Husbands gone missing! A binge? Or something else entirely?
| "Ah Mabel, you're the shweetest thing I ever did meet. Why can't my Anna b be more like you are?" he belched wetly. "I wish sh sh ... iwish she listened ta me."
"I know, Artie. But that's what I'm here for. I am here for you when you need an ear."
Mabel leaned over the smooth surface of the bar and touched Artie's shoulder affectionately, then quickly swiped up his money and wiped the sweat from his frosty mug off the glossy surface of the bar.
"How long you been comin to see me, Artie? Three months now ain't it?"
Artie lifted his head from his mug long enough to execute a groggy nod.
"Anna left you last week? That right?"
Another groggy nod followed by what might have been a sob, or maybe it was another beer belch.
"Why did she leave you, Artie?"
"She said I was havin an affair wif da whore at the corner bar! But Mabel I ain't! Cause thated be you, and I wount never have a fling wif you...yer uglier then burnt toast on Sunday mornin!" At this witty remark, Artie giggled and then guffawed like he had just told the funniest joke ever. He grabbed his sides and hooted till tears sprung out on his cheeks from his squinted eyes.
No, thought Mabel, Your mistress was the alcohol, not me. Aloud she said "No, She was way off base with that one wasn't she."
She watched him for a few moments, and then came to a decision. Yes, he was a perfect candidate for her club.
"Artie, I want to ask you something important, so listen to me now. I have a special club that meets in the back room. It's for my best customers only, and not just my customers, but my friends. You're my friend now, Artie, aren't you?"
Artie had toned down to a weak giggle and now looked at Mabel seriously. She was by far the ugliest woman he had ever seen. She was about six feet tall, and probably only weighed about one twenty. Her hair was shoulder length and lank, thin enough that he thought he could see some scalp under there, and tucked behind her overly large ears. Her nose was huge and hooked, and her eyes set too closely together, making her appear to be cross-eyed. Her eyes were a plain brown, shit brown he thought, though they showed intelligence if you looked for it. He reached across the bar and placed his hand over hers (barely covering it, her damned hands were as big as his) and said as clearly as he could in his condition, "Yesh."
"This is a special club, Artie, I only allow certain friends in. You have to be lonely and miserable and ready to change your life. You have to say goodbye to your old life. Are you ready for that, Artie? Would you like to change your life?"
A strange feeling came over him, a warmth and sense of determination. Yes, yes he was ready to change his life. He wanted to be a new man. A better man. He looked into Mabel's shit brown eyes and saw someone who could help him turn it all around. He gripped her hand in his and said "Let's do it Mabel, I think you can help me, and I do want to change!"
She smiled at him encouragingly, gripping his hand back firmly. "Good Artie, very good. Now listen up good and do what I say..."
Anna was in a panic. She stood on her uncle's porch wringing her hands and nearly dancing as she recounted to him the events of the last two days. Artie, her husband of ten years, had disappeared Saturday. She had called him several times and had finally gone over to check on him, afraid that he might have hurt himself or something after yet another night of binge drinking at that filthy local bar. She had found only a note, addressed to her, saying that he loved her and had gone to change his ways. After many phone calls and hours spent driving around town, she had come up empty handed. No one had seen or heard from Artie since Friday night at the bar.
Mike sat in his rocker, watching his niece fret back and forth until he feared she would walk a dent in his porch. Finally she slowed enough for him to say "Anna, dear that sounds wonderful to me. What could be better? Didn't you leave Artie because you couldn't stand his all night binges anymore? So he finally woke up and went off to heal himself. I would think you would be happy, mayhap he'll come back and be the man you married again. Besides, what do you want from me?"
"Uncle Mike he didn't GO anywhere! He left his clothes, and he left his car! He even left his bike! There aint no buses that come through town, Hell the trains don't even run through here anymore."
"Mayhap he got a ride."
"None of his friends are gone... and where would he go with out any of his belongings? You know how he is about his stuff. And Damnit you know this sounds funky. Help me Uncle Mike, please! The locals won't even consider looking for him. They said that he probably just took off with his barmaid or something.
Mike shifted uncomfortably, her pretty green eyes bored into his faded blue. He never could deny her a thing. But he had been retired from active duty on the police force for five years. Most of his contacts were gone. "Alright sweetheart. I'll see what I can find out for you. But no promises."
She visibly relaxed and sighed hugely. "Thanks Uncle Mike. I suggest you start at the bar, I would go there myself but that nasty bitch won't let me in. She keeps saying that its a men's only club." she kissed him and went on inside to speak to Aunt Kate, leaving Mike on his porch to wonder what the hell he was getting himself into.
Two weeks later, Mike had some interesting facts. First: Turns out that the owner of the local bar, Mabel, had been moving around quite a bit, never staying longer than three years in one town. Second: In each town she had lived in, she had opened a men's only club. Third: In each of these towns three or four husbands had been reported missing. The local police had assumed that they had run off, as has been known to happen. Especially after having trouble with their wives over their frequent attendance at the Men's club.
Mike took all this information to his buddy's son down at the station. He was a young man just starting his career and jumped at the chance to prove himself to the Sheriff. He was just as surprised as Mike that no one else had put two and two together to make four in regards to these strange coincidences.
It wasn't long before Anna got the phone call from Uncle Mike telling her that they had found Artie. But he said the news was bad, he had wanted to tell her before she saw it on the live news coverage. She dropped the phone in horror, sure that 'live news coverage' could only mean one thing. She pounded down the hall and turned on the T.V. set.
"I'm standing here in front of the Garsten Men's Club reporting live on this developing horror. Just hours ago Mabel Collins, who was arrested by our own Jeffrey Tappig on suspicion of murder two days ago, told the police that she had an exclusive club for her special friends who wanted to change their lives. On a hunch the police searched the premises for evidence of this secret club and made a truly grisly discovery. It would appear that nineteen men, in varying states of decay were found inside the bar, hidden in a secret room behind the big beer cooler."
Anna's legs seemed to turn to ice, then melt, they could no longer hold her up. She slumped to the floor holding her hand over her mouth.
"Also found under the bar were various poisons and a few unknown concoctions that are presently under investigation, and are srtongly suspected as the agents of these men's demise"
In weeks to come it was discovered that Mabel was quite intelligent after all and not a little bit crazy. She had studied to be a pharmacist, but had gone into the bar business instead. She had very specific potions that she offered the sad and dejected men who stopped in to tell her all their painful, and pitiful problems. One made them happy, one loosened their tongues, one made them exceptionally open to her suggestions, and all were laced with extremely adddictive substances.
She had genuinely loved these men. She had claimed that she had only wanted to end their suffering, and give them a new life. How, exactly, she felt that being dead and tucked neatly into a cold room with other dead men was a new life, was beyond everyone's comprehension. Mabel was sentenced to life in a prison mental ward, and nineteen women were sentenced to life as widows.