A night on the town with Keith Nolan!
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined anything so awesome. Keith Nolan was one of a handful of writers who had inspired my own desire to write. While best known for his crime fiction, over the years, he had crossed over into mystery, sci-fi, even erotic romance. He was a prolific writer whose outspoken views about racial inequities resonated deeply with my own. Man, this summer was going to be the best .
Hours later, we were seated at a VIP table at a glamorous nightclub downtown. The owner, a former bass guitar player for a well known seventies funk band, escorted us personally.
“Keith, glad you decided to make it!” He pat him vigorously on the back before pulling out a chair. “The guys have been asking about you.”
The group scheduled to perform was made up of several solo artists who came to raise money for a special benefit.
Keith smiled in acknowledgement and then waved a hand in my direction. “Clarence, I want to introduce you to my summer intern, Corey Jett. He’s gone keep me on the straight and narrow.”
Clarence chuckled, “What y’all drinking? The first round’s on me.”
“Corey, how old are you?” Keith asked.
“Twenty-one.” I said proudly.
The two older men exchanged smiling glances. “The boy’s barely legal.” Keith said. “Oh what the hell, bring the kid a beer and I’ll have a Hennesy.” Clarence nodded at the waitress who then left to place our orders. Two other men, one a local civil rights attorney and the other a small business owner, joined us as Keith lit up a small cigar and took a long swig of the drink that was quickly placed at his elbow. I judged by their decades old references to old haunts and old girlfriends that they’d known each other for years.
I tuned out the reunion and glanced around at the other patrons. Many of the club patrons obviously recognized Keith . . . several dropped by the table to shake his hand or just to speak a word. Others just craned in their directions and offered smiles and nods when Keith happened to glance their way.
One of the bolder patrons, a woman poured in a clingy turquoise halter dress, approached our table. Keith seemed unaware of her as she shifted from foot to foot but I dropped my head when I heard my audible swallow.
“Keith,” she practically gushed. “ I just love your music and I love your books too!” She boldly caressed his shoulder. “I’ve got a copy of ‘Fire and Rain’. Would you mind giving me an autograph?”
“It would be my pleasure,” he said as he reached for her dog-eared copy of his latest best-seller. “ Who should I make it out to?”
She snatched the book out of his reach. Instead, she slowly eased the dress aside to expose the top of her breasts. She handed his a black marker with a coy smile. “To Casey, with love.’
Keith looked nonplussed. The men egged him on, hooting and shouting encouragement. He shrugged and turned back to the woman who had never lost her smile and continued to offer herself to him. With a deep breath, he stood up and scrawled his signature across her breasts. A wave of laughter and catcalls rang out as he ceremoniously returned the marker.
Keith had barely returned to his seat when another manicured hand caressed his left shoulder.
This woman was also attractive but was dressed a bit more conservatively. The eyes that settled on each of us in turn were lively and intelligent. She introduced herself as one of the local newscasters and requested an interview with Keith.
“I’d be happy to,” he said, his charming smile in place. “Why don’t you contact my publicist in the morning; tell him you spoke to me. I’m sure we can set something up.”
She leaned in to him, effectively cutting everyone else from the conversation. “I was really hoping this interview would be up close and personal, an expose of the real man.” She looked deeply into his eyes while she reached for a cocktail napkin and scribbled a phone number. She then slid the napkin back to him and with one final caress of his shoulder, walked away.
Keith watched her walk away and then turned back to me. “You’re getting quite an education this evening, huh Corey?”
I wasn’t quite certain how to respond. Before I could put on my cool, man-of-the-world nonchalance, Keith continued.
“It’s not usually this bad,” he said. “It’s not like I’m Denzel or anything.”
“Are you kidding?” I said, any pretense at cool blown straight out the window. “Your work is amazing. Everybody reads your stuff. I did a research paper on you last semester. Most of your books are sold out before they even get released. I expected you to have bodyguards.”
Keith’s expression grew thoughtful. “I’m a writer, Corey, not a rockstar. I’m glad people like what I have to say, but I’m still just a man, with all the flaws and weaknesses of any other man. Right, fellas?” The lawyer and businessman nodded in agreement. Keith balled up the cocktail napkin and tossed it into the ashtray. He set his cheroot on top of it and watched the paper flame and die away.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think. He was clearly having marital problems, had moved out of his home and barely spoke to his wife. He was constantly offered female companionship and while he seemed flattered by the attention — hell, what red-blooded male wouldn’t be — he seemed content to spend the evening chatting with his friends. I’m not naïve, I know men cheat. I also know that many in Keith Nolan’s position would be hard-pressed not to take advantage of all that he was offered. Perhaps, when it was all said and done, he really did love his wife.
“Anyway, this isn’t the time for deep thoughts. We’re here to have a good time.” He gestured towards a passing waitress. “Bring a couple more beers over here. This is your first night in Memphis, enjoy yourself.”
A displaced voice announced the start of the concert in five minutes. Members of the band took their place on stage. I was surprised when Keith stood up to join them. He correctly interpreted my surprised expression and sent me an abashed wry grin, “Enjoy the show.”
Keith settled behind the keyboards and then ran through a couple of scales to assist the guitarists tune up. Minutes later, the show began and the band, a brilliant collection of solo acts, played a series of jazz classics, fusion and smooth jazz mixed in with several popular mainstream hits.
For the next hour, I was swept away blown away. When the final strains faded away, the band left the stage with a promise to return for the next set. When Keith did not immediately return to the table, I took the opportunity to hit the men’s room. I was jazzed as much by the excitement of seeing another facet of my hero as by the alcohol that infused my limbs with a heaviness that required me to give thought to every step. I finally reached the back of the club and pushed through a pair of swinging doors. I paused for a moment to get my bearings.
The music, the crowd, the clink of glasses muted as the doors closed behind me. Only the vibration of a heavy bass line to remind me of the crowd beyond. The air was fresher too, free of tobacco smoke. Decorative wall scones created a soft warm glow throughout the hall. My bladder was sending out urgent messages. There were two closed doors on either side of the hallway, surely one included a toilet.
I twisted the knob of the first door I came to. I pushed the door inward and then stifled a laugh. How many times had I walked in on a similar scene since taking on Jacob as a roommate?
The two people in the room were completely wrapped up in each other, unaware of my interruption. The woman kneeled on the floor between a pair of muscled legs sheathed in fine-linen trousers; her partner was reclined back on the desk and if I could believe the deep throated moans, he was . Her smooth and lusciously rounded backside moved in rhythm with the bobbing of her head. Clearly, this was NOT the bathroom.
I stepped back and was pulling the door closed when the man moaned. “Ah yes, that’s it. Suck that thing, girl.”
I froze. I knew that voice but I would not, could not believe my ears. I stepped back into the room.
The man lifted up off the desk and pulled the woman up to him for a deep kiss. His face was in profile but he was clearly recognizable. The woman broke away from the kiss and returned to her job but before he could fall back onto the desk, his eyes met mine.