Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries
From “Little Boy Blond”
Sex and money mess most things up. That’s what people think, anyway. And I used to agree. These days, I’m thinking love can mess things up pretty badly, too. Sometimes it can mess things up a whole lot worse.
Paradise Isle reopened on a Friday night at the beginning of October. Davey Edwards rented a klieg light and put it out front. It was good advertising, but I think the main reason he got it was to piss off the neighbors who’d done their best to prevent the nightclub’s reopening—though all they’d managed to do was get it postponed by a month.
I stood under a banner that screamed GRAND REOPENING to check IDs and keep a head count. Davey had decided to skip the cover charge that night in hopes of creating a line around the block behind a velvet rope. It worked. Though at times I had to keep the crowd inside at about twenty-five heads below the number the fire marshal allows so the line stayed populated. Davey had taken a full-page ad in Gay Times, but a line winding down Broadway was better advertising.
Inside, the club had been not only re-created but reinvented. Where there had once been a Plexiglas dance floor, there was now a gleaming expanse of polished black linoleum right out of a Busby Berkley musical. Davey had recreated the neon palm trees and the thatched roofing that had always hung over the bar, but added sturdy, five-foot Grecian pillars on each corner of the dance floor. For opening weekend, there were go-go boys dancing on each pillar in tiny Speedos—consequently, no one asked what Grecian pillars had to do with a tropical theme. Gone were the tacky Hawaiian shirts and the leis he’d once passed out; remaining were the sweaty, bare-chested bartenders.
Miss Minerva Jones wore a spangled mini-dress, white patent-leather platforms, and a pink beehive wig that put her over seven feet tall. As DJ, she’d been planning this night for months. She and Davey had gone round and round about what would be played. “I Will Survive” seemed like a natural, given that the club was literally rising from the ashes. Miss Minerva would only agree to play it twice, though. Davey wanted it every hour on the hour. They also had friction over Blondie, the Police, and Devo. Davey sensed competition from a couple of New Wave clubs that had recently opened. Miss Minerva was a purist, whose tastes ran to classic, urban disco. A single request for Abba could upset her for an entire evening. Still, she acquiesced and played “Call Me,” “Whip It,” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” once each.
The evening was a huge success, and by two a.m. my feet were killing me. I needed to get out of my size twelve Frye boots and into a tub of hot water. Usually, my shift ended an hour earlier when business started to taper off; that night, people kept coming. Finally, though, the tides turned and more people were leaving than coming, and Davey came over and told me to get myself a drink. I headed over to the bar and ordered a beer and a shot of Jack. I downed the shot and lit a Marlboro.
The go-go boys were still dancing. By that point, they were all pretty tired, and some of them were having trouble keeping the beat. I figured they had about fifteen more minutes before exhaustion set in and they fell off their pedestals. On the one nearest me, a stocky blond gyrated and bounced. I’d had my eye on him most of the night. His floppy hair, prominent cheekbones, and faint dimple in his chin had caught my attention early on. I also liked that his body was thick, well muscled, and had patches of light brown hair on his chest and belly. His crooked smile didn’t hurt, either. I sipped my beer and stole looks at him. He noticed my attention and started playing with the band of his blue and white Speedo. Dollar bills were tucked into the trunks, giving his basket a crunchy look. I looked up at his face and caught him smiling at me.
Davey came over and I had to take my eyes off the dancer. A kid was with Davey. Tall and gangly, with an Adam’s apple that could cut glass. The kid looked like a freshman in college. I wondered for a moment if he was Davey’s nephew.
“Great night,” I said to Davey.
He nodded and said, “It’ll do.” I knew something was up, since Davey wasn’t normally shy about basking in success. “Nick, this is Martin Dalton. He owns The Jewel Box.”
I was surprised. I’d heard of The Jewel Box; it was a theater somewhere in Old Town that specialized in showing gay porn films and turning a blind eye when the patrons got friendly with each other. I didn’t think someone so young could be associated with some place that notorious, much less own it.
I shook Martin’s hand. It was warm and damp. “We also make films,” he added. I waited to see why that was important.
“Martin is in need of your services,” Davey explained.
The bulk of my business is background checks. I doubted there was much point in that type of service when it came to triple X actors, so I asked, “What happened? One of your actors run off in the middle of a scene?”
Martin shook his head and said, “No. He was murdered.”
Usually, I flat-out tell people no when they bring up murder. It’s not that I hadn’t investigated murder before, but I did really try not to. This time, I lit a cigarette and said, “Tell me about it.”
“My biggest star was beaten to death in his kitchen,” Martin explained.
“Dex Summers,” Davey added, though it didn’t mean much to me.
“Sounds domestic,” I said, not because it did so much but because most murders are. “The police will figure it out soon enough.”
He shrugged. “In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of aldermen trying to use it as a reason to shut me down.”
“You gotta help him out, Nick,” Davey said.
I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I was titillated by the idea of porn, or maybe it annoyed me that a couple politicians were trying to get ahead by using this poor guy’s murder, or maybe I just wanted to go home and figured Davey wouldn’t let me until I’d said ‘yes.’ No matter what the reason, I crushed out my cigarette and asked Martin Dalton for a retainer.