I FINALLY POSTED. This chapter has two perspectives. It starts of with Lander May then switches to Rita Lauren.
Start the story from the beginning Chapter One: Rita Lauren)
Chapter Eight: How to Play a Fool
I am surprised to hear Lauren sing up on that stage. It is refreshing to know there is a side of her that is not all down-to-business cop. She has always had a pleasant, fair speaking voice, but when she sang…wow. Let’s just say I’m impressed.
Impressed by only her singing, mind you. While I have been off playing detective, what has she been up to besides showing off her vocal cords (and no doubt, the extravagant dress and jewelry she is wearing during the performance). I am curious as to what information she pulled out of Guy Jones. There must be some reason she is working here right now. I will not give away her cover though. The hidden glares she sends my way (which I can sense, without needing to see them) have assured me of keeping my mouth tightly shut.
I motion to Jeff and we both make our way out of the club. The night air is brisk but not chilly, perfect for a stroll on this summer night. But where shall I take a stroll to?
Well, in this part of town, all the young and restless with too much money in their hands are probably out-and-about this weekend. And I have no plans to contact Lauren until tomorrow. What’s a blind man to do but to casually listen in on some gossip?
A couple hours later, I find myself seated at a table outside a coffee shop, enjoying the night air and listening to all sorts of conversations. Giggling girls and late-night drunkards have so far proven the most interesting to listen to, but unfortunately I haven’t picked up any sort of sign about the Heritage Party or anything relating to cults or magic. I have a sinking feeling our case is becoming cold. I take a nice long sip from my coffee.
A voice shouts out from the corner of my periphery. “Goddammit May, I’ve been looking around all over for you! You were conveniently at the club tonight, so I expected you to stay so I could chat with you afterward about what I’ve been doing, but NO…you had to get up and leave and wander across half the city!” The angry clack of her heels as she stomps toward me adds emphasis to her tirade.
“Please don’t exaggerate,” I scoff. “I’ve been casually people-watching, or people-listening, rather, and drinking coffee with my loyal companion.”
“Coffee. Sure. Only about two-thirds of it smells like it came from a distillery.”
I’m not going to argue with that. “So? What have you discovered?”
She leans forward as if to whisper a secret. “I met with Guy Jones.”
“YES I know. You ditched me after that. I remember that part.”
“Oh stop playing the victim. I know you were itching to get out of that place anyway. Well, it didn’t take much, but I managed to get him to tell me some interesting information for a new lead I know you’ll want to hear,” Lauren says with earnest.
And then she begins to explain her story to me.
(One week ago)
I think I may have dug myself into a bit of a hole, but I’ve come too far to back out now. Finally, I am beginning to make out the links between May’s and my case (or rather, what had been our case before it was taken from us) and the Heritage Party. Magic and money: two things that don’t sound like they go well together.
My first target is Guy Jones, the organizer of the fundraising event in South Lake. My detective senses are tingling and telling me this guy is the one to chase if I want to get anything out of this investigation. I had been observing him throughout the party whenever we were in the same room and discovered one very important but rather predictable, dull detail – Guy Jones has an affinity to young, pretty women.
And not to sound pretentious or anything, but I’m young (relatively speaking) and I know many-a-guy has kept his gaze as I’ve walked by, so I must be attractive on some level. There is the possibility I could have been reading the signs all wrong.
Well, if this plan doesn’t work, no one can say I never tried.
I feel confident as I ditch my partner for the evening and strut over to where Mr. Jones had situated himself by the grand piano. He currently is talking to a young woman who harbors an expression that screams, ‘It was nice meeting you. Can you please leave me alone now?’
This actually is a good thing for me. Now I can play “hero” while also on my mission to play “sultry seductress.” I make my move and tap Guy Jones on the shoulder. He turns around and looks pleasantly surprised. The other woman uses this distraction to take off as fast as her four-inch heels can take her.
“Hello, miss. Have we met yet?” he greets cordially.
I extend my hand in formal greeting, but my voice betrays any intent of keeping this as such. “Good evening, sir. My name is Charlotte.”
He takes my hand softly and kisses my knuckles. I force down the urge to punch him in the face with them. “It’s such a pleasure to meet you Charlotte. My name is Guy Jones. But plain ‘Guy’ would do just fine.”
“Alright…Guy…I must say this party has been wonderful! The museum itself houses so many pieces of old art, and I did so love that auction! Some of those items looked extremely rare and fantastical. I wonder where they come from?”
“Well,” Guy starts as he leads me toward a large window to gaze out at the gardens, “many members of the Heritage Party have been long-time collectors of old artifacts and some are willing to part with a few items to help raise money for the party’s goals. In fact, some of the pieces have been handed down for generations within families! History runs deep within Four Lakes. As does heritage, though unfortunately, we seem to have lost a sense of that in these modern times.”
A waiter comes by with glasses of wine. Guy takes two glasses and hands one to me. I take a small sip and savor the taste.
“Mmm. Lovely. One painting stood out to me in particular. The God of Light I believe?”
“Oh?” Guy questioned. “How did it stand out to you?”
“Well, the picture itself was just so vibrant and powerful, as if the God of Light was focusing all his energy on the viewer. It was actually quite hypnotic.”
“Ah, yes, the God of Light can invoke this feeling in many,” Guy said with slight hesitation. This topic was making him uncomfortable for some reason. I decided to poke him a bit more.
“I always wondered, what does the God of Light really stand for? I can imagine him wanting to…bring to life, or resurrect, or…illuminate hidden truths. Forgotten heritage,” I finish with a sly grin.
