"Where the hell have you been? You're late." Deuce riffled the cards one last time and began to deal.
"Had a date." Herman "Buck" Scofield took a seat at the table. "What's the buy in?"
"What do you mean 'What's the buy-in?'?" Trevor sat to the right of Deuce. Trevor had his black hair slicked into a high pompadour. "The buy-in is a hundred. It was a hundred last week; it was a hundred last month. Hell, it was a hundred last year. 'What's the buy-in?'."
"So, who was your date?" The Duke winked across the table at Jimmy Dave who wore a perpetual leer.
"You know that new girl that hangs out at the Boxtop?"
"Yeah." The Duke broke into a broad grin.
"I chatted her up and she let me take her to lunch. She's a sweet kid."
Jimmy Dave snickered.
"Herman...," Trevor began.
"Really, I'm thinking if I splashed out for a good evening out I could get lucky. It might be a little over my budget...."
"Where'd you eat?" The Duke asked with barely suppressed laughter.
"I bought her a hot dog at Skinny's." Jimmy Dave and The Duke were convulsed in silent laughter. "You should have seen her. She went down on that dog like a hooker on a..." Scofield had finally noticed that Trevor and Deuce were staring at him. "What?"
"She is a hooker. You could have had her for the price of the dog," Trevor deadpanned.
"That kind of explains it."
"Explains what?" Deuce said.
"She asked me what I wanted. I told her I wasn't that kind of guy. I was trying to make her think I was a gentleman."
"That's a good one." Jimmy Dave roared with laughter.
"She looked at me kind of funny and just shrugged."
"I bet she did," The Duke joined in.
Herman blushed crimson and pushed is hundred across to Deuce.
"Come on. Let's play." Deuce pushed the chips to Herman.
The boys played a few hands in relative silence, concentrating on the cards. Herman's stack began a slow but steady wilt under his ante and fold style of play.
"I'm coming off a tweak." Herman said. "I could use some help. Anybody got something?"
"Here. Complements of The Duke." The Duke tossed Herman a small baggie of blood red powder. The Duke was a speed chemist. "Try this."
Herman took a pinch and placed it on the back of his hand. "Why red?"
"I got tired of white," The Duke said.
Herman shrugged and snorted it. "Jesus...fucking H...Christ!" Herman shook his head trying to clear it. "What the fuck was that?"The Duke studied his cards. "Different, ain't it."
"Fuck, I saw the pyramids at twilight." Herman put another pinch on the back of his hand.
"Hey, be careful with that," The Duke cautioned. "It works on a different principle."
"What principle is that?"
"Molecular phasing, but I don't know exactly; I haven't worked it all out yet."
"What're you calling it?"
Herman snorted the second load and licked the back of his hand. "Whoa! Sure as shit is. Deal me out, I gotta take a crap."
"Ante up." Jimmy Dave dealt the cards while Herman made his way to the can. The Duke opened and Deuce called. The game went on for five more hands before Herman returned. He was flushed and dishevelled. He stretched his neck as he sat down.
"I was starting to think you fell in," Deuce said.
"You okay?" Trevor asked.
"Yeah, I just...." Herman Scofield shrugged and tossed in the ante.
"You guys seen Ricky Shorts's new girlfriend?" Jimmy Dave asked. Ricky was called Ricky Shorts because he shorted everyone he ever dealt with.
"I never saw an old one," The Duke replied.
"Dina?" Trevor asked.
"That's her name?" Jimmy Dave said.
"The old one," Trevor said. "I didn't know he had a new one."
"She's a fuckin' supermodel," Jimmy Dave said. "Imminently fuckable."
"Imminently fuckable? What does that mean?" Trevor said.
"That means I'd fuck her bareback with my own dick." Jimmy Dave answered.
"After Ricky Shorts?" The Duke asked.
"It'd be worth it," Jimmy Dave said. "She's the most fuckable piece of ass I've seen this week." He tossed two chips into the pot.
Herman studied his cards.
"Herman. You in or out?"
"Out." Herman threw in his cards. "Bebe Blythe."
