LEADING LADIES: Linda Hamilton

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linda hamilton the terminator

Linda Hamilton in probably her most famous role, as Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR (1984).

Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in the movies, especially horror movies.

Today on LEADING LADIES we look at the career of Linda Hamilton, who helped define 1980s cinema with her signature performance as Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR (1984).

In addition to her iconic portrayal of Sarah Connor in the TERMINATOR movies, Hamilton is also known for her role as Catherine Chandler on the TV series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987-89).  Linda Hamilton has always been a favorite of mine, in spite of appearing in one of the worst monster movies ever made, KING KONG LIVES (1986)— by far the worst King Kong movie ever made.

Hamilton has 75 screen credits to date, and she’s still actively making movies today. Here’s a partial look at her career so far:

NIGHT-FLOWERS (1979) – Wafer – Hamilton’s film debut in a movie about rape and murder at the hands of two disturbed Vietnam vets.

RAPE AND MARRIAGE:  THE RIDEOUT CASE (1980) – Greta Rideout – Hamilton has the lead role in this TV movie based on the true story of Greta Rideout (Hamilton), an abused wife who was constantly raped by her husband John (Mickey Rourke).  The movie tells the story of how she fought back and charged him with rape, even though they were married.  Written by Hesper Anderson, who would go on to earn an Oscar nomination for her co-written screenplay for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986) .

TAG:  THE ASSASSINATION GAME (1982) – Susan Swayze –  once again playing the lead, this time co-starring with Robert Carradine in a tale about a college assassination game turning deadly as it becomes the real thing.  Written and directed by Nick Castle, most famous for playing Michael Myers in the original HALLOWEEN (1978).

SECRETS OF A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER (1983) – Susan Decker – TV movie drama about a mother and daughter involved with the same man.  Katharine Ross plays the mother, Linda Hamilton the daughter, and Michael Nouri the man.

HILL STREET BLUES (1984) – Sandy Valpariso – recurring guest spot role on four episodes of Season 4 of the critically acclaimed TV show HILL STREET BLUES.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) – Vicky – big screen adaptation of the Stephen King short story was the first time I saw Linda Hamilton in a movie, and all I can say is I’m glad she made THE TERMINATOR that same year, because I did not like CHILDREN OF THE CORN at all and would have quickly forgotten Hamilton if not for her performance in THE TERMINATOR.  In spite of the source material, CHILDREN OF THE CORN is a pretty awful horror movie.

THE TERMINATOR (1984) – Sarah Connor – the movie that put Linda Hamilton on the map, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron.  Iconic movie, one of the most memorable from the 1980s, so much so that in terms of movies, it arguably defines the decade.  The movie that propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger to superstardom, and gave him his signature line, “I’ll be back.”  Also director James Cameron’s first hit, coming before ALIENS (1986) and long before TITANIC (1997).

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A girl and her dog.  Linda Hamilton and a canine friend in THE TERMINATOR.

Hamilton plays Sarah Connor, the target of Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, who’d been sent back in time to kill her, since she gives birth to the man responsible for leading the resistance against the machines in the future, and so the machines decide that if they kill his mother, he’ll never exist.  Of course, you’d think it would just be easier to kill him. Pure fluff, but masterfully done, and Hamilton is excellent as the unlikely heroine, a young woman who sees herself as a failure, then victim, and ultimately rises up as the savior of the human race.  By far, my favorite Linda Hamilton performance.

SECRET WEAPONS (1985) – Elena Koslov/Joanna – TV movie where Hamilton plays a Russian spy.  Directed by Don Taylor, who during his long prolific career directed several notable genre films in the 1970s, including ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971), THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977), and DAMIEN:  OMEN II (1978).

BLACK MOON RISING (1986) – Nina – Hamilton plays a car thief in this tale of thieves, FBI agents, and a super car, the “Black Moon.”  Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Vaughn.  Story by John Carpenter, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

KING KONG LIVES (1986) – Amy Franklin –  If there’s one movie that Linda Hamilton should not have made, it’s probably this one.  Why in the world would director John Guillermin, whose career was nearly destroyed by his first Kong venture KING KONG (1976) ever agree to make a sequel ten years later?  Bad move, John!  This horrible sequel has gone down in film history as the worst Kong movie ever. And whereas the 1976 KING KONG has aged well and has gained more respect over the decades, the same can’t be said for this awful sequel.  It’s still as bad as it ever was.

