It was strange
seeing Shadow Sims sporting anything other than his signature black tux, but
there he was, the next "Ellington," draped in nothing more than a
blue denim shirt and jeans. It was also surreal for the man Miles nicknamed
"Mr. Ultra Cool," to be pacing nervously and sweating like a marathon
runner. Blame it on three months of sobriety, Shadow's longest dry spell in a
decade. Instinctively he reached for the bottle of scotch, which had always
been his companion before a gig, only to find a pitcher of ice water in its
breathing was labored, his legs felt rubbery. "You don't need no drink Shadow,"
he said to his trembling brown fingers. "All you need are these ten
sweethearts here to do what they always do."
slumped in the rickety old chair. His eyelids felt heavy, and he closed them.
However, his daydreams brought no comfort; they were always about Sheila, how
mesmerizingly beautiful she looked as they danced at the Tiki Club, her
butterscotch skin glowed under the soft lights.
And then came the darkness; the altercations, Sheila crashing to the
floor, blood draining from her nose, her hazel eyes glaring up at him filled
with fear and hatred. Shadow forced his eyes open. He moved away from the
mirror, unable to look at his reflection.
the lights flickered then the room went pitch black. "Yeah Shadow," a
familiar voice cut through the darkness, "you showed that bitch who was
lights fluttered back on again. Shadow turns to find Blue, a lean dark figure
standing in a hazy cloud of smoke. Dapper in his customary black suit and
fedora, the brim dipped just enough to conceal his eyes. Blue extended his hand
for some dap, Shadow left him hanging.
business deal is complete Blue." Shadow declared. "You promised to
take me straight to the top, but you failed to school me on what fame would
really cost. I lucked up and found a loophole out of the deal, so you broke me
like a cowboy bust a bronco. I say we’re even.”
sly smile spread across Blue’s face. He reached into his jacket and pulled out
a silver flask. "You seem tense old man, scotch still your drink?"
lustfully eyed the flask as Blue took a swig. "Why are you here Blue? The
money's gone, I lost Sheila, no more Palladium, no more Ed Sullivan Show, all I
got is this place here. Crawl back into your hole and let me be.”
into a cup. "Hey, I'm willing to
let bygones be bygones baby. So you crashed, hell Sinatra crashed. That idiot
even tried to kill himself; I could've cash in right then."
twitched nervously; the powerful aroma of scotch was nearly as intoxicating as
old softie; I redid his contract, put him back on top for another twenty
years. I can do the same thing for you too."
photo of Shadow shaking hands with President John Kennedy that was taped to the
mirror. He flipped it over, "October 29, 1963" was written on the back.
know when your number's gonna' be punched." Blue set the flask on top of
the picture. "Very few get a second chance."
of sweat dripped from Shadow's brow, the back of his throat was parched,
anticipating the sweet, musky flavor. Suddenly he glanced up at Blue's
reflection in the mirror. He gasped as he caught a glimpse of Blue's true
demonic visage; his skin, scaly, reptilian, his eyes burned from the thousands
of souls he owned. Shadow whirled around, only to see Blue smiling in his suave human
turned back to the mirror. He studied his own face, he realized how much older
he looked than his thirty-three years, a legacy courtesy of his romance with
the bottle. His time in this wasteland had also given him time to reevaluate
his life, the selfishness, and narcissism, which led him to this lonely
of Shadow's internal moral contemplations. "Damn them all Shadow. It's all
about you baby. Sheila, all of them; they left you, dropped a dime on
loudly in Shadow's ears. He reached for the flask; his trembling fingers nearly
dropped it. He lifted the container to his lips, closed his eyes then stood to
his feet, facing Blue.
snatched the cigarette from Blue's grinning mouth and dropped it in the flask.
"Sorry, I don't drink anymore."
voice from outside the door barked, "Sims, you're on in one minute."
flask on the floor, and turned towards the door. A furious Blue burst into white hellish flame, which melted away his human
made you Shadow! You're nothing without me. It'll only be a matter of time
before I got you lock, stock and barrel."
left the makeshift
dressing room, trekking down the dark corridor, past a cadre of uniformed armed
guards. Just ahead, he spots the tall, balding figure of Mike Brown, his
bringing the boys Mike." He said as they embraced.
"That's what managers do."
Sheila?" Shadow guiltily asked
momentarily then nodded, "Okay."
and walked on stage. "Gentlemen, a living legend, Shadow Sims!"
Enthusiastic applause followed.
prayer, Shadow took the stage. He waved, and bowed to the standing, applauding
all-male crowd, like him, they were all dressed in blue shirts and jeans.
Shadow hugged each member of his band, their white tuxes clashing with his prison garb.
Master took his seat at the ivory baby grand. He placed his trembling fingers
on the keys. His face still dripped with sweat.
He looked offstage and saw Blue in full demon mode, the contract in his
hand, slowly began to burn.
eyes and thought of a more peaceful time, when he was a small boy, when music
was his only joy. Suddenly, his fingers began to move, he played like only
Shadow Sims could, not for accolades, but for contentment.
the piece ended, the entire cellblock
erupted in raucous applause. Reborn, Shadow looked up with tear-filled eyes. He
glanced offstage; Blue had vanished. He smiled at the irony of finding freedom behind prison bars.