Nadine Fisher took the empty coffeepots back to the Bunn machine near the restrooms and rinsed them out one at a time, watching out the window.
Across the grimy alley outside, two roadies on dinner break came out of the stage door of the Auditorium Theatre and walked up the alley toward the nearest bar.
Nadine swirled water into the carafes over the sink.
She changed out the filters on the Bunn and put in fresh coffee, keeping her eye on the stage door across the alley. The door opened again, but it was only the production manager for Les Miz and a local carpenter. They followed the roadies.
She scowled out the window at the stage door. More stagehands trickled out of the theater and headed toward the street. She knew most of them by name. Liz Otter’s was next door, open twenty-four hours. They all came in sooner or later.
She’d made the coffee. Now what? The water glass rack needed straightening. And she could fill glasses.
Maybe he hadn’t come to work tonight. He’d meant to. She’d overheard the guys say so this morning. Too busy chasing skirts, she speculated contemptuously. Though why girls fell for blue eyes and city charm, when they must know what kind of man he was!
Nadine jammed a stainless steel water pitcher into the big ice machine and yelped as an ice cube bounced up and leapt down the front of her starched white uniform. She reached into her cleavage to fish out the ice cube, peeking guiltily through the window, just as King Dave Flaherty raised his head from his cell phone not twenty feet away.
She yanked her hand out of her dress.
He wouldn’t get very far with her. King Dave was lucky he was Mister Somebody in a big city, boy. Back in Goreville, Texas, he’d have had to answer for his misbehavior before the entire congregation. And Nadine would have taken great pleasure in paying him a visit to administer spiritual correction.
She’d heard some awful, awful stories about King Dave.
King Dave didn’t seem to notice her in the window. He leaned back against the dirty bricks of the Auditorium’s back wall and put one foot up, so that the yellow light from the streetlight washed down over his rippling muscle shirt and highlighted the curve of his thigh.
There was a smug smile on his angel face. Had he seen her at the window after all?
With a delicious thrill of horror, she saw him stuff his cell phone in his jeans pocket, reach out a lazy hand, and beckon with two fingers.
Her heart pounded. She ducked behind the Bunn machine.
Was he beckoning to her?
King Dave, she’d like to say, looking down her nose, You have a nerve coming on to me after everything I’ve heard about you!
Hiding behind the Bunn, she peered out the window one way and then the other, trying to see up and down the alley.
She touched her tongue to her lips. If he summoned her into the alley, it wouldn’t be for anything good.
On a bet, King Dave had slept with every waitress at Corbett’s, including one who was engaged at the time.
King Dave and his friends had almost set fire to the Cadillac Theatre by peeing on the transformer vault, and one guy had gone to the emergency room with an unusual electrical burn.
King Dave had punched the head electrician at the Shubert Theatre for hassling a waitress. The electrician, knowing better than to lay a finger on the son of FX Flaherty, had done nothing.
King Dave’s poopers didn’t stink.
Of course, if she went out there, she could give him that piece of her mind she had ready for him.
Best to make sure.
With assumed casualness she stepped out from behind the Bunn, raising one eyebrow in hauteur.
He was talking to a harlot.
No mistaking the woman’s intentions. Nadine sniffed at the woman’s fishnet stockings. The five-inch heels. Okay, it was summertime in the city, but shouldn’t she have something on her behind besides those itty-bitty shiny red hot pants?
The harlot turned slightly and Nadine saw two things.
One, this was King Dave’s ex-wife, Tammy, who had screamed until the glasses rang in Liz Otter’s, not a month ago, when she tracked him down and demanded money in front of the Auditorium crew.
And two, she saw most of Tammy’s front. Word around town was, King Dave was a breast man. Tammy had them.
King Dave spread his arms wide in a “knock yourself out” gesture. Nadine stiffened. Tammy bent over his belt buckle.
I should look away. I should go back to work. I should march right out there and tell him he’s a disgrace to his mother, his God, and his country. With a shiver, she saw his head tip back against the brick wall. A look of unholy bliss crossed his face. She wet her lips again.
Don’t think about him. Think about how he’s degrading that poor woman out there. That poor woman’s bottom wiggled back and forth, imperfectly concealed by the red hot pants.
I must be too appalled to move.
Tammy reached into her big purse, which she had set down the better to degrade herself, and took something out—a can of hair spray? She uncapped it and threw the cap behind her, picking up her bag in the other hand and backing away from King Dave.
Nadine’s mouth dropped open.
Up came the spray can. Out came a cloud. Tammy put fingers to her lips. Nadine heard her whistle faintly through the window. In the depths of the alley, a car gunned its engine.
King Dave took forever to open his eyes. Tammy had backed away, clear across the alley ’til she stood near Nadine’s window, holding something up to her face. King Dave stood slack-handed with a dumb look on his face and a great big patch of Day-Glo orange paint on his crotch.
King Dave winced and put a hand up.
Flash! Flash! Flash!
Nadine blinked, also blinded by the camera flash.
The car squealed around the alley corner and pulled up between King Dave and Tammy. Tammy jumped into the back seat. Now she was shouting what Nadine could tell were bad words even through the sealed coffee shop window.
The car roared away. King Dave stumbled into the middle of the alley, open-mouthed and staring, with his jeans unbuttoned and his Day-Glo orange dignities hanging in the breeze.
The last thing she’d ever expected was to feel sympathy for King Dave Flaherty. Suddenly, she knew exactly how he felt.
It was mighty hard to fall from top of the heap into disgrace.
She shook her head and, at her movement, King Dave saw her.
Across the alley, through the window, his eyes met hers.
A parade of emotions crossed his face. She read them as if they were printed in letters of fire. Astonishment. Rage. The quick look down at his fly and the quick fumble to button it up with orangey fingers. The realization of what Tammy had done.
And then he looked back up at Nadine, and she knew he had caught up with her.
Nadine’s heart filled to bursting as she realized, in one thump of blood to her brain, that she now had King Dave by the short, orange, and curlies.
He glared at her through the window for a long moment. Then he marched toward the street—and the front door of Liz Otter’s.
I’m in real trouble now, she thought gleefully.