Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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Chapter 14 --Last Call-- 


The big round clock above the bar, a spectacular example of the golden age of advertising art, was a mosaic made of blue and silver mirror. Letters arrayed around the face between concentric rings of white neon, read, 


 "At the Modern Lounge ... It's Always Sapphire Time." 


It was ten minutes until midnight. The bartender raised his hands above his head and tapped his imaginary  wrist watch. The waitresses cycled through their sections announcing  "last call for alcohol."

Charlie Parker finished up with 'Ornithology'. A double gin and tonic waited at his private table. 

 

Standing alone in the cold blue spotlight, Mr. Lounge began to play a one two punch called 'Powerhouse'. 

He spun a hologram of notes designed to make your nose bleed. Three minutes in, he pulled up on the throttle, teeing up Harleigh Holmes for a death defying seven minute drum solo. 

 

Choire,  the talking dog jumped up on to a bar stool and began to run down 'The rules for a safe return to the land of the living'. He was very specific.

" You need to leave before midnight... that gives you about four minutes ... Take nothing,  leave nothing ... you must leave exactly the way you arrived ... Are you both clear on that. " We nodded. 

" Now take hold of Ginger's hand. This is critical ... don't, under any circumstances, look back at her until you arrive safely upstairs. Don't speak to her or anyone you may see on the way out ... and leave the building immediately." 

Ginger bent over Choire and gave the brindle pup a sloppy kiss. She scratched him behind the ears and said "Catch you later kiddo."  

 

The Dog read the the question that hung in a bubble over my head. "You'll know you've made it ... the sun will be shining. Take her home ... love her... treat her right .... have kids ... get old.  This will all fade away in no time." Ginger slipped her icy hand into mine and moved behind me. 

Sharon the coat check girl refunded two silver dollars ... they flipped through the air and landed in Ric's outstretched hand.  Randy held the exit doors open allowing  the Stygian black to pour in. It was even darker than I remembered. 

Ric and I shook. Both our hands were cold this time. " Are you going to stay for good? " I asked Ric. 

 

" I have a special arrangement with the management "  Ric answered, " I pretty much come and go as I'm needed ... Something like a tour guide." Your going to need this " he said pressing the Zippo into my hand. 

I looked at Choire for the referee's call. 

 

" How the hell did you think you were going to find your way out ? " the dog said rolling his orange eyes  

" Leave the Zippo with the desk clerk upstairs. "

 

As Harleigh Holmes launched into his final assault on the cymbals I stepped into the dark hallway with my lovely, dead, Ginger in tow.

Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter 14 'Last Call'

 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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Chapter 13 --Not One Detail-- 


Ginger was waiting for me by the coat room.  She had changed from her Modern Lounge uniform, the ice blue satin, skin tight sarong, into what she had been wearing when she died ... a wet floral sun dress accessorized with matching wrist and ankle ligatures. Her feet were bare. 

 

  Like a pair of proper bridesmaids, Ric's girl (and his attempted murderess), Randy, and Sharon the coat check girl, main squeeze of the recently deceased drummer Harleigh Holmes were busy arranging Ginger's damp clothes and hair. There was discussion of removing the butcher's twine from around her neck. 

The dog insisted that not one thing ... not one detail could be altered from the way Ginger had arrived.

 

" Nothing added, nothing subtracted that's the way it always been. Plausible deniability and not a shred of evidence that there is and 'after ' " Choire said, studying Ginger for any possible trace of  the Lounge. 

" Did she come with that earring? " the dog inquired. Ginger confirmed that she had only been wearing one when she died ... the other had been torn out in the struggle.

 

My feelings of tenderness for lovely Ginger were replaced with blind rage for the son of a bitch who had done this to her. Dead was one thing ... this was altogether a different matter. 

" There'll be none of that Mixter " Choire said, never bothering to look at me. " the guy who did this is doing life without the possibility of parole and when he finally arrives I'll assign him 'back of the house' where he'll wash dishes without gloves in bleach water for eternity. " 

 

Dial 'L' Chapter 13

 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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Chapter 12 --Now's The Time-- 


 

" You said it saved your life ..." I said sticking my finger through the bullet hole in the well worn lighter. 

No flint, no fluid, there was no way that Zippo should have worked. Ric had a pull on his drink, then spoke slowly as if choosing his words carefully. 

