(2018-10-24) Yuppies in Calaveras
Some newly-arrived yuppies hit up Slim's, one of them meets a local ranger. TattooBen makes a cameo.
Players:
nina..julian..ben..

It's quitting time for most of the local jobs, particularly those of the government variety. Some people run errands or go home to their families. Not Julian, Calaveras' own Park Warden. Like clockwork, the young man finds himself at his local watering hole, a dive bar known as Johnny Slim's. At the moment, it's not too busy, with only the most loyal of regulars sitting around the bar. The mechanical bull goes untouched and other then the quiet conversation and occasional boisterous laugh, only the country and rock music fills the background. Parked at his favorite stool near the end of the bar, Julian already has a collection of shot glasses sitting untouched to his left. In usual fashion, for every shot the man orders, a second is left next to him. Each time he puts one back, he salutes the tip of the glass to the shots neatly lined up in front of him before cocking his head back and putting the caramel colored booze down his throat.

On the other hand, some clients here don't fit in at all, yet they seem rather oblivious about it. One such group enters the bar now; led by a middle-aged man dressed rather smartly, the half-dozen or so folks are best categorized as 'urban yuppies' - all of whom are young, well-dressed professionals. While waiting to be seated, the group studies the rustic dive bar like a tourist attraction and an exotic curiosity, more than a restaurant.
Nina is one of them. As a young Asian woman, she sticks out even moreso than her colleagues, but there is safety in numbers. Like the rest of them, she also scans the unfamiliar surroundings, until her gaze falls on the lone ranger at the bar. She tilts her head curiously, but her curiosity is interrupted when the leader of the group gestures for them to follow a waitress to their corner table. Once there, the group takes their time removing their assorted coats and jackets, before sorting out their seating arrangements.

There is no waitress or hostess that leads them to a table and the group is left standing there until one of them figures out that they're probably on their own as far as seating goes. On the way in, they would have seen a gruff looking and very big bouncer. Inside, that grittiness they may have noticed in the bouncer is reflected in the bar itself. There is a bartender, sometimes two, with an extra hand working the backroom or the mechanical bull pit as necessary.
The entrance of the business group elicits a quieting of conversation for a moment as the regulars look up from their drinks to peer at the people that entered. They don't seem particularly perturbed or even surprised though, as it is quite common for outsiders to come to the bar for the novelty of it… and the mechanical bull, of course.
Julian looks up as well. To his left is a row of untouched shots, still full with whatever dark liquor he is drinking, and an equal number of empty shot glasses. As much as the asian woman stands out from her group, the young man doesn't particularly reflect the clientele of the establishment either. He's clean shaven, and though his uniform is replaced with a flannel and jeans, Julian has an air of professionalism around him. The stiffness that someone like a military man or a police officer is simply incapable of hiding.
Julian's eyes immediately hone in on the asian girl's, even catching her gaze in his and boldly holding it as he looks her over. It's not an intense gaze, rather, a curious one, but it doesn't last long as he looks back down at his section of the bar.
"Welcome to Slim's," A man greets the business group, "Let me know if ya'll need anything." He knows he's dealing with newcomers, so the first thing the man does is diplomatically inform them that no one is going to serve them at their table. There's an emphasis in the intonation of his words to reflect that.

No one to serve them? The middle-aged leader — presumably the group's manager — looks suitably surprised at the revelation, as does most of the rest of the group. "So, can we order some drinks and get some menus?" The man asks, not entirely sure what the greeter is alluding to in terms of servicing…. or lack thereof. "Can we get a bottle of…" One of the young women chimes in, before a young man cuts her off. "Do they have draft beer?"
The young Asian woman simply glances between her confused colleagues, then smoothly rises back to her feet. "Why don't I go get some appetizers from the bar, and place orders for drinks?" She stops behind the manager's chair, placing both hands on the chair's back while scanning the group. "What does everyone want?" This is followed by various calls from the group, from beers to iced tea to martinis. With a serene smile, she nods and leaves the table, making her way unhurriedly to the bar right next to where Julian is parked… and waits patiently for the bartender to notice her.

The proverbial leader of the business group elicits a smirk here and there from the regular patrons, but these are working class men who are really good at minding their own business so it doesn't take long for them to return to their usual conversations.
At Julian's barspace, there's a meticulous row of shotglasses that are filled and untouched, with an equal number of empty ones turned over. He doesn't immediately look up when the woman approaches, but he does spare a quick glance. As she waits for the bartender to notice her, the man finally clears his throat and speaks. "They use bad gin here, so if you want martinis, try the vodka instead. I hear they have a couple bottles of Chopin back there."

