I had a lot of time to think in the cab. We were in traffic for over an hour trying to get to the Upper East Side. I hadn’t known where the hotel was, and neither had the cab driver, and I’d stupidly caught a cab headed downtown, which meant while the driver talked with his dispatcher about where the hotel was we went south for quite a while. Sounded to me like the dispatcher looked it up in the phone book. I hoped we were going the right place.
Nothing like an hour-plus of worrying to undermine a guy’s confidence. By the time we pulled up at the hotel I was about ready to crawl out of my own skin. The fare was outrageously expensive but I didn’t care. I handed the driver a few twenties as the doorman opened the door on the curb side.
He gave me a much more gracious “Welcome to the Carlyle” than I expected to get, given that I was wearing torn jeans and a denim jacket.
“Thank you,” I said, and waltzed into the lobby like I owned the place. That’s the only way to play it, you know, when you’re trying to get upstairs in a New York City hotel where you don’t have a reservation. You have to act like you belong there. I learned this from Courtney who explained this was how groupies sometimes got upstairs, despite hotel security.
I went directly to the elevators and pushed the up button. The place was small but swanky, much much nicer than the Penta. A chandeliers-and-black-marble kind of place.
On the way to the fourth floor I wondered if I should have called from the house phone before going directly up. When I came off the elevator, though, there was a telephone on a stand, flanked by two little stools that had a 1920s look about them. I sat on one and picked up the handset.
The hotel operator answered. I asked for room 408.
“I’m sorry, sir, but that room has asked that no calls be put through.”
“Oh, um, can you take a message?”
“I can do that, sir.”
“Thanks. Uh, the message is…” I could not think of what it should say. I didn’t know who would pick the message up or anything. “Um, never mind. No message. Thank you.”
She wished me a nice day.
I walked over to the door marked 408 and knocked very quietly.
A few moments later, the door opened a crack. I could see a sliver of Tony. He unchained the door, came out into the hall, and quietly closed the door behind him.
We went back to the stools by the elevator even if Tony looked kind of ridiculous perched on one; he was large and it wasn’t.
“He’s asleep,” he said, meaning Ziggy.
“I figured. he must have come in on a red eye.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that, boss.”
“No, don’t wake him, don’t apologize. I…” I took a deep breath. “Tony, you know how it is.”
“Actually, I don’t, but I can guess,” he said. “But you can tell me if you want.”
“Short version: BNC is trying to break up the band and I’m a wreck because of the whole not talking to Zig for a year thing.”
“Okay,” Tony said, sounding skeptical.
“I mean, I don’t know if he loves me or hates me.”
“That’s rough, boss. You two need to work your shit out.”
“I know. I guess that’s why I’m here.”
“Well, to try. I don’t know if it’s going to work.”
Antonio nodded. “Still. You gotta try.”
“But how are you, man? We didn’t really get to catch up last night.”
He seemed a little surprised I was asking. “I’m good. My momma had a fall but she’s fine now. My brother’s working as a physical therapist so he got her in at the place he works.”
“Ray-Ray?” The only brother of Tony’s I had met so far was a skinny kid in Chicago who was still in high school.
“Naw. My big brother.”
“Is your big brother as big as you?”
“Bigger. He’s the one who tried out for the NFL. Tore up his ankle, though, and that’s what got him interested in being an athletic trainer. Took him a while to get the credits to go to school, though.”
I nodded like I knew what he was talking about, though I only had a vague idea what was involved in a job like that. “How about you? You been keeping busy?”
“Pretty busy. I had to turn down a road gig to help out my mother after her fall, so I’ve been trying to keep busy here in the city, but now that she’s back on her feet? I might hit the road.”
“Not sure.” He jerked his head toward room 408 and the short braids at the back of his head brushed the top of his shoulders. “Your man there’s been making noises about wanting a full-time bodyguard.”
“He likes you,” I said. I didn’t ask about why Ziggy wanted a bodyguard or where they’d even be going. Instead I asked, “How is he?”
Tony shook his head very slowly. “You want my honest opinion?”
“Always. If I want bullshit I’ll ask Digger.”
“He’s a wreck. Ever since his mother, I guess? I’d be a wreck, too.”
“When did it happen?”
“Not sure. Couple of weeks ago, maybe?”
I tried to imagine Ziggy being in that much pain for weeks, months, and I did not feel good. “He looks exhausted.”
“He’s a tough little motherfucker,” Tony said. “But yeah, he’s wrung out.”
“What time is it?”
Tony showed me the watch on his wrist.
“Shit.” I wanted to make myself scarce before Digger got there. “Tell him I miss him. Tell him I really need to talk to him.” Tell him to keep his hands out of other men’s pants… Hah, right. Not that I had any right to even think that, but I thought it anyway.
“Wait, are you leaving?”
“Avoiding my old man,” I said. And even if I wasn’t, once he got there I couldn’t have the conversation with Ziggy I wanted to. “I’m staying with Sarah. Take her number. Give it to him? I’m not leaving the city until either I talk to him or he leaves.”
I wrote the number on the little message pad on the phone stand. Tony stood up and tucked it into his pocket, but he said, “Let me just check on him before you go.”
I wasn’t in the mood to laugh then, but I feel I should point out that it’s hilarious when someone as big as Antonio tiptoes. He opened and closed the door to the room with ninja-like silence while I stood there by the elevator with my heart getting louder and louder.
The door opened again and Antonio gestured for me to come in.
(Yes, next post, Daron and Ziggy will actually be in the same room! And speak to each other! I know you all have been waiting a long time for it, and you already very generously triggered this post to begin with! So I’ll make you guys a deal: I’ll post the reunion post tomorrow if you guys can amass 50 ‘fan points’ in the comments below. You get 1 point for every social media post praising DGC & linking to us -Tweet, Facebook, Tumblr, LiveJournal, etc- 1 point for any new Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible.com review of any DGC book or ebook, and 1 point for every comment you leave here quoting your favorite lines from DGC. Comment below for each action you take and include a link or a screencap as proof, ok? -ctan)