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Chapter 19

First Wesley Lambert gets involved with the wrong people, and now Charlotte. What was Lambert involved in? If it was drugs, like Kyle suggested, how did Trevors brooch come into play? And then warning Eduardo that hed send a message to Trevor. Sort of like how Rusty Abbott was warning me through Jeff.

I havent seen her, I said again and pushed my way past DeBurra.

Id taken about three steps when I heard his voice behind me.

Im going to be your shadow. She has to show up eventually.

That was going to be a royal pain. But I didnt turn around, didnt acknowledge that Id even heard him. Instead I went inside and found Joel already chewing on chips and salsa at a table near the back. A margarita sat on the table.

I slid into the chair across from Joel and took a sip. Smooth, tart, perfect. I smiled. Thanks.

Whered you go?

I told him about my close encounter of the irritating kind with Frank DeBurra. He murmured appropriately throughout.

Whats up with this guy Lambert? Is he a drug dealer or does he just deal in gaudy jewelry? he asked.

I dont know, but I think hes the guy in the pawnshop who threatened Charlotte.

What does he want?

I had no idea.

A waitress came over and set down a gigantic plate of nachos slathered in cheese and chili. Joel thanked her politely before taking a handful onto his plate. I suddenly wasnt very hungry anymore, but I needed something in my stomach to soak up all that tequila; otherwise, the good detective whod vowed to keep following me would have a legitimate excuse to pull me over on my way home.

We ate in comfortable silence, my thoughts all over the place. I wondered whether Id be able to get any sleep tonight with the activity going on in my brain.

When the nachos were gone and the margarita glass drained, I opened my mouth to start up again, but Joel shook his head and put his fingers to his lips.

Im worried about Charlotte, too, Brett, but I think Ace is taking care of her and you should just go home and get some sleep.

What, does everyone know about Ace and Charlotte but me?

He chuckled. Brett, theyve been dating practically since Charlotte started working for us. You havent noticed how they moon at each other?

I thought about it. No.

You should pay more attention. They make a pretty couple.

That they did: Ace with his handsome, movie-star looks and Charlotte with her long, sleek dark hair, bright eyes, and pixie face. Each of them, too, had symmetrical tattoos-Ace had sleeves that ended in perfect matching fleur-de-lis, and Charlotte had those derringers.

I just hoped that when all this was over I wasnt going to lose one or even two of my employees.

Joel gave me a kiss on the cheek before I got into my car to head home. I told him not to bother following me anymore, since I was sure DeBurra was out there somewhere. I arrived at my house in one piece; I hadnt noticed anyone behind me. Maybe he was full of hot air.

Tim was already asleep. I put on my cotton pajama bottoms and a big T-shirt, crawled into bed, and, despite my worries, fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

I got up about nine. I missed Tim again; he had gone to work while I slept. We didnt see each other very much, even though we were roommates. His job had odd hours, and mine kept me at the shop until midnight most nights. Every once in a while, like yesterday, our paths crossed.

Id hoped to talk to him again about DeBurra and tell him what had happened last night. Id have to try to call him later. I wanted to know, too, whether hed poked around about Wesley Lambert and if hed found out anything about him.

I brought my laptop into the kitchen-wireless Internet is a beautiful thing-and drank my coffee while I booted it up. I wanted to check out that Queen of Hearts Ball Kyle had told me about-the one where Trevor got that pin.

The Queen of Hearts Ball was a fund-raiser held about a year ago to benefit an AIDS organization. Lester Fine had been there, as well as other celebrities and political luminaries. The organization had raised more than five million dollars at the event, which took place at the MGM, which happened to be right across the street from New York New York, where Id had my gambling windfall. Not that that had anything to do with anything.

The MGM used to have a Wizard of Oz theme going, with statues of Dorothy and her friends in the lobby. It also had an amusement park in the back, to try to lure families to Sin City.

It didnt work.

Now the resort was sans roller coasters but boasted five pools, Jo"el Robuchons restaurant, Studio 54, and one of the ubiquitous Vegas Cirque du Soleil shows. The lobby was spacious, with a gilded lion standing sentry in a fountain of flowers under a gold-lit inverted dome that distorted its reflections like a funhouse mirror.

Could be a cool place for a fund-raiser.

I read through a couple of newspaper articles announcing the event, and a couple more that reported on it. Small, jeweled pins with the image of a queen-of-hearts playing card were handed out as giveaways.

Since about five hundred people had attended, there were hundreds of those little suckers floating around.

But Trevor had one that was real. A gift from Lester Fine, according to him. What was up with that?

I clicked on images and found plenty of pictures from the ball. A lot of sparkly evening gowns and tuxedos. Ah, there was Lester Fine, dashing in his tails. His acting career had started thirty years ago, when he was twenty. He starred in a political thriller that grossed more than anyone expected. Fine had played the bad guy.

Another picture showed Fine with his arm around his wife, Alice. I knew their story. Hed married her before his first big hit; they were high school sweethearts. Hollywood praised their ability to keep it together when so many celebrity couples broke up.

A closer look at Alice showed a fairly attractive middle-aged woman whod had a little too much Botox. She had that perpetual look of surprise in each picture; it couldnt be the flash every time. She was used to the limelight, hanging on Lesters arm. She wore a bright blue babydoll dress that was about twenty years too young for her, and her obviously dyed blond hair was too long. Women her age shouldnt try to hang on to their youth; it made them look older.

I made a mental note to follow my own advice.

A close-up of the couple showed each wearing a queen-of-hearts pin.

I clicked on the next picture.

MissTique was posing with Lester Fine, who looked decidedly uncomfortable. A little homophobic, perhaps?

The next pictures were all of drag queens whod performed at the ball. Britney Brassieres, Miranda Rites, Lola LaTuche, and Marva Luss had been together before MissTique brought them into Chez Tango. I had a small pang of sadness looking at Britney, aka Trevor McKay. He, or she, I suppose, looked like she was having the time of her life.

And here was Britney with her arm around none other than Rusty Abbott.

I still thought Rusty was pretty enough to do drag himself, but he was wearing a tuxedo and looking rather dashing. It was a lot better than the jeans and T-shirt hed been wearing at the roulette table.

Thinking about Rusty Abbott prompted me to remember Jeff Colemans call about how Rusty warned that accidents happen. I jumped up and went to the front door to make sure Tim had locked it.

I should have known better than to doubt Tim. The door was locked, as was the one that led out to the garage.

I settled back in with my laptop and a fresh cup of coffee.

I clicked through to the next page. There were a lot of pictures from the ball, mixed in with images of queen-of-hearts playing cards.

Another one caught my eye, and I double clicked.

A drag queen I didnt recognize. This one looked like she was Donna Summers twin, only white: a big bouffant of black hair, thick, bright blue eye makeup, a slinky white sequined dress, and high boots straight from the seventies. I clicked on the picture. It was the images page from the Queen of Hearts Ball Web site. I read the caption and held my breath.

Shanda Leer.

Otherwise known as Wesley Lambert.

And he was standing with his arm around Charlotte.

Chapter 18 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 20