"Ricky Shorts's new squeeze?" The Duke tossed in two chips. "And raise you." Another two chips.
"No. The woman I'd most liked to have slept with."
Deuce and Trevor put in four chips each and Jimmy Dave called. "Full house, sixes over two's." The others threw in their cards in disgust. Jimmy Dave raked in the pot. "Who the hell is Bebe Blythe?"
"Ever see The Spanish Door?"
No one answered.
"Or The Queen of Arabia? She appeared topless in the European version."
"European version?" The Duke asked.
"Yeah. They didn't show that kind of stuff here."
"Is this...a talkie?" Deuce smiled.
"The Spanish Door was a talkie; The Queen of Arabia was silent."
"A silent movie star," Trevor said in disbelief.
"She was the most exquisite creature to ever grace the silver screen."
"Never heard of her." The Duke began to shuffle the cards.
Herman pulled out his phone and brought up the image of a slender young woman in Arabian costume. He passed it to The Duke. The Duke raised his eyebrows and nodded. The Duke passed it to Deuce who looked at it and then at Herman. Deuce passed it to Trevor who merely nodded and passed it along to Jimmy Dave.
"Kind of small in the tits," Jimmy Dave observed.
Herman took the phone and looked lovingly at the image. "All natural."
"Whoa, buddy. I don't think there's anything natural about this." The Duke began to deal. "Besides, if you couldn't score with the hot dog hooker how're you gonna score with the queen of the silver screen?"
Jimmy Dave snickered as he sorted his cards. "Yeah, Buck." Like all self assigned nick names, Herman's was only used in derision.
"All I need to score is a little four-one-one...and a little pick me up." Herman put generous pinches of blood red Lightspeed on the back of his hand and snorted it down. He threw his head back and only the whites of his eyes showed. He shook momentarily and then picked up his cards. "Who's it to?"
"You," said Deuce. "Duke?"
"I don't know. He seems okay, but the stuff is dynamite, so I don't know."
"I'll open for two," Herman said.
"At least he'll lose faster." Jimmy Dave studied his cards.
"You in?" Herman asked The Duke.
Herman smiled a wicked smile. The others saw the bet except for Jimmy Dave who saw and raised two. Herman folded.
"That's my boy, Buck." Jimmy Dave began to riffle his chips.
"I can't keep my mind on the game," Scofield said. "Duke, what is this stuff? Every time I do some, I take a little trip."
"Yeah, but I don't think it's real," The Duke said.
"You don't think it's real...?" Deuce said. "What do you mean real?"
"You go somewhere, and then you come back," The Duke said.
"Herman didn't go anywhere," Trevor said.
"Yeah he did," The Duke said. "When he went in the can and then again when his eyes rolled back."
"I don't think going to the can qualifies as a trip," Jimmy Dave said.
"I didn't go anywhere when I went to the can," Scofield said. Just before, when I took the hit. And on the first hit...I saw the pyramids at twilight."
"I thought you were kidding," Deuce said.
"No, I was there."
"No you weren't; you never left the table," Jimmy Dave said.
"Yeah, I know. See, I got a little scared and I just wanted to come back, so I did. I came right back to the instant I left," Scofield said.
"Owwww, good one!" Trevor said. "Time travel, the perfect answer."
"Where did you go just before you went to the can?" Deuce asked.
"How was the weather?" Jimmy Dave snickered.
"It was December 15, 1939. I watched Margaret Mitchell attend the premier of Gone with the Wind."
"Oh, for Christ's sake...," Trevor began.
"How many times have you watched that on the old news reels?" Deuce asked.
"More than I can count."
"See? Hallucination." Deuce leaned back in his chair.
"Margaret was tiny. I don't even think her head reached Clark Gable's shoulder and she was a good six or seven centimeters shorter than Vivien Leigh, but she was a pretty little thing. She wore a large orchid corsage. They were pale lavender."
"That would be mauve," corrected The Duke. "A pale lavender is more like a mauve." The Duke held out his phone. "Look, here's an image of her with her corsage. See how light it photographs in black and white? That would be mauve."
"I can't freaking believe it...," Jimmy Dave began.
