I looked up on the map where the place was that I was supposed to meet Zig. Then I paged Antonio.
He called back quickly and I grilled him. “Okay, so where are you and what should I be wearing when I show up?”
“It’s a kind of publicity stunt party for Gallani Gilliman,” Tony said. “Supposedly her birthday but it’s more like an excuse to get a lot of supermodels together in one place with their sullen, punk-ass boyfriends.”
I wondered what brought on that comment. “You don’t sound too thrilled…”
“One of those guys giving you trouble?”
“Nah. Nothing like that. But I’m thinking, shee-it, if I had a girl like that, would I follow her around like a raincloud, looking like an axe murderer? Ain’t the whole point of wanting a gorgeous, ultra-perfect woman that it should make you happy? These punks wouldn’t know happy if it bit them on the fucking cojones. Pardon my French.”
“Spanish, you mean.”
“It’s just an expression, boss.”
“I know, I know, just busting your cojones. Maybe that’s what happens when you pick your girlfriend for how pretty and famous she is and not because she makes a good girlfriend.”
“Anyway, what should I wear to this place?”
“Leather jacket and jeans’ll do you fine. Boots instead of Chucks though, man.”
“Okay.” I’d put a little gel in my hair, too. Not too much. But it was still damp from the pool. “And do you think Ziggy’s going to expect me to stay? Or am I just kidnapping him?”
“Why you asking me the hard questions? I’m just a bodyguard.”
“You are not just a bodyguard and you know it.”
“Yeah, more like babysitter.”
We both snorted. I wondered where he was calling from that he could speak so frankly. Must have been in a back room. Or on a car phone. “Okay. How about this. I’ll come and stay for one drink for the sake of being polite and then we’re out of there, how’s that?”
“Be there in forty-five minutes. Unless there’s traffic.”
“There’s always traffic,” he reminded me.
So I got dressed, got in the truck, and drove to the place, which was some kind of restaurant nightclub type deal–they all blend together after a while.
There were two paparazzi sitting on the hood of a car in the parking lot, sharing a joint. The one who didn’t have the roach picked up his camera, long lens and all, as he saw me approach, but the other one said something and he put it back down. Probably because I didn’t look like anybody.
Then as I got closer, though, he changed his mind, picked it up and fired off a couple of shots. I gave him the finger.
Tony was standing by the door, wearing a double breasted suit which made him look more like a hit man than a bouncer. He had his hair slicked back instead of in corn rows. He held the door open for me and took me inside. We sailed past the hostess stand and then past the door guard for the back room.
The place was sort of U-shaped with a bar in the middle. Ziggy was on top of the bar apparently leading a chorus line of supermodels in a rendition of “The Time Warp.”
I exchanged a glance with Tony. Ziggy was clearly having a terrible time and was desperately in need of rescue. I held up one finger, signifying the one drink I was going to have, and I went to the back of the bar where the bartender was leaning against the rail watching the precedings with a cocked eyebrow. He was hispanic-looking and so slim I wondered if he were anorexic.
I remembered I was driving so I asked him for club soda with a twist of lime.
“And a splash of cran?” he asked.
“No, a twist of lime.”
“I mean a twist of lime and a splash of cran,” he clarified, twirling one finger as if that would make the idea sink in better for me.
“Gives it pizzazz,” he said.
What gave it pizzazz was the little sword he put in with a twist of lime, a lemon, and a cherry stuck on it, as well as the smoldering look he gave me when he put the napkin down and then set the drink on top of it. Was he that flirty to everyone or was it me? I wondered.
I reached into my jacket pocket.
“Open bar,” he said.
“Doesn’t include tip.” I put a dollar down and he whisked it into his apron.
I found somewhere a little out of the way to sit while the song was winding down. I realized the DJ was crammed into the corner on the opposite side of the bar from me and that the tables there had been hastily pushed aside to create a small dance floor, which was empty since the only people dancing were Ziggy and the six or seven models on the bar with him.
Then a new song kicked in and the tall woman with a black mane of hair next to Ziggy squealed with delight and threw her arms around his neck and planted kisses all over his face, then began to sing. It was the song Ziggy had cut for the B-side of the theme song to Star Baby, “Do It,” the one he’d recorded with Jordan Travers, the one that had become an inadvertent dance hit.
I wondered how inadvertent it actually was.
Now all the women were singing that. Ziggy, for his part, tried to climb down at that point but another one held him by the wrist and he danced with her for a little while longer.
I think I could see why the punk-ass boyfriends might be a little sullen, though. Maybe.
I finished the drink, ate the cherry, chewed through the ice cubes, and then went to the men’s room, thinking, okay, when I come out, we’re out of here.
I had to go back to the main section of the restaurant to get to the restroom. It was in a back hallway decorated with a little side table and a vase of flowers. Fake flowers. Okay that wasn’t important except that it felt typical to me of LA.
What was important was who was sitting there on a chair, staring into space, looking lost and forlorn.