Nina shows off some perfect posture as she stands there at the bar, hands folded together on the counter with all the patience of a saint. Julian's advice elicits a sidelong glance from the young woman, a closer, yet cautious visual inspection of the man-in-uniform. "I am afraid I'm not very knowledgeable in beverages. I don't know what Chopin is." She is soft-spoken, and there is a slight, but definitely noticeable accent when she speaks. Turning ever so slightly, she gestures back at the table with an idle twist of a delicate wrist. "One of my colleagues asks for a martini; if it's not too much trouble, do you mind placing the order for it? I would be grateful." The smile that follows is polite, along with a tilt of her head.

Julian's eyes follow Nina's posture as she glances back at her co-workers, a knowing look reflected in his expression as he turns back to face her when she shifts back. He hesitates, as if mulling over whether or not to help, then finally nods and reaches forward, tapping the bar with a stiff finger. "Slim!" Though soft spoken, there's a weight to his voice that commands attention. Where Nina could most likely stand there at the bar all day without garnering much help, Julian reels it in with a tap and a look.
The bartender breaks away from the conversation he's having at the other end of the bar and makes his way over. "Another round, Jules?" He asks, glancing at the two rows of shot glasses.
Julian nods, then motions to the business chic asian woman next to him. "Think you can shake up a couple martinis with the Chopin back there?" The question initially elicits a skeptical look from the bartender, something Julian was most likely expecting because he continues quickly. "-I bet that group will spend a good bit of money if you go through the trouble. You might wanna get the kid out here to make sure the bull is working. You know how those types are." The ranger glances back over his shoulder at the table, rolling something over in his head. "Not too much vermouth, just along the ring of the glass. They look like the type."
The bartender referred to as 'Slim' nods his head, glancing across at them too and nodding in agreement. "Will do." Now he deliberately looks at Nina, sizing her up with a brief glance, his visage softening, becoming more welcome. After all, the real money makers are in the occasional touristy types that come in and spend a bunch of money, so the last thing the man wants to do is make them feel uncomfortable. "What else do you need, ma'am?" The word comes out as if it were a foreign practice to the bartender, but it's clear he's making an effort.
Julian is leaning with his elbow on the lip of the bar, though not in uniform, his badge is still attached to his belt and a really big pistol is holstered at his side. After Nina places the remainder of her order and the bartender walks away, Julian manages a smile. "Don't let the place fool you, it's not that bad. It's quiet, at least until the sun goes down."

Nina is all polite smiles as the bartender puts on his welcoming face, a hand lifting to idly brush long, dark hair back over one shoulder. "Three draft beers, two iced teas, one cranberry juice. I assume you have Buffalo wings? Mozzarella sticks. Quesadillas. Onion rings. A dozen of each, please." The items are counted off methodically, along with a nod and a finger-point towards the manager guy at the table. "The bill goes to him."
With that taken care of and 'Slim' off to prepare the order, the Asian woman turns a look of gratitude towards Julian. "Thank you. Is this place supposed to be bad and scary? I'm afraid I can't tell." There is a brief pause as she gives him a once over, noting not only his uniform but definitely the big pistol he's carrying. "I hope it's not so bad after the sun goes down that you need THAT. If so, my colleagues and I are definitely unprepared."

As Nina ticks off the laundry list that makes up her table's order, both the bartender and Julian are looking at her with an odd look. It passes quickly for Julian, who simply watches with an amused look on his face. The bartender eventually disappears behind the door leading into the back of the bar, presumably to fire up the grill. Meanwhile, Julian is leaning back slightly, stifling a soft chuckle. "Don't mind him, people don't order food very often."
A shrug follows up the asian woman's questions as his eyes follow hers to his hip. "Bears." He returns cryptically as a smile gradually breaks his neutral demeanor and makes all the difference in the world when looking at a man like him. He's all rugged and mysterious in his own little corner of the dive bar, but he can put up quite the smile. "The weapon. It's for bears. I'm the city's park ranger." Pause. "You're perfectly safe, at least while I'm here. I make no promises once the sun goes down." One hand subconsciously wipes at his shirt before being offered up to the woman. "Julian, by the way."