"Sounds like you were close enough to touch her," Trevor said.
"Oh, for fuck's sake." Jimmy Dave leaned back in his chair in disgust. "What? You just popped into the picture like Tinkerbell. You and the fuckin' Duke...."
"I had an invitation. Made out to H.B. Scofield, Esquire. I had a suite at the Georgian Terrace. I rode to the theater in a limousine with Ann Rutherford."
"Ann who?" Jimmy Dave asked.
"She played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Carreen. Ann introduced me to Margaret Mitchell. I shook her hand."
"Then what?" Deuce asked.
"I didn't even take my seat; I just walked back to my hotel."
"You didn't stay for the after party?" Jimmy Dave snickered.
"I felt kind of hollow. I went back to my suite and got drunk. I must have passed out. When I woke up, I was back here. Then I went to the crapper."
Everyone was silent for a moment.
"Duke?" Deuce said.
"I don't know. You can't transport matter back in time; it's a conservation violation. But information? Experience?"
"No," Deuce corrected, "I mean it's all hallucination. Right? Scofield didn't really go back in time."
The Duke sank into thought.
"Come on," pleaded Jimmy Dave. "It's all in his head. He's just making it up. You've got to be kidding me."
"That's the easiest explanation," conceded The Duke. "But he knew the color of the orchids. How did he know that?"
"He didn't know the color of the orchids, no one knows." Jimmy Dave had his hands in the air. "They could have been any light, pastel color. They could have been yellow."
The Duke nodded agreement as he searched images on his phone.
"Deuce? It's your deal." Jimmy Dave rounded up the cards and passed them to Deuce.
Everyone tossed in the ante and Deuce began to shuffle the cards. "What about your last trip?"
"Oh yeah, no, I fucked up." Scofield pinched his nose together and sniffed.
***I went back to Hollywood, 1921. They were making The Queen of Arabia at Fox. I wanted to get in, you know, for the topless scenes. See...if I had already seen Bebe Blythe film the topless scenes, I could tell her how good she looked. It's like being halfway home, you know what I mean?
But it was complicated. I had to find clothes and money, so I sent myself inside the vault of the First National Bank of Edendale which is sort of like downtown LA now. I went in at night. I was going to use the time before anyone opened the vault to round up the money and be ready to bust out as soon as they opened it up. But the first thing I notice is that it's pitch black. I can't even see where I am. And the next thing I notice is that I'm Buck naked. It's a play on words, cool huh?
I spend the next hour feeling up the walls looking for a light switch absolutely convinced that the light switch is outside the vault. But I find the vault door and, sure enough, next to it I find the light switch. And I start looking for something to wear. You guys aren't going to believe this, but there is nothing in a bank vault that you can possibly wear. But I find the money...in an unlocked cabinet all stacked in neat rows. I find one of those heavy canvas moneybags, you know, with the leather handles. I count it all out and it's like eleven large and change. And I stuff it all in the moneybag along with a few rolls of quarters for weight.
And when the guy comes in in the morning, there I am hiding behind the vault door. I come out and whack him upside the head with the moneybag and he goes down like a flounder. I struggle to get his clothes off so I can wear them out of the vault. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get clothes off a limp body?
The son of a bitch is a fucking midget. I can barely get the shirt buttoned; the sleeves are two inches up my arm. The pants are strictly shallow water. And the shoes! I could barely get them on and they hurt like holy hell.
So I take a deep breath, stroll out of the vault, down some back hall and out a door onto an alley. So it's down the alley to the street, cut over and down another alley looking for a paper sack because I can't lug this moneybag all over town. I find one in a trash can and load the bills into it. I put a roll of quarters into each pocket for good measure, put the moneybag into the trash can and cover it up. I'm home and dry! I'm fucking Dillinger!
But my feet are killing me. I ankle by a shoe store and pop in. The guy gives me a weird look. I tell him it was a terrible mix up at the gym. He gives me another look. He shows me a cheap pair of shoes, but at least they fit. I payed him off in quarters. Then I get smart and put a few bills in my pocket. Nothing says hinky like pulling large denomination bills from a paper sack, know what I mean?
