Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The flappers Emma and Cati escort the rumpled photographer inside, followed by the chattering pair of au courants.

The stage has been extended and perhaps fifty chairs have been set out around a dozen tables. Near the door, a handsome duo dance cheek to rosy cheek; they are the only pair to do so in the entire joint. Wait staff mill about serving hors d’ouvres and cigarettes – and, of course, no alcohol. Though it is nowhere near capacity, the ballroom is positively encrusted with the gems of high society, mingling and chatting about the goings-on of the island, the city, and the world. From the forced transformation of Russia at the hands of Stalin into the Soviet Union, to the more local spectacle of Diana Dalziel's marriage to the banker Thomas Reed Vreeland, the dance floor is alive with news and gossip.

The show has not started, but judging from the tittering of the modest crowd – it's only a Tuesday, after all – it will soon. The majority of the spectators and socialites are here purely for purposes of entertainment and many seem to regard Ramanuja first and foremost as a magician. Some are here out of interest in the occult aspects of the show and rumors of the monk's prescience. A few clearly consider the occasion to be some kind of outrageous debut. "Not good, I say. There’s only one word for it," too-loudly whispers one sauced-up fellow. "Mis-ce-gen-ation."
One of his pals leans over his shoulder with a virgin cocktail and offers a meager defense for the presumed couple, "You talk as if V.K. hails from Darkest Africa."
"Might as well for the voodoo he worked on that banker."

(Action point: Some time will pass before the show begins. Characters may mill about, snoop, mingle, explore. Next post will be made in a day or two: "The Show".)


Teresa said...

Cati scanned the room, while Emma chattered beside her: "What a hotsy-totsy joint! I wonder who else will show?"

Cati glanced over at Thelonius, then, putting her best smile on, said, "Mr. Jones, enjoy the show." And with that, she took Emma's arm and briskly hauled her across the room.

"You're in a hurry all of a sudden!" Emma complained.

"Pipe down," Cati said shortly. She leaned in and said dramatically, "I want to find out more about this Rama-who's-it. If our friend the occult photographer is here, maybe there's more to this fella than Mags is letting on."

"He's just a magician, Cats," Emma replied. "And when did you take up an interest in hocus-pocus stuff anyway?"

"If Margaret Whitcombe is on to a trend worth knowing about, my dear Emma," Cati told her, "you can bet I'd better know about it, too." She glanced around again. "Now I'm going to do a little investigating. You'd better just stay put."

And off Cati went, leaving Emma in a rather confused but annoyed state.

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

M. Henri glanced about. There were a few women, reasonably well-dressed ones, he did not recognize. It was time to lead Millie about and mingle, try to get introductions to women who might patronize his shop.

“Come, mon couer,” he whispered to Millie, “let us show everyone how lovely you are in your heureux chiffons.”

“I’d rather find out where they’re hiding the hooch,” she whispered back.

M. Henri found himself reluctantly led along in Millie’s search for alcohol. He was sure they’d wander into every unpleasant corner and dark niche before they were done.

da solomon said...

I. Henri and Millie

Arm-in-arm, Henri and Millie scooted across the ballroom floor, and towards the kitchen area – why, what better place would there be to begin one's search for alcohol? With no finesse, but so much gall that they looked absolutely as though they simply belonged, the duo stepped into the kitchen. Immediately a waiter approached them. "Sir, ma'am, you shouldn't be back here. Please wait on the ballroom floor until the show starts!" He shooed the two of them out the door again. Still slightly tipsy, Millie could do nothing but scuttle out of the kitchen with the waiter at her back; with their arms locked as they were, Henri could only follow her.

This all worked to their advantage, however, as they found themselves in the backstage hallway, stage right. Before them lay several doors, possibly leading to the dressing rooms. "Oh, what now?" whimpered Millie.

II. Cati

Cati slowly twirled as she lifted a drink (of water) from a passing waiter's tray and beamed her best smile to a cluster of young men and women who had gathered near the backstage entrance. She passed through the chatting socialites and pressed her back against the wall near the backstage door. She gave the ballroom one last scan before rolling her shoulders into the door and slipping into the backstage-left. For what Cati could see, a cross-looking Emma was the only one who might have noticed her.

