Authors: Erik Schubach
By Erik Schubach
P.O. Box 523
Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026
Cover Photo © 2015 Yurka Immortal / Jeff Wasserman / Mlle Carotte / ShutterStock.com license
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, blog, or broadcast.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Manufactured in the United States of America
I looked out the window of the old delivery truck as we arrived in London, just an hour after leaving Dover. Taking the Chunnel from Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais in France to England was a new and exciting experience. I thought cars just drove through the tunnel, but boy was I wrong. You drive your vehicles onto these immensely long trains that are packed like cattle cars. Then the train makes the passage under the English Channel. I find I learn something new every day.
I fought my nerves down. This was my final leg of my backpacking journey across Europe. The time has just flown by like a hurricane after I packed up my standing bass and headed for the SeaTac Airport all those years ago. I've paid my way through nineteen countries in five years with my street performances of fusion jazz and hooking up with jazz bands in need of a doghouse bass player.
I smirked to myself, well mostly paid my way. I've had to get a bit creative on how I financed it. That and crashing with whoever is willing to take on a starving artist for the night. I did it, Uncle Slade, just like I promised. I bit back a sudden surge of emotion and quickly wiped a tear away before the young man, who had left Paris with me less than six hours ago, could see. Claude had picked me up there last night at the Blue Moon Jazz Club.
I have seen some amazing things in my travels, but London? London was something else. It has a rhythm of its own as we cruised the streets. Like my music, it was a fusion of modern times and historical reverence. I looked from Big Ben on the Thames to polished glass monoliths of buildings. The people on the streets seemed a mishmash of cultures and all walks of life.
It reminded me a lot of Seattle, Chicago, or New York. Well, anywhere Uncle Slade and I found ourselves as he toured the county's jazz clubs with his old band. It seemed that the best places for jazz were the most diverse areas.
My uncle's dream was to one day travel to Europe and play in some of the most amazing cities in the world. His health, and caring for me sort of prevented that. Something I'll always feel guilty about. He always said that back in his prime, when he was famous and in demand, he should have taken the leap. Then after my parent's accident, he took on the responsibility of raising a five-year-old girl. He would often share that it was the most frightening thing in his life, to be responsible for another person, but he insisted that he wouldn't have traded it for all the gold in Fort Knox.
After his funeral, when I was eighteen, I couldn't handle it. I couldn't face the world. I took Audrey and what little money I had saved up and ran. Just left everything behind to do the one thing I always promised Uncle Slade. I always told him I would play Europe for him.
The truck slowed and I looked around at Covent Garden. London was my final stop before I rejoined the world and went home. I almost scoffed at that. Home? Right. Seattle is great, but my Uncle was home to me, and I didn't have him anymore.
Claude looked over at me with a smile and I pulled my earbuds out, Duke Ellington drifted out of them into the truck cab. He said, “Ca y est Eliza, Covent Garden.”
I smiled at the eager boy and laid a hand on his cheek and crinkled my nose. “English, Claude. English.”
He nodded. “Sorry. This eez it Eliza, Covent Garden. Are you sure you do not wish me to wait and drive you to a hotel after you finish your business?”
I winked at the guy. He really was cute, and great in bed, but I had no clue where I would be staying tonight. I shook my head as I opened the door. “No, but thank you. You have been so sweet to give me a ride all this way.”
He hurried out and opened the back doors of the small delivery truck and lifted Audrey down for me as I slung my backpack over my right shoulder. “Nonsense, I had this delivery to London today anyway.”
I hoisted Audrey over my left shoulder by her strap with practiced ease. Then leaned in and gave Claude something to remember me by. He was a pretty good kisser. “Bye Claude, I'm glad I met you.”
The kid looked to be floating as he made his way back to the driver's door. I mentally rolled my eyes at myself. Get over yourself Liza, nineteen is not a kid, you're only three years older than him. He waved awkwardly. “Goodbye Eliza, I hope you visit Paris again. Look me up, oui?”
