Ch. 23 – This Time (3)

Final Fugue_Ithaka O._horizontal

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Jump to the Prelude

Zach didn’t stay outside for long. From the bookstore’s entrance to the dressmaker’s shop, it only took ten seconds. Swiftly, he slipped into that neighboring shop and shut the door after himself, very deliberately and gently to avoid scaring anybody with his newfound supernatural strength.

Once again, the door blocked out all traffic noise and exhaust gas from the streets. The faint scent of fabric and perfume filled Zach’s nostrils and calmed him. Vaguely, such smells reminded him of a time when his mother had been alive. They also reminded him of Angeline, whose closets used to be full of new dresses, and her bedsheets, and her lingerie, so soft…

A middle-aged lady in a black dress looked up from the counter.

“Can I help you?” she asked, not unfriendly but somewhat suspicious.

This was no place for men, and especially not for men who dressed in shabby, donated suits.

“I am looking for someone,” Zach said.

“Who, exactly?” the shopkeeper asked.

“A blond woman with green eyes,” Zach said, “with a matching green dress, long white gloves, a burgundy velvet coat, and high-heeled pumps.”

The shopkeeper looked around the shop even though clearly, no one was here.

“I’m sorry, there’s no one here like that.”

“Was someone like that here though? Earlier? Today?”

The shopkeeper frowned, making an honest attempt to remember. “No,” she said. “No one in a green dress.”

Strange. Angeline, last time, had said that she’d heard Zach’s piano play from this shop. The walls were thin, she’d said.

“Have you ever heard piano sounds from the neighboring shops?” he asked.

“No,” she said, now frowning from confusion. “That side is a hat shop. And that side used to be a jewelry shop, but it went out of business because of the jewelry shop right next to it.”

“When the jeweler who went out of business moved out, did you hear noises?”

The shopkeeper considered that for a while. Then, “Now that you mention it, no. I heard nothing. The walls must be quite thick.”

“So, no moving noises. No piano sounds.”

“No.”

Zach thanked the shopkeeper and left the dressmaker’s. He went to the jewelry shop and asked the same questions. The jeweler hadn’t seen Angeline either. Zach thanked him too and walked out to the street. Hugging his briefcase and clasping the baggy cap on his head, he turned and turned on the spot.

No Angeline. Only exhaust gas and pedestrians. And from beyond the bookstore’s closed door, Gus Shevlin’s yelling came, though only as a faint sound buried in all the honking and people noises.

Strange. Zach was dressed the same as last time. So was Gus Shevlin. Why would Angeline be the only one wearing something different? Why would Angeline be the only one not in the same place as last time?

Unless Angeline had lied about where she was when she heard Zach’s music.

Just as Zach realized this, the door of The Underwater Grille flung open. Nora Shevlin, the magma lady, spilled out of the restaurant in her childish pink dress. She crossed the street without looking left or right. A maniac, she was. Cars honked and drivers cursed. Zach heard the laughter of the mean waiters, mixed with the bitter, sympathetic cursing of the real mechanic.

Then the restaurant door shut. Nora Shevlin paid no more attention to Zach than she’d done to the cars. She stumbled straight to the bookstore, swung its door open, and began hammering on the sliding wall. Only after that did she fully register that her husband was yelling from the other side. Then the bookstore’s front door shut.

Zach eyed the streets for Angeline’s emerald car. Emerald was a hard-to-miss color. Emerald, green dress, green eyes—any spot of green would have immediately grabbed Zach’s attention at this point. He even looked down at the sidewalk and up at the sky, he was that desperate—

There, on the rooftop of the bookstore, a blond head darted off, out of view.

“Angeline!” Zach said.

He wildly looked around, couldn’t find a direct path to the back of the bookstore, and ran to the end of the block.

Oh, and run he did. Pedestrians glanced back at him because of the enormous wind that he generated with his every step, he was that fast. People’s caps flew off. The newspapers in their hands fluttered. Those who hadn’t buttoned their coats closed had to clasp them together; otherwise, an already-cold winter morning was about to become a lot colder because of the freezing wind that Zach brought with him.

He made a turn, ran—

There, the emerald car. Seamus, the chauffeur, driving off.

Zach jumped in the street. The car screeched to a halt, but too late. It smashed into Zach. Zach flew a few feet up in the air. He slammed on the street. Angeline screamed.

“Are you mad?” Seamus yelled out of the window.

Zach ignored that comment. He crawled up. He hadn’t broken a single bone. He stood up and brushed the dust and dirt from his suit. When he turned to face the emerald car again, he saw that Seamus stared at him in great shock.

“He… he…” said Seamus, “he doesn’t have a single scratch.”

Zach rushed to the car and pushed his head through the window frame.

There sat Angeline, wincing away from him.

“Angeline,” he said.

“Who are you?” she said. “How do you know my name?”

“Leave her!” Seamus said, trying to slap Zach’s face from the driver’s seat. “Leave her, you freak!”

“Get away from me!” Angeline said.

But of course. Of course.

Enervated, Zach stepped away from the car. Of course, Angeline didn’t know him. But she knew Gus Shevlin. She’d stood on the rooftop of the bookstore. She’d gazed down at the street that included the Grille and the Palace. That was how she’d heard Zach play last time.

“Maniac!” Seamus said.

The emerald car drove off. Zach alone stood on this street behind the bookstore. Abruptly, Gus Shevlin’s curses became audible, mixed with Nora Shevlin’s pleading to stay calm. She had managed to remove the crowbars, make the button work, and free her husband.

“Where is that son of a bitch?” Gus Shevlin said in his baritone voice.

“He ran that way,” someone said, faintly, distantly.

“Asshole son of a bitch!”

Zach imagined all heads turning, following Gus Shevlin’s angry march to the end of the block, around the corner.

Soon, Gus Shevlin would see Zach. Zach jumped through the back door of a random shop. He pulled the door closed, thinking, this is not where I want to be—

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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