GO TOWARD THE LIGHT (1988) – Claire Madison – TV movie about a young couple caring for their child who has been diagnosed with AIDS.  Co-starring Richard Thomas.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987-89) – Assistant District Attorney Catherine Chandler- Hamilton’s second most famous role, after Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR, this modern-day update of the Beauty and the Beast tale featured Ron Perlman as the beast and Hamilton as the beauty, an assistant district attorney in New York City.

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Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman in the TV show BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

MR. DESTINY (1990) -Ellen Burrows – Comedy fantasy starring James Belushi and Michael Caine.

TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991) – Sarah Connor- Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor in this big budget sequel to THE TERMINATOR which featured some of the most cutting edge special effects of its day.  This time around Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is a lean mean fighting machine, while Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is warm and fuzzy.  Yup, in this sequel, Arnold plays a  “good” Terminator, helping the humans fight off an even more advanced and dangerous Terminator from the future.  Once again written and directed by James Cameron.

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A leaner, meaner Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

SILENT FALL (1994) – Karen Rainer – co-stars with Richard Dreyfuss and John Lithgow in this thriller about an Autistic boy who witnesses his parents’ double murder.

A MOTHER’S PRAYER (1995) – Rosemary Holmstrom – TV movie about a woman (Linda Hamilton) diagnosed with AIDS trying to raise her son as a single mother with the knowledge that she won’t be around for long.  Also starring Bruce Dern and Kate Nelligan.

DANTE’S PEAK (1997) – Rachel Wando – disaster movie about an erupting volcano.  With Pierce Brosnan.

RESCUERS:  STORIES OF COURAGE:  TWO COUPLES (1998) – Marie Taquet- TV movie about citizens rescuing Holocaust victims.

THE COLOR OF COURAGE (1998) – Anna Sipes – based on a true story, the movie chronicles the relationship between a white woman and a black woman.

BATMAN BEYOND:  THE MOVIE (1999) – Dr. Stephanie Lake – lends her voice to this animated Batman film.

SILENT NIGHT (2002) – Elisabeth Vincken- TV movie about a German mother (Hamilton) and her son on Christmas Eve in 1944 who find themselves bringing German and American soldiers together for one night.  Based on a true story.

MISSING IN AMERICA (2005) – Kate – Drama about a Vietnam veteran (Danny Glover) suddenly having to raise Vietnamese girl.

CHUCK (2010-2012) – Mary Bartowski – appeared in 12 episodes of the TV series CHUCK.

A SUNDAY HORSE (2016) – Margret Walden – Hamilton’s most recent screen credit, a drama about a horse and its young female rider.

Starting from about the early 2000s, the lead roles became fewer for Linda Hamilton, and she appeared more often in supporting roles. And the lead roles she did take were often in films that didn’t have the same resonance as the movies from her earlier days.

But she’s still busily acting, and so there are still more Linda Hamilton movies to come. And I for one am happy about that.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the career of Linda Hamilton, the subject of today’s LEADING LADIES column.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel through time with TIME FRAME, my Debut Science Fiction Novel

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time frame cover

If you like time travel stories and exciting science fiction adventures, you might enjoy my novel TIME FRAME.

It’s my debut science fiction novel and it’s still available both as an EBook from NeconEbooks at http://www.neconebooks.com., and as a print paperback edition at https://www.createspace.com/5487293, or at Amazon.com.

I wrote TIME FRAME with the spirit of time travel movies and TV shows in mind, films like THE TIME MACHINE (1960), TIME AFTER TIME (1979), and any number of STAR TREK episodes.  If you enjoy time travel adventures, chance are you’ll enjoy TIME FRAME.

Writing TIME FRAME was a challenge because it’s a story with multiple timelines and I had to make sure that by the story’s end that they all made sense.  I think they do.  I also wanted to take things as far as possible, to write a story where I took those traditional time travel tropes and blew them out of the water.  Not sure if I succeeded, but the story does include a large explosion on the high seas.

I also didn’t want my science fiction tale to be cold and stoic.  I wanted heated and emotional, which is why I wrote as my main characters a close family, with the thought in mind:  how far would you go to protect your family?  Would you break the rules of time travel to save your loved ones?

This one also started with a single idea. I had recently lost my own grandfather, who I was very close to, and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I just wanted to see him one more time.  And so I came up with the single scene of a young man opening his front door and finding his grandfather standing there looking perfectly normal, which the man knew had to be impossible because his grandfather was dead.  This scene was the genesis for TIME FRAME, and I built the story around that, as I thought about possible scenarios that could make this scene true.  What could account for a man who had been dead for several years returning to his loved ones looking happy and healthy again?  The answer became the novel TIME FRAME.

