The relief bartender poured a last round of shots for several gentleman-patrons who were about join their wives in the mezzanine. One of the gentleman said something about the ladies at the other end of the bar. The bartender turned quickly, wiping the bar in the process with a white clothe and moved in the direction of the two well-dressed ladies and a gentleman in a red jacket standing next to them.
“Hi, Max. We are looking for Steven.” the dark-haired woman said sweetly.
“He’ll be back in just a minute. He said to expect you… You must be Gunny.” the bartender said as he stuck out his hand to the gentleman, and then pulled back. “Gunny” extended his long arm instead and gently shook the bartender’s hand.
“Nice to meet you Max.” he said guilelessly
Gunny was actually sitting on a barstool, not standing next to the ladies. Up close, his cherubic smile did little to hide the knife-scar on his rugged handsome face nor the blackness in his eyes.
“So,” Max continued cheerily once he was looking towards the ladies again, “Gunny gets a drink at the beginning of each act and gets a round of champagne for you ladies ten minutes before the intermission.”
“Thank you Max.” Maeve responded with a wink, which promised her usual good tip. She patted Gunny’s shoulder in emphasis as she spoke.
Gunny continued to gaze at the wary Max pleasantly will showing an active interest in everything else going on.
“I like your vest.” Gunny said to Max.
Max looked down at his uniform vest; it was black, but somewhat shimmered with hidden threads of red and gold. That’s when he noticed he’d forgotten his name-tag.
“Thanks.” Max responded with a big smile that wilted momentarily in confusion when he realized the vest beneath Gunny’s red jacket was “bulletproof”.
Meanwhile, the red-head standing next to Maeve Sienna commented to her sister, “Look dearie. It’s our friend Mrs. Green.”
Roxanne waved at the sullen faced, drab woman in a straight unaccessorized gown. Mrs. Green had to work her way through the crowd of patrons moving into the opera house proper.
“You know the worst thing about being Christians, Roxanne?” Maeve asked her sister through the gritted teeth of her false smile.
“Having to be nice to people we don’t like?” Roxanne Scamander responded in a like manner.
“Well there’s that too. It’s that we will live forever. So, I have all eternity to regret ever befriending that woman!”
Roxanne bit back a laugh and mumbled something about opera just being a phase she was going through, as Mrs. Green arrived. Max burst out laughing at the whole scene, which got him a dirty look from the new arrival. He went to help other last minute patrons.
“Is that Messier Seingalt with you?” Mrs. Green asked lusciously.
She meant Gunny who was partially hidden from view.
“No, this is our friend Gunny. Gunny, Mrs. Green.”
She offered a gloved hand. He stood to his impressive six feet, four inches and shook her hand. His dark gaze laid softly on her as she studied his admirable Aryan figure with a predatory eye.
“This is our nephew?” she asked and then turned to Maeve and Roxanne with a knowing look.
“This is our body guard.”
“Well, he’s certainly got a body! But, bodyguard?”
“Yes, our husbands feel it’s unsafe for us to be out in this town unescorted.”
“Unsafe for the town?” Mrs. Green retorted. “Did you want to say something Gunny?”
There was something innocent and unaffected about Gunny’s response. “You are a beautiful lady.”
“Oh my goodness!’ growled Mrs. Green as her gloved hand lifted to her non-existent bosom.
“We should head to our seats ladies.” Roxanne suggested firmly as the orchestra began warming up.
Maeve whispered to Gunny that he should get a whole bottle and an extra glass. Max, who had returned, got the message. He offered Gunny a drink.
“Oh, no thank you.” Gunny responded cheerily. “I never drink by myself.” Before Max could question, he asked, “Max do you practice karate?”
“No.” stuttered out a confused Max
“I know Steven does. I thought maybe you do.”
“No, I’m more of a carpenter. I just got back from a church mission in Peru.” Max lied.
“Oh! Hope you didn’t have any trouble at the Shining Path.”
“How do you know about the Shining Path?” Max asked hesitantly.
“Well, I work for an important/export company. We had a kidnapping down there and I went down to provide additional security and help with the negotiations.”
Max flinched at the euphemism of important/export company. He carefully studied Gunny’s dark eyes and disarming expression before asking, “So you handled the ransom?”
“Oh, I’m sorry I thought, I explained that. We negotiated. The young woman came home just fine, got married and had a baby. Want to see? ”
Gunny pulled a picture from his wallet of a himself holding a baby in a baptismal gown alongside the beaming parents. Max found the woman in the picture familiar, the man too.
“Who’s this?” Max asked pointing at the baby.
“This is my god-son Gunny Schmidt Lusigan.”
