Darius jumped up on a table and began leading a chorus of an old Irish drinking tune. I looked at Bill who just shrugged. The normally demure twenty-something appeared to be giving it his all. The crowd seemed to enjoy the performance and joined in with gusto. When he sloshed down his pint in between verses, the crowd roared with delight. We, however, were not quite as amused.

“So this is what one beer does to him?” Bill asked. Bill had suggested the beer when Darius’s nerves about our upcoming encounter appeared to be getting the best of him. It was clear he now thought better of the idea. “Well, he’ll never go undercover as a singer of any kind. And we also need to work on his tolerance. One drink and the enemy will know any secret we have.” I rolled my eyes. Bill didn’t really like our new colleague, and Darius wasn’t doing much to ingratiate himself. “Go up there and get him,” he said, nudging me with his elbow. “We’re trying to keep a low profile here.”

Although he was right, I didn’t want to even attempt plucking him from the grips of his adoring public. It was kind of nice to see this side of the nervous newbie. “I’m not his keeper,” I said, returning the nudge with a little too much vigor. Bill glared, but continued watching Darius’s one man show. He didn’t want to go up there either.

“If our contact shows up here and he‘s in mid-performance, we’ve not only lost our jobs, we’ve quite possibly lost our lives,” Bill said as Darius began singing “My Wild Irish Rose.”

I sighed. It was still early, but he was right. Being a spy was all about discretion. “Fine.” I wormed my way through the crowd to Darius’s makeshift stage. I pushed between two girls at the foot of the table and tugged on his pant leg.

“Get down here!” I yelled, my voice barely audible over the din of the crowd.

He smiled and started the crowd singing “Danny Boy.” He reached in his pocket, pulled out a note and let it float to the floor. To anyone else, the action would have looked accidental. I bent down, picked it up and unfolded it hastily.

Cover blown. Contact not coming. Best to be somewhere public until help can arrive. Shan’t be terribly long.
— A. F.

I searched the pub until I recognized someone vaguely familiar ducking out the door. Albert Filmore, our messenger. I looked up at Darius who winked and extended a hand to help me up on the table. I grabbed his hand, stumbled slightly to hint at inebriation and giggled as he pulled me up beside him. I grabbed his beer, took a swig and joined in the chorus.

My heart started racing as I surveyed the crowd to see who our assassin might be. If he or she was there, I couldn’t pick them out. They were playing their part as well as we were playing ours. Despite my trepidation, I kept on singing, as sloppily and off tune as possible. I knew that public drunkenness might just save my life that night, so I tried my best to be convincing. Over the heads of our fans I noticed Bill, his hands raised in confusion.

“Come on up, Bill!” I slurred, motioning wildly. Darius laughed and did the same before convincing the crowd to chant his name. Bill shook his head and crossed his arms in defiance. He just wasn’t getting it.

I began a rousing chorus of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” and started to jump down to retrieve Bill when Darius’s hand restrained me. I looked up and saw him give a very subtle shake of his head. I stood back up, continued singing and swaying and looked out over the crowd again, in search of Bill. It took a few minutes before I finally found him, slumped over the bar. To a patron or bartender, he appeared to be passed out. Darius and I knew, however, that Bill was dead.

I hoped that Darius’s knowledge of Irish drinking tunes was more extensive than mine because I was about out and we were going to be here a while.

J. M. Vogel is from Columbus, Ohio. With a Bachelor of Arts in English from The Ohio State University, she is setting out to show the world that a degree in English does not predestine you to life in the unemployment line.

This story is sponsored by
Hydra House — Publisher of Pacific Northwest science fiction and fantasy, including K.C. Ball’s collection of scifi shorts “Snapshots from a Black Hole & Other Oddities” and Danika Dinsmore’s middle-grade fantasy “The Ruins of Noe,” sequel to “Brigitta of the White Forest.”

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