TIME FRAME remains available as an Ebook and can be ordered for $2.99 at www.neconebooks.com.

You can also order a print paperback edition for $14.99 at https://www.createspace.com/5487293, or at Amazon.com, or you can order it directly through me by sending me an email at mjarruda33@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

Worst Movies of 2015

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Here are my Top 10 Worst Movies for 2015:

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10.  GET HARD – ** – Unfunny comedy with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.  There was a time when I used to enjoy Will Ferrell movies.  Been a while.

9. PROJECT ALMANAC – ** – a group of teens build a time machine.  After a light start, this silly science fiction movie tries to become a serious thriller but collapses under the weight of its own pretensions.

8. INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 – ** – third entry in the INSIDIOUS series is the weakest yet.  I’m also just not that into prequels.

7. JUPITER ASCENDING – **- colorful but utterly preposterous tale of an intergalactic princess (Mila Kunis) seeking her birthright, with ramifications that will affect the entire universe!  Yeah, right.

jupiter ascending

6. THE LAZARUS EFFECT – * 1/2- This modern day Frankenstein tale of scientists attempting to resurrect the dead has its heart in the right place—heh heh—but is undone by a very weak story.  There’s no resurrecting this movie.

5. SAN ANDREAS- * 1/2-  a silly disaster film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a chopper pilot who flies all over California— at the expense of the people he’s supposed to be rescuing, I might add!— in order to save his family from a deadly earthquake.  Is that Charlton Heston and George Kennedy I see?  This one is as bad as the epic of all bad disaster movies, EARTHQUAKE (1974).  At least that one had Sensurround!

This one is so bad not even the presence of Paul Giamatti as a scientist can save it.  Yet another story about an estranged married couple who have to put aside their differences in order to save their children from some extraordinary catastrophe.  Sorry, but if you couldn’t make it work during normal times, what makes you think you can do it during an earthquake?  Ugh!

4. SINISTER 2 – * 1/2-  This is as weak and tepid a horror sequel as you can get.  The saddest part of the whole thing is that the SINISTER movies have in them a really cool monster/demon, Bughuul, and sadly he’s not used to his potential in either movie.

Also, in this series, Bughuul makes children both kill their families and film the murder.  The original film had the murders taking place in the past, and so it made sense when the main character uncovered old 8mm films of the murders.  Here, the sequel takes place in the present day, yet the possessed children are still using film cameras to record their crimes.  Wouldn’t they just use a Smartphone or a Tablet?

A silly horror movie sequel, not worth your time.

3. 50 SHADES OF GREY- * 1/2-  This one should have been called 50 SHADES OF BLAH.  Talk about being dull and boring.  As tedious as the films in the TWILIGHT series.  Dakota Johnson is completed wasted in the role of Anastasia Steele.

Also, for a film that is supposed to be graphic and sexual  it’s about as tame as graphic and sexual can be.  I’ve seen more risqué stuff on Benny Hill.

2.TED 2 – * – This is probably the only film of the year that I hated.   While I enjoyed the first TED movie somewhat, I thought this one was a complete waste of time.  Nothing here for anyone over the age of 12.  Juvenile, tasteless, and worst of all, not very funny.  Its idea of humor is to have Mark Wahlberg and Ted sneak into Tom Brady’s bedroom in order to steal his sperm.  Three guesses on how they plan to do it, and the first two don’t count.  Oh, yeah, that’s funny!  No.  It’s flat out weird.

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1.THE GALLOWS – * – I wish my pick for the worst movie of the year wasn’t a horror movie, but alas, it is.  How dumb is this one?  Well, the main plot point is that in honor of the 20th anniversary of a high school play gone wrong— a student was accidentally hanged to death on stage- the school decides to put on the same play again.  Duh!  Needless to say, someone isn’t very happy about this decision, and once again more students turn up dead.  Unfortunately none of them were responsible for the script.

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And that’s my list of the Worst Movies of 2015.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

YOUR MOVIE LISTS: THE TERMINATOR MOVIES

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YOUR MOVIE LISTS:  THE TERMINATOR Movies TheTerminator

By Michael Arruda

With the upcoming release of TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015), the latest installment in the TERMINATOR series opening on June 30, 2015, here’s a look back at the TERMINATOR movies:

 

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

Directed by James Cameron

Screenplay by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, with additional dialogue by William Wisher, Jr.

Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sarah Connor:  Linda Hamilton

Kyle Reese:  Michael Biehn

Lieutenant Ed Traxler:  Paul Winfield

Detective Hal Vukovich:  Lance Henriksen

Music by Brad Fiedel

Running Time:  107 minutes

The film that pretty much made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star.  His role as the brutal unstoppable robot Terminator is one of his best.

