The third time was a bit more scary.
Three of us were sitting in Cho’s Place a Korean owned bar-n-grill on the corner of Big Bethel and Saunders Roads located near the Hampton-York County line. A medium-sized sh!thole that had changed hands and names a good few times, this dive was getting to be known as a rough-n-tumble place during the late 80s. Stabbings, shootings, brawls, beatings , dry-gulching and dirty drug dealings were becoming commonplace enough to keep me mostly clear of Cho’s . Regardless of personal preference pertaining pickling places, I had to pop into that foul fetid cesspool on that particular Friday Night. A practical reason prompted this visit - Money.
Payday. Car payment, car insurance and electric bill had left me a bit short on mirth-money. Here it was 7:30 PM and I had just slammed my phone down for the last time.
“That damned debt dodging dickweed !” I swore whirling about towards my fridge and snagging the next to the last ale. Yeah, I was kind of pissed off that my friend Whitey hadn’t showed up at my house in Williamsburg 2 hours ago with the hundred and fifty bucks he owed me from last Monday. Here it was a Friday Night , the little woman away till Tuesday on business , a decent new bar within walking distance and enough top shelf grass left from last weekend to kick-start some high adventure and this bastard was no doubt running way shy of me instead of honoring our agreement. Now I had to drive some thirty or so miles in hunting this jerkwad down before he spent my money. Pulling into Whitey’s road , I slowed up and stopped when I saw his cousin driving out. During our short open truck window exchange I learned that Whitey was at Cho’s Place, some several miles away. This struck me odd as Whitey rarely frequented bars.
“So what’s he doing there instead of drinking and driving like usual ?”
Tiny laughed and shook his head then replied - “He’s all wrapped-up in some chick that likes to hang out there on band night”
“A woman ? Sh!t ! there goes my doe”
“Don’t feel bad he owes me too”
Knowing Whitey would be staying put at Cho’s, Tiny and I burned a # on that dark shaded lane before it was time to go debt collecting. Never a pleasant task. Wishing each other a good weekend, I departed.
The weed had kicked in pretty good. Going down the road , listening to music, my head somewhat higher than the Pine tops, I pondered upon what sort of strange situation awaited me at Cho’s . During my last daytime visit some several months ago, the entire bar was entertained by two redneck gals from Grafton going at it fists, teeth and claws. A truly savagely wild bar stool jungle battle, both young ladies were contesting for the favors of a local motorcycle club member. Despite his long hair, beard and leather jacket he had the poise of a Roman Emperor at the Circus Maximus, totally enthralled with this bar-room combat as were many of the male patrons. Short skimpy garments became disarrayed and shapely body parts were exposed. All went as fair as a catfight could be until a long neck beer bottle came into play and the biker started fighting the bartender. This was no Williamsburg brass and fern tavern, but it wasn’t a place where somebody like me could feel comfortable about putting one on.
The bar was about half full of already drunken patrons. A motley gathering of mostly North Hampton, Poquoson and York County topers along with a few off duty Langley airmen. They all seemed jolly enough and I sensed no trouble brewing as of yet. A local band was playing a rather good rendition of Marshall Tucker’s Fire on the Mountain as I ambled through Cho’s doors. Right off the bat I ran into three Kats from my old neighborhood. Crazy Charlie, Mitch the Drunk Roofer and Woo Esposito embroiled in a game of Cutthroat on the pool table. Up at the bar with backs to me sat Whitey and his latest lust interest, a flaxen haired Poquoson Princess named Gloria.
Greeting these fine fellows, I then excused myself and proceeded to the bar.
Slapping him on his back, I gave greeting - “Well Whitey, fancy meeting you here !”
His sh!t brown eyes darted about the room. Attempting spoken words he mumbled something then clammed-up. I then offered a gentle handshake to his date. "Hello I’m Jim, I’ve heard fellers talk about you from as far away as Windy Hill" Finishing up this quaint and proper greeting, I turned to Whitey -
“I believe you have something for me”
By the look in his eye and the way he wanted to discuss this outside , I had a sinking feeling things weren’t going all that good. Walking past Woo and the others we exited out to the parking lot.
“So what’s the hell out here that I didn’t see on my way in ?”
“There’s my truck, here’s the door, I want a f#(king beer ! You got my hundred and fifty bucks ?”
At that Whitey’s eyes started blinking nervously - “How about a hundred ?”
“How about a hundred hell ! You better cough up a hundred and fifty and buy me a few beers for my troubles !”
I got a little more pissed when he asked - “What troubles ?”
“What troubles ? You f#(king sot ! You were suppose to be at my pad at 5:30 with money you owe to me, and here it is almost 9:00 and yer ass is down here entertaining a Poquoson marsh maid.
At that point Whitey gave me some cock-n-bull of how he got all caught up with trying to tag Gloria and forgot about me, then went into a sob story of having to pay a large owed sum to his father, leaving him with only 200 bucks till next Friday.
“Oh, and I’m suppose to feel sorry for yer sorry ass ?” Taking a good long hard look at this varmint I said - “Alright a hundred “ Noticing the relief in his eyes I continued - “A 100 bucks now, 75 later and you buy me a beer when we get inside”
“75 bucks ? How did you get that figure ?” Whitey asked.
“For my troubles. Now we can agree on this or else I’ll just go ahead getting my 150 bucks in a way you may not find very pleasant”
“Alright ! Alright !” Whitey agreed to my terms and interest then attempted to bum some grass off me. Getting my money, I prodded him back into the bar while scolding - “You have no business entertaining women in yer sorry ass condition, I may take her with me”
Back inside I rejoined my friends and as agreed upon Whitey sent me a beer by way of a young nubile Korean barmaid. Ahhh, A cold beer, old friends and a half-way decent house band for a change, maybe I would stay and have a few. Charlie, Mitch, Woo and I caught up on local current events, before talking about heading to a party on Lynnhaven Drive when the band went into an Elvis Number - ‘Return to Sender’. Although the band performed well, their singer did The King, no justice. About a half a minute into the song a rather sinister looking brute rose from his seat and called an abrupt halt to this entertainment. With microphone still on, I’d wager everyone in the bar heard what transpired.
“What the hell is wrong with you ?” Demanded the singer.
“I don’t want you singing that song “
“Why the f#(k not ?”
“Cause I don’t like the way you sing , boy”
“F#(k you ashore ! You don’t call the shots here !”
“Oh don’t I ?” There was something in this music critic’s voice that had me thinking. As the band started their number again he turned as if going back to his seat, then wheeled about , pulled what appeared to be a little 22 pistol and fired into the singer’s throat. Fingers grasping blood gushing neck, the singer sunk down to his knees. Having shot the singer , this maniac swept Cho’s Place with a crazed glare then started shooting up the bar. Over turning our table we crouched behind it in hopes of not getting shot. Others sought cover as well.
He was taking his time, picking out targets like beer pitchers, the ornate stained glass light above the pool table and later we learned, the wall clock and the ‘WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO SERVE “ sign hanging behind the bar.
Then we heard the door open and close then there would have been silence if not for the gurgle-like coughing of the wounded lead singer. Making damn sure the trouble was gone we emerged from our cover as the bartender called 911, while some of us checked to see if everyone else was alright.
Nobody but the singer got hit, but the place was littered with broken glass and smelled of gunpowder. After the rescue squad hauled away the band member we were all interviewed by the local fuzz and promptly shooed away.
Receiving a call from Charlie that following Sunday I learned that the maniacal music critic was apprehended at another bar without incident and swiftly came to terms with his transgression and confessed shooting the young man because he didn’t like his singing.
The wounded man survived, but his musical career was cut short that Friday Night.