Ace of clubs

Oz had been so grateful, so pleased by Gladstone's daring rescue at the gala, that he was only too happy to pay him back by taking the spotlight away from him.

Not that it was exactly a chore, it was a complete pleasure. So perhaps he felt he hadn't paid him back, not really. And that may have been at least some of the reason for why he had insisted Gladstone go to the Coatl club for dinner and drinks and put everything on his tab.

"We'll have a great show on too," he'd added. "Jazzy music, pretty girls, great dancing. Well, we always have that, but I'm trying out some new costumes and choreography." Of course you are. You always are.

And so, in the same way the ladle incident had led to the gala tickets, the gala incident had led to the club invitation. It was starting to look like a pattern, if you were a suspicious sort of person, but surely nothing bad could come of having a nice dinner. And Gladstone got invitations to free dinners all the time. If he got suspicious of all of them he'd never live his life.

The club was lit softly and already full of quiet music, the band on stage having already sufficiently warmed up in the early stages of the night when people were getting settled in. A crow in a sleek golden dress was singing warmly along with the tune, letting the melody complement the drinks coming over from the bar in the back as waiters ferried them silently to the tables, or the bartender slid them along the bar for the patrons on the stools.

Absolute peace. Elegant. It was almost shocking Oz could be responsible for it.

    • Gladstone Gander
      Gladstone Gander

      A free dinner, entertainment, and a chance to get decked out to the nines ,this time without the unsavory black eye accessory? Try to stop him! No, really. Try. You couldn’t. Also he liked Oz. Quite a lot, honestly. It wasn’t often he found someone who shared his appreciation of a custom made three piece suit with a critical and admiring eye. Fashionable friends were the best kind of friends! And fashionable friends with jazz clubs offering him an evening on the house to boot?

      “Be still my heart-“ he breathed to himself as he set foot in the club. Look at this place! Look at these people! So many beautiful people. Very nice, very nice indeed. He left his hat and coat at the coat check and smoothed out the sleeves of his brand new deep emerald suit. One might think he was trying to impress someone. But that was just Gladstone.

      For instance, he’d once attended a pirate themed costume party for his nephews in a white Italian wool dinner jacket and black silk shirt. He naturally  had been the only crewman unmarred by the exploding spaghetti canon. He’d wear a suit to the supermarket... if he knew what one was.

      But now, in this very enticing place, he rubbed his hands together lightly. What to do? Bar? Table? Find the owner? Just watch the crow in the shimmering gold dress croon with her voice like melting butter? That last one could do for right now.

      • Lilly Teal
        Lilly Teal

        You don't find the owner, the owner finds you. In the meantime, I'm sure he'd appreciate that his hired talent was being appreciated. The girls were, to Oz, one part talent, one part decoration, one part dress-up dolls for him to play with, and thankfully one final part actual person.

        And Cora did look glorious in that golden dress. He'd picked the material especially for her black feathers, going through fifteen rolls of (to anyone else) identical looking gold cloth. He'd have been disappointed if Gladstone hadn't wanted to watch her a little while longer.

        "You're holding up the door, honey." Oh now that was a familiar voice. Oz swept down on him to give him a little smack on each cheek before leaning back, holding onto his shoulders. "Look at you. What is this? What IS this? Gorgeous. I'd ask you to give me the name of your tailor, but someone probably threw it at you when you woke up this morning."

        Well. It wasn't unlikely.

        "Like the look of things?" Don't think I didn't see you looking. "Let's get you a drink."

        An enormously tall woman took a step out from one of the side doors as they headed towards the bar. Her eyes darkly lined, light strawberry-blonde curls cascading over her shoulders, absolutely gorgeous in white linen and turquoise, it was like an Egyptian queen had gotten mixed up with a Celtic goddess and they'd decided to have a good time at a jazz club.

        "Oz, I can't find the sarcophagus prop, where did you leave it?

        "It's got to be somewhere down there. It can't walk off, it hadn't got anything in it. Never mind, get back into tonight's clothes, we'll look for it later." UGH. Looking at Gladstone, he shook his head. "I have a gorgeous Egyptian setup for next week, but it'll probably take all week to keep finding the staging we lose. Ah, Celia, this is Gladstone. Gladstone, Celia, one of our singers and our bouncer."

        The bouncer grinned flirtily. "Behave yourself or you'll have to deal with me. Unless that's what you want, in which case go ahead."

