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Chapter 5

I could put two and two together. So Eduardo thinks that this is the guy who hit Trevor with the cork? I asked.

Kyle nodded. He says everything that happened tonight was all his fault, just because he didnt tell Trevor about this before the show. But he said there wasnt time. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself that Eduardo was telling the truth. Had there been time? Maybe, maybe not. It was water under the bridge now. Or, rather, champagne under the bridge.

Did the guy leave a card or anything? Bitsy asked, ever practical.

No, Kyle said. He didnt even tell Eduardo his name.

So he couldve been lying, Joel piped up. Maybe he knows about Trevors pin and for some reason he just wants to get his hands on it.

Kyle sighed. Maybe. There was a big basket full of those pins at that fund-raiser. Trevor says all the other ones were fake, but this one is real. He says Lester Fine gave it to him. I could tell by his tone that he was doubtful.

Lester Fine was an Academy Award-winning actor who was running for a senate seat. You couldnt look at a newspaper front page in the last month or so that didnt have his picture plastered all over it. Granted, he was a good-looking older man, and he was a shoo-in for the seat because of his celebrity.

Was Lester Fine at the fund-raiser? I asked.

Sure, he was there.

So could what Trevor says be true?

Kyle laughed. Honey, Trevor would lie to his grand-mother if it meant a good story.

So you dont believe him?

Lets just say I dont think Trevor runs with Lester Fines crowd.

He had a point.

But maybe the storys true. Maybe thats why the other guy wants it. Maybe there was no mistake at all; maybe Joels right that he was just angling to get his hands on it. I thought a second. The stones in the brooch must be real. A pawnshop wouldnt give Trevor money for something that wasnt worth anything.

The look on Kyles face told me that he wasnt convinced.

I did know one thing for sure: If the guy looking for Trevor was the one who hit him with the cork after making a threat, then the police needed to know about it.

Eduardo should talk to the cops, I suggested. He could tell them what the guy looked like. Maybe he could look at one of those books with the mug shots. I watched too much TV.

Kyle batted his eyes a few seconds, then said, Well, you know, theres a problem with that. Eduardo isnt exactly well legal. Hes not going to want to talk to the police about anything.

I could see his point. But at the same time, we needed to try to find out who the cork shooter was. Maybe it was the same guy whod been doing this all over town, or maybe it was this pawnshop guy.

You could do a sketch, Bitsy said, pulling on my arm.

I looked down at her. What?

You do great portraits. What if Eduardo told you what the guy looks like and you draw the face? Then you can give it to the police.

What, like a police sketch artist? Thats not what I do. I work from photographs.

Despite my misgivings, Kyle was nodding faster than a bobble-head doll.

Thats a great idea, he said.

I looked at Joel for support, but he seemed to be agreeing.

Oh, go ahead, Brett. I think its a good idea, too, he said.

I knew when I was beat.

Okay, sure. Ill come back in the morning, I told Kyle.

But he was shaking his head. No, no, you have to do it now. Im not sure Eduardo will be around tomorrow.

Why not? I started to get suspicious about the whole thing.

Hes got another gig in Reno tomorrow night and has to get up there.

It sounded like the truth, but who knew?

I dont have any sketching paper, I tried.

Kyle threw his arm around me and started leading me back to the club. I twisted my neck around to see Bitsy and Joel headed to their cars.

Where are you going? I stopped, turned, and glared at them. This is your idea. You cant leave me here.

Bitsy shrugged. Ive got to get to the shop early tomorrow to open up, she said. See you then. She waggled her fingers at me, gave me a quick grin, and got into her MINI Cooper.

Id talk to her tomorrow. I was too tired right now. I raised my eyebrows expectantly at Joel. His shoulders sagged with obedience as he clicked his key fob to relock the doors of his car, and he joined us as we went back into the club.

The same group that had been drinking when we left was refilling their glasses. Someone had cranked up the music, and Miranda Rites and Marva Luss gyrated on the stage to a Donna Summer song as a couple of the young men hooted their enthusiasm while waving huge white feathered fans, reminiscent of old-time burlesque shows. The disco ball splashed little bits of light against everyone, like glitter come alive. I guess Miranda had decided after all that she wasnt going to go hold Trevors hand until Charlotte got to the hospital.

Kyle led me over to one of the young men and whispered in his ear. His face was classic Latino, with olive skin, dark, piercing eyes, and high, pronounced cheekbones. He wasnt wearing a shirt, showing off his rippled abs, muscled biceps, and tiny waist. He had black tribal tattoos running down both arms and across his back. His jeans werent buttoned, showing off white shorts beneath.

