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Never Let No One Man Worry Your Mind

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Cosmo arrived backstage, after sneaking through the trick fire escape door, less than one minute before stage time on Don's twenty-second birthday.

"Cos! Thank God you're alive, I thought my double act was about to become a single," Don said. "Where have you been?"

"In jail," Cosmo whispered back, shrugging into the jacket Don held out for him and plucking his violin from under Don's arm while Don tied his bowtie strangling-tight, swiped his face with a handkerchief and crammed his hat on his head. "Happy birthday."

Don clapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks; you're a little late, but... in where?"

"Keep your voice down," hissed Cosmo, just as a hail of applause blew the curtain back and practically deafened him. "In jail."

Don stood there gaping at him for several beats, long enough for the lion-tamer's assistant to run past them in her spangled tights and cape, and for once Don didn't take off his hat and bow at her or even spare her a twinkling smile. "How'd you get out?" Don finally settled on.

"That's our cue," said Cosmo, tucking the fiddle under his chin. "Hal Johnson came down and sweet-talked us out," and then he followed Don out on stage just as the lion's tail vanished into the wings on the other side of the stage. He didn't miss a beat for the whole routine, but he also wasn't wearing his tap shoes due to his late arrival, so it wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

They opened with "When My Baby Smiles At Me", and Cosmo doing most of the fiddling carried on Don's back went over big, especially when Don said "I sigh — " (Cosmo's fiddle answered) "I cry — "

— and Cosmo himself answered, still perched on his back, "But why?" and Don jerked his head around like he was surprised to find someone there, dropping the next line.

"Swanee" went over okay, mainly because Cosmo could play it in his sleep and he didn't have to do much of the dancing. But closing with "Fit as a Fiddle" predictably resulted in them trudging offstage in a hail of vegetables; the stagehand muttered "Nice going, fellas, I think I've got enough here for a pasta primavera!" when they met in the wings.

"You can keep 'em," Cosmo said over his shoulder. "I still think we should close with 'I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate'. Everybody loves that song."

"But I can shimmy like anybody's sister."

"Not while playing the violin." They stuffed their fiddles in the cases and each vanished in a flurry of costume as it became imperative to completely switch clothes before their turn ended in the dressing room (it was really more of a dressing closet).

"Anyway, how'd you wind up in jail?" Don complained, when they'd emerged from the dressing closet and had the space to breathe, "I left you with a couple of biddies at the Seven Arts Club, and the next thing I know you're missing the matinee on my birthday!"

"I meant to ask you," said Cosmo. "How did you manage the two-thirty show?"

Don half-growled, "You don't wanna know," slinging his arm around Cosmo's shoulders and dragging him through a musty curtain into a hallway that looked like it'd seen better days in the basement of a condemned funhouse.

Cosmo hugged him back, with both arms for once, conciliating. He still thought that of the two of them, the one who'd spent the night in jail had more right to complain, but you couldn't blame a guy for getting bent out of shape about being stood up on his birthday. "Would I ask if I didn't want to know?"

Don, like the blustery teddy bear he was, melted right away. He put one elbow casually on a giant Greek drama mask painted like a china doll and shoved one hand through his hair, making it look even more handsomely tousled. "Billy played the piano for me..."

"Billy from the quartet?" Cosmo interrupted. Billy played the sissy character in the comedy quartet; he was exactly like every other sissy in a funny act and exactly as uninteresting, and as far as Cosmo remembered he was kinda snotty and terrible at poker, but all the way from Utah he hadn't once heard him play the piano.

"Yeah, from the quartet. He just about fit your suit — lucky thing, their piano player here's a mountain. The manager didn't even notice, and he was right in the front row."

"That's great," Cosmo said.

Don nodded. "Yeah, I just hope he doesn't remember it says 'Dancing Violinists' on the playbill and the marquee."

"Look, I'm sorry, I'll buy you dinner," Cosmo offered. "At least they seem like alright guys."

