“Pour another round. And remember. . . “
“Don’t get any on your hands.” Mikhel looked dead serious.
I wasn’t sure what was in this Jägerbrew stuff, but after carefully filling the metal cups for the second round, I grabbed a pair of rubber gloves I use while cleaning, and pulled them on.
Better safe than sorry. And actually, the gloves don’t look half bad.
I had shown up at the bar because I really wanted to know what Mikhel was so secretive about. He had told me that I should take the whole day off. “We’re having a private party that . . . might be a little rough. I’ll take care of it.”
I had bristled at that. “Hey, have I done anything wrong that you think I can’t handle this party?”
“Absolutely not. It’s just . . . “ He paused. “Let’s just say that this group plays by its own rules.”
I had tried to get more out of him, but he clammed up and wouldn’t tell me more. Even Boss looked more secretive than usual.
So since I lived nearby, I just happened to walk past Floggin’ Brews on Thursday evening. The window shades were mostly pulled down, except for one window where Boss was keeping an eye on the street. I swear She perked up when She saw me coming – She stood up and stretched, and rubbed Her whiskers along the side of the window closest to the door as if to say, “Get in here already.”
Gotta keep the Boss happy.
But now that I was behind the bar, I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
After we got the first round of Jagerbrews out, I had a chance to take a good look at our guests. Most of them wouldn’t stand out in a crowd if you ignored the unusual tint of their skin (I saw blue, green, an odd shade of orange) or the sharp points of their teeth. Too many teeth. The teeth were hard to ignore because all of them were talking and/or smiling, and drinking the Jägerbrew with gusto.
Mikhel had put out coasters I hadn’t seen before that said “Heterodyne” in curvy script. He might have saved himself the effort, the coasters were being totally ignored.
“Ho, leedy lady, iz hyu new to dis place?”
It took me a moment to realize that one of our guests was talking to me. “Um, my name’s Ret. I’ve been working here a few weeks.”
“Ret, hmm? Az een ‘Regret.’ Goot name! But hyu should hef a het!”
I noticed that all the guests were, in fact, wearing hats, and Mikhel was now sporting a derby hat with a stylish curved feather stuck in the band. And spiked goggles. It was by far the most understated hat in the place.
“Here! Hy loan hyu dis het for de evenink.”
He handed me a hat with a flourish. It looked like something one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men would wear: a peaked cap, mottled green and brown, with a pointy front. There were several short arrows jauntily sticking through the peak of the crown. I looked at it and looked at the guest.
“Hy von it in a fair fight. Vell, mostly fair.”
“Um, thank you very much.” I stuck the hat on my head.
When in Rome. . .
The Jägermonsters settled in after the second round. Jackets were shed, and the conversations (which had been largely focused on talking smack about each other’s hats and exploits) quieted. Suddenly one of the Jägers jumped up on a table and stamped his foot.
“Ere’s to our host!”
He raised his mug toward Mikhel.
“Und to hiz eksellent brew!”
There was much stamping of feet and raising of mugs.
“Hy hef vritten uh poem to zellebrate da virst of de parties here.”
Boos, cat-calls, and an empty mug or two sailed toward the speaker, who seemed completely undeterred. He adjusted the crumpled stovepipe hat on his head and began.
“Dere vunce vas a Jäger named Todd,
Vose het vas ekseedinkly odd.
He vun it at sea
From a pirate matey,
But de look und de schmell vas uf cod.”
There apparently was more, but the nearby Jägers pulled the speaker off the table to a chorus of groans and heckling. Mikhel stepped into the middle of the fracas.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen! And ladies,” he said with a nod to several nearby guests who looked like the others except for their impressive cleavage. “Let’s save the celebrating for the Theatre.” He gestured to the hallway leading to the party space. “You’ll find locker rooms to the right, and the Theatre door to your left. And please!” he raised his voice as a rush toward the Theatre began, “Keep the door closed at all times.”
A handful of Jägers remained behind, and I took care of their orders and began picking up the empty mugs while Mikhel got the party started. He came back after a few minutes, the hat on his head only a bit askew. He gave me a funny look.
“Where’d you get that hat? Those are Jäger darts.”
“One of the guests – the guy at the third stool, the one with a fez.”
“And one horn? Yup, that’s Oggie. He’s a flirt, I hope he wasn’t hassling you.”
I smiled. “No, not at all. Just chatting. He loaned it to me ‘for de evenink.’”
“And the gloves?”
I’d almost forgotten that I was still wearing yellow rubber gloves. “Umm, merely precautionary.”
A loud crash sounded from the direction of the Theatre. Mikhel straightened his hat. “The party’s getting started. I’d recommend staying clear. And make sure we don’t have any unexpected guests.”
He headed back down the hallway before I could ask him how to tell if someone was “unexpected.” But I took it to mean anyone not wearing a hat.