“I’m glad you’re here,” Millicent said as I walked into the club a couple of nights ago. “Currie and Emsworth are beside themselves.”
“I’m not exactly sure. But I’ve no doubt they’ll find you soon enough to let you know.”
I’d taken four steps toward the dining room when Millicent’s prediction became reality. Currie’s face was emotionless, which meant he was as upset as a boiled owl, and Emsworth was wringing his hands, which I couldn’t remember having seen anyone do before.
“Might we have a word, sir?” Currie asked stiffly.
“Of course. What’s wrong?”
“There is a problem with one of the guests, sir,” Emsworth said.
I sighed. “Okay. What did Sarah Miller spill, and on whom did she spill it?”
“It is not Ms. Miller, sir.”
“It is not that either, sir.”
Emsworth was still wringing. “There is…” He glanced at Currie and received a nod to continue. “There is a guest here tonight with…with bright blue hair, sir.”
I sighed again. “Where is she?”
“In the library,” Currie said.
Upstairs, I found Sadie Mason-Smith ensconced in a bergere with a rum and Diet Coke in her hand and a science fiction anthology on her lap.
“You had to wear it,” I said as she looked up. “I mean, you couldn’t have left it at home tonight.”
Giving me an impish grin, she tossed her blue tresses. “Well, I bought this wig for funsies, and I thought I’d have some tonight.”
“Judging by the effect it had on the staff downstairs, you seem to be the only one having any fun. While I can hardly say anything blue is out of place at the Cobalt Club, it might have gone over better at the Phoenix Festival.”
“Maybe I’ll take it to Dragon*Con. I was out of town Phoenix Festival weekend.”
“Ah. I wondered why I didn’t bump into you there.” I picked up a tablet from a nearby end table before settling into the arachnid chair. “There are some photos here if you’d care to see them.”
Sadie began scrolling.
“The Silver Surfer,” she said. “Nice.”
“From the look of it, the statue was better than the movie was,” Sadie observed. I had to agree.
“David Michelinie. He wrote Star Hunters, Aquaman, Superboy, and The Unknown Soldier for DC Comics and later wrote Spider-Man and Iron Man for Marvel. In fact, he just did a new Iron Man mini-series that was released at the same time as the new movie.”
“Yeah, it was thrill for me to meet him. I grew up reading the stories he wrote for DC back in the ’70s.”
“Kevin Gardner — he’s the guy on the right — is the publisher. It’s a local company based in Pelham, and they produce mostly action-oriented crime stories, as Gardner describes them. It’s pretty gritty, realistic stuff.”
“Who’s the guy with him?”
“That’s Tony Shasteen. He’s drawn Green Lantern and Batman for DC, and he’s the artist on 12-Gauge’s new Skull One-Six comic. It’s about U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan.”
“Right. That’s Dr. Carlos Morrison with a couple of customers. His pop culture collectibles business is called Remember When?, and he specializes in toys and games from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. His booth was a nice trip back to my childhood.”
“You said he’s a doctor?”
“When he’s not working conventions, Dr. Morrison is a professor of communications at Alabama State University.”
“That’s Goodwin. He’s the mascot for Make Good Choices, a clothing and accessories line that promotes positive sayings that it hopes will make a positive difference in people’s life. Nancy Scarpulla had this design of Goodwin in super-hero gear made specially for the Phoenix Festival.”
Sadie laughed at this photo of Birmingham’s John Anderson in the role of Green Arrow, DC Comics’ Robin Hood-esque super-hero. Anderson also spent a portion of the festival disguised as Darth Vader.
“Red Lantern?” Sadie asked.
“Biker-style Red Lantern, according to Jarrod Ishman. He’s also a local guy.”
“I never found out. But it was a little disconcerting to be on the business end of a blaster while taking that photo.”
Sadie laughed again. “Is this Naruto?”
“Yes, but Gavin Morse had to explain that to me. I know absolutely nothing about manga. Thought he did a nice job on his costume, though.”
“Christopher Walker‘s Phantom outfit may have been the most accurate and realistic costume at the festival. He’s also been taking it to Dragon*Con for the past few years. Lee Falk’s newspaper strip character has been around for almost 80 years, and I think it’s really neat that Chris’ tribute to the character is introducing it to kids who might otherwise have never heard of The Phantom.”
“Is that Clair McLafferty?” Sadie asked.
“It is. While visiting with Allen Bellman, she received an impromptu lesson in how to strike a super-heroic pose for photographs.”
“Yeah, he drew all those great old characters for the company that eventually became Marvel Comics. He’s 89 this month. There aren’t many Golden Age artists like him left.”
“You have a message,” Sadie told me as the tablet beeped. “Or the Cobalt Club does, anyway.”
“Go ahead and open it, will you?”
My blue-haired friend read the correspondence and, with a puzzled look on her face, handed me the tablet. “You’d better take a look at this.”
I did so.
“Greetings to the Cobalt Club! Expect a visit from me very soon! Looking forward to it! Stay fabulous! The VIP.”
“Who’s the VIP?” Sadie asked.
“I have no idea. But evidently we’re going to find out.”