The minutes tick away on the old dusty clock in the corner and as the night wears on, the music switches to blues.
The stranger remains where he is, consuming his Vodkas slowly but steadily. His neighbours at the bar look on with a mixture of interest and admiration. Here’s a man who can hold his liquor.
There’s an unspoken cue and as an old favourite comes to an end, the lights dim and the music stops. Suddenly, the entire club plunges into inky blackness when the lights go off. There is a smattering of noise as worried customers call to Jack for assistance but he is uncharacteristically unresponsive.
In the darkness, he smiles in secret.
He knows what’s next.
Distracted, the customers squint against the brightness that flashes out from behind the figure standing on the stage, blinding them momentarily.
For the first time, the stranger reacts, turning his head towards the stage, his intense eyes narrowed at the silhouetted figure that is by now identifiable as being a woman.
The lights behind her dim as others above her gradually bathe her in soft light. A hushed “ooo” fills the club and one name flits around in layers of whispers.
Someone at the bar, awestruck, asks who she is. Jack leans in.
Boss’s wife. Young. Sexy as hell. Made a name for herself at this club but when the Boss noticed her, all that changed. One day she was a flapper strutting her stuff on stage for the likes of us, the next she’s a queen. Hidden away from scrutiny and kept under lock and key. The Boss is a jealous man and he doesn’t care who knows it.
The curious customer wonders out loud if she’s ever been back at the club since her old glory days. Jack is only too happy to offer his two cents.
There were rumours of an affair; of a young upstart who thought he’d aim for the jack pot and managed to escape only by the skin of his teeth. No body knew who he was, but heard stories of an ugly fight, Ruby’s scream, a gash on the neck of the youngster, a chase and a quick getaway. Never to be heard of again. Jack shakes his head. This town. You never know, do ya?
Jack glances over at the stranger who doesn’t appear to be listening, transfixed by the sight before him.
And who wouldn’t be.
She’s wrapped in a black, diamond studded bodice that fits her like a glove. Covering more than it reveals, it still manages to leave little to the imagination. The light and dark play teasing tricks with her body, throwing her perfect, milky white skin into relief against the black gown while deepening the shadows of her neckline. The depths of which make the most resilient man in the place break into a sweat. She always was a tease.
The luxuriant hair that gave her her name falls like liquid fire around her bare shoulders.
Full, blood red lips form the words “Well hello boys” and the crowd replies with enthusiastic applause and whistling. Her voice is husky and raw. They’ve missed her.
Her hands are held behind her back and she smiles coyly to compliment her oddly girlish posture. She shrugs. “It’s been a while since I’ve been here. And I’ve missed you.”
She shakes her head and pouts slightly as she executes the line perfectly. There was never a lie they wanted to believe more.
Her eyes seem too blue to be true and glint like sapphires – uncut, cruel perfection. Unsmilingly, she studies the crowd for a moment and almost without warning, she starts to sing.
Another old favourite.
My Funny Valentine. Sweet, comic Valentine. You make me smile with my heart…
She sings the song like she means it.
The band does not accompany her but look on silently instead, instruments frozen and redundant in their hands.
The stranger stands and walks slowly towards the stage. He is not hesitant, even in the semi-darkness. The regulars, taken in as they are by the siren on stage, can’t help but be diverted by the newcomer’s odd behaviour.
He walks until he’s standing in her direct line of sight and finally, the icy blue eyes meet his.
…to be continued.