The November Man
“Okay, Tommy, today’s the day you’re going down, my man!” Billy called out as he entered the Brickhouse Sports Bar and Grill..
“Not a chance, Billy-boy,” Carl shouted back from the bar. “The Missing Persons Bureau is open for business and Tommy’s in command of the board.” A half-hearted cheer went up from the other regulars seated around the bar and adjacent tables. The Saturday crowd was used to this little scene.
Their host and bartender extraordinaire, Brick, was sure to be kept busy the rest of the afternoon as the four members of the “Bureau” huddled in front of the t.v. mounted behind the bar for a little game they liked to call “Missing Persons.” Automatically, Brick grabbed the remote and switched to the classic movie channel.
Billy, the usual loud-mouth in the group, ordered a fresh round. “Set’em up, bar-keep. I’m challenging Tommy for today’s bragging rights. What do you say, Tommy, ready to put your money where your mouth is?”
Tommy, who appeared nonchalant, was primed and ready to go as always. He loved showing off his prodigious storehouse of trivia. Where it came from and why so much useless information got stuck in his memory-banks, he never questioned. That he could remember the most obscure facts was as amazing to him as his friends. Tommy was a source of entertainment, but it was all in good fun.
A young couple seated on the barstools next to the rowdy group looked a little lost until Mike brought them up to speed.
“Our friend here, Tommy, is a movie buff and thinks he knows everything and everybody – never mind that it’s usually true. Each week we challenge that phenomenal memory of his to see if we can stump the master.”
“Yeah, and if he gets it wrong, he buys the next round,” Carl chimed in. “But, if he’s right, which is most of the time, then the designated challenger has to buy. This week, it’s Billy’s turn, so he’s hoping we can stump Tommy and save him a little cash.”
“Not a chance,” Brick said. “I’m going with Tommy. In case you geniuses haven’t figured it out, Tommy is way ahead in the win-loss column, and you suckers end up footing the bill. Not that I mind, because either way somebody’s racking up a tab.” Brick tilted his head back and let out a great laugh. “I’m the only one around here with a hundred percent win record. For you, Billy, I’ll keep’em coming all day long!”
Their game of Missing Persons attracted a recurring crowd who often joined in on the fun. It was a great way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon.
As the afternoon wore on, Tommy effortlessly named one obscure actor after another. Whenever Tommy got stuck on a name, his favorite fallback was to name another film the actor played in, or perhaps some behind-the-scenes movie trivia, but it never failed Tommy could always pull something out of thin air when it counted. Well, almost all ways; Tommy wasn’t perfect. Like now, Tommy was in a bind trying to remember the actor portraying the lame commissioner in the film noir murder mystery they were watching. Nothing came to mind; not the man’s name nor his background, nothing! Tommy shook his head to clear the cobwebs.
“Ah-ha! Got you, Tommy!” shouted Billy, signaling Brick to set up another round on Tommy’s tab. “This is my lucky day; for once even I can name the “missing person:” that’s Willis Bouchey. He’s been in a zillion old movies.”
Tommy smacked himself on the forehead. “Okay, you got me this time. As Arnold says, ‘I’ll be back.’” With that, Tommy slid off his barstool and headed for the lavatory.
Tommy lurched a little unsteadily on his feet and collided with a man on his way out. The man had been sitting in the back quietly drinking his beer and watching their game in silence.
“Excuse me, sir. I didn’t see you coming,” Tommy said, as they disentangled themselves. For a brief moment, Tommy locked eyes with the man.
“No problem, pal. Hey, I enjoyed your little performance. See you around.” With that, he exited the bar, and Tommy continued to the gents.
Meanwhile, the good-natured joking continued as the boys flipped through channels looking for a promising show to test Tommy’s fount of trivia.
Tommy came rushing back to the bar with a wild look in his eyes. “Hey, guys, if I said ‘November Man,’ do you remember what I’m talking about?”
Carl said, “Oh, yeah! A couple of years ago, a hitman walked into a mob-owned bar in Boston and whacked out eleven guys.”
“That’s right,” said Mike. “It was on Thanksgiving Day; took out the entire crew! Why do you ask?”
“The dude I bumped into on his way out just now. I remember his face; it was the guy!” The shooter!
Billy shook his head incredulously. “You’re losing it, Tommy. The hitman died in the same shootout; no one made it out alive that day. I'm pretty sure that's the way it went down; it was all over the news.” Billy roughed up Tommy’s hair so that it stood on end, making him look even more bewildered.
“I never forget a face; it had to be the same guy. I’d almost bet my life on it.”
“Give it up, Tommy,” Billy said. “You’re up three-to-one tonight. If we counted this little slip-up, you’d be three-to-two, which would give me a chance to break-even. I say quit while you’re ahead. Now, come on, let’s have one more round.”
Just then the phone rang behind the bar; Brick snatched it up before the second ring. “Yeah, I’ll let him know.” He hung up and turned to Tommy. “That was your wife. She said to get home fast; you’re late for dinner.”
“Oh, great! I’m dead. I should have left an hour ago. I’m dead meat. See you guys.”
Hoots and jeers went up from the crowded bar as Tommy fairly flew out the door. The boys huddled up for one last round. Mike said, “I think Tommy’s starting to lose it. Now he’s seeing dead guys walking around. What’s next?”
Tommy hurried toward his SUV that was parked around the corner from the entrance. “I’m dead. I’m dead. Barbara’s going to kill me for being late again,” he muttered to himself over and over.
Tommy fired up the engine and was about to pull out when suddenly, a cold hard object pressed against the back of his neck.
“Hello, Tommy. We meet again.”
Tommy glanced in the rearview mirror and recognized the one face he never should have seen or remembered.
“You know who I am?”
Tommy merely nodded, unable to speak.
“Then let’s go. Put it in gear, and I’ll tell you where to turn.”
“Gimme a break, mister. You don’t have to do this. I can un-remember things faster than I remembered them, and permanently, too.”
“You've got a great memory for details, but the bigger problem is you've also seen me." The man gave Tommy a hard nudge with the gun barrel. “I'm reall sorry about this, Tommy-boy, but it looks like you’re about to become the featured topic in the next game of Missing Persons.”
By: Terry Adcock © 2021