Bing’s Palace~ 1963

The men nodded as Roy and Rummy approached, extended their hands, one by one, shook. Rummy leaned in to peck a kiss upon Birdie’s rouged cheek. Roy did likewise. He felt Birdie’s body still, sensed her linger.

“Who’s the little lady?” The boss met Rummy’s glance and demanded an answer.

Before Rummy could speak, Birdie hopped up and took Annie’s hand. “Slide over, Jimmy. Let this dear doll sit next to me.” Her eyes flashed a warning to the boss.

Roy watched as Annie slid onto the seat beside Birdie, fixated on her newfound friend. Birdie waved a manicured hand to signal a waiter. The young man snapped to attention at her side. “Shirley Temple for the little lady, pink umbrella, cherry on top.” She winked at Annie. “That okay, hon?”

Annie nodded and looked down at the tablecloth.

“Thought so. Auntie Birdie knows what the little ladies like.” She smoothed the top of Annie’s head. Turning to face the boss she murmured, “Now you boys get down to business, let us ladies be.”

~ a draft scene from the book I’ll always write

When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere, just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going, and that he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect. We’re flawed, because we want so much more. We’re ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had. ~ Don Draper

The Clean-Up Man

Roy fumbled with the coins in his pocket. A single incandescent bulb lit up each table- top. The heat in the room glowed and a smoky haze veiled the guests. He peered deeper into the shrouded depths of the room.

Paper serviettes stacked the bar. Shot glasses lined up, topped to the max, the amber liquid ready to swallow. Next to an ice bucket, a hard-boiled bouncer stood sentry. Suffocating evidence, all compliments of the club.

A stream of light demanded Roy’s attention. The beam shot from the bar, stopped just short of his foot. His gaze followed the beam; back-lit by the mirror that covered the wall behind the bar.

A blonde in a tight black dress curved against a man. He saw the light bounce off the rock that hung at the base of her neck. He heard her familiar laugh and listened as the high, trilling notes fell like glitter over the men in the room.

Her eye was on the man known as Kid. One elbow high, black glove, held his back. Birdie.