“Where’s Bitsy?” I asked as I took the credit card machine out of the drawer in the mahogany desk.
“Joel needed her for something. I said I’d wait,” Trevor, aka Britney Brassieres, said. Without his Britney costume, he looked like any normal guy: close-cropped bleached blond hair, brown eyes, long nose, short chin. He was slightly shorter than me, and I stand about five-nine. He wore his clothes-a pair of faded jeans and loose T-shirt-with casual style.
I’d asked him why he decided to do drag, and he said it was a lark at first, a Halloween costume. But something had clicked; MissTique saw him and convinced him to try performing. He loved it, the acting, the dancing, the lip-synching.
“Not that I want to be a woman,” he’d said. “Believe me, I like being a boy.”
He looked all boy today. I gave him a look that I hoped would convey that he was to stay put while I took care of Rebecca. It was just a few minutes; Rebecca signed her receipt and left with a smile.
I took a breath when the door closed, turned to Trevor, and asked, “Are you okay?” His shirt didn’t conceal the outline of a bandage in the center of his chest.
He saw me looking at it, and he touched it gently. “Broke skin. Can you believe it? Got blood on my dress. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get it out.”
I murmured my sympathy, then asked, “Where’s Charlotte?”
“That’s what I was going to ask you,” he said. “I’m worried about her. She said she’d stay at the hospital with me, but they wouldn’t let her. She called early this morning, said she’d come get me, but she never did. I’ve tried her cell, but there’s no answer, just voice mail. That’s not like her.”
None of this was like her.
I shook the thoughts away. “The police were here looking for her.”
Trevor’s eyes skittered across the wall behind me. “What for?”
Hmmm. Did he know something? “Said they wanted to question her about some sort of incident at a pawnshop this morning.” I mentally kicked myself for not getting the name of the place out of DeBurra.
Trevor still didn’t meet my eye. “Really?” He didn’t sound too surprised, but he was trying. I could tell.
I played along. I told him the little that Frank DeBurra had said, how he wanted to see her things. I studied his facial expressions as I spoke, and now I noticed that his eyes were a little too bright and his skin was flushed.
“A guy was looking for you yesterday at the club. Wesley Lambert.”
“Wes? Looking for me?”
“You know him?”
Again he looked a little uncomfortable. “Sure. But I haven’t seen him in ages.”
“He was talking about how you’d pawned something, but he seemed to think it was a mistake. Do you think Charlotte went to the pawnshop about that and something happened while she was there?”
Trevor wiped some sweat off his forehead. “I’m not feeling very good.”
I didn’t want to let him off that easy, but he really wasn’t looking well.
“Are you okay?”
He took a deep breath. “Maybe if I sit down. Last night took a lot out of me.”
I motioned that he should sit in the leather chair behind the desk, and he plopped down like a rock, his head in his hands.
Bitsy and Joel came out of the staff room. “You’re still here,” Bitsy said to Trevor, adding, “Are you sick?”
Trevor looked up, his eyes now twice as bright. “I think so.”
“You should’ve stayed home. You could’ve just called to ask about Charlotte,” I said.
“Charlotte? What about Charlotte?” Bitsy and Joel asked the same thing just seconds apart, giving it sort of an echo effect.
“Charlotte was supposed to pick Trevor up this morning but didn’t show,” I said, then turned back to Trevor. “What pawnshop did you take the pin to?” I couldn’t be a hundred percent sure that it would be the same pawnshop Charlotte had been to this morning, but it was a place to start, anyway, even if it wasn’t.
I didn’t know whether it was because he was ill or because he was just being cagey, but he was certainly not answering my questions.
“Oh, come on, I know about the queen-of-hearts pin from the fund-raiser. I just need to know which pawnshop. Maybe this is all just a huge misunderstanding. I’m sure there’s some explanation.” Even as I said it, I knew that if Charlotte had gone there to straighten out Trevor’s “mistake,” it had gone wrong somehow.
“It’s up on Las Vegas Boulevard, just up from the Sahara.” Trevor had turned green. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
Joel was one step ahead of him. He’d slung his arm under Trevor’s armpits and was carrying him to the bathroom.
I’d wanted to ask Trevor whether he knew anyone with a tattoo of a queen-of-hearts playing card, but the sounds that were coming from the bathroom indicated that he wasn’t in a state to have a chat at the moment.
Joel emerged from the back of the shop. He was moving faster than I’d ever seen him move, and his expression showed his worry. “I think we should call for an ambulance,” he said.
“It’s that bad?” I asked, but Bitsy was one step ahead of me.
She had the phone in her hand and was giving our location.
The paramedics showed up in less than ten minutes. Trevor was still in the bathroom. I hoped our next client would be late, because Trevor being sick wouldn’t be good for business.
Two paramedics guided a gurney toward the back of the shop, and after several minutes they wheeled Trevor out quickly. Mall shoppers stopped and watched the gurney rolling off into the distance. One paramedic stuck around and asked questions: When did Trevor become ill? What had he been like when he arrived? How long had he been in the bathroom?
We answered as well as we could. I wanted to tell him I still had questions of my own, but they would have to wait until Trevor was feeling better.
“He was in the hospital overnight,” I offered and found myself telling the paramedic about the incident at Chez Tango last night. “But that wouldn’t make him sick like this, would it?” I asked.
The paramedic shook his head. “You never know. Or it could be flu.” He added that maybe we should disinfect everything, just in case Trevor was contagious. Great.
He left Bitsy and Joel and me staring at one another, looking at our hands-had we touched anything Trevor had touched? Contagious was never good.
The phone startled us. Bitsy answered, “The Painted Lady,” then listened a few seconds, said, “Okay,” and hung up.
She turned back to us.
“Client?” Joel asked.
She shook her head.
“That was Ace. He’s with Charlotte.”