It was an older one, a slower one than the patrons were accustom to, but it was what was in her heart to sing.
Hold me high
Swing me low
Bring me to the rosy glow
Of hearth in home with love in hand
Hold me high
Over the land
The band picked up the beat, a slow, rhythmic tempo. It rose through the sheen of smoke and it helped her voice reach every corner of the club.
Give me laughter
Hold me tight
Fill my heart with sweet sunlight
We two under the starlit sky
Give me laughter
Don’t be shy
Her voice fades out, letting the music roll out over this evening’s crowd. The bass, soft snare and the tinkle of the aged piano held them. The crème de la crème of society sat at white clothed tables drinking dark liquids in darker suits. The scene was a familiar one, the Lonely Hill was the premier cabaret club in the city. She was their shining star, night after night. The band slowly faded out, leaving her alone with the last verse.
Kiss me gently
Silvered words of pure delight
Take my hand, come share this view
Kiss me gently
Keep me true.
Silence stares back at her as the last notes echo out. Then the applause builds like a storm. She takes a bow, the same measured bow she take every night, the smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. A thank you with no warmth. It were as though she were a marionette, someone else was pulling her strings and she was just along for the ride.
She leaves behind the half closed red velvet curtain, the smile holds just long enough to reach her dressing room. The stiff bourbon in front of the vanity takes the last of the mask away and once again she is herself. The framed picture of Lily Boardman looks up at her, she hasn’t been to her grave in more than a while and she makes a mental note to do so. Her thoughts betray her and turn to the one person she wished she could forget. John Kowalski. The man was a reckless arrogant whirlwind that caught anyone and anything up in his crusade. The thought of him ghosts a smile on her lips, even if he did screw up her life.
The last of the bourbon helps her shake the stiffness from her shoulders and she turns her attention to the dozens of bouquets adorning the small dressing room. Roses, orchids, tulips. She smiles before she recalls that a few of her admirers were on the wrong side of appreciation. She remembers the apartment door being ajar, the flowers, the photographs. Her .38 detective special and the police put a quick stop to that. Now he was behind bars with all the other quacks. A small note lies on top of a bunch of white lilies, the tight scrawl that John Kowalski passes off as writing. Her heart misses a beat as she unfolds it, it reads simply: I need your help.
The rain came down lazily on the corner of Mains and Faith. Not the most unobtrusive corner to be waiting on. Her curls were under a green velvet beret that matched her coat. One hand holding a black umbrella over her, the other keeping her collar high against the snaking wind.
It had begun with a brief but wholly John Kowalski note. I need your help it had said. Against better judgement she had decided to once again walk into the hurricane, to come face to face after all this time. But she hadn’t come face to face, all she had now for weeks were a string of one line notes leading her to seemingly random street corners, alleyways and cafes. She would wait half an hour before another message would reach her, a paper boy, passer by or waiter. It always bid her thanks and safe journey home. Always in Kowalski’s tight scrawl. Luck must like John, because if she did finally come face to face, well, hell hath no fury.
She dips a red nailed hand into her coat pocket to ward off the chill, brushing against the pearled grip of her .38 special, loaded and ready, one thing that stuck from her time with John was it was better to be prepared then coming up short in any situation. She finally sees him, coming up the street, trench held tight against the wind, hat tipped low to keep off the rain. The man who started it all. A vehicle revs in the distance, tires screech but her attention is on the man approaching her. John is getting closer but he doesn’t call out, he doesn’t look up. He trips, stumbles on the pavement. His coat flies open, his head snaps up but it’s too late. The trap is undone, up comes her .38 aimed dead at the impostor. He fumblingly raises the concealed Thompson. Sighting down the snub barrel, heart in her throat she pressures the trigger, squeezing and not pulling, the way John had taught her. White smoke curls listlessly up from the barrel, the shot echoes out.