Cindy counted the number of bubbles rising up from the bottom of the aquarium behind Bill’s head. A black and white fish floated through the bubbles followed by a yellow and blue. The black and white was missing an eye. Otherwise, each fish looked happy to be swimming in a strip club.
“You should add a clown fish.” Bill looked over at her. “Like Finding Nemo.”
“You are an odd,” Bill paused. “No, make that a pretty, odd girl.”
He decided to file away the question about Todd L. for the moment. It could wait. What he needed right now was a fresh dancer.
Bill leaned around the aquarium and looked down the length of the runway. He shouted at the girls finishing breakfast.
“Feather. Get up here and dance.” Bill pointed to the stage. “Charlie, drop the lights and turn on some music.”
Feather looked down the stage. A second girl slowly pointed with both hands toward where Bill was sitting with Cindy. Feather huffed and slowly slid across the padded seat.
“Move it!” shouted Bill. “Charlie. Lights and Music.” Bill pointed at the controls.
Charlie put down a glass as Feather swung up on stage and stepped over to the DJ booth. Charlie lowered the lights, powered up the strobes, and started the music.
A slow, grinding, boom blasted into the room. The big man in the far corner put down his fork and wiped his mouth with a cloth napkin. Feather slowly danced down the length of the stage toward the booth where Bill and Cindy were sitting.
“It’s easy,” Bill said. He swayed back and forth in the booth as Feather danced. “You just bounce to the music.”
Feather reached a stripper pole and pulled herself around, dipping her head to the runway, and sliding the length of the pole. At the bottom, Feather twisted around and started toward Cindy. As she got closer, Bill pulled a dollar bill out of his vest pocket. Feather rocked her bottom toward Bill who slipped the dollar into her G-string.
Bill turned to Cindy. “See, easy money.”
“It may be easy,” Cindy said. “But I’m not going to be here too long.”
“They all say that kid.” Bill laughed. “And yet, here we are.”
Wallace Jackson eyed Feather as she danced near Bill and the girl. Sizing Cindy up, she reminded him of his daughter: too naive to know what is good for her, and yet, convinced she can do anything.
Once a casino detective, Wallace now worked late on his own and usually stopped in for breakfast. It was the one place no one would think to grab a plate of eggs. The Glitter Gulch offered a working man solitude and a place to think.
Bill noticed Wallace sitting at the back of the room. “You planning to hide back there?” he asked, motioning for the big man to join him.
Wallace stood up and adjusted his shoulder holster. From his jacket, he pulled out a roll of money and peeled out a twenty. “Thanks Charlie. Not too runny and the bacon perfectly crisp.” He handed over the money.
Charlie nodded and went back to washing the dishes. He knew he could keep the change.
“Wallace here is a decorated Texas Ranger,” said Bill coyly. He tipped an imaginary hat at the big man. “The first black Ranger in Texas, in fact,” he boasted.
“I was never a Ranger, miss,” said Stony. “Bill gets things wrong sometimes.” He leaned closer to Cindy’s face as if he planned to whisper in her ear.
“What he meant to say, I suppose, was I proudly served as the first black deputy sheriff in Palmer County, Texas.” He drawled out the Palmer County.
Wallace stretched out a big hand and backed away from the girl. Cindy took ahold of his big hand. It was soft as a deerskin glove. He shook her small hand and adjusted his cowboy hat. His head nearly touched the top of the enclosed booth.
“What brings you to this sideshow, miss?” he asked, looking around the room. Feather was slowly slinking back down the runway.
“I have big plans for my new girlfriend,” said Bill. He slid over to give Wallace a seat.
“I’m not his girlfriend.”
“If you’re not his girlfriend, what brings you here?” Wallace half expected to know the answer before she spoke. “Just passing through on my way home. I thought I’d see a few sights.”
Wallace figured she would say she was broke, needed a job, and could make good money here. He took another look at Cindy. On second thought, she looked smarter than that and seemed to be hiding another reason. He smiled. She didn’t look like the wasted dancer type.
“Says she’s looking for Todd Loudin,” said Bill.
Cindy coughed juice back into the glass. The cocky jerk had just given her Todd Loudin’s name. She pretended the juice made her choke.
Bill tapped on his leather book and smiled at Cindy.
“Does she now?” said Wallace. “Why would she be looking for trouble?”
Bill and Wallace waited for an answer. Bill wondered what she knew about Todd.
“I’m not looking for any trouble,” Cindy said shyly. “I thought Mr. Loudin might have known my dad when he was alive.”
© 2018, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.
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