        • Gladstone Gander
          Gladstone Gander

          “Hey, there he is!” Gladstone beamed at Oz, embracing him warmly like a long lost friend.  Then like the peacock trapped in goose down he was he adjusted his already perfect cuffs. “Actually I paid for this one.  Shocking.  I know.  It’s bound to happen sometimes.”  He didn’t mention the severe discount he was given after finding the reclusive tailor’s missing dog by accident.   That was an entirely other convoluted story.  But it was a story in which he ended up in the position to have a master tailor on his speed dial willing to churn out finery for nominal fees.  Lucky.  “This place is fantastic, I’m blown away. When can I move in?  Joking.  Sort of.   Really, I shouldn’t be surprised, I’d expect no less from Oz the Great and Powerful.” 

          He followed Oz’s lead to the bar and was predictably distracted by the jewel of the faux Nile. 

          “Celia, enchanted.” He smiled warmly at the woman who was nearly twice his size. “Enchanted, intimidated, and charmed. In exactly that order.  I shall try to keep my all consuming rage and excessively violent tendencies to myself.” He gave her a slick wink.  In all honesty he was probably appeared as dangerous as a kitten in a bowtie.  If she needed to she’d probably be able to pick him up with one hand.  Why was that so attractive?  “Egyptian themed jazz night?  Never heard of anyone doing one of those before... I guess you’d have AMUNopoly.”  Pause for full pun absorption.  “It will be spectacular. It already is and I haven’t seen it yet.  I hope you are able to track down your elusive sarcophagi  it’s probably in the last place you left it.”  He glanced around at the staff appraisingly. “So, does everyone here double as a performer?  It seems you’re luckier than I am if you’d discovered a collection of such devastatingly talented and gorgeous people.  It could give people an inferiority complex just walking in here.” Not him, for sure, but some people...okay most people definitely.

           

          A woman bumped into him and placed her hand on his shoulder to steady herself. She fit the dresscode and genetic code of the place to a T.  She was strikingly beautiful with a wave of short golden hair around her face like a halo, her hand slid up the sleek fabric and patted Gladstone’s recently kissed cheek.  How fluffy and soft he was.  She wished her feathers would feel like that... well... soon enough.

          “Sssorry.” She said meekly. “Wasssn’t paying attention, too dissstracted by how-“ Her yellow tinted eyes scanned all three of them, as if committing them to intimate memory.  “-fancy everything isss.”

          Gladstone lifted his eyebrows at Oz as if to say, is this your doing? Are you trying to get me in trouble? Because if you are, bless you.

          “Quite alright, it’s making me a little star struck too. You have this fine figure of a gentleman to congratulate, he’s the owner.”

          The woman suddenly seemed extremely enthralled with the proprietor of the premises and took Oz’s hand in a motion of surprise.  What a lovely feather texture he had.  Complicated to reproduce.  She smiled, she liked a challenge.

          “It’sss a pleasssure to meet you.  I don’t know what to sssay, thisss is the nicessst place I’ve ever ssseen. And you!” Here she took hold of Celia, eye makeup on there thick, bouncy shiny volume to her hair, and no over powering fragrances detected, good. “Ssstunning.  I sssimply don’t know how I can compete with sssuch beauty!”

          • Lilly Teal
            Lilly Teal

            "Discover? Oh gosh no, I collect. It takes time and effort and lot of poaching beautiful people from their jobs. But I love beautiful people, so it's worth it," Oz laughed. "Not everyone doubles. Even I'm not that brilliant with my hiring."

            The lady's arrival was distracting of course, and Oz immediately wondered, out of habit, if she had any natural talent to polish. He looked flattered and not at all modestly pleased as she took her hand and complimented the place. Celia looked a lot more amused, clearly less of a diva than Oz. Though really, that was hard to live up to.

            "That's sweet of you to say, honey. You should see me without the costume." She shot Gladstone a wink. Down, girl. "Speaking of, let me just duck behind the bar and get this off."

            Ex... cuse me? Despite the worrying (or was that enticing?) phrasing, her trip behind the bar just revealed she already had tonight's dress on under the trial costume. Why hadn't it been visible? Clearly some womanly magic, because the dress was a fiery ruby red against her bare shoulders and there was no WAY that shouldn't have been visible under that linen.

            A quick nod to a bartender sent a pair of drinks sliding along the bar. Oz swept them up and offered one to Gladstone, and one to the gorgeous blonde stranger.

            "Shall I find you a table or are you happy to just shop around a little? There's a little spot open near the stage, Cora's about to start her next song."

