Kind of Blue

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Carl Davies called into Monroe's Jazz Club one evening. Somehow he left modern day Manchester and was transported to prohibition-era America.

Submitted: August 06, 2014

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Submitted: August 06, 2014

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Carl Davies pushed and shoved his way along Manchester’s busy Market Street. He just wanted to be away from the crowds. He wished he could just click his fingers and be on his sofa at home. His legs felt heavy. It had been a long day at the city centre office. He tugged his tie loose a couple of inches. He walked as quickly as he could towards the tram stop. With a bit of luck he would be able to get a seat on the tram.

He crossed the narrow street. Glancing down a side street he noticed a pub he’d never seen before. The irresistible thought of having a cold pint of lager popped into his head. He decided that as he had no plans for the evening he would call in for a drink. It would also let the number of rush hour commuters die down. He would have more chance later on of the all important seat on the tram. As he neared Carl saw that the small building was in fact a jazz club. The old fashioned sign read Monroe’s Jazz Club.

Hoping for cold beer and live music he pushed open the double doors and went down the steps. He looked around. What kind of place was this? The men wore sharp suits, gleaming shoes and fedora hats. The women wore flowing dresses that swayed as they danced. Cigarette smoke hung in the air. Jazz music filled the room. He saw the band playing on the raised stage at the front of the room. Trumpets, saxophones, double bass, drums. He did not recognise the jazzy tune but he somehow knew it would be an old song that would be almost a hundred years old.

The club was covered in shadow. Everything was drained of colour, almost black and white, a kind of blue. He crossed the room staring at the people. Where did they get outfits like that these days? They must have gone to some vintage clothes shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Everyone there had gone to a lot of trouble. Every smallest detail had been covered, from the tie pins and hair clips. And the dancing. All those on the dance floor knew the moves of these old dances. Perhaps they were a period dance troupe rehearsing for some festival. Davies felt a long way from Manchester, a long way from the world he knew. He was either in another world or the world had changed somehow.

The music itself seemed seductive and hypnotic, dangerous and violent. He had never heard anything like it. He took in the scene. The club seemed to sway with the rhythm of the music. A woman with long red hair and a dress the colour of midnight approached him. A cigarette dangled from her red lips.

‘Hey Charlie.’

‘Sorry?’

‘You are Charlie Davis, aren’t you?’

‘Me?’

‘You look like him and you’re dressed like him.’

Carl looked down. He was no longer wearing his dull office shirt and trousers. He was now wearing a black pinstripe suit. He touched the fedora which had appeared on his head. Carl Davies or Charlie Davis? Close enough. Things were getting strange so why start nitpicking over a name.

‘Maybe I am Charlie.’ Carl grinned. ‘Who are you?’

‘You are so funny. You know me. They call me Zoe Flame. I’m a singer.’

‘Of course you are.’ said Carl.

They crossed the smoky blue room to the bar. Carl and Zoe squeezed between the people standing at the bar. They managed to get to the front. Zoe looked at the crowd and smiled.

‘You’d never guess there is prohibition.’

‘What?’

‘What is with you today, Charlie. You know, the Volstead Act. Liquor is illegal. But you of all people know that.’

The barman, a thin man with receding hair and a white towel over one shoulder asked what they wanted to drink. He slid Carl’s whiskey and Zoe’s wine across the bar. He pointed to the drinks.

‘That’s the finest bootleg liquor. None of the paint stripper that passes for booze these days. No offence.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Charlie,’ said Zoe. ‘you’re the biggest bootlegger in the city.’

The band launched into a growling rendition of Minnie the Moocher. Carl tried to take it all in. He was not sure if he was dreaming or hallucinating. And who the hell was this Charlie Davis that everyone mistook him for?

A huge guy with a scar on his face and a toothpick in his mouth patted Carl on the arm.

‘Boss, we gotta go take care of that thing.’

Carl shrugged.

Zoe pecked Carl on the cheek and disappeared among the dancers. The big guy jerked a thumb towards the entrance of the club. Two more men joined them as they headed for the street. The men looked like henchmen from an old black and white film. Carl could just see them starring alongside Edward G Robinson in a 1940s B-movie.

He followed the group across the swinging night club. They went out the double doors and onto the street. Carl looked around in confusion. He must be dreaming. He couldn’t see Market Street, the Arndale Centre or any other part of Manchester. The Northern street had been replaced by an American style street. The cars passing by and those parked along the kerb were those of America in the 1920s. The vehicles had long bonnets with a spare tyre mounted on the mud-guard. Carl could just see Bonnie and Clyde tearing along in cars like these. He noticed a New York style coffee shop. Its bright light spilled out onto the pavement. It reminded him of an Edward Hopper painting.

