Boone Nelson seated himself in a high-backed booth there in the Emerald Pub. He picked up the steaming cup of black coffee situated on the table in front of him, sipping it slowly. He smiled and fondly thought of his grandfather who had sat in that very booth for over forty years, sipping at his own cups of hot black coffee. Billy Connors once told him, “I’ve settled for the lesser of two evils, one being the booze, the other being the bean that makes goats kick up their happy feet and literally dance after they’ve consumed a score of the little black beans!”
In contrast to the days Billy was an alcoholic, and a mean drunk at that, his coffee-drinking mellowed the cocky old Irishman, proud owner of the Emerald, considerably.
Boone studied the Emerald’s rustic woodwork, its white-washed walls, oak beams, high-backed booths, and tall stools situated before a bar with brass foot rails. Tapestries on the walls depicted castles, and dominating the west wall was an enormous red banner with three black lions wearing gold crowns. The most eye-catching sight in the entire pub was the enormous stained-glass window at the front of the building and facing out onto Have Ave. The dragon carrying the lime-green emerald in its talons had cost the old man a pretty penny.
Boone remembered the first night he’d set foot in the pub situated at the center of Havelock Avenue. Billy met him inside the entrance. He offered Boone a warm smile, saying, “Thanks for coming. I’d like you to watch the meeting from a surveillance console in my office. Maybe you can detect if your little brother is telling it true or lying.”
Old Will Connors had then led him to his office at the back of the pub. Tall and scarecrow thin, Billy’s snow-white, collar-length hair trailed back over his ears in wavy wisps, and the tips of his thick, white mustache were waxed and twisted into tight curls. To add to his noble appearance, the old Irishman wore an expensive three-piece suit, but as Boone looked into Billy’s ocean blue eyes, he detected a dangerous rage roiling beneath the surface of his regal-looking exterior. He reminded him of an old, gruff lion. “I know you are reluctant,” he told Boone, “to eavesdrop on your brother, but perhaps by you watching from a distance, we can resolve this issue.”
The issue was, Reason, his troubled little brother, at 13 had gone to a party. During a bust of said party, Reason had a collision with private investigator, Jessie Dalton, and a drug dealer named Brooks. In the aftermath of their floundering around on a shadowy kitchen floor, Reason had snatched up what he thought to be his leather jacket. Instead, he came away from the party with the jacket of Brooks. Later, after hiding out in a doghouse behind the party house, Reason discovered a strange blue key in the pocket of this jacket.
Jessie tracked him down, and there at the Nelson house, the private detective had shared with the boys and their mother, Rose, that the key belonged to safe-deposit box at a Havelock bank. Inside the box, was evidence that would solve the murder of a state patrol informant named Kelly Drake. Jessie warned the Nelsons that Brooks, the dealer who had murdered her, and a dirty private eye named Quinn, badly wanted this key to prevent the evidence from falling into the hands of the local police.
Reason, plagued by a bad case of oppositional defiance disorder, refused to cooperate with Jessie and stubbornly kept the key for himself. Jessie enlisted old Billy Connors to talk sense into Reason. Boone had watched the meeting between Reason and Billy from the pub’s security system, and unknown to Reason, he saw right through his lies.
Jessie had escorted their mother, Rose, Reason, and his friend, Vince, into the pub. Patrons looked up from their meals to curiously stare at the rugged-looking investigator leading the lady and two boys across the room. Reason walked over and stood beneath the heads of seven deer mounted above the mantle. The numerous strands of tiny, green lights wrapped around the antlers of the bucks caused them to resemble fireflies floating above their heads. Reason shifted his gaze and peered at the wooden plaque on the mantle beneath their chins. Before he could read the inscription on the plaque, Reason turned to face Billy.
It all played out inside of Boone’s head as he sat there:
Reason asked, “Is that the plaque the Sinn Fein gave you? According to my mom, the IRA were terrorists, and yet you believed they were patriots, and you sent lots of money back to Ireland to finance their war against British oppression.”
Billy said, “Never mind that, you little scoundrel!”
“This,” Rose snapped, “coming from the King of Scoundrels, the great Irish Godfather of Havelock?”
“Godfather!” Billy snorted. “Does he know his proper history? Nelson means Neal’s son, which is derived from Niall, High King over all of Ireland! You’ve got the blood of kings in you, lad! Your ancestor founded a powerful Irish dynasty. Niall’s raids into foreign lands resulted in a young lad coming to Ireland in the third century. And do you know who he turned out to be? Saint Patrick! Ironic, don’t you think? Your ancestor brought Patrick to Ireland, and now you live one block away from a church named after the great saint, yet you fall so short of what you could be. It’s tragic and disappointing.”
The old Irishman lit his pipe and slowly blew out several puffs of smoke. Quietly, he then said, “Tell me, lad, do you know what hap-pens to a fly caught in a spider’s web?”
“Yeah,” Reason replied. “He gets killed by the spider.”
Billy said, “And like two little flies, you boys got tangled up in a web of conspiracy the night you found that key. If Jess had that disk, he could bring Brooks down. But unfortunately, it hasn’t resurfaced yet. So I’m offering you both a safe haven.”
Removing two pamphlets from inside his jacket, Billy slid them across the table in front of Reason and Vince. Reason snorted, “A treatment program? Treatment is only for kids who have drug problems! Thanks, Mister Connors, but I’ll pass. I quit drugs.”
