The door to the bar burst open with a bang, and a woman rushed in. Pale and waifish with bags under her eyes, she scanned the room. When she spotted Troy, she ran over like a firefighter dashing for a hydrant. Troy jumped as she slammed her hands on top of the piano.
“Do you know anything religious?”
He blinked. There were a dozen churches in town if she wanted to hear some gospel music. They even outnumbered the bars.
“Uh, we’re more of a jazz and blues place in here.”
Not that anyone would mind. It was nearly midnight, and the few people who hadn’t gone home yet were so sloshed that they probably wouldn’t notice the music unless it physically bashed them over the head.
She pulled out a fifty from her pocket and shoved it at him.
Troy stared at it for a second. “How about Amazing Grace?”
“Good. Great.” She looked over her shoulder. “Start it now.”
He played, and a few seconds later, the wind howled furiously outside. A storm? He hadn’t seen anything in the weather forecast. The lights flickered, and a chill went down Troy’s spine. Something… Something wasn’t right. The bartender looked up nervously, but none of the drunks seemed to notice anything.
Troy glanced out the window. The yellow streetlamp in the dark parking lot was flickering too, but he saw no sign of rain. Litter and dead leaves blew past on the wind, and then…
Something met his eyes.
Black as coal, it was shapeless and transparent like smoke, but no smoke would stay still in wind so strong. And smoke didn’t have a ghastly face with hateful eyes. It surged forward, and the window rattled.
His fingers stumbled.
The woman nudged him. “Keep playing.”
He obeyed, banging on the keys with everything he had. He knew this song, had played it hundreds of times. It made him think of his first piano lessons with his teacher, of going to church with his grandmother. Every note sounded familiar and comforting, and he clung to that in his terror.
The specter snarled and then vanished from the window. The lights stopped flickering, and Troy hadn’t realized how cold the room had grown until warmth returned. He reached the end of the song, fingers trembling, and slumped forward.
“Thanks.” The woman put a hand on his arm and then trudged tiredly toward the bar.
She never did explain what had happened, but at least she bought him a drink.