Basil's Story

"I began to keep a notebook. I don't know why. It started a few months ago when business was slow. I tried to write everything down exactly as I heard it. If a note or document was left behind on a table or on the bar, I'd just paste it in.

"The notebook is full now. I leave tomorrow for a new job in the mountains. There won't be time to write. I figured I should tell somebody.

"So yesterday at the bar I went up to this guy I'd been watching for the last couple months. Tall, tired looking, young face, with salt-and-pepper hair. Silvery stubble on days he needed a shave. Bit rough around the edges, which I like. And quiet, real quiet. Scotch drinker. No ice.

"When he's had a couple and looks relaxed I say, 'I've seen you here before.' He stares at me without staring, you know, but something focuses; he's seen the notebook and some early warning signal kicks into place. 'I need some advice,' I say. He shifts his gaze to the bar, but I can tell he's listening. 'I'm off-duty in a few minutes. Meantime, I'd like to bring you another drink.' He isn't saying no. I put the notebook on the table and say I'd be back.

"'One more thing,' I stare him right in the eye. 'It took me a long time to write all this down. You won't mind if I tell you that everything you'll find in it is true.'

"I was back with the tray and the drinks in less than five minutes but he and the book were gone."