Billy snorted, causing the tips of his mustache to quiver. “That’s what folks say when they’re in denial. Checking you into treatment will keep you safe until all the mad dogs involved in this mess can be rounded up or put out of their misery.”
“Is that your answer to everything?” Rose scoffed, gesturing to the plaque above the nearby mantle. “I’m well aware of what that award symbolizes, Will Connors, so don’t think you are fooling me with your goodwill gesture. My boy does not need your help!”
Billy’s entire crass demeanor changed then, and Boone, seated before the surveillance monitor noted the sorrowful look he offered Rose. “Fine, Rosie,” the old Irishman said, quietly. “I was only trying to help.” He switched moods then, taking on the mantle of his former gruff attitude. “Jess, I gotta go be friendly with the rest of my guests, but I’ll check in with you before you leave.”
Glaring at Reason, he added, “And as for you, if you so much as fart in my booth, I’ll be booting your scrawny butt out my door!”
Only later did Boone and Reason find out that Billy was their grandfather, and Rose’s estranged father. In Billy’s checkered past of running guns and other nefarious deeds, one deed came back to haunt him. He broke away from the IRA and as a result of this, his wife was killed in a car accident in Ireland. Due to her death, Billy turned to the bottle, and Rose had wanted nothing to do with the old Irishman ever since. Rose did, however, allow her two boys to establish a relationship with the old man and though she never forgave him for her mother’s death, she was cordial and polite to William Connors, the Godfather of Havelock.
And now tonight, as previously planned by Billy, Boone came down to the Emerald. He had been greeted by four boyhood friends, all members of his old boxing team, who served as Billy’s bouncers. Doug “The Kid” Kaluza, Tony “The Tiger” Menefee, and Joe and Anthony Mendoza. The four had retired from the ring long ago, but stayed on there at the Emerald as security staff. Although Boone had walked away from the MMA years before, he still stayed in touch with the four Havelock tough guys.
Tall, blond-haired Doug had greeted him at the door of the pub. “Welcome, Bossman,” he had said with a lop-sided grin.
Dark-haired Tiger handed him two ornate keys. He glanced down at them, finding one to have a rampant, full-maned lion on its end, while the other was adorned with the same four-leaf clover emerald that dominated the window of the pub. The tiny gems inside the lion’s eyes were blue, while the emerald dominating the clover was a deep green. Before Boone could examine them, the Mendoza brothers ushered him into the dining hall of the pub and seated him before the massive fireplace.
Joe Mendoza said, “As secrets go, the boys and I have had a hard time in keeping this from you, but tonight, despite Billy’s mysterious absence, the Emerald Pub is being deeded over to you.”
Doug pulled a chair out from the table opposite of Boone. Tiger came from the bar, carrying a bottle and two shot glasses. He placed one glass down in front of Boone, and moved around the table to place the other one before Billy’s usual spot at the table. He then opened the rather ornate bottle, with a label depicting a dragon connected to a knight by the lance driven into its side.
“A shot of Dragon’s Breath,” Tiger said, pouring from the bottle and filling both jiggers to the brim, “to seal the deal.”
Doug stared down at the golden liquid and said, “Now, although Billy’s not touched a dram nor even a drop for over 40 years, and I know how you feel about spirits yourself, Boone Nelson, but to make this official, please indulge us.”
Placing the keys on the table next to the jigger, Boone stared down at the swirling gold liquid for several seconds before picking it up. Boone killed the drink, taking the liquid down in three solid gulps. He had never tasted anything like it in his life. The gold liquid stirred images that rose slowly like a fish rising sluggishly in dark, murky waters. He saw in his mind’s eye: The marble statue of a lion-man situated in the tall spire of a castle’s tower. In his raised fist, an emerald pulsated with an inner light that sent shimmering rays shooting across a lush landscape, dappling a forest beyond with sparkling light beams.
The second swallow of the liquid stirred a second image: A silver dragon soared across a stormy sky, lightning crackling all around her outstretched wings.
The third wash of the gold liquid going down his throat produced an explosion of images: He was mounted on a black stallion. In his hand he held a glowing blue sword, and he was dressed in some sort of black leather armor with a roaring lion emblazoned on his breast. A swarm of antler-crowned warriors with florescent braids of hair surrounded him, and Boone raised his sword and he swung . . .
Boone sat his shot glass down with a solid clink!
“Fear not, Boone,” Doug said. “It’s not liquor, at least not as we know it here in this realm. That brew of Dragon’s Breath comes from the Inn of the Wolf Moon in far away Valasar. Delivered in person by Creed Blackstag, Bard Chieftain of the Order of the Lion.”
He gestured at the keys. “The emerald clover is the key that opens the door to the Emerald. The lion’s head opens the door located in the back room of the pub. The door that lies beside the sign, which states, ‘Here, there be dragons.’”
He tossed a pen to Boone and slid the deed across the table in front of him, and said, “Sign it, my friend, and the Emerald is yours.”
Silently shaking his head in disbelief, Boone signed his name to the deed.
Doug, Tiger, Anthony, and Joe shook his hand, clapped him on the back, and left, vowing they would see him tomorrow evening, serving as security staff as they had done for Billy these past several years.