On the eve of an already controversial political appointment, allegations surface that suggest the once sure-thing appointee may not be the white knight in shining armor his supporters proclaim him to be. Politics, a nasty business with conflicting motives and twisted, dangerous allegiances. Anyone who tries to take it on had better be prepared for a dirty fight to the finish. And hiring Birmingham’s Best Bodyguard to watch your Six isn’t a bad idea either…
I was backstage for the after party at the recently renovated and restored Lyric Theater on 3rd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham with my client and his wife when the featured performer from tonight’s show walked in to the enthusiastic applause of the forty or so people gathered and a dozen long stemmed roses passed to her with a kiss from a tall, thick man with brown hair graying at the temples.
“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present, Mrs. Laurel Simmons!” announced the stage manager jubilantly. “Performer extraordinaire!” Even more raucous applause followed and Laurel Simmons stood beaming in blue jeans and a green silk pullover that she had changed into after leaving the stage following her last performance of the evening a half hour ago.
She blew kisses to everyone, thanked the stage manager, then turned to the man who had handed her the roses she now sniffed, smiling up at him as he leaned in for another kiss. The proud and adoring spouse, no doubt.
Someone passed her a glass of champagne and she smiled as she accepted it, taking a grateful sip. At the direction of the manager, a stagehand took the flowers, saying that she would put them in some water and leave them in Laurel’s dressing room for her.
Laurel Simmons gave her trademark wide, toothy smile to the other woman as she handed over the flowers and thanked her. Now that she had one of her hands free, she slipped it into her husband’s as he took a deep swallow from his own glass of champagne.
“Oh she looks so personable offstage,” my client’s wife said to her husband as they stared from fifteen feet away. “When we saw her perform that time in Boston I just knew how genuine she was. And that darling southern accent of hers just lends to her authenticity and sincerity when she sings.”
My client was Jonathan Briggens, a wealthy philanthropist from old Massachusetts money who liked to be seen giving a lot of it away to causes he and his wife found worthy, most of them liberal. Which explained why they were acquaintances of Nadya Shaba, Birmingham’s leading left-leaning do-gooder, and a frequent client of mine.
And yes, that is how Mr. and Mrs. Briggens came to be clients of mine tonight. Well really only Mr. Briggens, because he was the one who usually got the hate mail and death threats, but his better half was always close by his side, so…
They were only in town for a few days to attend meetings and hobnob, in fact, this was their last night and they would be flying out via private jet at nine in the morning. When Jenna Briggens saw on the news that Laurel Simmons would be performing with a local trio at the Lyric for several shows this week, she told her husband and they both wanted to go. Nadya Shaba to the rescue. She keeps a private box at the Lyric and was more than happy to allow the Briggenses to use it for this evening. She would have joined them because she is a great fan of Laurel’s as well, however another pressing engagement was engaging her tonight. So the Briggenses would have to settle for me, which they would have any way because I am, after all, their bodyguard. Well his anyway.
And damn can Laurel Simmons sing. She’s not a bad actor either.
I’ve seen videos of some of her stage performances at various theaters around the country, a few off-Broadway in New York City.
Mostly in supporting roles, but she has had her leads as well, particularly in musicals, which is fortunate considering the pipes on the woman.
According to her bio, she’s in her early fifties, but with the energy she puts out onstage, you’d be hard-pressed to believe that. I’m in my early fifties and I get exhausted just watching her. Not that watching her is such a bad thing. Oh, and the reason I’ve read her bio is because she does volunteer charity fundraising for Nadya Shaba and the Magic City Dreams Foundation, so we have met. And for that reason, I was in an excellent position to make my client’s and his wife's night by introducing them to the lady they had been gushing over.
It took about fifteen minutes, as there were a lot of people jockeying for time with Mrs. Simmons, but then we got close, and those large blue-gray eyes spotted me and she grinned widely. Hard to believe that all those perfect teeth fit into the mouth of a fifty-two year old.
“Well, Derrick Olin, as I live and breathe!” The accent is pure South Georgia, a southern-born and bred belle. “Who let you in here?”
I smiled, stepping closer, the Briggenses to my left, Mr. Simmons to my right front, Laurel directly in front of me. “Security in this place sucks. I just waltzed right in and took a seat anywhere I wanted and nobody tried to stop me.”
“Means people got good sense,” she said with a wicked look in her eyes. “Didn’t want to get their heads mashed in.” It was said with a chuckle, and I laughed, too, then turned to her husband and she introduced us. “Dave, this is that fella I told you about from Nadya’s charity. The security expert, Derrick Olin. Derrick, this is my better half, Dave. Dr. Dave, actually. David Simmons.”