Noah’s Boy – Snippet 17
* * *
“You know,” Tom said. “If you’d told me I would send a young and innocent girl off with Rafiel like that, just a day ago, I’d have told you that you were insane.”
“We have no proof that she’s innocent,” Kyrie said.
Tom smiled at her. “Probably too innocent for love them and leave them Rafiel.”
“Who by his own admission is more leave them and less love them. I’m more worried about Rafiel than her,” Kyrie said. They were driving back from Riverside, starting to hit the heavy traffic on Fairfax. “Notice she already made sure she got to drive, not him.”
“Um,” Tom said, as he avoided a large heating and plumbing service track hell bent on changing lanes on top of him. “Considering for now at least Rafiel has only one working eye, I’m glad she did. Sensible of her.”
A sly, sideways look from Kyrie, and Kyrie said, “You like her.”
“Oh yes. Unless she’s a very carefully contrived plant, that girl has … what did they use to call it? Moxie. Almost as much as you.” He reached across and squeezed her hand. “And you must admit this whole thing has to be fairly bewildering for someone like her, born and raised American — you know…”
“Yeah, unlike Conan Lung whose parents more or less told him he now belonged to the Great Sky Dragon the very first time he shifted and whose parents at least have the full expectation of belonging to someone in a feudal sense, Bea grew up thinking of herself as free,” Kyrie said. “So knowing a many times ancestor has decided her marriage had to come as a shock. And speaking of Conan –“
“For all you shift into a panther, you’re rather like a bulldog, aren’t you? Once you get hold of something, you just won’t let go.”
“Well… Tom, what if it damages the reputation of the diner? What if people stop coming?”
“No one will be there to hear it. Note we didn’t even put a poster up. No one knows. And I set it for eight p.m., so the dinner rush will be done. It will just be a dozen regulars, and they won’t hold it against us if Conan sounds like the unfortunate encounter between a tin cutter and a cat in heat. And if it’s that terrible, I won’t let him do it again.”
“Okay,” Kyrie said, seemingly appeased. “As long as there aren’t too many people in attendance.”
* * *
There were way too many people there, Kyrie thought. The parking lot was so full they had to drive up the cross-street that ran along the side of the George. And even Pride Street was parked almost bumper to bumper, so it was some blocks before they found place to park.
They hurried back in silence, except for Tom’s saying, in a plaintive tone, “but there weren’t even any posters.”
Only there was now a banner stretched across the front of the diner, announcing, Tonight, the debut of Conan Lung. Six-String Dragon! You ain’t heard nothing yet.
“Tom!” Kyrie said, in a strangled voice. How had this happened? How had one of Tom’s projects got so out of hand?
“Well… it’s… er… I mean, at least he said heard, right, so people can’t think he’s a stripper or a cook or something.”
“Right. What do you expect me to do. I mean, all these people are here for it, clearly. Look, we’ll sell some souvlaki or… or whatever… and if it’s terrible, we’ll promise not to let him sing again, and then it will be all right.”
Kyrie just shook her head, but her mouth was twitching upwards. Tom was… irrepressible, she decided. It had been a long, long time since she had been able to get mad at him. This was stupid, but it was such a Tom stupidity that she couldn’t help smiling. “Idiot,” she said.
“Come on,” he said. “How bad can he be?”
“Six string dragon!” she said, and broke into giggles.
“Okay… bad. But let’s give him a chance, shall we?”
* * *
The diner was packed as they came in. Kyrie noted with approval that beyond the normal tables, which had been packed into as small a space as possible, there had been rows of foldable chairs set up.
“We got them from my church,” Anthony said. “I called and sent Jason over.”
“But how did all these people know?” Tom asked, from behind Kyrie. “Well, seems like Conan put up a video of himself singing on face book, and it went viral.”
Kyrie swallowed hard, feeling as though her heart had dropped somewhere around her knees. “Oh, no. They’re here to mock him, right? It’s like that guy on that show whose audition tape was so bad.”
“I don’t know,” Anthony said. “He might think that though. He’s gone and locked himself in the storage room in the back.”
“Uh….” Kyrie said. Great. The only thing worse than having Conan sing and be absolutely terrible at it, was, of course, not to have Conan sing at all. That would get them eaten alive — metaphorically — by the patrons of the George. With all her heart she hoped it was metaphorically. Scanning the crowd she could see enough faces that turned into something fanged or carnivorous not to be absolutely sure. “Has Rya –“
Rya, a fox-shifter attending CUG was Conan’s… well, maybe not precisely girlfriend. Kyrie didn’t think Conan had enough confidence to ask anyone out, but they were known to hang out together and, occasionally, go out for coffee or to shows.
“She was here, yeah. She’s still here somewhere, I think. She pounded on the door to the storage room and asked to be let in, but he wouldn’t.”
“Oh, Lord,” Tom said. “I’ll handle it.” He already had his apron and bandana on, and he looked hesitatingly at Kyrie. “Can you take care of it here, while I go and get Conan out of the storage room.”
“His master’s voice?” Kyrie asked, and regretted it immediately as Tom gave her an injured look back.
* * *
Tom didn’t like the implication that he had some sort of power over Conan. Oh, he knew it was true, to an extent. When you’ve been browbeaten into becoming a slave, it’s easier to become the slave of yet someone else than to spring free and be your own person. He’d freed Conan, but he was aware that was one sided. Conan still looked to him for guidance… to put it at his lowest value.
He walked down the hallway and knocked at the door to the back storage room, because he couldn’t imagine even Conan in a snit locking himself in the freezer room. Also, from inside this storage room came forlorn plucking at the guitar strings.
Tom knocked again. For a moment, only more forlorn plucking answered him, then Conan’s voice, wavering and thin, “Yeah?”
“It’s Tom. Open up.”
“I can’t. I have laryngitis. I can’t sing.”
“Oh, for the love– Conan. Open this damn door or I kick it in, and then I make you pay for the new one.”