Chapter 1: A chance reunion
Cities by their very nature are studies of contrast. The older an urban environment, the more examples of the recent and the relic are presented nearly side by side.
It is in such a place that our story now opens.
The darken landscape which first greets our eyes would certainly be familiar territory to any metropolitan dweller.
Large more distant buildings dominate the visible evening skyline in a hazy vista of man erected mountains with smaller, less forbidding structures defining the foreground and our current frame of reference.
Most of these immediate structures are apparently far less than recent buildings.
All of which extrude some faint impression of past purposes long since forgotten.
Red brick and similar painted facades festoon most of these structures with an added, street level mixture of hastily added plywood and chain link fencing.
Muddy water puddles here and there where asphalt sags tiredly away from neglected streets that run past sidewalks sporting spider web cracks. It is these shallow basins which reflect a blurry collection of harsh electrified, luminous signs that paint the night in a competing plethora of glowing colors.
Amid this glowing gallery of presentation, a defunct turn of the previous century marquee towards the center of our current view garishly beckons with the words 'The Neon rouge'.
Our attention is drawn now to just the opposite of this once theater as its parking lot is receiving a sudden 'new addition' to its dreary collection of dilapidated late models and garish custom vehicles.
The newcomer itself, also a powerful example of the customizers craft, having been 'chopped', lowered and obviously stretched to monolithic proportions.
Despite its fore mentioned size, the mammoth machine oozes nimbly about its task, settling smoothly into one of only two spaces marked 'reserved'.
As the Cherri-black behemoth settles into place purring like a well-fed dinosaur, one final rev of its engine precedes the motor stopping without so much as a sigh.
Moments later, amid the expected pings and clicks of a cooling engine, the driver side door opens, 'suicide style' as a large individual literally unfolds himself into a standing position aside the sleek vehicle.
The first impression the casual observer might get from this man might well be wondering 'who shaved the gorilla'? Though, upon noting the rather obvious bright red color of the giants neatly kept hair an 'orangutan' might be a closer analog for consideration.
A second notion, after seeing him finally straitened to his absolute height could well be spent pondering if the gentleman's tailor worked with a net?
Upon shutting his door, the dapper dressed mountain however made a slow, methodical scan of his surroundings.
It is only then, after being completely satisfied that the lot is indeed empty of others that he at last opens the passenger door of his ride.
"All clear Ace." The giant announced, directing his remark to the opened car. This in turn signaled the abrupt appearance of a single steel-toed, rattlesnake skin boot alighting onto asphalt with a sibilant scrape.
While nowhere tall as his companion, at just over six feet, this new individual is not exactly a small man.
Straitening while adjusting his tie, Ace smoothed his own well-tailored suit to lay neatly on his triangular frame, pausing long enough to produce, then pull a metallic comb through his jet-black hair in a well-rehearsed gesture.
He then took a last moment to 'check his look' in the midnight blue mirror of the cars tinted window as he then adjusted his ubiquitous shades and pronounced himself 'flawless'.
Ace cast about his surroundings without stepping away from the car before breaking into a broad dazzling smile.
"Man, I just love these rainy nights!" He mused joyously before glancing casually over his shoulder where the red haired giant patiently waited.
"Let's do it."
Moments later, now at the front of the club, Ace's mammoth companion had to stoop slightly down just to grasp hold of the set of door handles.
What followed could best be described as a 'gingerly operation, one which involved the careful opening of the heavily black lacquered front doors in such a fashion as not to break either handle. After which the young behemoth had to mildly 'duck' to actually enter the building amid an eruption of noise.
Once inside he dutifully paused, holding the left most of the pair of doors apart as Ace entered directly, the smaller of the two men moving past his companion into the darkened interior within.
"Good evening gentlemen." The club doorman made his presence known from behind a podium just to one side.
"If you gentlemen will please find a table..." The man added with a solemn bow of his shaven head.
"I'll let Vic know that you're here."
"Thank you much Barney!" Ace replied without actually looking the man's direction or breaking his stride.
He all but sauntered past, pressing deeper into the room with the young man mountain trailing him like an oil tanker to its tug.