"You're already buying me dinner. It's my birthday."

"And then we'll come in for drinks and go right back out again and have another dinner. Tomorrow on stage, you'll have to get up on my back, all three shows. I'll probably wind up in traction."

Don laughed. "And on top of that, you'll be broke."

 

After the late show they found a buffet, one of those "Ma's Kitchen" places, not too far from the theatrical hotel Saratoga, their ultimate destination.

The notes about the Saratoga left on the dressing room walls back at the theater all said things like, "Don't stop at the Saratoga if you've got enough dough for anywhere else" and "Call at the Saratoga for anything — drinks, tickets, all the hot tips, any kind of a wild, wild, wild time!" and "The grub is bad but you can have a party in your room and bring your own licker!"

Very bracing stuff, as Don had observed when they first saw them, but they'd stopped in enough of these places before to know their way around (usually smaller, but plenty disreputable). It did nothing but confirm the hotel's reputation, which reached far beyond its native Chicago, a name that'd been bandied in vaude with a laugh or a wink for years.

And now after years in the smalltime, here they finally were, in a big city, not because they got stranded without trainfare on the way to a half-week booking for Considine but because they were actually getting paid to perform in — well, still in the smalltime, but at least it was the smalltime in the big city! And truth be told, they were both pretty excited to stay in a place as famous as the Saratoga, a piece of real living theatre legend, even if it wasn't exactly a good one. All the big names had been seen there at one time or another: Nora Bayes, Julian Eltinge, Bert Williams, Eddie Cantor, Bee Palmer, Fred and Adele Astaire.

There was a ragtime band playing an uptempo "After You've Gone" in the hotel lounge, and the rug was literally threadbare, peeling paint on bare boards peeking through under the cafe tables where Don and Cosmo sat, far enough in the back to talk and still watch the dancers jerk and quiver around the floor. A juggler came up to demand what drinks they'd have, juggling a notebook, an empty salt shaker and a lady's hair ornament.

"Two coffees," said Cosmo.

"Spiked?" the guy asked, and left the empty salt shaker on their table when he left. Luckily he didn't feel the need to juggle their coffee cups when he came back.

Don took a sip of his, made a grimace, and took another. "Are you okay?" he asked seriously, with that soft, earnest note in his voice, and a worried hardness around the corners of his mouth.

"I'm fine," Cosmo stressed, setting the coffee down and leaning forward over the table. He could feel his elbow sticking when he set it down, but he left it there. "I was gonna tell you everything, I was just waiting until we were alone." (Don nodded, brief and sincere, eyes steady, while behind him a lady in a sort of shapeless white robe, like a ball gown made out of bathsheets, danced by with a very small monkey. Cosmo kept a straight face.) "First of all, those weren't biddies I was drinking with when you left, they were fem imps — I assume you remember female impersonators? We've both known them from infancy."

Don coughed into his hand. "Well, they weren't exactly Hal or Bisceaux! They were old enough to be your mother, but I beg your pardon, then: I left you with some fem imps at the Seven Arts and you wound up in jail."

"Well, it happened like this. After a few more drinks, when I was giving some instruction in the Black Bottom — " ("Oh, you were," Don muttered,) " — dancing the Black Bottom, Bessie got to talking about a Turkish bathhouse, and we all decided we should go."

"A Turkish bathhouse!" said Don. "You got arrested in a bathhouse? I didn't even think there were any bathhouses in Towertown!"

Cosmo eyed Don over his coffee. "We went down to hobohemia."

Don put his hand up with the coffee cup still in it, nearly shooting out of his chair to grab the attention of another waiter (not a juggling one, and this one was wearing a black jacket, so he might even have been a normal waiter). "Another," he said, pausing to knock back the rest of the coffee, "without the coffee, and make it a double."

"I'm fine, thanks," Cosmo answered the man's questioning look.

"You went to a Turkish bathhouse in hobohemia? Why?" Don whispered as soon as his back was turned.