" First you should know I'm not dead ... not yet ... and neither are you, technically ... there's a few loose ends.

After the last set, if you're still here, well ... then that's it my friend, that's all she wrote." 

 

Ric stood abruptly to shake hands with Charlie Parker who was about to be introduced by Serge Trouserin. Choire the talking dog was draped over his arm, his rear paws dangled and his tail twitched.

" See it's not half bad down here at the Modern Lounge," said Ric sitting down next to me again, 

" The best of everything and all the greats.  Not what you were expecting, am I right? " I didn't answer. 

 

"I'm assuming you aren't ready." said Ric.  He didn't wait for my "Damn straight I'd like another sixty years and then die peacefully in my sleep -- if it's all the same to you.”

 

" Your Ginger, she's been here past closing time, so the books would generally be shut on her, but the dog likes her.  There are a few up line managers we never see and of course the Guy upstairs,  but down here the Dog's in charge. He thinks she got a raw deal ... Don't ask.  Anyway, she lit up like a candle when she saw you and she wants to go with you." 

Bird winked at me from the stage and started to blow  'Now's the Time' on his alto sax. 

 

Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter12

 

 


 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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Chapter 11 --Backside Story-- 


 

If in fact I really was dead, then I had missed the dying bit ...  which, I thought, was not altogether a bad bargain. My only regret was I hadn't gotten around to doing much in my very short life. Had I know that I was going to check out this soon I would have burned the candle at both ends with more enthusiasm.

 

My first impulse was to examine my hands. I have no idea why ... I just turned them over looking for some sort of proof of life ... or not. My finger tips were getting cold.  

 

" Sorry kid " said Ric, pulling his chair in close to mine, " I thought you knew ... you showed up right on time.  Actually the bus, was running a little early ... you never knew what hit you. And Harleigh ... well suicides often run late.  They can't make up their minds ... it's a big step." 

 

" I don't feel dead " I said knowing full well that I had no idea what dead felt like.  

 

Ric pulled the Zippo lighter out of his pocket. He polished it with a cocktail napkin and put it in front of me.  " This lighter saved my life " he said. " I'd like to tell you it was war related, dodging bullets on the front line,  bravely leading my battalion ... but, in fact, it was about a dame. " 

 

On cue Randy arrived with a fresh Sapphire and Tonic for Ric.  The way she squeezed his lime and slowly swizzled his gin bordered on pornographic.  As she sacheted away,  her glorious posterior told the tale.


"Say no more" I said to Ric,  " Who could blame you."


Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter 11

 

 

 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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Chapter 10 --Miles at the Modern-- 


  

It was the first time all day that I was knocked off center.  I checked my mobile .... No service.

The trip down from the street -- about a million stairs in the dark to the Modern Lounge had been odd, but exhilarating ...  Ric's confidence infectious. Everything about the Lounge was happening, the drinks, the crowd ( who were actually there for the music ) and gorgeous Ginger ... I was already trying her on for size in my head.  The orange eyed, gin swilling pooch made it all come off the rails.  

 

Trouserin and the talking dog were on the stage again. As Serge delivered his slick poetized patter the brindle pup's orange eyed gaze burned a hole in my forehead. I studied his fuzzy muzzle for a tell ... not a whisker moved.  

Harleigh returned from a brief assignation in the coatroom with a smudge of tangerine lipstick on his chin. 

" I think I'm in love. " he said, sliding into the chair next to mine. He was flushed, sweaty and his shirt wrinkled. " Sharon is smokin' hot, and she's nuts about me. ... Trig, this kinda thing doesn't happen to me."  I smiled and nodded, there was no need to kill his buzz just yet ... I had suspicions but I wanted a second opinion.

 

Flawlessly, the brindle pup threw his voice, animating his mustachioed, fez wearing puppet.

 

  " Lords and Ladies ... cats and kittens " chanted Trouserin, " We have royalty in the house tonight and he's graciously agreed to favour us with a tune or two. " The dog smiled at me showing all his teeth and winked.  Although Trouserin's lips were moving I knew that it was Choire who spoke. " Lords and Ladies ... The Modern  Lounge is pleased as punch to present ... I give you the one the only ... Mr. Miles Davis ". 