I pass a used clothing store and I see a small leather valise, almost like one of those old doctors bags. I buy it for two bucks and pop the sack into it.
By now I'm almost downtown and I hit the one thing I needed to find, a department store. I come out of there with a half dozen shirts, two suits - each with two pairs of pants, suspenders, underwear, socks, a half dozen neckties, a way better pair of shoes, cuff links, tie clip, money clip, watch, luggage and a hat. I ask them for the name of a good hotel in Hollywood. They shake their heads and send me to the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset. They even made the reservation and called me a cab.
I get to the Beverly. They think I'm a producer from New York. I don't know how that happened. I ask them where I can get a car and chauffeur; they hook me up. I make some calls and find Bebe's agent. We have a late lunch. I tell him I'm moving a New York production unit to Hollywood and that I really like his client. He says she's currently under contract to Fox. 'Who knows what tomorrow may bring,' I tell him. I also tell him I'd like to meet his client. I suggest he get me into Fox studios while they're filming. 'Impossible,' he says, but she'll be at the El Morocco at eight this evening, but she can only spare a couple of minutes. I say, 'Fine.'
Okay, here's where it gets a little weird. A bunch of stuff happens that really doesn't happen. I know, let me explain. I go to the El Morocco early so I won't miss her. I have a couple of drinks. I'm feeling good, so I have a couple more. By the time she gets there and is shown her table, I'm hammered. To make a long story short, I go up to her, I make a flaming ass of myself, and the maitre d' and a waiter hold me for the cops. But I bolt out of there and come back here. But this never happens.
Okay, the first thing you need to know is that I'm not the same guy who left. I'm Buck Two; Buck One is dead. Just a minute, I'll explain. I materialize in Buck's room at the Beverly and suit up. I go out and buy a length of rope, a shower curtain and a steamer trunk and have it delivered to my room. When Buck One comes back from his late lunch, I smash a vase over his head and strangle him with the rope. I strip him naked, roll him in the shower curtain and lock him in the trunk. I make arrangements to have the trunk sent to Venezuela.
I meet Bebe at the El Morocco. I'm sober. I tell her who I am and continue to roll with the producer from New York story. I tell her I'm a big fan and ask her how filming is going. She smiles. I ask her about her exotic costumes. 'I have a lot of costumes,' she says, 'but if I put them all on at once, I couldn't keep warm.' I laugh politely and take my leave, because I'm taking the night train to New York.
***Buck pinched a line on the back of his hand and snorted.
"Wait!" Trevor yelled, but Buck had already completed the maneuver.
"What? Buck asked.
Trevor rose from his chair, looked at his own hands, then at the table as though checking to see they were all real. "Well...wait a minute." He sat again. "Look, Buck One went on a trip, but he never came back. You came back in his place right?"
"You came back as Buck Two, but Buck Two didn't exist yet. Am I right? Because you hadn't yet taken the hit that sent Buck Two back to ice Buck One."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"You can't do that," Trevor continued, "That would create a time loop. See...you take a hit as Buck One, come back and tell us a story, then take another hit that creates Buck Two. But the next thing that happens is Buck Two is telling us the story of icing Buck One. Know what I mean? And we're all still waiting for the hit that creates Buck Two. The minute you take that hit, the whole thing starts over again and time can never progress beyond the hit that creates Buck Two."
"Yeahhhh," agreed the Duke. "Wait...you've already taken the hit that makes Buck Two...and we've progressed beyond...."
"Sweet Jesus!" Jimmy Dave exclaimed. "Now he's got all of you doing it! Wait! Wait! See...if Buck had really done what he said then we'd be caught in an infinite time loop, right? But we aren't, so he didn't." Jimmy Dave leaned back in triumph.
"Or time doesn't work that way," The Duke countered. "It could be like the guy in two dimensional space who can't see the third dimension. He's confined to the surface of a sheet of paper that is bent in a 'U', but his buddy isn't. His buddy walks away from him toward the bottom of the 'U' and then back up on the other leg. In three dimensions the buddy is standing across from the guy, but the guy is looking along the 'U' and sees him standing far away. Then the buddy steps from one leg of the 'U' to the other and yells 'Boo!'. The guy jumps says 'How the fuck did you do that?', because his buddy has instantaneously appeared right next to him."