Nina's mysterious dark eyes shift from the ranger to the bartender and back, a hint of curiosity flitting through before those eyes narrow with feline mischief. "So this is that kind of bar? Strictly drinks? From a business perspective, drinks are almost always the most profitable. And the least amount of wastage." She notes, turning bodily to face the ranger without compromising her perfect posture, while only lightly resting one elbow on the counter. The offered hand is briefly studied, before it is taken in a gentle shake with a soft, delicate hand. "Thank you for the warning, Ranger Julian. You must see a lot of tourists visit the parks every year, and wonder why we are all so clueless and silly. Yet we always show up and act like we own the place. May I offer my apologies in advance? For my colleagues and I, at least."

The half-smile carries on as Julian continues to lock his attention on the woman while she maintains a strict decor. The handshake is brief but it doesn't take much to garner that the man's hands are strong, somewhat rough, but careful enough to welcome her much more delicate digits into his. If there were a perfect way to shake a hand, odds are the young ranger is the frontrunner on mastering it. He must greet a lot of people in his profession. "They'll fire up the kitchen during the day," Julian explains, his eyes flickering briefly toward the back swinging door that leads, presumably, into the back kitchen. Her observation is met with a humble shrug. "Nah. Everyone is a tourist somewhere. Though, I can tell some stories…" He shakes his head and chuckles more to himself. "He'll probably have Bobby, that mean looking big guy at the door, bring everything out to your table. So you don't really have to wait for anything." Julian quietly looks back at her table where her coworkers are, smirking to himself over some unposken thought, "But you're welcome to pop a squat and wait. It's a free stool." He gestures to the stool next to him, and as he does, he gathers up the untouched shotglasses and slides them away, freeing up the open space.

The half-smile carries on as Julian continues to lock his attention on the woman while she maintains a strict decor. The handshake is brief but it doesn't take much to garner that the man's hands are strong, somewhat rough, but careful enough to welcome her much more delicate digits into his. If there were a perfect way to shake a hand, odds are the young ranger is the frontrunner on mastering it. He must greet a lot of people in his profession. "They'll fire up the kitchen during the day," Julian explains, his eyes flickering briefly toward the back swinging door that leads, presumably, into the back kitchen. Her observation is met with a humble shrug. "Nah. Everyone is a tourist somewhere. Though, I can tell some stories…"
He shakes his head and chuckles more to himself. "He'll probably have Bobby, that mean looking big guy at the door, bring everything out to your table. So you don't really have to wait for anything." Julian quietly looks back at her table where her coworkers are, smirking to himself over some unposken thought, "But you're welcome to pop a squat and wait. It's a free stool." He gestures to the stool next to him, and as he does, he gathers up the untouched shotglasses and slides them away, freeing up the open space.

The offered free stool is regarded for a few seconds. Even let her fingertips trail across the leather surface as if feeling its texture, as the young lady turns her attention back to the man. "Pop a squat? I haven't heard that term before." The comment would bring attention back to her accent, highlighting the fact that this is not a native English-speaker. Still, she moves to take the seat, smoothly hoisting herself up before crossing her legs at the knees. Taking a moment to adjust the hem of her skirt, she steals a glance back in the direction of her colleagues' table, where the group is busy chatting among themselves and gawking at the mechanical bull that is now being prepped. Choosing not to speak on their behalf, she instead turns back to the ranger on the next seat. "In any case, we are actually not tourists. We are all moving here for our work assignments, so this city is going to be our new homes. Hopefully we will not look like silly tourists much longer." She adds with a wistful smile.

Julian shifts slightly on his stool as Nina slides onto the one next to him, his eyes studious as he regards her questioning look and the gears in his head whirr. "Oh, yeah, just a figure of speech. Please, have a seat." He's motioning to the stool even as she's settling into it. Once she does, the man quickly gathers up the untouched, full shotglasses and carefully lines them up off to the side. He's oddly attentive and meticulous with how he organizes them, not a drop spilled, not a single rushed movement. Once done, and the empty shot glasses moved to the far side of the bar for the bartender to easily grab, Julian finally settles in and turns slightly in his stool so he can politely face the asian girl.
He starts to say something, but the chatter amongst the woman's co-workers escalates to a new volume as the mechanical bull is finally finished prepping, enough so that it draws Julian's attention away for a brief moment. "Well, let me be the first to welcome you to Calaveras, then." He finally responds with a warm smile, "The city itself isn't much to look at but the surrounding regions are beautiful."