Cosmo said patiently, "You mean besides looking for homosexual sex?"

"Well..." Don gave him a searching look. "I mean, you get by, don't you?"

"You know I have, Don. But the fellas in Turkish bathhouses aren't getting by. They're fatcats. They're... swimming in it. And you've gotta admit hobohemia's got you a little curious, too."

"Not that curious," protested the same little boy who had maintained for years that it was perfectly safe for him to jump off the roof of the Bijou (give Don credit for consistency: he'd never have let Cosmo jump off the roof, even as he earned a killing in pennies from the neighborhood boys wanting to see him do it).

"Well, there was a lot of alcohol involved in our decision," Cosmo acknowledged. "But I still say hobohemia's worth seeing. And surely the cops can't hit it more than once a week, right?"

Don picked up the double the waiter had brought him and drained it steadily, without even a wince. Of course, Don had always been a good actor.

"Maybe it'd be all right," said Don, "if you didn't go alone."

"That's the spirit!" said Cosmo, and started humming "Never Let No One Man Worry Your Mind": "Now suppose some vampire gets him alone? You couldn't find your daddy with a fine-tooth comb."

(Actually, he was lucky he hadn't been there alone: one of those bunch of old fellas must have been pals with Hal Johnson, who'd swanned in dressed to the nines at the crack of dawn, looking so much like Lillian Gish it was uncanny, and talked all of them right out of the jail and off the books.)

Don, lost in his own thoughts, instead of singing the next line replied, "No more bathhouses though?"

"Don't worry. I can wait until we make it out to Frisco," Cosmo told him.

 

The quartet Don and Cosmo owed a favor to was called The Four Adams, and they toured as Herb, Billy, Isaac and Milo Adams. Endira the unicyclist had told Cosmo the day the quartet first appeared on the circuit that two of the four were actually brothers, but nobody could ever say which two. They weren't the best or the worst comedy quartet going, and they didn't have anything you hadn't seen before, but the slapstick was good for a couple of laughs and they seemed like alright guys.

On stage they did exactly the characters you'd expect, exactly the way you'd expect them to do them: Herb played the straight man, complete with a boater hat and stock tie; Billy played the "sissy boy", the same character they'd seen in about a thousand comedy acts before; Isaac played a "Hebrew", with a thick New York immigrant accent; and Milo, who was about four foot high, played the "tough guy", dressed in a turtleneck and a fake black eye. Off stage Isaac was the affable member of the bunch, often sitting in for a hand of poker or lending a hand, and the rest seemed to keep to themselves, although Billy had already earned a name as a bit of a practical joker.

It was Isaac who sidled up to Cosmo and Don after the quartet's last performance Thursday, offered them a light (they didn't smoke), and asked if they had any plans for tonight.

"Just the usual, Isaac, you know, hitting the town," said Don. "Why, is there something we can do for you?"

"We were hoping Cosmo here could lend us a hand with the show tomorrow."

"Well, Cos's gotta be onstage for our act, still." Cosmo, right behind Don's shoulder, crossed his arms and adopted a concerned-but-attentive frown.

"Oh yeah, no question. There's a good half hour between your act and ours, and Billy — that's our problem, Billy's dame won some prime tickets for the Yanks game right behind home plate — we can trim his part down a little, shouldn't give you any trouble."

Cosmo caught Don's eye, then said, "Sure, if you guys want I can take a look at it."

"You're at the Saratoga, aren't you? We'll catch up with you after the last show," Isaac beamed, slapping them both on the shoulder with enough force to make his belly jiggle, then slapping Cosmo's shoulder again for good measure, and they all shook on it just as many times.

Isaac made for the dressing closets to get out of his makeup, twirling his big black hat on his finger, but the grin was still fixed on Don's face long enough for Cosmo to seize his hand and pump it enthusiastically up and down and get the full Don smile with the deep showman's dimples that looked like they'd been screwed into his cheeks. "Wonderful, wonderful," Cosmo said, patting Don's hand rightside up and then upside down, until the dimples faded back to sincere levels.

