It was everywhere, from the cobalt glass tabletops to the blue metallic wallpaper. Every square inch of the long narrow club seemed to adhere to the same cerulean code. Even the liquor bottles, standing labels-forward on the shelves behind the crescent-shaped bar, gave off a subtle blue sheen, thanks to strategically placed colored bulbs on the ceiling above.
“Wow,” James picked up a cocktail napkin printed with the navy Blue Moon Lounge logo. “Gotta hand it to him, the guy really knew how to commit to a theme.”
“We probably shouldn’t touch anything.” Arthur turned his attention to the wall opposite the bar. A long leather- cushioned bench ran the length of the wall, intersected at the halfway point by a large black pedestal that, judging by the spots of plywood peeking through, had been painted in a hurry. A sliver pole rose from the center of the pedestal to the ceiling. He shook his head.
“I told Scott this was a terrible idea.”
“I don’t know,” James said. “It could use another color or two for contrast, but the overall look isn’t ba…”
“Not the theme,” Arthur interrupted. “This whole place – and less than a block from Michigan Ave! I mean, what did he think was going to …”
“I guess he thought he could stay under the radar,” James said. He walked closer and put a hand on Arthur’s shoulder. “Calm down, Art.”
Arthur caught his own reflection in the silver pole. The smattering of freckles on his cheeks suddenly seemed to darken, and his left eyelid twitched. He closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose.
“Sorry.” He drew in another long breath before opening his eyes. “I’m fine. Where is he?”
James pointed toward the back of the club, past a cluster of high-top tables. “I gotta warn you though, it isn’t pretty.”
Scott’s unclothed body lay face down near the back corner of the Blue Moon, his head awkwardly twisted upright against the wall, and his limbs a jumble of impossible angles. A full minute passed before Arthur was able to speak.
“Turn him over.” It was more forced exhalation than actual speech.
“You said we shouldn’t touch …” James saw his friend’s face and stopped midsentence. He knelt down and grasped the body by the shoulders. It wasn’t until he had carefully rotated Scott’s body that he realized that the left arm was no longer attached to the torso.
Arthur didn’t notice the arm at all. He was too focused on the area that was once Scott’s chest, now a gaping fissure outlined by tattered flesh and rib fragments. It looked like he had swallowed a grenade that had exploded on the way down, except for the fact that there was no blood to be found, neither on the graying skin around the wound, nor in the jagged cavity itself.
“They tore out his goddam heart.” There was a quiver in Jame’s voice that Arthur had never heard before.
Arthur closed his eyes again. Four months earlier he had met Scott here, his last ditch effort to dissuade him from turning the bricked up garage into the Blue Moon. But even while he stood there on the corner of Church and Tenth with the massive silhouette of the old Michigan Central Station looming above and listed all of the reasons that the bar was a reckless idea , he wasn’t entirely sure if he believed it himself. In truth, part of him had wanted to see it work – had wanted to see their world expand, even if it was only as far as a little bar in Corktown. Maybe that little part of himself had kept him from arguing as passionately as he should have. Maybe if he had put just a little bit more of his heart into the debate, then his friend wouldn’t be lying there now without his.
Scott would probably have laughed at that. As it was, his face bore no real expression. In fact, if not for those dark gray eyes, he might not have recognized it as Scott’s face at all.
“So, what the hell do we do now?” James asked. “It’s not like we can just call DPD.”
Arthur thought for a moment. “What if we burn the place down?”
James shook his head. “And risk a full-on investigation?”
“No, you’re right.”
Arthur stared down at his broken friend. There was a much bigger question lingering in the colored lights of the Blue Moon Lounge, a question that both he and James were clearly aware of, but not yet willing to acknowledge. Instead, they granted themselves a few minutes of silence – the closest thing to a ceremony that Scott would receive.
The question would only be kept waiting for so long.
“Art,” James said, standing. “Who did this? Who’s even capable of doing this?”
It was as close as James was willing to go. He left the real question for Arthur.
Arthur was now watching his own reflection in a cobalt tabletop.
“If someone can do this to Scott,” He watched his own mouth as it formed the words. “Which one of us is next?”
copyright 2012 Christopher Anderson