Jia’s head’s still pounding Sunday night. She’s tried more liquor, she’s tried pills, she’s tried spending most of the day sitting quietly in a dark room. None of it helped. Carly definitely can pick a club but last night got crazy even by her standards. Jia’s been trying to cut back on alcohol in recent weeks and that didn’t help. As she rides to Henry Fontana’s bar the thought that another drink might help keeps popping into her head.
Her phone buzzes and she’s excited to see a text from Cassie. It’s a picture of her in a nice dress, showing a nice amount of cleavage. She’s making a kissing face and looks both adorable and sexy. Jia sends a heart emoji in reply. She considers sending a picture of herself back but decides she isn’t ready to reveal her newly shaved head yet. She’s worried her girlfriend won’t approve. She’d probably like her outfit tonight at least. A smart ankle length skirt and a yellow blouse make her look like a young professional. She borrowed both from Carly. That means they’re slightly tight but she can move. She just hopes she doesn’t have to fight in them.
Entering the bar, she finds a very different scene from the night before. It’s still dimly lit but everyone here seems to be wearing business casual attire. Most are drinking wine though there’s certainly plenty with beer or other drinks. This is the kind of place young business people wind down after work, not a place people go to get drunk. Carly probably would have liked it after all though it wasn’t the place she needed last night.
Not as dark as the other bars she’s been to recently, Jia can immediately tell Jillian isn’t here. There’s nobody who looks anything like her. If her hair’s still pink she’d stand out. Because the bartender said she’s only supposed to come in from time to time Jia decides to get a table and wait.
The bar isn’t busy but for a Sunday night they aren’t doing bad. The waitresses are running around getting drinks and bringing food. Her waitress drops a menu off and takes her order for a scotch and soda. She promises to come back as soon as she can to take any other order but she’s got a tray loaded with drinks in her hands.
When she returns carrying Jia’s drink the waitress looks calm. “Sorry about the wait, that table needs everything yesterday. What can I get for ya?”
Downing half of her drink before replying, Jia orders a set of breadsticks from the appetizer menu. “I actually have a question. Someone told me a friend of mine comes in here sometimes. Jillian? Pink mohawk, kind of a punk look.”
The waitress nods. “I know her, she’s friends with a girl named Victoria. I think she’s staying with her upstairs. The mohawk’s gone by the way, or at least not put up. They come in a lot of nights, usually not until later. Stick around and there’s a good chance they’ll show up.”
Thanking the waitress, Jia orders another drink. No need to hold back when she has Shin’s credit card. Shortly after her fourth drink arrives she notices a girl with short pink hair split down the middle sitting at the bar. When did she show up? She can only see her from behind and if not for the pink hair she’d never make the connection since the girl’s wearing a knee length pink dress she can’t imaging Jillian in. It’s possible she is a different person but when the bartender drops off a cup of tea Jia feels confident she’s found her target.
Before approaching the girl she hopes is Jillian, Jia pays her check in case things go bad. Standing up, the alcohol hits her all at once. Taking a moment to steady herself, she walks over and taps the woman on the shoulder.
The woman turns her head and it’s definitely Jillian. She looks calm, even happy. At first she doesn’t seem to recognize Jia. “Can I help you?” She looks back to her tea and takes another sip. Her head suddenly snaps back and her eyes go wide. “Oh hell, what are you doing here? I did you a favor.”
“We need to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. I helped you out as a favor to a friend. You were out and I made sure they weren’t going after Shin. Now you need to leave me alone and go back to your life.”
“My brother’s kind of involved here.”
“He doesn’t need to be.” Jillian rubs the side of her face. Jia notices how far she has to sit from the bar with how much her stomach’s grown.
“He wants to be.” She gestures to the seat next to Jillian. “Can I sit?”
“No, I don’t want us being seen talking here. Meet me out back if you have to talk. Ten minutes. Now go away.” She doesn’t say anything else. Her wide eyed stare follows Jia until she’s back at her table.
Keeping an eye on Jillian, Jia sees her pay her bill and head out the back. She almost waits but ten minutes seems like a long time if the woman’s already leaving. She still doesn’t trust her. Following immediately, she finds she was right not to. Standing, it’s clear how pregnant Jillian is. She’s not full term yet but she’s put on enough weight that a casual observer would know. She’s booking it for the stairs in the back of the bar.
Following her upstairs, Jia can’t see her after the first turn. That’s where she finds you can access the apartments above them from in the bar. Unable to see her target, she listens until she no longer hears steps on the stairs. That’s when she knows what floor to stop on. On the fourth floor she turns and sees a door at the end of the hall closing. She tries to open it without knocking but Jillian was smart enough to lock it.
She pounds on the door. “Let me in Jillian.”
“Go away, I don’t want to deal with you.”
“I’m not giving you a choice.”
“I will kick your ass. I can hit you but we both know you won’t hit me.”
Trying to see in through the peep hole Jia says, “Look, let me in, otherwise I’ll make a scene. You don’t have to deal with me for long, we’ll talk and then I’ll go if you want.”
There’s no response for another thirty seconds. When Jia’s about to start pounding on the door again it opens a crack. Jillian stares out at her. “You’re really not going to leave, are you?”
The chain’s removed and the door opens. “Get in here then before I change my mind. You’re only staying a few minutes.”
Walking into the apartment, she finds a complete mess. There’s a couch with clothes piled on it but no other furniture. A TV sits in the corner. Looking into the kitchen, the sink’s piled high with dishes and there’s food on the counter. A cat sneaks out of a bedroom to investigate the new person but after being noticed sneaks back into the room.
Jillian grabs the clothes off the couch and throws them on the floor. She sits on the couch and Jia joins her. “Thanks for not making me break down the door. Is this your place?”
Jillian shakes her head. ”A friend’s. I’m watching it for them, needed a place to stay. You picked the right night to stop by. Pregnancy takes it out of you and I didn’t want to have to fight. Say what you want to say though because I’m ready for you to be gone.”
“Okay, Shin wants to be involved. He knows that’s his baby and he doesn’t want to leave you alone to handle it. He suggested you might even come back to Napa and stay with us for awhile so he can really help.”
“Sounds great, except I’ve been told to stay away from Napa. By the way, I smoothed over most of his debt. Rocco took off after he messed up so I threw him under the bus. Your brother can go wherever he wants as long as he stays out of San Francisco. The problem’s they don’t want me leaving town. They’ve got me running some things and they won’t let me out. So if he can’t come to the one place I have to be, it’s going to be hard for him to be involved.”
“Who can I talk to about getting you out?”
Shaking her head, Jillian fights back a laugh. “Because that went so well when you tried to get Shin out. If I hadn’t saved your ass you’d be dead.”
“That was poorly planned, we can do better this time. You know how they operate, you can help me find a way out for you. Together.”
Jillian puts her head in her hands. “You think I want to be involved in this still? This isn’t a life for a baby, I get that. They aren’t letting me out though. The whole organization would need to collapse from the top and the boss isn’t going anywhere right now. He’s in the middle of something big.”
“Anyway we take him out? Maybe throw him to the cops?”
“No, but you don’t want to be in San Francisco when this happens. You really should go home now. You know I’m alright. If you don’t give me a hard time I’ll even send Shin some pictures after the kid’s born. Maybe you can stop by and take him for a weekend. I’m surprised he wants to be involved but if he does I’m willing to let him try. I need you to go though.”
“What if your boss’ plan went bad? Would that make any difference.”
Jillian’s eyes close and she lets out a sigh. “Probably, but getting involved with that is more or less suicide.”
She thinks of her niece or nephew and what it’s going to take to keep them safe. “Sounds like fun, sign me up.”