Don extricated his hand with a farewell pat, murmuring, "Yeah... Cos, are you sure you're okay with it? I mean doing the sissy part?"

"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?" Cosmo said, keeping his voice even.

Don gave him a quick frown. "I mean — I don't like you having to do it." Then at Cosmo's stony silence he stepped closer and lowered his voice to explain in a rush, "Listen, I don't mean anything by it, you know that! These acts are a million miles away from the real world, and if you don't like it —"

"Would anybody in their right mind like that act?" Cosmo interjected — he had to say something before Don had a heart attack. "But it's just showbiz. I can do it."

"You could do all four of their parts — at once. And make it better."

Knowing he meant that went a long way. "I can't become a quick-change act because my partner's terrible at costume changes," Cosmo retorted.

That won a thin smile. "I guess it'll be all right," said Don, tweaking Cosmo's boutonniere.

Looking for reassurance, the big lug, thought Cosmo fondly, and gave it: "Here's hoping."

 

When they were invited into the quartet's room — the Saratoga being overall too noisy for any kind of rehearsal — Herb answered the door in his suspenders and shirtsleeves, and said accusingly to Isaac, "Hey, I thought this feller was just a piano player!"

Loyal Don said indignantly, "He can dance, too!"

Isaac scoffed and shouldered his presumed brother out of the way. "Geez, you don't pay attention to nothing. They're dancing violinists!"

Milo, in charge of costuming, produced a length of red and gestured at Cosmo to turn up his collar. "Red's the sissy color," he explained unnecessarily, flipping it expertly into place and tying it.

"I have my own red tie," Cosmo said.

"I figured," Milo snorted, "but look," and pointed at the mirror. The new tie was probably made special: it was about twice as big as a regular bow-tie. Cosmo shrugged, and Milo handed him the sissy's soft felt hat. He put it on and turned the brim up in front in the approved sissy manner. (Why sissy characters always did this was a mystery that had vexed him since the age of ten. He hadn't seen any of those hats at the Seven Arts Club, or round the back alleys after the theaters closed, or at the Turkish bathhouse — not that anyone had been wearing hats in there.)

Isaac handed Cosmo a copy of the script, but he didn't really need it. He'd seen their act and dozens like it. The "sissy" role consisted of lifting his nose in the air, pursing his mouth a few times, and doing a voice. Their routine started with a patter about a little dog, then Isaac as the "Hebe" started in about selling hot dogs and a lot of kinds of German food, and they somehow got around to Milo asking everybody what they said about his girl and offering to fight his brothers, the card table, the door, Herb's umbrella, and himself. Cosmo dodged a couple of hits with bladders, kicked Herb in the pants, and got it in the face with the umbrella before pretending to faint and getting dragged offstage, or in this case, over to the wall.

Milo caught his eye and gave him a nod and Herb threw him a thumbs-up, but Billy'd waltzed in near the beginning of the act and stood by the door, smoking scornfully. "It's not exactly what I pictured," he sniffed, dragging his eyes up to Cosmo's head and then flicking his gaze dismissively back to Isaac.

"You're no Julian Eltinge yourself," Cosmo snapped, and three quarters of the quartet guffawed.

"He's got you, Bill," said Isaac. "You fellas want a drink before we run through it again?"

 

Cosmo had once seen Julian Eltinge perform.

In 1907, when both of his parents had still been around, and Don had been on the road with his ma for the last time, the Browns had decided to liven up the long summer by taking Cosmo and his sisters to Chicago to see the brand new Orpheum vaudeville theater.

Theater had been their nursery and their playpen, and Cos's 15-year-old sister had even got steady work there alongside their pa in the orchestra pit. But the good old hometown Bijou, located inside a department store, was nothing to the majesty of the Orpheum. Little Cosmo had felt transported to a magical world. The Orpheum was what he imagined it must be like on Broadway, or in Paris. The front doors were guarded over by Greek statues around a huge archway; the seats inside were plush velvet, and there was a balcony ringed with brass railings.

