"She's busy," Jan said. His eyes rested on Alex for a moment and then slid away, back to the newspaper spread in front of him on the bar.
"I can wait."
Jan snorted. "You might have to wait a while then.Come back tomorrow, or preferably never."
"I'll go on through then shall I?"
"Shit, do what you bloody well like!" Jan said. "Just piss off out of my face."
Alex went around behind Jan's chair. Jan refused to move it, so he had to squeeze through the small gap that was left. Just stubborn bloodymindedness, that was all, but inwardly Alex seethed. He wanted to ram Jan's chair into the bar, break a few ribs minimum, but it wasn't worth it. Jan was Georgia's. You'd have to be insane to break something of hers. Insane and suicidal. He fixed the sunny smile, as it had slipped a little, and went through the door behind the bar.
It led to a quiet, relatively smoke-free hallway, which in turn led to several small rooms where special guests could party in private. About half were filled tonight. Through partially open doors Alex saw groups engaged in conversation, and in one, some very casual sex. Magic involved, the bodies glowed, barely moving; hanging on a breath of ecstasy, prolonging the moment, held in time. Alex saw a woman slowly bring her arm up, her eyelids fluttered and she stretched like a cat, arching her spine. She saw him briefly, her eyes caught his with a flash of gold. So intense was the spell he took a step into the room before he remembered and shook his head. Not now. Bad idea. Very bad.
He walked quickly down to the end of the hall and almost tripped over Georgia's bodyguard, Dominic.
"Sorry," Alex said.
"She's busy." Dominic didn't even bother to look up. He shifted, his chair creaking, and turned another page in his book. It looked to be Kafka. Dominic read only the classics and was moving through them alphabetically by author and title. Sometimes, thinking to get on his good side, people would present him with the next book on the list. They didn't do it twice.
Dominic raised a hand, palm down and gestured he was being approximate. "Ten minutes. Fifteen maybe."
"Yeah yeah, if you're waiting, fuck off and wait somewhere else would you? I just got to the good part."
Alex moved to just outside Georgia's door and waited, staring at a painting on the wall opposite until his eyes began to ache from trying to follow the strange patterns and colours. Eventually, after what seemed an hour but was probably only the fifteen minutes suggested by Dominic, Georgia's door opened. A young guy stepped out, haughty and arrogant. He possessed chiselled, model good-looks and glared at Alex before stalking off.
Dominic gave him a nod, but Alex waited another minute before he knocked.
"Alex," Georgia said. Though he'd given her more than enough time she still lay on the bed, her robe open. It was red silk, embroidered in a twenties design, which was possibly when she'd brought it. Her hair was cut short, also in the twenties flapper style, a sleek dark-brown cap just brushing the lobes of her ears. The dim light gave her small triangle of pubic hair golden highlights and above this her stomach made a soft curve. Alex forced his eyes up to her face, where her eyes smiled back at him. It didn't help much. Her face was heartbreakingly beautiful, and her eyes so deep a blue he could easily drown.
"Georgia," he said. "Looking well."
"Seeing out my century in style," she said and smiled warmly. She still hadn't moved, was utterly unselfconscious. Alex felt his palms begin to sweat. Hard to know where you were with Georgia. She was everything that was unpredictable. Alex was glad he'd caught her in a good mood, but it was possible it wouldn't last long. "Haven't seen you in a while. What have you been up to Alex?"
"Nothing you wouldn't approve I know. I was away for a bit. Back now."
"That's good," Georgia nodded. "Drink?" she indicated the cabinet.
"You know I don't, don't know why you offer."
"One day the answer might be different. Who knows. What do you want then, if it's not a drink or a lovely time with Georgia?"
"Cash for questions?"
"Go on then," she said, sighing. "Bore me. You care nothing for my peace of mind, that's obvious."
"Peace of mind? What's going on?" Alex asked.
"Nothing," she said. No one who didn't know her very well could have caught the brief glint of unease in her expression.
"Nothing," he repeated. "Ok. Right, I have a question. Just the one, you'll be glad to hear, and also information which I think will more than pay for the answer."
"Question first then."
"Where can I find Eloise?"
"What do you want her for? No taste! Really Alex."
"Well, do you know or don't you?"
"I have a number," Georgia said. "Now this information."
"Someone's home," Alex said. "The someone you've been looking for." The effect of this was not as spectacular as he'd hoped. Georgia frowned.
"Is that all? Well, of course I knew that. Credit me with a bit of pull here. Don't you have anything else?"
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Do?" she raised her eyebrows. "People come to me Alex. So will he. But I could use you as part of it," she added speculatively. "How would you like to do a bit of work for me?"
"That depends. What would it involve?"
She closed her robe finally, rose in one graceful movement and went to her desk where she wrote something down. She liked to use an old ink-pen, dipping it into a silver inkwell and forming her letters with care. She breathed on the ink to dry it, folded the paper and handed it to him. Her finger brushed his and he felt a jolt, somewhere between pain and pleasure. He had to close his eyes for a moment, holding on to the control. When he opened them she was looking at him, stony and unforgiving.
"Don't mess it up Alex."
"I won't," he said.
It was only after he'd closed the door he realized he hadn't mentioned the girl. Why did I do that? Ah well, too late now. What can she do anyhow?