 

" Damn! " I said grabbing for Harleigh's arm. " Dude! ... Miles is dead. " Harleigh was already up and out of his chair headed back to the coatroom for a few more stolen moments with his new paramour.  He called to me over his shoulder, " Dude! ... So are we. "

 

 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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Chapter 9 --The Dog w/ the Clementine Eyes-- 


  

We found the groove straight away. My borrowed bass nearly played itself, and those hep cats and kittens lapped us up like a saucer of warm milk.  Add to that the bottomless Sapphire and tonics -- Ginger would pucker up and blow me a little angel kiss as she dropped off each round ... I was higher than a kite. 

 

When we broke after the first set, Ric went off to find Randy the hostess with the incomparable derriere. Harleigh had his eye on Sharon the coat check girl and I went back to the table to wait for pretty Ginger. 

We clicked,  just like that,  and the night was just beginning. 

 

Ginger  was nowhere to be seen. But the brindle pup with the orange eyes was sitting on my chair. 

There was a drink with a short straw in front of him. Serge Trouserin was  propped up in Harleigh's seat, his eyes were closed and his hands were folded across his chest. 

 

" You can leave -- but you can't take anything with you. " said the brindle dog sipping on his cocktail. 

" Ginger want's to go with you ... but that's the tricky bit ... not impossible ... but difficult. " 

 

How does he do that? I thought to myself.  The dog is a dummy and Trouserin was the best darn ventriloquist I'd ever seen.  The dog turned to me and enunciated clearly "My named is Choire, I'm not a dummy ... I'll just pretend you didn't think that ...  actually it's Trouserin who's the stiff. I'm the headliner in this dog and pony show." 

 

Choire cocked his head and stared straight through me with his giant orange eyes. He turned back to his drink and took a long slow sip draining the glass. 

       

       " You need to leave immediately following the last set, after that ... you're here ... and this, my friend is the gig that never ends.  And, make sure that you take nothing from this side with you." 

 

At that moment Ginger arrived with two drinks, one for the dog and one more for me. 

 

Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter 9 The Dog w/ the Clementine Eyes

 

 


 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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 Chapter 8 -- No Ax, No Charts ... No Clue--


  

No Ax! No charts!  Ric had neglected to mention we were the blue plate special on this evening's menu. 

 

Harleigh and I, the twins -- Slack-jawed and Dumbfounded, froze while the crowd whistled and stomped. Mr. Lounge, who had been waiting just behind the 'teaser' curtains wetting his reed, stepped into the spotlight.  

 

Gone were the trench coat and fedora, replaced by a short sleeved Guayabera ( Cuban wedding shirt ) and white linen pants. The felt trilby he parked with Sharon at the coat check had been replaced with a straw pork pie hat with a bright blue band.  A vintage Selmer alto saxophone, silver with a gold bell, rested in a stand nearby. 

 

The jewel box stage at the Modern Lounge was barely big enough for three musicians and their instruments. There was tall, thin Ric and his saxophone, a primo three piece kit of vintage 'Sonor drums' for Harleigh and a fine old German gamba style doghouse ( in walnut ) for me.  Out in front was an upholstered podium with the double R which I assumed stood for 'Retro Rockets'. 

 

The rowdy crowd at Modern Lounge wasn't having any no. Harleigh was game ... after all he is a drummer.  

 

I could only hope that Mr. L was going to call a set of standards ( war horses we could fake without charts ). Or ...  that the crowd was already drunk enough and all they really wanted to do was dance. 

Squeezing the giant wedge of key lime, followed by a quick twizzle, I tossed back my perfect double 'Sapphire and Tonic'. The Gin was smooth ... even smoother than I remembered. The cocktail was strong but not 'burnt'. The tonic, handmade small batch, lots of fizz, one of those up market designer brands that cost nearly as much per ounce as the booze. 

 

Ginger materialized at my elbow and replaced my drink. What a great waitress, I thought. Later I'd like to throw her a really big tip. I downed that one too and jumped the footlights.

 

I'm pretty sure I remember what I was wearing when I left my flat this morning ... and it wasn't white linen pants ... must be the gin. 

 

Ric called his first tune.... "Sapphire & Tonic (with Extra Lime)"   in A minor.

 

Dial_L_Chapter_8_Vintage_Selmer_Sax

 

 


 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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 Chapter 7 -- Serge Trouserin--


  

The Master of Ceremonies tapped the microphone. The PA squealed. Some invisible sound tech wrestled the feedback and found the proper level. "Test Test Test"

The MC was an imposing man, six four or five, dressed in expensive evening clothes --  a midnight blue cut  away tuxedo, Turkish style velvet slip-ons and a white rosebud in his lapel . His hair, which shone blue in the spotlight, was pomaded straight back. He had a lavish mustache, waxed into wide handlebars ending in impossible curlycues. He wore a fez. Tucked under the big man's arm was a small brindle dog with keen orange eyes. 