            • Gladstone Gander
              Gladstone Gander

              Unconsciously a smile slid across his face at the wink and if the quick change hadn't completely mesmerized him and left him with a drink in his hand he would have applauded.  Probably the best for everyone that he hadn't.  This must be heaven.  Though he couldn't believe that he'd been THAT good on the mortal plane to deserve this.  Instead of a standing ovation he gave Celia a hint of "the smolder" and finally tore his attention away from her when a question was aimed at him.

              "Hm? Oh.." He looked around.  "I guess I can haunt a table for a while.  Until I get my wits about me, if that's even possible in this place.  You've outdone yourself. Truly."

               

              The blond frowned to herself at the dramatic and salacious costume change.  She couldn't see the full dress from this side of the bar, that would NOT do. So  suddenly and indecorously with drink in hand she started to climb up on the bar to lean over and get a good look at Celia. The fine liquor splashed on the counter as the glittering silver gown she wore hiked up almost indecently as she hung over the bar in an effort to see the woman's shoes. So annoying when people weren't consistent.  No regard for anyone but themselves.  

              Gladstone couldn't help but stare,  at least he wasn't the one making a scene this time.

              • Lilly Teal
                Lilly Teal

                "Woooah there." Catching her shoulders, Celia levered her gently back over the bar and plucked the glass out of her hands. "I don't think this one needs any more drinks. Come on, I'll walk you to a place to sit so you can cool down."

                At least she'll get to see her shoes now?

                Oz flicked his hand in false modestly, linking arms with Gladstone to sweep him towards that perfect table. Was it luck that it was empty despite how good business was? More likely Oz had reserved it for his new favourite friend, to show off the club to the best of its ability. The table was set in such a way that it seemed like whoever was on the stage was singing solely for the occupant's benefit.

                Cora had already started while everyone had been distracted by the blonde at the bar, her voice smooth and rich like honey. Appropriate, given her dress.

                "A friend's idea," Oz commented. "We thought it would be fun to dress them up in colours that match their singing style. Can you guess Celia's?"

                If you guessed hot, loud and intense, you're entirely on the money.

                • Gladstone Gander
                  Gladstone Gander

                  A flash of annoyance showed in the yellow eyes but soon vanished with a forced little laugh.

                  "Oh I'm ssso sssorry I jussst get ssso excited." She put both feet on the ground and didn't even try to hide the scrutiny in which she examined Celia's outfit.  Okay... yeah got it.  These people were way too full of themselves.  All these complicated patterns and textures.  What, did no one wear sweat pants anymore?   She watched Gladstone and Oz walk off arm in arm.  Interesting.  Again... annoying,  she wanted to keep that tall one nearby.  "Are they together?" She inquired bluntly to Celia. 

                   

                  Gladstone settled in at the table with a wry smirk at his host.

                   

                  "Are you spoiling me?  Because I approve."  He faltered a little at the guessing game.  Games of chance were fine, but being clever wasn't typically one of his strongest suits.  But even still, gold shimmered before him on an attractive woman.  And even out of eyesight that red dress could easily be recalled.  Couldn't hurt to guess. "Uh," it was the color of a stop light.  Yup.  Probably not that. "-well she seems a bit of spitfire that one.  I seem to recall it being the universal sign of danger?  I wouldn't be surprised if that's a rather blatant, albeit inviting, warning. Bulls everywhere beware."

                  • Lilly Teal
                    Lilly Teal

                    "Them?" Celia laughed, looking over at the smartly dressed pair. "No. He's just showing off for a friend. But let's see what happens by the end of night, eh?"

                    The taller woman's grip on the shorter's arm was gentle but firm, making it very clear that if she caused any drunken trouble that wouldn't be stood for as she was guided to a comfortable seat near the back. "There now." A waiter was already quickly on hand with a cold glass of water. "Just settle down until you feel better."

                    ~~~

                    Oh my God.

                    "You're so lucky you're charming," Oz grinned at his verbal floundering, giving him a pat on the shoulder. "But a good guess. Oooohshshshsh."

                    He slid right in next to him, not flirtily, but completely excited to have him share in the moment of the high point of Cora's song.

                    Did you hear that. Did you HEAR that and SEE that the lights were PERFECT and the music was PERFECT and ah I'm so happy. It's always wonderful when hard rehearsals pay off.

                    The crow bowed gracefully, the long hem of her dress pooling into liquid gold as people applauded.

