Rupert and the Jade Dragon
by Ron Van Sweringen
Carmileta pulled up his foam rubber fanny-filler girdle until the heavy elastic top snapped tight around his waist. Then he turned and looked at himself in the full length mirror. “Holy Carrramba! What an ass!” He laughed, almost as good as Marilyn. The golden goddess smiled down on him from a life-sized poster on the bedroom wall.
“Love yew, girl’, he said, blowing kisses at the color poster on the pink wall covered with red hearts and penis-shaped stickers.
Carmileta Come was his stage name when he worked at “The Dirty Girl Club” with Rupert. That was before the drug bust closed it down. In those days he was fresh over from Havana and his English was almost non-existent. He knew his name and one or two other important words, such as what you say to your partner, at just the right moment, before your brain explodes: “Carmileta, come!”
Right now he was running late as he snapped on the backless red lounging suit with the ruffled neck and the belly-button slit. He was due at the restaurant in half an hour to meet Rupert. Just enough time was left to create a Latin Spitfire! with an ass like Marilyn Monroe and legs like Groucho Marx.
* * *
Rupert was also running late. He had spent almost an hour examining the small stainless-steel locker key that was hidden in the pocket of his satin evening jacket. The number 1347 was stamped across the key, but there was nothing else, nothing to indicate the locker’s location. A bus station, train station, maybe a Metro station; there were dozens of possibilities. Rupert was sure of one thing. The key held the secret to the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Hong.
Just as Rupert finished applying his Joan Crawford lips, there was a knock at the door. For some reason, he had a feeling it sounded familiar. He was right.
Detective One-brow stood leaning on the door sill, same cheap blue pantsuit, spiked hair and this time, a cigarette between two nicotine-stained fingers.
“I have a few more questions for you,” she growled, slowly taking in the spectacle of Rupert in full drag.
“May I?” she said sarcastically, attempting to push past Rupert as she had earlier.
“No, I think not,” Rupert replied, firmly planting his size 11 red alligator pumps with the rhinestone buckles, squarely in her path. “Would you mind putting that out? This is a no-smoking building, as the sign in the lobby clearly states.”
Detective One-Brow dropped the cigarette in front of Rupert’s door and slowly ground it out with her shoe.
“You are aware of who I am, are you not?” she said, slowly looking up at Rupert.
“Yes, I think so,” he replied,” but let’s try and keep this on a civilized level, shall we? What else do you need from me?”
“Have you ever seen this?” One-brow asked, shoving what looked like one half of a ticket stub into Rupert’s hand. “It was found in Mr. Hong’s fist.” The stub was torn in such a fashion that only the last number was visible, a seven.
Rupert tried to show a lack of interest and replied, “No, I’ve never seen this before and I know nothing about it.” Actually, his heart was pounding when he read the words: “Port Authority storage facility Thirty-fourth and East Sixth Streets.” Just as important, the last number on the stub was a seven, as in 1347, the number stamped on the locker key. Now he knew the location of the locker. The next question: what was inside?”
* * *
Carmileta was already holding court when Rupert arrived at the restaurant. It was a cozy Italian place with candles and red-checkered table cloths. It was frequented by artists and actors, creative people who took little notice of two flamboyant drag queens in a corner sipping vino.
Rupert paid little attention to Carmelita’s chatter. He had the strange feeling they were being watched and slowly surveyed the room. Nothing appeared unusual, but the feeling would not go away. He took out his compact and pretended to check his makeup, getting a clear view of the room behind him.
Bingo! In a corner booth he saw a large Asian man dressed in black. There was a deep red scar running down the right side of his face. Rupert decided he would not like to run into him in a dark alley, no matter how horny he was.
There was a woman sitting with him and even with her back to Rupert, he recognized her. It was Detective One-Brow! She wore a tan raincoat, but he could not mistake the hair. Then as if on signal, the Asian man nodded and detective One-Brow got up and left through a back entrance.
Rupert did not like this. One-Brow had followed him and identified him to the man who could well be Mr. Hong’s killer. Rupert noticed two more Asian men near the door of the restaurant. He was beginning to feel he was surrounded by the Tofu Mafia. Rupert had the key in his bag. If they searched him, they would find it.
He leaned over, putting his hand on Carmelita’s leg. “I need your help. I’m hot,” he whispered.
“Oh, so am I, baby, but yer not exactly my type.” Carmelita laughed, emptying his wine glass.
“She’s three sheets to the wind,” Rupert said under his breath. “Guess I’ll have to do this the hard way.”
Standing up, Rupert screamed as loudly as he could, “RAT!”
The last thing he heard as he slipped through a side entrance were a lot of chairs falling over as people charged the door. Several women and a few men were standing on tables and Carmelita, her legs wrapped around a tall potted palm, was singing “Climb Every Mountain,” in Spanish.
Luckily there was an empty cab on the corner and Rupert stepped in. “Thirty-fourth and East Sixth,” he said to the cab driver, closing the door just as the three Asian men in black turned the corner. “Step on it,” Rupert added.
* * *
The neighborhood looked seedy under a blue neon light that read, “Port Authority Bus Terminal.” Street people and a few hookers loitered on the sidewalks as the cab pulled up.
“This is a rough neighborhood. Want me to wait for you?” the cabbie asked, cracking his chewing gum.
“Good idea. Keep me on the ticker. I won’t be long,” Rupert replied hopefully.
He made quite an impression exiting the cab. Six feet two inches of him in his shoulder-length, black, page-boy wig with eyebrows and eyelashes to match. His white satin evening jacket covered a full-length pink, fringed sheath and size eleven red alligator pumps he planted firmly on the sidewalk.
Rupert was halfway to the terminal door when two hookers blocked his way. A bleached blonde with a mouth full of bubblegum cracked away: “You’re in the wrong neighborhood, toots. Vesties work the other side of the park.”
The overweight redhead standing beside her chimed in, “Nobody around here is gonna pay for what you got anyway!”
“Take it easy, girls,” Rupert replied. “I’m a decoy, undercover vice. We have a psycho slicing up girls like you and he’s working this area.” The bleached blonde swallowed her bubblegum and the redhead showed signs of urinary spasms.
“Keep your tits up, girls,” Rupert called as he disappeared into the terminal.
The building was dimly lit and deserted. Rupert’s high heels echoed on the marble floor as he hurried down the dark hall. There were rows of metal storage lockers along the walls and the few windows had steel mesh over them.
This is one creepy place, Rupert thought, checking the brass number plates on the lockers. He tried whistling, but his Joan Crawford lips kept sticking together. “Too much gloss,” he cursed.
Finally he was standing in front of 1347, a half-locker painted puke green. Rupert fumbled with the key, his hands shaking. He had that tight asshole feeling of being watched again.
“Here goes,” he whispered, putting the key into the lock and turning it. As the locker door swung open, Rupert saw the bright flash of a very long switch-blade sliding up under his chin.
“Make a move, Cinderella, and I cut off your pumpkin!”
Copyright © 2013 by Ron Van Sweringen