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This was it, Jones realized , checking the address above the door of the small Chinese restaurant tucked into a semideserted downtown alleyway.
Or was it?
Why would Derrick Webb, her roommate and best guy friend, send her to this Lower East Side dive on a balmy Friday night in April? He promised a spectacular night on the town, the kind that could be had only in New York City. The kind of night some people never experienced--especially people who grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and didn't leave.
Jones had left. Almost a year ago now. She'd come to New York City to attend NYU and had the good fortune to hook up with Derrick early in her first semester. Since then, her life had been one wild roller-coaster ride. Nobody knew how to live life to the fullest like Derrick did. He knew all the best restaurants, coolest bars, hottest clubs.
That was how he convinced her, earlier that day, to blow off her plans to hole up in the library and study for next week's big geology test. All he had to do was remind her of the last few times they'd gone out, and wham! She was there.
But he hadn't said anything about egg rolls and pork fried rice. He said he stumbled upon the hottest underground club the city had seen in ages. A club so exclusive, so top secret, only the hottest eighteen-to-twenty-five-year-olds in town even knew where it was.
Naturally, Derrick counted himself among them.
And by being Derrick's friend, Jones was along for the ride.
She shifted her black leather bag to her other shoulder-it weighed a ton. It would have been lighter without her camera, of course, but she carried it wherever shewent. You never knew when a photo op would strike, especially on a night like this.
She ran a hand over her freshly gelled curly
dark hair and checked to make sure she'd remembered to leave her glasses back at the apartment. Sometimes she automatically put them on.
But this time, the glasses were gone. Good. They would have ruined the effect of the skillfully applied makeup, skimpy black outfit, leather boots, and jangling jewelry she'd hastily put on during her brief stop at the loft before heading over here.
Did she look like someone who belonged at ... well, whatever the name of this club was?
She glimpsed her reflection in the glass door just before she opened it.
Feeling a bit smug, she opened the door of the restaurant. There were maybe a dozen tables crowded into the small space, all of them jammed.
Derrick had told her to go through the swinging door to the kitchen.
She spotted it and hesitated for a moment. He'd said nobody would stop her. But what if she'd gotten the instructions wrong? What if this were the wrong restaurant? What if she barged into the kitchen only to get tossed out?
What if she didn't take a chance and went to the library as she'd planned?
No way, she thought, shaking her head. It was a Friday night, and she was up for something spectacular.
Jones worked her way through the, busy dining area, weaving through the maze of tables until she reached the kitchen. She paused again. Hmm. It sounded like a regular restaurant kitchen.
She cautiously poked her head through the door, wondering if this was another practical joke Derrick had played on her. just last week, he'd disguised his voice and called her from a pay phone, pretending to be offering some obscure scholarship to the first student who could name five pilgrims who sailed over on the Mayflower.
She should have known it was him. He was always on her about being from Plymouth. But she was too distracted by the promise of scholarship money, which she desperately could have used. She was halfway through the list when he burst out laughing and she realized who it was.
But this time, apparently, he'd been telling the truth. This really was an underground club.
There, amid the clattering dishes and sizzling woks and chefs conversing in rapid-fire Mandarin, she spotted another door. A small crowd of people, mostly students, gathered around it. They were dressed like they were out for a night on the town-mostly in black, the women in platforms and skimpy tops, the men with long hair, and nearly everyone with assorted piercings or tattoos. A beefy doorman seated on a stool held them at bay.
"Come on, man, I'm supposed to be on the list," a skinny guy with a goatee was saying.
"There is no list," the doorman barked back, his anus folded across his chest.
Jones pushed her way through the cluster of hopefuls until she reached the doorman.
"Hey, how are you doing?" she asked.
He nodded, his eyes skimming over her with disinterest.
She wasn't fazed. She was used to getting this kind of treatment from doorman types--before she played her ace. Which she didn't waste any time doing. "Listen, I'm with Derrick."
Ah, the magic word. Derrick. His name changed everything, of course.
The doorman broke into a grin. "Oh, yeah? Come on in."
"Hey!" objected the goatee guy, swiftly joined by protests from the rest of the crowd.
"What's up with that?"