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The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs: Book 1 of The Ruby Chronicles – Part 3: The Handcuffs

Read from the beginning:

Part 1: The Waitress

Part 2: The Whiskey


“Well, now. Ain’t this just a fine mess?” Ruby slapped The Little Drunk on the shoulder with her free hand. “Wilson! Hey!”

The Little Drunk stirred in his chair slightly and mumbled something.

“What’s that…?” asked Ruby.

“You can’t fill the holes in my bowling ball,” he said. Well, that’s what Ruby thought he might have said, but the truth was, she had trouble carrying on a conversation with Wilson Jones on a good day. This was most certainly not a good day.

“Wilson, I swear you are not quite right in the head. Wake up, now. I have to get this place cleaned up, and I don’t know how I’m gonna manage, hitched up to you like this. Wake up!”

She slapped him again, harder this time. The Little Drunk started awake.

“It was a fairy! It must have been!”

Ruby shook her head in disgust. “If you’re friendly with fairies, Wilson Jones, I would surely appreciate you calling on one that can magic us out of these handcuffs.”

Wilson looked at the handcuff on his wrist in surprise.

“Why, Ruby! What the heck sakes have we been getting up to?!”

“Nothing but being the butt of Judd Gulley’s idiot wit, that’s all, Wilson. Now get up off that chair and walk, would you? I can’t drag you around the room and still clean it up, can I?”

The Little Drunk hauled himself up with Ruby’s help. Ruby took him by the wrist and walked him back to the kitchen, carrying the bucket. Wilson was pretty much done in, having drunk too many shots of whiskey. Ruby wondered if he had more booze than blood anymore. She had to walk slowly enough for him to keep up, steadying him all the way to the back.

They went out the back door and across the far end of the parking lot to the edge of the tree-line, where Ruby emptied the pail. Damn stinking mess, she thought to herself, hauling The Little Drunk around again, and leading him back to the building.

She stoked the fire in the old cook stove, swearing under her breath at Judd’s stinginess. He kept the cook stove for Ruby to cook the meals of his customers on, rather than purchase a propane or electric stove. The cook stove had a water reservoir, and so as long as she kept it full of water, and wood on the fire, she had plenty of hot water for cleaning and dishes. As far as Judd was concerned, that was good enough for The Dump, and so he’d never bothered to hook up a hot water line to the kitchen sink. The only concession he’d made for hot running water led to the shower stall upstairs, and he complained about that every time he got the hydro bill in the mail.

Ruby ladled hot water from the reservoir into the pail, sloshed it around, and emptied it out the back door. She rinsed the pail a second time, the whole procedure taking three times as long as it would have if she weren’t handcuffed to The Little Drunk.

Every time she tried to use her right hand, Wilson’s own would dangle along like a dead thing, getting in the way. What made matters even more inconvenient, was that Judd had cuffed both their right hands together, so Wilson had to stand directly behind her in order to be out of the way. Poor Wilson didn’t like the situation any better than Ruby, and unless she warned him she was about to move that arm, he would automatically try to pull his own back. Every now and again, he would say something bizarre or cryptic.

Ruby set about cleaning The Dump, all the while wondering how long Judd intended to leave them cuffed together. She worried that he wouldn’t bother to come back for hours, and could just picture him and Wally McDonald rolling in laughter over the prank.

Meantime, much as she would have liked to leave the clean-up for after she was freed, she knew it would only take that much longer to do if the food dried on the plates and the tables sat sticky overnight. Already, she had forgotten she’d “quit” the job.

First things first; she hauled all the dirty dishes and whiskey glasses to the kitchen and scraped the plates into Judd’s dog pail. The stingy bastard, true to form, fed his dog bar scraps.

Normally, clearing the tables at the end of the night, and setting the dishes to soak while she scrubbed at the booze rings and cigarette burns on the tables would have taken about twenty minutes. Cuffed to The Little Drunk, especially in such a cross-wise manner, it took Ruby almost two hours, with still no sign of Judd returning. She’d swear he’d done it just that way to make the situation even worse for her.

Wilson tried to do his part by surreptitiously downing any liquid remaining in the bottoms of glasses and beer bottles. When Ruby caught him at it, she bawled him out. The last thing she needed was The Little Drunk passing out again.

“How many thumbs do you need?” Wilson asked after she’d told him off for the third time.

By the time she was ready to do the dishes, she realized the impossibility of doing so. She pictured what might happen if she repeatedly dunked The Little Drunk’s hand into a sink full of hot water. She also pictured accidentally injuring him with a sharp knife or a broken bar glass. Truth be told, she had mean, dark thoughts of injuring him on purpose, just because he was slowing her down. Perhaps there was more of her mother in Ruby than she’d like to admit.

It was 3:30 in the morning. Ruby had no idea if Judd planned on returning or not. She wouldn’t put it past him to pretend to forget all about the incident until Sunday afternoon and then cackle over it. She realized the futility of attempting any more work and sat down at a table to think things through.

“Wilson, do you have any cigarettes?” Ruby didn’t generally smoke, but she indulged now and again, especially when she was upset. She had smoked more often in the past two years, since working at The Dump than during all the years since she had taken that first puff at sixteen years old.

