Teri Beckett ended her shift at the salon nearly an hour later than she planned. Her hope was to leave early but her last appointment ran late due to the weather and the associated traffic, and her client had the nerve to insist Teri touch up her roots. A dusting of snow was forecast earlier that morning but the system slowed its forward motion and subsequently spun up into a pretty decent Nor'easter. Two inches of snow accumulated through the afternoon and an updated forecast called for it to snow well into the early morning hours, possibly leaving up to twelve inches of the white fluffy stuff with wind gusts reaching gale force as the evening progressed. The authorities were warning people to stay off the roads, remain indoors and not to drive if possible.Yet Teri's client had to have her ugly, muted brown roots bleached out, God forbid she be in an accident with two-tone hair. Teri finished her as quick as she could with out appearing to rush the job, she kept the small talk to a minimum and suffered through having to be gracious as, yet again, she was under-tipped for her efforts. Poor tippers were everywhere, it seemed to transcend race, religion, gender and social status. Teri didn't understand the mindset. There were poor tippers in Florida where she got her cosmetology license and began cutting hair and poor tippers here in Boston. At least in Florida there was the warmth and the sun, most of the time usually, and that was reward enough.
She thought, not for the first time, Why did I leave Florida?
Teri's tardiness caused her concern because she was supposed to be having dinner with Kellan, a electrician/guitar player she'd been dating over the previous six months, and was now almost an hour late. Kellan was a good man and a good-looking man. He worked hard as an electrician and played even harder as lead guitarist in a local band. She met him after one of his gigs and, to be honest, was first enamored with the guitar leads he played during the show. But then she got to know him and his sense of humor and, well, like so many of his originals, that was the hook that caught her. They had similar tastes in music, mostly hard to heavy rock, not the metal shit some bands were playing these days and absolutely no punk rock. Her affection for Kellan grew with every dinner or movie or night on the couch watching the television. She enjoyed spending time with him, their conversations, and of course their bedroom activities (not that those activities were limited to the bedroom only mind you).
She longed for the relationship to move forward. She had spent most of the day thinking of how she would talk to him about it, about getting serious, about monogamy, about living together (Mom will have a conniption fit over that). She was convinced she and Kellan, pun intended, were on the same sheet of music. Didn't matter though, she was filled with anxiety just thinking about having the conversation. Two thoughts kept alternating in her head, like those annoying tinkling high notes from Für Elise: you may think you know someone but you never really do, and this was one of those times where you may learn more than you should.
There was a strict No Personal Calls policy with the salon's phone and the pay phone outside the shop was short a handset, what remained were frayed wires poking out the end of a metal coil. The pay phone suffered it's injury at the hands of some bored teenagers late one night weeks earlier and had yet to be repaired, and so she had no way to get word to Kellan that she was running late. Hailing a cab would most certainly prove to be impossible under such inhospitable conditions. She'd have to make her way on foot to the West Newton Street T Station (the T being Bostonians term for subway) four blocks northeast, then switch lines and take the Green line six stops to Kenmore Square and hoof it another block to Shane's Tavern, where she was to meet Kellan. Her apartment, which she shared with a roommate, was a mere five minute walk from the restaurant, she wasn't too concerned about the storm intensifying too much before they finished dinner and Kellan could stay with her. It's how she intended the night to end anyways.
Teri threw on her coat, wrapped her scarf around her neck and, using her mirror as a guide, gathered her shoulder-length auburn hair up into the matching knit cap. Kellan bought her the set a couple of months back and she wore them all winter long. She removed her sneakers and put them in her locker, then stuffed her feet into her snow boots and donned her gloves. Teri secured her locker and said goodbye to the remaining staff and customers and headed out into the storm.
A gust of wind came out of the northeast and hit her broad side, she wasn't prepared and lost her balance for a brief second, but steadied herself. There was a good coating of snow on most surfaces that hadn't moved in the preceding hours and a slushy mix on the street surface made driving a dangerous chore. She looked northeast along Columbus Avenue and noted the sidewalks were in mixed condition, some building owners had shoveled and some had remained indoors perhaps waiting for the snowfall to back off before jumping into that back-breaking labor, and her course took her through clear to icy to snowy patches of sidewalk. Her boots made good purchase and she moved with as much haste as she dared. It was well past dusk and vehicular traffic was virtually non-existent as most of the commuting folks headed home early, the locals too were most likely safe and warm in their homes as the sidewalks were quite deserted of pedestrian traffic. Teri worked in a small hair salon in a part of Boston called the South End. The salon she worked at fronted Columbus Avenue, it was flanked by a brand new french bistro on the right and a flower shop on the left. This particular area of the South End was going through a gentrification phase, with new businesses moving in along with a fair amount of Yuppy-money buying up aged and abandoned brownstones, converting them from dilapidated single family homes into flashy, multi-unit apartments. Although the area was transitioning away from one of desperate poverty, drugs and prostitution, it wasn't difficult at all, with the snow falling in the glow of the wrought iron street lamps, to picture the scene as quite idyllic.
