Jazz was just not her thing. Roberta just didn’t get it at all. It really wasn’t like other music. She found it unpredictable and a bit random. As a rule she preferred popular country music, with its larger than life stars and earthy universally appealing lyrics.
However, since her break up with Edward she was glad of the chance to spread her wings a little and get out more. Fortunately for her, her friend Orla was highly in favour of her new found adventurousness. It was actually her idea to drag her along to the Jazz concert in the hope that they might have a little fun. Some hopes, thought Roberta as she waited for Orla to return with their champagne.
Just then she spotted an extraordinarily handsome man staring at her from across the room. As it was her confidence was at a low ebb so without a second thought she turned and looked away.
“Here’s your bubbly,” said a voice from behind her. It was Orla handing over an impossibly thin champagne flute.
“Bottoms up!” she said knocking hers back all in one go.
Roberta looked up at her friend dubiously, hoping she wasn’t going to show her up again.
“Don’t worry. There’s plenty more where that came from,” grinned Orla holding up a bottle of Bollinger in a tiger taloned fist.
Roberta shook her head in amusement and picked up her program. As she cast her eye over the line-up she was disappointed to find she did know a single one of the acts.
“Oh my God! Don’t look now, but there this incredibly dishy guy checking you out across the room,” whispered Orla excitedly.
“Wh..what?” stammered Roberta looking up. “Where?”
“Over there,” replied Orla glancing towards the same guy that Roberta had noticed earlier.
“Him? He’s not checking me out and I don’t think he’s my sort anyhow.”
“You don’t huh? Well if you don’t want him I’ll have him,” said Orla laughing wickedly and pretending to get up.
“Go on! Go and speak to him,” she urged nudging Roberta with her dimpled elbow.
“Seriously? Just like that? Go up and speak to a complete stranger?”
“Well, yes Roberta, that’s how it’s done these days,” said Orla rolling her eyes. “How else do you expect to get him into bed?”
“Alright, alright. No need to be crass,” snapped Roberta. This was going to take some doing. Even before she met Edward, she was never the type to make the first move.
She looked above the top of her champagne flute as she took another sip, silently marvelling at the intensity of his eyes. Suddenly she began to choke. He was heading straight towards her!
She stood up coughing and hacking, trying to catch her breath. He was just a few feet away now and her blue eyes were swimming with tears as she managed to summon up what she felt was her most dazzling smile.
“Hi there!” chirped Orla just as the enigmatic stranger breezed past. Both women stood open mouthed as he completely ignored them and stood gazing instead at a glass cased exhibit which stood directly at the end of their row.
“I told you he wasn’t interested in me,” moaned Roberta slumping back in her chair.
The two women watched as he examined the ancient sarcophagus housed inside the huge glass case.
“I wouldn’t worry darling. You’ve probably had a narrow escape,” said Orla slurring her words slightly. “He looks a bit of an oddball.”
“Do you think so?”
“Yeah, look at him,” said Orla. “He’s talking to himself under his breath now.”
“My God, you’re right,” said Roberta with a shudder.
The man tapped on the glass a few times and then started sketching busily in a tiny notebook.
“What do you think he’s doing? Maybe we should call someone…”
“Nah. Security have him spotted,” replied Orla sounding a little bored now. “Probably just another nutcase as far as they’re concerned.”
“I guess you could be right,” said Roberta turning her back on him.
“Course he is,” said Orla linking arms with her friend. “He’d have to be crazy to pass you up. Look at him, I suppose we should have known really. Who the hell goes to a Jazz concert dressed all in black?”
The guy in the ridiculous all black ensemble was beginning to make Alonzo uneasy. To the left of him the seats had all been arranged in eighteen curved rows, amphitheatre style in front of the stage. But strangely the man in the eccentric all black get up seemed unwilling to sit in any of them. What was his problem?
Alonzo decided he’d best watch him closely. What on earth was he doing? As head of security at the museum of antiquities it was his job to spot potential threats in whatever form they took. This guy looked pretty suspicious pacing the floor, examining the ceilings, windows and doors with a studied analytical expression. In fact he stood out a mile. Of course it was possible that the man was a decoy, thought Alonzo rubbing his stubbly chin. It could be that his bizarre behaviour was designed to detract from the real threat; to draw his attention away. If that was the case then what really was going on here? He rolled his big broad shoulders as though limbering up for a fight. Slowly he tilted his neck left then right until he heard a satisfying crack. If something was about to go down on his watch, he’d be ready for it.
From the outside Alonzo Tintero looked cool as a crate load of cucumbers but beneath his standard issue security uniform he was sweating like a pig. Why the hell they had to have a late night jazz concert at his museum was beyond Alonzo anyway.
He watched as the shadowy figure stretched out an exploratory hand to touch the palatial marble walls and the glass display cases. He felt certain now that the shifty character in front of him was up to no good. Most likely he was casing the joint so that once the concert was over he and his crew could come back and take whatever they liked.
Angling his head towards his shoulder in order to speak into his radio Alonzo alerted the other guards to the seriousness of the situation. Suddenly the target slid his left hand inside his jacket and in one smooth motion he pulled out an ear piece. Carefully he placed both parts snuggly inside his ears. Just as the lights began to dim security made a move to converge upon him. A hush fell over the audience as the curtains drew back.
Up on stage Rhett Westwood looked out upon the four hundred and fifty strong audience. He swallowed uneasily wishing that he didn’t have to tell them what he did.
He tapped the microphone nervously.
“Well good evening ladies and gentlemen. If I could just have you attention for a few brief moments please. Thank you.”
“In order for you to enjoy tonight’s program to the full there must be an unfortunate delay while we make a few necessary adjustments to optimise the acoustics of the room.”
A murmur of discontent arose from all those assembled.
“That’s bullshit!” someone said loudly. “Acoustics my ass!”
“It will only be a delay of thirty minutes at most,” said Rhett hoping to calm the crowd.
“Utter disgrace!” cried an aging spinster near the front row. Things were starting to turn ugly.
Sudden Rhett felt an arm on his shoulder and upon turning round he found legendary Jazz musician Harold Brown leaning forward to speak into the mike.
Almost everyone recognised him at once and an ecstatic round of applause broke out. He held up a hand and waited for the clapping to stop.
“Thank you everyone for your kind recognition,” he said with a nod. “And your co-operation in waiting while we get this room fixed up so that you can listen to the best Jazz of your lives. If you have the patience to wait my friends, you will have the privilege of being the first people in nearly a decade to hear the absolute musical genius of Arlen Jones, live!”
His last statement brought gasps from the audience.
“Yes!” nodded Harold. “I thought that would make a few of you sit up. Now Arlen wants this room rigged for perfect acoustics. So are you willing to wait thirty minutes or so to hear a musical prodigy famed the world over?”
“YES!” roared the crowd.
The curtain closed once more and Rhett Westwood shook Harold by the hand, glad that he had stepped in to help diffuse the situation. The crowd sat and waited expectantly while two of the bulkier museum exhibits were moved.
Forty minutes later the curtain drew back and Rhett Westwood introduced a seven strong band of musicians to lengthy rapturous applause. The one closest to the back rubbed the neck of his trombone with his sleeve whilst another tuned his double bass. Then the moment came that everyone had been waiting for– Arlen Jones stepped out on stage and seated himself carefully behind the piano. He was a well – known recluse, a prodigious savant, a musical genius, who also happened to be autistic, devilishly handsome and most of all…dressed completely in black.