Come Alive

Page 20

The second I was away from her and the bartender was handing me a Jack and Coke, local priced, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, a layer of gauze peeled away from my eyes. I leaned back against the bar and watched as the song ended and Perry and Maximus went back to the table. She didn’t look for me. I knew she was smarting over the whole Ambrosia thing, and even though I planned to turn her down, Perry’s insecurity wasn’t going to believe that. Besides, I probably had been staring at Ambrosia like a fool, just like Maximus was staring at her right now. I guess I wasn’t exactly the man to instill a sense of faith in people.

After I downed my drink and ordered another one, plus another Mint Julep for Perry, I went back to the table. Everyone was talking about ghosts, some of the worst they’d seen, and Rose was doing most of the gabbing.

I passed Perry her drink, to which she politely, albeit stiffly, thanked me. She turned to Rose. “So tell me, do you just see ghosts or is there more?”

She cracked a rare smile. “There’s more. If I concentrate hard enough, I can put people in a trance.”

“Like the Beard Man at your bar,” I said.

“Beard Man? Oh, Daryl. Yes. Like that. He never heard a word we were talking about. In fact, he wouldn’t have heard anyone. It’s almost like an invisibility cloak of sorts, comes in handy on occasion. I reckon it would come more in handy if I used my ability for bad, not good, but that’s only ‘cause being bad comes up more often.”

“Is that it?” Perry asked.

“That’s not enough?”

“How long have you had the whole trance hypnotist ability? Do you know where you got it from?”

She wiggled her lips and then said, “No idea. Just sort of discovered it one day.”

I called bullshit on that. But perhaps she didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe not in front of Maximus or Ambrosia. Maybe not in front of me.

Soon, while Perry got to discussing our time with Sassy(quatch), the band began to file back on stage. I felt like I was about to waste an opportunity if I didn’t act now.

I got out of my chair and stepped onto the low stage. The guitarist looked up at me in surprise. “Where y’at, son?”

“There’s a woman I’d like to impress,” I told him. “And she does love the sound of my voice. Do you think I could sing the first song? There’s a round of drinks for you fellas in it.”

That was all it took to seal the deal. I told them the song, knowing they’d be able to swing it, then grabbed the mic and brought it up to my mouth.

“Good evening, ladies and gentleman,” I said, my voice booming across the bar. Perry, Rose, Maximus, and Ambrosia all swiveled their heads in my direction while most of the patrons looked up in passing interest. “I know I’m not who you expected to see tonight, but the fellas here were gracious enough to grant me this song, this song I dedicate to the beautiful, the sexy, the crazy, Perry Palomino.”

I gestured to her dramatically with the swing of my hand, and even though we were already in a red light’s glow, I knew her face was turning redder.

I looked at the guitarist and said, “Hit it, boys.”

They sprang into a sparse but soulful rendition of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.”

A few people in the bar clapped at the old favorite, including Rose and Ambrosia, who were looking impressed when I hit those first notes with smoothness to spare. Maximus, however, was looking at me like he wanted to light me on fire. It didn’t matter what he thought. This song was for Perry.

“I’ll be the moon when the sun goes down,” I sang to her and only her, “just to let you know that I’ll be around.”

I had sung a similar song to her in Seattle, back at the Shownet Christmas party, the start of that beautiful, devastating night. At the time, I sung “This Guy’s In Love with You,” and I sung it with as much feeling as I could muster, because I was in love with her, I was in love with her deeply, and that song was the only way I knew how to express myself. She had no idea how I felt, even though I felt like half the Shownet staff must have had some inkling after that.

Now I had told her how I felt, she knew I loved her, and yet this Otis Redding song held as much passion and conviction as the one before. Because I still felt like what I had in my hands could slip through my fingers at any moment, and what I thought I might have in the end could turn out to be nothing at all.

When I was done, a layer of sweat on my brow, my hands shaking from adrenaline, the smoke in the bar was thick and I could barely see our table. But I could feel Perry watching me. I hoped she realized every word I sung was true.

“How about that from a white boy,” the guitarist said lazily into the mic. “Everyone give him another hand, his Redding almost puts mine to shame.”

I knew that wasn’t true, but I took the compliment anyway and went to the bar, ordering the band a round of drinks.

Perry appeared at my side, looking shy and embarrassed.

I smiled softly at her. “Hey, kiddo.”

She swallowed, licking her lips. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For that…for…trying to make me feel better.”


She shook her head quickly. “I’m sorry. I’m being a jerk, I know. I just…I see the way that girl looks at you, how beautiful and thin she is, how you guys looked so good together, and I…I panicked. Dex, I’m not used to being with anyone, let alone someone like you. You have no idea how fucking hot you are.”

