Soutee in New OrleansDale Wiley / Mystery & Detective / Western
- PART TWO -
By Dale Wiley
Other works by Dale Wiley:
There Is a Fountain (Paperback)
There Is a Fountain (e-book)
The Intern (Paperback)The Intern (e-book)
The Intern (audiobook)
Southern Gothic (Hardcover)
Southern Gothic (e-book)
The Jefferson Bible
Copyright © 2017 Dale Wiley
All rights reserved.
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- PART TWO -
The bald pianist started into “That’s Amore” and the tune suited him a little better. He dripped some Dino over the room, and even sang a little. He could make a living on that stuff. His whole demeanor changed, no longer straining to make the music work. This was his bread and butter. I took in that letter, line by line, read it three times through, then stuffed it in my pocket. I went back to the bar to tell the others the news. Smitty could see it: The money and his new friend were gone. I tried to ask Mark some baseball questions, but it all seemed forced and dry. I ordered a double of Maker’s Mark from the bar, and knew that was likely just a start. Janice put her hand on my arm, and Donna tried to help too. I felt right embarrassed, because my concern at that moment was for Smitty, trying to keep him focused and not thinking he was going to be facing criminal charges.
I could tell that my nerves were bothering him. His face grew more grim, and during the few minutes I tried to keep the conversation going, he aged a good five or six years. His face grew long and ashen. This wasn’t working.
“Look,” I said, as I drank that double down like it was ice water. “We all know there’s a lot going on. We’ve gotta take care of Smitty, first off, and as you might guess, our little friend didn’t stick around to get the score of tonight’s game. Did you win, Mark?”
He smiled. “That we did.”
“Good. We’ve gotta get you traded and up to the Majors so I can visit you there. We need you in a National League city so I can come see you in St. Louis and avoid having to watch the designated hitter. This place ain’t giving me no good mojo, that’s for sure.”
I looked over at Smitty, who looked like I just ate his last piece of birthday cake.
“Now Smitty,” I said, looking straight in his eyes, trying to make him believe he was the only person in the place with me. That’s easier to do with the ladies, but I was going to make an extra special good effort for him. “We’ve all made mistakes. This was a bad one on several levels, but everybody’s just damn worried about you. I was took. Mark needs you to come join us in one of them air-conditioned suites when he gets the next call, and after talking to her, your wife would sure love to hear from you.”
He shook his head. “She’s gotta know what happened. I feel like a damned heel.”
Janice, a natural-born nurturer, reached over and touched him on the arm. He didn’t pull away.
“Well, let’s just get by this little by little. I’ll handle the judge, and he’ll handle everybody else.”
Smitty looked up with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “You’ll do that for me?”
“Smitty, you’ve been a rock-solid a friend as long as I’ve had ‘em. Don’t worry. We’re gonna straighten it all out.”
I didn’t tell him, cause it would have just depressed him more, but I wasn’t going back with them. Donna and Janice wouldn’t like it either, but I had a mission. I was going to New Orleans in search of a woman who was very likely a dastardly criminal, clearly in need of some correction and it was my intent to restore order to the world. The idea made me giddy.
But the Peabody didn’t hold any more stories. Our friend behind the piano went back to Berlin and Gershwin and I lost interest. The setting was just as regal, but the energy slowly left the room, and the whole scene had the feeling of the last dance when the world was about to scatter. All of a sudden the weight of the day hit me like a sucker punch. The mood had been dampened enough that there wasn’t a thought of going anywhere else and continuing the festivities. We were all headed for bed, without any additional stories or carousing. They didn’t know that before they slept it off, I would be gone.