Guy Jones gives me an intense look, as if he is trying to decipher my true intentions. I match his intensity, but I pray I’m not giving myself away. Confidence, I tell myself. Be seducing, sexy, and equal to his intense stare. Do not back down.
It must work because he gives me a mischievous smile and answers, “The God of Light is about giving and generosity. He is about bestowing on others the things which time may have buried but the world has not forgotten about.”
I take another sip of wine and lick my lips. “Things?”
“Yes. Like…forces of nature. Creatures meant to restore balance to the world.”
Like…magic? I want to say but prevent myself from doing so. I continue to look at Guy Jones straight in the eyes but with a slight questioning look.
Guy puts his wine glass down on a nearby table in order to take a card out of his pocket. “If you are interested in delving more into the depths of our…heritage…I invite you to give this man a call.” He hands me the business card and I take a glance at it.
Owner of “The Blue Bird” nightclub
I looked up at Guy Jones through lowered lashes and gave my own mischievous grin in return, though for reasons different from his own. “Thank you Guy. I will definitely give this man a call.”
“Be sure to show him this card when you do,” Guy explains.
“Yes, I will make sure to do so. Thank you so much for your help.”
I leave the museum and look for the carriage May and I came in. I spot it some distance away – either May is still around or he must have left the grounds some other way. I am thinking of going back in briefly to check if he is still around but then see my brother and his girl exiting the building.
Oh crap. Oh no, I think to myself. I need to hide myself somehow. I don’t want to have to explain to him why I am out here – alone. Perhaps there is a crowd I could mingle with until they walk past –
“Rita! The last person I expected to see here!”
Yeah, that’s what I thought too. I flinch, but turn toward my brother slowly. “…Hey Bobby.” Fortunately, the woman he was with had gone off to the side to say goodbye to some other folks, so I would not need to deal with her right away.
“What are you doing here? Wait, let me guess…you’re with a new, rich guy I haven’t heard about yet.”
Still in the mode of being undercover, I blurt, “Yes!” Then the image of my date for the evening, Lander May, pops into my head. “Ugh, I mean ‘NO.’ I mean…who is your lady friend by the way?”
“Oh! You haven’t met Gertrude yet!” Bobby makes to wave to Gertrude to motion her to come over but I stop him by placing a hand upon his arm.
“Perhaps later.” I decide to just be truthful with him and explain the real reason I’m here. “Actually, I am here learning more about the Heritage Party,” I say, then continue in a low voice to prevent being overheard. “However, I’m a bit shy about revealing who I really am to all these new people. I feel so out of place, so I’ve been parading around as a rich woman named Charlotte. I’d appreciate for now if people did not know we were related.”
Bobby looks confused but nods in confirmation to me anyway. “Alright.”
“By the way,” I dig the business card I received from Guy Jones out of my purse and show it to Bobby. “Do you know anything about this man? I know you mentioned last we met about going into the nightclub business.”
Bobby’s eyes light up with recognition. “Oh! Frankie! Yes, he is the co-owner of The Blue Bird! I am the other co-owner.”
“Really?” I exclaim with genuine surprise. “As it so happens, I would love an introduction if it’s possible!”
“He more commonly goes by the name of Frankie Yums. He’s a funny guy!”
It clicks suddenly. Frankie Yums, owner of several clubs in East Lake. He has an infamous rap back at the station. This guy just adores getting into trouble and somehow continuously skirts around the police. And my brother is hanging with this guy? Figures. “So I’m guessing that’s how you met Gertrude?” They must be related…they do have the same last name after all. Yumshire. Yuck.
“Well I met her first, and then she hooked me up with a job to help run her old man’s establishment. It was going well until this month….we lost our main headliner…” He completed his statement with a “puppy dog eyes” look toward me.
Oh. Oh no. I can tell he’s getting funny ideas in his head.
“Don’t even,” I say in an attempt to halt his thoughts.
“But sis! You’re like…a hidden talent! Voice like yours, and you got the looks and attitude to boot…you’d make a killer stage performer!”
“You’re going to have to sweet talk it up some more, brother dear, because I have more important things to worry about than your lack of a headliner.”
“You said you’re interested in what’s going on with the Heritage Party, right?”
“Well, Frankie knows all about that! Not that he really tells anyone much…but I’m sure if you peeked into his office…And rehearsals are going on the next two days, so you’d have time to talk to him and get to know him if you wanted,” Bobby babbles frantically. “Frankie is like, a huge know-it-all about the party! I’m only a newcomer myself, so I don’t know much about it yet, but I’m sure Frankie has all the hook ups if you want them!”
“Actually, this is sounding like a good idea suddenly.” Bobby had me sold. Easy access to talk to Frankie Yums? And if I sign on with them for a while I could snoop around a bit and probably find out so much more.
“Oh, okay. Well, that was easy, Sis, you’re usually much more difficult to convin—“
“I’ll get caught up with you tomorrow, Brother. I’ll meet you at the bar then? The Blue Bird?”
“Yes, come by at 2. We are holding auditions then.”
(Current time, 1 week later)
“And that’s how I ended up here, performing on this stage as “Lily.”
Lander May scratches his chin and gives a delighted smirk. “I’m glad you’ve been doing detective work, partner. I thought I was going to have to drink my sorrows away, thinking this had turned into a one-man job. So Frankie Yums? Seems there are going to be many more clubs to check out in our agenda.”