The warm smile is returned, though the girl's own smile is very polite, her mysterious dark eyes seem to smile with playful amusement. "Thank you, Mister Julian. You can point us to the popular scenic spots? I have always lived near the ocean; I've swam with dolphins and scuba-dived with whale sharks, but I don't think I am quite ready to face a live bear in the mountains. Unless I have a pistol like that, I suppose." She nods meaningfully at Julian's sidearm, as a hand lifts to cup her left cheek, as if thoughtful as she studies the shotglasses that are being lined up on the counter. She falls wordless for a few moments, before she flicks her pinky at those shotglasses. "What drinks are you having there?"

"Just Julian, I'm not that old yet." The man remarks with an easy smile, his entire body shaking with the rumbling chuckle building. "It sounds like you've had quite the experiences of your own." Julian observes, getting a touch more comfortable as he leans against the bar and turns more in his seat to face Nina.
"Well, it might seem like we're full into winter at this point, it's actually one of the most active times for the bears around here. They're getting in their last foraging opportunities before hibernation. We get most our complaints around this time - at least up on the mountain." As he's speaking, the bartender known as 'Slim' is returning to their section of the bar, a platter in hand with all of Nina's drinks on them. "Bobby will bring out the food for you, it should all be done in about twenty."
"Three more, real quick?" Julian requests, tapping the bar to get the man's attention before he makes a beeline for another customer. The ranger turns back to face Nina, glancing down at his empty shotglasses. "That is a twelve year old sherry oak. They special order it because I'm such a loyal customer." He speaks up just a hair as he gauges the bartender's reaction, who just looks at him gruffly.
"No ego day for you, Jules." The bartender pushes the three full shotglasses toward the pair then quickly moves away before he can be bothered further, attending to his other duties.
Julian just smiles, though he takes a moment to, once again, carefully place one shot glass off to the side to keep the rest of them company. He holds one up and pushes the other in front of Nina while his eyes regard her with a little sparkle in his eyes. "Care to try it?"

Nina's attention is turned back to Slim the bartender, with a smile and a slight bow of her head. "Thank you." is her polite acknowledgement, a gesture not commonly given to food servers, and more reserved for a respected customer. The drinks on the platter are visually counted — one martini, three beers, two iced teas, one cranberry juice, all accounted for. But for now, the colleagues can wait a bit longer, as the offered shotglass is eyed with interest and curiosity.
"My father always told me, I should never accept drinks from strangers in strange places." She muses, dark eyes seeking out his — then her delicate brows lift inquisitively, as if silently asking for his agreement on the sentiment. Yet at the same time, she reaches for the shotglass and carefully lifts it to her lips, puckering up as she takes a taste-test of the sherry oak despite her father's warning. She takes a second sip after that, licking her lips then to gather up any lingering drops. "Hmm. I may grow to like this… sherry oak."

It's roughly closing time for most businesses around Calaveras that follow the general nine-to-five, government jobs, etc. For locals who know better, it's the perfect time to visit their usual "watering hole" before the excitement of the night life attracts the youth and the trouble. Johnny Slim's, a notorious dive bar that tends to attract such trouble, though not necessarily the youth, is a completely different world when the sun is still up. It tailors itself to the older men, the regulars, locals, and the like. It's quiet. People keep to themselves mostly or seem to have known each other for years. The mechanical bull that Johnny's is only now being prepped and turned on - and even that is unusual.
Until you see the small group of roughly half a dozen business suits gathered around a table near the bull. It's not unusual for the bar to attract these types, and tourists, during the day who come for the bull and end up spending a nice chunk of change on booze too. Slim even has the grill fired up, with the smell of cooking food wafting through the air from the back swinging door that presumably leads into the kitchen.
On the right end of the bar are a group of older men chattering to themselves, smoking stogies, and appear to be playing cards. A few other random tables away from the bar have a regular seated here and there, but mostly those keep to themselves.
On the left end of the bar is a young man in what appears to be half a uniform. He's got the slacks and holstered big-ass-pistol (see the black Desert Eagle .5 L5 for reference) complete with thick hiking boots (winterized, since there have been blizzards a little bit early this year). A bronze colored badge is attached to his belt and if observers are familiar with the system, it wouldn't be recognized as an officer badge, but actually a ranger badge. Since the town only has -two- rangers, anyone local has a pretty good chance of knowing who the man seated at the bar is.
Next to him is an asian woman dressed in 'business chic' complete with black skirt, the pair seemingly sharing in conversation and, judging from the bar space in front of them, a drink or two too. Oddly, there is a meticulously organized row of untouched, full, shotglasses to the ranger's left, opposite the woman seated next to him. An equal number of empty shotglasses are lined up in front of him, pushed to the edge to make it easier for the bartender to take up.