 

The house lights and the hubbub trailed off ... all but the high end laughter and the chucka, chucka, chucka, of stainless shakers filled with gin and ice drifted away. 

  "Welcome to the Modern Lounge all you lords and ladies ... all you cats and kittens." chanted the MC. "Serge Trouserin's the name ... gin and jazz's the game." 

  His voice was slow and dark as diesel as he caressed the mic and whispered intimately to the standing room only crowd. 

 "You've been waiting patiently for the main event, the headliner ... the piece de resistance. 

Your patience, lords and ladies is about to be richly rewarded ... 'cause Mr. Lounge is in the house." 

 

The crowd roared it's approval. Serge waited for the din to subside then continued, 

  "Mr. L. has brought us some 'new talent' ( air quotes ) recently 'recruited' ( air quotes ) "from topside." 

 The audience responded with the back bencher's cheer of  "here, here, here" and a generous round of applause. 

  "Mr Lounge, as always, is going to seduce us with his sultry sax ... tonight on stand up bass, that would be the 'doghouse' to all you hep cats ... Lords and ladies ... put your hands together for Mr. Trig Mixter.  On the drums," Serge Trouserin continued, "the one, the only Mr. Harleigh Holmes". 

 

Serge Trouserin snapped his fingers two and four, his velvet turned up toe tapped four on the floor.  

 

 "Without further ado and nothin' in your pockets ... I give you The Modern Lounge's favorite band ..... Mr. L and the 'Retro Rockets'."


Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter 7 Serge Trouserin

Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter 7 Serge Trouserin


 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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 Chapter 6 -- Ginger, Cinnamon & Cloves--


  

Had I not been so absorbed in the bountiful stern of the S.S. Randy I might have noticed that Mr. Lounge was nowhere to be seen.  The man and his Zippo, who had led us safely through miles of dank subterranean corridors to the hippest gin joint I had ever seen, simply vanished. Harleigh must have had the very same thought. "I'm thinking he stopped off at the 'gents'", he offered as we took our seats.

 

Randy snapped her fingers -- a tray appeared. Our waitress, Ginger a tall cool redhead, also tightly wrapped in sapphire satin, dealt three triple-ply coasters with the skill of a Monte Carlo croupier. 

The paper goods were top shelf.  Napkins, coasters, box matches -- all custom. Turquoise with silver embossed letters read 'The Modern Lounge', I palmed the matches and slid them into my pocket. 

Ginger, our smokin' hot redhead, took a fast survey of the room, gave me a conspiratorial wink and replaced them.  

 

"The usual." she said, more statement than question. She didn't wait for our order.  The bartender was already putting the spears through our lime wedges. 

 

My eyes followed gorgeous Ginger  as she clicked away to fetch our drinks on sapphire satin spike heels. Of the half dozen spectacularly beautiful cocktail waitresses working the lounge, all satin, pointy toes, pearls and girdles, Ginger was the pick of the litter.

 

"Sapphire, tonic, extra lime" said Ginger leaning close to my ear ... she smelled like hot apple pie. 

"Perfect" I said, staring directly at her perky, lightly freckled knockers standing proud of their satin drapery. Ginger stretched over me to serve Harleigh's and Mr. Lounge's cocktails(also Sapphire and Tonic with extra lime) giving me plenty of time to drink in her spice -- cinnamon with a top note of clove. 

         

        As she turned to go she mouthed the words "Call Me." I heard them viscerally, mostly in my gentleman's area.


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 Chapter 5 -- Hi, I'm Randy--


  

"Hello stranger." Said the coat check girl, handing Ric a ticket to redeem his fedora on the way out. 

"Meet Sharon, boys" Ric carefully laid out three silver dollars on the counter." Sharon smiled, put the coins in the pocket of her apron and directed us to the podium, where she consulted the reservation book.  Holmes, Harleigh .....Mixter, Trig .... and of course Mr. Lounge.  She ticked off our names and hit the bell to summon the Maitresse D'.  Double doors upholstered in turquoise leatherette, trimmed in stainless with porthole windows opened simultaneously. 