This early James Cameron film is tighter and less elaborate than his subsequent efforts and is better for it.  It’s a gripping thriller filled with edge-of-your-seat moments, a nonstop thrill ride that satisfies from beginning to end.

Linda Hamilton also stands out as Sarah Connor, the unknowing young woman who suddenly finds herself a target of the Terminator, sent back in time to kill her because in the future her son will lead the resistance against the machines which eventually try to take over the human race.

Notable also as the only film in the series where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is the villain.  In future installments he becomes the hero, a switch that worked to some degree, but the fact of the matter is he was so good as the villainous Terminator that his evil take on the character is definitely lacking in future installments.

For my money, this first TERMINATOR movie is the best of the series.

 

 

TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

Directed by James Cameron

Screenplay by James Cameron and William Wisher

The Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sarah Connor:  Linda Hamilton

John Connor:  Edward Furlong

T-1000:  Robert Patrick

Music by Brad Fiedel

Running Time: 137 minutes

This TERMINATOR sequel gets the full James Cameron treatment, as everything is bigger and more elaborate.  As a result, this one showcases superior special effects, and many consider this sequel to be the best in the series, although I give a slight edge to the original.

It would have been an even darker movie than the first one except that Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is now “good” and a hero, and the villain here is Robert Patrick’s T-1000.  Patrick isn’t bad, and the special effects which create his liquid transformation abilities are phenomenal, but he’s no Schwarzenegger, and the film suffers for it.  The Schwarzenegger baddie is definitely missed here.

Still, it’s another exciting thrill ride, a worthy successor to the original.

 

 

TERMINATOR 3:  RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003)

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Screenplay by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris

Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

John Connor:  Nick Stahl

Kate Brewster:  Claire Danes

T-X:  Kristanna Loken

Music by Marco Beltrami

Running Time:  109 minutes

Third film in the series is the weakest, although it has grown on me over the years.  This tale of another Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back in time to protect a now adult John Connor (Nick Stahl) from a more advanced and much more dangerous Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken) suffers heavily from  the  “been there, done that” syndrome.  Notable for the first ever female terminator, the T-X, and Kristanna Loken does a nice job in the role, although still, she’s not as memorable or effective as Schwarzenegger was in the original film.

James Cameron’s talents are definitely missed in this third installment.

 

 

TERMINATOR:  SALVATION (2009)

Directed by McG

Screenplay by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris

John Connor:  Christian Bale

Marcus Wright:  Sam Worthington

Blair Williams:  Moon Bloodgood

Dr. Serena Kogan:  Helena Bonham Carter

Kyle Reese:  Anton Yelchin

Kate Connor:  Bryce Dallas Howard

Music by Danny Elfman

Running Time:  115 minutes

First TERMINATOR movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger is an attempt to reinvent the series.  A lot of fans did not like this movie, but I found it interesting and fun.  Sam Worthington plays new character Marcus Wright whose mysterious past drives this story along.  Christian Bale is decent as John Connor, although the story revolves more around Wright than it does Connor.

Not bad, and certainly helped by a strong cast. Good job by all involved.

 

 

TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

Directed by Alan Taylor

Screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier

Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sarah Connor:  Emilia Clarke

Kyle Reese:  Jai Courtney

Detective O’Brien:  J.K.Simmons

John Connor:  Jason Clarke

T-1000:  Byung-hun Lee

T-800: Aaron V. Williamson

Music by Lorne Balfe

Running Time:  125 minutes

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the series in a story that features an alternate timeline, as Kyle Reese is once again sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor, only this time things are completely different because the timeline has been changed.

Opens on June 30, 2015.

 

 

There was also the TV series TERMINATOR:  THE SARAH CHRONICLES which ran for two seasons (2008-2009) and followed Sarah Connor and her son John after the events of TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY.

 

 

That’s it for now.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Print Edition of My Novel TIME FRAME Now Available!

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time frame coverTIME FRAME – My Debut Novel Now Available!

By

Michael Arruda

It’s time for some happy news.

My debut novel, TIME FRAME, previously only available as an EBook from Necon Ebooks at www.neconebooks.com, is now available as a print on demand paperback edition.

There are several ways you can get a print edition of TIME FRAME.  You can order it at https://www.createspace.com/5487293, you can order it at Amazon.com, or you can order it directly through me.  Just send me an email at mjarruda33@gmail.com with your request and we’ll take it from there.  The print edition is on sale for $14.99.

