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Two Butch Guys Sit at a Bar

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Carlton isn't really taking a vacation, just a long weekend far enough away from Spencer to regain his equilibrium. The kid's shenanigans wouldn't be a problem if he didn't solve so many cases, but he does, real cases, tough cases, too. And Carlton's mostly made his peace with it, would rather see justice dealt to criminals than Spencer's comeuppance, but every so often….

He doesn't have a bar in Burbank, but he finds a police station, and does a search pattern. He's not looking for the bar closest to the station, that'll be too busy, too full of sad sacks, too obvious. He's looking for the next one out from that. It'll still be a bar where cops are comfortable, real comfortable, but it won't be a cop bar.

Rick's is perfect. It's too dim and grubby to bring dates, too well lit to get drunk and cry on the bartender, and the TV's are all confined to the second floor. He can hear a faint roar from some game drift down, but it doesn't dominate the sounds of the bar: clink of glasses, men's hushed voices, the snap of pork skins and peanuts being crunched as a precursor to dinner.

The bar's not full, but it's not empty either. He's able to get a side stool, with his back to the wall, and he can still keep a place between him and the guy who's cramped into the corner. The bartender takes a little while making her way over to him, but Carlton doesn't mind. She's decorative without being on display, and he's switching between watching her and watching the guy on his right.

There's something about that guy that bothers Carlton, and it's only after he's ordered a rum and Coke and a Coke, both on the rocks, that he realizes the other guy's drinking orange juice, not screwdrivers, and also he's got a blade in his boot. The hilt's kind of big, but the boot leather's way too thick and well-cared for for him to figure out whether or not the blade's legal length. Carlton's not on the job, not in his jurisdiction, and this guy is clearly not searching for a fight, but he can't help saying, "You a SEAL?"

The guy raises an eyebrow at Carlton, shakes his head.

"Marine?" Carlton tries again.

"What's it to you?" the guy says.

"You've got at least two weapons of questionable legality on your person, and I'm a cop. I want to know if I should be expecting trouble, and what kind of trouble I should be expecting."

The guy sighs, but he turns and actually offers Carlton his hand. "Colonel John Casey. I'm usually protecting a valuable intelligence asset. I came out dressed for work today."

"Carlton Lassiter," says Carlton. "That's not a Beretta in your back holster." He doesn't quite turn it into a question, but he raises an eyebrow.

"Not an S&W under your arm," says Casey, but there's a curve to his lips that says he's willing to play along, for maybe just a little while.