The main room of the club was large as only could be expected considering the pedigree of the building. Lighting here was soft and subdued provided mostly by strategic placement of rope lights and the occasional table candle.
Garish wall bound signs and neon displays distantly beckoned from the surrounding walls. These however only competed mildly with the illuminated floor of the raised central platform which logically dominated the majority of the room's volume.
Selecting a table in front of the central stage, 'more for brighter lighting than anything else', Ace took a moment inspecting his chair before seating himself.
It was only after he was seated that he glanced at his towering companion, A knowing grin then crossing his face a moment before he indicated a seat adjacent to his own.
"Hey Billy!" He called amiably.
"Ain't you gonna sit?"
He extruded an air of sweet innocence and the line was delivered cavalierly as a barely dressed girl appeared to set two drinks between them on the table.
Billy responded by looking downward at Ace with his usual deadpan expression.
Subtle clues from their long association however informed Ace of his friend's deep annoyance at a very old joke.
"Yah know good 'n well, none of them damned chairs will hold me." Billy replied dully.
"Hey, suit yourself." Ace said with a grin, adding his usual almost required casual shrug.
His smile only widened as Billy continued to scowl then added a one-fingered salute just for good measure.
The matter of getting seated taken care of, Ace settled back taking in the sights and sounds of the local.
He spared a casual glance, flashing a smile the direction of their waitress allowing her to depart. It wasn't as if they were here to sample the food after all.
He chose to concentrate instead upon what danced glistening beneath the overhead stage floods.
The current dancer's movements were fluid, hypnotic and guaranteed to draw the eye, the body presented was toned and tanned as one would expect.
Ace spared some moments watching before, like always that empty feeling he always got began to creep over him.
"Man, nothing ever changes around here." Ace mused.
It wasn't like he lacked prospects for female company, in fact quite the opposite. Him getting 'laid' had never been the problem.
Finding a decent relationship however? One that you might actually want to hold on to?
Now 'there' was a trick.
"Heh, All form and no substance." He murmured quietly.
"What was that Ace?" A look of concern brightened Billy's usually stone cast visage.
"Nut'n Billy." Ace replied, he hadn't actually meant to say that aloud.
"Just thinking a little too loud I guess."
Billy slowly nodded, letting his gaze slip back into its usual pattern of searching the area.
Still, Ace found himself musing; he was only twenty-four and reasoned that there was plenty of time.
There were times however that he could have sworn that he was the only one who thought so.
The last few years in particular he had seen a steady stream of girlfriends.
He started to get something of a reputation for being 'a player' around the community and that was something that Tony Glatora frowned upon.
"A mans got to be respectable." Ace had lost count of how many times he heard variations of that.
Trouble was no one understood, well except maybe Billy.
A sudden tap on his shoulder brought Ace back to reality to glance Billy's direction as the red haired giant gestured with his eyes prompting Ace turned in time to see Victor Mourner, the club owner/operator finally making his appearance.
"Through playing hide n' seek, huh Vic?" Ace called while smirking, looking over his shades as the older, slightly overweight man slid up to the table.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" Vic wheezed, more than somewhat out of breath.
"Busy night yah know?"
"Yeah, ain't they all?" Ace replied flashing another winning smile.
"Which brings us right to the point, " He added his smile never slackening.
"Where's your monthly Vic?"
Ace watched as Victor mourner visibly swallowed then started to glance around before nervously glancing over his shoulder.
"Y-Yeah about that," He began slowly. "Yah know Ace."
At which point the clubs speaker system suddenly blared, effectively cutting him off.
"All right! All right!" The amplified voiced boomed.
"Everybody give it up for Selina! One sweeeeeet little lady, just finishing her first week here at the Neon Rouge!"
More than marginally 'derailed' by the noise, Ace quietly grimaced.
He hated those damn loud speakers! Every clown using one, always seeming to think good 'microphone etiquette' included drooling, slobbering and spitting.
"I didn't come down here for no 'sob-story' Vic." Ace continued flatly to the club owner, attempting to concentrate.
"I-It ain't like that Ace!" Vic stammered, now visibly sweating.
"I got most of the two grand! It's just that, yesterday..." He trailed off, noting Ace was longer smiling before completely deflating.
"Two of the Spumoni boys were down here trying to muscle in and..."