The men grabbed Thompson submachine guns. They climbed in a car. Waved for Carl to join them. Wondering how in the world he’d ended up in a James Cagney film he got in the car. The automobile bumped and rocked along. What the car had in style it lacked in suspension and comfort.

A while later they swerved dramatically off the road and pulled up outside a warehouse. Still clutching the Tommy guns the three men marched towards the large wooden building. Lights glowed from within. Despite the late hour there was still activity inside.

They crashed though the door swinging their weapons in front of them. Unsure of what to do and bewildered as to how this was happening Carl followed. The bays of the warehouse were stacked high with wooden crates. The stencil markings on the crates said Genco Olive Oil. Carl knew that if he opened the crates it would not be bottles of oil inside but bottles of bootleg liquor.

There was shouting and yelling from up ahead. He stepped out from behind a wall of crates to see his men had lined up half a dozen men against the brick wall. They stared at Carl with hatred.

‘Wait till O’Banion hears about this, Charlie.’

‘Our trucks will be here any time now for the hooch.’ said one of Charlie’s men.

‘We aren’t gonna just let you walk out of here with our stash.’

‘You aren’t exactly gonna have a lot of choice.’

Carl jumped as the rat-tat-tat-tat of gunfire echoed around the warehouse. The men lined up against the wall fell under the hail of bullets. Carl was shocked. This must all be a dream. He felt sick.

‘Let’s get out of here.’ a voice called.

Carl was bundled along back to the car. Bumped and bounced back the way they came. They arrived back at Monroe’s Jazz Club. He really wanted to wake up from this strange dream. The guy with the scar gave him a nudge.

‘Come on, Charlie. You don’t look too good. I’ll get you a drink.’

Carl nodded. They went back into the club. The jazz music thrummed in his ears and pulsed in his chest as they crossed the room. A man at the bar turned as they approached.

‘Where did you guys get to?’

The hoodlums stopped. They stared in disbelief. Charlie Davis looked back at them. Carl, too, was dumbstruck. They guy was his double. He had the same face. He saw the face in the mirror when he shaved every morning.

‘Boss?’

‘Yeah.’ said Charlie.

Scarface turned to Carl. Charlie walked upto his double.

‘Who the hell are you?’

‘My name’s Carl. There’s been some kind of mistake. I don’t want any trouble.’

‘Trouble?’ Charlie grinned. ‘You’re almost the most handsome man in the joint. You’re not in trouble, friend. In fact,’ he waved to the bar tender. ‘the guy that looks like me, he don’t pay for nothing, y’understand?’

The bar tender nodded.

‘Well, what are you waiting for? Get him a drink.’

‘Yes, Charlie.’

Carl was stunned at how much the guy looked like him. There was not a close resemblance between Carl and his brothers so to meet an exact replica of himself was really disconcerting.

A roar of applause went round the club. Charlie pointed to the stage. Zoe Flame, the red headed woman he’d met earlier was standing in the spotlight. She was at the microphone wearing a dress that would have your eye out. With a grin that would melt any man’s heart she started singing. Charlie clapped, whooped and sang along. Carl took a sip of whiskey. He wondered where this strange dream would take him next.

Zoe performed one seductive song after another. Carl was reminded of Jessica Rabbitt from a childhood film. But this femme fatale was in living flesh. When her performance was finished Charlie turned to Carl.

‘Come on, Carl. Me and you need to have a talk.’

Carl walked beside Charlie as he swaggered to a doorway at the back of the club. They went outside and emerged in a narrow alleyway. There was the sound of the music from the stage and the trumpet wail of police sirens from somewhere out in the night.

‘It’s a shame for you.’ said Charlie.

‘What’s that?’

‘That you look like me.’

A pistol appeared in Charlie’s hand.

‘But why?’

‘A body turns up with that face. Everyone assumes old Charlie has been killed. That would take a lot of heat off me. I got the cops on my back. Then there’s the others in the bootlegging business.’

‘Please.’ Carl whispered.

Charlie grinned. Aimed his pistol. Carl raised his hands in front of his face. There was the awful crack of pistol fire. Carl winced. But he didn’t feel any pain. He slowly lowered his hands. He looked around.

He was standing on Albert Square back in Manchester city centre. He noticed a poster on a billboard.

Coming soon, Manchester Jazz Festival, featuring the Charlie Davis Quartet.


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