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Joe clicked his fingers three times and the band struck up “The Weary Blues”. They’d worked hard on a good arrangement, one that flowed and got the blood pumping, like a good jazz song should. They were brothers, and some said that their blood ties made them the smoothest band in town.

Nobody cared about that tonight.

A few of the bright young things got up to dance, but you could see from the way they glanced over their shoulders towards the windows, their hearts weren’t in it.

The hall was packed with people not hearing the music. Joe and his brothers played on regardless, putting their hearts and souls into every note.

Nobody cared exactly what they played, so long as they played. So long as there was jazz. So long as they played all night. So long as they played long past midnight.

“Tiger Rag,” somebody called out from the crowd. Joe nodded, pleased somebody at least cared, and they moved seamlessly into the new tune.

He couldn’t help but wonder if the man they were really playing for was out there, in the crowd.

The guy who shouted, maybe?

That guy beside the bar, perhaps, leaning back with a hat slung low down across his face?

The young fellow near the door? Enjoying a little jazz before stepping out to see if any houses lay quiet?

He suppressed a shudder and concentrated on the fingerboard, letting his fingers dance, pumping the bass through the song.

It didn’t matter whether the Axeman was there or not. The important thing was the jazz. The Axeman had made a promise; if the jazz flowed, the blood of innocents wouldn’t.

So the band played on.

© Kari Fay