John Weiss sipped his Manhattan from his perch at the bar. He felt new, fresh. It was probably the workout in the office gym. He had looked at the girlsa couple at the bar, another three or four at some of the tableswhen he came in. Nothing interesting. He hadn't been there long; his drink hadn't even arrived yet when he noticed the woman who was watching him. He had watched her come in because she looked out of place, like she didn't like singles bars, and probably had never really used one. The kind who called them "meat markets."
John Weiss looked around the room, settling his gaze on the woman who was watching him. She met his eyes, but she did not smile. She looked sad, in fact, like someone with something sad on her mind.
John Weiss didn't frequent this particular bar himself. He preferred the Rude Parrot, which was just a block from his office, four from his condo. In fact, since the divorce he had made a habit of dinner at the Parrot most nights, unless he stirred up some action. He hadn't thought of the divorce in a long time. The woman was still looking at him.
He crossed the room, coming to her table. She looked uncomfortable when she realized what he was doing, but she looked him in the face.
"Hi," he said. She still didn't smile.
"Have we met?"
"Not exactly," she said.
"I'm sure I'd remember," he replied. "Can I sit down?"
"Would you like a drink?"
John Weiss took the chair on her left. After an uncomfortable pause, he said, "Well, you are a mystery. Tell me about yourself. Where do I know you from?"
"I'm a writer," she said. "I'm writing a novel."
"That's great! I've always wanted to write a novel."
She smiled then.
"I guess everyone does," he added. "If I play my cards right, maybe I could get to be a character in yours, huh?"
"You already are."
"What do you mean?" John Weiss was not sure he liked this woman. He looked around, then faced her again. "Where do I know you from?"
"You don't know me at all."
"From school? Did we go to school together?"
"You never went to school, John. I invented you."
John Weiss was startled. He looked around the room nervously, as if hoping no one was overhearing them. "What are you talking about?" he said.
"You are a character in my novel. I just invented you a few minutes ago."
"You are writing a novel about me?"
She looked thoughtful. "No. You're just a minor character."
John Weiss looked around the room. Then he looked at her again. "I've heard some great come-ons, lady, but this takes the prize for bizarre."
"It's not a come-on. It's the truth."
"Well, I'm insulted," he said, turning one of his more attractive smiles on for her. "I've never been a minor character before."
"It's nothing personal. The novel is about a woman."
"Is it autobiographical?"
"Too bad. I'll bet I could have made myself a major character. Is the woman it's about here?"
"She will come in the door... now."
John looked at the entrance. The door opened, and a woman walked quickly into the room, stopped on the landing and looked around the room.
"What is this?" John Weiss said. "Some kind of Candid Camera-type setup?" He was smiling. This evening could turn out to be interesting, after all.
"It's what happens."
John Weiss decided to play along.
"She's pretty good-looking. Do we meet?"
"Not exactly. She is looking for you, but she won't spot you until you get up to leave. Then she'll take out a gun and shoot you."
"She'll shoot me? Why?"
"Her husband. You ruined her husband in a securities scam. He committed suicide in the last chapter. He named you in the note. Sid Andrews."
"Sid is dead?"
"In the last chapter."
"That's Sid Andrews' wife?" he said, looking at the woman. She was at the bar now. She was looking around the room. She asked the bartender a question. He shook his head.
"If she doesn't know me, how will she know it's me?"
"I haven't worked that out yet. I'll fix it later. I shouldn't have made this a place you don't come to regularly."
"Maybe I just won't leave."
"If you were a major character, that would be a problem. But you don't need motivation to leave. I'm writing from her point of view. Right now, she has observed us talking, but she hasn't realized that you are John Weiss. She will see you get up, and she will look at you because you will be speaking angrily to the woman at your table. This will attract her attention, and you fit the decription of the man she's looking for. When you walk by her, she will say your name, and when you react, she will raise a pistol and shoot you in the chest. You will probably be killed instantly. I haven't decided."
"You are crazy!" John Weiss said, standing up.
"I'm sorry, John. Sometimes, a stock character does come to life and grows into a major character. You just didn't, I'm afraid. In fact I may change this whole section."
"Lady, you are nuts!" A couple two tables away jumped at the loudness of his voice. The guy glared at him. He turned to walk away. The nervous woman was looking at him. He walked right up to her. She was sitting on a barstool with her right hand in her purse, a big baggy purse still hanging from her shoulder.
"I'm John Weiss. Are you looking for me?"
She almost jumped. He was watching the arm that ended in the purse, in spite of himself. So his reaction to the gun in her left hand, which she had been holding covered in a fold of her skirt, was not quick enough. He got his hands on the pistol immediately before she pulled the trigger. In fact, his attempt to take it from her might have caused it to go off. That came up in court later.