The Dragon

The Student Journal of Middlesex Middle School

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The Dragon

The Dragon

Shots at La Brasserie

Shots at La Brasserie

The thing stood at the end of Brownhouse Street, right below the flickering lamplight next to an empty bench. It is always faceless, garbed in tattered hospital garments and a rusting mask that exposes its sharp teeth. It’s impossible to identify its exact features because it always seems just out of reach, observing but never coming too close. It likes to mock human incompetence, and today, it tucked itself into the shadows of a chestnut tree just below the street sign, watching as two men met in an amusing coincidence.

The night was old and brisk, and yellow lamplights hummed with electricity as a single man walked down Ebenezer Lane, through the thick mist blanketing the street. Hands in his pockets, the man whistled a quiet tune absentmindedly, and he stopped when he saw what was at the end of the street. A smile curled his mouth, for just at the end of Ebenezer, diagonal from the corner of Brownhouse, was a bar.

Ha! Look at that, such a nice bar all the way out here- but I suppose I deserve a drink for all my hard work, the man thought, drawing closer to get a better look.

The bar was snug and old, but something about it felt nostalgic, almost. The lighting was dim, made dimmer with the red velvet cushioning and dark mahogany wood. The back wall was cluttered with bottles of alcohol, and the chairs in the corners had thin layers of dust caked on them, but the man entered regardless, the door creaking open in his wake.

The bartender glanced up and gave the man a thin smile, who was wiping down the now-empty counter as a woman in a fluffy parka breezed by. “Have a good night Diana,” he called out.

“And you as well,” she replied sweetly, and within seconds, she was gone.

The man sat down, but since he was the only one there, he felt inclined to make small talk as the bartender finished. “What an interesting day it has been!” He exclaimed, removing his heavy wool trench coat and checking his watch while the bartender laid out a coaster.

“Oh?” The bartender said, raising a brow and pushing up his spectacles. He was tall and wiry, with thick brown hair and pale, off-color eyes. Something about him seemed strange, though- he had an odd, mysterious aura, just in the way he smiled at the man, gesturing to the bottles of alcohol lined up behind him with an unspoken question.

“Ah, but first, my drink!” The man continued, fingers tapping impatiently on the bar. What should I order? He thought. Something rare. Exotic, maybe? “A French ‘75, please.”

The bartender hesitated for a moment, but a pleasant smile overcame his face seconds later. “Excuse me, sir?”

“You can make a French ‘75, can’t you?”

The bartender chuckled earnestly. “Of course, sir.”

“Alright then,” The man said while the bartender turned around to do his work, pouring a bout of gin, lemon juice, and syrup into a shaker.

The man checked his watch again while he waited and heard the faint trickle of a news report coming from the dented TV above him. He glanced up and was met with a picture of a scruffy-looking man done up in a suit and tie, waving as cameras flashed by. “Tonight, at 6 P.M… La Brasserie… Congressman Burke… shot to death…”

The man perked up at that, his face brightening with excitement. “Ah yes, Congressman Burke’s murder- that’s what I was going to talk about! I’ll let you in on a little secret… I was hired by a paper to take some shots of the congressman at La Brasserie, which he visited this evening… and they turned out spectacular!”

The loud crash of the shaker’s contents abruptly stopped, and amid the newfound silence, the bartender let out an amused chuckle as a small smile curled his lips. He resumed his task, the sound echoing through the empty bar. “That’s interesting… we were in the same spot, then.”

The man laughed. “You too? I suppose the world’s a small place.” He leaned forward on the counter. “Why were you there? Work or pleasure?”

The bartender chuckled again and hummed as he finished the refreshment, placing it on the coaster and sliding it over the hardwood. “Here you go, sir. One French ‘75,” he paused for a moment, then smiled again. “And yes. I took a few good shots, too. It’s not often the congressmen makes,” he cleared his throat. “Made such exposed appearances.”

The man took a sip of his drink, sighing and melting into his seat. “Just perfect!” He said happily, eyes shutting as he tipped his head back, seeming to forget about Burke entirely.

The bartender laughed while he returned the bottle of vodka to its spot on the shelf.

The man set his drink down for a moment, his brows drawing into a frown. “Hey, photog to photog,” He said, leaning once again across the hardwood to make eye contact with the bartender. “Do you have any tips? For taking shots, I mean?”

“Hmm… I suppose I always try to go for higher vantage points, such as the top floors of a building, further away from people and out of sight.”

‘ “Interesting… I try to go up close because sometimes the shots are cleaner. More people around, but easier to hide- perfect for getting the most accurate shot.”

“I must say though, the zoom on my lens is nothing short of stellar.”

“What kind?”

The bartender smiled, a knowing gleam in his eye. “I can’t give that away, can I?”

At that moment, something caught in the corner of his eye- across the street, underneath the lamplight of Brownhouse, was a silhouette, in the shadows just beneath a chestnut tree. He blinked and a moment later it was gone, but he had a gnawing feeling 0nd when he blinked again, it reappeared briefly, emerging into the light to nod back.

“Hmm?” Said the man, looking over his shoulder. “Who are you nodding to?”

The bartender smiled. “Death, I think.”

The man threw his head back and laughed. “Ah, Death. It follows everywhere one goes, waiting for the chance to strike.”

The bartender laughed alongside him. “I can agree with that- it seems to have stared Burke in the face.”

“I best be off now,” said the man, swallowing the remaining contents of his drink and putting on his heavy trench coat. He winked. “I have to turn my results in, after all.”

“Of course, sir.”

The man paid and left. The air was even colder now, and he shivered, reaching the corner of Ebenezer and Oxford while he recalled his conversation with the bartender. He seemed to know what he was talking about, the man figured. A flush of pride swelled in the man as he drew the photo from his pocket, which he had printed out to save in a special album of his best shots- it was a photo of the bullet two inches away from Congressman Burke’s face while he downed a shot of bright amber liquor. He smiled widely and pocketed the precious item, sparing the bar one last glance before letting the image amble to the back of his mind. But still, as he wandered into the night, he wondered if the bartender had gotten the perfect shot of Burke too.

And, in the darkness shining with the chalky white moon, the thing laughed at the corner of Brownhouse Street, at the two men who hadn’t seen what he had- two men talking about two very different shots.

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