"You gave them the money." Ace finished grimly, nudging his shades up with his right index finger.
"Not good Vic." He then quietly snapped.
"So, why no phone call?"
"Thought I could make it up before..." Vic shrugged apologetically as the stage's main floods suddenly flicked off, diverting his attention as the unseen announcer once again began to roar before he could recover concentration.
"And now Gentlemen! Direct your attention to the main stage, as we welcome back a long time favorite!"
"Vic, Vic, Vic," Ace began tiredly as the shill continued his amplified spiel while a heavy slow back rhythm beginning to build.
"And here I thought we had ourselves an understanding..." He pressed on around and under the noise.
"Ah yes! You'll want to touch, hold 'n squeeze 'er!" The voiced announced excitedly.
"Always a real crowd please 'er! Give it up boys! For Madam X!"
Equally distracted by the noise Ace never the less glared, adamantly maintaining attention upon Vic's sweating face.
He continued watching as the older man started to mouth something ... Before stopping cold.
Vic Mourner chose the moment, to at last seat himself.
Plumping his ample frame down directly across from Ace, after which he then slumped forward in his chair, miserably.
"Ok Ace," Vic finally said dejectedly. The man's voice carried the tiniest of wines, a clear indication of his current mental state. Vic Mourner had the look of a man condemned.
"But what about the Spumoni brothers?" He asked helplessly.
Ace responded by crossing his arms and settling back, surveying the club owner sternly a moment before raising a hand, snapping his fingers.
Thus prompted, Billy broke from his immobility, leaning over from behind Ace taking the glass still sitting untouched closest to his side. He lifted it with some surprising daintiness for such a massive paw before 'toasting' the stage then lifting the glass to his lips where he drained it in a single gulp.
Billy then lowered his hand to the club owner's eye level before closing his fist, causing the glass to vanish completely from sight.
There followed a squeeze producing the slightest of 'pops' from within the huge fist which was now the absolute 'center' of Vic Mourner's current existence.
He was obliged to continue watching, as the fist was again lowered to then move across the small table to then 'hover' inches above the glass in front of the club owner.
From there Billy began working his fingers, contorting his closed fist until a sparkling white powder began to sift downward into the liquid before Vic's morbidly astonished gaze.
After a moment, Billy simply opened his hand, allowing the rest of the compressed powder which was formerly a glass to fall into the one below with a plop.
"You don't worry about them Vic." Ace intoned softly.
He leaned forward even as Billy straightened back to his full, height coming nose to nose with the club owner.
"You worry about Me!" Ace added flatly.
His smile returned as he settled back in his chair, it wasn't however a kindly expression.
Vic's response was to nod breathlessly and then to gesture as he glanced over his shoulder.
In the distance Ace noted the doorman, 'Barney' instantly nods from his usual place from just inside the main entrance then began heading their way, 'brown paper bag' firmly in hand.
When whomever had converted the old theater, the place once reserved for the ticket booth had been made over into an ideal location to keep tabs on the front, It made good sense.
Mollified by the show of compliance, Ace leaned back.
"Besides." Ace added cavalierly, apparently dismissing the whole incident.
"Don't me and Billy always take care of things?" He concluded solidly as Vic was receiving the bag from the doorman.
In this case appearances where certainly deceiving, Ace was concerned but not overly so.
The little 'issue' with a certain group of turds trying to muscle into the hood would have to be dealt with and soon.
There were always minor gangs which sprang up from time to time trying to cease control of some turf or try their hand at dipping into some other interest of the Glatora family. It was just one of those things.
The Spumoni brothers? Now that was going to be problematic as the term goes.
Sure, Ace knew who they were, a group of Brothers and a few hangers on originally from the Detroit area there about.
If they were here and already making a play like this? There was no telling what else was about to go down.
Vic had proceeded rolling the bag over in his hands thoughtfully as the large bald doorman departed without comment. Under normal circumstances, Ace supposed most people would call 'Baldy' a giant, but then Billy was standing right there wasn't he?
"Yah know Ace." Vic began gravely as he proceeded to slide the brown bag finally Ace's direction.
"I always play straight wit'cha man."
