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Twice Fallen

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“PITCH.” WARREN SMILED, looked at his Patik Fillipe watch. “It’s a funny word. Did you know it’s the one substance that disarms a devil?”

Gibson sniffed. “You don’t say.”

“And defiles a saint.” Warren clasped his hands in front of him, his brown eyes disarming—engaging without intimidating. He turned a spoon over and traced invisible lines on the tablecloth. “What do you think would happen if a demon turned ranks and devised a plan to get out of the business?”

“And got into what? Politics?” Gibson laughed. “He’d be out of his element among career demons.”

“If you only knew…” Warren laughed. He rubbed his nose. “I was thinking more along the lines of storytelling.”

“It’s a crowded field. Ruthless, you said so yourself.”

Warren put the spoon beside the unused napkin. “I’d be willing to go in as partner.”

“Were we discussing a pitch or a curriculum vitae? Angel investor or limited partnership?”

“I never limit my conversation about ideas. Anything is in the realm of possibility.”

Warren pushed the contract across the table, holding eye contact. Ty broke off to read. He ended up scanning random lines, then looked up.

“Why stick your neck out to finance me? You said my critics are brutal.”

“Your reputation could use a turnaround, don’t you think? There’s nothing I can’t fix with a bit of wit, and more than a little cash.”

The song ended, followed by scattered applause.

“You don’t say…” Gibson looked around, distracted.

“It’s an overused idiom.”

The pianist played a series of descending chords in D major, dropping a B minor before circling back. Warren looked toward the corner. The woman playing the song looked vaguely familiar. Her copper-blond hair fell in long waves around her shoulders. She wore a black pull-over blouse tucked into a maroon skirt. Nothing fancy. Simply at ease with herself. She sang in a smooth voice over a circle of fifths.

To know that you’re still hoping
for days that never were—
The wishes might be empty,
the promises unsure—
To know that you’re still trying...
Means everything.

Warren folded his arms and tried to remember where he’d seen the face. The woman’s round eyes and soft lips were etched somewhere in his mind, but it wasn’t coming to him. Awareness crept in, distant, haunting. The producer’s voice broke his reverie, and he looked up.

“It sounds Faustian to me.”

Warren blinked. “Not at all. I’d say it’s other-worldly with a touch of Allison Kraus.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

Warren picked up the contract. “Not exactly. It’s all standard disclosures. Non-binding...” Warren looked up from the form. Gibson was lost, listening to the song. Warren finished his sentence, “…and such.”

His inner critic told him it was a lame response, but the moment had passed. He turned again.

He looked for a memory, a hint that danced somewhere outside of his field of vision. The performer’s fingers touched lightly, expressing phrases between the chords. The pauses felt like transitions unfolding between progressive scenes of nature.

“Could it be Monique Henesey?”

“You know her?”

“Here and there.” Gibson’s sullen tone brightened. “We had some classes together. I should have kept up with her. Isn’t she fantastic?”

“I’d say—”

“Excuse me, I’ve got to...” Gibson pushed out his chair. Not even glancing in Warren’s direction, he got up. “Never mind. Keep in touch.”

He crossed to the piano where Monique was singing.

Warren tracked his movement past the tables. He dropped the contract on the table. He had the nagging sense he was forgetting something. One moment he was at the top of his game, the next he couldn’t put a name to which one he was playing. It was some distant scene, a montage without sound, all the noise of the room dimmed by the haunting lyric sung by a familiar voice.

To know that you’re still searching
for light at every turn—
You’re bound to find the answers,
and someday you will learn—
To know that you’re still growing,
means everything to me.

Ty Gibson stood off to the side during the song, tapping his foot in some counterpoint that seemed to have no connection to the music. He reminded Warren of Ulysses’ dutiful seaman, ears corked full of wax, having tied his captain to the mast. The sailor rode a side current, deaf to the music, driving past the deadly shoals.

Warren was rooted, half-twisted in the seat, drawn to the siren song,

Monique Henesey?

Warren sounded the name in his memory. The query came back empty. Of nearly three million people in Chicago, and ten times that number in the country, he simply couldn’t keep track of them all.

“Monique Henesey.” Warren spoke the name into his smart phone. He kept a database of prospects, meta files of compromising information on public figures and celebrities, and the offices maintained interactive archives that were proprietary for company use. There was no shortage of information. All that was lacking were the resources to sift through endless gigabytes of data to give any sense of relevance. The app’s status bar pinged back with 22 hits on the name. Warren scrolled down the list, seeing nothing that caught his attention. It would be nice to have photo reference connected to the list of names. But the company was spread thin, as it was, every agent spread thin in a society of explosive growth and exponential flux. You never got everything you hoped for, much less of what you needed. If you wanted something done…

Warren started to get up, when the clatter of a tray broke the spell, accompanied by the crash of broken dishes and commotion of distracted diners.

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