She gathered her coat a bit tighter and turned north towards West Newton Street, her head tilted slightly downward to protect her face from the driving snow but there was no avoiding it, this part of her route took her into the wind. Her right hand fumbled in a jacket pocket and rested reassuringly on the pocket knife she carried, her mother had insisted she keep it with her when walking the city.
By the time she reached West Newton Street she was wind battered and frozen and had gathered about a quarter inch of snow on her coat, boots, scarf and hat. She could see the station about a block and a half away, which might as well have been the entire expanse of the Alaskan Tundra as far as she was concerned. She was cold, tired and just wanted to get indoors again, and the protection of the T Station seemed far away. Growing up in Delray Beach, Florida she experienced sub-forty degree weather only a handful of times, and even then no snow or ice or crazy shit like that. Typically cold weather is met in south-east Florida with the backs of residents as they scamper indoors and turn the AC unit to heat. If it were a particularly strong cold front it might last a day or two and make life in Florida just intolerable.
It was on days like these that she truly missed the high, hot Florida sun, its warmth bathing her skin. She spent many days at the beach in her youth, playing in the surf, sucking in that sun and not ever hearing the word windchill used in local forecasts. She left Florida about a year earlier to strike out on her own and live in a big city in the north east. She fell in love with Boston when she was younger due to her having an affinity for American History, in particular the American Revolution with which her home town, and the greater Florida area, had not much to do. Boston and the surrounding areas were littered with Revolutionary War history: Bunker Hill, Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church, Lexington and Concord. So much history in one small area that, in addition to being a college town and a music hub, her choice of destination was obvious to her. And it turned out, for a small town girl, she enjoyed living in Boston, although the winters she could do without.
She looked both ways at the intersection of West Newton and Columbus, which was pointless as there were no moving cars in sight, but it was one more thing about city living that her Mom (a woman who had never lived in the city) pressed upon her before leaving Florida. The air had taken on the odd acoustic dampening characteristics common to snowstorms and she felt like she had cotton stuffed in her ears. She ambled through the slush to the opposite side of the street. The sidewalks were in poor condition here, it seemed to Teri that not one owner along this block of brownstones cleared their walkways and sidewalks, and the city hadn't made it to this area yet. There were a couple of tracks along the sidewalk leading to the station, but even these had been filled in with at least half an inch of fresh snow implying no one had come this way in at least twenty to thirty minutes. And to add insult to injury the next hundred yards or so were up hill.
And she thought again, Why did I leave Florida?
* * * *
A rail-thin male figure was dressed in black from head to foot, including what looked like a ski mask, not at all out of place in this weather. His small frame enabled him to remain easily hidden, kneeling beside a trashcan just a couple dozen feet off West Newton Street in what authorities later would refer to as "Alley 436b". Apparently unassailed by the cold, the wind and the snow, his impervious nature seemed oddly to extend to his clothing as well. As soon as a snowflake landed on him it all but disappeared. The icy particle didn't melt as there was no moisture left behind, it was if it sublimated instantly upon touching him, if indeed it actually made contact at all.
He picked up Teri's scent long before she came into view at the end of the alley, he was upwind of where her course lead but his olfactory senses were far beyond those of even highly evolved canines and she was an enticing aroma, he could have detected her in a tempest. The female's fragrance was intoxicating, contagious and all-consuming. It brought to the surface a need in him that he hadn't felt in a long time. In fact, it was powerful enough to draw him in from over four hundred miles away, while he was hunting in the wilderness of Quebec. It took him almost a full week to make his way to Boston, and then another few days to locate her. He preferred sparsely populated areas, it made it easier for him to obey the rules. But this was something that superseded rules. There were so many scents in big cities that it could be overwhelming and they had caused him to stray from the guidelines in the past. He spent the last two weeks watching her, following her, familiarizing himself with her patterns, devising a plan. He needed this, needed it just once, needed it regardless of the risk, needed it in spite of the condemnation (and perhaps expulsion) that would follow. He had to be utterly careful, completely clandestine. Then the storm came, and provided the cover and the environment conducive to his needs.