"And that's the reason I'm giving you this chance to clear, this little screw up." Ace simply nodded.
"A-Ace, I'll get the rest of it!" Vic Leaned forward, adopted a pleading tone.
"Hell! I'll have all of it, plus interest after tonight's run!"
"Aw, come on Vic!" Ace said with an elaborate shake of his head.
"Now yah went and insulted me!"
He then directed his attention halfway toward Billy's hulking frame.
"Can you tell this man when I've ever asked for any interest?" Ace prompted.
When he didn't receive an immediate answer, not even so much as a grunt, Ace finally glanced around to where the young giant was standing.
"Man, Billy's off his game tonight!" The thought automatically flashed across Ace's mind.
Contrary to any appearances, Billy always listened and missed very little.
It was that silly tendency of others to think of the red haired giant as slow or dim witted.
One which had cost a few notable opposing bruisers some relaxing down time in one of the local hospitals over the years.
"Billy"? Ace called again, looking to see Billy staring mutely the direction of the stage. That item alone served to completely derail Ace's current trains of thought.
Billy never stared at the dancers, mostly due to what Ace called an overly develop 'Galahad' complex.
The giant had, on more than one occasion stated how 'he disliked these sorts of places' and that they exploited women, Which made Billy's current lapse in behavior all the more bizarre.
"Well what the hell do you suppose..." Ace's thoughts continued, trailing off however as he followed the line of Billy's gaze.
She was beautiful of course, slim, compact and muscular but not grossly so.
The 'page style' cut of her jet-black hair lent the girl a certain boyishness which was belayed in turn by an ample bust almost masked by an acid green translucent wrap.
The girl on stage had a broad oval face, made up elaborately in a style like a mime, clown white with a single black tear elegantly descending along her left cheek.
Ace took in her sculpted form as she stood at stage midpoint doing a rhythmic slow grind to the music.
"Ok, she's hot," He thought, staring curiously.
While the Neon Rouge could hardly qualify as the most posh of establishments, there weren't any girls that performed there that Ace would have ever have listed as less than attractive. Skanky? Maybe, but not unattractive.
"But what's got Billy so interested he's..."
At which point Ace's mind slammed to a halt when the girl opened her eyes, revealing twin orbs of pale acid green fire.
Eyes that literally glowed with a pale iridescence which matched the color of her translucent wrap and cast an illumination bright enough to be picked up from the polish stage floor.
"Holy Jeez!" Ace breathed, suddenly enraptured. The mystery of Billy's sudden loss of focus having been utterly revealed, case closed with no need to wake Holmes or Dr Watson this time.
The moment of revelation passed as the slow rhythmic beat gave way to a rising synthesized timpani rift, this obviously served as her cue as the girl was suddenly in motion.
Executing a tight spin on her toes, she whirled toward stage right making her body seem to blur till an abrupt termination of the 'rift' brought her to a halt.
She was now standing so close above where Ace was seated that he could make out a smooth onyx stone held within the deep recess of her finely sculpted navel.
The low light cast from the tables flickering candle added to the haunting liquid ballet of light playing upon her skin in a dance of pooling colors, enhanced by a fine layer of oil that gave her body an almost metallic sheen.
The wide stance she had adopted allowed Ace more than an unobstructed view of the girls G-string, the brevity of which, to say nothing of his current viewing angle, left little to the imagination. The tiny article of 'covering', was rendered all the more hypnotic by a cryptic acid green letter x displayed prominently against its field of black which was framed in turn by the girls pale skin as the slow rhythmic beat reestablished.
'Riveted' might well be the best term to describe Ace's current frame of mind as once again the girl began gently grinding her hips swaying to the music.
It was only distantly that Ace realized he even knew the song that was playing just as a change in tempo signaled the beginning of the lyrics.
Yeah, he knew the tune, Ace had certainly heard it enough because of a former girlfriend ... Christ had it only been six months ago? Verna Vermilion's 'what you really mean's goodbye'.
"Every time you go away, I die a little more.
And I'm just as good as dead, until your back knocking on my door.
I find again and again and again, No mater how hard I try. Oh yeah'
Every time that you say hello, what you really mean's goodbye."