                    "Maybe your luck's rubbing off on us. Her throat was giving her some trouble and we thought she wouldn't be able to sing. Or maybe that's just you being lucky. More pretty people to look at."

                    And me, OF COURSE.

                    • Gladstone Gander
                      Gladstone Gander

                      "I sssee." She sounded almost disappointed and sat the proffered table. "Oh yesss how foolisssh I've been!  I promissse to be a good little girl and sssober up." It was a flat statement, but... wasn't that what the woman wanted to hear?  Besides she had a good view of the room from here. Sooner or later she'd see what she was looking for.  When the waiter arrived she leaned around the corner of the table to get a good look at him.  She was drawing a lot of attention to herself but... she didn't care.  She wasn't going to keep this face much longer.  At the thought she saw a familiar pinstriped suit and horn combination waltz through the door.  Aha.  It was almost time...

                       

                      Gladstone shrugged lightly.  He was charming.  Wait... was that not a complete compliment?  He'd never know. His applause joined the riotous noise around him and he turned to Oz with a small flourish of a hand. 

                      "I'll take whatever credit you want to give.  It seems like your publicity has paid off, there's not an empty seat in the place.  Not that there should be."  He finally took a drink of his cocktail.  Even that was delicious. Somehow the night had to stop rewarding him soon, it  must be running out of ways to dazzle him. Right?

                      • Lilly Teal
                        Lilly Teal

                        Don't quote Oz on this, he tried not to pay to much attention to faces that may have shown up in papers or on the news at some point, but he was sure this wasn't the suited goat's first visit here. He was also pretty sure he'd tipped heavily, which was why he remembered him even when he'd tried not to.

                        Not bad looking, but so rough. And not rough in a good way, either.

                        Surely the night was going to stop being less than perfect. Like now, the singing was all over as Cora slid gently off of the stage.

                        "One more song number," Oz said, grabbing a drink for himself. "And then we take a break to just let the band play and let people enjoy their dinner. Cool them down."

                        The lights stayed low as the next girl came onto the stage, the band still playing quietly as it brought in a smooth segue from one number to the next. It had been the same when Cora had first come on. That was the theme tonight apparently. A flash of a precious metal or stone out of the darkness, like coming across it in a cave. You've found the gold, what will you come across next?

                        As the sweet singing began and the lights picked up, the gemstone turned out to be rich purple complemented with dark hair. Oz really was very proud of himself. You could frame each and every person in this club, you really could.

                        • Gladstone Gander
                          Gladstone Gander

                          Gladstone had noticed the way that Oz had eyed the new comer.  Whoever that was.  He looked the type to say "youse guys" and "make an offer you can't refuse".  It took all kinds to populate a city he supposed. He took a long sip of his drink and made the mistake of looking at the stage in the middle of it.  He choked, burning alcohol visiting his sinuses with little blowtorches. Luckily it was a soft sound, unheard over the music and probably only audible to the puppet master beside him.   

                          But... really? He blinked in unabashed surprise.  Surely he had to be seeing things.  He wanted to look to Oz for confirmation, coughing lightly to try to right himself, but he couldn't take his eyes off her.   It couldn't be?

                           

                          Hammerhead glanced disinterestedly at the dame on stage before he sat at a table that had been set aside for him.  A grim faced pair of weasels were sitting across from him.

                          "Hiya boys, wasn't expectin' ta see youse guys.  What's da matter yer boss afraid I'mma make an offer he can't refuse?"

                           

                          Well... predicable much? And where was that waiter running off to? This place seemed to classy to encourage sprints to the kitchen.  The vacant table in corner went entirely unnoticed.

                          • Lilly Teal
                            Lilly Teal

                            Oz sipped away merrily, too happy with his own staging to realise his guest was choking a little at first, but once he realised he did make the effort to give him a helpful thump on the back.

                            "Got it out?" Gladstone didn't seem to be paying him any attention, but he didn't seem to be choking to death either, so it wasn't all bad.

                            What's the matter with you? He looked back at the stage again, then back to Gladstone. Then the stage. Suddenly, he laughed.

                            "Oh. She didn't tell you. ... well of course she didn't, she doesn't tell anyone."

                            Lilly's eyes opened as she continued singing, and wow, this positioning where it felt like the singer was only singing for the person sitting at this particular table was really coming into play. She didn't really seem to register the guest, all the same, her eyes a little unfocused and completely lost in the music.

                            Just as well. Pretty sure if she'd noticed the show would come to a screeching halt.

