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Last Call At The Bar Of Invariable Length

by Josh Pachter

About the Author: JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, AHMM, Mystery Weekly Magazine, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections. The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories, he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015), and he co-edited Amsterdam Noir (Akashic Books, 2019) with Dutch writer René Appel.


A thick fog was rolling in off the Atlantic when I turned right at the Bi-Lo and, half a mile later, pulled up in front of what my GPS told me was 714 Jungle Road. Jerry McNab was living in Edisto Beach, I’d been informed, and from late afternoon through last call he could usually be found at a bar called Ayel’s at this address.

I climbed out of my Jeep, zipped my windbreaker against the chill, and looked around. Beach houses on stilts, mostly, each of them with a yellow and green Edisto Realty “For Rent” sign strapped to its balcony. It was off-season, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and the coastal island seemed sound asleep, the houses dark, no vehicles in their carports.

714 Jungle Road was a lonely strip mall, only half a dozen storefronts wide. There was an art gallery, a nail salon, a shuttered ice-cream parlor—and, yes, a bar with one sad string of twinkle lights blinking around its entrance and plate-glass window, but it was called the Invariable Length, not Ayel’s.

And then the penny dropped: Invariable Length, I-L, ergo Ayel’s.

I went up the eight weathered pine steps and in the door.

The bar was practically empty. Not a customer in sight, just a tall guy with a bushy red beard and a KEEP CALM AND DRINK LOCAL BEER t-shirt and a red-and-white striped apron tied around his waist behind the bar, drying a pint glass with a dishtowel that had seen better days.

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