Got Your Back

I never knew quite what to think of Boss. She was an elegant orange tabby and friendly enough, but She seemed to know things that cats do not ordinarily know. Like how to supervise a crowded room. I’d seen Her brush up against a leg, or jump onto a table, or meow, at exactly the right moment to make sure the guests at Floggin’ Brews were both enjoying and behaving themselves. And apparently She also knew how to play chess. Really well.

I am not used to being around a cat who is smarter than me.

Boss continued to watch Mikhel’s chess game and give pointers as I opened the bar. It was just starting to rain outside and looked like it was going to stay that way, so turning on the lights made Floggin’ Brews look like a warm haven in a dreary world.

Must be some vibes left over from that writer the other day. Either that or I have been reading too many novels.

We normally get a handful of people over the lunch hour, and today was no different. One of the customers was a slight young woman who sat by herself at the bar. I got her a short glass of Candy Apple cider, which she sipped as she picked at some take-out Chinese.

When there was a pause between customers, Mikhel pulled me aside and nodded toward her. “She was in here a while ago with a . . . problematic companion.”

I looked at him. “Problematic?”

“Let’s just say he was interested in things he wasn’t willing to negotiate for. She left in kind of a hurry. Let me know if she needs anything.”

I put on my best bartender face the next time I checked on her. “Would you like another?”

She looked up from playing with the Sociable Cider Werks coaster. “No, thanks. I have to go back to work in a bit.”

“Do you work nearby?”

“About three blocks away, over on Marshall.”

I picked up her empty glass and wiped off the bar. “This the first time you’ve been here? We haven’t been open long.”

She exhaled sharply. “No, I was here the first day, for a bit. A guy I was seeing had heard about this place and wanted to check it out.”

“Past tense? Meaning the guy.”

“Yes,” she said. “Well, no, he’s still around. I told him to get lost but I can’t seem to shake him.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” I said. “What’s going on?” I glanced down the bar at Mikhel, who seemed content to let me have this conversation. The chess board had been put away. Boss had left Her perch above the door but I couldn’t see where She’d gone.

The story, once it came out, was depressingly familiar. Tia (the young woman) had made the mistake of trusting this guy (let’s just call him “Dick”) who was anxious to show her that he was the Dom for her. It had become clear that Dick was just interested in bullying or drugging her into submission, which he took to mean sex on his terms, whenever. Mikhel had helped her out of harm’s way, and she’d since told Dick in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t interested. But he wasn’t accepting “no” for an answer. He’d been driving past her apartment and calling her at all hours. He’d even showed up at work, and had left only when she phoned the back office for the manager.

“That’s why I’m here now,” said Tia. “I know he won’t come here. A friend of mine saw him being thrown out during a munch, and he was pretty pissed. But embarrassed too. I don’t think he’ll be back.”

“Even if he did come back, you’re safe here,” I told her as Boss approached. Has She been listening in? “We have a pretty good security team.”

Tia laughed as Boss jumped up on a neighboring bar stool. “Oh yes, the cat tripped him while he was bringing me a drink, and I left while he was distracted.” She held out a hand tentatively toward Boss, who ducked Her head a bit and allowed Tia to stroke Her fur. Both Boss and Tia looked pleased.

First time I’ve seen that. Boss looks like an ordinary cat. Almost.

“Have you thought of making a report about Dick?” I asked.

Tia shook her head. “Not really. I don’t want to make him mad, I just want to avoid him. He left me a message, saying that he’d see me at the next Kinks In The Cities munch, so I’m going to skip it.”

“You shouldn’t have to do that,” I said as Boss looked up and caught my eye. “When does that munch meet?”

“Six on Thursdays, at the Haystack.”

I knew the place – it was a sports bar north of downtown. It had a back room about as big as the loft.

“Excuse me,” I told Tia. I took care of another customer (an Indeed Day Tripper ale) before I checked out the schedule on the Munch Board up front.

Mikhel was wiping off tables that didn’t really need it. He looked up as I approached. “Yes?”

“Do you know the mods for the KITC munch?”

He nodded. “Yes, Wren and Jacky. Why?”

“Could they hold their next munch here?” I explained the situation. “And there isn’t a conflict with other munches.”

“Yes, of course. Let me make a call.” He pulled out his cell phone and headed toward the office. Boss jumped off the bar stool and followed him.

I returned to my spot behind the bar and asked Tia if she wanted me to toss the remains of her lunch. She did. Mikhel returned and walked over to us.

“I just got off the phone with Wren – she said that they’ve been meaning to check us out as a munch venue and so the next KITC munch is going to be here.”

Tia looked visibly relieved. “Wow, really? The KITC munch? Did Wren just call you?”

Mikhel looked bemused. “Something like that.”

“That’s great – I’ll definitely be here,” said Tia. She gathered up her purse, paid her tab, and headed back to work. It was still raining but it looked like it was letting up.

I tidied up the bar and put the used glasses in the dishwasher with a sigh.

“Yes?” It was Mikhel.

“I just wish we could do more. I totally understand why she doesn’t want to report him. But that guy sounds like a menace.”

“We can do what we can do with what we have. We can keep him out of Floggin’ Brews. We can let the munch mods know, and they can ban him from munches and parties that don’t meet here.”

“Yeah, but they don’t always ban guys like that.”

“True. But they’ll at least keep an eye on him. That might be enough to keep him in line.” Mikhel gestured toward the door. “And we can make sure Tia knows we’ve got her back.”

That’s true. I guess that’s something.

Boss emerged from the office, looked the place over, and jumped up onto the bar stool where Tia had been sitting. She placed Her front paws on the bar and looked at me expectantly.

“Well?” said Mikhel. I gave him a blank look. “She wants you to pet Her.”

“Oh!” I reached over and stroked the fur on the top of Boss’ head. She cocked Her head to one side and let me scratch Her behind the ear. “Who won the chess game?”

“I did.” Boss made a “hrumph” noise. Mikhel looked a bit embarrassed. “I needed some help.” Silence from Boss. “Okay, a lot of help.” I tried not to smile. Boss looked satisfied, jumped off the bar stool, and headed back to the office.

Before I went on break, I made sure to update the Munch Board with the KITC munch on the following Thursday.

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