Chapter 17

It is not enough to conquer; one must know how to seduce.

- Voltaire, Merope

Bill, Dan and Gary slid into the corner booth of Dempsey's American Kitchen, which looked as much like a Denny's as anything else. Dan had asked to sit at a booth in the back where it would be easier for Bill to eat unseen. The waitress brought only one menu so they had to share it. Dan took Bill's order and ordered two breakfast platters, telling the waitress he was very, very hungry. He and Bill decided it would be less suspicious to share a coffee so they asked for a pot for the table.

Bill examined Gary and found that he had a flawless head with soft, green skin. The body, on the other hand, was misshapen and was mottled with brown spots. Its left front paw looked damaged and he had marks resembling scars all over his torso. Bill guessed he'd been in a few fights in his time.

The food came, and they devoured it with abandon. Just as they finished eating, a party of three were seated at the booth next to them. For once, Dan didn't know them but they appeared to share his seemingly perpetual hangover. They were three women in their late twenties, Dan guessed. They looked a bit older and it was their manner that made him think they were younger. They looked cheap and used up by life. All three chain-smoked and wore conspicuously too much make-up. Bill said they looked like strippers and got up to take Gary outside so Dan got and went to the bathroom to make it easier to explain why he'd gotten up to let his ghost leave.

When Dan returned to the booth, the blonde in the next booth began talking to him. "Just getting in or just going out?" She asked.

"Out." He replied.

"You look like I feel. Late night?" She continued.

"Late week." Dan quipped.

She laughed easily and the other two women laughed with her. "Have a seat." She commanded, and slid over to make room for him. He found himself sitting down without really knowing why. "I'm Britney." She said, extending a bony hand. Dan shook it. She gestured to her two companions. "This is Georgia and Aurora." They giggled and poured him a cup of coffee.

"Thanks." He said, sipping from the cup.

"You from around here?" Georgia asked. She didn't have a southern drawl, which Dan had half expected. Georgia had light brown hair and brown eyes. Tattoos peeked out from under her clothing almost everywhere skin was visible and she had piercings on her ears, eyebrow and tongue.

"Used to be. I grew up a few blocks from here but I've lived in California for twenty years now. San Francisco, actually. Dan admitted.

Their eyes widened. "San Francisco!" Aurora repeated. She had darker brown hair than Georgia but brighter eyes. She looked softer than the other girls and had no visible tattoos or piercings, except for one in each ear. She was also very thin. She unzipped her big down overcoat and revealed a plunging neckline and ample cleavage. From what Dan could see, she had a very good body.

Britney also undid her jacket and she was similarly well endowed. She was wearing a revealing silky blouse. "It's getting warm in here." She said. Georgia was flat-chested by comparison but all three were well-built and temptation was written on them. "Wow. California. I've always wanted to go there. What's it like there?"

They all leaned in and the four of them chatted amiably for a few minutes. Dan was enjoying the flirting but began wondering where Bill was. It wasn't like him to disappear for this long. He chuckled to himself over worrying about Bill. After all, what could happen to a person who was already dead? While they were talking, Dan felt Britney's hand come to rest on his leg. He flinched but said nothing. It felt good, really, and the attention was pleasant. During a break in the conversation, Britney leaned over and whispered in his ear. "Is there someplace we can all go?" As she said it, he felt her squeeze the bulge in his jeans. Suddenly, he knew the game and realized he had to make a graceful exit as quickly as possible.

He sat up straight, brushing her hand away gently. "I'm sorry. I'm in town this week because my grandmother passed away. Her viewing is in a couple of hours and I've got a lot to do to get ready for it." Dan informed them.

Undaunted, Britney continued. "Not even for an hour?"

Dan wrestled himself out of the booth stood up quickly. "No. Sorry about that. It was very nice meeting you ladies." They laughed at that and turned back to themselves, dismissing him once again to the grey, foggy morning. He left a tip on his table and got out of the diner as quickly as he could.

He found Bill outside with Gary. "You left me alone with those ... girls."

"I tried to warn you." Bill said.

"I thought you were joking." Dan replied.

"Nope. They all had that stripper look." Bill said again.

"Well, I'm pretty sure you were right." Dan conceded. "Can we get out of here?"

"Yeah. Let me just say so long to Gary here." Bill turned to the lizard in the palm of his hand. "Okay, Gary. Take us to your leader." Gary was gone in a flash and ran and flitted in short bursts from puddle to puddle before disappearing up a tall tree. From a tall branch Gary lept into the air and spread his arms wide, which stretched the skin between into small wing like structures. To Dan and Bill's amazement, Gary appeared to fly on the swirling winds and they quickly lost him in the morning fog.

"Well that was unexpected." Dan chuckled. "But I guess I should be used to the unexpected by now."


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