(Part 1 of this serial: http://inkyheels.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/dandy-in-the-underworld/_)
The pianist began playing and the atmosphere in Bemelman’s became cozier, more intimate. Sasha took another sip of wine and glanced around. It was not overly busy but many of the tables had customers. She was nervous, waiting for Jules. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the booth. She felt someone slip beside her and tap her hand.
She opened her eyes and saw Jules smiling at her. His blue eyes were bright and excited. Someone else had joined them in the booth. It was an Asian woman, in her early 40s. Like Jules, she was impeccably dressed in a 1920s style.
“Jules!” Sasha hugged him and felt tearful.
Jules returned the hug and gave her cheek a kiss. “I’m so glad you’re here! I was afraid you’d be too creeped out.”
“I am creeped out,” Sasha responded. “Where have you been? What’s going on? I have so many questions.”
“This is Vivien” interjected Jules. “Viv, this is Sasha.”
Viv nodded in greeting. “I’ll go to the bar. More wine for you, Sasha?”
Sasha shook her head and Viv left them alone. “Jules, where have you been?” Sasha’s voice expressed concern.
“Mostly I’ve been in London,” he replied with a giggle. “But wait till Viv gets back. We’re still sorting everything out.”
Viv returned. She and Jules filled Sasha in as much as they could. Jules added to what he’d told Sasha before he’d disappeared, about an opening to alternate worlds.
“We’re sure there are more openings,” said Jules. “We don’t know how many, but the same concept applies. They change location because of the earth’s rotation. Oh Sasha! We’ve been hanging out in the past!”
“It’s not the past,” chided Viv. “It’s just alternate worlds. Think of a hallway filled with doors. Each door opens to a different experience, different time periods. But all exists side by side.”
Sasha stared from Jules to Viv. She wanted to believe they were pulling a prank. She struggled to grasp what they were explaining.
“So these openings – they let you time travel?” Sasha felt silly asking.
“Not exactly,” replied Jules. “The Montreal opening puts you current or up to a year in the future. The London opening is 1920s. We end up in the 1920s consistently, but we think that’s because of the location.”
“Or because we had a previous presence in that particular time period,” Viv added.
Sasha felt unsettled. “You mean – reincarnation or past lives?”
Viv shook her head. “Maybe. It could simply be that each opening leads into a different time period. The London opening is 1920s, for some reason.”
“So, what do you mean by previous presence?” Sasha asked.
Viv shrugged. “It was my early theory. That I could only visit eras where I’d had a previous life. But there’s no way to test that theory. We’re still trying to make sense of something pretty sensational. We can only speculate on most of it.”
Jules finished his wine with a gulp. “I like the theory of previous presence. In fact, I’m on the lookout for my alternate selves. But I agree with Viv that the stronger theory is that each opening leads to a different era and anyone in the know can go through.”
“How did you two meet?” asked Sasha. She was still unsettled but fascinated.
Jules grinned. “In London. We were in the same alley waiting to go through the opening. She knew immediately what I was doing. So we went together to try to figure this all out.”
“It’s better to have company,” Viv said.
“And have you figured any of it out?” Sasha asked.
Viv shook her head as Jules laughed and said, “Hell no! We’re just exploring for now. That’s the reason for meeting with you. Do you want to join us? Berlin in the 1920s! We could go to the White Mouse and see Marlene Dietrich perform. Sasha, come with us!”
Sasha didn’t know what to say.
Rafael sat in the darkened room listening to music.
It’s cold outside
And the paint’s peeling off of my walls
The song was melancholy. It made him think of Jules, his best friend who’d disappeared over a year ago.
Now the light fades out
And I’m wondering what I’m doing in a room like this
There’s a knock on the door
And just for a second I thought I remembered you
In an uncanny coincidence, Rafael heard a soft tapping at his door. He stood and approached it quietly. The tapping sounded again, louder. A voice said firmly, “Rafael! Open the damn door already. We can hear that gloomy song so we know you’re home.”
So I open the door
It’s the `friend’ that I’d left in the hallway
“Please sit down”
A candle lit shadow on a wall near the bed
Rafael opened the door. In the hallway stood Jules, his friend Sasha, and a slender, pretty Asian woman.
“Well!” Jules said dramatically as he strolled into Rafael’s apartment. “I expected a hug, a peck on the cheek, or an exclamation of surprise from you. But here you are, lost for words. That’s that not the Rafael I know and love.”
Sasha gave Rafael a sympathetic smile as she followed Jules inside.
“I’m Vivien, announced the other woman with a brief smile. “Please call me Viv.” She entered the apartment, her expression calm as she looked Rafael over.
Rafael shook his head and shut the door. His words rushed out. “Where have you been, Jules? Where did you go? Sasha? Were you in on this disappearing act of his? Who is this Viv? What is going on here?”
“You better sit down for this,” Sasha urged.
“We’ll get to all that in a minute,” added Jules.
Viv was studying Rafael. She touched his black, rocker-shag hair.
“This hair needs to be cut,” she said with authority.
“All right, Jules,” said Rafael as he sat in a chair. “Spill it.”