A Bad Night at the Old Town
“Great set tonight, Paul,” called Anton to the bandleader as the audience in the Ed Sullivan Theater filed out the doors.
“You too, babe,” replied Paul. It was true. Another great set in a lifetime of them. The CBS Orchestra had been smoking tonight. They laid down some killer R&B during the commercial breaks, then transitioned flawlessly into a laid back jazz groove in support of that night’s musical guest, a flash in the pan trio half his age. Yes, the band had been great, he thought, as he exited onto 54th Street.
“Share a cab?” Paul turned to see who was speaking to him. It was the new guy, Aaron Heick. Dude was mean with his saxophone, but a real kitten in real life. “Some of the guys from the CBS Orchestra are getting’ a drink if you’re up for it.”
Paul considered the offer. It had been a while since he’d hung out with the guys after work. And what did he have to go home to, anway? His wife, Cathy Vasapoli was out of town with their daughter Victoria and son, Will. It would be another lonely night back at the apartment with nothing but a glass of chilled Moscato to keep him company. “Sure, Aaron. A drink would be fun.”
They climbed into the back of a yellow taxicab. “Take me to the Old Town Bar & Grill,” called Aaron.
“Sure thing, Mac,” replied the grizzled cabby. As the car started weaving through the Times Square traffic, Paul noticed the cabbie’s eyes darting in the rearview. “Say, ain’t you Paul Shaffer?”
“Yes I am,” replied Paul. Fame could be annoying sometimes, but this old-timer made him feel right at home.
“Big fan,” replied the cabby.
“Thank you,” said Paul.
“What am I, chopped liver?” asked Aaron, and they all had a good laugh.
The cab deposited the two men at the Old Town Bar & Restaurant, per their request. When Paul handed the driver a fifty dollar bill, the old-timer refused to take it. “It’s on me,” said the grizzled vet. “Thanks for the memories.”
“Well the tip is on me,” said Paul, stuffing the fifty into the man’s shirt pocket.
“Thanks, Paul! You’re alright!” The cab beeped twice and pulled off, disappearing into the bright New York night.
“I bet this place brings back some memories,” said Aaron, leading Paul to the front doors.
“It sure does,” said Paul. “We used that sign during the original show credits for ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’”
“I know,” replied Aaron. “That’s why I said it in the first place.”
The two shared a laugh and entered the bar. This should be fun, thought Paul. “Hey gang!” he called out, but was met with silence.
The lights were out. What was this? A surprise party? It’s not my birthday!
Paul felt around for a light switch, found one, and flipped it on. “Oh my God,” whispered Paul. Behind him, he heard Aaron gasp. Scattered around the Old Town Bar and Restaurant was every member of the CBS Orchestra riddled with bullets. There was Felicia Collins, their talented guitarist and vocalist. She’d been shot in the chest. She was dead. Slumped next to her their other guitarist Sid McGinnis, his face a bloody horror mask. Their bassist and good friend Will Lee looked as if he’d tried to stop the murderer, but he’d been killed, too. Tom Malone and Franke Greene had been cut down, too, as if they hadn’t been talented musicians in their own right. Some former band members Bernie Worrell, Bruce Kapler, and Al Chez were also at the bar, and also dead. Paul looked around, dazed. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I’m going to call 911,” said Aaron, dashing off to the street. Paul was left alone, contemplating the carnage. Who would do this? And why? He didn’t know, but he would find the answers. Somehow, some way, Paul Shaffer would have his revenge. It had been a great set that night. If only he had known it was the final set the CBS Orchestra would ever play. Paul fell to his knees and, for the first time since becoming David Letterman's bandleader in 1982, he wept.