GRACE THE WILD CARD

Chapter 8 A Serenade for Adelaide

FRIDAY, 6:45 PM. Sky hailed a cab to take him to Joey Biltmore’s garage where the action is. As he was about to get in, he saw Nicely-Nicely, in a bright red Save-A-Soul uniform, calling and running to him.

“What’s up, Nicely?” he asked.

“They raided the Hot Box and arrested everyone, including Miss Adelaide,” Nicely blurted out, “I went down to the station to check on her. She told me to go back to the Hot Box, into her dressing room, and get her purse. She left it behind during the roundup. Without it, she will not be able to pay the bail. But the place has been cordoned off by police, and I could not get in.

“I said I’d go get Nathan, but she said no. She's angry with him. She said she does not want to see him ever again, and she does not want his crap money to bail her out. She sounded like she has finally broken up with him.

Nicely continued, sounding sad, "Besides, I don’t think Nathan has any money left. He was wiped clean last night by Big Jule, as were all the guys. The only way Nathan was able to secure Biltmore’s for tonight was with your sucker bet.”

Sky pushed Nicely into the cab, “Get in. Let us go and bail Adelaide out. What was she arrested for?”

“Nobody knows. It was a dragnet. The police simply secured the area and arrested everyone in sight.” Nicely said. “Everyone, including Charlie and his office staff, Miss Adelaide and her dancers, the few in the audience, ‎stage hands‎, waiters, bartenders, janitors; you name it; about 40 of them. It will take all night to process them, and all Miss Adelaide wants is to pay her bail, go home, get some rest, and maybe come back later, if necessary. But she cannot do that without her purse.”

“Hmm, I think I know what it’s all about,” Sky said. “From communiques received in Las Vegas last week, it seems these New York raids were a long-time planning. A joint project of the city police and the ATC, it includes a war on sex trafficking, but I doubt they would find enough underage prostitution in the area. The most they’d turn up with may be some dancers offering undercover cops a little more than just a lap dance. But cops need to arrest some people, and so they did.”

On reaching the station, Sky and Nicely found Miss Adelaide sitting on a chair in a corner, apart from the rest of the Hot Box people who were squeezed tightly on three long benches in the waiting area. Right away she knew why Sky came.

“I don’t want your (sneeze!) dirty crap money to bail me out, Sky,” she said tersely. “I can fend for myself, once I get back my purse.” (Sniffle, sniffle.)

Nicely walked over to the blotter’s counter, casually picked up the open box of Kleenex there and gave it to Adelaide.

“Bless you, but it’s not crap money, Adelaide. It’s my money. I earned it and will spend it anyway I want,” said Sky, empathically. "Right now, it’s to bail you out." And with that, he went and got Adelaide processed ahead of the pack. In a half-an-hour, all three were out of there.

Sky grabbed a taxi but instead of taking Adelaide straight to her home, they drove to the all-night café across the street from Mindy’s. He ordered French onion soup, pastrami on rye sandwiches piled high on a large serving plate, a big green salad, cheese and nuts, French fries, coffee and a large carafe of merlot for the three of them to share, while discussing events of the day and the night before.

“Oh, Sky, it was awful. I don’t know how it could happen so fast,” Adelaide said wearily. “My girls and I were lined-up behind curtain #2, getting ready for our number. Suddenly, two cops appeared from nowhere and started slapping bracelets on us. I begged them to let the ladies go back to their dressing rooms so they could put on something decent. We simply couldn’t be hauled off in our skimpy costumes; but even in the dressing rooms they wouldn’t leave us alone. They watched as we changed clothes. So humiliating.”

Nicely listened sympathetically, but having finished his share of sandwiches and wine, begged to be excused. He had to be up in the morning for the early band march and needed to start getting used to sleeping at night.

“Oh, Sky, sweetie, what is happening to me?” Adelaide sobbed, tears falling into her coffee, “It’s hard enough to appear happy on stage while your heart is breaking at the tragic turn of events; but to be hauled off by the police like cattle is almost surreal.”

“Adelaide, as my Daddy told me, no matter what happens, take care of yourself first.” Sky said, “You’ll need your strength of body and mind to get through this.”

“Oh, Sky, honey, not only was our wedding postponed, but Nathan also doesn’t even know I’ve been arrested,” she cried.

“Don’t worry about Nathan. He has his own business to attend to tonight.” Sky said. “Adelaide, if you don’t mind my asking, what is it exactly with you and him? I understand it’s been 14-15 years since you were engaged. Why, that’s even longer than the time we’ve been friends. I clearly remember the first time I met you and Nathan in the Hot Box.”

Suddenly, Adelaide clenched her jaws. She glared at him, and with an angry manicured finger wagging, raised her voice, “I remember it quite well, Sky Masterson! And if you hadn’t been a friend of Nathan, I would never have wanted to see you again, ever!

“Those two young ladies fought each other with hair-cutting scissors in the ladies’ room over you, Sky Masterson! Over you! Shame on you! If I hadn’t gone in to break it up, one or both might have been killed. There was blood on the floor!”

Sky was stunned to silence. That was not what he expected Adelaide to recall. He had hoped that by making her remember her early love for Nathan, she might open up and go back to her usual sweet self. Instead, she dug up something about him that has long been purged from his memory.

“I was very young then, Adelaide, barely out of my teens,” Sky said helplessly.

“Barely out of your teens and already a full-blown hustler and a cold-blooded lothario!” she scolded under her breath. “Look, Sky, I’m only four years older than you, and although people think of me as a ditzy blonde, I have much more sense than you ever had. I hire, train, and manage people. And I fire them, too, if I have to. I was already a manager before I was 25.”

“Figuring gender for age, Adelaide, let’s just say we’re even, notoriety-wise. Your profession isn’t all that innocent, either,” Sky answered.

Adelaide continued, “Those two young ladies were under my supervision. They’re the daughters of two friends of my mother in Woonsocket. One reason I haven’t been home in Rhode Island and haven’t visited my mother in the 14 years I’ve been engaged to Nathan, is because I am so ashamed of what happened between those two young ladies. I have failed them both as a supervisor and a friend. Fortunately, they have both gone on to college and are now working as teachers. I hope they have become friends again. I bet you don’t even remember their names.”

“No, I don’t.” Sky sighed, now contrite. “I’m sorry, Adelaide. I’m very sorry. Please forgive me. I’ve always had three or four dolls to play with at any given time in the past, what with my constant travels. It was unfortunate to have been caught in the web of those two. I didn’t even know they knew each other. I’m really sorry,” Sky said in a low voice.

“Didn’t know they knew each other, my eye!” Adelaide tried to control her rising voice. “They worked in the same place and had the same hours. Don’t be too smooth with my dolls, Sky!”

Sky answered with his head down, “I am just glad that being a close friend to Nathan, we were able to mend and maintain our friendship over the years. You and Nathan are precious to me, Adelaide. Your friendship is a home to come to, whenever I’m in New York. And I’m very grateful.”

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