"Your father sounds like a wise man." Watching the woman sip at the shot has Julian almost laugh out loud, but he manages to keep himself composed to a restrained chuckle. The amusement is unmistakeable in his eyes though and he takes his own shot and puts it back in one swallow, then puts the shotglass down hard enough to slap the wood surface of the bar. "It's going to burn if you don't…" But the man trails off as the girl seems to not only handle the whiskey, but casually finish it without the slightest of discomfort. He blinks. Blinks again. "Now, that's a talent."
His eyes flicker to the platter of drinks and then sweep past Nina to her colleagues at the table. "Well, I don't want to keep you…" He pauses for a moment, then, deftly, reaches into his thick coat and produces a business card. Flipping it over, he plucks a pen from the other side of the bar where receipts are kept and writes down a number on the back, sliding it over to Nina.
Along with a professional number, an emergency number, and email (the typical info one would find on a business card). "That's my personal number on the back - you know, in case you run into any bears or anything." This is followed up with a smile and brief pause as a the man realizes something. "I, uh, didn't catch your name."

As if unwilling to let go of the shotglass, Nina runs a lingering fingertip along its edge even after it is placed back on the counter. "It burns a little, but all good drinks do. Isn't it why you are drinking this?" The Asian girl muses, finally leaving the shotglass alone to accept the offered card from Julian. The card is flipped back and forth for a quick read, and only then does she see his last name. "Mister Walker." She reads that out loud, lifting the card up for a brief wag. "Thank you. I will be sure to keep this on me, in case I see a bear in the mountains. I hope you will answer my call and get to me before the bear gives me a hug."
Smoothly she slips the card into her purse — and from the purse she fetches a black business card with silver letters printed on it, with the TechEase logo up top, followed by her name, position and contact information below. "My name is Nina." She finally reveals with a polite smile. "I work for TechEase as a financial analyst. I am not much help against bears in the wild, but I'm a lot familiar with bears and bulls in the stock market."

Having been patted down by the bouncer, with whom he engages in a little good-natured ribbing during this quick frisking, Ben passes beneath the neon lights and into the not-unpleasantly dim interior. His is a slow circuit to the bar, stopping by the mechanical bull (and all the suits there) in case something's about to happen - no? He moves on, finally landing not far down the bar from Business Chic and Desert Eagle. "Just a beer, man, whatever's on tap is fine," to the bartender, his interest clearly piqued (by the black skirt or the big gun? hard to tell), judging by the way he openly eavesdrop on their exchange.

Julian's eyes flicker briefly to the untouched shots off to the side when questioned about his choice of drink. There's a brief moment where something flashes across his gaze, like one of those time dilation things where it seems like you're in your head for an hour when only a second has passed. Those sharp blue eyes of his glaze with distance, then immediately refocus a second later and offers up a half smile to Nina while shrugging. "A friend put me onto it and I've been hooked ever since. I guess I'm paying it forward."
As Julian accepts the card, he waves his hand while wrinkling his nose. "I think there's a rule about calling a guy 'Mister' if they haven't turned thirty yet." He chuckles, an easy going smile showing that he is hardly offended by the respectful title.
"Sounds like that'd be one lucky bear-" He remarks, studying Nina as she turns her business card over to him and he looks down at it, finally finishing his sentence, "-Nina." He lets the name roll with a slight intonation, then pockets the object and looks back up at her. His eyes cant away from her to the group she came in with behind, then back to Nina once more. "I think your friends are beginning to notice the tray of drinks not being delivered to them."

