“I learned chess in high school, but was never better than average,” Tex admitted. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played.”
Champ’s ancient face lit up in a smile. “Champ will get you playing again. Champ always needs new playing partners, but so few people are willing to learn.”
Tex nodded like that made sense because, as far as he was concerned, people were too focused these days. They concentrated on only a couple of things and refused to expand their horizons.
“I’d love to take up chess again. Just promise you’ll go easy on me.”
Champ cackled and shook his head emphatically. “Champ isn’t going to take it easy on you because you’ll never learn if we do it that way. Life isn’t easy, but Champ guesses you already know that since you’re here at this god forsaken hour learning how to do a recently homeless man’s job.”
Champ cackled even louder and slapped Tex playfully on the shoulder.
“Champ remembers something about a large debt related to your band. What Champ doesn’t get is why the other band members aren’t helping to pay it off.”
Tex sighed and stared around the bar that was about as empty as he felt.
“They all bolted,” he replied with a shrug. “You know how musicians are.”
Champ nodded. “But you stayed.”
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with this hanging over my head, always on the run, and never able to come out of the shadows to do the thing I love because I’m afraid of going to jail. I’m going to man up, pay what I owe, and continue on my journey.”
“Champ knew he liked you for a reason. Champ also thinks there might be a song in there somewhere. But for now, your journey continues out in the alley where Champ will show you how to unload the truck from the liquor store.”
Champ cackled again, and Tex had to smile. That damn laugh was too infectious to resist.
Maggie McGee’s shared an alley with a yoga studio that never seemed to be open. Bruno had his theories that the place was a front, but Maggie would laugh that off by pointing out that if something illegal was going on fifty feet from where she worked, she would definitely know about it.
It was your typical alley with a couple of dumpsters up against the side of the bar, some scattered trash, and random graffiti on the side of the yoga studio. No one was foolish enough to tag Maggie’s place.
There was something atypical about the space, however, and it immediately caught Tex’s attention.
The area of blacktop that would normally be blocked from view by the delivery truck was exposed for all to see. The space was covered by a colorful chalk mural nothing like anything the musician turned bar employee had ever seen.
There was an enormous rainbow that led to a pot of gold at one end and the side entrance to Maggie McGee’s at the other. Beneath the rainbow was an Irish flag, the Emerald Isle itself, dozens of shamrocks, and a portrait of Maggie that was so spot on that it looked like a photograph.
“This is amazing!” Tex gushed as he stepped cautiously around the art so as not to accidentally step on it. “Who did this?”
Champ shrugged. “Champ’s guessing it’s a woman because no man could depict beauty so expertly. Maggie calls they mystery artist The Chalk Angel.”
Tex could not take his eyes off of all the mesmerizing colors that made the otherwise dark and depressing space seem full of life.
“I need to find this person and ask her to be my Muse,” he mumbled.
Champ nodded and patted Tex gently on the back.
“Champ thinks you’ll have plenty of time to do research, Sherlock, because you’ll spend hours out here unloading trucks and loading that dumpster.
Tex just nodded. He wasn’t really listening. He was completely entranced by the drawing, and only looked up when the delivery truck rumbled into the alley and covered the urban canvas…
TO BE CONTINUED…