MYSTERY (2)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Following on from the introduction

Back to having only myself for company, I made my way straight to the Lucky 3- the most popular club that Riding owned, just off Giffords Avenue. Soft lighting didn’t keep me from recognising a whole lot of faces. Men I’d worked with in a distant past. Politicians and movie stars, all together, all rubbing shoulders. I got a scotch at the bar and took it to an empty table not too far from the stage; ignored the musical Negroes beneath the bright lights and continued to look out across the sea of faces around me. Not one of them paid me the slightest bit of attention. Not one of them viewed me as a threat- not now, not here.

The band finished. A blonde glided onto the stage, received a lot of applause and a lot of whistles. She looked as delicate as she did beautiful- a strong wind would break her. She blushed at the response, said something to the band standing behind her. The cellist counted them all in together and her voice found the microphone as soft music followed her perfect pitch in dream-like waves. A gentler, more restrained applause started but soon finished.

“Cigarettes?”

I turned, saw the brunette beside me with her tray of cigarettes for me to choose from. “Sure,” I said despite the fact I didn’t need any. “Who’s the girl?” I asked on opening my wallet.

“That’s Louise,” the cigarette seller answered following the briefest of glances up at the stage. “Louise McLaughlin.”

“She’s got talent,” I said on exchanging spare change for a packet of Derns.

“Here’s some free advice, pilgrim,” the girl grinned, “you’d be better looking elsewhere.”

“Oh?”

“Mr Riding is sweet on her,” she said, still smiling as she made her first steps toward another table, “some you win, some you lose.”

“You can say that again,” I said to myself, lighting a cigarette as I looked back at the singer. So, Nicolas Riding had a soft spot for a singer named Louise McLaughlin...

It was as if he was suddenly there, the man had just stepped out of the shadows. A tall, wiry negro stood at the side of the stage, watching the performance. He was dressed well, in an expensive blue suit with matching bowler hat. There was every chance he was with the band but that didn’t feel right. He didn’t look like a performer. Didn’t look like he would take kindly to any of the white customers asking him to step out of the way.

A lifetime ago, a stool pigeon was desperate to get himself out of a jam. Said he had information, but he was only willing to share it with me and Chandler.

“Nic Riding,” he had said, “has some clean-cut negro on his payroll. A voodoo priest. A lot of the other negroes are scared of him- scared he’ll put a curse on them- so they do whatever he tells them to do. Ain’t nobody cares if some negroes get arrested out here. Open and shut case, toss them inside and forget about it. Who cares what they done, or why? Whatever they’ve done, they’ve done because of the voodoo priest. They were doing what Nicolas Riding wanted them to do, I’m telling you!”

The pigeon had his throat cut from ear to ear in a holding cell and his story of a serious criminal having a negro way up his chain of command was never looked into.

The song came to an end and all that could be heard was the sound of applause. Some even stood. I joined them and looked over the stage. Louise smiled, briefly, before turning to the band so that they could decide their next number. The wiry negro had gone just as quickly as he had arrived.


Submitted: January 20, 2022

© Copyright 2022 A.C. Aerie. All rights reserved.

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