I waved back and smiled, he was too cute. “Yes, I will.” Then I watched him drive off and I turned to the Garden. I heard this was one of the hot spots for musical talent. There were supposed to be some public boards you could post your bills or cards. I needed to drum up some quick cash for a day or two before I could hit the Jazz clubs. Maybe there was a want ad for a bassist on one of the boards.
It was going to be tough hauling around an instrument that was as big as I was, and work the crowd at the same time. I glanced around and saw a church close to an open air market. “Perfect.” I headed to the church, taking in the variety of people around. This was a mid to upscale crowd, about what I would expect for the arts district. There was an a capella quartet singing modern pop on the corner, damn they were supermurgitroid.
I entered the empty church and crossed myself as I looked down the nave to the altar. I walked to the front pews of the nave and unshouldered Audrey and leaned her against a pew. I slid in and then clasped my hands and prayed. I asked forgiveness for my way of life, just in case, then opened my eyes as a pastor walked out of the Deacon's Door toward the altar. He saw me and paused. I saw a slight smile on his face. I understood, not many people visit the church in the middle of the day on a Friday.
I stood. “Father?”
He turned toward me. “Yes?” He was lean and tall, a younger man for a preacher, maybe early to mid-thirties, with a healthy head of thick straw colored hair.
I said, “I don't mean to be a bother, but I'm passing through and wanted to look around the Garden. My bass is really awkward to carry. I was wondering if I might impose upon you and leave it in the church while I explore?”
He looked from me to the bass then smiled. “Of course. Symphony?”
I shook my head and said almost in apology, “Jazz.”
His eyebrows rose and his smile widened. “The Lord has a soft spot for Louie.”
I snorted. I thought only pastors in the United States made that joke. I nodded in acquiescence, “I've heard that said a time or two, Father...” I let it hang.
He supplied, “Arlington, Michael Arlington. Father Mike is fine.” I caught a bit of Scottish tinging his British accent.
I smiled and shook his hand. “Eliza Montrose, most people call me Liza.”
He nodded and said, “Well then Liza, you can put your string bass in my office this way.” I appreciated that he didn't try to carry Audrey, most men do. They don't know it's bad juju to carry someone else's instrument without their permission. Hey, don't look at me like that, superstitions are there for a reason!
I eyed Father Mike, he seemed to know a lot about the craft. I shouldered Audrey and followed him through a side door in the nave and into a hallway that spanned the length of the church. Then into a little office. I set Audrey in a corner with my backpack and thanked the Father as he walked me to the door of the church. I turned and crossed myself before stepping out as he held the door.
He said, “Come back after you've done your exploring, the doors are always open.”
I nodded and grinned. “Will do Father, and thank you.”
He nodded and I tried not to drop my smile for him as I felt guilty I was going off to sin.
That quartet was still there, singing one of those Tabby Cat songs, ‘Drifting’. They dropped a mean beat and my body quickly caught it. There's nothing to be done for it when you just have to move with the music. I danced and laughed my way through the people on the walkway, observing the crowd around the singers.
I had three priorities here besides dancing with the beat of their swing, and I hummed as my hips moved. Priority one, funds were getting a little thin. I needed a little scratch until I could land a gig. Two, I needed a place to stay tonight. I could probably find a youth hostel tomorrow. And third, I needed to get the word out that I was bassist for hire, we were few and far between.
I got closer in the crowd and smiled at a twenty-something man I had singled out because of his high-end clothes. I grinned at him as I got next to him. He immediately appraised me as I swayed to the music and bumped hips with him, then grabbed one of his hands as I danced off letting my fingers drift along his hand. Then I lost myself in the crowd, letting the music take me. Without looking, I pulled the cash out of the man's billfold that had somehow wound up in my hand. The money went into one pocket, the wallet went in the trashcan I did a fun little spin past.