The Ebook remains available for $2.99 and can be ordered at www.neconebooks.com.

TIME FRAME is a story about time travel.  I love time travel stories, and I set out to write one that played with multiple timelines and had some fun taking traditional time travel tropes to the extreme.

I wrote TIME FRAME with the spirit of time travel movies and TV shows in mind, films like THE TIME MACHINE (1960), TIME AFTER TIME (1979), and any number of STAR TREK episodes.  If you enjoy time travel adventures, chance are you’ll enjoy TIME FRAME.  I hope you decide to check it out.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

SNEAK PREVIEW: TIME FRAME By Michael Arruda – Chapter 5

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My science fiction novel TIME FRAME is now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at time frame coverhttp://www.neconebooks.com. Previously on this blog I featured Chapters 1-4 of the novel.  Today the sneak preview continues with Chapter 5.

This could very well be the final sneak preview.

And remember, if you like what you read, please spread the word and feel free to post reviews on Amazon as well.

Hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for reading! —Michael

 

 

CHAPTER 5

“Kathryn, where’s your mother?”  Papa asked.

The question hit Adam in the face like a brick.  He looked across the living room at his mother, and she looked as mortified as he felt.  He wanted to ask his grandfather, you don’t know?

“Ma?”  Kathryn said.

Papa nodded.  His eyes were expectant, but Adam also saw fear in them, as if he knew what Kathryn was going to say.

“Ma died,” Kathryn whispered.  “Three years after you.”

“Died?”  Papa said, his voice barely audible.  He closed his eyes, squeezing them tightly together. His bottom lip quivered.  His cheeks flushed red, and as he sat there, with his eyes shut tight, he looked like a child blocking out the world.

“Daddy, are you okay?”  Kathryn asked.

He opened his eyes.  They were puffy and swollen.  He sniffled.

“How?”  He asked.

“Just old age,” Kathryn said.  “She went peacefully, in her sleep.”

“Good,” Papa muttered.  He sighed.  “I really wanted to see your mother.”

“I’m sorry,” Kathryn said.

Adam thought about his grandfather’s words and wondered, “Why didn’t you?”

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Adam said.  “Why didn’t you pick a date when Nana was still alive?  Why come back when she’s— how come you didn’t know?”

“I don’t mind your asking,” Papa said.  “I didn’t pick an exact date because I couldn’t.  The machine I used worked with decades.  I couldn’t pick one date.  I couldn’t even pick an exact year.  I had to pick a decade.  I chose the first decade after I died because I didn’t want to come back while I was still alive.  You’re not supposed to do that.  I don’t really understand the reasons why, but supposedly you’re not supposed to travel to a time in which you exist already because with two of the same people in the same time frame, I think that’s what they called it, a time frame, it would have a dangerous effect.  You’d both be sick, and they say, you’d both die.  I didn’t want that.”

“What kind of a time machine doesn’t let you pick an exact date to travel to?”  Adam asked.  It was a rhetorical question.

“A cheap one,” Papa answered.  “It was the only model I could afford.  Yes, even five hundred years from now, everything still comes down to money.”

“I w-want to go for a ride in one,” Sandy slurred.

“No can do,” Papa said.  “The machine doesn’t exist anymore.  It disintegrated.”

“Did you have an accident?”  Kathryn asked.

“No.  The cheap model also happened to be the one way model,” Papa said.

“What’s the one way model?”  Adam asked.

“It only goes one way, then disintegrates.  It’s like a paper plate.  Use it once, throw it away,” Papa said.

“What’s the point of that?”  Adam asked.  It didn’t seem to make much sense to him.

“It’s just cheaper,” Papa said.  “Most people don’t use them because you can’t get back.  I didn’t want to go back.”

“But why even make them?”  Adam asked.  “If you can’t get back, what’s the point?”

Papa shrugged.  “Why make a Slinky?  Because it’s cheap and someone will buy it.”

“Sounds like they’d be illegal,” Adam said.

“In some places they are,” Papa said.

“So, you’re stuck here, then?”  Kathryn asked.

“I wouldn’t put it that way.  I want to be here.  But no, I won’t be hopping back into my time machine to revisit history, or to see your mother.  I can’t do that.  I’m here to stay.”

—END Chapter 5—

And that also ends today’s sneak preview of my novel TIME FRAME ( available from NECON EBooks at time frame coverhttp://www.neconebooks.com.)

Once again, thanks so much for reading!

