Man Sings the Blues
what work out? Oh, with Aubrey. Why are you asking, so you can tell me you told
me it was stupid? If you remember, it was me who told you I was fucked going
what’s your trip? I’m not bugging you about why you’re here in the Brass Rail fucking
with me instead of at home with your wife. Shit. Fuck it. I’m out.
two nice houses of the four on Lupine Court have realtor signs in front of them
now since Aubrey’s place burned to a blackened sunken shell. I keep coming back,
sitting in my car across from the court on the through street. I come at all
hours just to watch, waiting to see if someone shows up.
how this all started. I met her in a bar, she called and said someone was going
to hurt her. I came and sat here and watched as a woman got out of a dark SUV
and set the house on fire. I went in, shot some dude, and took her to my place.
It was good for a while, but I kept
asking her questions; normal questions you might ask a person you’ve kept from
getting killed, like who? And why?
always said the same thing, and the more she did the more hardheaded I got.
please don’t ask. I love you and what you did for me, but you’d never forgive.
No one could, ever. Just love me, Billy.
Day family are hereditary hardheads though, so I kept it up, and I pushed her
too hard. One afternoon she cleared out. She left a note.
don’t look for me. You don’t understand. I’ll always treasure our time
together. I love you Billy, take care.
here at Lupine Court, listening to Miles with the mute, watching and wondering
what the fuck I’m doing. I know everyone
who lives on Lupine Court has something they saw, who went in and out,
observations about Aubrey. I’ve knocked on all the doors. No one answers, not
even the guy with the junk cars in the yard. I call him Steady Eddie, because
this man ain’t moving his cars for nothing or nobody, no way. I’m just waiting
until I see him.
he’s at my passenger window. Dude must be watching me. I let it down. He’s
calm, not angry and looks like he’s not
going to act like a tough guy. I’m all smiley.
How ya doin’?
you keep coming around here, man? You some kind of cop?
thing from a cop. I’m trying to find the woman who lived in that house.
dead, burnt up in the fire.
she didn’t. She may be dead now, but not in the fire.
you know that?
I was here that night. And so were you.
you saying, I had something to do with that shit?
Just that I saw you in your yard when I left. What did you see?
seen a Midnight Blue Escalade come in, a chick get out, walk up to the front, toss
a bundle, turn right around and leave in the Caddy. Couple minutes and the
whole place was on fire. I call 911, keep watching and see a dude come out
carrying what looked like a dead body. You, I guess. They got in a car across
the street and rolled out.
I didn’t get no license numbers, no descriptions of nobody, right? I ain’t
up for any kind of shady shit with
them people so I just watch, don’t get involved.
makes you think they were shady?
you know what, I told you I ain’t involved. Know what I’m saying? I will say I
was surprised to see a little proper looking chick like her involved with some
bad ass gangsters. Look like you care for her, that right?
closely at me. He can see. He’s big and dark, a watch cap pulled down almost to
your name man?
B. Check out Sleepy Batiste for yourself. Be real careful when you do, and
don’t come bothering me no more.
bar where I met Aubrey, Mr. Wright’s, is not downtown or out on the highway.
It’s midtown by the malls, behind some carpet and mattress places. They’re
hiding it because overcrowded isn’t their business model. The exclusive clientele
will take care of them as long as they keep the place private.
can get in there by reputation. I’m definitely not a high roller, not a big
mouth, not a psycho. What I am is a long-time pro with certain skills. I’m
known, and this is where I go to be utilized.
unlike me, everybody in Mr. Wright’s knows who Sleepy is. I’m properly
respectful of his bad-ass-ness but I’m not scared to approach him on this. Call
me nuts or even suicidal, I don’t care. I see him at a table near the bandstand
and I go over.
Can I talk to you?
slow turn toward the source of this rude interruption. An even slower appraisal
and then the clichéd response.
got a long frame enclosed in a tightly tailored medium grey suit, Italian wool
with a subtle weave. One leg hangs over the other one without mussing his
pressed pants, while one lengthy arm encircles a gorgeous redhead’s shoulders
and the other extends forward to tap an ash into an ashtray. His eyes are the
reason he’s called Sleepy. They’re long-lashed slits, with enough cold coming
through to let you know that Sleepy may be his name, but it is definitely not
you know a friend of mine. Aubrey Wells. Have you seen her recently?
take a step forward. A big guy at the table eases his chair back and unbuttons
his jacket. Nobody moves but the redhead. She wants to disappear. Sleepy stows
the cigarette in the ashtray, pats her hand, unwinds his arm from her shoulders
and smiles a dismissive smile as he points a long finger at me.
who are you to her?
Billy Day. I was with her the night you burned her house down.
smile switches off and he shifts in his chair in a way that sets his big buddy
on edge and makes the redhead want to crawl under the table. Sleepy is now wide
loose and powerful, and in some way light, I lean over him and switch my smile
she tell you what I did for her that night? Did she tell you how I made her
feel clean again? Did she tell you I’d do anything at all for her?
moves like a cat. He stands and looks down at my face from just inches away. His
eyes are something like a cat’s now, definitely intelligent but definitely not
you playing with fire.
is this lady your fire-starter?
eyes flick right to the big guy. Sleepy moves back and I move with him, turning
him toward the blow that’s coming. He’s a head taller than me and I bunch myself,
lift and throw him into the hulk just as the hulk unloads but tries to pull his
punch. Sleepy catches it glancing off his forehead. Probably hurts anyway.
course there’s another guy, the one out of nowhere who slides behind me and grabs
me, tries to bring me to my knees. We wrestle some while Sleepy and the hulk
get untangled. They’re too late. I slip loose and head for the door. I’m
running, juking like Walter Payton, heading for the nearest corner to turn. A
couple of shots fired, but I’m gone from there. I hide in an alley a bit and
then go get my car.
don’t want to go home because I know if I do I won’t sleep anyway, so I drive
back to Lupine Court. I can’t think why
I believe hanging around there will give me an answer about Aubrey’s whereabouts.
I’m feeling unusual, that is to say, lost. Why do I care so much? I pull up
across the street, but I don’t shut the car off. In a minute I’m driving again,
pointed to The Brass rail to start a bender.
am I sitting down here at the end of the bar? Maybe so I don’t have to talk to
anybody. Aw, shit man, I’m sorry. What are you drinking? I guess you never get
tired of that shit. Yeah, cheers.
I am kind of down. I miss her and I keep looking but I can’t find her. All she
ever told me was that she was from California, had come here with a band, that they
fired her here and she’d been scuffling gigs on her own since. No, thanks,
partner, I need to keep it clean so nobody gets hurt but me. Thanks for the
offer though. OK, I’ll be here all weekend. And hey! Jenny said hello. I see
her around. She said to tell you hello.