From the meager bandstand at the front of Bertha’s, the tune ended with a resounding crash of cymbals as Wingo brought the song in for a landing with his trademark pinky strum. In almost perfect time with the musical crescendo, a cacophony of curses and falling boxes arose from the little storage room, and Audrey came charging back into the bar, her hair a tangled rat’s nest, and her too snug white blouse held in place by a single button and covered in dust and flecks of blood.
“ Get outta here! Pervert! Somebody call the cops! Help me!” cried Audrey, her lower lip dripping red and looking like someone had tried to shove it in a blender. “Call 911!”
Findley swaggered out of the stockroom, hitching his pants up and buckling his belt like he hadn’t a care in the world. He spit out what appeared to be a small piece of raw hamburger, a tiny bit of crimson spittle hanging on his chin. His eyes were flickering like the worn out neon beer sign over the bar, and he was tunelessly humming “My Favorite Things” beneath his breath.
Audrey went running out the back door, a hysterical tornado in a savaged hairdo, heading in the direction of the main dining room and safety. Alton Findley stepped behind the bar and grabbed a bottle of Bushmill’s from the shelf. There was a large, old fashioned plaid thermos beside the coffee maker, which he had seen Audrey filling before they had toddled off together to their rendevous in the stockroom. Finn grabbed it and pitched in toward Barlow, who was just now lifting his head from its resting place in a puddle of beer on the bar.
“Catch, buddy. You’re gonna need it. You, too Daryll. Time to vamoose. I have a suspicion the little lady’s none too pleased with the present I tried to give her. Jeeze, I told her I was trouble. Don’t women EVER listen?”
The last thing the three fugitives heard as they pushed through the red portal and headed out into the Fells Point night was the voice of the guitarist as he stood smoking beneath the street lamp just outside the door.
“Hey man, awww, come back! That’s my coffee jug!”
Be Sure to see the REAL Paul Wingo play some of the best jazz on the planet every Tuesday night at Bertha’s


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