Looking back the blue finger nails really should have been his first clue.
He was conservative. Even among his more conservative friends he was the most conservative. Though they often called him boring, he really did prefer conservative. He wasn't one for big risks. He liked the tried and true. Felt that no real good could come from change at this point in time. So when his friend invited him to the Halloween party he turned him down. They weren't really his thing. People would get drunk and obnoxious. He didn't even have a costume.
"Oh don't worry about that, I've got you covered, just come straight from work. Come on, we've rented out an old speakeasy! It will be great."
Which is how he ended up at a Halloween party in his work suit with a sign around his neck that read "The Man." At least they couldn't say he didn't have a sense of humor.
He was standing next to the bar trying to decide how long he had to stay to be polite when he saw her. Dressed in a 1920s flapper costume. She was petite and perfect. Her face beaming as she smiled at everyone who passed. She stood at the table laden with food for a few minutes trying a little bit of everything laid out. He was enchanted. She didn't just eat. She relished. Picking up a piece of cheese she took a deep breath, closing her eyes as a smile played at the corners of her mouth. Finally biting in to the cheese he swore he could hear a soft moan escape her lips as she chewed. She looked over at him and covered her mouth with one hand while she giggled.
"Caught me! I love to eat. It's really one of the best things. Everything about it. The smell, the texture, the taste. Oh it's the best! Try this!"
And with that she popped the remaining bite of cheese in his mouth. He was too shocked to think about the germs that they must have just shared. Or at least not think much about them. Then she pulled a flask from a holder on her thigh and took a swig. "Want some? It's probably not as good as what's in those bottles but I had a craving for good old fashioned bathtub gin."
He laughed, "It's in keeping with your costume, that's for sure!"
She smiled again, "Here, come eat with me!"
And that started the whole crazy night. She drug him to the snack table and then the dance floor and then out the door to look for a "joint that's really jumping!" Later they walked along the waterfront where he finally got the nerve to kiss her. She tasted like almonds.
"You must be cold out here, let me give you my jacket."
"Honey, I'm Chicago through and through. I don't even feel the cold anymore."
They danced under street lights. They stopped in diners and bars. They chatted with other couples out strolling and with loud raucous groups party hopping. She wasn't his normal type at all. He did mention he was conservative right? Every woman he had dated before was like him. On a path. Serious minded. With a plan. With her he just felt free and for the first time in a long time, young.
Even though he knew it was crazy he knew he was falling in love with her that night. They went back to his place and fell asleep together tangled in his sheets. The taste of almonds on his lips the chill of a Chicago night still on their skin.
When he woke in the morning she was gone.
No note. No phone number. No way of finding her.
He realized he didn't even know her last name.
He texted his friend who threw the party.
"Hey, you know the girl I was hanging out with? Do you know her last name?"
He waited. Finally the phone buzzed.
"I don't think so? Check the pics online and tag me."
Logging on and looking through the pictures from the party he found a few shots of him. One of him standing next to the bar smiling, that must have been when he first spotted her. Another one of him holding up his sign talking to someone off camera. That must have been when they were joking about him being "The Man." One of him dancing. Alone. One that showed him leaving the party. Alone. Where was she? He went through all of the pictures again trying to catch a glimpse of her in any of them.
He texted his friend again.
"I can't find her in any of the pictures. She was dressed like a flapper. Her first name is Sally."
There was a long pause this time before he got the return text.
Then a link came through.
The best ghost stories of Chicago including sightings of Sally DeMore a party girl from Chicago poisoned by a jealous boyfriend who thought she was leaving him. Once a year she would continue the party. One night only. Then gone again. Those who saw her once never saw her again. There was an old black and white photo of a beautiful girl in a flapper dress smiling as she held a silver flask.
The almonds turned to ashes in his mouth.
Looking back the blue finger nails should have been his first clue.