As if on cue, a chair of studded satin to match the door spun around, dragging ‘The Boss’ away from his own reflection and towards the overladen Clara swaying in the doorway.
“Has he come with that stuff yet, Kittie darling? I simply can’t keep going until four in the A.M. without it. Oh. You’re not Kittie.”
“Kittie’s gone.” Betty informed the man. “Stormed out.”
“Ah well. Good riddance to the old moggy. Who’s this? Have you got my stuff?” he demanded.
It was at exactly this point that Clara finally lost her balance, letting go in one clattering cascade the vanity case, pen, notepad, handrail – which she was inexplicably still clutching – and, as a grand finale whilst dipping down to save the lot, her pink cloche hat, still perched on the side of her head, fell on top of the whole offering, now piled by the man’s slippered feet.
“Juggling act is it?” He responded, without missing a beat, “Needs some work.”
“Oh, Quentin, you are incorrigible!” sparkled Betty “This is Clara Pin” she tinkled a laugh.
Quentin turned to the newcomer “Are you married to that?”
“Why does everyone keep asking that?” blurted Clara before she could stop herself. It had been quite a day.
Betty gasped as the man’s eyebrows flew up towards his receding hairline. A bejewelled hand simultaneously slapped his exposed breastbone in shock. All noise from the overcrowded adjoining dressing room seemed to cease; if they had been playing billiards at that moment, the balls would surely have stopped mid-roll. The man slowly rose out of his satin throne unfolding his full 6 foot 2inches in height – age had knocked an inch off at some point in the previous decade – and peered piercing blue eyes upon the diminutive upstart.
Who is this old queen? Clara thought to herself.
“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who I am,” he said. A side-eye to Betty and a tinkle from she, “But Quentin Treadwell is not in the habit of being addressed in such an inseamly manner.”
“Unseemly” prompted Betty
“Unseemly manner” Treadwell forged on, unperturbed, “After thirty years as the undisputed Master of Ceremonies of the world-famous Blue Angel club, I should think I might be afforded a little more respect from a two-bit juggler in a hat like a Blancmange. So, given that it is becoming increasingly unlikely that you are here to deliver my cocaine, may I be so bold as to ask what business you have bothering the world’s seventh most successful cabaret performer in history?
“Seventh?” Betty queried.
“Eighth if you include Marlene” sighed Treadwell, dramatically “Well?”
Clara swallowed hard, and stubbornly dug her hands deep into the pockets of her overcoat as she had done since she was a child whenever she felt cornered. Not quite sure where she was or what had happened to her since disembarking the train earlier that day, she was close to tears now for want of some clarity.
“We’re waiting,” said the man.
Just at that moment, Clara’s fingers brushed a small piece of thick, good quality card inside her overcoat pocket.
“My aunt sent me!” she abruptly announced, brandishing aloft the matchbook that bore on its front the iconic image of an azure winged goddess, matching that of the sign over the establishments door; The Blue Angel herself. On the flip-side of the matchbook was Aunt Terri’s unmistakable – but very easy to mistake – scrawl bearing the landmarks address.
“Your aunt” snorted a perplexed Quentin Treadwell, for whom sentimentality over blood relatives was anathema.
“Yes. My Aunt Terri. Terri Carr.” replied Clara, sounding for all the world as if she had got a question wrong on a pop quiz, and secretly fearing as much.
“Carr? Pin? Would it kill your local clergy to stay sober long enough to baptise two syllables?” quipped Treadwell unkindly. “Wait! Terri Carr. Terri Carr…”
The old man’s demeanour suddenly altered and a wide, beaming smile spread slowly across his lined face. Clara noticed with even more clarity the thick pan-stick foundation, – presumably left over from yesterday’s performance of whatever this was – dried up in the creases of his increasingly welcoming visage.
“You’re the niece of my old comedy partner, Terri The Turn?” clarified Treadwell.
“I suppose so.” replied Clara, non-plussed all over again.
“Well now, this calls for a celebration! Come in, my dear! Betty, fetch the bubbly wine!”
Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.