Even at the age of six Cosmo had heard of Julian Eltinge, the greatest female impersonator in the world. The vaudevillians were proud to call him one of their own; they were saying he was headed for the legitimate stage (in fact, he'd made it there by 1910, and moved on to conquer Hollywood a few years later, building mansions on both coasts and no doubt bathing in champagne daily.) The fem imps they'd gotten in the Bijou were usually comedians, doing an impression of their aunt or granny, but Cosmo had met a few serious glamour gals who'd sit chatting with a little boy and let him watch while their dressers — the fem imps all had female dressers in charge of their wardrobes — mended and ironed their dresses.

It was a friendly fem imp named Gilda (his real name was George) who had introduced Cos to the legend of Eltinge, though. Cos'd heard the chatter and seen the playbills, but Gilda — he let Cosmo choose what to call him — had seen Eltinge on Broadway, had even met him, and he had a signed photo of him as Salome in his makeup case that he took down and handed to Cos. The artistry was sublime, he'd said. Eltinge was a real swell fellow, too, he was just in a class of his own. Salome was the greatest act he'd ever seen, Gilda swore blind, and looking at the picture, the big eyes and soft curls and the magnificent headdress, Cosmo had been imprinted with the force of his second-hand awe.

At the Orpheum, Cosmo was just one little boy in a sea of thousands. The stage was so far away they must have hardly been able to see him, but Cosmo's imagination had filled in the gaps: he could still see Julian Eltinge in his mind's eye even now, a vision of loveliness in a costume made of gauzy veils, spangles and metal bells. (Eltinge hadn't even performed Salome that day.) It was a fond memory, one he'd mulled over a lot, especially around the ages of fourteen and fifteen, wondering what it had been like to meet him and get that signed photograph, and if he might get the chance one day.

In real life Hal Johnson was the biggest-name fem imp Cosmo had ever met, and none of the things he'd imagined about getting signed photos had ever happened. They'd talked a little backstage, shaken hands and exchanged names, then made eye contact a year later at the Seven Arts Club and arranged an assignation for later that evening in the Turkish bathhouse.

The reality was amazingly simple, in the end. Cosmo hadn't had a thing to do with Hal's waistcoat or his shirt, let alone one of his gowns. That famed likeness to Lillian Gish had been the last thing on his mind, too, until the next morning. It wasn't all that evident when he wasn't wearing a wig.

... And that probably explained why the management hadn't noticed the piano player in Cosmo's suit being shorter on Don's birthday, and why half-a-dozen guys shook Cos's hand after the late show Friday night as he filed by between Herb and Isaac in his floppy red tie and makeup and his felt hat. Two of them called him "Billy", one called him "Bill", and not one of them looked at him twice.

Cosmo stealthily gave the Adamses back their tie and hat, washed the makeup off his face to restore his usual appearance, and went looking for Don, who was waiting at their dressing closet, already in evening clothes, and he had Cosmo's all laid out on the trunk. "Your greatest performance ever," he said, then grinned and dodged away from Cosmo's not-so-accidentally flailing elbow. "Seriously, though, you had me completely fooled — you were just like a guy who's not very funny and thinks the Dill Pickle Club is a New York City sandwich joint."

"You'd never heard of the Dill Pickle Club until I told you about it yesterday," Cosmo grumbled.

Don just grinned sunnily. "Then it's a good thing I've got you, isn't it?"

 

What Jack Jones's Dill Pickle Club actually was was the most talked-about destination of hobohemia. But unlike the Turkish baths, dive bars and brothels, it was located in bohemian Towertown, where they'd been before. They joined the trickle through the nondescript door in a brick edifice into the smoky interior of a coffeehouse. Don stared around him in fascination at the mixture of ladies and gents in eveningwear and less reputable, bedraggled types — and less reputable still, students.

