“How are you going to convince them you’re on Nectar?” demanded Geronimo when Jimmy explained his plan.
“I’ve worked in L.A. for years now. I know how to play drunk and suck up to guys at parties while staying stone sober.”
[Actually, JP said “I’ve got tons and tons of Flattery” but this is probably what was meant.]
“But Mr. Wright, if you’re the only one not having…coitus…won’t they notice?” began Millicent.
“Jimmy, it’s a hard road,” said Ruby, twisting the knife.
“I’ll just have to take the bullet,” said Jimmy.
He drove down into Beverly Hills, to the address he’d gotten from the socialites. It was a smallish house for the area, not much bigger than a concert hall. Some hard cases gave him a once over on the way in, including a particularly tough Mexican who took his gun.
“Evening, Walker,” Jimmy said.
“How do you know my name?” said the future Captain Walker.
“We’ve met. Eventually.”
Inside the party was already in full-swing, although most of the glittering crowd was still wearing their clothes. He caught sight of a young Olivia Clarendon in one corner. Standing by a punch bowl was a rail-thing young man. His hair was a bird’s nest and he wore thick glasses.
“Edgar Job,” muttered Jimmy to himself. A naked woman walked up with a tray of shotglasses full of Nectar.
“Drink and enjoy,” she said. “It’s part of our ritual.”
“Of course,” said Jimmy. He took a shotglass, turned slightly as if he had caught sight of someone he knew, and poured out the Nectar on the floor. When he turned back to the naked woman, his glass was full of honey cut with grain alcohol, a concoction Ruby had helped him make. She’d been very particular about the color.
Just then Ramón Echevarría walked into the room through a pair of French doors that led out to the garden. Jimmy began pushing through the crowd and bumped into a smallish man in an ill-fitting suit.
“Hey, watch it,” said the man with a pronounced New York accent. “Who are you? I ain’t seen you here before.”
“I’m the new guy. From the Canadian.”
“Right. Samson Tramell.”
“You want we should do a shot of Nectar together?”
“It’s all right if you’re shy,” said Tramell.
“No, it’s all right,” said Jimmy. “I don’t need that to be ready.”
Around midnight, Jimmy made his way back to the main room. He noticed a distinguished man with a somewhat European air standing at the edge of the room. From the way he was watching events, Jimmy thought he wasn’t on Nectar. The man caught his eyes and frowned, as if he recognized that Jimmy wasn’t on Nectar either.
Jimmy sauntered over. “You are not on Nectar,” the man said. He had a German accent. “Why are you not on Nectar? Are you not here for the party? Or are you here gathering information.”
“Let’s say I am very curious person.”
“Listen my friend. Do not step on what we are doing here. I’m watching you. Clear? What’s your name?”
“Victor, I’m Walter.” He pronounced it the German way: Valter. “Last names are a little…I don’t know if I trust you yet.”
“Last names are baggage.”
“Ja. Perhaps we should talk outside?”
“I was just about to suggest the same thing.”
They sauntered out as nonchalantly as one can when one is sauntering out of an orgy, and walked along the driveway, Walter leading the way, Jimmy with his hands in his pockets. Suddenly he spun around; he’d felt eyes on his back.
[Sense Trouble roll by JP.]
He saw a stockily built man in a battered slouch hat emerge from the ornamental hedges along the driveway, his sawed-off shotgun leveled at him.
“Whaddya want me to do with him, Mr. Winston?” said the stocky man. He had a New York accent.
Jimmy’s eyes went wide. Walter Winston, he thought. Janet’s father.
“Vince, put the gun down,” said Winston. “I don’t know what you are trying to do, Victor, but we have a very specific goal that we are following and we don’t need any outside interference. Verstehen?”
“Got it,” said Jimmy.
“On the other hand, if we could trust you, you might offer some assistance, I think. You look like the kind of man who’s seen some action.”
“I’m a useful person to know. I know my way around, if you catch my meaning.”
“Tomorrow. Musso and Frank’s cafe, in Hollywood. You do know where that is, ja? Good. Are you alone?”
“For the moment.”
“Do you have anyone else in on this? I don’t need bunglers!”
“You can be assured that anyone with me is…damn well skilled for it.”
“That may be. We’ll be watching you.”
He faded back into the shadows. Vince Stack—the man with the shotgun—grinned at Jimmy and walked back up the driveway.
Jimmy caught a cab back to their flop. “Mr. Wright, are you okay?” said Millicent when she met him at the door.
“No. But it’s not the first time. Threw up in my mouth a little.”
“Let me get you some…are you a tea person or a coffee person?”
“I made contact with the Winston Circle.”
“What is our plan?” said Ruby.
“I’m going to meet them at a steakhouse.”
“Do you want us there?”
“It’s probably not a good idea,” said Geronimo.
‘Yeah, Ruby you’re too memorable. Geronimo too."
“You are definitely not as ruggedly handsome as me.”
“I’ve accepted my lot in life.”
Ruby left them to decide who was the most handsome and went outside to smoke a cigarette. She thought she saw somebody watching her from a car parked across the street, but she couldn’t be sure, and anyway he drove off before she finished her cigarette.
The next day Jimmy walked into Musso and Frank’s. It was just as he remembered it…would remember it; the first time he’d visited it was still six months off. He smiled at the green leather banquette booths, the brass finishings, and the smell of black coffee, illegal rum, and charring meat. He almost asked the headwaiter for his regular table, but caught himself in time.
He found Winston sitting at one of the booths, along with Stack and another man, a short, wiry looking fellow with a clean-shaven face and a devilish grin. It took him a second to place him.
It was Doug Henslowe, ten years younger and without his wild riot of a beard.
“Hi,” said Doug. “Followed you last night. Where’s the rest of your friends?”
Jimmy tried very hard not to glance over to where Millicent was sitting three booths down. “Taking care of their own things.”
“We know something’s up. We’re going to break it up. Because we’re reasonably sure it involves the end of the world. Something’s getting summoned that we don’t want called up.”
“Summoning’s never good.”
“We asked Dr. Kullman about anyone matching your description, and he didn’t know anyone like that. And he knows everyone in this kind of work. ’Cept maybe that crazy terrorist running around blowing up warehouses in China.”
“Let’s just say I’m very good at staying out of sight.”
“How do we know we can trust you? How do we know you’re not going to run back to Echevarría?”
“Because I like living. I don’t want the end of the world.”
“You got someone you want to save it for?”
“Yes,” said Jimmy, looking at Winston. “I do.”
“Well then, if we can trust you, you stay with us. You don’t go back to your friends.”
Congratulations, thought Jimmy. You’re going to change history, Jimmy Wright.
“Look,” he said. “You have your information. I have mine. We’re working toward our plan. We don’t know each other’s plans. We’ll just step on each other’s toes. So you go your way, we’ll go ours. If we see each other, then we can help each other.”
“How do we know you won’t screw this up? We’ve planned this very carefully. Nothing can go wrong with our plan.”
“You’ve never heard of me. That’s how good my people are.”
“All right, Jimmy. That’s right. I heard the name your friends call you last night. Stay clear of us. Lunch is on you.”
[Two point Reassurance spend by JP to avoid going with the Winston Circle.]
He, Stack, and Winston got up and stalked out the front door. Jimmy sighed, waited fifteen minutes, and then ordered a steak.