                            • Gladstone Gander
                              Gladstone Gander

                              Gladstone was thumped. He barely registered the question and the laugh, numbly he shook his head.  No, no he had not known.  God.  Listen to her.  No longer choking he lifted a few fingers to rest on his bill as if he could use them to stop the stupid grin that had begun slowly spreading across his face.  He couldn't, so he just leaned back in his chair with an awed glaze to his eyes.

                              "Well I'll be damned." He said softly to himself more than anyone else.  He let it all wash over him, she was magnificent.  Absolutely magnificent.


                               

                              The weasel in a white fedora leaned his elbows on the table.

                              "The boss is comin' don't you worry kid. He just hadta' take care of someone... oh sorry someTHING first." He grinned. "You know how it is."

                               

                              "Yeh, I guess I do." Hammerhead narrowed his eyes at the pair.   

                              • Lilly Teal
                                Lilly Teal

                                Oz saw that stupid grin and that glazed look, don't think he didn't. He was grinning himself, a sneaky 'oh I SEE, so that's how it is' sort of grin.

                                "I guess we've just been wasting your time with the other decor, hm~?" Not that he really expected Gladstone to notice what he was saying. Which just made him cheekier. "You can't take any decorations home unless you pay for dinner."

                                Oz will you stop you're being emba- oh, there was nobody to tell him to stop. No wonder.

                                Once again, it was a mercy Lilly wasn't registering them, nor could she hear what they were going on about. It was just her, and the music, and... well, a sensation of people, as if she was mostly dreaming. Which was fine. Dream people were safe. She could sing for them, and smile at them as if they were the only people that mattered in all the world. It was a good act, and it complemented the song as it soared at it highest point.

                                For a moment, everything went completely still. When it was over, she didn't bow, or give a cheeky wink or a wave. She just... sparkled, so very very happy and up in the clouds as she flicked her eyes back to the band and gave them a nod of thanks. It was just better not to look at the audience when she was between songs, when she might wake up and realise what she was doing.

                                • Gladstone Gander
                                  Gladstone Gander

                                  Gladstone jumped slightly when applause announced the end of the song.  He was too out of it to notice, he clapped too although a little too hard.  He tilted his head toward Oz, not taking his eyes off Lilly for a second. 

                                  "I'm sorry... what were you saying?" Even if Oz answered, Gladstone probably wouldn't have heard him.  He was regretting not having any flowers on hand  to force into her arms as soon as she was done.  Maybe some would appear? He'd pay whatever they were asking. Good lord was she dazzling. 

                                   

                                  Had she not been so captivating to the gander, he might have noticed that Celia, in all her Queen of the Nile glory  was suddenly hauling a giant sarcophagus onstage.  The band eyed her strangely but were too professional to do anything about it.  The show must go on, right?  Besides, the boss could handle it? He did have a front row seat after all.  Celia huffed and puffed as she finally got the thing in position and shielded her yellow tinted eyes from the spotlights looking at the crowd.  She frowned, grumbled something, and inexplicably got into the sarcophagus with a flourish resembling an amateur stage magician's assistant. 

                                  • Lilly Teal
                                    Lilly Teal

                                    Um.

                                    What?

                                    Oz frowned. This wasn't part of the plan. But he was glad to see the band wasn't reacting. Good. Pretend everything is as normal.

                                    Leaving Gladstone where he was, he practically swung himself up on stage, giving Lilly a small push towards the sarcophagus.

                                    "Ladies and gentlemen, I know this is a little unorthodox, but then aren't we all a little unorthodox sometimes? We were planning a little surprise of a show next week and... well I suppose the surprise is out now, but we've been losing this sarcophagus so much you'd swear it had a mind of it's own. So enjoy your food, we'll keep the music playing, of course. It's just for the best that we leave it on stage so we don't lose it again in the coming week. We might have to cancel the show, and I'm sure none of us want that."

                                    Lilly, very confused, gratefully left the distraction of the audience up to Oz, and went to knock on the sarcophagus. "Ce... lia? Are you alright, love? Please come out?"

                                    • Gladstone Gander
                                      Gladstone Gander

                                      The sudden interruption of a male voice to the singing drew Hammerhead's attention to the stage.  What in the-?  Had been paying attention he would have noticed the formidable figure that swept up to the table like a shark through dark water and dismissed the weasels soundlessly.  The tall tiger in a pitch black suit sat smoothly and seemed endlessly amused with himself and the entire world in general.