The door swung shut behind her, muffling the crowd's chatter. Cati's eyes adjusted to the relative dimness in the immediate backstage area. There was the rear portion of the stage. From her vantage, Cati could see across the stage area; on the opposite side of the stage, there was a hallway with doors that apparently led to the kitchen and the dressing rooms. On this side of the stage, there was a hallway also – Cati reckoned that this must be where the stage equipment and props are stored.

Looking upward, Cati noted the presence of extensive rigging over the stage – but beyond the expected ropes and lights, she noticed that there were a number of very thin, dark wires suspended from the catwalk. Somewhat absent-mindedly, she took a few steps toward the stage to get a closer look – but over her shoulder, she heard a creak as the door through which she passed opened once again.

A man's head and shoulders emerged from the ballroom floor. He looks to be one of the "Hey! You! I thought I saw someone come back here. Lady! – no one allowed backstage! You gotta get out of here!"

(Cati's sneak failed; Cati's spot hidden passed. Not all rolls have been revealed.)

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

“Now, ma belle, we are in the most interesting place, non?” said Henri with a smile. His curiosity was piqued now. He’d never been backstage in any theatre. It was an adventure. Perhaps there would be a costume room!

Millie smiled suddenly.

“You might just be right,” she said, mischief taking over her expression. “You take the next one, Monsieur.”

She walked to the nearest door and cracked it open. She peeked in. M. Henri chose a different tack. The trick, he felt, was to act as though you belonged there. He walked to the door just past the one Millie had chosen and opened it boldly.

Thelonius Jones said...

Thelonius milled about the lobby, doing his best to blend in with the wallpaper despite the fact that he stuck out in this crowd like a sore thumb.

He scanned the crowd, vainly trying to identify his mysterious informant.

Probably just a cruel hoax. At least I get a free show out of the deal.

da solomon said...

I. Henri and Millie

Millie crouches a bit and opens the door before her. She smiles and creeps inside the apparently unlit room.

Henri takes no note of Millie's progress; he also fails to notice the sounds of conversation from behind the door he has chosen to open until it is too late. "I do not enjoy this, Margaret. This kind of . . . of circus is not -" The speaker stops short.

Henri has intruded upon a dressing room. Seated at a dresser, he is shirtless and his hair is mussed. His accent might be Indian, and though he does look strikingly like the man depicted in the poster, it is difficult to place his features. But surely this must be Ramanuja. The look on his face is not the same intense stare depicted on the poster – it is one of uncertainty and anger.

It occurs to Henri that Ramanuja has been talking to himself. No longer. "Yes?" he asks tersely.

II. Thelonius

There is no immediately apparent clue as to who might have sent Theo the invitation.

As he explores the faces and conversations that fill the ballroom, however, he comes to suspect that he is the only person in attendance who is without a personal invitation from Mags Whitcombe. It makes sense: he is the most shabbily dressed, and if there are other persons here of his social position they are well disguised.

Theo realizes that there are nevertheless other things that he has in common with many of the socialites. He, like many of them, has come out of curiosity and a desire to finally see something that demonstrates to him that the world is not as fully within the grasp of the sciences as it sometimes seems. Yet, the question of whose grasp it is in is a subject of some debate:

"Ramanuja 'knows'," demurs a monocle-clad Englishman. "I wonder now. What does he know?"
"The future, that is," responds one of many young flappers. "What else?"
"It's not in question that he has a predictive potential, let's say. But where does he get this information?"
"Oh, you know, from the spirits isn't it?"
"Ha! Baloney!" It's one of the tuxedo-wearing men from earlier. (Truthfully, there are many men wearing tuxedos, but this man and his brethren seem to fit into them so well.) "I know about this," he says, "it's nothing but an exceptionally keen sense of a man's intentions."
"I get it," replies the flapper, "he's telling you whatcha wanna hear?"
"Knowing the Hindus," adds the European, "it's neither spirits nor keen perception. How many gods are there now? Three hundred million they say!" He laughs. "Surely one of them has found the time to alight on our V.K.'s head!"