Max gasped in recognition. “You foiled the Siennan kidnapping! I remember their photograph in the news.”
“Oh, not just me personally.” Gunny blushed.
“Oh, how precious.” gushed the personal assistant who had joined them at the bar
Speechless, Max excused himself and went to clean up the bar. He waved Steven over and discretely whispered, “What’s with that Gunny?”
“Ain’t he the sweetest thing on two feet?”
“Ah, karate, Shining Path, bulletproof vest and a famous kidnapping? Oh and I offered him his drink and he says he doesn’t drink alone.”
“Yeah, I saw him at the national finals last year. He’s the real thing. Come on.”
Steve barreled down the bar dragging his relief bartender along.
“Gunny, can we get you a drink? We’d love to join you.”
Steven winked at the personal assistant, who’d stepped away from Gunny’s side to answer a call from her boss. Steven grabbed the Jose Cuervo Gold and three shot glass, but the other bartender balked.
“What would you prefer to drink? I’m sure Steven and I can drink that.”
They settled on vodka. After downing their shot. The other bartender drifted away again.
“What’s with your eye’s buddy?” Steven asked as he poured two shot of tequila for them.
“Oh, Madam Sienna thought black contact lens were more appropriate for my line of work.”
“I think she’s right.” Steven suggested as he indicated Gunny should raise his shot in toast to his boss.
Gunny complied, but his wide-eyes glued themselves to the young blushing personal assistant listening to her bored boss on the other end of the phone.
“See something you like?” Steven asked knowingly.
Gunny smiled back at this friend, looked at the assistant and then gazed around the opera house. “I like everything I see.” He answered sincerely.
By the time the first act neared completion, Steven saw the personal assistant was sitting up close to Gunny admiring his muscular biceps, dibbled chin and square jaw. From her angle, she could not see the current color of his eyes. From Steven’s perspective, he didn’t think the smitten girl would care. He prepared trays for both of them to take to their bosses in the boxes. When the crowd thinned out a little, Gunny said good bye to his friends, picked up the tray and headed to the Sienna family box.
Mrs. Green was holding forth on the “Opera Tour” she intended to take soon. “I think the highlights with the be opening night ball at the Dresden Opera House, you saw the video I sent you right? Incredible! And end at the Singapore Lyric Opera. The place looks like a giant Faberge Egg at night.”
Roxanne and Maeve nodded pleasantly, until they were forced to comment.
“So dearie, do you speak Chinese?”
“Don’t be silly! It’s Mozart in German with Chinese subtitles. Now, if I just knew a German-speaker to escort us.” She turned quickly on Guenther Schmidt standing idly nearby. “Do you speak German, Gunny?”
Behind her back both Maeve and Roxanne shook their heads violently. Roxanne thought to hold up five fingers on one hands and four on the other.
“Nine!” Gunny answered gleefully.
“If only I could find some way to steal you away from the Siennans. You’d have such a great time. “
Gunny simply smiled back as though pondering all the pleasure that could be. His arms were crossed. His ankles were crossed and he leaned into a pillar in the corner of the box. A Hispanic man dressed in a tuxedo, slipped up to Gunny, called him by name and shook his hand. He spoke quietly in Spanish to the equally as friendly Gunny. He seemed to urge him from the box. Gunny with a nod of the head deferred to Madam Sienna.
“Ma’am, Gunny and I served together. My boss would really like to meet them.”
Gunny assured Madam Sienna that he’d be back in time to pick up the tray before the next act and the two men hurried away. The ladies watched them move along the line of boxes to one, three down.
“Isn’t that the governor?” Mrs. Green gushed.
“Yes, dearie that’s what the young man said to Gunny.”
Gunny indeed picked up the tray in time and returned to the bar as did the “personal assistant” and several other similar people. As Gunny resumed his seat next to the young lady, the bartenders joined them, as did a drunk patron who got a little to uppidity with the help and too friendly with the young lady.
Gunny leaped from his bar stool and with a voice full of concern asked the man, if he was all right “I’d hate for you to fall and have something bad happen to you.”
The intensity of Gunny’s black eyes and firm grip on his elbow convinced the drunk to return to his seat. One of the board of directors happen to be walking by at the moment and bought Gunny and his lady friend a round. Gunny invited him to join them. By the end of the opera, everyone seemed to be crowded around Gunny.
Several opera goers asked about him as they filed out of the theatre with Maeve and Roxanne. Once in the lobby, there was their body guard waiting for them with another tray. They gleefully sipped on their bubbly while Gunny went off to say good bye to his new friends. The young lady slipped him her phone number.
“God bless his heart.” Whispered Roxanne gratefully as they tapped their flutes.