Next was a woman on the opposite side. Her outfit just screamed money as did all the gaudy jewelry she wore as she listened to the singers. I caught the name on their permit as I spun and swayed my way past, the Robinson's, a family, nice.
I grabbed the hand of a little girl standing with her mother, near the well to do woman and spun the girl around in a fun pirouette to her giggling delight and her mother's smiles at us. I bowed to the grinning girl, accidentally bumping into the woman behind me. I danced away to the trash can again, depositing her wallet which I had lifted from her oversize purse. More cash in my pocket.
Now I needed a place to stay. I was sort of ashamed of how I used my looks, thank God I took after my mother in that department and not my father. But the way I saw it, beauty is fleeting, so I might as well use it while I got it. Just a couple more years and I wouldn't be able to pull this off anymore.
I saw a hot prospect and bit my lower lip as I watched them swaying in a subdued manner, wanting to join in more but not quite having the courage to let loose. I stepped up to the girl, she was friggin' cute with her chestnut hair spilling down to cover one of her chocolate brown eyes, which were locked on the only female singer in the group.
I stepped up to her and stood in front of her and swayed and winked at her then grabbed one of her hands. I led her in a circle to the beat with my other hand lightly on her shapely hip. Yum. Then I knelt down and feigned picking up her cell phone that I was palming. I handed it to her with a card.
She smiled at her phone bashfully and I moved her hair to one side with a brushing motion from my hand and leaned in as I swayed and said into her ear. “You dropped your phone. The card is my cell number, I'm in town for a couple days... call me.” Then I added. “Liza.” And pulled back giving her an expectant look.
She blushed and nodded and said, “Gina.”
I smiled and repeated, “Gina.” Then I looked beyond her and grinned, “Nice ass.” She dropped her eyes and I danced off saying, “I hope to hear from you soon, Gina. Bye.”
She just gave a tiny wave and then looked down at the card. Damn she was a cutie, the bashful ones always are. When I was lost in the crowd, I saw a mid twenty something guy with a chiseled jaw to die for. I stepped up behind him and placed both hands on his muscular butt and swayed as he looked back as I put my chin on his shoulder, my auburn locks draping over it.
I said, “They're good.” His eyes went wide, I had him hooked as he turned around to face me.
He smiled and said, “They are.”
We shared a smile and I gave him a little dance move as he looked me up and down, appraising my form.
I handed him his wallet with one of my cards sticking out of it as I rested a hand on his lower chest, feeling the six pack under the band tee he was wearing. That got my motor revved, can I pick them or what? I said, “You dropped your wallet.” Then I gave him a blatant once-over with my eyes in an approving manner, then added, “I took the liberty of putting my number in it, in case you need some company tonight. I'm only in town for a couple days.”
He glanced at his wallet and the card hanging out, I could see him restraining himself from checking for his cash, which I left in it, thank you very much. Hey, people with the potential to put me up for the night are not marks. This guy had all the right stuff. I'm not picky, if Gina falls through, there is always... As I offered my hand I offered, “Liza.”
He replied, “Kelly.”
..there is always Kelly as a backup. They are both drool-worthy.
I backed away swaying to the music that was coming to an end as they sang the tag. I made a phone with my hand and mouthed, “Call me,” to the grinning man as I disappeared into the crowd up to the Robinsons. I pulled out the wad of cash, holy crap, a few hundred pounds at least. I dropped a fifty in the little box that was holding up their busking permit.
Then leaned in as soon as they finished and asked the group, “You really broke it down there! You know where a girl can post her cards around here?” I held a card out.
The girl in the group took my card and nodded and said, “Thanks. There are some public boards right there at Apple Market.” She glanced at my card that read 'Eliza Montrose, Have Bass, Will travel. Jazz – Swing – Fusion – Orchestral ' with my number.
She smiled and asked, “Fusion?”
I nodded. “My own sort of pop, rock, jazz fusion. Adding flavor to modern music.”
She nodded then looked around. “We only have this spot for another ten minutes so we best be back at it, but you might try this...”