Her gaze briefly follows Julian's towards the table of yuppies. "My 'friends' will learn that things are not always done the same way everywhere. Take here, for example, if they were to pay a little bit of attention, they would realize that there are no servers who answer to a snap of their fingers." A feline smile curls her lips, along with an offhanded shrug of one shoulder. "But we will all learn."
Despite her words, Nina slips off her stool, taking a moment to smooth out her business skirt before eyeing the platter with seven drinks on it…. gauging whether she can safely transport it to the table without causing a scene. After all, she is a slender and delicate thing, and looks unaccustomed to heavy lifting labor. This is also when she notices the tattoo'd Ben past Julian, at the way the man is obviously listening in on their conversation. Instead of giving the man a suspicious look, Nina actually flashes him a polite smile, with a tilt of her head. "The big gun is for bears — in case you are pondering the same question I was."

Waiting on that Solo cup of beer (this joint is so classy), Ben digs around in his pocket to uncover a wrinkled bill and put it on the bar. Caught eavesdropping, he throws Nina a nod at her guess about his intentions there, answering, "Good to know, big bear problem?" The question goes to either of them, one last look at Julian's gun/uniform combo before he tacks on, "You got that?" The tray of drinks, he means, indicated with a chin-toss and then a quick survey of the vicinity for anyone that approaches waitress-like in appearance - with none in sight (speaking of the classiness of the joint).

Ben winds up getting his beer and circulating for a while. He's not a chatter, necessarily, but he gets sucked into a conversation with some old biker-guy. Which suits him!

Julian seems to accept Nina's answer with a satisfied nod and equal parts smile as the two share in the humor at her co-workers expense. When Ben asks him about bears, Julian just shrugs, "Big human problem. The bears' have to wander out further to find what they need. Not their fault." Despite his jokes about his firearm, it seems the man is multifaceted as he defends the wild animal species in question.
He spares the tray a brief look, then glances at Nina, as if sizing her up.
"Slim can have Bobby take that out to your table." Julian offers, though doesn't make a move to help her, himself. He seems quite content with remaining segregated in his own little corner of the bar rather than adventuring out to potentially meet and greet other people. Maybe he's just not the helpful sort. Or, maybe, Julian just figures if the independent business woman needs help, she'd ask for it.
Slim approaches them once again as Ben makes a quick exit of the conversation and goes back to whatever it is he's doing. "Another round for you and the Miss?" The bartender's eyes shift between Julian and Nina, then to the tray. "Bobby! Help the lovely lady here, will ya?" The very, very big man working the door pokes his head in from outside upon hearing his name, spots the young woman and immediately saunters his way up. "No problem." He remarks as he looks down at Nina, a certain look in his eyes all-too familiar. Outside of that look, he's all professionalism as he waits for further instruction from Nina.
Julian glances first at Slim, and then Nina, before holding up a hand. "Uh, just the two for me, this time, Slim, thanks." There's a momentary hesitation though as he glances at Nina, gauging what her next move is.

Nina isn't at all bothered with the lack of offer to help from Julian, merely wearing that same polite, serene smile while the bartender summons the big bouncer for delivery service. He towers over the slender Chinese woman, that she has to take a step back to catch his eyes. "Your help is greatly appreciated, sir. Would you mind taking these drinks to our table, please? I'm afraid if I tried I would end up dropping the whole platter." It's not necessary to point out that particular table to Bobby, but Nina will do so nonetheless. As the bouncer moves to make the delivery, Nina trails behind and inclines her head at Julian. "I should rejoin my friends, but it was a pleasure to meet you, Julian." She pauses to glance at the remaining shotglasses, and adds. "Maybe you can show me some time what entertainment is available in Calaveras. I am sure there is something better than drinking your sorrows away by yourself." And with that, she wiggles her fingers at the ranger, before turning to follow Bobby back to her table.

Julian cants his head to the side as Nina stops to address him, his overall demeanor pretty much pegged by the stranger in the span of a glance. At first, Julian appears as though he is going to refute the girl's observation. But the effort collapses as quickly as it began to formulate and the man is left sitting there, even managing a half smile as he tips his head in a nod, eyes briefly switching between her and the table awaiting her. "Maybe I will." He finally concedes after a moment of hesitation, shaking his head to himself as he watches every step she takes back to her table.
Not much longer later, Julian can be seen leaving the bar, his space still sporting a row of untouched shotglasses. As the bartender approaches to clean it up, there's a touch of reverence to his motions as he meticulously takes each shot glass and pours it down the sink. No one tries to take them. Though there's a few glances from the regulars, the older men gathered around the opposite end of the bar, who look up long enough to offer Julian a respectful wave.

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