Moving in perfect sync with every musical ebb and swell, each movement of the girl's routine was impeccably timed, each proceeding without so much as a hint of hesitation. She moved with a fluid almost 'animal' grace that was almost painful to watch.
Whenever the music slowed or between complex moves she 'steadied' to a wide legged stance, rocking her hips like a metronome to the beat.
The thing I miss the most, every time that you're away.
Is how when your arms are around me, It removes all the cold and gray.
And your smile that shames tomorrow, with its new sunrise!
But I know each time you say hello, what you really mean's goodbye."
Well into the second verses stanza, the girl launched into a complex aerial spin around the lower stage pole. She actually seemed to float as she spun from the ceiling, lowering progressively with each impossibly slow revolution until her feet contacted again with the floor. It was at some point during the blur of this maneuver that she lost her translucent wrap. It slid softly down almost unnoticed partially where it was entangle around the pole.
"Now, I've had other lovers, and I do mean quite a few.
Though I can't remember their names when you come into my view.
But soon I'll be dialing numbers and it's really no surprise. Oh yeah'
Cause, every time that you say hello, what you really mean's goodbye."
Gliding away from the stage pole with her arms crossed, she again descended toward 'lower stage' while denying with her slender hands that which the audience desired.
Instead she flashed a fetchingly wicked little smile while slow stepping to the beat.
"You captured my heart, now I haven't got a clue.
With the way that you come and go, what's a girl supposed to do?
Because I really, truly love you and that I can't disguise.
And it's just because of that, I stand for all your bullshit and your lies."
As the fourth verse announced the singers depth of affection, the girl's tiny hands slid downward, uncrossing her arms in an expansive sweeping arc that ended with both arms, folded above and behind her head. Her breasts thus revealed were beautifully shaped, round and ample with surprisingly little bounce though she was easily a 'C cup'.
She stood like that, glorying in her moment of revelation with her eyes closed gently grinding her hips again to the beat.
She finished the forth verse keeping pace with the meter of the song, extending one hand wagging a finger at the audience with a sly little smile and a knowing expression.
"So You'd better smarten up! Cause tomorrow is another day.
And maybe just when, ill get sick of all the games you seem to like to play!
And I make the right connection with some other lucky guy!
And the next time you say hello, It might be me that says goodbye!"
"YO ACE!" Someone suddenly called, forcing Ace back to reality with a jolt.
"Yeah?" He replied tersely.
He sheepishly considered, thinking that his own voice sounded a little stupid just then. Ace realized that he had been totally 'transfixed' by the girl on the stage.
Apparently Billy wasn't that only one 'off his game' this evening.
He turned his gaze to find Vic Mourner eyeing him.
The club owner glanced up at the stage then nervously back Ace's general direction.
The basic cast of the man's features was much like someone who just looked outside and noticed an approaching hurricane.
"Yeah, She something alright." Vic began, a curious edge to his voice clearly indicating...
Ok, Ace wasn't sure what it was indicating, other than Vic Mourner looked like he was about to have a stroke.
"But hey! Take a little free advice huh?" Vic pressed on.
"From a friend?" The club owner added quickly, seeing the annoyed look he was receiving from Ace for his trouble.
"Oh?" Ace asked incredulously, trying hard to actually stifle a laugh.
"This Otta be good." Ace thought, now genuinely curious in spite of himself.
He thought this, mostly on the account of having learned very quickly that when you were in the sort of 'business' which he was, anyone using 'the friend card' usually was anything but. That and there was something which sounded remotely like real concern creeping into Vic Mourner's voice as he said...
"I tell yah, stay the hell away from Madam X!" Vic announced flatly.
"I'm telling yah, She's nothing but trouble!"
Ace's own expression promptly shifted, going from annoyed to outright surprise.
After another glance back towards the stage, where the girl was still dancing it shifted to one of mild amusement.
"Oh?" Ace repeated, favoring a glance Billy's direction.
"L-Look, I can see you're interested!" Vic blathered on, seemingly oblivious to the sarcasm.
"But I'm telling yah, this dames like broken glass!"
Vic Mourner paused and softly groaned, already he could see that Ace wasn't paying him any heed.
