When Caroline reported to the Night Owl to prepare for opening night, she didn’t expect so much work to still be left undone. Yvonne was still running the girls through their imperfect routines while stages hands tried to finish painting the back drops behind them. Wait staff rushed around arranging tables and bartenders double-checked their inventory. Caroline had gone backstage to find the seamstress asleep at her work. The poor woman had been up all night attaching sequin after sequin to several costumes.
Now Caroline paused to suck a pricked finger. She had taken over a good portion of the remaining sewing. She had to admit that she had been distracted in recent weeks, but Frank was at least partly to blame. Still she should have been here cracking the whip more often.
“Knock, knock!” a smooth female voice chimed. A woman stuck her head in the door. Her over-kohled eyes glanced over the seamstress and landed on Caroline.
“I was told I would find you back here,” the woman said. She stepped inside the wardrobe room. Her voluptuous curves straining the seams of her dress. She had a beauty mark penciled on her cheek. She came forward and held out her hand. “I’ve heard a lot about you, Caroline. It’s about time we met.” Caroline slowly accepted the handshake.
“I’m sorry, but who are you?” she asked.
“Imogene, of course. I look after Frank’s cat house,” Imogene shrugged, “I sent you some of my girls. I offered Frank my help with this little cabaret, but he said you were more than up to the challenge.”
“Frank discusses me with you?” Caroline remained guarded as the woman made herself comfortable. Imogene shrugged again.
“Only good things, cross my heart,” the madam chuckled.
Caroline’s brow furrowed.
“I’ll cut the bullshit, Caroline. You’re too smart. Frank has to cancel your dinner plans. He sent me over to help and hopefully soften the blow,” Imogene admitted. She opened her cigarette case and held it out for Caroline to take one.
“Did he tell you why?” Caroline asked, an edge in her voice that Imogene easily picked up. She lit a match for Caroline.
“Something to do with that bootlegger,” Imogene explained. Caroline puffed on her cigarette.
“Is he still coming to the opening tonight?” she asked.
“I asked, but he was noncommittal. You know how he can be. ‘Anything could happen,’ he said.”
Caroline stared across the room as she considered the answer.
“Do you think that’s the truth?” she asked finally. Imogene picked up the pieces of a costume.
“He did seem awful tense about something,” Imogene commented.
“You saw him?” Caroline’s eyes snapped up to the madam’s face. Imogene froze.
“Yes, He came by…He thought a little flutter of a card game would keep his mind busy while he waited for news.” Caroline wondered why Frank wouldn’t come back to bed if he just needed to pass time. She would have kept his mind busy among other things.
“So what are we working on?” Imogene tried to change the subject. “I’m here to help and I’ve sewn up enough of these sweet nothings in my life time to be pretty quick with a needle and thread. We’ll finish this in no time.”
Caroline set Imogene up with a few costumes and they got to work. Caroline had several more pricked fingers, because her mind wandered. Imogene kept up a stream of one-sided conversation that varied between business advice, stories about Frank’s card games and beauty tips. None of which Caroline was really paying attention to.