Excerpt from “That Murder Jazz”

This evening was a rare outing.  Usually Solar Pons preferred to sit pondering the world from his study, deep into a pile of shag, and deeper into some hefty tome, or exploring someone’s anxious mind.  But, not today.  We were actually out looking for a nightclub to enjoy music for the evening.  Usually, on an occasion when Pons was in the mood for the public consumption of music, we would attend the symphony or be listening to an orchestra playing Liszt, Mozart, Bach, Paganini, Brahms, or Beethoven.  But, not this particular evening.  Tonight, we were hunting down the popular new sound flowing out of that most un-American city of all the former Colonies:  New Orleans jazz.

We had been walking up Shaftesbury Avenue, along the border of exotic Chinatown, and turned up Rupert heading into that odd tangle of entertainment known as Soho that lay in the West End shadows of St. Patrick’s cathedral.  We were seeking a specific jazz venue.  Before we ever reached Piccadilly Circus, we found our address between Brewer and Archer Streets.  It was small dinner club, nothing as extravagant as the Criterion or famous as Ciro’s or as exciting as the Kit Kat.  The Archer’s Fletching, though, we had learned, was making something of a name for itself as a spot to feature new swing and jazz bands. 

I pulled the letter that had brought us here from my overcoat and glanced at the address written inside just out of nervous habit to verify it one last time.

“This is the correct address, Parker,” Solar Pons said in his neutral way which still managed to convey disdain.

I nodded and refolded the letter and returned it to my jacket.  “Indeed, it is.”

“Having read it when it first arrived, you should have already memorized the address.  After you.” He waved a hand.

We entered and, having hung our hats and coats, were seated by the hostess. It was a comfortable, darkwood, pub-style establishment.  It was still traditional and not trying so hard to be shiny, metallic, and modern like the newest, gaudiest trends that always seemed to be roaring out of America.

We ordered two pints of bitter and sat back to await the show.  I perused the menu and decided I was hungry. I ordered some bangers and mash.  Noting a favorite, I pointed it out and as even Pons couldn’t resist this treat, so we shared some Scotch eggs.

“She is the one,” Pons said after tapping the back of wrist.  I followed his gaze towards the massive bar lining one wall and saw a waterfall of red hair seated on a stool before the bartender.  The hair was so long it went past the barstool seat and gave the illusion of just a flaming profusion of hair floating before the bar.

“Are you sure?” I knew his powers of perception and regretted opening my mouth even as the syllables were uttered.

He cast a baleful eye upon me.

“Of course.” I nodded.    

Thus, Jessica MacMurdie was the reason we were here this evening.  We had received a letter a week prior that had invited us to this venue in order to hear her band perform.  But, we were not here as aficionados of this “hot” new sound out of America. We were here because of a mystery.  There was something she wanted us to observe during the performance.  Her letter had been unspecific about the details, but there was some very specific threat or danger to the band she wanted us to witness.  Nevertheless, it had intrigued Pons enough that he accepted the offer and here we were in attendance.