Steel Guitar

Steel Guitar by Linda Barnes

Book: Steel Guitar by Linda Barnes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Linda Barnes
bag, I checked out the bill at the old Brattle Theater and decided impulsively to treat myself to a replay of To Have and Have Not .
    Reality didn’t catch up with me till I got home, hastily unlatched my three front-door locks, and raced into the living room in time to catch the ringing phone.
    The voice was a whisper.
    â€œDee?” I said. “Is that you?”
    â€œOh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God,” the whisper said.
    â€œDee, where are you?”
    â€œOh, Carlotta.”
    â€œWhere are you, Dee? Is anybody with you?”
    â€œCome to the room, Carlotta. Oh, please come. I should have called the doctor. I should have stayed. I should have stayed.”
    I’d been looking forward to a very late dinner. I was glad I’d taken time to eat the hot dog in the park.

    Dee’s drunk, I told myself as I punched the button to summon the elevator. Stoned. Coked to a stupor. Or maybe just her usual melodramatic self.
    No cops were camped in the hotel lobby; the disaster couldn’t be that bad.
    That’s what I said to myself, but I practically stood on my toes to speed the elevator, and I hurried down the silent eighth-floor corridor. Then I paused for a moment, unsure which of the suite’s doors to bang. I picked 812—the living room, I thought—knocking softly, restraining my volume with effort. No need to cause a disturbance unless one was already under way.
    â€œOh, for chrissakes, uh, uh, who is it?” stammered a startled voice.
    I said, “Carlyle. Dee called me.”
    I could hear the buzz of arguing voices. I hit the door again, harder. “Come on,” I said. “Open up.”
    â€œShhh.” The door eased open a cautious three inches. Mimi, the blonde groupie, frowned and reluctantly let me pass.
    Dee was seated in the center of a white sofa, her face pale and blank, her arms crossed like she was warding off a chill. Her hands moved restlessly, squeezing her bare arms. She wore black. It looked like a silk jumpsuit, but it could have been pants and a matching sleeveless shirt. Beads spilled down her chest, gold like the ones scattered in the park. “Oh, my God,” she murmured without looking up. “My God. What time is it?”
    â€œShhh,” a man said, “hush, now.” But Dee spoke over his voice as if he hadn’t said a thing.
    â€œWhere were you all?” she said, still without looking up. “I should have called a doctor. Oh, God, I should have called a doctor. Maybe she isn’t dead.”
    â€œDead?” I echoed.
    Jimmy Ranger had been pointed out to me at the party. I recognized him as the man who was trying to shush Dee. Before he got to be one of the hottest record producers around, he’d sung a little blues himself. I’d seen him on a double bill with Taj Mahal at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge. He had hair then. Now he had shoulder-length fringe surrounding a bald spot. He ignored me and said, “You’ve got to stop this, Dee. Pull yourself together.”
    Hal Grady smiled weakly from a kneeling position near Dee’s feet. He wore a T-shirt emblazoned across the back with Change Up, THE TOUR . He said, “We’ve got to consider the public relations angle here.”
    â€œCarlotta,” Dee said, breathing quickly and shallowly, “he’s just trying to scare me. I know he’s trying to scare me.”
    â€œIs somebody going to give me a clue?” I asked slowly, biting off each separate word.
    The road manager exchanged a long glance with the record producer. Then he nodded toward the connecting door that led to the bedroom with the canopied gold bed. “You got a sensitive stomach?” he asked.
    I was already moving.
    Brenda, the dark-haired bass player with the strong handshake and the short fuse, lay across the bed, her skin so pale, it seemed a shade of blue. The sheet almost covered her bare shoulders. Her face looked like it had been

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