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Singing the Blues

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There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far,
Very far over land and sea.

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.”

“Nature Boy” - Eden Ahbez

 

Marianne’s voice was like fine dark chocolate, rich and sweet yet with a hint of bitterness. That bitter edge was no doubt the result of the kind of life she had led. I checked her background thoroughly before Hutch went under to do his thing. Even more thoroughly than usual, seeing as how Hutch was going under on his own. Marianne’s mother had died when she was young. Her dad was an alcoholic who had spent most nights inhabiting a bar stool at Joe Fitch’s blues club until Marianne, with brother Harry in tow, came to take him home. Once, when the bar tab ran too high, Marianne’s father convinced Fitch to let her sing for his supper. She’d been singing the blues there ever since – except for one notable extended vacation.

Brother Harry was just a bad seed who kept digging himself in deeper and deeper with Fitch’s thugs. But Marianne was bound and determined to stick by him. After their father was killed as collateral damage in a brawl over a bad debt, Harry was all the family she had left. Harry and the blues club.

I know what it’s like to feel loyalty toward family whether it’s deserved it or not. To love someone and hate them at the same time. Open my closet and you’ll find a skeleton or two, including a shady brother of my own. But Nicky never killed anyone. And I never spent five years in prison for him either.

I shouldn’t have gone along with the plan for Hutch to take this assignment solo. He’d been too fragile lately. But Hutch was a natural for this gig. So much so, in fact, that I worried his cover was closer to his true self than was being a detective. Marianne’s siren song ended up luring him out on the rocks where he was in danger of being shattered. That’s why I needed to protect him. Even if it was from himself.

As close as Hutch and I are, we tend to feel things differently. My partner swallows his emotions like shards of glass, making him bleed in places other people don’t know about. Most people think that of the two of us, I’m the little boy. Maybe in some ways I am, but every now and then my partner still loses himself like a kid at the fair.

 

He bought her a flower at the fair
1927 Kansas City
Said he liked the color of her hair
Then he walked her home and told her she was pretty

Then they spent a little while
Letting their hearts learn to smile
Doing things that lovers always do . . .

1927 Kansas City – David Soul

When I saw him sitting in the stairwell, more than his face was shadowed. I felt him slipping away and that terrified me worse than seeing him take a bullet. Me, I can’t really figure people who let themselves be stomped on and soiled like cheap floor mats. But Hutch understands. I guess it comes from a desperate need to feel accepted. To feel loved. But when you fail to grasp what’s right in front of you, you can make some pretty bad choices.

Fitch’s goons busted him up pretty good but Hutch didn’t even call me. He went to Marianne instead. That’s how confused he was. I was shaken up when he stumbled back to his apartment all black and blue. He needed to be reminded of who he was and where he belonged, but his mind was on Marianne. Lucky for her, for once.

He tore back over to her place with me right behind. We were able to stop Fitch from offing her, it’s just too bad Harry got in the way. Maybe watching Marianne dissolve as her brother died in her arms allowed Hutch to finally see for himself the cost of misplaced loyalty and love acknowledged too late.

At the end of the day, I played it hard because that’s what Hutch needed. I was relieved as hell he came back and decided to invest in life again. I let him have his turn to play the optimist in order to prove to himself that he could find his way home. Still, if I have to travel to hell to bring back his soul, my bag is already packed.