joe

“That's me,” said Alberto, taking off the black apron-of-pockets all the servers wore. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you.” Kelly tapped the menu on the register to get to the daily close screen.

“You should kick that guy out first before you balance the till,” said Alberto, one hand on the kitchen door.

“What guy?” Kelly leaned over the bar and squinted at the mostly-dark dining room. Her heart sank as she saw a figure slumped over one of the window tables. She could just make out a pair of long legs stretched all the way under the table and the opposite chair.

“Shouldn't we double up on him? He's got to be at least a head taller than me —” But the kitchen door was swinging shut.

Fine. Technically the guy was in her section. Kelly took a deep breath and flicked on the bright overhead lights, then marched into the dining room.

She stopped a metre and a half away. His clothes looked like they'd been nice, once. Even though the dining room was slightly overheated, he was wearing a black parka. It was open, and Kelly could see a lime green workout anorak underneath, and a battered grey sweatshirt underneath that. His jeans just looked like standard Levi 501s. Kelly recognised the brand of his boots. Her ex-boyfriend had saved up months to buy a similar pair.

The boots were tattered and stained, same as the rest of the guy's clothes. His hair was dark and wavy, but too long and slicked back with what Kelly guessed was grease and not hair product. He had the jowls of someone who lived on a poor diet, but the hollows around his eyes made it clear he wasn't used to having a lot of food at once.

He was staring at the lights, with a look of wonder Kelly was used to seeing on her nephew's face when he opened birthday presents. That gave her an extra couple seconds to figure out where she knew him from. His upper face looked familiar — bright blue eyes under thickish dark eyebrows.

No name came to mind, so she decided to go with her standard closing-time speech.

“Sir, we're closed. Can I call you a cab?”

At first, Kelly thought he wasn't listening, but as she finished her speech his gaze lowered and settled on her face.

Désolé, mais je dois rester ici jusqu'à —” The guy stared at Kelly. “That was English, wasn't it?”

Kelly took half a step back. “Yeah it was English.” Shit.

“Sorry about that.” His accents in both English and French were standard Canadian, near as Kelly could tell.

“I know you just said something about having to stay, but sir, you really can't.” Kelly gestured at the receipt and the five-dollar bill tucked under the empty coffee cup on the table. “Do you need change?”

The man peered at the receipt as if he'd never seen it before. “I don't think so.”

“Then you really have to leave. I'm sorry sir, but my manager doesn't allow customers to remain on the premises when we're balancing the till.”

The man was frowning. “So, where am I, exactly?”

“This is The Haunt.” The man was still frowning. “Near Pape subway station. On the Danforth?”

The man grinned, revealing straight but very rotten teeth. “Danforth! That's Toronto, right?”

Kelly took half a step back. “Yeahhh, last time I checked. Look, do you want me to call someone to pick you up? A cabbie, or...” She didn't want to say “the cops”, but it was starting to look like a viable option.

The man looked out the window, cupping his hands around his eyes to block out the reflections. “There's still a Toronto this time, wow.” He turned to face Kelly again. “Who's the Prime Minister, then?”

“Uh, Trudeau?”

He looked so shocked Kelly involuntarily scuttled back a few more steps. “Pierre Trudeau’s still alive?”

Shit. She was going to have to call the cops. “He died a while ago, eh? It's his son now. Justin.”

“Just-in.” The man chuckled and shook his head. "Haven't heard that one yet. Prime Minister? That's incredible.” He grinned at her, and Kelly realised who he looked like. Fix his hair and teeth, give him healthy food, and he'd look just like —

“Wow. So who's the American president, then?”

Kelly froze. “Donald Trump. Look, do you need me to —”

The man slammed his palms onto the table, making the empty coffee cup jump. "Dammit! I really thought I had it this time." He produced something from his parka pocket that looked like a cross between an old flip-style phone and a garage door opener. "I have to go."

"Yes sir, you really do."

"No, I have to leave here." He held up the device. "It's safest if you duck behind the bar."

Kelly ran to the bar, grabbing her phone off the counter and ducking down at the same time. She reached for the baseball bat they kept there for emergencies. Just as her fingers enclosed the handle, she realised a humming sound was coming from the dining room.

The sound grew louder and louder, and a blueish-white light threw harsh shadows behind the bar. Kelly glanced up at the back wall and saw the liquor bottles caught in so much light they looked like they were glowing.

The hum transformed into a roar, and Kelly pressed her hands against her ears.

The sound stopped, and her ears rang away the last of the hum vibrations. There were no further sounds from the dining room.

Kelly clenched the baseball bat and inched her way around the bar, slowly easing up from her crouch.

There were some weird black marks on the floor, like painted-on shadows, but the guy was gone.

Kelly scuffed at the nearest black mark with her foot. It wouldn't rub off. Fine. She would leave Alberto a note to clean it up when he opened tomorrow.

Numbly she walked to the door and made sure it was locked with the deadbolt. She picked up the receipt and the empty coffee cup from the guy's table on her way back to the bar.

She glanced at the receipt as she waited for the cash report to print, and noticed the note.

"Haven't been in a place like this for years! Thanks so much. Joe."