 

She was spray painted into a glacier blue satin sarong. The drapery of her dress teased out every curve; 

each pleat terminating at the good bits.  Audacious twin peaks presided over cleavage deep as the Mariannis Trench. A plastic name tag over her heart read;  

 

Hello, I'm Randy 

"Short for Miranda" she said aware of our keen interest in her identification.  She smelled like lavender and warm sugar cookies. "Right this way boys, your tables' waiting." Her voice was deep,  grade A maple syrup a 'Lyric Contralto' with a vocal range somewhere between F below middle C and my wedding vegetables. 

Randy turned;  gun - turret - tank.  Her hips swayed like an engraved invitation all the way to a table reserved for three directly under the sax players chin. 

 


Hello, I'm Randy

 


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 Chapter 4 -- Three Blind Men & a Lantern --


  

        

Harleigh's lighter was nearly out of fuel -- the flame was shrinking fast. He moved with purpose toward the door which he had chosen and leaned hard onto the panic bar. We waited for the alarm. None came.

The exit door opened into a pitch black even darker than the lobby, it seeped across the threshold and over my shoes.  Ric, his Zippo extended arm's length in front of him, was the lead man. He stepped into the void beyond the exit door. Light flooded the landing -- things scurried into the shadows.  

 

We entered the narrow stairway. I followed close behind Ric, one hand on his shoulder. The wooden railing had rotted away so I slid the left hand along the greasy particle board wall.  Harleigh two steps behind me held his sputtering disposable above our heads; three elongated shadow men in a Balinese puppet show tumbling down an invisible hill.

 

  " Are you sure this is the right place ? " said Harleigh,  abandoning the spent Bic. It clattered down the steps in front of us. Seconds later Ric stepped on it cracking the plastic case open like the carapace of an overlarge bug.  The smell of lighter fluid followed. 

"This is the place, of that I'm absolutely sure. "Ric said. "I was here before... it was a long time ago ... 

the lights worked then." 

 

  I started counting, fourteen steps interrupted by landings, five minutes into our descent. The only sound in addition to six erratic footfalls was the regular drip of water into puddles beyond the corona of Ric's lighter.  The wholesome yellow glow of the Zippo was our dog star on a voyage to God knows where;  Mr. Lounge our navigator through the Cimmerian night. 

 

Eventually the stairs ended.  It was then we first heard the sax, sweet, low and far away ... Harlem Nocturne.  The siren notes drew us on through the claustrophobic corridor like Calypso herself was blowing them. 

"Man that cat can wail!"  said Harleigh in ersatz hip speak. 

 

  "Word." I said, from a place decades in the future. 

 

   Ric flipped off the Zippo.  The three of us stood transfixed, sensory deprived in the subterranean hallway.  High, clear, ascending arpeggios, reverberated down the hall, ricocheted, and washed back over us.  

Then the sax plumbed the low notes near the bend before the bell, lingered long on a radioactive low B which rolled up from the concrete beneath my feet fusing my 'Gold Toes' to my 'wing tips.' 

 

    In front of us a door opened. Surreal sapphire light spilled out into the dark  ... with it came the tinkling of ice on glass -- followed by the faintest scent of juniper. 

 

Chapter 4 Sapphire Door

 

 



 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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 Chapter 3 -- The Lady or the Tiger --


  

The interior door closed behind us, heavy and resolute as lock down in a maximum security prison.  

Inside the lobby was an enhanced darkness ... suffocating, like moving between laundry lines hung with musty wool blankets. The tile floor was slick with something that a was glad I couldn't see. 

Harleigh flicked his bic. The lighter sputtered anemically -- on the third try the flame hissed to life lighting up the immediate area between Harleigh and me at chest level. I got a whiff of 'Old Spice', my father's brother Ralph came to mind.       

 

Harleigh was of average height, a good looking kid, twenty something,  His hair, was cut 'high and tight' former military, maybe.  The rock hard arm, which held the lighter, belonged to a power lifter. 

" Trig right?" he said, switching the bic to his left hand. We shook. Harleigh's hand, like Ric's was cold and his grip; bone crushing.  Three shakes, manly, but not too familiar. 

 

"Yup,  Trig Mixter." I said. 