* * * *
Kellan Murphy checked his watch for the eleventh time in the last thirty minutes then flagged the bartender. He swallowed the remainder of his Sam Adams draft, slapped a five dollar bill on the counter, gave a thumbs up and turned towards the door. As he made his way across the tavern he zipped his coat shut, slipped on his gloves and reached in his left jacket pocket to retrieve his pager. It showed no recent activity, which didn't surprise him, Teri refused to use his company issued pager for personal reasons, but he checked it all the same. He was growing concerned, Teri was always on time. He called the salon thirty minutes earlier but it was after hours and he knew the ownership had a firm rule of not answering the phone after closing. He thought it a piss-poor policy to turn on the answering machine when there might be clients and employees in the salon.
The first time he saw Teri was from the stage at a club called The Blue Reef. It was a slow Tuesday night and he was playing with his band, Delta Triad, a classic rock cover band mixed with some originals. The club was on Lansdowne Street, the hub of the music scene in Boston, and she stood at a high top with two other women. The venue was the regular place the band played, usually once a week, usually on slow nights like this one. It was more a public rehearsal than a performance, in attendance were only friends of the band and diehard rock fans with nothing to do on a Tuesday night. The lead singer and the club manager were friends in high school and they all partied there when they were not on stage and they partied there when they were on stage.
Kellan stood in front of his Marshall amp, the obligatory bottle of Jack Daniels perched atop. A beat up Les Paul slung over his shoulder and a lit cigarette pinched between two strings on the head of the guitar. Stereotypical lead guitarist shit and totally meant as a joke and an homage to the previous generation's guitar gods. Besides, he drank only beer and never smoked. Kellan and Teri's eyes met and they smiled at each other. She had soft features combined with green eyes and a just a dusting of fading adolescent freckles across the bridge of her nose and upper cheeks, which only served to accent her red hair. He looked towards the cigarette at the end of his guitar and then back at her, her hand covered her mouth but he saw the smile in her eyes, he sensed her laughter. He laughed too because he knew she got it, and that was a good thing. It was the start of what, after six quick months, he considered a great relationship with a possible serious future. He knew in his gut that if this music thing didn't pan out in the next year or two, he'd relegate the guitar to hobby status and focus on his electrician skills, settle down and maybe open his own business. And despite his dreams of becoming a Rock God, deep down, most importantly, he wanted to start a family. He wanted kids and he was looking for the right Mrs. Murphy. He felt like he had found her.
Kellan stepped outside, turned towards Kenmore Square and leaned into the wind. He could just make out the lights of the subway entrance through the falling snow, and strained to catch a female figure working her way towards the tavern. A few pedestrians made their way in various directions, no doubt towards shelter of one form or another, but none towards him and none female, at least that he could discern. He started for the station, hoping rather foolishly he'd find her, sitting on a bench waiting for him.
As he stumbled and slid through the snow and ice along Brookline Avenue a guitar riff came into his head. Not for the first time however, he had heard this one before, in fact he transcribed it just a few days earlier. The riff wasn't long, just eight measures, but it came to him quite obtrusively while he slept and pulled him out of a deep sleep. Kellan kept a notepad and pencil on his nightstand for these very occasions. He learned the hard way that if he didn't write out the riff when he woke up and simply went back to sleep instead, he wouldn't remember the riff the next day. He jotted this one down, and now it wouldn't leave him, but fuck it's a good one.
Song writing was Kellan's first love, he preferred the process of creating something as opposed to performing something. A rather shy, somewhat introspective man, performing live was at times a painful act for him. Creation, on the other hand, was sublimely fulfilling and immensely rewarding, without all those fucking eyes staring at him. Without question he loved to play, there was nothing quite like picking up a guitar (or pretty much any stringed instrument) and filling a room with some of the most beautiful sounds imaginable. He favored acoustic, from the age of ten he taught himself to play on his uncle's tossed aside Ovation. He also knew that if you were a capable lead, if you could make an electric cry and sing, and if you had an iota of song writing or improvisation (vamping as they call it in the biz), then you were highly sought after in the Boston music scene.
So for money he made his Les Paul weep and for times more cathartic he sat with that old Ovation on his lap, and he would strum and pick for hours.
Jimmy Page ain't got nothin' on me, he thought.