“And you have no idea how goddamn sexy, beautiful, and amazing you are,” I answered back.

“You forgot crazy.”

I put my hands around her waist and pulled her to me. “Baby, we are both crazy. That’s why we’re made for each other.”

Then I kissed her hard, not caring who saw. And there were quite a few people that did. They applauded again and we both grinned against each other’s lips.

Now that we got some of those misunderstandings out of the way, the rest of the night went smoothly. I pulled Perry onto my lap, so Ambrosia turned her charms to Maximus for a while, then decided to make her rounds of the bar, seeing a bunch of people she knew. Rose proceeded to get a little drunk, which you’d think would make her looser and more carefree, but it didn’t. If anything, she got more uptight, more worried, her eyes scanning the bar.

Pretty soon things were getting loud and rowdy and people were dancing. Ambrosia was dancing from man to man, all of them fawning over her, while I kept Perry close to me, trying to keep my eyes on her, even though sometimes I felt compelled to look in Ambrosia’s direction. When we worked up a sweat, Perry excused herself to go to the bar and get us some water, sensible girl that she was. I sat back down at our table and watched her go, enjoying the view of her ass, the swing of her hips, the shake of her hair. She seemed a little more confident than she was earlier, and while I hoped it would stick around for a while, I knew it wasn’t going to be an overnight thing with her. It didn’t matter though, she was worth all the effort and then some.

Perry was being chatted up by a huge black dude who had eyes for only her cleavage. I would have stepped in, especially since he looked like he was saying some pretty cheesy shit, but Perry was giving him her patented “Piss off” look and blatantly ignoring him.

The man kept on leering at her though, and I continued to put faith in Perry’s handling of the situation when the unthinkable happened.

In mid-sentence, whatever gross pick-up line he was trying, the man stopped talking. He reached up to his throat and held it, eyes bulging, skin growing slick with sweat that glistened under the red lights. Perry looked at him in concern at first, followed by shock. The man keeled over onto the floor, hitting it with a thud that shook the bar.

Someone screamed, then everyone screamed. People ran. Perry stumbled backward, looking horrified, more at herself as if she did something to him, but I knew she hadn’t. Someone bent over the man and felt for his pulse. I read his lips. “Dead.”

I got up and pushed my way through the frightened people, making my way over to Perry and taking her into my arms.

“Dex,” she whimpered into my chest as I stroked the back of her head. “He just fell.”

“I know,” I told her, watching as someone else listened for his heartbeat and verified what the other man had said. He was dead. Heart attack, who knew.

The ambulance pulled up just as we were leaving. I wanted to get out of there before the police started pulling people aside for eye-witness reports. We were done dealing with the police after what happened in Snowcrest, and Rose was quick to tell us we did the right thing, especially considering the way the cops were in NOLA. They could help you or royally screw you.

The five of us went around the corner, nervously peeking around at the flashing lights. We saw the man’s body get pushed out in a body bag and placed into the ambulance.

Ambrosia lit up a cigarette—I’d seen her smoking socially in the bar—and Perry stuck her hand out.

“I’d like one please,” she demanded, her voice shaking.

I would have said something about that, but she’d just seen a man die right beside her. She could have the whole pack if she wanted it.

While Perry smoked, Ambrosia told us about the man. She’d danced with him earlier. His name was Tuffy G (because of course it was), and he was an okay guy, he just got a bit pervy when he got drunk. As far as she knew, he was a bit overweight but there was nothing wrong with him. He was in his early thirties and lived somewhat close to the haunted house we were investigating. He tiled bathrooms for a living.

“Well, I guess sometimes people just die,” I said.

Ambrosia shot me a dirty look that still managed to look sexual. She flicked away her cigarette butt. “You know, for someone who sees ghosts, you don’t seem to have a lot of respect for the dead.”

“Dex doesn’t have a lot of respect for the living either,” Maximus put in.

“Shut it, ginger balls.”

“We should get going,” Rose interrupted us before we could get into another sniping war. “I have to open tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry that ended in a bit of a bust,” Ambrosia said apologetically. “Still hope you had a nice time. And I wish you the best of luck with the house. If you need anything before you go, here’s my card.” She handed it to me and I slipped it in my pocket. She looked us all in the eye. “Seriously, if you need anything at all, I’m happy to help. I don’t care how ludicrous it sounds. I like you guys.”

Rose grumbled something and then started walking down the street toward her truck. We said goodbye to Ambrosia and hurried after her.

Back at the bed and breakfast, Perry was still in a state of shell-shock. I ran her a bath, making it overflow with sweet-smelling bubbles, and led her over to it. I bathed her while she sat there, and I made her drink a glass of bourbon that I’d bought earlier in the day.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked her as I ran a washcloth down her milky white back.

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