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........
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........
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.......
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.........
The Zippo blazed filling the corridor with a halo of comforting light. I held the lighter at eye level to avoid catching a glimpse of Ginger's shadow on the walls. The Dog hadn't mentioned reflections or shadows ... I just wanted to be on the safe side. Behind us in the distance Ric serenaded our escape with a reprise of "Harlem Nocture". I'll never hear that elegant old war horse in just the same way, I thought as we hit the first flight of stairs.
I ran as fast as I dared. Ginger's bare feet slapped in the puddles behind me as we began our hasty retreat from the underworld. As we reached the top of the stairs I felt my Ginger's fingers growing warmer.......
We had only to cross that last threshold into the perfect light of our first day.