Solomon got to the bar at 7pm and settled himself on a barstool waved for the bartenders attention and lit a cigarette.
“What can I get you Sir?”
He ordered a Bloody Mary, which the bartender placed carefully in front of him.
”Thanks - add it to my tab”.
The bar was starting to fill with the young skiing crowd and some other guests Solomon wasnt familiar with. He scanned the faces in the bar to see if any matched the photograph he'd seen.....no such luck......though a heavily built type was most definitely eyeballing him.
Just as he was deciding to do something about it Julia and Allesandro arrived. After exchanging pleasantries – there was some discussion about who else was sitting at their table. Julia had a knack for attracting admirers – and had already near enough invited a New York political high-flyer by the name of Dwight Albert to dine with them.
He also noticed there was a certain amount of frostiness when Julia was introduced to Albert's attractive sister Alice who seemed to be shyly lurking in his shadow
The introductions done Solomon put out his cigarette and excused himself with “I'll catch you good folks later, I've got to speak to someone”
He eased himself off the barstool leaving them debating about whether to invite a dishevelled looking artistic type or not...........dinner would either be interesting or like watching paint dry...........literally.
Ambling across the bar, Solomon approached the thickset character who had been looking his way earlier. Another brawler.
“Something I can help you with friend? I dont think we've met but I couldnt help noticing you looking my way earlier...........”
After a long stare which Solomon met “Yeah – were you involved in the trouble on the Lower West Side a while back?”
“Not me – must have been some other guy” Solomon replied.
He was aware of the mobs involvement in the trouble referred to but hadnt taken part not being overkeen on such grubby activities as hand to hand brawling.
At that point the dinner bell rang.............”No harm done then”
Solomon turned and wandered through to the dining room locating his table with a wave from Julia.
In the first of several attempts to impress Julia, Dwight Albert “bought” the sommellier with the discreet application of a $50 bill as an incentive.
Here was someone worth knowing - poised and wore wealth easily.
By contrast Quigley appeared to be trying to travel to the opposite end of the spectrum with some gratuitous attention seeking ….......................
“I am a friend of the Green Fairy; she is a tender lover and leaves me intoxicated by her verdant beauty”.
Quigley waved for the sommelier and ordered something in a conspiratorial schoolyard whisper. Shortly a bottle of absinthe arrived along with a bowl of sugar cubes and a carafe of ice water. Dwight stared into the distance, saying nothing, Solomons disdain was written across his face for all to see.
The absinthe was passed around, out of curiosity more than anything, Solomon declined none too politely, dismissing it as brainrot
The conversation plummeted to new depths when Quigley pontificated extensively on surrealism.............
“I fear that when it came to true surreality, I found them wanting. They, for their part, found me too disturbing – however, Miss Somersby, I think that you would find their choice of words intriguing, not dérangé but affolé”
Julia stiffened in her seat. He certainly was disturbing, that his former colleagues described him as terrifying made her even more fascinated, despite herself. He flicked his ash onto the floor as he spoke.
“They would have nothing more to do with me. I came home via London and sojourned there for a week or two; whilst I was there, I had the pleasure of meeting two very interesting gentlemen, Charles Bennett and George Jones, who describe themselves as mystics. And of course, I had the splendid good fortune to meet Arthur Rackham himself. I greatly admire his style – are you familiar with it?" He scanned their faces for a response, seemingly keen to begin a discussion. After the pause he continued.
"Of course, his work is not to all tastes and some find him frightening. He took me into his confidence and told me that he has several pieces for which he was unable to find an exhibitor. No-one dared show them. I resolved to make every effort to see them one day”
Quigleys presence at the table was it appeared Alessandros doing............
"Mr Quigley told me he is working on some pieces here in this very hotel," his face lit up with enthusiasm "I would certainly like to see them". Quigley shrugged with the faintest hint of embarrasment. as did Solomon with a large dose of utter indifference
“Signor Mancini is correct, although my doctor would throw up his hands in despair were he to hear of it. I was sent here for complete rest due to a nervous collapse before Christmas but I found that I was wholly unable to remain inactive. This place is utterly conducive to my work – it affects me, drawing out the visions within. I have such dreams as art is made of. Signor Mancini has displayed an interest in seeing my work – I wonder if anyone else at the table might consider a private viewing later, once dinner is over?”
“I'd rather blow my own kneecaps off” Solomon thought as he carried on stoically chewing, heavy lidded and watching the dispute come to a head between Messrs Albert and Quigley
Not to be outdone Dwight interrupted, throwing his napkin down before him.
“I am not in the slightest bit interested in decadent, nay, degenerate artwork of this nature.”
“Well said, nor am I” thought Solomon catching Dwight's eye and rolling his eyes
“ I can see you for what you are, sir – a louche dilettante, sucking the life out of the American art world with your morally fraudulent obscenities”
Quigley leant back, gesturing towards Dwight with a dismissive flap of his hand.
“Obscenities? You are a representative of the society that sent millions to their deaths in barbed wire and mud for a failed vision and you have the gall to talk to me of obscenities?”
Now this was getting interesting............
Julia stared uncomfortably at the growing argument. Alessandro stuffed another morsel into his already crammed mouth. When the volume increased Al was almost on his feet, showing his palms to the two men in a bid for calm. Solomon watched – his money was on Dwight Albert if it came to fisticuffs...............
Quigley turned to Julia.
“Miss Somersby, if I have offended and insulted you by my actions at the table, I apologise. In you, I recognise a kindred spirit, a rebel and a fighter against the shackles of society. In honour of your integrity and that alone, I shall provoke no further; might we continue this discussion after dinner?”
She laughed, a little too loudly. "Mr Quigley, I don't know about that . . ." Then seeing the pain growing quickly in his eyes the smile vanished, her voice determined as she heard herself say "Yes, of course. We can talk later, I'd be delighted."
Their meal continued with Quigley and Dwight giving each other frosty glances across the table but remaining restrainedly polite. As dinner ended and the table staff cleared away the plates, bottles and glasses, there was an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” called a voice. They looked over to see a smiling young man,Tommy Milner
“I’m pleased to announce that the Green Mountain ballroom is now open for dancing; we have Miss Grace La Rue and Fred Mulrooney backed by Sly and Lefty Fitzgerald. Rudi at the bar tells me he has giggle water aplenty for those who haven’t had enough at their tables”
Solomon felt the rare need for more “giggle water” after that conversation.............
Julia made a quick exit, taking a final slurp of champagne near dragging Alessandro onto the dancefloor.
His mind made up partly to make some enquiries and mostly to get away from Quigley Solomon excused himself, shaking hands with Dwight and an abrupt nod to Quigley as the strains of the first dance started.
Solomon made his way to Reception..............
**Credit due to both Dungeonmum and Daddy Grognard.........I've just adapted this to my characters point of view.**