(Henri's listen roll failed. Henri passed an idea check.)

Thelonius Jones said...

Thelonius chuckled quietly at the European's comment on the Hindu Gods.

"Yeah, I bet he's a regular Moses. I wonder if we're gonna see the Indian version of a burning bush."

Theo pushed himself off the wall, not waiting for the Englishman's reply as he headed into the men' washroom.

Filling the basin with cold water, Theo splashed the liquid over his face in an effort to stave off the fatigue associated with his sleep deprived lifestyle.

He toweled off then checked himself in the mirror before heading back out to the foyer and standing in line to be shown to his seat.

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

Pardonnez-moi,” says M. Henri with a smile. He does his best to sound and look a little drunker than he is.

“I am looking for le pissoir. How do you Americans say this? toilettes? The gents? I was sent to this place. Maybe someone is playing the joke, non? Mademoiselle has a sense of humor. I am un homme désespéré for this room. You may tell me where is it and I will go.”

(ooc: M. Henri is curious but is trying not to be obvious as he takes in as much as he can of what he sees)

Teresa said...

Cati smiled brightly. "Oh, but Thomas said it was okay to poke around back here. Surely if the owner says it's all right, then it's all right."

She looked back up at the catwalk for one last look before returning to smile at the man in the doorway.

da solomon said...

I. Henri

Ramanuja's face slips easily into a performer's smile: "Ah, dress-maker-ji, your destiny is clear!" The flabby, shirtless sage points towards the door leading back into the ballroom. "The toilet for guests is that way. Go is'traight out and to the front of the ballroom." The man’s dressing room is mostly bare – obviously he does not frequent this space. His turban – the very one on the poster – rests on the dresser, and beneath that some papers. A cream colored suit hangs on a hook nearby.

Maybe it’s an inkling of shame for intruding upon Ramanuja; maybe it's the leftover booze as it works its way through his system. Whatever the case, there is now a tangible fullness in Henri’s. Henri allows the door to Ramanuja's dressing room to swing shut, and he turns to face the exit. Behind him, he hears the man chuckle, "Your destiny is in the bathroom!"

In the hallway before Henri, Millie is standing. Her pale, exposed arms contrast sharply with the sequined burgundy scarf that now conceals her entire face, even her eyes. "Monsieur Henri!" she snickers as she pulls the diaphanous scarf across her countenance and away from her mouth, "I am sheik chic, no?" She spins and lifts her arms. A set of bangles – also new – clink about her forearms. It's this very relish for playing dress-up that has made her one of Henri's favored customers-cum-showcases, but the costuming triggers a silent warning from the dress-maker's fashion sense. The sequins and glittering bangles are a bit gauche and don't do anything for the DuMonde creation that she's wearing underneath it. Intuitively, Henri can tell that whatever look Millie is playing at, she's just not doing it right.

The fullness of Henri's bladder sharpens. If only he could go back in that closet with her and put together a respectable bit of costuming for the faux-princess. There are more pressing matters at hand, however.

"I think I'll just borrow this," Millie says, smiling. "It's a theme party, right?"

II. Cati

The man frowns. "Thomas? Uh, hey, look, I don't know about that. You just gotta get where you belong. Take your seat lady – the show's gonna be better from out here anyway." The man holds the door open for Cati and gestures to indicate the exit.

Cati takes in the rigging once again. While she has little experience with such things, it seems that tonight's show might include a little acrobatics, or even some staged flight . . . hey, don't swamis levitate?

"After you, miss," insists the staffer.

(Not all rolls have been revealed. Cati's fast talk failed. Cati's idea roll passed. Feel free to post wrap-up actions on this post. Next post begins with characters in their seats.)

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"Black scarf at least, ma belle," M. Henri gasped and rushed off. Millie watched him with a bemused expression, shrugged and slipped into the closet again, coming out with a black, filmy scarf that she draped dramatically over her head and across her lower face like a girl from a harem.

When M. Henri returned to his seat, Millie was there, looking marginally, but only marginally, less silly. He sighed in resignation and sat down next to her.