Rutger walked into Ripley’s for the third time in as many nights. He had no particular inclination to drink, he rarely did, but going to the bar had become a habit of sorts. He sidled up the the bar, deposited his bulky frame on a stool and ordered a beer. Ripley looked at him askance as he cut the head off the beer. Even though Rutger had behaved himself up to now, Ripley had been in the bar trade long enough to know that guys like that usually come with trouble. Ripley casually slid the pint glass down the bar and it landed in front of Rutger. He downed half of it in one gulp.
Everyone falls into one of three categories in Rutger’s eyes: friend, enemy or nonexistent. If Rutger considers you a friend, there is nothing in the world he wouldn’t do for you. If need be, he would gladly give up his own life for a friend without a moment’s hesitation. There is no better friend to have, but friendship with Rutger is not an easy thing to achieve. If you are his enemy, you will die by his hand. If you are neither, you just don’t exist in Rutger’s world and you’re not worth consideration. It’s as simple as that.
Rutger doesn’t consider Ripley a friend. He would never call someone a friend whose job it is to be nice to him. Instinctively, he doesn’t trust bartenders, whores or salesmen. He only trusts people without ulterior motives, but everyone has an ulterior motive, even if it’s just talking to someone in a bar to not feel quite so lonely.
He eyed the bar and its patrons as he finished off his beer. The customers were local longshoremen or crew from the ships docked in the harbor like himself. It was the same old filth in the exact same seats as yesterday. He was beginning to think that these people never left. On his previous visits, he really hadn’t taken a good look at the bar. He was busy sizing up the people in it. For the first time, he noticed how grimy everything was in this run-down little bar on the waterfront. The pictures of tempest tossed ships on the wall had fifty years of cigarette smoke layered on their glass and frames. The long, wooden bar had a layer of human grime on it from so many elbows and hands. When he noticed it, he subconsciously removed his own. He imagined how this little room would look in the light of day and shuddered. He ordered another beer and it was delivered the same way. Rutger checked the glass to see if it was clean and it was. A clean glass was one thing you could count on in establishments like this.
He hated San Pedro and was just itching to get out of this damn port, but one port was just like any other. They all had bars just like this one where you could get the same beer in the same glass surrounded by the same people. Bars like Ripley’s are a dime a dozen. He’d find another one just like it on the other side in Japan. Sail, dock, drink, unload, drink, load, sail: that was his life. He hated every bit of it except for the sailing.
Rutger was waiting for someone. He was waiting for the asshole that had started shit with him the night before. Last night, Ripley had seen to it that the exchange didn’t escalate, but tonight, Rutger wouldn’t let him interfere. He never forgot an enemy. He was starting to think that the chickenshit wouldn’t show, when all of a sudden, he broke through the doors, already drunk with two sailors. His arms were around their shoulders as if the guys were carrying his entire weight. Rutger stared straight ahead. Ripley looked at him, but he didn’t return the glance.
He patiently waited through four more beers until they were ready to leave. Rutger counted three minutes on his watch and followed them out. He caught up with them straightaway. His target was in the middle, still supported by the other two men. They were all drunk now and they could barely walk on their own, let alone support one another. Rutger pulled out his fishing knife and circled around in front of the trio. He asked the guy in the middle, “Remember me?” Without waiting for an answer, he plunged the blade into his gut three times. He cleaned the knife off on the bleeding man’s jacket and strolled towards the dock to his ship without looking back. He was leaving this damn place at six in the morning.