Dateline The Jazz Club: November 5th, 20:29
The saxophonist and theremin player jam for about fifteen minutes before taking a break. Nothing is announced, and the thin man can’t tell what’s going on. Was that the opening act? Are either of these players part of the trio? Where is the trio? Which if any of these people is Peter Andreessen? Information is thin. A guy in a black and white striped shirt brings out an electric organ and begins setting it up while the theremin player hits the bar. For a moment the thin man forgets about his assignment and allows himself to just enjoy the scene.
Maya is sitting with Philip, McKnight, and the other young man from before. This group as currently constructed does not look particularly permeable, so the thin man bides his time. After a while, the organ player starts playing a riff, high on the keyboard, lots of black keys. The saxophone player comes back out and act two of the show is underway. This duo is actually really good, and the thin man envies the organ player’s facility. The dude can play.
A few stools down from the thin man and Ali sits a woman with dark blonde hair, fully made up, wearing a fur shawl and spiky leather boots. She looks to be in her mid-40s, give or take a few years. She addresses herself to the thin man.
“Sit here,” she says, gesturing to the stool next to her.
The thin man considers this request. On the one hand, she doesn’t seem like his usual type, for another thing, he’s working. That said, the thin man is a gentleman of a kind, and doesn’t like to say no to ladies. He moves over to next to her.
“You’re not from here,” she says. Not a question.
“No. I just got in from Singapore.” This much is true.
“You’re cute,” she says. “Buy me a drink.”
“What would you like?”
“Manhattan. He knows how I like it,” she says, gesturing to the bartender. This woman, the thin man takes it, is a regular. “I’m Vivian,” she says.
“Jack Bishop,” says the thin man.
“Hi Jack Bishop,” she says and lays her right hand on his arm. “I’m glad I met you tonight.”
The thin man’s usual type she may not be, however she is a well-put together woman for sure and her initial moves seem pretty promising. The thin man takes her hand below the bar and they exchange smiles. The thin man sneaks a glance at Ali, but the driver’s face is impassive. Ali has seen it all—therefore sees nothing.
The organ and saxophone set turns out to be a longer than the first, and after about 20 minutes the thin man sees Maya heading back to the lobby, alone. Vivian is going to have to wait; he’ll be back later, if possible. He slides along the left side of the room back to the lobby where he finds Maya, smoking a menthol.
“May I join you,” he asks, taking out his American Spirits.
“Sure, want a light?”
“That would be fantastic.”
Maya lights the thin man’s cigarette as he looks around. The theremin player has established herself behind the merch table and there are about 20 different items for sale, CDs, vinyl, some kind of flash drive thing with music on it, etc. Peter Andreessen is one prolific individual, thinks the thin man, if there even is a Peter Andreessen. The thin man remembers that Philip had said that Maya liked action, and the plurality of merch choices gives him an idea.
“Want to play a game?” he asks Maya.
“What kind of game?”
The thin man takes her arm and steers her over to the merch table. “Pick a number between one and twenty.” The thin man knows that very few people, beautiful temptresses not excluded, can resist picking a number.
Maya flushes slightly. “14,” she says. “I like 14.”
“14 is my lucky number,” says the thin man. “Let’s count.” And he starts counting off the items from the top left one by one until he gets to 14.
“I’ll take this one,” he tells the theremin player. She looks at the CD and smiles. “That’s one of my favorites,” she says.
“I’m sure it’s awesome,” says the thin man. He pays for the record with some of Grey’s Euros and turns back to Maya.
“May I buy you a white lady madam?”
She laughs lightly.
“Are you trying to pick me up? Because you should know I’m taken.”
The thin man has already decided to take a direct approach.
“I’m not trying to pick you up,” he says. “I’m just hitting on you.”
Maya blushes outright. “Are you always so straightforward?”
“Just a straight arrow, that’s me.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” says Maya. But she stays put.
The thin man decides it’s time to tack back to safer ground.
“Have you known Alan long?” he asks, even though he already has already gleaned this information from Philip.
“Sure, I’m his bae,” says Maya.
“What’s a bae?”
“It means before anyone else, silly.” Three weeks and already a bae, thinks the thin man.
“Oh, so you’ve been together a while then?”
“Actually no, I’m not really his bae. I’m just the slut on the side.”
Now this is information the thin man can get behind. Time to push his chips in.
“Do you have a cellphone?” he asks. Yes, she does.
“Let me borrow it for a second.” Maya looks at the thin man quizzically.
“What for?” she asks.
“I’ll do your chart. Do you know your birth time?”
“I think so. It’s like 1:34 in the morning.” Maya has her phone out and the thin man slides it into his own hands.
“May I open a browser?”
“I guess so,” says Maya. “I mean if you are going to do my chart and all.”
“What’s your birthday?”