"Hey! She sparkles real pretty!" He continued emphatically, pausing to swallow a lump as Ace again half resumed his observations as the girl was continuing her set.
"But you try 'n touch!" Vic Mourner continued mournfully.
"You'll pull back bleeding fingers!" He paused again apparently realizing he was definitely having no effect.
"Or her case, maybe a bloody stump!" He added with a whine.
"That's just great Vic." Ace said smiling. After receiving a casual shrug from Billy, he'd slid back into the chair, pulling out his metal comb he did a sweep through his hair.
"Introduce us." He announced with a nod.
"FINE!" Vic Mourner swore, uncharacteristically raising his voice especially considering whom it was directed toward.
"But god damn it! Don't say I didn't warn yah Ace!"
As Vic turned and stomped off Ace relaxed into watching as the girl was beginning her second set.
Vic's odd behavior aside, already he was telling himself that this was probably a mistake all things considered ... But then again.
"Hey," He muttered aloud. "What can it hurt to just say hello?"
"That's what you said the last time." Billy replied, shaking his head.
By way of an answer, Ace lifted a finger, wryly returning his friends earlier gesture.
Billy was wrong this time however.
Oh, his gonads were in there, 'rooting' as well to be sure but there was ... Well Ace wasn't sure.
From the moment he had laid eyes upon that girl there had been a sense of familiarity ... Something cloying and intangible about her that 'for the life of him' he couldn't quite pin down.
He continued watching as her third and final set was highlighted by the stage switching from standard overhead floods to floor level ultraviolet lighting.
The of the black lights caused the 'X' on her g bottoms to stand out even more hypnotic while transforming her eyes into green acid bonfires that seemed to light up the entire room.
As Ace watched, it was right about then that something else struck him as odd.
The girl didn't really appear to 'pander' to the crowd like most erotic dancers.
Not that he considered himself any sort of expert on the matter.
It was just that her performance seemed to lack certain basic elements, such as allowing those 'little peeks' under her G-string in order to get higher tips.
Additionally, not one of the lecherous men seated close around the stage seemed all that eager to really touch her, even when the occasional leg, foot or hand presented itself.
He briefly considered that 'Madam X' must be a fairly recent addition to the Rouges line up. It was inconceivable to him that he could have overlooked someone like her.
Just watching made Ace started feeling really stupid about asking Vic to meet this girl.
He almost decided on motioning Vic to call it off when suddenly her last set ended and there was some fanfare as the announcer shouted her off.
"Hey! As always X marks the spot! Give It up for the Madam!"
Watching as she smiled then tossed her head, blowing kisses to the crowd before lightly descending the stage, Ace suddenly realized he was drumming his fingers on the table top in front of him.
"Am I nervous?" He thought in a state of amazement.
"You gotta be kidding!"
He attempted to distract himself, glancing at his watch and suddenly felt, like a card-carrying ass. He had forgotten Billy had been standing all this time.
"Hey Billy." Ace called, causing the giant to finally glance away from the stage.
"Sorry for stretching this out man."
"I Ain't tired Ace." Billy replied with a smile and a slight nod at Aces obvious concern.
"Don't worry bout me."
"Look, everything's cool." Ace added uncertainly.
He then gestured around their location, indicating vacancy of the room about them.
"Ain't nobody here gonna cause me any trouble." He continued charitably.
"Why don't you take a load off in the car?"
"To hell with that!" Billy laughed, breaking into a wide grin.
"I wanna be right here when this girl slaps the living shit out of yah!"
Ace leaned back with a shake of his head, matching Billy with a wry smile of his own.
"Last time I bother trying to give you a break yah asshole!" He added ruefully.
Turning attention away from his grinning companion, Ace noticed Vic had met the girl at the bottom step as she descended from the far right side of the stage.
He also found he couldn't help but noticing as a rather busty blonde was ascending.
From there Ace watched as Vic started laying out some fast body English.
Ace concerns that this might a bad idea only deepened.
It seemed to his notions that Vic's rapid semaphore was met with less than the desired effect as the girl was curling those tiny hands into fists while staring at the ceiling obviously becoming rapidly and royally pissed.
Ace favored another glance at Billy seeing that his huge companion was also taking note of the proceedings.