They ordered coffee and watched the stage from a distance. There was a lot of stocking on display and some nice legs, but with the amount of noise in the club, more was hard to tell at that distance — the voice was indistinct, he couldn't even make out the piano melody. A couple of gentlemen a little way from them started an argument about the Black Sox scandal that quickly came to blows and one guy bellowing, "You ain't even good enough to suck Shoeless Joe's John Thomas!"

Cosmo edged away from the action — he'd already been arrested enough for one trip — and Don trailed after him, sipping his coffee and beaming, "Lovely crowd you've got here." Before Cosmo could come back with a joke, he ran into Hal Johnson again — literally, this time.

"Whoa," said Hal, catching him with a hand on the breast pocket of his waistcoat and another on his shoulder and setting him back on his feet, "hello again —" and with a glance at Don, he let go and added quickly, "Cosmo, isn't it? And Donald."

Don reached across Cosmo to shake Hal's hand with real sincerity. "Hal, it's good to see you again! How are you? I want to thank you, I heard I owe you for getting Cosmo here out of prison —"

"We were in lockup, Don, not prison," Cosmo sighed.

But Hal laughed, "Don't mention it! I was glad to help out. I was just lucky I was out of there already, or I'd've been scooped up with the rest of the guys! And if Cosmo here had listened to me, he wouldn't have gotten pinched, either."

That got Don's attention. If he were a dog, his ears would be pricking up, Cosmo observed dismally, but Don only answered with friendly curiosity, "Really? Cosmo didn't say anything about this."

Hal blinked and glanced at Cosmo with a sudden air of speculation which didn't fade at all when Cosmo said, "I don't like to go out with my hair wet," and Don answered promptly,

"You shouldn't, you'll catch cold."

From the look on his face, Hal had a completely different interpretation of the conversation they were having than Don, who had fancied himself a big brother since his and Cosmo's first meeting in 1904. Hal, on the other hand, seemed to have cast Don as the lover and was still trying to decide whether he was the jealous type. Cosmo was an old hand at disabusing guys of that misconception, but it was going to be a lot harder with Don sticking to his shoulder like a simpering limpet. Hal wasn't likely to tell anyone, and Cosmo had already decided at the bathhouse not to go to bed with him again, so...

"Listen, are you fellas...?" Hal was saying. Cos sighed and let it happen.

"He's my partner," said Don, too suddenly and too sincerely, and wrapped his arm all the way around Cosmo, tucking him effortlessly under a no-doubt bulging bicep.

Hal gulped "I see," wide-eyed, and hastily excused himself.

Up on the stage a redheaded fem imp crooned "All the fellows, thin or fat — the long ones, the short ones — I grab them off like that!" with a lewd gesture that garnered some raucous applause.

"They say he looks like Lillian Gish," Don remarked, watching Hal leave. "I don't see it, do you?"

"I've seen it, but I won't be seeing it anymore," said Cosmo, with a touch of nostalgia.

 

The next day while Cosmo was tuning their fiddles before the matinee, Don tap-danced into the dressing closet and started singing a medley of "You'd Be Surprised" and "I'm Gonna Do It If I Like It".

"What's got you so happy?" Cosmo demanded.

Don just kept singing, "At a party or at a ball I've got to admit that he's nothing at all, but in a Morris chair..."

"I'd be surprised?"

"Cos, today is a great day. My best pal got arrested in a Turkish bathhouse, but he's not in jail. Last night I learned some fantastic alternate lyrics to 'They Go Wild, Simply Wild Over Me' (by the way, maybe we should add it to our act). And after today, The Adams Four are leaving the circuit."

That was the first Cosmo had heard of it. "What, really?"

"The lyrics are probably a little blue, you're right... maybe we'd better make it an instrumental."

"The Adamses are actually leaving, though?"

