“That was smooth,” Joel said.
“You could’ve helped me out here.”
“You seemed to have it under control.”
I was going to say something snarky, but I was distracted as I glanced around the club. The pandemonium had quieted down with the arrival of the police and paramedics, who were now rolling Trevor out on the gurney. He’d propped himself up on one elbow and was batting his eyes at the guy holding a blood pressure cuff but who seemed interested in what Trevor was saying. Maybe he’d get a date out of this. Seemed only right, since the rest of the night was a bust.
Charlotte was beckoning us to come up onstage. Joel and I weaved around a couple of tables and climbed the steps.
“Trevor asked if I’d bring his stuff to his apartment,” she said. “I’m just so relieved he’s okay.”
Joel caught her in a hug.
I shifted from foot to foot. I’m not a hugger. At least not to the extent Joel is. Joel would hug anyone anytime for anything.
I started across the stage, figuring they’d join me when they were done.
Bitsy came out from behind the curtain. Like a magic trick. It startled me.
“Hey, what are you doing back here?” I asked.
“Helping Charlotte get Trevor’s stuff.”
Not a surprise. Bitsy might have attitude now and then, but she was always the first to help out.
“There’s something here; I’m not sure it’s Trevor’s. I need Charlotte to tell me.”
We went to the dressing room, where all the queens had gotten ready for their performances. Makeup was strewn across a long table in front of a long, wide mirror meant for sharing. The light caught sequins, and they sparkled against the feather boas; fabric draped over chairs and lay on the floor. Backpacks and duffel bags littered the corners of the room; shoes of all shapes and sizes-but all glittering-were scattered.
MissTique stood by the table, holding a box of Uncle Ben’s rice.
What in this picture doesn’t belong?
Before I could ask about the rice, Bitsy tugged on my arm.
I looked down to see her holding a gray hooded sweatshirt.
“This was lying on Trevor’s backpack, but I don’t remember him wearing it,” she said.
I didn’t remember him wearing it, either. But the guy who hit him with the cork had worn one exactly like it.
I’d opened my mouth to say something when an unearthly sound filled the room.
Bitsy and I looked up to see MissTique clutching the rice box to her chest, which was heaving with sobs. We glanced at each other, and Bitsy shrugged as if to say, What are we supposed to do? I shrugged back. No clue.
MissTique dramatically fell into a chair next to her, holding on to the box as if it were a life preserver. The tears that rolled down her cheeks left grooves in her makeup like little mountain rivers.
“It was supposed to be wonderful,” she choked, her eyes brimming over as they pleaded with us for some sort of sympathy.
This was Charlotte and Joel’s territory. Bitsy and I were just here for the ride. And if I wasn’t a hugger, Bitsy really wasn’t.
“It was good,” I tried. “Great, until, well…” My voice trailed off, because she knew what I was talking about and it was no use beating a dead horse.
Fortunately, Charlotte just that moment swept into the room, assessed the situation, and went over to MissTique and put her arms around her. Joel stood awkwardly in the doorway. So I’d found his Achilles’ heel. Hugging is good, except in the case of a teary drag queen.
Bitsy and I busied ourselves with Trevor’s duffel bag, stuffing his Britney Brassieres costumes inside. I found his makeup case on the table and began putting that together, although I wasn’t totally sure just what makeup was his as opposed to his fellow queens’.
I picked up a stray stocking and held it up to show Charlotte, my eyebrows raised with the question.
“Could be,” Charlotte said, not being much help at all.
MissTique finally relaxed her grip on the rice box and held it out for me. “This is Trevor’s.”
I took it from her. “What…”
She chuckled, a low, rumbling sound that was like thunder.
“He uses it for his boobs.”
She must have seen my expression, because her chuckle turned into laughter. “He fills a sock with rice and then puts that in his bra. It’s quite ingenious, because while the rest of us just use plain socks or pantyhose, his boobs actually move like they’re real.”
I contemplated the box for a second. I could sell the idea to middle school girls and make a fortune. I found a plastic bag on the table, wrapped the box up so no rice would fall out, and put it in the duffel bag.
Joel had come into the room now and was shuffling around, looking at the dresses on the floor. I couldn’t tell whether he was wondering why men would dress like this and perform, or whether he wanted to try something on. It was difficult sometimes to read Joel.
“I hope the cops find that guy and lock him up,” MissTique said, anger tinting her voice.
I opened a case that had more shades of eye shadow than I even knew existed. “You know, he really didn’t do anything except disrupt everything. Trevor’s okay. So I’m not sure he’ll have the book thrown at him or anything,” I said.
“What do you know about it?” she asked.
“Her brother’s a police detective,” Charlotte said.
“The one out there?” MissTique asked.
I cringed. “No. I don’t know that guy.”
“Good, because I had serious issues with him,” MissTique said. She got up and pulled off her wig. Long tresses of sleek black hair landed on the floor, and she didn’t bother picking them up. She kicked off her platform heels, reached under her dress, and tugged, pulling down her hose and sliding them off her legs.
Joel looked away.
Bitsy and I couldn’t tear our eyes away.
The wide white plastic belt came off next, and then she tugged at the back of the white sequined minidress. Charlotte unzipped her, and the dress slid off.
MissTique stood before us in her bra and panties, the hairy chest proof that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Socks spilled out of the bra as he unhooked it, and I watched as he pulled off two pairs of incredibly tight Speedos that obviously had been holding his jewels in place.
He didn’t seem self-conscious at all that he was standing in the middle of the room naked.
Charlotte handed him a pair of jeans.
“Thanks, sweetheart,” he said.
Bitsy and I turned back to our job at hand. I tried to remember MissTique’s real name but drew a blank. Joel’s pink face was reflected in the mirror. He hadn’t watched any of it. Unless he peeked.
He might have. But I wasn’t going to ask.
“Kyle, is there anything else here that’s Trevor’s?” Charlotte asked, kicking my brain into gear and reminding me that MissTique was really Kyle Albrecht.
I was too young to start having senior moments.
Kyle looked around and shrugged. “Honey, if you leave something behind, he can get it tomorrow.”
I’d filled the top of the makeup kit, so I slid open a drawer at the bottom of the case. Trevor had more makeup than I’d managed to acquire in a lifetime. The fact that he was a man made this wrong somehow. Although it could be argued that my ink was a substitute for the stuff I’d put on my face.
I grabbed a lipstick off the table, hoping it was Trevor’s, and stuffed it in the drawer. But it went in only halfway. Something was blocking the back of the drawer.
I pulled it out as far as I could, then tried to push it back in. Something had gotten stuck behind it, so I took the whole drawer out and set it on the table before taking the case and leaning it on an angle so I could see what was in there.
I reached my hand inside.
And pulled out a large brooch.
It was covered in sparkling clear and red stones. I had no idea whether they were real or not. But it was the design that made me catch my breath.
It was a queen-of-hearts playing card.