Everyone thought it was about Warren Beatty - old, washed-up ham! He hummed the tune under his breath as he adjusted his bow-tie. She’d promised never to reveal the song’s inspiration, but she’d come dangerously close with that line about the gavotte. He was amazed at how many people sang it incorrectly – ‘…watched yourself go by’. Still, he thought, it did keep the truth at bay. He remembered coaching Carly through the dance’s humorous moves. In his gleaming black, patent leather shoes he paced out a few of the steps.
Slipping into his dinner jacket, he longed once more for a mirror. It was his one real regret. Virgins were ten a penny in any decade, although they did seem to be getting younger and younger. He grimaced. Perhaps he should move to Pennsylvania? Amish country. Lots of virgins of the right age there, he imagined. But could he stand the countryside? He doubted it.
“You had me many years ago, when I was still quite naïve,” he sang as he fixed the cuff links into place. Dear Carly, you were never naïve, he thought. Foolish, but never naïve. “Igor?”
“Must you, Sir?” His valet appeared from the walk-in closet, a long-suffering look on his face.
He grinned. “Sorry. Is it cold outside?”
“According to the weather report. I have your overcoat here.”
“Thank you. A scarf, do you think?”
“Apricot, Sir? It is the anniversary of Miss Simon’s best-known refrain, after all.”
Sir smiled. “Do we still have that scarf? We only wore it to tease dear Carly. Not much point now she’s departed.”
“Indeed, Sir. Red, then.”
He sighed. “Yes, I suppose so. Although, it does get a tad theatrical after so many years.”
“Would Sir prefer to wear blue jeans and a tight white T-shirt perhaps?” Most of the time, the ever-so-correct valet wouldn’t dream of being sarcastic. This wasn’t one of them.
Sir laughed. “And slick my hair back with brylcream? That would be amusing.” He fingered the woollen overcoat. The thing about a diet of virgins is the lack of adult entertainment. “You know what? Bugger the theatre. There’s only so many performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream a man can watch. Jeans and jumper. Black, of course.”
“Of course, Sir.” Like there was any other colour in Sir’s wardrobe, apart from the scarves. “But, if I might - Lady Chloe and her mother?”
“Chloe’s sleeping with her chauffeur. Hasn’t been a virgin for years. And to be frank, I’m not in the mood for the pretence. Send them the tickets, tell them I’ve gone to…Paris for an emergency board meeting.”
“The International Blood Bank, sir?”
He laughed. “Why not?” He pulled on the jeans and turned towards – “Damn it.” He wondered how long it would take before looking for the mirror was no longer his first reaction.
“No change, Sir. Still as fine as ever.”
“Thank you, Igor.” He smiled as the valet rolled his eyes.
The motorbike growled with anticpation as he pulled into the parking lot of the saloon. A gleaming row of Harleys slumped on their stands with an air of aggression. Odd how some inanimate objects carried such an attitude of danger at night, he thought. A facade that, come daylight, dissolved like dust. Some of the neon letters in the bar’s signage were out. ‘T—Fi--Des-in---- Bar‘ flickered without much enthusiasm in the dark. He barely noticed as he let the door slap shut behind him.
The nicotine haze hung thick in the air. There might be laws about smoking in public, but no one had told the Hell's Angels who made this low-ceilinged, alcohol-sodden place their own personal domain. Some nameless heavy metal music thumped up through the floor and out the walls. Not a lot of money had been spent on lighting. The mirror, thankfully, was dirty, fly-blown and chipped. Covered with peeling decals, it was doubtful anyone could see anything in it. He slid onto an empty stool at the end of the bar, just in case.
The heavily tattooed barman nodded, sliding a glass towards him. He might be wearing an incredibly expensive Tom Ford overcoat, but Sir knew how to blend in. Plenty of practise had, as the saying goes, made perfect.
After the second hit of Jack, he noticed a woman sitting in the dark. Actually, what he saw was one neat foot and ankle encased in sheer black stocking and a high heeled stiletto. It was beating time in small movements.
He’d grown up in an era when neat ankles were enough to get a man’s blood racing. And this was a very neat ankle indeed. His eyes travelled up. It was attached to a shapely, elegant leg. Much more promising than Chloe Bracknell, whom no one could deny, was rather on the stocky side of feminine.
He glanced in the mirror. The dark lady was sitting too far back for him to see her clearly. The Dark Lady. Amusingly, it sounded like a character from a gothic novel. Probably about a blood-sucker and some poor innocent traveller falling into her clutches. Well, he was no innocent. He asked the barkeep for a fresh bottle and another glass.
When he approached her table, she smiled and with that expensively shod foot, pushed the chair opposite her out in invitation. She looked vaguely familiar. But then, he'd known many women, Biblically, over his lifetime. Nowadays, most of them looked familiar.
They dispensed with names. It really didn’t seem to matter. They flirted deliciously for a while before making their way to the rooms above. She shut the curtains, plunging the room into pitch darkness. He heard the scritch of a match and watched with lazy enjoyment as she lit the candles.
The night stretched ahead like a satisfied cat and the Dark Lady lived up to all her black-stockinged promise.
She was sitting in the dark-red brocade chair when he awoke, watching him, humming a song he knew well, “…with some underworld spy…wife of a close friend”.
The words dropped hot coals into his memory. He knew her. He remembered that night, so long ago, in Nova Scotia. He realised he was handcuffed to the brass bed. And there was nothing erotic about it. For someone without a heartbeat he went oddly cold. He should have gone to the theatre.
“I am sorry,” he said, with a rueful smile that he knew could melt any heart. “I blame that northern eclipse. Could you possibly forgive me my bad behaviour?”
“You haven’t changed, have you? Charming as ever. Still so vain.” She pulled a cord, opening the curtains. The sun blazed in, blinding him. He cursed. He could feel every cell in his body coming undone, dissolving, turning to ash.
Outside, the neon sign, ‘The Final Destination Bar’, flickered with new life.