“February 3rd, 1989.”
“Ah, an Aquarius. Figures.”
“What do you mean ‘figures’?” she asks, “what figures?”
“Well I just mean that you’re an air sign, which makes sense to me. I’m an air sign too. You think fast and move fast. I like that about you already.”
“Oh you do do you. Well we’ll see about that.” She pauses, and then, because having your chart read is just basically addictive, she asks, “What else do you see?”
The thin man points to the glyph representing Mars. “Mars is in your 6th house—that’s a strong placement for a career woman. I’d say you are a powerful force in your own sphere, am I right?”
Maya smiles coyly. “Maybe. Maybe I am. Is there anything else about my career?”
“Well Mars is square Venus in the 2nd house. That’s interesting. That could mean a lot of things. It might mean that your work life and love life are connected. Maybe there’s something there that’s being worked out.”
Now you might think that the thin man is playing it a little too fast and loose here, but he knows what he’s doing. He’s no expert in astrology, but he’d picked up a bit from a bartender called Jessica who he’d worked with back on the cruise ship. Jessica was a pro, and would read customers’ charts on the regular. The thin man had watched her performance many a time. From Jessica he knew that when reading someone’s chart you can basically say anything as long as you ground it in a little actual astrological theory. So it was with the Mars-Venus square, a perfect opening into Maya’s secret world.
“Are you suggesting I’m sleeping with my boss?“ she asks. “Because he’s not my boss. And anyway I’m barely sleeping with him.”
“I didn’t mean anything of the kind,” replies the thin man smoothly. “From looking at your chart I’d say it’s more like there is something in the realm of love that will be a turning point for you professionally one way or another. I’m not sure what that could be.”
“Oh my gosh, it’s exciting,” says Maya. “Tell me more about my chart.”
Running out of ideas, the thin man stalls. “Let me look more carefully. There’s a lot here.”
“Am I complex?” she asks.
“Very complex. Complex and deep I’d say. A lot of planets below the horizon.”
Before the thin man can delve further into the mysteries of Maya’s chart, two men approach. The one in front is heavyset and looks to be a native Italian. The other one is lighter with blonde hair and a slight sneer already in place. The thin man guesses he is from Northern Europe, Germany maybe. The heavyset man squares his stance just a foot or two from the thin man and Maya.
“You two are getting pretty cozy back here, aren’t you?”
“And this matters to you how exactly?” asks the thin man.
“She’s my sister,” says the man, “and I don’t want some creep like you hanging around her.”
The man was not Maya’s brother, this much the thin man knew. However he played along.
“You have a very interesting sister,” he says “do you know she’s a natal Aquarius?”
“How about this,” says the man, “how about you shut the fuck up and fuck off?”
“Now that’s not very nice,” says the thin man. “I thought we were just starting to get along.”
The blonde man steps forward. “We’re not asking twice pal,” he says. He’s seen one two many movies this guy. The thin man turns to Maya. “Looks like you got the manners in the family,” he says. But Maya turns away.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I had probably better get back to my group.” Kin they may not be; however the men have some kind of hold over her, and she heads back to where the show is kicking off once again.
The thin man is prepared to beat a strategic retreat when the heavyset man starts in again.
“What were you doing on her phone?”
The thin man considers his response carefully. On the one hand he could tell the truth—we were just checking out her birth chart—but that might only further aggravate the man. The thin man guesses that these two are some kind of minders sent from Pelican corp. to keep an eye on Maya. They are probably worried about her phone containing sensitive information. Before the thin man can reply Mitchell Grey appears as if from nowhere.
“Is there some kind of a problem gentlemen?”
“No problem old timer,” says the heavyset man, “this guy was just hassling my sister.”
“I don’t think so,” says Grey. “I don’t think that is what was going on at all.” Grey may be in his sixties, but as he squares his shoulders and lifts his chin slightly it’s clear that he is not a guy to mess with. The heavyset man registers this, takes a beat. Slowly he pulls back the right flap of his jacket to reveal a gun on his hip.
“What’s that?” asks the thin man.
“It’s a gun.”
“Let me have it.”
The man barks out a laugh. “The fuuck are you two?”
“We’re not the guys you kill,” replies the thin man, “We’re the guys you buy.”
“Well, I’m the guy you kill,” says Grey, “but not tonight I think.”
The heavyset man has heard enough, and balls his fists, holding them slightly in front of his body. “You motherf…” he starts, but gets no further because Ali is already behind him and twists his right arm up behind his back, hard. The man yelps in pain and Ali slams him against the wall. The German takes a step back and raises his hands slightly as if in surrender, his sneer turned to fear.
“Looks like you’re outnumbered now,” says Grey as cool as can be. Why don’t you put it back in your pants and let’s go have a little talk.”
to be continued…