“How nice of you, Miss, to bolster Beda up! This is a great night for him! Don’t you know?” Mrs. Novakova is utterly perplexed by my lack of response.
“That American guy, -that impresario, as we used to call them but “agent” should be the right word for this one, - will come tonight and make Beda an offer! Just imagine, Miss! Playing in New York in a famous jazz-club! Of course, Beda richly deserves it. I’d hate to lose him, Miss, but we mustn’t be selfish, must we? It goes about Beda’s future!” Mrs. Novakova glares at me pleadingly as if I were my lover’s keeper.
“I’ll leave you now and let Beda pull himself together. I have my hands full, as always when Beda is playing. Would you like to have some coffee or anything else? All on the house, in Beda’s honour!” She gives Beda a fond glance and rushes off to see to her clients.
“You didn’t tell me, Beda! Will you go?”
“That’s an academic question. Will YOU go, Laura?”
I swallow hard. Isn’t this a God-sent answer to my problems? The right question at the right time? If Egon murders Zita and goes down, it is dead certain he’ll draw me along with him.
“Hi, Beda!” Not bothering to ask permission, without giving me a second glance, a tall, skinny man with black curly hair pulls a chair away from the nearest table and sits down. Were he an impresario, he would be wearing a steel-grey pin-striped suit matching his prickly temper; a thin gold collar pin would pull the narrow collar of a starched white shirt up his pointed, voluntary chin. This man here is undoubtedly an agent, sporting skin tight designer jeans and a trendy polo-neck shirt showing off a thick golden chain on his hairy chest.
Beda gives him a cool glance and introduces us:
“Miss Irene Fila.”
“How do you do,” I snub the man using my grandfather’s haughty Oxbridge drawl. Whoever he may be, I definitely mistrust him. Not only for his lack of manners but for all those glittering things he stands for and that I have been taught to despise.
The waiter serves us a bottle of Bourbon, a cooler with ice-cubes and three whisky glasses. Where has Mrs. Novakova unearthed all this?
The headlights dim. Beda touches my hand reassuringly and gets up leaving me alone with this Goldwin guy, so cheap, so noisy, so full of himself.
At the very instant Beda is settling down at the piano, spotlights come up and strike his beautiful, nervous hands on the keyboard. For a moment he remains motionless. His eyes grope for me in the darkness turning me into each note he will play.
“You leave me breathless”, Beda hums, smiling softly just for the two of us, the keepers of an overwhelming secret.
The bar is still. With numb reverence, we are spellbound by Beda’s music. Long after this night, I shall be carrying in me the memory of the sublime emotion with which Beda summoned his love for me, from the first awkward moment at Mirak’s dancing school until our first kiss that marks the pause. In a storm of applause Beda heads to me.
“Great!” Goldwin compliments Beda on his brilliant performance.
“It deserves a drink.” He throws some ice-cubes into the glasses and pours the whisky out.
“To your success in New York!” We clink glasses and Mrs. Novakova gets up from behind the bar to lift her glass up to Beda.
“We’ll sign the contract anytime you wish. I’ll make you to a star, Beda!”
“It depends on the lady,” Beda answers coolly.
“Would you like to go to New York, Laura?”
“I don’t know.”
“You should know!” Goldwin ogles me angrily.
“You mustn’t spoil this bright guy’s future! ‘She doesn’t know if she would go!’ Oh God, you...” He doesn’t go as far as to call me names in Beda’s presence.
“I think that’s something Mr. Mulstein must decide for himself. Good night.” I stand up.
“Laura! Please! I’ll make the second part short and take you home. If you feel like leaving right away, we are going.”
“I’ll stay. Go and play for me, Beda.”
I hold Goldwin back from refilling my glass, draw away from him as far as I can and try to concentrate on the music.
“Look, sweetie, let me tell you something. Only a complete bitch would wreck this guy’s chances! He hasn’t just a staggering technique. He has all those little extras that make people tick. There’s a grace in his music, if you know what I mean. Well, don’t let’s lose our time to beat about the bushes: how much to let him go?” He reaches after his wallet, takes out a wad of banknotes and pushes them into my hand.
“That’s for the start, sweetie, you’ll get much more after he has signed the contract.”
I gasp for breath. Shall I smack his face with his dirty money? Yet, minding my grandmother’s breeding, I refrain from such a flashy gesture. He might even be right. Maybe I am my lover’s keeper and master of his destiny.
“That’s hardly necessary, Mr. Goldwin.” I hand the money back to him.
“I won’t stay in Beda’s way.”
“Right you are! May I consider it a promise?”
I answer with just a smile and rivet my attention on Beda. He eased himself from the be-bop to our music and is closing the performance with “Laura”, what else?
He gratifies the jubilation crowd asking for an “encore” with a princely nod and returns to me.
“Let’s call it a day. Thank you for coming over, Marty.”
“I asked Mrs. Novakova to call us a cab.” He encircles my shoulders and leads me away.
“I didn’t know you spoke English so well, Beda.”
“Another of my hidden talents, girl! Would you like to probe further?”
“Thanks. Maybe later. How come you have an American accent?”
“We lived in New York for a couple of years when my father was on assignment with “The New Yorker”. New York is a fascinating city. I’m sure you’ll adore it.”
“This time, we nearly made it to the sky, didn’t we, Laura?” He asks taking leave of me with a “nearly” everlasting kiss. He releases me from his arms so reluctantly that I “nearly” ask him in.