesday?”
Wavering in his chair, Chef tried to fix his gaze on Liam, but failed.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Liam picked up his newly delivered glass of scotch and pointed a finger at him. “I know what happened, but you’ve also got a job.”
“ ‘The fuck did you become Mr. Responsibility?” Chef didn’t realize he was shouting, or that every eye, for the briefest of moments, checked to see if a fight was about to break out. It didn’t. Instead, Liam reached across the table and placed his hand on Chef’s shoulder, squeezing it gently.
“I’m just going to sit here and get drunk, okay?” Liam drained his scotch and waved the glass around in the air. “If you want to talk, I’m here. Thanks, Babydoll.” Again, his eyes never strayed away from the waitress’s face.
Silence stretched between them, neither willing to speak first. Both drank their glasses empty repeatedly, avoiding each other’s eyes. They drank heavily, like they did in college, but it wasn’t the same. It couldn’t be. They were young, then, and stupid. Ignorant of how life actually worked, and optimistic. Back then, they still had faith in people, they were blinded to just how cruel some of them could be. Liam still didn’t know the brutality hiding just beneath some people’s smiles. Not even that hiding beneath his closest friend’s.
“I’d kill him,” Liam said, so quietly Chef wasn’t sure he’d actually spoken.
“Huh?” Chef put down his beer and looked at Liam for the first time since he arrived.
“You heard me, Chef. If it were me? I would hunt down the man that murdered my baby girl,” Chef winced, “and raped my wife, and I would kill him.” Liam spoke slowly, clearly. He took the last of the scotch, swirled it around in his mouth, and swallowed. The glass practically fell from his lips to the table, and cracked from top to base. “I’d enjoy it, too.”
Chef stared at his friend, trying to decide if he should tell him about what he’d been doing. He wasn’t sure if Liam would have a legal obligation to report it to the authorities. “That’s the plan,” he said.
Liam chuckled, then started to laugh. “And how do you intend to do that, Chef? Are you gonna pay me to steal your own police file, and beat the police to it?”
“Yes.” Chef said, but Liam didn’t seem to hear him.
“Do you even know how to track someone down, to investigate a murder? That’s some heavy shit, not everybody can do that, you know. Sometimes it takes the police months just to analyze a single sample. Real life isn’t like CSI, things don’t happen overnight in an investigation.” Liam finished his scotch. “Hey, Babydoll, could I get another of these?” He shouted across the bar. "And another thing -"
“Liam, shut up,” Chef hissed. All hints that Chef was drunk had vanished. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you every penny I ever make, if that’s what it’s going to take to get the police files. I’m going to give them to Liz and Skip, and I’m going to hunt that bastard down, and I’m gonna gut him.”
Liam stopped, his newly filled glass halfway to his mouth. Slowly, he set it down and sat back in his chair, eyes wide. He was silent a long moment, looking at Chef in a way he never had before. His sharp eyes assessed Chef the same way he might a client telling his side of the events in question. The glass of scotch appeared in his hand, swirled around once, and the liquid disappeared into Liam’s mouth. “You really mean that, don’t you?”
“You’re damned right I do.”
“Then I’m with you. What do you need from me?”
Tears appeared in Chef’s eyes, along with a grateful smile. “I need all of the police work to date, and I need a friend.”
“Then that is exactly what you’ll have. Let’s get this guy.”