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Ricochet Biscuit

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Elwood was sure, in some far corner of his mind, that there were cities other than Chicago. He was less sure, however, of how anyone could want to live in them. Chicago had history. Chicago had class. Chicago had style.

Chicago was also, unfortunately, growing smaller in the rearview mirror. Jake was polishing his sunglasses on his tie in the passenger seat, an act Elwood correctly interpreted as nerves. Cops were less understanding far from home; connections fewer and farther between. The blues were not given the proper respect, in some places he could mention. And the fried chicken was not to be spoken of. They both got a little jumpy any further south than Joliet, by something of a necessity.

"Why are we drag-assing all the way out to New York again? At this time of night?" Jake punched the "o" in New York with as much Inland North American vowel drag as he could, and Elwood winced.

"He's tied up. Part of some big spook-removal racket up in the city, done well for himself. I told you that academic stuff he did was top-notch."

A muffled wail came from the trunk, like a pipe organ was being laid low. Jake removed his shoe and chucked it into the back seat without even turning around.

"Yeah, well. It can't be all that great. He's still stuck in New York."

"Big Joe Turner was from New York. So was Big Maybelle."

"So it's full of bigs. Who cares? The sooner we get back to the boys, the better. We gotta start recording in a few weeks, and we're not doing it with a damn spooked-up keyboard. I knew that old bastard was giving us too good a deal on these 88s."

"Ray can handle it. They kicked some Old Testament type of chick out of Central Park West last year. They can handle a depressed piano. Did Blue Lou ask you about that horn section part? I think he wants to move it around some, see what the guys think."

Elwood had met Ray back in '75, when the band was still together and a charm school vacation was way out on Jake's horizon. Ray was bumming around doing some drumming for local acts as a way to put off taking a university post, a last hurrah working "in the private sector," as he put it, and the band took a shine to him and dragged him off on tour. In conversation over the state lines they'd gotten pretty close, and it had transpired that the occasions of both of their births had fallen around nine months after a certain touring blues musician had hit both Chicago and New York.

Elwood didn't know much about his mama, but Curtis had always said she was a woman who loved the freedom of the road. Loved it too much to be tied down with some itinerant gator's kids, which stung a bit, but he and Jake had each other, and Curtis, and even The Penguin, if you wanted to get all sticky about it. And the blues, of course. Always the blues.

Ray's mama was just some poor kid who got in over her head trying to run away from an uptight home, and had to bring him back to her parents when he was born. They raised him right, but even up in that cold north, the blues were still running in his veins. They'd clinked their beers and called each other "cousin," and who could say, it might even be true.

The rest of the ride passed deep in discussion of the upcoming recording session. By the time they hit midtown, the sun was high, and Jake had thrown everything but his sunglasses, shirt and pants at the back seat.

They pulled up outside what was, Elwood assumed, even for a swanky New York firehouse, pretty sweet digs. There was a neon sign with a worried-looking ghost blinking in and out of it, and heavy brass letters above the door reading "GHOSTBUSTERS." Below that, with the look of graffiti so long-standing that it had become a fixture, someone had scrawled "we came, we saw, we kicked its ass!" in red paint. Jake hauled the blanket-wrapped keyboard out of the trunk: it had been pretty quiet the last few hours. Elwood hoped it would hold until they found Ray.

They ducked through the firehouse doors, and made it halfway across the long garage floor before the woman behind the desk at the other end spoke, without looking up from her magazine.

"You boys had better turn right back around if you haven't got that warrant I told you to go get. I don't want to have to tell Mr. Peck we fed more of his boys to the Slimer again." Now she was filing her nails, still not looking at them. "Dr. Spengler will be very upset, because it makes the storage machines extremely cranky for a few days, and we'll have to tell the Mayor that your boss is causing more problems with our perfectly compliant business, and then Dr. Venkman will fly off at him and you'll have a nice big lawsuit on your hands. Again. Won't that be fun for everybody?" They had made it nearly to the desk.

"We're not from...Mr. Peck, ma'am."

The woman gave them a bored look. It found its way over her glasses and down her nose at the same time, a pretty neat trick.

"Don't you try to bullshit me, buddy boy, only the federal government wears suits like that." She frowned. "You must have lost the hat lottery this week, though. A good look that isn't."

"We're not from the government, ma'am." Jake leaned over the desk to give her his best in the way of charming smiles, full of sweet brass and whiskey. "We're musicians."