Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'The Art of Murder,' an excerpt.

Gilles had been reading a little bit more about Leblanc and what he called the ‘sensual restlessness’ of the age. Perhaps that was what he was feeling right now. The song was haunting, full of regrets, and he wondered. If love was such a beautiful thing, why were there so many sad love songs?

She knew they were there, of course, but making any assumptions as to how she might feel about it was tricky. She might hate them, but he thought not. She might resent them, and he could understand that. She might see it as heaping additional trials on her slender yet well-formed shoulders, and yet at the same time she might accept that. He wasn’t even sure why they were there, but seeing her in her own natural environment was informative.

She had beautiful shoulders, and Gilles felt a strange stirring of something deep inside of him. When she turned, the bone structure of her naked back, and of her shoulder blades, was amazing…just amazing.

The lady clearly belonged there. She had found some inner well of fortitude, enough to make her smile a sad, tired smile when she saw the pair of strangers come in and find a small table off to one side and near the door. She had smiled when she recognized them.

She smiled sadly at the inevitability of it all, and that said something. It was an acceptance of all that had to be, an acceptance of life’s tragedies, and the knowledge that they were going to do their job no matter who got hurt. Gilles had never felt less like smiling when he saw that.

She must know a lot of things that he never would. Yvonne would be easy to fall in love with for almost any normal man. He was a very small boy when it came to women like her. Maybe that was what she saw.

She was a mystery, and he was a very small boy.

The song was a lullaby, an old standby, but rather than putting the baby to sleep, she was saying something about the human heart in all its tenderness and all of its potential coldness. On her lips it was a lover’s song, the kind of song you wished you hadn’t heard just then, and you knew it would stick uncomfortably in your mind for a long time afterwards.

Andre had eyes for no one but her. Gilles was a little more objective. It occurred to him that the five piece ensemble might be an indifferent sound without her. On listening further to the soft drums and the cadence of the bass, he realized it was perfect. They highlighted her, and she was the sound, with the drummer playing in shirtsleeves, and the soft slow rasp of the drums, and then the piano, played by a smallish man in evening attire, beads of sweat glistening in the dim lamplight of the overheads, the slash of blue light falling across the face of the man on the saxophone. He didn’t know much about modern music, but he found he quite liked it.

The saxophone had its own song, but only when she went quiet. It was superb.

Gilles watched and listened to the bass for a while, noting again its restraint, and along with another man with a different kind of horn, he thought a bassoon, trying to isolate each sound and feel its place in the composition. As individuals, there were intent upon their own work, and yet they had to play as a group. It was a team, in every sense of the word. He saw them play off of each other, and the way she turned and engaged with them, in some unspoken way from time to time, and marveled at just how many things a man might never comprehend, not even at the most superficial level. It was two entirely different worlds up there under the lights and down here in the shadows, with the clink of a glass or a dull murmur coming to remind him that he was not alone, and would never have to be alone as long as there were places like this in the world.

She had the perfect voice for it, low, and husky, and perfectly controlled in the trills, and in harmonious resonance with the low-ceilinged, intimate club.

The orchestra without her might not be lost—they were the consummate professionals, for surely they understood their art and their medium far better than he ever would. She was beautiful, of course, and yet there was clearly something strong, deep inside her, and not just the superficialities of skin and hair and eyes, and red, red ruby lips almost touching the microphone as she made eye contact and nodded at him and Andre. With a life like hers, she must have a kind of resilience.

A tear falls to the sand

Waves and wind sigh in mourning

Over the sea to a far distant land

Up to the horizon and then a pause

And then he is gone

Heat of the sun never ceases

Gulls plaintive cries without cause

Forlorn hope never stops to sing

Blinking in the glare, she waits

The end is also a beginning

When ships with butterfly wings

Beat into the wind on a quest so fine

Lovers torn apart for a time

No one can say the why of these things

The bonds have been released

Each is free to be their own

This is a seed that must be sown

And no one can say its fate

Sometimes there is no way to win

But only to endure.

When ships with butterfly wings

Beating into the wind

Carry your heart across the ocean

It is all you can do, sometimes

To wait and to pray.

And to mourn…

Gilles would remember those words as long as he lived.


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