Lula had only been in the alley for a minute, pulling herself together. It seemed a blur, a whirlwind of dark voices and grabby hands had drawn in her in, guided her past a mess of costume racks, shabby vanity tables, discarded instruments, and forlorn looking work lights to the row of curtains leading out onto the stage.
It was small time and she knew it, but it wouldn't exactly be well-to-do to start playing vaudeville. She could never tour and she wasn't exactly a classy enough act to justify a steady spot on any bill in any proper club. If anything she might labeled a freak act. The thought made her palms sweat. She wiped her hands on her slacks and adjusted her tie. She wondered idly if some equally nebulous voice would call her cue, lest she be pushed face forward into the spotlight.
Happily -- for him -- Dante's voice had never been referred to as nebulous. It broke through the buzz on the other side of the curtain sharply enough, even as it so elegantly shouted,
"Let's get a look at her!"
The murmuring that had been going on prior to his shout died slowly, then revived in a brilliant flood of cheering and clapping. Tables were thumped. At Tallulah's back was suddenly a hand, giving her not so much a push into the spotlight as a nudge to towards the curtains. There was a telltale hiss from backstage as someone began to pull them open.
Dante, long since removed from the bar but still carrying his drink in his hand, kept his eyes trained on the stage. It was early yet for his place, but the numbers in the room looked decent. Not packed, but not shabby. Still, if whatshisname had set him up with some dud act he was gonna stake the guy himself.
Tallulah had never been a confident child. Other kids made up games in which they were the heroes, St. Michael or the cops or the cowboys. She would be assigned the role of the misshapen dragon, the bungling robber, or the barbaric indian. She went along with it, of course, there was no question. But she'd grown taller, leaner, more hard-faced than her playmates. She didn't know why this thought struck her as she faced the opening onto the stage, but she felt a sudden rush of adrenaline and stepped forward. If they wanted a novelty, then by golly, they were going to get one.
In time with her movements the band started to play, a light drum beat that her body synced itself in time to so that by the time she took her last step and reached the mic, the piano had started, joined by the horns. She could barely see the audience past the smoke that rose over everyone's heads and the glare of the lights.
Her voice, full throated and deep, rose with the horns:Gee, but it's hard to love someone when that someone don't love you
I'm so disgusted, heartbroken, too
I've got those down hearted blues...
Not what her voice really sounds like, but there's the song itself.))
"I don't get it. We 'spose to think she's a man or somethin'?"
"Shut the fuck up."
Which was, Dante felt, a more polite way of responding than breaking a bottle of gin over the bartender's head. He didn't even spare the man a glance as he spoke, content to smoke quietly and continue eyeing the girl onstage. Her voice was good. She had personality. All right, so sure, she was boyish in her manner of dress and appearance -- but this was the modern age. It wasn't all corsets and flowers no more.
There was a low mutter from behind him. "I guess she sings alright."
"Shut the fuck up," Dante intoned once more.
Rather than risking having to bear another moronic comment from the help, the dark haired vampire pushed away from the bar and began to stride along the back of the crowd. He moved through chairs here and there, skimmed around a table, and then made a beeline for the door that led backstage. He was her employer. It was only fitting that he greet her as soon as she was done, let her know if she'd done an alright job or if she'd be back on the street.
He leaned over the next table he passed, nearly swiping a blonde woman in green with his arm, and made use of their ashtray to put his cigarette out with two agitated motions.