"Yeah," agreed Trevor. "It must be something like that...."
"For the love of...," Jimmy Dave began. "Let's play cards. Buck, It's your deal."
Buck began to shuffle the cards. "Ante up, boys."
"Hey, Buck," Deuce said. "Why did you kill Buck One? Why didn't you just warn him off?"
Buck was dealing the cards out. "Well...it really didn't matter. I was going to become Buck Two anyway and Buck One was going the way of the dinosaur. But really, what kind of a guy would punk out like that and get drunk? Who knows what dumb stuff he would have pulled. I couldn't have that." Buck picked up his cards and sorted them. "Duke, it's to you."
The Duke tossed in two chips. Everyone called except Buck.
"And I raise you two," Buck said.
"Whoa!" Jimmy Dave exclaimed. "Herman's got a hand."
The Duke wavered for a moment and then through in his cards. The rest followed his example.
"Let me see what you had," said Jimmy Dave.
Buck shoved his cards into the deck. "You boys didn't buy a ticket to the show." He raked in his winnings and passed the cards to The Duke.
"Hey Buck," Trevor said. "Did you go to New York?"
"After you saw Bebe at the El Morocco."
"Oh yeah. I set up a trust fund. I still had about ten grand. All I needed for money from then on was my signature." Buck pinched another line on the back of his hand and snorted it down. His head flopped back and when he finally brought his chin down, blood flowed from his nose over his lips and down his chin. Buck caught it with his hands, stood and went to the can.
"Duke?" Deuce said.
The Duke looked toward the bathroom door. "Let's give him a minute. He made it down there under his own steam."
The Duke shuffled the cards as they waited for Buck to return. A minute later Buck was sitting in his old spot and The Duke began to deal.
"Buck?" Deuce inquired.
"What? You had a nosebleed like nobody's business."
"It was just the Lightspeed making the return trip down the nasal passages."
"Aw man! It worked!" The Duke exclaimed and began to laugh.
Deuce, Trevor and Jimmy Dave stared at him.
"That's why I made it blood red." He chuckled. "Sooner or later you got to blow your nose and bam!...there you are."
Buck was smiling broadly. "You had me, Duke. I must have caught some ragweed coming out of the club and when I got back...well, you guys saw it, but a little nose spray and I'm as good as new.""The club?" Trevor said.
"Yeah, here's what happened...."
***I was at the El Morocco again, but it had changed it's name. Now it was the Marathon, but it hadn't changed much else. I was with Bebe at the same table where I met her the last time. I was standing there looking at her. She called me 'H.B.'.
She smiled warmly. "H.B., I haven't seen you in ten years and you haven't aged a day. Please, sit down." I had put a lot of phony gray into my hair, but I know I still looked too young.
When I sat she stretched her hand across the table to me and I took it. She had beautiful gray eyes and they shown as brightly as they had in 1921. It was after the war now; it was 1946. The twenty-five years showed on her face, on her hands. Her black hair was streaked with gray, but she was still a handsome woman.
"Darren's been ill you know." She smiled at me with her sad, beautiful smile. Darren was her husband; they had married in 1918 and were still together. Not your typical Hollywood marriage. "He sends me out to lunch once a week, says he doesn't want me to become a shut in, looking after him."
"That's the kind of guy he's always been," I said. "And nice guys are thin on the ground out here. You're a lucky girl."
She still held my hand and was gently rubbing her thumb across the my knuckles.
"If I'm not mistaken," I said, "This is the very table at which we met." I looked the place over. Everyone was smoking; a blue cloud hung perpetually, suspended between the patrons and the high ceiling.
"I knew you'd remember." She was dressed in a gray suit that hugged the contours of her thin figure. Dark nylons and black heels. A matching gray hat lay in the seat beside her.
"How could I ever forget."