The Mild shrug Billy returned his direction had a definite 'whoa boy.' written all over it.
Ace found that he was inclined to agree when Vic's further attempts at tribal dance must have failed utterly to appease the goddess, she suddenly shouted something that was rendered inaudible over the swell of the current dancer's music.
This was not looking good.
The micro drama continued as Ace saw Vic taking the girl gently by both of her shoulders while she in turn avoided his gaze.
It was clear she was doing her level best to look anywhere but into the club owner's eyes as Vic continued to ply some form of tactic.
After a few minutes it seemed finally to work when she gave a sigh that was physically obvious even over the distance separating between them.
He then watched as the girl sullenly donned a half shirt with what amounted to an angry shrug before turning to begin making her way over with Vic Mourner in tow.
Ace adopted his best smile, deciding right there and then to put the best face on it he could.
What the hell? It wasn't like he was expecting anything anyway.
During the girls approach however there was, as they say a startling metamorphosis.
One moment she walked angrily, with a stiff backed regal bearing that would do any haughty queen proud.
As the distance between them shortened however her features softened perceptibly.
Her face adopted a gentle smile as her stride evolved into a rather sexy swagger, all with the subtle abruptness of pulling on a mask.
Ace continued giving what he hoped was his most charming smile, thinking that this had to be a positive sign.
"Hey, Maybe she likes what she sees."
That is ... Until she was no more than three decent steps from the table.
She suddenly stopped cold as a look utter surprise erupting on her face.
Her reaction to say nothing of appearance was more that enough to bring Ace up short.
The close she got the better she looked, he found himself wondering how she appeared without that 'mine face'.
Vic Mourner now flanking the girl was oblivious to all the subtext, he was concentrating on Introductions.
"And here gentleman that is eager to meet you!" Vic intoned with a cheerful wave.
"Madam X ... This here is Mr Ace Copular!"
She continued to stand, her small mouth slightly open as she gazed at Ace in apparent wonder. It was during that interval Ace felt his hopes soar.
He was forced to correct himself however as that sweet wide eyed look was slowly replaced by one laden with the kind of cold fury that causes active volcanoes to smolder to ice.
"That's ok Vic." She said huskily.
"We've already met."
Now it was Aces turn to stare as he desperately searched his memory.
"No way!" He thought, when try as he may he came up totally blank.
"I'd never forget someone fine as you!"
Just then something as was the saying simply clicked. Those eyes! Her voice and general mannerism's brought a flash of recognition.
"NO FREAKEN WAY!"
Suddenly Ace was very much aware that he knew exactly how she might look without her makeup, though it had been a few years.
The total shock he was feeling must have shone plain as day because the girl had begun slowly nodding with a look of total revulsion, directed solely at him!
"Ah!" Vic grunted still totally oblivious however.
"Old friends huh?" He added, seeming relieved.
Madam X smiled and leaned forward, placing her small fists on the table. It was not a friendly sort of smile.
"Sure are!" She said sweetly before leaning than much further, adding with a grimace that again twisted her lovely face.
"Now, Go fuck yourself Ace!!"
She then straightened, turned on heel and elegantly strolled away leaving the reactions at the table as a mixed bag.
Billy was merely surprised standing frozen with his eyebrows locked to their highest point on his forehead.
Vic Mourner however was amid a coronary infarction.
"Ace..." Vic stammered painfully. More than likely seeing his life passing before his eyes
Before he turned and bolted after the retreating Madame X.
Billy panned around glancing back to his partner, not knowing what to expect.
For his part, Ace was just sitting there seemingly dumbfounded for a moment.
"H-Hey! Ace." Billy suddenly stammered.
The incident at the table had 'jarred' something looses as well. Suddenly he too found recognition dawning.
"Was that who I think... ?"
"Yeah Billy." Ace told him quietly while nodding slowly, putting up a gesture indicating quiet before suddenly breaking into a wide smile.
"She's gotten taller and fleshed out nicely since the last time I seen her." He added.
Ace then sat back adjusting his shades, still smiling.
He watched as a door to the back of the club slammed, finally hiding her exquisite retreating figure.
Far as he was concerned only one real question remained.
"Now what the hell is Buttercup Utonium doing in a place like this?"