The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 49

the man who wasnt thereThey all arrive at the ball, dressed to kill—especially Jordan. She’s got silver and iron stilettos in her hair, as well as quartz and lapis lazuli as jewelry. Brian came armed with holy water, blessed salt and a couple weapons. He’s still feeling the influence of the Rider, but asked Dwight to sock him in the shoulder if he gets out of hand.

Brian laughed. Music started, a song that he’d loved since he was a little kid. It was something his grandmother used to sing. She would dance him around, holding him on her feet, while she sang it. He went over to Jordan.

“May I have this dance, Miss Barrett?” He held out his hand to her.

With a surprised smile, Jordan accepted. “Why, Mr. Casey, I’d be delighted.”

The band started singing To Love Somebody written by the BeeGees. Although he wasn’t a very good singer, Brian could carry a tune. He held Jordan close, singing along with the band. “You don’t know what it’s like to love somebody the way I love you.”

Jordan held him close, swaying to the slow music. This was how it should always be, them together like normal teenagers at a dance. Afterward, making out in his car, maybe getting carried away in the back seat. She grinned, snuggling close.

When the song had finished, Miles beckoned them over. “I almost forgot. When you and Jordan were out, I went by to see Grandma and I got this for you.”

He held up a small, worn leather bag. Tipping it into his palm, he showed them a ring. The band was white gold, set with the same eight stones Brian had in his medallion.

“Grandma said this was his wedding ring. Slip it on your left hand.”

The ring was too big for Brian’s ring finger, so he slipped it on his left index finger. Almost immediately, he felt a tingle. Fingers of doubt scurried up and down his back, lodging at the base of his spine. Movement by the front door alerted him and he turned.

A couple stood framed in the doorway. They weren’t locals, that much was obvious by their clothing. He was tall, muscular, dressed in a black tailcoat, a white shirt, blood red vest, with matching tie, and black top hat. His face and hair were as black as his coat. She was nearly as tall, spare, sleek haired. The woman looked like something out of the Roaring Twenties. She wore a long sheath dress covered in black and silver spangles. A long strand of black beads circled her lean throat. She carried a cigarette in an ebony holder. She was pale with bright red lips. She caught Jordan’s eye, smiling. Jordan shivered. Something clutched at her chest, was it fear? She couldn’t be sure. Her lips moved in a silent warding spell. The woman flinched, turning slightly away. Jordan’s smile was predatory.

“Who are they?” Dwight asked from behind him.

“No idea,” Brian replied. “But I think trouble just arrived.”

“We spent the better part of the day warding this damn place,” Miles muttered. “How the hell did they get in?”

“Public place,” Heath replied, teeth clenched.

“They could be a distraction,” Claude said. “Spread out. Look, but don’t engage.”

Smiling, they wandered off. Andre and Louisa kept the black clad couple in sight while the others walked around, dancing and shmoozing. They spotted two other couples they didn’t recognize. Of course, having strangers show up to the ball wasn’t all that unusual. The fact that all the couples wore anachronistic clothing and didn’t seem to fit in, was.

Not long after the arrival of the strangers, Brian noticed that the other guests were glassy eyed, complacent. They hardly spoke, they didn’t smile. They wandered around as if they were asleep on their feet. He passed the word among the chosen. Wondering what had caused such a sudden change, he inspected the refreshment table. The food was fine, but the punch had a strange aura to it.

“Don’t drink the punch,” he told his friends. “They’ve done something to it. I’m going to walk around with salt.” He handed a small flask to Jordan. “That’s holy water. Put it in the punch. May not do much good at this point, but it’s better than nothing.”

She wandered over, casually pouring the water into the bowl. It fizzled and steamed for a moment, then settled down. She slipped the bottle into her purse and walked back over to Brian.

“Done.”

The band didn’t seem to be affected by the punch. In fact, they seemed so unconcerned about the lack of audience response, Brian had a look at them. They had an aspect rather like the strangers who had walked in. He couldn’t put into words what disturbed him about any of them, but he couldn’t close his eyes to it.

Brian walked over to the low stage and whispered to the band leader. “Hey, could you play something for my girl and me?”

“Sure,” he said in a bored tone. “If we know it.”

“She likes the old stuff, like from the Seventies. Could you play Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac?”

The leader flashed a half smile in Brian’s direction. “Sure thing.”

Brian handed him a folded bill. Inside, he’d left a small amount of salt. The bill was so balled up, the band leader unfolded and smoothed it. Becoming immediately alert, his dark lined eyes caught Brian’s.

“You think you’re funny, kid?”

“Sorry?” Brian acted like a dumb kid, holding his hand to his ear as if he couldn’t hear.

“Don’t mess with me. You know what.”

“Just wanna hear a song, man. But if you don’t wanna play it, gimme my money back.”

The man snatched the five dollar bill away, stuffing it in a jar on the stage. “We’ll play the damn song. Just don’t give me dirty money again.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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