Jim woke at the crack of noon to see his guests, still out on his couches. By the time the milk hit his coffee however, Jackie was at his side in the kitchen. She was hardcore and no amount of whiskey could hold this veteran down. Jim watched her sup her coffee -- hair ruffled and bleary eyed and wondered -- where can I get me one of these? Leo had always been the lucky one with the girls and he could see he’d not lost it when he bagged Jackie. She was the sort of woman the phrase movie star looks was coined for. Now rougher round the edges, but she still had it.
She was fully aware of Jim’s attention and welcomed it. Being able to draw a man’s gaze had always pleased her. She flicked her hair back, arching her back and Jim looked away, hoping she hadn’t noticed him gawping. He cracked an egg and it sizzled to life, before long bacon and beans were vying for position next to it.
The two of them ate their late-breakfast at ease in each other’s company and when silence fell between them it was not awkward. She hadn’t realised she was hungry but when Jim cleared her plate to the kitchen, only the glazed pattern remained on its surface. “I’m going to see Leo now, Jim, I wont be long.”
Jim gestured to Bill still sprawled on his couch. “What about sleeping beauty?”
Jackie shook her head. “Feed him coffee, it’s a long drive to L.A.”
She walked in the afternoon sun to the grave of her husband and thought to the day he’d asked her to marry him. It was the summer of 1993 and Leo had flown her out to meet him on tour. He was in Texas for three nights on his first big tour of the states. She’d landed in Dallas and as she left the baggage carousel having reclaimed her one small case -- containing mostly lingerie -- she spotted a limo driver holding a sign saying merely “Yoko.” She laughed and knew immediately it was for her, as Leo had ribbed her about how she’d better not split up his band if he let her come out.
Leo was waiting in back of the stretch and he jumped on her like she was a life raft. They were like a couple of teenagers, but Jackie refused to let Leo in completely. Some part of her held him at a distance. Sure that any week now she’d be discarded and worldly enough to prepare her heart for the inevitable pain ahead.
Later in the hotel room Leo told Jackie he’d written a song for her. So, she sat on the circular-bed of the Dallas Hilton Grand’s penthouse and listened to his love song. He had played it to her on the guitar Bill was now holding -- it always was his favourite. When he’d finished, this calculating and strong-willed young woman felt a tear escape her normally impenetrable defences. The emotion Leo had poured into the song, so soft and far removed from his staple rock tunes left her weak. She hadn’t even noticed he was not using a plectrum to caress the strings, but a ring. Her defences in ruins, Leo knelt in front of her and held up his sparkling guitar pick. Without a thought she slid it on her finger and for the first time in what had been, by any standards, a hard life, Jackie Ross felt loved. She’d never been so happy before or since the night of Leo’s proposal and was resigned to the fact that she never would be again. That was as good as it gets, but it was pretty good and at least she’d had that much.
At the graveside she found her eyes drift to her ring finger…bare. She’d worn that engagement ring along with her wedding band on her right hand since a few months after Leo’s death. They sat there still. Two of the few items of value she’d managed to avoid leaving on a pawnshop shelf.
Bill Merchant -- still embracing Nocturne like a lover -- slept on, immune to the coffee Jim wafted under his nose. It was a third past two when his trance eventually broke in two. Jim had merely picked up the guitar he lay with and his eyes opened. They were not heavy hungover pools, but clear and immediately focused on the guitar in Jim’s grasp. He surveyed the room and instantly alert, asked “What time is it?”
Jim chuckled. “Glad you’re still with us, I was beginning to think I might need to take your measurements for a box, Bill.”
Bill grinned and rubbing his eyes, took the coffee cup Jim offered. He looked different somehow but Jim couldn’t quite place how. “You sure that was just regular whiskey we had last night, Jim…feels to me like weapons grade?” He rubbed his head, flummoxed by the degree of fatigue still hanging over him. The guitar at his side again, he was on his second coffee when Jackie returned. The sun streamed in the door behind her, filling her hair with light. Her silhouette did justice to every curve and, both men in tandem thought, Woman knows how to make an entrance.
“Decided to join us did you, Bill?” She strolled across the room like it was a catwalk but then, stopped dead three feet from Bill. Frozen -- she stared at him -- her heart thumping.
“Bill your scar…” Jackie’s voice raised an octave mid-sentence. “…what’s happened?”
Bill felt his cheek expecting blood, thinking he must have scratched it on the guitar. His fingers felt no blood. But they felt no scar either, only smooth skin. Realising Jackie had not seen blood, he felt again. The ridge he’d palpated on his cheek for the last twelve years was gone. He moved hurriedly to the mirror at Jim’s door and saw a face he’d long forgotten. The younger brother he’d never had stared back at him and he bore no scar on his cheek. The awkward kiss-curl of hair on his forehead sat there -- redundant.
Bill reeled to face them and saw Jim staring not at himself but at Nocturne, sitting benignly in the afternoon sunshine. He knew what Jim was piecing together and although it made no sense to either of them, still there it was. Bill looked to Jim and touching his flawless cheek, said “The treasure is in the grave marked Unknown next to Arch Stanton.”