-Michael

 

 

 

TIME FRAME – Sneak Preview: Chapter 4

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time frame coverMy science fiction novel TIME FRAME is now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at http://www.neconebooks.com.

Previously on this blog I featured Chapters 1-3 of the novel.  Today the sneak preview continues with Chapter 4.

Hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

CHAPTER 4

The bald-headed bartender, with a white towel slung over his shoulder, turned from the cash register by the whiskey bottles and approached the two strangers sitting at his bar.

“Would you like another?”  He asked.

The two strangers each had been nursing their drinks for the past half hour.  The one who did most of the talking was a heavy set stocky fellow with dark curly hair and a chubby face that looked friendly.  He had a soft somewhat high voice and nodded a lot when he spoke.  He sipped a Guinness.

His friend was the one who made Duncan uneasy.  A big man, close to 6’ 6”, an imposing figure who looked incredibly fit and strong for someone who appeared to be past his prime, perhaps in his early 40s, as his hair sported spots of gray and his face weathered lines.  It was his face that disturbed Duncan the most, and more specifically, his eyes.

The eyes were cold, a killer’s eyes.  Duncan knew the type because he’d worked at the prison once, a long time ago, and he’d seen his share of murderers.  Not all of them had this particular look, but the ones that did, he’d always kept clear of.  It was the look of a predator, a wolf, eyes that spoke out loud, that said no one they encountered could best them.  I’m the top of the food chain.  The tall man sitting at his bar had these eyes.

The man made Duncan uncomfortable, and Duncan was not spooked easily.  After all, he was the champion arm wrestler of Kilgarvan, and at six foot one inch, he was an imposing figure himself who not only owned Duncan’s Pub and tended bar but also served as resident bouncer.  Still, it was one thing to throw out a drunken lug from your establishment, and quite another to tangle with a killer.  After all, Duncan used his muscles to prevent bloodshed, not inflict it.

The man sipped his whiskey, straight, no ice.  He licked his lips, all the while keeping his eyes on Duncan.  He didn’t blink.

“No, thank you.  We’ll keep to these,” the man said.  His voice was emotionless, yet penetrating, like a gun with a silencer.

Duncan swallowed.  “Just let me know if I can get you anything.”

“Certainly.  Thank you so much,” the chubby man smiled. “You’re very thoughtful.”

“And you two are the oddest couple I’ve ever seen,” Duncan thought.

He turned away from the two men, and his eyes fell upon the welcome sight of O’Leary, one of his regulars, the regular in his opinion.  Duncan’s Pub had been open for 11 years, and Duncan remembered clearly opening for business that first day and within the first five minutes of unlocking the front door, seeing O’Leary saunter in with a big smile and saying, “Pour me a stout, why don’t ya?”  That’s how it had begun, and now 11 years later, that’s how it continued.

“Pour me a stout, why don’t ya?” O’Leary said.  He looked over at the two strangers sitting at the bar to his right.

Duncan opened the tap and poured a frothy dark one into a tall mug.  He slapped it in front O’Leary.

“Ah, I thank you,” O’Leary said, lifting the mug to his lips and drawing in a long sip of the hearty brew.

“No. Thank you,” Duncan said.

“Me?  What for?  You’re the one who’s working,” O’Leary said.

“You keep me sane.  It’s good to see you every day,” Duncan said.  His eyes roved back towards the two strangers, and O’Leary followed them.

O’Leary nodded.  “I know what you mean.”

Duncan was able to have this conversation with O’Leary, in such close proximity to the two strangers, because as usual on a weekday afternoon after work, Duncan’s Pub was packed, packed and loud.

Funny about noise, Duncan thought.  It starts off low, then grows louder as the next guy raises his voice so his friend can hear, and then the next guy does the same, and so on and so on.  You’d think it would reach the point where it would burst the eardrums, but it doesn’t.  Day after day the same thing happens.  Suddenly, it gets quiet, all by itself, and inevitably someone makes a loud off color joke, breaking the silence, allowing the cycle to begin again.

It was loud now, and though the two strangers sat close to O’Leary, separated only by Tim and Tina, two other regulars who Duncan didn’t know as well as O’Leary since they only came in once a month or so, it was easy to hold a conversation without worry that they’d be heard.

Duncan didn’t know how old O’Leary was.  He had looked to be in his 60s on that day 11 years ago when he had first come into the pub, and he still looked like he was in his 60s now.  He was thin but had a round frame, and Duncan imagined he must have been a chubby young man.  He had very fine hair and very coarse skin, no doubt from his career as a fisherman.  He was retired now.  His face could be harsh with all its weathered lines, but as soon as he smiled, all the harshness disappeared and he became as warm as everyone’s favorite grandfather.

