"Another pint of the black, please." he said, eyes half-lidded by a thumb and forefinger intent on drilling themselves into the sockets, like a fork going towards the inevitable electrical release.
"Hard day at the office?" asked the bartender.
"Office. Yes." He put his hand down on the bar, rolling his eyes over to the barkeep opposite. Two ring piercings on his lower lip, a porkpie hat, horned rim glasses- not the most well-placed pub employee. Harmless enough to say the least, probably still lives with his parents. Maybe he just worked the slow nights. Like tonight- nobody around. Christ, all he was doing was cutting up limes, God knows why. Kid like him, probably a college dropout, probably a bassist in whatever music's been dead long enough to attempt a revival of. Easy to read. "What do I look like I do?"
"Ah- office... work?" The reply was earnest, at least. Very easy to read.
"I'll be honest. I've only worked two months in an office my entire life, and there's been quite the entire-ness to follow."
"Where do you work, then?" he asked, pulling the pint.
"What I've noticed is that people tend to assume based on what I order. I buy a beer, people assume I'm an office worker. I buy a scotch, people think I'm a lawyer. I buy a martini, people assume I'm a stock broker. Creme de menthe, I'm suddenly an arts dealer. Wherever I go, whatever I drink, it's always been a tough day at the workplace, whatever that is."
"So- where do you work, then?" he repeated, catching the last few drips.
"I work," and there was a moment's hesitation before he shrugged again. "I worked-- in the kind of business where it works to have people make assumptions rather than know."
The bartender gave a chuckle, serving the glass of beer. "Regular James Bond stuff, huh?"
"You'd be surprised."
The bartender's smile faded. "You're a spy?"
"Not entirely, but you'd, well, you'd be surprised." He reached into the pocket of the duffel bag on the barstool next to him, pulling out a thick deck of leather booklets. Casino-style, these were spread across the bar. It was a small foliage of colours- navy blues, blacks, maroons, greens, a red-- each decorated with an embossed coat of arms and above, a country name. A platoon of passports.
"I am, that is to say, I have been a professional nobody."
"I haven't even heard of half of these countries. Jesus, look at them."
"What's your name?"
"Malcolm." stammered the bartender, eyes still glued to the Tarot deck of nationalities. "And you're-- Ian Welles." He picked up another passport, flipping it open- "James Staffordson?" Another. "Collin McCreight?" Another. "Jan Pieters? What the hell-"
"Tonight's the night where I get to stop looking at myself in the mirror and seeing only the memorized details from my travel documents. I can't do it anymore, I can't stand not having a reflection I recognize."
"This one's empty. Your picture isn't in it."
"There's about a dozen of those. They've got the hologram sheet ready to slip over any Polaroid I put in there. The passport numbers will all check out. Birthdates across the board."
"Are you serious? These are ready-made fakes?"
"Fakes?! Hah." He put down his pint, the glass empty save for the lingering froth left to dry. "They're the only real ID I have. Describe me to a T. They're the least fake of the lot, identification for one Anonymous. The money, at least, is plenty real."
The man motioned to his duffel. "3.4 million in six different currencies, all small bills in unsequenced bundles."
"Shit!" said Malcolm.
"Shit is right. There's just been too much of it, and after twenty-seven years, I'm finally swimming back up to the surface to breathe some actual air." he said, dragging his fingers down the already worn grooves of his face. "There's finally a way out."
A dull thud brought sudden warmth across his chest. He looked down, finding the bartender's hand closed in a fist pressing into his chest. The smell of limes. The knife-- in the fist. Crimson spread quickly across his shirt, and he had the distinct feeling of falling into water. The heart, probably. The bartender's eyes were wide as plates, and he was breathing fast.
Finally a way out. "Do you- do you play in a band?"
"What? No!" The bartender's answer was high-pitched, frightened. Still, not as easy to read as he'd thought. Just as well. He sank inwards, tumbling to the floor.
Malcolm was half-way to the door, flicking the lights out as he went, the duffell swung over his shoulder with the cash and ready passports in it. A breath, eyes open and shut to acknowledge the reality, murder. No. Not that he could be caught now anyway.
He hadn't even killed anyone. Anyone at all.