                                       

                                      "Quite a show isn't it old boy?" His deep voice forced Hammerhead's attention back to the table with a little yelp. He grinned showing off a mouth of sharp teeth. "Although a little too on the nose for my liking. Sorry to interrupt, shall I arrange for another meeting so you don't miss the festivities?"

                                      "N-no Khan. You're right on time.  Now about the-"

                                       

                                      "Waiter." Shere Khan snapped at a waiter and she bustled over. "Scotch please. And the rarest steak you have." His eyes slid slowly to the goat. "Care to order?"

                                      "No, I really think we oughtta-"

                                      "That will be all thank you." He watched the waitress walk away. "You know Mr. Hannigan, you should allow yourself to indulge in the finer things in life on occasion.  Because who knows how much time you have left on this world?" Was it a threat?  The tiger let out a low rumble of a chuckle. "Or me myself for that matter."

                                       


                                       

                                      Celia made no reply.  But whoever was in that sarcophagus let out a low moan.  

                                      There was a sudden movement from inside and the lid of the prop opened slightly to reveal one bandaged, giant hand. The wrappings were aged and deteriorated in places so that shriveled pitch black skin showed through.  

                                       

                                      Gladstone was completely oblivious.  He had his head propped up with one hand just watching the woman in the purple dress dreamily. 

                                      • Lilly Teal
                                        Lilly Teal

                                        "Celia!"

                                        Whatever this is, please stop it right now! Reaching forward, Lilly threw open the lid, as despite their professionalism, the band members started craning their necks to see what was going on.

                                        That... that was definitely not Celia.

                                        The band went back to sitting in their seats, a little wide-eyed and hoping if they ignored it it would go away. Lilly took a step back. And then another, until her back connected with Oz.

                                        "Oz," she said in worry. Something's gone very, very wrong...

                                        • Gladstone Gander
                                          Gladstone Gander

                                          Hammerhead put a small black velvet lined box on the table and slid it to the tiger. 

                                          "Well whatever.  You'll see everything's in order on my end.  Now where's the dough.  This thing gives me the heeby jeebies." 

                                          Shere Khan opened the box and admired the magenta gem inside.

                                          "The Chameleon Ruby of Pharaoh TooMuchTimein. Yes, it seems as if you do have everything in order.  Although some subtlety would have been nice."


                                           

                                          It most certainly was not Celia. As soon as the lid came off a mummy, nearly seven feet tall lumbered out of the sarcophagus. It shambled across the stage, shedding ancient dust with each movement, and made a grabbing motion  for Lilly with a rattling breath.  

                                           

                                          "WHO HASSS AWAKEN ME FROM MY SSSLUMBER?" it proclaimed loudly, for even the people in the back to hear.  "TREMBLE BEFORE ME SSSTUPID MORTALS! OR I SSSHALL SSSTRIKE YOU DOWN!"

                                           

                                          The shady individuals at one table in particular noticed immediately. 

                                          "THE CURSE!" Hammerhead squeaked and tried to leap out of his seat but found a large paw force him back down.

                                          Shere Khan narrowed his eyes at the stage.

                                          "Is this some kind of joke?" 

                                           

                                          If it was Gladstone had missed the set up and the punchline.  He looked between the occupants of the stage and saw that there was true distress there.  He stood up, unsure of what to do. He looked at the table in front of him,  he picked up a roll from the bread basket and after a moment of thought threw it at the mummy.  The mummy stopped after being beaned by a baked good. 

                                           

                                          "SSSERIOUSLY?" It asked.

                                           

                                          "Uh-" Gladstone gallantly replied. He shrugged at Oz.  Was this part of the show or not? 

                                          • Lilly Teal
                                            Lilly Teal

                                            There was a very, very long pause, as everyone looked from the mummy to the drake.

                                            "Gladstone?" Lilly squeaked in surprise, having almost fallen off the stage by taking five more frantic steps back to get away from the swipe.

                                            "I don't mean to alarm anyone," Oz said evenly. A quick gesture lead to two members of the staff holding the doors open wide. "But this isn't part of the show. I have no idea what is happening. If you could all start leaving in an orderly manner and not trample each other on the way out, thank you."

                                            Unlikely, but he had to say it anyway. The band members had already scrambled off of the stage as fast as possible, leaving him and Lilly looking very alone up there. With a massive mummy.

