My Life A Bit South of Normal

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I wish I had a Pencil Thin Mustache

Hollis, who had just walked in with Stella, was making his way from his table over to her. He asked several questions, then turned toward the bar, "Walter can we get a wet towel and some water?"

"On the way."

In 5 minutes or so, Kathleen was back on her feet. Jeb put his arm around her. "No more for you!"

Everybody laughed, relieved that she was okay. 

"Folks, I think we have had enough fun for tonight. 'Fraid we won't make it to Ed's," Jeb apologized.  Assuring everyone that she was okay, Kathleen and Jeb left for home. 

As the rest of the group made their way out of the bar, Mike walked over to speak to Anna Belle and Walter. "We're going to Ed's for burgers. Why don't y'all join us?"

"Mike, I'd love to but I need to get back to the club. Maybe a rain check?"

"OK, but I'm going to hold you to it," Mike said as he kissed Anna Belle on the cheek and shook his grandfather's hand.

Hollis came to bar to order another round for him and Stella. Anna Belle asked, "You sure she is okay?"

"Oh, I think she will be," was all  Hollis said as he thanked Ike for the drinks and returned to their table. 

As he handed Stella her glass of wine, she asked,"You sure there isn't anything seriously wrong with Kathleen?"

"No, she'll be fine. I imagine Jeb will keep a close eye on her."

Walter dropped Anna Belle off at the club. Being the consummate gentleman, he walked her to the door. "I'll call you tomorrow," he said as he kissed her.

Andrew opened the door for Anna Belle. "Welcome mam, I'm glad you are back. There's a gentleman at the bar waiting to speak with you."

"Thank you Andrew." Anna Belle made her way to the bar. It was not unusual for men being there, wanting to speak with her about a membership to the club.

Sure enough, sitting on a bar stool was a man she did not know. With  only his back toward her, she took him in. His jet black hair was shiny, as if either wet or greased. He was wearing a pin stripe suit. Not one of the well cut suits she was used to seeing, made of fine wool, rather one that reminded her of a gangster. But what really caught her attention were his black and white wing tipped shoes. Just then Charles standing behind the bar looked up to see Anna Belle. He must have caught the man's attention. The visitor turned around and faced Ann Belle.

It was all she could do not to laugh. His hair wasn't wet, it was slicked back. The color wasn't natural, it was definitely colored. She had never seen hair that black. The thin line above his lip looked more like a line drawn on by an eye brow pencil, than any mustache she had ever seen.  On the  lapel of his three piece suit was a red carnation. 

"You must be Anna Belle."

"I am," she said shaking his hand. "And, you are?"

"Johnny Ricardo, mam. Or is it madam?"

Ignoring the comment, Anna Belle just hoped she could make this encounter as short as possible. There was no way this man was joining her club. The very idea of him mingling with the members was humorous at best, distasteful at worst.

"What can I do for you?" Anna Belle said trying to be polite as she could.

"Why, I came to see you, Ms. Vontese. I work for The Advocate in New Orleans. Several months ago, while I was going through the archives, I stumbled on a story about a business with quite a reputation. An old establishment long gone that I am sure you are familiar with."

He paused for effect. Anna Belle remained silent.

He continued, "Idella Arnell's House of Pleasures for the Lonely Man". He looked over her shoulder at the game room, then around the bar room, "If I am correct you are familiar with it." He paused again with a smirk. "Must run in the family."

Anna Belle still did not say anything.

"See, when I started researching about it for a story I am writing, I was most interested in this lady, Idella Arnell, a real business woman in her time. Looking into her family, I came across your name. And, now I know why."

Not showing any surprise, Anna Belle asked, "And?" This needed to be short and sweet, she had nothing to add.

"And . .  . when I found out you had a club, I thought I would check it out." He took a sip of drink. "See if the family tradition continues." He looked around. "What kind of 'club' is this anyway?"

"A private one," said Andrew who had been watching from the front door. By now he was standing behind Anna Belle.

"I guessed as much." 

"Then you can understand why we need to ask you to leave," Andrew said.

"Certainly Ms. Vontese is willing for me to finish my drink.

Andrew moved between the man and Anna Belle. "Looks like you have had enough."

Realizing that Andrew was serious and a good 40 pounds more than he was, Johnny smiled, "I'll settle up."

"Not necessary, the drink is on the house."

"What if I want to join."

Andrew smiled, "I'm afraid the membership is full."

"Perhaps I can get on the waiting list."

"How about this," Andrew said as he put his hand on Mr. Ricardo's arm to make sure he understood it was really time to leave. "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Mr. Ricardo placed his glass on the bar, picked up his hat, and looked at Anna Belle with a smirk. "This is even better than I thought."

He nodded to Anna Belle as he followed Andrew to the door.

Wade had been watching from the game room. After the reporter left, he walked over to Anna Belle. "Everything OK?"

Anna Belle smiled, "You just never know who is going to show up." She recounted the conversation she had just had.

"Johnny Ricardo, huh?"

Anna Belle laughed.

Wade shook his head, "More like the character in that Jimmy Buffett song."

Anna Belle laughed, thanked Wade, and headed toward the front door to thank Andrew.

He just laughed, "That's what you hired me for - remember."

"And, you're doing a great job." 

He shook his head, "And the fun just never ends."

"Never told you it would be boring."

"No, mam, you never did that."

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