Copyright 2016 Carey Burns
A small bell tinkled overhead as Cal Thompson strode through the door of Choice Cuts, a specialty butcher shop in Chicago’s fashionable Bucktown neighborhood. His gaze froze on the thin, uptight man standing at the counter ordering. He’d never seen this man before and his gut was telling him something wasn’t right. Cal crept forward until he was right behind the stranger.
“Two pounds of the ground chuck and two pounds of the back bacon.” The stranger said, fingering a list on the glass countertop while watching the butcher weigh and package the meat.
Cal leaned in close, his breath hot on the stranger’s neck. “You’re gonna love Kevin’s bacon.” He said in a low, husky voice.
The stranger flinched and dropped his money on the counter before snatching up the white bundles of meat and bolting out the door.
Cal smirked at Kevin and leaned against the glass display case. “Who was that?”
Kevin shrugged, wringing a white towel in his hands. “He works with Eddie Mueller at the Mercantile Exchange.”
Cal tilted his head wondering why Eddie would tell anyone about Choice Cuts. “You think he’s toying with him?”
“Let’s just say that he’ll be back, one way or another.” Kevin smiled serenely as he wiped down the counter with the towel. “What can I get you?”
“I’ll take the rest of your bacon and throw in a few links of your hot sausage too.” He studied Kevin’s quick, precise movements as he wrapped the order in pristine butcher paper and tied them tightly with string.
Kevin’s voice was soothing. “I added some extra fat trimmings to the sausage for flavor. Hope you like them.”
He grinned. Kevin was a true connoisseur. “I’m sure it’ll be great.”
“Okay, that’ll be fifteen even.” He stacked the bundles next to him and adjusted his wire rimmed glasses while he waited for Cal to produce the money.
Cal grinned as Kevin snatched the cash from his fingers and handed him the packages. “Here you are. I’m going hunting this weekend so I’ll be seeing you soon.”
“Looking forward to it.” Kevin mumbled as he placed the bills into the cash register. He watched Cal leave then slipped away into the back room where he did most of the processing and butchering. He unlocked the cooler and waited for his fogged glasses to clear.
Rows of steel hooks hung from the ceiling, suspending sides of beef and whole hogs. Kevin eased between them, the dead carcasses swaying to a silent danse macabre in the chilled air. At the back of the freezer Kevin hefted an aged carcass over his shoulder and dodged the swinging animals on his way to the stainless steel table.
He flopped the carcass on the table, exposing the cleaned-out torso. Kevin rolled it over and pinched a fatty portion of its back and smiled. This one would make excellent bacon. He reached for his knife, accidentally bumping its leg off the table. As he moved it back into place, his glance rested on its purple toenail polish.