Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
Chapter 44: What’s in a Name
Brooks passed himself off as a celebrity recluse at the Mark Hopkins. They bought the story, and they treated him like royalty. Everything was first-class, which suited his temperament just fine. He knew that one day the bill would come due but, until that happened, he was going to just keep on charging everything he needed to the room he couldn’t pay for.
One day it came to him, while he was having a manicure, that he need not give all this up; all he needed to do was play the recluse con at a higher level. He half expected Mr. Dark or another of his poker pals to tell him that he was a fool to try but, come to think of it he hadn’t heard word from any of them for a couple of days. Perhaps the Mark Hopkins was too highbrow for the likes of them. He laughed at that one and then thought, I laughed, now that’s something.
After a tall gin and tonic in the bar at the Top of the Mark, he dealt his first card. “Al,” he called out to the bartender, who he could hear was nearby. Al was also the assistant manager, who usually did not work behind the bar. The regular guy was off for some reason, and that, as far as Brooks was concerned, worked in his favor. What he needed couldn’t be provided by the hourly-rate hired help.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Brandt. You’re looking well today,” Al lied. The blind recluse gave him the willies. The silk mask, with the mouth hole that fluttered every time he spoke, was downright creepy. He told himself that accidents can happen to anyone and thanked God for his own good health, but that didn’t change the way the masked ghoul gave him the creeps. The only difference today was that the silk mask was white with a black sash, which was less unnerving than the black mask with a white sash that he usually wore. “Another tall gin and tonic?”
“Please,” Brooks answered. “Al, I’ve got a small favor to ask...”
“Just name it, Mr. Brandt, and I’ll do my best to see that it happens.”
“I appreciate you letting me play the piano now and then. The truth is that I’d like to play a little more often, say on a nightly basis. I know that you’ve got some pretty swell headliners performing here regularly. It is the Top of the Mark, as they say. I was just thinking that it might be fun to fill in between sets, play for the late afternoon crowd, or perhaps the late night crowd at the lobby bar downstairs.” He flexed his fingers. “It feels good to play again, and I can sing a little too.”
Al thought about that, it would be a great draw to have a major talent like Oscar Brandt as a regular. The creepy mask might just add a little spice, a little mystery to the act. He poured the gin and tonic, then followed the blind man to the piano. He set the drink down in the exact spot where the blind pianist knew to find it. “I’ll take it up with the boss and see what he says. Personally I think its a great idea.”
“Thanks Al,” Brooks said as he began to play. “Under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want to go by my real name. I don’t want folks feeling sorry for old Oscar Brandt, most think I’m dead anyway. So, if we can work something out, I’d like to go by the name Oscar Katz. You won’t have to pay me much, perhaps we can work something out with the hotel on a trade basis.”
With that said, Brooks began to whistle while he played. In no time at all he attracted an appreciative crowd.
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith