One not-so-ordinary day, I was sitting at Bloody Mary’s Bar talking to Mad Dog when suddenly, he mentioned a character by the name of Chico.
“Wait, wait,” I said, lifting my hand to interrupt him. “Stop right there. Who the hell is Chico?”
Mad Dog looked at me with one eyebrow raised.
“You wanna know about Chico?” he asked slowly. “I’ll tell you about Chico. Chico used to be the Owner of Bloody Mary’s Bar.”
“What?!” I exclaimed. “Really?”
“That’s right,” Mad Dog said. “Chico was one of the shadiest guys in town. He was Greek. You know how Greeks are. They’re like Jews. They’re nothing by liars and thieves.”
I let out a heavy sigh and gave Mad Dog a Look.
“Can we please refrain from making offensive generalizations about different ethnicities and perpetuating racist stereotypes?”
Mad Dog looked at me as if I had just spoken to him in a foreign language. He looked my face over carefully.
“Yeah, now I see it,” he said. “You got a little bit of something in you. Are you Jewish or are you Greek?”
“I’m a Citizen of the World,” I said proudly. “I’ve got a little bit of everyone in me.”
Mad Dog shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Anyway,” he said. “About Chico. He was one shady guy. Not the kind of person you want to mess around with. One thing’s for certain, though. He sure did know how to get the job done.”
I opened up my notebook and started taking notes immediately. Mad Dog looked off into the distance nostalgically and began telling me the story.
“It was bar against bar. A race to the top. Chico screwed over a lot of people to get there. A lot of people were after him. He owed money all around town. He owed so much money, they even put a price on his head. There were Wanted Posters everywhere. Then one day, Chico disappeared. Just up and left town without telling a soul. No one knew where he was. There were plenty of theories, of course. Most people say he’s still hiding out back home in Greece. Anyway, a couple of months later, Chico was found dead in a canyon somewhere in Colorado, half-eaten by wolves. No one knows if it was a murder or a suicide.”
Mad Dog paused as if to say “The End.” I stared at him wide-eyed for some time before I finally managed to snap out of it.
“That’s it?” I asked.
I stared at him with my mouth wide open.
“You’re telling me the Former Owner of Bloody Mary’s Bar was found dead in a random canyon somewhere half-eaten by wolves?”
Mad Dog nodded.
“That’s right,” he said again.
I shook my head in disbelief.
“Seven years!” I exclaimed. “Seven years I’ve lived here and nobody ever told me this story? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!”
Mad Dog looked over at me and smiled.
“You really are a writer, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Of course I am,” I said. “Why else would I follow you around?”
He smiled at me again.
“So,” I said. “Who do I have to talk to around here to find out more about this Chico character?”
“Oh,” Mad Dog said, shaking his head. “You don’t just go around asking questions about Chico. Nobody in this town is going to talk to you about Chico.”
“But I thought you said Chico was dead.”
“It doesn’t matter!” he snapped. “You can’t just go around asking questions about Chico.”
“Okay,” I said. “But I’m just letting you know right now, the next time I come back here, I’m going to start asking questions about Chico.”
“Good luck,” said Mad Dog. “No one in this town in going to talk to you about Chico.”
The next time I went to Bloody Mary’s Bar, I decided to start asking questions about Chico.
“So…” I said pleasantly, cozying up to the Line of Death after another successful round of Jeopardy. “Did any of you guys ever know a character by the name of Chico?”
All of the old men in the room gave me the same look at once.
“Who wants to know?” one of them asked suspiciously.
“Oh, I’m just a writer,” I said. “I like to write about Bloody Mary’s Bar. I heard a story about Chico and I thought he sounded like an interesting character. It’s not every day you hear a story about someone who was found dead in a canyon somewhere half-eaten by wolves. I’m interested in hearing the rest of the story.”
All of the old men glared at me again.
“Oh, you’re a writer huh?” another asked. “Sounds more like a Troublemaker to me.”
“Yeah,” said another. “What makes you think you can just come in here and start asking questions about Chico?”
“Sounds to me like you need to learn how to mind your own business,” chimed in the last.
I was caught off-guard by their reaction. I had no idea it was such a big deal to start asking questions about Chico.
“I’m sorry,” I said politely. “I was under the impression that Chico was deceased.”
“I don’t know about that,” said PJ. “If there was ever a person I knew in my life who would fake his own death to get out of some trouble he was in, it was Chico.”
“You knew Chico?” I asked with a dazzled look in my eyes.
“Oh yes,” he said. “Many years ago. He was very good to me. He always treated me fair. I was sad to see him go. Then again, you never know. I went to the funeral. They never opened the coffin. I still like to think he’s over in Greece with his family, relaxing on a beach somewhere eating a delicious gyro.”
I smiled at him.
“I think that’s how I prefer the story to end,” I said.
“Me too,” said PJ.
All of us sat together in silence for a minute. Finally, PJ went back to the bar and I went back back to Mad Dog.
“See?” said Mad Dog. “I told you. Nobody in this town is going to say a goddamn word to you about Chico.”