Duncan didn’t know if 11 years ago O’Leary simply looked older than he was, or if nowadays he simply looked great for his age.  Duncan just hoped the man remained healthy and kept coming in.  Sickness in old age came on fast.  He had seen it with his dad, and now with his mother.  They go on and on in apparent good health claiming they’re going to live to 90, but when sickness comes to a 70 year-old, serious sickness, the body just doesn’t recover.  Duncan didn’t want to see O’Leary sick.

“Just how old are you, O’Leary?”  Duncan asked.

O’Leary sipped his stout and placed the mug on the bar.  “Old enough to drink as many of these as I want.”

“You watching your health?”  Duncan asked.

“Take my medicine every day,” O’Leary said, raising his glass.

Duncan laughed.  He happened to notice the clock on the wall opposite the bar.

“You’re here early today,” Duncan said.  “What’s the occasion?”

“The wife’s out shopping,” O’Leary said.

“You rascal,” Duncan said.

He noticed the two strangers looking around the bar, as if they were looking for someone.  He told himself to leave well enough alone, to attend to the customers at the other end of the bar, but the man with the cold eyes suddenly looked perplexed.  The expression caught Duncan’s curiosity.  Still, he wanted nothing more to do with these two men, at least not until he had finished with the customers at the other end of the bar.  Duncan was about to turn to those customers when he realized the man had caught him staring.

“Oops,” Duncan thought, and he grinned.  How to get out of this one? He decided to simply do his job, and that would take care of it.  He stepped towards the two strangers.

“You look like your wheels are turning,” Duncan said.  “Something on your mind I can help you with?”

“No one’s smoking.  A pub without cigarette smoke.  Why is that?”  The tall stranger asked.

“Welcome to the 21st century,” said Tim, who sat just to the men’s left.

The stranger turned towards Tim and glared at him with wide opened eyes.        “It’s a new law,” Duncan said.  “No more smoking in the workplace, which includes the 10,000 pubs here in Ireland.  If you want to smoke, you’ll have to go outside.”

“Ireland, the world’s healthiest place to live,” O’Leary said, lifting his beer mug.  “Damned health minister!” Tim said.

The tall man turned to his chubby friend.  “Why didn’t you know about this?”

The chubby man shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I didn’t see anything in the literature about it.”

“Don’t come down on your buddy too hard,” Duncan said.  “It’s a brand new law. I’m sure it’s not in any of the travel guides yet.  I hope you weren’t looking forward to that smoke too badly.  You gentlemen on vacation?”

“No.  Business,” said the tall man.

“I see.  What do you do?”  Duncan asked.

The man made direct eye contact with Duncan but didn’t offer an answer, at least not by speaking.  His eyes, they did the talking, and Duncan knew what they were saying, “Stop asking me questions.”

“We’re in the travel business,” said the chubby man.  “That’s why we’re a bit put out that we didn’t know about the ‘no smoking’ law.  It’s our job to know these things.”

“Travel business,” Duncan repeated.  “Are you going to write up a report on my pub?  Should I be on my best behavior?”

The chubby man chuckled.  “No, it’s not like that.  We’re more interested in the people doing the traveling than the places they travel to.  We’re sort of like the People’s Choice awards.  We don’t rate the places we visit ourselves, but we talk to the real life travelers and see what they have to say.  Do you get many travelers here, or do you serve mostly locals?”

“Locals, for sure.  Very few travelers,” Duncan answered.  “On any given month you’d be the only ones, but it must be the week for visitors.”

“You’ve had some tourists in this week?” the chubby man asked.

“One.  A man.  Pretty sure he’s an American. He talks like an American.”

“He sounds like the kind of man we’d like to talk to,” the chubby man said.

“Really?  Too bad, because you’d learn much more if you talked to one of the regulars,” Duncan said.

The chubby man smiled.  “Don’t worry.  We don’t publish negative reviews.  That’s not what we’re about.  We’re interested only in people’s experiences in foreign lands.  We’re not critics.  We’re about human interest stories.  It’s too bad we missed this guy.”

“He’s been in more than once.  Maybe he’ll come in again today,” Duncan said.  He looked at his watch.  “Around this time, too.  Maybe you’ll get lucky.”

“Maybe,” the chubby man said.

Duncan noticed the chubby man’s beer mug was nearly empty.

“Are you sure I can’t get you another?  Duncan asked.

“You know, I think I will have another, thank you very much.”