 

Ric's lighter shot a six inch flame into the darkness on the far side of the room. " Zippo!" he explained,"Lights first time, every time. " Dialing down his hand held flame thrower Ric held the blue light over his head illuminating the far end of the lobby.  Thread bare sofas lined both walls, separated by footed urns containing dead parlor palms. "This place must of been real nice back in the day " I said.  Soggy oriental carpet squished underfoot as we headed toward Ric and the Zippo. 

 

On the back wall were two carbon-copy doors, the fancy kind with raised panels. Each identical door had panic hardware and an unlit exit sign above it. 

"The lady or the tiger, gentlemen?" Said Ric. His fedora hid his eyes but his smile was slightly unsettling. "Which door will it be?" 

 

"The right one." Harleigh said confidently. I was sure he was unaware of the reference." What do you think Trig ? "  

"The lady" I said, "definately the lady".

 


 orange chapter 3 lighter

 Susanne Langlois's continuing Novella Blog:

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 Chapter 2 -- The Appointment --


 

 

We stood in the dark chain-sucking menthol cigarettes, waiting for the monsoon to stop. 

Neither of us spoke. The tattoo of the raindrops on the tin canopy outside was deafening. Eventually the fumes  in that six by six pigeonhole were so dense you didn't need to light up ... 

you could just inhale.  

 

After what seemed like hours the stranger broke the spell. " Name's Ric  but everybody calls me Mr. Lounge. Glad you could make it." He said.  

Ric pulled a full size retro telephone from his trench coat pocket. The end of the unconnected coil cord, dangled free.  "I'll give Harleigh a call" Ric said, dialing a single number on the enormous rotary phone. "I'll see what's keeping him."  

 

Now I had no idea what Ric meant by ' glad you could make it', or who Harleigh was ... but considering that I had wandered into a  town straight out of the Twilight Zone, Armageddon raged outside and I could hear a dialtone on the unplugged phone -- I just went with it. 

"Yeh, no problem ... I'm Trig, Trig Mixter" I said, stabbing my hand in his general direction. Ric's hand was ice cold -- his grip was like a vice. 

 

The rain stopped as though a faucet had been turned off.  Thunder rumbled far away. Harleigh 

appeared in the doorway and the sun came out. " No taxis in this part of town." Harleigh said. 

Mr. Lounge stuffed the five pound phone back into his trench coat. "Gentlemen" he said, holding the interior door of the vestibule open for Harleigh and me. "after you.'

 

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 Chapter 1 -- Sanctuary --


 A wrong turn, a few blocks back, landed me in an unfamiliar neighborhood. There wasn't a soul around, and the traffic, which not five minutes before had been bumper to bumper, had vanished completely.  

 

 

 Boarded up pawn and package stores, an abandoned bodega, all with three stories of vacant apartments above, lined both sides of the block. On the corner was an empty eatery. A faded 'closed' sign hung askew  inside the front door.  A giant neon pot in mid pour in the window, it's neon smashed,  advertised  ' Otto's Home of the  Bottomless Cup'.  The charred remains of burned out taxi waited at the curb and a tireless bicycle with it's padlock and chain still attached lay in the gutter. The street sign, if there had ever been one, was missing. 

 

 The weather changed with the scenery. Perfect, bright blue and cloudless turned to grey flannel, just before a tornado, oppressive. The air smelled electric.

 

 " ... Go back the way you came" I told myself. " picking up my pace to near speed walk.

 

 The first  bolt of vertical lighting crackled... hairs on the back of my neck  buzzed.  Thunder followed in seconds. The sky opened dumping horizontal rain. Rivulets ran in my eyes as I felt my way along the locked storefronts, fingers reading  Braille, the brick, ... the glass, the brick again.  A door ajar !

 A vestibule to escape the deluge !

 

 Inside smelled old ... derelict ... stale cigars, wet newspapers, urine. A bank of vandalized mail boxes, an overturned ash canister  were the only items I could make out in the near pitch black. The entrance was  cramped maybe six feet square just big enough for the postman. Outside the rain came down in sheets.  

 

 I fumbled for my cigarettes. The box was damp but the smokes were  dry -- the matches useless. "Damn !" I said to no one. "Wouldn't you know it."  

 

 A flame  appeared in the darkness inches from my face, a lighter revealed another refugee seeking  sanctuary from the storm. 

 

 "Can I bum one, mine are beat ... some rain huh ?" said the stranger in a trench coat who had been standing  in the shadows.

 


 


 




 

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