“Your old fashioneds, gentlemen” said a beautiful East Asian woman in a silk cheongsam dress carrying a tray. She set their drinks in front of them on napkins, and then put a plate of steamed dumplings between them.
“Chuck Wo’s famous spicy pork dumplings, courtesy of Chuck Wo himself.”
“Why thank you, Miss–”, began Melchior.
“Feng Mien,” she said, with an alluring smile. “Tonight we have a very special treat for you: Chuck’s special Peking Duck served with a jellyfish salad. Mr. Wo prepared it himself.”
“Um…” began Robbie.
“Sounds great,” said Melchior.
“Very good, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Terrell. These dishes were his grandmother’s. He is very proud of them. He only makes them for special guests. Enjoy” she said, leaving.
Melchior looked at Robbie and raised his eyebrows and said, “Well, there you go!”
“Dude, we have to get out of here.”
“Why? VIP treatment? Chinese delicacies? Beautiful women?”
“Um, men impersonating police? Illegal clubs? Mistaken identity? Dude, we are in deep shit!”
“Now hold on, hold on,” said Melchior, lowering his voice, “If we leave now, we risk getting arrested anyway. I’ll take my chances here.”
Robbie scoffed and swigged his drink.
The band started playing again, a slow sizzle of an introduction. Then the singer began, singing almost entirely with her breath. “There was a boy. A very strange enchanted boy…”
“She’s pretty good, right?” said Melchior, mesmerized.
But Robbie was not paying attention. He was looking nervously around the room as if expected a rhinoceros to trample him at any moment.
“Robbie, Robbie, relax,” said Melchior distracted by his nervousness and grabbing his arm. Melchior caught the attention of the the waitress, “Feng Mien, yes,” he said, “Bring us another round of drinks.”
“Listen to me, Melchior,” Robbie said. “I want my wits about me. I don’t want to relax. I want to get out of this alive.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Get out of this alive? We are living for the first time in months. I don’t know what made this fucking miracle happened, and I don’t care if this is the last meal I eat.” Said Melchior, and Robbie pulled his arm away from him.
“You know?” he said, “I just had this feeling that something bad was going to happen tonight. I should have trusted my gut.”
“Hey, hey, hey,” said Melchior, lowering his voice. “Now quit being a little bitch and look around you.” Melchior looked around the room. Two tables over were a couple of women wearing elegant cocktail dresses . “See this shit?” he said nodding his head in their direction. “When was the last time you saw that kind of talent?”
Robbie looked hesitantly over at the two women. One of them took notice and smiled. He averted his eyes quickly, but Melchior gave her a quick nod back.
Elsewhere, on the corner of 10th and Penn, two young men were waiting for something.
The one with neatly trimmed beard, turtleneck and black leather jacket said, “Are you sure the message said 5:45?”
The short stout one with the shaved head and silver earring pulled out a slip of paper from his pocket and showed it to him. “Says right here.”
“Man, I want to fight this thing, you know?” said the man with the beard. “I’m sick of living this way. I want to play my part.”
At that moment, a black van pulled up four guys jumped out in black fatigues and tried to cuff them. The men struggled, the guy with the beard landed a right hook, but a man in black clubbed him in the head with a nightstick. They were led at gunpoint into the van, never to be seen again.
“Let’s go talk to those girls,” said Melchior.
“Yeah, come on,” said Melchior.
Robbie gave Melchior a hard look, one that might have sat him down in his seat before the Greatening had occurred, but things were different tonight. He felt alive and willing.
They got up and made their way over to where the women were sitting. Melchior said, “Hey, can we buy you two a drink? We’re new in town and don’t really know anybody.”
One of the women, with wavy blonde hair and thin but very expressive eyebrows smiled and said, “Sure, but we’re not from around here, either.”
They pulled up a couple of chairs while I found a server.
“A round of,” said Melchior turning to everyone then back to the server and said, “Do you serve a negroni?”
“Excellent choice, sir,” he said. “Four negronis, Compliments of Mr. Wo.”
The women looked at each other with looks of surprise, but Melchior was getting used to the treatment, and also curious. “Tell Mr. Wo that we appreciate his hospitality.”
“Perhaps you will have a chance to tell him yourself.”
Robbie stepped on Melchior’s toe and ground it into the floor. Melchior stifled a yelp.
“I look forward to the opportunity,” said Melchior.
After the maitre ‘d left, the woman with the copper red hair and pale, porcelain complexion said “Wow, compliments of Mr. Wo. Who are you guys?”
Melchior could feel Robbie getting ready to stand up so he grabbed Robbie’s knee under the table and said, “Like I said, we’re new to the neighborhood. I’m…Johnson…and this is Terrell”