She grimaced as Wilson dug into his pants pocket, her own hand dragging across his leg in the process. He came up with a much-creased, dirty package of loose tobacco. Well, hell. Ruby didn’t exactly cherish the idea of trying to smoke a badly put-together roll-your-own cigarette – how tightly could a vellum paper be rolled when the hand doing the rolling was handcuffed to somebody else’s arm, after all?

The Little Drunk astounded her by deftly rolling a perfect cigarette, using only his left hand. He handed it to her, and just as quickly rolled a second. Then he surprised her again by proffering the flame from a beautifully engraved silver-plated lighter.

“Why, Wilson! That’s a lovely piece of work, now, ain’t it? Where did you ever come to own such a thing?”

The Little Drunk smiled and blushed. “A girl gave me that,” he said.

Ruby didn’t know whether to be more surprised that a girl had ever looked twice at Wilson Jones, or that he’d opened his mouth and out came a string of sensible words. Then she remembered what time it was, and tried to figure a way out of the mess she was in. She was worn out, and just wanted to go home.

She smoked her cigarette, and contemplated the reaction from her mother in the morning if Ruby came to the breakfast table handcuffed to Wilson Jones. She shuddered at the thought. Then it occurred to her that if there was to be any sleep to be had at all that night, she had to find a way out of the cuffs – she had no intention of sharing sleeping accommodations, no matter how innocently, with Wilson Jones, who hadn’t made it through a single weekend these last two years without wetting the bed.

She took a closer look at the silver bracelet encircling her wrist. Could she pick it? She had no idea. How easy might it be to pick a standard set of police handcuffs? Never mind that Ruby had never attempted to pick a lock in her life. She had to try now, though; she couldn’t sit up all night. She was half-asleep already, and The Little Drunk had dozed off in his chair while she ruminated.

She dug a bobby pin out of her hair, bent it reasonably straight, and scraped the plastic coating off one end with her teeth. She attempted to stick the flat end of the pin into the tiny keyhole on the handcuff and missed, swearing under her breath. She was right-handed, and that was the hand in the cuff.

When she finally did manage to get the end of the bobby pin into the keyhole, her stupid hand wouldn’t cooperate when she tried to twist it. If she tried to twist clockwise, her hand seemed to be attempting to move the pin counter-clockwise. She threw the bobby pin down on the table, annoyed.

Ruby wondered if she could somehow cut through the chain between the cuffs, and envisioned the little slaughter axe her mother used to kill the chickens. That may very well work, for all she knew, if someone else were wielding it. She wouldn’t dare attempt a hard chop using her left hand; she’d likely miss, and cut her good hand off at the wrist. She shuddered at the thought of trusting Wilson Jones with even a butter knife, never mind letting him aim an axe anywhere that close to her. He may be a good logger when he was sober, but she had no intention of letting him show off his prowess tonight, while this deep in his cups.

She finally conceded that unless Judd Gulley waltzed back into The Dump, and in short order, she would have to sleep on a damp and pissy-smelling dirty straw tick – handcuffed to Wilson Jones. In her wildest of imaginations, she never could have pictured such a thing. Imagination, truthfully, had never been one of Ruby’s stronger points.

She shook The Little Drunk awake and stood him on his feet.

“Come on, Wilson. We’re going upstairs.”

She led him first out the back door again, though, to the edge of the parking lot. Judd, not surprisingly, had no indoor toilet facilities at The Dump. Instead, he had built a ramshackle outhouse for the comfort of his clientele, which Ruby, truthfully, didn’t really mind using unless it was winter time. A well-maintained outhouse didn’t stink, and Ruby knew how to maintain one properly.

Most of the men could only be bothered to use the outhouse for “certain” ablutions, mind you; for more frequent duties, they had got into the habit of standing along the line of rocks at the back end of the parking lot and just aiming at the bushes. You could see the “unofficial” bathroom facilities marked with a line of withered, dead foliage a foot or so beyond the rocks.

This is where Ruby led The Little Drunk and ordered him to “do his business”, while she turned her back. This made it difficult for Wilson, as his own arm ended up bent behind his back, causing him to weave unsteadily. There was nothing for it, though, but to try to brace him enough so as not to tip himself over; Ruby had no intention of waking up in a wet straw tick, in the morning.

Wilson’s duty done and over, she half-walked, half-carried him up the stairs and into his room. She sat him down on the bed while she pulled off his boots; a difficult procedure, since he had to bend double to accommodate the effort, cuffed together such as they were. While pulling off the second boot, Ruby heard a long, wet burp escape The Little Drunk.

“Wilson Jones, don’t you dare barf on me,” she snapped. “I’ve had enough of that business today!” She yanked hard on the boot, and when it let go of his foot, she sat back on the floor with a thump. Wilson was yanked straight off the bed face-first onto the floor. Good Christ, I hope I didn’t just give his brains an extra scramble… Ruby thought to herself, but when she took a hard look at him, he didn’t seem any more damaged than usual.

She shut the light, got him onto the bed, and reluctantly lay beside him, her right arm crossed over her body. What a nasty place to sleep! In the morning, she was going to hunt down Judd Gulley and give him what-for. Then she would never set foot in The Dump again.

Just before she drifted off, she nudged The Little Drunk.

“If you wet this bed tonight, Wilson Jones, I will throttle you,” she said.

“Pickles,” Wilson mumbled. “Good eatin’.” 

Thanks so much for reading ! Part 4: The Great Escape is coming soon!

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