He was gorgeous.

Eduardo nodded at me and gave me a small smile as he assessed my ink. Kyle led us backstage. Rather than going into the dressing room this time, he took us into a small office that housed a desk, a laptop computer, and a printer. Kyle grabbed a few sheets of paper out of the printer and handed them to me. I helped myself to a pencil that lay next to the laptop. It wasnt very sharp, but it would have to do.

Have a seat, Kyle invited, and I sat in the straight-backed desk chair. He pulled out a folding chair from the corner for Eduardo. There werent any other chairs for him or Joel, who leaned against the doorframe, his hands in his pockets.

So, can you tell me what the guy looked like? I asked Eduardo, my pencil poised.

He had a round face, Eduardo started. A short nose.

I contemplated the paper. Id done my share of portrait tattoos, and when I was at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Id drawn more faces and figures than I could remember. But I always had a model to work from. Not someones memory, which could be skewed. Especially, as I could see, a memory that had been influenced by maybe one too many cocktails.

I sketched out a round face and a short nose.

No, no, Eduardo said, touching the base of the nose. It was rounder here and thinner here. He ran his finger along the line Id drawn.

Maybe this wouldnt be so bad. He seemed to really know. I did what he said, and he nodded. Yes, yes, thats good. The eyes were large, with short eyelashes.

With his direction, I found myself filling out the sketch. As I thought about it a little more, I guess I shouldnt have been so surprised that hed take such close notice of a mans looks. Thats what Chez Tango was really all about, after all.

I was glad no one could see my right foot pressing hard into the ground, sort of like a backseat driver who wants to put the brakes on. It was an odd habit Id developed when I drew, as if I were using the tattoo-machine pedal. Id gotten so used to drawing with the machine in my hand that a pencil sometimes felt funny.

I tried to remember how it felt the first time I drew a tattoo on my skin. Id used a sewing needle wrapped tightly with black thread and ink from a ballpoint pen. Id stuck my skin with tiny stabs, drawing blood, all the while creating a black heart that still adorned the inside of my left wrist. It was crude and took hours, but after the initial pricks, I hardly felt it at all. I was sixteen.

For two years I hid the heart from my parents under a bunch of bangle bracelets that jingled almost constantly. When my mother saw the heart for the first time, her heart almost stopped.

No, no, no, Eduardo said, bringing me out of my memory and pointing to the cheeks. These are too large.

I took a guess and shaded in some contour, and he nodded. Yes, thats what I meant.

We were done.

I put my pencil down and surveyed the drawing, Joel and Kyle behind me, looking over my shoulder. Eduardo was nodding as if pleased with himself.

You could do that for a living, Kyle said.

I do, I said thoughtfully, wondering who this person was that Id drawn. Does he look familiar? I asked, knowing that even from this I couldnt say for sure whether it was the guy with the champagne or not. I really hadnt seen his face.

Eduardo shook his head.

But you met him, I said.

I dont know him, he retorted. We were not properly introduced.

Touch'e.

Kyle was looking over my shoulder and frowning.

Do you know this guy? I asked, standing up. It was getting late, and exhaustion was stretching through my body like a tight elastic band. Bitsy would open tomorrow, but I had a client coming in at noon. I glanced at my watch. At this rate, I wouldnt get home until two.

Kyle picked up the drawing and studied it, leading us out of the office and into the dressing room. He still hadnt said anything; I wondered whether he recognized the man in the picture.

Miranda Rites was in the dressing room. Or at least her alter ego, Stephan Price, was. He was folding up the pink sequined costume and putting it in his own duffel bag. Like Kyle and Trevor, Stephan was just as good-looking a man as Miranda was a woman, although Stephan was skinnier than his friends.

Youre still here? Stephan asked.

Kyle held up the drawing.

See what Brett did?

Stephan took it and studied it a second, then looked at me with questioning eyes. Why did you draw a picture of Wesley?

Wesley? I asked.

Stephan looked at Kyle. Its Wesley, isnt it?

Kyle took the drawing back and nodded. Yes. Its not exact-thats why I wanted a second opinion-but its pretty close.

Whos Wesley? I asked again.

Kyle handed me back the sketch. Wesley Lambert used to be in one of my shows. His drag name was Shanda Leer. But he dropped out of the circuit about a year ago, and no ones seen him since.



Chapter 4 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 6



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