Overshores Belgique du Noire
22 oz bottle, $16.99++, 9.5% ABV
Purchsaed at Wise Old Dog, West Hartford
November. A cold Wednesday night. Desiccated brown leaves tumbled down the dripping maw of the nearby alley; nature’s cruel annual death-rattle, swirling through unnamed urban decay. Snow was mere weeks away.
But it wasn’t the snow I was thinking about as I approached the bar. Nor was it the months of spirit-crushing cold that descends upon northern Connecticut each winter. No, I was consumed by a dame.
A gal like no other on this godforsaken place we call earth. And I didn’t think she even knew my name – or my predicament.
She was exotic.
As a private dick, I knew this one’s name was Hoang. And I knew that was a Vietnamese name. While my work has taken me to a lot of places, I had never been to southeast Asia before. But if the dames there were half as breathtaking as this Hoang lady was, I know I wouldn’t last in that country. My job requires me to stay cool, even when situations are hot.
I could not be cool in Vietnam.
But I hoped to be cool this night. After all, I was in Hartford, Connecticut – a town I knew inside and out. It’s dark underbelly; the drug dens of Frog Hollow and the north end, the hussies for hire down on the Berlin Turnpike flea-bag strip, the drag-racing Hispanics over by the sewage treatment plant. Yes sir, I knew Hartford. It was my job to know Hartford.
This Hoang? She was clearly an outsider. Drawn to the city’s downtown for its nightlife, such as it was. My sleuthing told me she lived in New Britain, or, “Hard Hittin’,” as we dicks called it. A rough blue colla’ town, ripe with immigrants from unpronounceable lands. I’d been to Hard Hittin’ plenty’a times before. Always for work.
And that’s not a good thing for New Britain.
What was the Oriental minx doin’ in my town, at my bar, on a Wednesday night? Paranoia is part of my job, you see, so I wondered if she was a plant. I’d had my fair share of carnal pleasures from high class dames, low class dames, all types – but they was always lookers. Always. I pride myself in that.
I tossed my last cigarette into a storm drain, hearing it sizzle after its fatal fall. I had to find out what made this chick tick while she made me tock.
I entered the bar, trying to keep a low profile. Friends, enemies, and several in-betweens shouted my arrival. So much for playing this one anything but straight. I went directly up to the girl.
“What you drinkin’?” My eyes locked on hers.
“Belgique du Noire.”
A beer drinker, see. I was already off my game. 105 pound Vietnamese woman; drinks a black Belgian beer. A local craft at that. She was on to me. She was already in control of the situation. Her skirt seemed to hitch itself another two inches up her golden thigh.
“Oh yeah? Tell me about it.”
Overshores Belgique du Noire is a black roasted Belgian. What stands out though is the Noire’s smoothness. Unlike many black beers, the Noire exhibits no smokey bitterness whatsoever. The Belgique du Noire is rich and smooth.
Pair with chocolate, orange, dates, nuts, balsamic reduction, roasted vegetables, duck, lamb.
I told the barkeep to get me one of these Belgique du Noire’s and flipped him a sawbuck to see to it he kept ’em comin’. “Dates, huh? You like dates?”
She turned slowly and exhaled through her painted red lips. The low-cut sweater almost artfully moved, exposing a peek of cleavage, adorned by a diamond necklace as bright as a thousand suns.
“Yeah, say, let’s say I do. What are you gonna do about it?”
Like I said, she was all over me. Probably knew my middle name. It was time to end the charade. I sipped my beer, noticing it was black as the portentous night outside. Black as my heart had become to such games. Before I could give this dame a piece of my thinkin’, I noted that this beer was good.
Damn good. I’d had dark beer before. It was always malty and sweet, but not this one. It smelled like a Belgian beer; spicy and fresh. But yeah, as if I needed help, it threw me off kilter more than I was. I didn’t know how these Overshores mopes made this beer, see. I loved it.
But not as much as I loved this broad, her subtle perfume giving me the impression that she just smelled like this all the time. Naturally like. I had to make my move.
“Listen here. I know your name is Hoang and I know yous live in Hard Hittin’ and I know yous know who I am and what I do. So let’s have it, see, why are you here, knowin’ I’d be comin’ by? And don’t be coy, or I’ll sock you. Right here, I will. I have friends in this town, see, and enemies that act like friends in this bar here right now, see. Your nose will match your lips, and ain’t no one want to see that.”
Cool as a cucumber this one. I never seen nothin’ like her before.
“Okay, Mr. Connecticut Museum Quest, I’ll spill my guts before you split me open. You got it right. My name, my digs, you got it alright. But you ain’t got why I’m here, see, and you touch me in a way I don’t want to be touched, you won’t ever know who sent me, see. So you wanna keep playin’ tough, Mr. Quest, or you wanna buy a girl another drink and shut up while I try to save your life?”
Like I said. I was doomed from the start. I almost kissed her right there.
“You know I’m a private dick, eh?”
“You know about the music box?”
“Who sent you here?”
“If you’re a good boy, maybe I’ll tell you tomorrow morning.”
Putty. I was putty. I got another Belgique du Noire, smooth and well-crafted, not bitter but not too sweet either. Overshores really nailed this beer. I like that. “Nailed.”
I knew I was a dead man. That infernal music box and the misery it brought me was playing my last song on an endless loop. But I had tonight and I had this dame. Or, she had me. I didn’t care any more. I was now playing her game. Her stillettos now grinding on my rag-tag leather loafers.
She locked her almond eyes on mine:
“I’m going to get up and leave. You’re going to do the same in 10 minutes. I’m going to the Ramada, room 22. You’re going to do the same. All you need to know is what you know about me already. In an hour, you’ll know me inside and out. And tomorrow? If you can handle it, I’ll tell you about that music box.”
Dazed from the 9.5% ABV, the 17 beans per bottle price tag, which was a week’s pay, and this woman’s brazenness, I just nodded.
“But will the musi–” She put her manicured hand to my mouth.
“Shhhhhh. 10 minutes. Room 22.”
Will Mr. Quest perform his duties to this dame’s delight? Will he last til the morning light? Will he learn more about his death warrant – the music box that mysteriously arrived 3 days ago – or is it another ruse?
Hardboiled Noir fans, look out for Mr. Quest in the next serial adventure, on sale next month!
Overall Rating: A
Rating vs. Similar style: A