“Another Guinness?”  Duncan asked, just to make sure.

“Yes.”

Duncan looked at the tall man, still nursing his whiskey.  The tall man shook his head.

“No thank you,” the man said.

Duncan moved to the tap.  “You are one creepy looking guy,” he thought.  “The sooner you’re out of here, the better!”

As he poured the beer, he thought about what the chubby man had just said, and he didn’t buy it.  Travel business.  He didn’t think so.  They didn’t look the part.  At least the tall guy didn’t.  He had killer written all over him.  Maybe to other people he didn’t look so obvious, but it was Duncan’s job to know people inside and out, and the vibes he got from this guy weren’t good.  Whether he was some sort of international agent, CIA perhaps, or hired gun or even terrorist, it didn’t matter.  Duncan wanted him out of his bar.

“Your kind is the last thing we need,” Duncan thought.  “Ireland has enough of its own problems.  We don’t need violence from the outside.”

Duncan filled the mug with a fresh Guinness.  He turned and gave the chubby man his drink.

The front door opened, and Duncan saw the American visitor.  His gut told him to keep his mouth shut, but the chubby guy had said the American was the type of person they wanted to talk to, as part of their travel business.  Maybe he’d call their bluff and see what happened.

“You gentlemen are in luck,” Duncan said.  “Our American tourist just came in for his afternoon brew.”

The two men looked over their shoulders.

The tall American, about 6’2”, and lanky, had the slim yet fit look of a runner.  He wore dark clothing, blue jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt with a hood which bunched up behind his neck.  His white running shoes helped him bounce when he walked.  His hair was jet black, wavy, and it possessed a gel shine.  He had handsome blue eyes that put people at ease.  He appeared a friendly chap.

He approached his usual table, a small circular job meant for two.  Though the pub was packed, the small table was still available.  Most of the patrons of Duncan’s Pub preferred to either stand or hang out by the bar.

Duncan and the two strangers weren’t the only ones who noticed the American come through the door.

Brenda, Duncan’s best waitress, was already moving his way.  He had just sat down, when she leaned her attractive body against him so that her hips touched his shoulder.   She made it a point to touch all the male customers.  Duncan let her do it because it was good for business.  She had a way of doing it without coming across trashy.  She came off like a kid sister who hadn’t seen her “brothers” in months.  The men loved it, and they loved her.  They rewarded her by giving her the best tips in the house.  Duncan didn’t mind because they also stayed longer and bought more beer.

She and the American struck up a conversation, and Duncan knew Brenda would soon be approaching the bar with the man’s order, a mug of frothy ale.

“Does he always come in alone?” the tall man asked.

“Yeah,” Duncan answered.  “Always picks the same table, right there, gets himself a beer and some dinner, and has a good time.”

“You’ve never seen him with anyone else?”  The tall man asked.

“No,” Duncan said.  “Why do you ask?”

Again, the man answered with his eyes, and they were none too happy.

“We ask different questions of solo travelers compared to couples or groups,” the chubby man said.  “Just doing our homework before we go over there and talk to him.”

“I see,” Duncan said.

The tall man reached into his pocket and tossed some money onto the bar.

“Thank you for the drinks,” he said.  He stood from his seat, and his chubby friend followed.  Together they approached the American.

Duncan took the money, nodded in approval at the size of the tip, and turned to deposit the cash in the cash register.

“Is it a full moon tonight, you think?” O’Leary asked.

“Why do you ask?”  Duncan said, looking over his shoulder.

“Those two.”

“You noticed?”

Duncan closed the cash drawer and approached his friend.

“Noticed?  I felt it!”

“The only thing you feel is a hangover in the morning!” Brenda said, coming up behind O’Leary and planting a friendly kiss on the back of his ear.

O’Leary smiled upon seeing Brenda.  “I can still feel more than that, just ask my wife!  Or perhaps you’d like a demonstration?”

“I have asked your wife, and I don’t have the two hours it’ll take to get you started!”  Brenda shot back, bringing howls from the patrons on both sides of O’Leary.  “Our American friend will have his usual,” she said to Duncan.

“Thank you, Brenda,” Duncan said.  He looked into the crowd to see the two strangers approaching the American’s table.

“Travel business,” Duncan muttered, shaking his head.  His stomach suddenly felt sour.

O’Leary made another off color joke causing more hearty laughter from the crowd around the bar.  Duncan smiled and poured the ale for the American.

“Good old O’Leary,” Duncan thought.  “How can anything bad happen with him around?”

 

And that ends Chapter 4.  Once again, thanks for reading!

—Michael