Author: Rick Tobin

“Thanks, and repeat whatever the lady is having.” Telman directed by lifting his shot of premiere whiskey towards a striking redhead in a tight chartreuse dress with a revealing leg slit sitting on the last stool at the end of the ritzy hotel bar.

“Roger that, buddy. It’s slow. You’re the last two here. Good hunting.” The burly, bearded bartender reached behind and grabbed an expensive wine to balance out his evening’s paltry tabs.

Telman adjusted his posture, pulling his pinstripe suit sleeves so an inch of midnight blue shirt poked out for emphasis. He tightened his silk tie closer to his throat as he ignored the stunner, now turning to stare as she received his free offering.

Clicks from high heels alerted him as she swayed toward the chair next to him. She did not speak, waiting for his opening line. There was none. She cleared her voice to hint. It didn’t evoke Telman’s response.

“Nice gesture. We don’t need to be strangers.” She hesitated, waiting for him to turn to her. He didn’t. “I’m Celeste. And you?”

“Not interested, lady,” Telman muttered, after throwing down his shot.

“What…I…” Celeste sputtered–eyes wide. Telman watched her in the mirror behind the bar.

“I’m celebrating, that’s all.”Telman continued, staring straight ahead while raising his right arm with the empty glass, gesturing for the bartender’s attention.

Celeste twisted her neck, adjusting her composure. “Lonely place…your isolated celebration. Care to share? It was dismal until you came along.” Her voice was carefully patterned cadence to arouse male interest.

“Here,” Telman said to the waiting bartender. “No more of these. I’ll be hitting some gin tonight. Get the London Dry and make a couple of gin fizzes if the lady wants to join my party. I just landed tonight. I need a break. Get cracking!”

“Sure,” Celeste agreed, as Telman finally turned to stare into her hypnotic deep-green eyes. “I’ll give it a try if he’s buying. The red wine was thin.” She complained, placing her gold purse on the counter, then tapping her red nails as she stared back. “You’re an odd one like you don’t even see me. That’s rare.”

“What, because I’m not an easy mark?” Telman replied, stunned almost to silence by her pale beauty, but protected by his training. He moved away from her touch as Celeste reached out to caress his graying hair. He turned back from her again as the bartender arrived with two tall glasses of new drinks.

“Okay. I get it. Gay or something? Married?”

“Nope. Just particular who I drink with. You’ll do.”

“I’ll what!” Celeste snapped back.

“First, a drink…a good one. Then we’ll get to business. I don’t play games.” Telman took a deep swallow and motioned Celeste to do likewise. She followed the script.

Celeste sighed afterward, reorganizing her thoughts. “A player! I should have known. So what’s the deal?”

“No deal, honey. You’re a Trojan whore. We can’t let this situation go on. You’re making it tough for the rest of us visiting Earth. I landed here to clean up your Varjan mess. Hunting season is closed.” She twisted hard, grabbing her swollen neck. “That’s the first sign: painful gill itching. Yes, I can see them sealing. You won’t be feeding on any more male humans. I was betting you didn’t know your race is highly allergic to juniper berries. Don’t mind me as I walk away while you melt into pink goo.”

Before leaving, Telman slapped down a hundred-dollar tip to cover the bartender’s cleaning costs.

“By the way lady, nice dress.”