“Listen, man: the whole thing happened in a flash, just like every other night. How this Smart guy ever got into the States is totally beyond me, but he had been sleeping in the basement on and off for weeks. He made himself a little room out of leftover pieces of the sign from the Luxe Hotel. That’s right, just there by the water. What a place that was! Some of the kindest women I’ve ever met, and a few very nice boys to boot. Hoo, there was something for everyone in that place. Sure, sure, by the hour, probably by the minute if you were in a pinch. I think they had some kind of union or something to keep the cops out. But it could never last…
“Anyway, Smart was a funny kind of name for this character. He was great with his hands, I’ll give him that. But if he couldn’t get a situation between those two big biscuit-grabbers, then there wasn’t much he had to offer. Anyway, we didn’t ask questions, and we definitely were not going to tear down that doghouse he had put together for himself. It was filthy down there, but somehow he always managed to keep himself tidy. Couldn’t have had more than a couple suits, but they were always nice looking even if they didn’t fit him quite right. He might have lost some weight along the way or something.
“Needless to say, he and that cat Cat had some history, they went way back. And I don’t see how they could have met at the house by accident, that seems incredibly unlikely. But I’ve always appreciated coincidences, so who knows, right? In any case, Smart didn’t talk much. He worked at some Slav bar or something, it wasn’t really a place you went into unless you spoke the language. And I don’t just mean you knew what the words meant, you kinda had to be ‘in,’ if you understand. There were a lot of rumors about what went on in there, but that’s probably true of a thousand places here. And at the end of the day, it was hard to argue with what he had to say when he did say something. The anarchists loved him, I think they thought he was authentic or something, and he did come up with cash here and there, so there wasn’t much reason to unload him.
“Boy, when Cat saw him it was one of the strangest things. He hadn’t been with us long before he saw the doghouse in the basement, and I really think he might have known even then. When we described Smart to him, there was no question. So when they finally met in that little doorway, Cat went on the offensive, and I thought there was going to be violence immediately, but it was all some kind of ritual or something. Cat walked right up to Smart and pressed his nose into his cheek. Smart just stood there, looking straight ahead, and then grabbed him by the neck and they hugged each other. But it wasn’t like brothers or friends exactly, it felt more like a test, like who would give first. Or maybe who could squeeze tighter without making it look like they were struggling. Either way, they both took a deep breath and walked inside. Damndest thing I had seen in a while, and honestly we didn’t know who to back. At least I didn’t.
“You know, Jack always talks about how sorry he was not to have been there that day, but it obviously was for the best. I can’t imagine adding one more personality into that mix, and Jack turned out to be Cat’s best shot anyway. He had enough crazy stories at this place anyway. Did I tell you the whole thing about Sly Stone? Man oh man…”
“Anyway, those two spent the whole afternoon talking in the room Cat was sleeping in. That’s right: Billy One-Shoe! You’re learning fast! I gotta say, real fast: I love me some Billy One-Shoe. There’s a bunch of stories there with that one-shoed sonofabitch. Great guy.
“Anyway, anyway: they get done with their talk, and everyone gives them their space, and the conclusion is to have a party. But Cat goes through this whole list of things we need, and we can only invite certain people that he has met, and every one of us has to be there. It was pretty complicated, and we really only had a week. It might have been some kinda anniversary for them or something, but they had a date in mind for sure. I could tell Cat was a nostalgic sorta guy, and I like that about him. So there’s gonna be a big party, and Smart is just sitting there on the bed, with Cat standing in front of him, telling us all about the party plans. He doesn’t say much generally, but he said to all of us: ‘it must go all night.’ It must go all night? He has obviously forgotten what parties are like here, rules or not. Looking back, the whole thing sounds crazy, right? It definitely does not sound like someone is about to get killed, right?
“Yeah, the money. I didn’t take any part in that. But they got the money, I didn’t want to know how. Listen, man, I just clean up in here. I love a lot of these people, but what they did…I know they were trying to help Cat, I know that. And I know what I saw, too. The thing of it is, you should just ask Aunt Sandy. She was front and center for it, right in the thick of things, and she was the star witness anyway, wasn’t she?”
But I couldn’t ask Aunt Sandy, and I didn’t need to anyway. The one event in this whole sordid affair which was about as well-described as anyone could possibly have asked was the party. It was clear someone had thought to write down everything they could recall in the order it happened, as if their life depended upon it. For all I know, it may have. Someone may have died, and someone may have gotten off for it. There was definitely wine, and there may have been blood besides