Monday, July 16, 2018

Time warp!

    I didn't know the bar was there; down that side-alleyway, way too narrow for cars. Foot traffic ruled, or the occasional bicycle, ridden by an anxious cyclist looking for a short-cut. Even the cyclist would have missed the entrance, a door that had seen numerous coats of paint, covered in scratches, from God-knows-who.

    It was raining when I headed down the alleyway. I had left my umbrella in the car, along with my jacket ... and now I was regretting it. My shirt clung to my body, hardly a flattering look. To make me feel even more desperate, I was cold. it was a heavy bass sound that attracted my attention. Someone was either playing music very loudly, or I was close to a studio of some sort.

    The door opened and a blast of warm air enveloped me, along with the acrid smell of cigarette smoking. A dishevelled man, frantically trying to put up an even less fortunate umbrella, burst into the alleyway.
    "Bloody good jam goin' on there, mate,' he muttered, before disappearing towards the main street.
    "What the hell," I said to myself. Anything had to be better than continuing in the rain. My car was at least ten minutes away and I wanted warmth.

    The door slapped shut as I entered as if it was on a strong spring. The music ... Blues from a distant past, but still remembered from my many hours of listening to RNZ. There was a band playing: a drummer, bass player, piano ... a real one ... not an electronic keyboard in sight, and two vocalists; a guy and a woman ... both in their late twenties ... possibly.

    The lighting was subdued, made even less penetrable by the smoke from a crowd that clearly didn't give a hoot about the smoking laws. Every table in the bar was taken and patrons were hanging out at the bar, leaving little room for me as I approached. A drink wouldn't go amiss. I managed to squeeze through, totally ignored by the couple I had separated. I caught the eye of the barman.

    "A glass of Pinot Gris, please," I said.
    He looked at me ... or was it through me? "And what the ... we don't serve cocktails here, mate"
    "It's wine, you ..." I stopped. "OK ... how about a Reisling?"
    " There's bear, gin and yeah ... top-shelf....' His voice cut out as the band ramped up. The guy who had been singing, began a haunting melody on a harmonica while the woman took over the vocals. The crowd seemed to be drawn in by them. It was then I noticed their dress-code.

    Had I walked into a 'themed party? Art-Deco ruled. I recalled countless black and white movies: the hairstyles, cigarettes held by the female patrons with long elegant Bakelite cigarette holders. Jean Harlow would have fitted right in. Some party I thought.

    "Right ... I'll have a bear then ... tap will do," I said to the barman.
    " Comin; right up,' he replied. "Not sure where you got your duds ... hell ... this isn't costume night."
    "Could have fooled me," I retorted. "You lot are dressed up like Art Deco Week in Napier. That chick singing looks hot!"
    He looked at me, before glancing at the heavily muscled guy, standing by the low stage. The latter approached.
    "You got trouble, Trev?" he said while putting a thick fist on my shoulder.
    The Barman leaned over, his breath pungent with garlic. "This gentleman is leaving," he said. "Drain ya glass and leave quietly. Something tells me, you don't belong."
    "What the f---. What have I done? I only came in to escape the rain."
    The music stopped ... mostly. Eyes turned in our direction; a mixture of curiosity and something more sinister. The guy playing the harmonica played on. He moved off the stage, coming towards me. His face had a distant look, framed by the swirling smoke from the 'illegal' ciggies. He stopped.
    "I don't think you are from ... here," he said, his voice barely audible. He turned to the barman whilst gently removing the heavy guy's fist from my shoulder. "I'll take it from here, Trev."

    "Best you come with me, Alex."
    "What ... you know my name?" I shuddered. Then, I noticed a poster above the door by the toilet signs. Jean Harlow again. "OK ... I'm leaving. Guess I don't fit here, eh."
    "That's kind of what I was thinking. Best you go ... back to where ever you came from. I hope you enjoyed my harmonica," he added as we neared the door.
    I turned my head, looking at him closely. "You look like someone I know ... Yeah ... like Kurt Mueller."
    His face turned ashen. "My name is Mueller ... you're freaking me out."

    He pushed the door open and before I had a chance to reply, it shut hard. I looked along the alleyway, trying to get my bearings. When I looked back at the door ... it was gone. A shop window, displaying old books was where it had been, just a few seconds ago. No sounds of music or the smell of cigarettes ... just the rhythmic pattering rain. I headed back to the main street. I remembered where I had left my car, back in the underground carpark.

    As I descended to the lower levels I saw a poster, advertising 'An evening with Kurt Meuller and his beloved harmonica.' The face in the poster was disturbingly similar to the harmonica player in the bar, yet an older version. I almost stumbled to my car, opening the door and slumping into the seat.

    My cell phone rang.

No comments:

Post a Comment