"You hadn't heard? It seems they're from Chicago. Little Billy asked his girl to marry him yesterday right behind home plate, and she said yes. He's hanging up his red bow tie and his felt hat for good, and Herb and Isaac are going to take over their daddy's meat-packing plant."

"What about Milo?" said Cosmo.

"He was already engaged, to The Great Serafina, didn't you know? He's joining the lion act," said Don, and burst back into song right on the beat. "And if a handsome man with wondrous arms should wanna hold me tightly in his arms, I'm gonna do it if I like it..."

"I'd be surprised," Cosmo finished for him, raising an eyebrow.

Don laughed along with him. "All right, maybe that one was your line."

The entire time the lion act had been on the circuit with them, a matter of almost six months, The Great Serafina (who was actually from Idaho and named Diane, according to Endira the unicyclist) had not spoken one word to Don or Cosmo.

She wasn't rude about it, just unconcerned, like she moved on a higher plane of wildlife and red velvet coats with epaulettes and legs that looked nice in men's trousers. Since the cage-cleaner was such a no-account drunken sot, the only member of the act on speaking terms with them (or most of the other acts) was her assistant, the one in the spangled tights, who was either Vera or Veronica.

Today, though, Serafina passed Cosmo in the wings before her act — without her lion, which Vera-Veronica would bring out later in a wheeled cage — and gave him a nod and a cheerful smile. "Great show today," she called over her shoulder, "much better than on Monday when you only played the piano!"

"Well, it's a reasonable mistake. If she'd heard the real you play the piano, she'd know you're even better at it than the fiddle," was Don's comment when Cosmo told him later. "But, Cos, about last night..."

"Come on, it's already forgotten," said Cosmo, who had his fingers poised on the piano keys and was itching to try out an idea he'd had for a John Philip Sousa-style "I've Got My Captain Working for Me Now."

"I mean it, Cos, if you liked him I can clear it up," Don insisted.

Cosmo snorted. "I'd like to see you try."

"I just feel bad about it. I wasn't trying to chase him off, for once! And I know you've told me before to cut it out with the big brother act..."

"Don, listen to me," Cosmo said, finally turning to face him. "I'm not mad, and you didn't step on my toes, all right? I let you do it. I wouldn't've let you if I liked him."

Squinting in deliberation, Don said, "Well, if you're sure."

"I'm sure. When I really like one, you'll be the first to know, even if he's a vampire, or Julian Eltinge, or a vampire AND Julian Eltinge."

"You mean to say if you were stepping out with Julian Eltinge, and he was a vampire, you'd really introduce us, in spite of the risk of my big brother act chasing him off?"

"Sure. What's the point in having a fella if he can't get along with your best pal?"

"Vampire Julian Eltinge," Don mused. "If you're willing to go that far, I guess I could even follow you to a Turkish bathhouse."

Cosmo winced. "I think we'd both rather you didn't."

"I can just stand by ready to come up with the bail money, then," Don agreed calmly. "As long as you promise to call me."

The note of seriousness in his voice drew Cosmo up short. "I would — of course I would. Always!"

"You didn't call me on Monday," he pointed out. All the mild playfulness of before had drained away.

When Don met his eyes now, it was surprisingly without a trace of worry: just that look of challenge that brought Cosmo back to 1911, when his parents had decided to move back to Pennsylvania, and he and Don had first struck out on their own. "Let's go, right now, before morning," Don had whispered, "let's get on the train with the actors," and Cosmo had never looked back.

"Hey," said Cosmo, "don't get the wrong idea, here. I was ready to call as soon as they let me at a telephone! You think we were at the Ritz, with a handset on the bedside table? I was stuck in a drunk tank with about twenty other fellas, and my first chance to reach a phone was when Hal showed up and sprung us. And by that time my main concern was getting back here by curtain time."

Don looked at him for a long moment, reading in his face that he really meant it. Then he relaxed like a puppet when you drop the strings. "All right, then," he said. "Warm up your fingers. I think I've figured out how to shimmy with the violin."