                                            • Gladstone Gander
                                              Gladstone Gander

                                              Gladstone rushed forward to help Lilly as she almost made a glittering dismount of the stage.
                                              “Uh, hello, sorry things are...”he eyed the mummy, “-weird again.”

                                              Why were things always weird?! Why couldn’t it just be a ‘my goodness you are glamorous and wonderful wouldn’t you like to have a drink and make out with me? ‘ Instead of... oh I don’t know... a LITERAL mummy on stage?!

                                              People were nearly stampeding over each other to leave. He returned his attention to her his face a portrait of regret.

                                              “You were wonderful, truly but, maybe you should run?” He motioned weakly to the door, his palm to the ceiling.

                                              The mummy let out a roar of rage and its body collapsed into itself until it was... nothing? No, not nothing. A fly, a fly that zipped through the air to the table of two very formidable looking men. The fly while over the table started to grow until it was no longer a fly but a giant alligator..? It smashed down on the table and a little black box went sailing through the air in the chaos... and landed squarely in Gladstone’s extended hand.

                                              He blinked at it stupidly until the beast descended on him. The arm was whipped out of the way of closing jaws but his sleeve snagged on a tooth. The creature mashed it’s mouth closed, fiercely entangling the fabric of his sleeve even further. There was a brief moment where he stared at Lilly in complete shock before the alligator trashed its head smashing him into the side of the stage and dragged a dazed Gladstone backwards into the kitchen.

                                              Um, help?i

                                               

                                              • Lilly Teal
                                                Lilly Teal

                                                One second he was there, saying what they were all thinking, and the next second he was gone, leaving her blinking.

                                                "Glad-!"

                                                But he was gone, the kitchen door swinging shut on the strange, strange scene. She shot Oz a helpless look, and his look wasn't any more helpful as he slid down off of the stage.

                                                What was the alligator even after? He cast his eyes over the tables, mostly now empty, and caught sight of Hammerhead Hannigan again. And the mob had been so good about not being the cause of any problems thus far.

                                                And on the other side of the table...

                                                Oh my.

                                                What was it he'd said about Hammerhead? Not bad looking, but rough edges in all the wrong ways? Now Sher Khan was sleek and sharp and so well dressed and that voice just-

                                                He was getting distracted. This wasn't the time.

                                                "Celia! Kitchen!"

                                                Celia had been at the back of the bar, not even noticing her double up on the stage until the sarcophagus had shut, so it was with no small amount of confusion that she had stared at the alligator dragging off a guest. Oz's call snapped her back to reality, and she barged in through the kitchen door. She was the bouncer, and she was going to damn well bounce. Or at least assess the situation and call animal control before Gladstone got eaten. Lilly flailed her arms a little helplessly and ran after Celia as Oz went in the other direction.

                                                Oz, for his part, moved towards the shady table with a hint of wariness, but a pleasant apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, the place isn't usually like this. This is a forward question but do either of you have a gun to scare off an alligator with?"

                                                • Gladstone Gander
                                                  Gladstone Gander

                                                  So this wasn’t going exactly to plan, thought Gladstone as he slammed the door to the walk in freezer shut and locked it.  He hadn’t expected both of them to show up,  not personally anyway.  He looked at the glittering little jewel in his palm while absentmindedly stroking his cheek.  So soft.  There was a heavy thump from the inside of the freezer and he narrowed his eyes at it.

                                                  “Oh ssshut up.” He spat at the door and slid the ruby into his pocket. “It’sss only -10 degreesss Fahrenheit  in there you baby.”

                                                   

                                                    Now all he had to do was walk out of- Celia burst into the kitchen like a vengeful Valkyrie  and he instantly fell against the large metal  freezer door as if the strength had been sucked out of him.  The left arm of his suit was shredded, a bit of blood smearing the white exposed feathers.   He smiled at the woman in relief.

                                                  “Oh thank goodnesss you’re here. I’ve trapped that BEASSST in the freezer-“ There was another loud bang from inside as something threw itself bodily against the door. “-Don’t open it whatever you do.”  

                                                  His voice was strange, wheezing , lisping, and totally the wrong pitch but he had just been brutalized by an enormous reptile. Maybe he’d been hit on the head?  Could that explain the jaundice tint to his eyes too? He hoped so, he held his uninjured arm out to Celia as if seeking help to stand up straight.