She smiled demurely and released my hand. Alan Ladd sat three tables away. He looked gay - in the modern sense of that word - it made me smile.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked. "I've been thinking of you lately."
"Yes. That time...that night in Palm Springs. I was feeling so low."
Those memories came flooding back to me. She must have read it on my face.
"Oh H.B., I can see it meant as much to you."
"It did. I was very much in love with you."
"Was?" She gave a look of mock hurt.
I smiled. "I still am, you know. I will always be in love with you."
Genuine gratitude filled her face and warmed the very air around us. "Do you know what day this is?"
"The third of May...yes...yes." I nodded as I said it. "The third of May, 1934. Twelve years ago. Palm Springs. Was it so very long ago?"
"No. Not to me. Even though it seems like so much has happened since."
A waiter came to our table and we ordered lunch. We spent a very pleasant hour together, as though we were very old friends trading Hollywood gossip. In fact, she told my Barbara Stanwyck was having a torrid affair with a young actor half her age. She said his name was Robert Wagner and he was terribly handsome.
I walked her out front and hailed a cab for her. She kissed me on the lips, softly, gently, and she took her time about it. She told me that she was tired of seeing me once very ten of fifteen years and that she hoped to see me again soon. I told her that I had been married to my work, but that it was no proper substitute for the pleasure of her company. I put her in the cab and she turned and waved through the back window as it drove off. I knew that was the last time I would ever see her.
***Trevor smiled. "H.B. Who'd of thunk it. You scored the queen of the silver screen on May 3, 1934. In Palm Springs no less."
"She wasn't the queen of the silver screen then," H.B. said. "Time and fate had been cruel to her."
It was Deuce who asked "What happened?"
***Starting in about 1928, she had begun to play second leads even though she was only thirty-five. And the parts got smaller and smaller. By the early thirties, she had uncredited roles. A waitress who appeared briefly on screen and never spoke, a woman at a party. Parts so small there was no need to list them in the credits at the end of the movie. Her husband, by contrast, was a director at the top of his game. He was much in demand. When Bebe wasn't working she accompanied him on location, but she was only Mrs. Darren Wild and she felt it.
She had come down to Palm Springs with a group of people. I don't know who they were. Wannabe's and D-lister's. We were staying at the Willows; it was one of the places to stay in the Springs in those days. It was late evening; I saw her out on the terrace and the sharks were circling.
She was sitting at a table with two pretty boys. Their hair was slicked back and they had a slick line of patter to go along with it. All confidence and no substance. But they had nothing on me. I had already been there; I had already lived it and felt it; I had already made love to her. I knew everything that would happen.
"Remember me, Miss Blythe? H.B. Scofield?" I was in evening clothes and she hadn't seen me in thirteen years.
"Of course, Mr. Scofield." She wore a pink sleeveless evening gown, deeply cut front and back. I could see she was a little tipsy.
I looked at the two apprentice gigolos. "Gentlemen, if you will excuse us, I have business to discuss with Miss Blythe."
They looked at her wondering if she would dismiss them so easily. I, of course, knew she would.
"Mr. Scofield and I are old friends. It would be rude of me not to entertain him. Scat now." She shooed them away like the tomcats they were. They slunk off into the darkness. "Please sit down, Mr Scofield."
"Call me 'H.B.'." I looked deeply into her beautiful eyes.
"You may call me 'Bebe'." She was as coy as a schoolgirl and, of course, it was all an act.
"Thank you. It is very gracious of you to forgo your companions and speak with me this evening. You can't possibly remember me."
"And why is that?"
"We met only once at the El Morocco. You were filming Queen of Arabia. I introduced myself."
She looked at me quizzically and then a little harder and a look of recognition crossed her face. "Yes, I remember. I was waiting for Darren; we were to have dinner, but of course, he was very late. And it was our anniversary."
I inwardly cursed Buck One and hoped that his remains were fragrantly rotting somewhere in Venezuela, the cad. Competent research was entirely beyond him.
"You were so polite. I remember you wouldn't even sit; you had to catch a train or something."
"I was smitten. You were the most exquisite creature I had ever encountered...until tonight."
