Professor Rowden Gray has come to
Chapter Three: Night Life
Rowden and Nick followed Ch’u into the dining room. If there were other diners, they were faded into the warm wooden fixtures, the black trimmed railings and the burgundy carpet. A touch of brass complimented booths and tables. This was unlike any Chinese restaurant he had experienced. No garrulous yapping from the kitchen, with canned p’i-pa and erh-hu music scraping on some cheap sound system tucked behind last year’s bamboo calendar. This was elegance.
Amidst the applause, a glamorous drag queen emerged, wearing a long, black dress and arm-length gloves. Simone DeFleurry sported a smart raven wig with sharp bangs.
Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly.
Simone’s enchanting rendition moved Rowden to wonder about his former fears in such company. Simone’s eyes fluttered with the little birds that flew, faithfully catching every
Simone slinked down the catwalk blowing kisses to his admiring fans. There must have been two hundred loving touches and feels. He sighed, absorbing the admiration and true appreciation for art. He then proceeded to the usual table, her table, reserved for the grand chanteuse. There he waited for Nick. The table, tucked in an alcove beside the dance floor, was shielded by a purple velvet drape, framing the star, as was the custom. As Nick approached, she waved to him as a queen does, with a hand twist.
Nick slid out and headed for the bar.
“He’s always so attentive, Professor,” Simone said. “I can’t get him to take the garbage out or clean up the clutter in his study, but he’s the dearest bit of sunshine that has ever graced this getting-to-be middle-aged heart.” Rowden piped his beer. He stopped, realizing Simone was thirsty. He offered, but she declined. “So what brings you to
“My Nicky didn’t like it. He said Brooks MacDonald made me sound like a farm, Sunnybrook or the other. So we crafted a new name. But enough about me. Why are you here?”
Rowden bit his lower lip. He scanned the tabletop, a shiny glass mirror that reflected rainbows.
Rowden slumped, allowing his mind to wander. So here we are again. Another complete stranger talking about John Battle’s mysterious lost bird. He felt as if he had been wandering his entire life on a furtive path only now to stray into a forest where every caterpillar sat on a pink toadstool and lectured on his specialty. As his eyes scanned the dance floor, he spied Nick at the bar. Nick talked to a rough dressed man, who wore a cowboy hat. The man turned facing the Queen’s table. Rowden got a good look, albeit a smoky one. The man definitely looked native — a shortened version of the old tobacco wooden Indian. However, something was wrong through the haze. What’s amiss with his eye? Nick appeared heated in his discussion.
The rugged man scowled. They exchanged a note and a small white packet.
Nick balanced Simone’s drink (a Sambucca, Rowden thought, but it had a pink glow and floated a cherry) and two beers.
Rowden laughed, swigged again, and then appeared resolved. His head bobbed. Yes.
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