Quarter Castle Publishing
Published: November 01, 2013
ISBN (Paperback; Standard; 190 pages): 978-1-927625-04-0
5.5 x 8.5 inches
ISBN (Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5 inches; OpenDyslexic; 195 pages): 978-1-927625-06-4
ISBN (eBook; approximately 56,950 words): 978-1-927625-05-7
New Orleans jazz pianist Ben Breaux’s lifelong dream is realized when he scores a gig at a Paris night club, but he soon discovers his ticket to fame and fortune has come at a cost higher than dollars and cents. Corporate bigwig Arthur Goodwin is footing his bills on the condition he also keep tabs on his beautiful but unpredictable daughter, Marie. Ben’s life is further complicated when he suspects his boss may be involved in sinister activities unrelated to music.
When Marie’s friend disappears and she enlists Ben’s help to find her, he truly is in over his head. Conflicting tales and changing circumstances leave Ben wondering if anyone or anything are as they at first appear. Is his Paris dream destined to become his worst nightmare?
Marie gripped the lip of the latch and shook the door. It refused to budge, so she launched the full force of her slight frame against it. Without warning the door swung away, propelling her headlong into a cavernous room. Gripping a rail to steady herself she leaned into the murky light, scanning every recess. She was alone: no one had witnessed her clumsy entrance. A stench of cigarette smoke, sweat and stale booze hung in the air. What, she wondered, was the appeal of dives like this? If Val wanted to hear jazz, why not do so in a civilised venue? It wasn’t as if there weren’t plenty of them here and at home. The Paris symphony featured jazz nights, for God’s sake, but Val insisted upon the “authentic” experience.
It was morning, and Marie was equal parts concerned and annoyed. Val hadn’t returned to their hotel room last night. Marie hated people who made plans and changed them without letting her know. It was rude and in this instance, inconvenient. Her plans hadn’t included slumming, and here she was in this dump.
Until last night Val had never shown an inconsiderate or irresponsible side. While adventurous, she didn’t let her enthusiasms interfere with her obligations. She’d told Marie of her intent to explore Paris jazz clubs. This one, Les Notes Coquines, was closest to their hotel, so it made sense to check it out first. Both she and Marie had been warned of the repellant characters after-hours clubs sometimes attracted, but Val assured Marie she’d be careful.
The police had been no help. Val would not be deemed a missing person until forty-eight hours had elapsed, the duty cop told her. “Your friend is exploring all the pleasures our great city has to offer.” His implication was clear, and Marie struggled with an impulse to slap the impudent smirk off his face.
Behind the wall to her right, she could hear the discord of what could only be a band practising. She was about to call out when a big man emerged from a hall on the far side of the room. He lumbered her way and smiled as he reached her side, displaying stained teeth. He bent low, his doughy face in hers. “May I help you, mademoiselle?”
Marie recoiled from the man’s unsavory aura, a mix of unwashed skin and cigar smoke, though she took care not to reveal any outward sign of revulsion. She couldn’t afford to alienate someone who might help.
The man brought a big stogie from behind his back to his thick lips and clamped down hard. His face was so close the pungent smoke caught in her throat and the hot cigar ash from his cigar warmed her cheek.
Marie took a small step back. “I am looking for a friend.”
The man said nothing. He puffed on his cigar and wheezed with each exhalation. He stared at Marie through flat black eyes. She wondered if he’d understood. “My friend…she loves jazz. She may have come here last night. I wonder if you might have seen her.”
The man removed the cigar and pinched it between his thumb and forefinger. His hooded eyes roamed her body. “This friend…is she as beautiful as you?” His accent wasn’t French as Marie had expected but American.
Marie’s stomach tightened. “I’ll show you.” She bent her head to retrieving her friend’s photo from the depths of her handbag. It wouldn’t be the best likeness. They had been a bit drunk and silly, mugging for Photomat poses.
“Found it.” Marie held up the photo strip in an attempt to capture the best light in the shadowy room. She pointed. “Have you seen her?” She studied the man’s face. It was impassive until he focused on the photo. Was there a flicker of recognition?
“Do you recognize her? Was she here last night?”
He shrugged. “Your friend is blonde and pretty. Do you know how many pretty blonde women come in here every night?”
“Please, take another look. Did you see this woman?”
The man leaned into her space. In a girlish falsetto, he mocked her question. “No, I did not see this woman.” He squeezed her arm hard as if for emphasis, turned and shambled off toward the hall from which he’d come. He paused part way and turned toward her. “But if at any time, night or day, you’d care to discuss this further, my office door is open.” His leer made her stomach turn.
“He’s bad news, you know.”
Marie was startled by the unfamiliar male voice. She whirled to warn off the intruder and was stunned into silence by a pair of warm brown eyes. Whoa! Where’d you come from? Then she remembered the background racket. He must be with the band.
Her hostility had cooled the warmth in his eyes. “Sorry. I’m dealing with…stuff.” She turned to walk away but felt a hand on her shoulder. Her first instinct was to shrug it off, threatened by the stranger’s familiarity. But she felt so alone in this foreign city where few who spoke English deigned to. She reconnected with the warm eyes. The young man was tall, but he bent so his face was close to hers. He was smiling.
“I’m an expert at dealing with stuff.”
…to enjoy more of City of Light and Shadow, pick up a copy.
Copyright@2013 Quarter Castle Publishing