"Oh Mr. Scofield...H.B., such flattery." She was clearly pleased. "Now what is this business you wish to discuss. Let's get it over with so we can enjoy the rest of the evening, shall we?"
"I'm very much afraid that I'm flying false colors. You see, I sold out to Bill Fox a few years back."
"I never like that man." She put her hand to her throat. "'You'll be a star forever,' he says. Then he forgets all about me. Then he up and dies." She looked into the distance theatrically.
"I never much liked little Billy Fox either, but I liked his money just fine." I gave her a wicked smile and she gave it back.
"He lost everything in twenty-nine." She gave me an inquiring look.
"I put it all in a trust and invested in stocks...with instructions to sell on September 1, 1929."
"How did that work out?" she asked.
"Wonderfully, I haven't worked a day since."
"Neither have I," she replied and threw her head back, laughing. But the laughter didn't last.
I reached across the table for her hands. "They forget talent; they forget beauty. They forget everyone, but themselves. But I can never forget you."
We spent the rest of the evening talking. About politics, Hollywood, producers and directors. She forgot herself entirely... was witty and amusing. I liked her very much. We liked each other very much. I took her to my room.
I awoke the next morning with her beside me. She sat up, turned and put her feet on the floor. I could see her beautiful back and her narrow waist. Whenever she moved the muscles would ripple gently under her skin.
"I'm leaving today," she said with her back to me.
"I as well," I said.
"Venezuela," I replied. "I have some business there."
She turned to look at me over her shoulder. "I thought you didn't work."
"It isn't work really; it's more like fun."
Indeed I was, but I wouldn't see her again until 1946.
***"You left out all the wet parts, Buck", Jimmy Dave said. "How are we supposed to get off on that?"
"I assure you gentleman that the act itself as not changed since the thirties. I can add nothing to what you already know."
"Always the gentleman, H.B.," Trevor said casting a condescending look toward Jimmy Dave.
The game had continued all the while and a fair amount of the chips had migrated to H.B.'s stack.
"The Willows," Deuce said. "Sounds like a swell place."
The Duke was busy with his phone.
"I sat in on a poker game at The Willows once with Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer. It could be a fun place."
"Hey, wait a minute," Deuce said. "You haven't actually gone back to do the thing with Bebe yet."
"Well," said The Duke, "I suppose it isn't strictly necessary since both Bebe and H.B. remember it."
"Yeah," Trevor said, "But why take a chance on that?"
"The sharks were circling Bebe," added Deuce.
Jimmy Dave could only roll his eyes.
"You're right, I can't take the chance." H.B. held up the baggie of Lightspeed. There was just enough for one last hit. He poured it onto the back of his hand and snorted it. His head went back momentarily and then forward. Finally he stretched his neck and nodded. "It's okay."
"Oh come on!" exclaimed Jimmy Dave. "This is all made up; it's just a story."
"Oh," said The Duke. "Wait a minute." He held out his phone. "Look at this. It's a photograph of Ann Rutherford."
The boys gathered around the phone. On it was an image of Ann Rutherford. Beside her stood H.B. Scofield with his arm around her waist.
"Oh yeah," H.B. said. "I remember that. She was such a sweet kid. She wanted our picture taken together."
Jimmy Dave stared at it a moment. "Photoshop."
"H.B.?...at the premier?...why did you go back to your hotel room and get drunk?" Deuce asked.
"Oh, yeah...Hitler was rampaging through Europe; I knew what was coming. I watched all those smiling faces, faces of young men...carefree...happy. Would this one die?...that one? I couldn't...."
"Did you know then that you...and Bebe...in '34?" Trevor asked.
"I don't know; I suppose so. But there was so much going on and I was in...you know...such a down mood at the end...and so much to think about."
"You're right," The Duke said. "You had your stuff in a row...there were bigger things to mull over, H.B.."
There was a knock on the door and Punchy came in.
"Hey Punchy," they replied.
"Hey Scofield," he said. "There's a guy lookin' for you says he's a P.I., says you've inherited some kind of trust."
"Oh yeah," H.B. said. "I almost forgot about that."
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