                                                  “Could you call me a cab? I really think I’ve had enough fun for thisss evening.” Just as Lilly appeared the door rattled against his back as the captive on the other side pummeled it.  Gladstone regarded  her quickly, blankly,  as if she was a stranger then returned his attention to Celia.  His expression changed to a hopeful seductive gaze, one this face had displayed earlier during that candid  and excessively flirty conversation at the bar.  “Maybe you’d like to come with me? We could play doctor.” 

                                                  Just calmly ignore that rattling, and fall hopelessly in love with me please.

                                                   


                                                   

                                                  As Oz neared the pair he was instantly seized by his lapels and drawn roughly into close quarters with a furious Hammerhead.

                                                  “Nice floorshow ya got here wise guy-“ He snarled. “-who put you up to this? You think dis is a joke?” Was he laughing? Was anyone laughing?  Seemingly convinced with his own narrative the ram drew back his cranium as if to head butt the bird but a paw closed around a horn and twisted him away.  Khan pried the goat off Oz with ease, as if separating two slices of bread.

                                                  “Temper, temper.” He tutted.  “Pardon my excitable acquaintance,  but I must agree the scenario does strike me a bit odd.”  A bit? Really? Just a bit? Okay.  “You see, Mister Hannigan has just returned from Egypt at my behest for business, and then you coincidentally happen to have a mummified pharaoh materialize on stage and a Nile crocodile –“ He motioned vaguely to the obliterated table. “-well I am sure you are aware of the events that resulted in this. “

                                                  “Yeh, den that guy you’ve been all cozy with gets dragged off with our goods smack dab in his palm!” Hammerhead interjected angrily, he looked like he still wanted to at least punch Oz, but... thankfully was too afraid of the tiger to try again.

                                                  Shere Khan gave him a withering look before he pushed the goat lightly in Oz’s direction.

                                                   

                                                  “I expect Mr. Hannigan would be delighted to help you dispose of the creature.  For both your sakes I hope he succeeds.”

                                                   

                                                  Well... that was almost like having a gun?  A hired one maybe.   

                                                  • Lilly Teal
                                                    Lilly Teal

                                                    You did not just accuse me of being so hideously, obviously, blatantly tacky.

                                                    Full diva mode was back on, and he didn't care who he was sassing. Oz narrowed his eyes up at Sher Khan, and then a little lower down at Hammerhead. "Neither the mummy nor the crocodile are my fault, I wouldn't dream of being so tacky."

                                                    And you creased my lapels.

                                                    "So I'm dreadfully sorry about your 'goods', but if you want to get them back shake the crocodile around instead of me!"

                                                    Well. Hammerhead was definitely more erratic than a gun. But he could probably do as much damage. He'd do fine. "The kitchen then. Shall we?"

                                                    With that said, he straightened his lapels, straightened his back, and marched off in the direction of the kitchen.

                                                    ~~~

                                                    Lilly didn't seem to notice the look. Or if she noticed it, she didn't pay it much mind as she rushed over, her hands fluttering over his injured arm as if she was afraid to touch him. "Oh my goodness, you're alright. That was terrifying..."

                                                    Celia raised her eyebrows at the drake, utter disbelief on her face. "You. Trapped it in there all by yourself?"

                                                    I mean... I'm sorry, but you don't like you could move anything no matter how hard you pushed. She shook her head. She'd heard stranger stories, but not by much. That must have been some luck getting the creature in there.

                                                    She took his arm, again, gentle but very firm. "I'll call you a cab, but you'll have to sit at the bar with me. You're in no shape to go anywhere on your own."

                                                    • Gladstone Gander
                                                      Gladstone Gander

                                                      Gladstone blinked slowly at Lilly as she fussed over him. 

                                                      “Oh yesss, very ssscary.  Ssscariest thing that’sss ever happened to me, I’m lucky to be alive.”  He frowned at Celia’s inquiry but made no argument, she seemed to have filled in the blanks for him.  Which was perfect, now  to get them all out of this kitchen and him out that door.   The arm that had not been seized by Celia was draped suddenly around Lilly’s shoulders as this poor, weak, brave man seemed unable to walk on his own.  “You’re both ssso very kind, why don’t we all jussst-“

                                                      The metal door rattled on it’s hinges again before it fell silent.  Finally.  What a relei-

                                                       

                                                      Hammerhead kicked open the kitchen doors and marched straight into the heart of it as if he owned the place.  His eyes fell on a very startled Gladstone and he snarled.  The goat shoved the women out of the way and grabbed the goose by the throat pinning him to the freezer door.

                                                      “Where’s the ruby?” ... and the crocagator?  

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