The Sky Room was dead. Just a middle-aged couple holding hands over Manhattans at one table and a wrinkled tourist with a loser’s face at the bar contemplating a flock of empty shot glasses. The small dance floor was scuffed and dusty. An empty cocktail table had an ashtray filled with butts. You wouldn’t have seen that in the old days.
The ceiling was still painted to make it look like a starry night with puffy clouds, but some of the stars weren’t shining. It didn’t matter. Nobody said “Meet me at the Sky Room!” anymore.
The Murray Arnold Quartet — minus three — was providing the entertainment. The aging boy wonder of the piano was a long way from his glory days at the Cocoanut Grove in L.A. or fronting for Freddy Martin and his orchestra. But the old guy looked comfortable in this empty relic from the town’s past, noodling the keys of a scratched baby grand, exploring a subtle syncopation on “More Than You Know.” Heber wasn’t sure if he liked Murray’s interpretation, but he appreciated the effort.
He found a table by the big window overlooking the Strip and sat down. Fingerprints smeared the glass at kid level. He took off his Stetson and used his handkerchief to wipe the sweatband. Setting his hat on the table, he looked out the smudged window and tried to remember the last time he saw a mushroom cloud.