Authors: Gary Gusick
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Where real-life, public or historical figures or places appear or are referenced, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning or referencing those persons are entirely fictional and are not intended to change the entirely fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An Alibi eBook Original
Copyright Â© 2015 by Gary Gusick
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Alibi, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
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colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
Cover design: Scott Biel
Cover image: (sunglasses) Alan Keohane/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
There are more than eighty-five thousand Elvis Presley impersonators in the world.
Everything else in this book.
The poster at the entrance of the multipurpose room at the Clarion Hills Senior Residence Center displayed a full-length photo of a portly man in his late thirties. His dark hair was slicked into a pompadour, with the sides combed back. The look was completed with four-inch razor-cut muttonchops that covered most of his round face. He was dressed in a white silk jumpsuit and cape, studded with red, blue, and yellow rhinestones in a wave pattern.
OFFICER ELVIS TONIGHT
appeared above the photo, hand stenciled in gold letters.
Standing backstage, Tommy Reylander pulled the entertainment director, Otis Dupree, close to him and whispered in the man's ear, using his tough-guy voice: “For the record, it ain't Officer Elvis. Officer is what you call somebody who rides in a patrol car and wears a uniform, giving out traffic tickets, and pinching your drunk drivers; in other words, a low-level law enforcement type. That ain't me. I've been a detective with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department for four years now. I earned that designation by putting my life on the line for the state of Mississippi. I deserve to be recognized for my accomplishment.” It had taken Tommy Reylander ten long years to make the grade of detective. Okay, it was the slowest ascent in the history of the department. But why add that part? Tommy looked Otis in the eye. “From now on, it's
. Understood?” Tommy palmed him an Abraham to seal the deal.
Otis looked down at the bill. “Whatever,” he said, seeing it was a fiver, then frowning like he had been expecting more.
Tommy took his place behind the curtain as Otis switched on the backstage mic. “And now,” Otis's voice boomed over the loudspeaker, “the moment we've all been waiting for. Live on our stage, from the Hinds County Sheriff's Department, Tommy âDetective Elvis' Reylander!”
Tommy reached up and pulled a spit curl down over his forehead, adjusted the Spanx he wore under the jumpsuit for maximum slimming effect, and stepped from behind the curtain.
The audience, all sixty-five of them, cheered and hooted like it was the King of Rock and Roll himself. One silver-haired lady let loose a wolf whistle.
Tommy snarled his upper lip and said the line he knew they were waiting to hear. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
That set off a second round of applause. When it had swelled to a crescendo, Tommy launched into his opening number, “All Shook Up.” The accompanying music was fed from his iMac, operated by an orderly that Tommy had to pay ten dollars from his paltry take.
Feeling every inch of his Elvisness, Tommy bounced and gyrated the entire song, holding and caressing the mic like it was the woman of his dreams. He finished with a fist pump for punctuation.
The residents, the ones who weren't wheelchair-bound, jumped to their feet and cheered like it was the midnight show at the MGM Grand.
Tommy looked around the room, making eye contact here and there, muttering thank you, winking and blowing kisses. An elderly woman in the back row had fainted. Or maybe she'd nodded off. In nursing homes it was kind of hard to tell.
Otis had told him to do just the one setâeight numbers, forty minutes. “That's about as much excitement as the residents can handle in one night,” he said.
Tommy knew the drill. Almost all of his gigs were at senior placesâretirement communities, senior centers, nursing homes. The plus-sixties were his fan base. Tommy always made a point of finishing up before eight thirty, out of respect for his audience's need for an early lights-out.
He usually came dressed in a jumpsuit and cape, like the older Vegas-style Elvis. The musical selection, though, was mostly Elvis's early hitsâa mix of the hot and sexy stuffâ“Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don't Be Cruel,” with some of the big ballad hits, like “Love Me Tender” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” He threw in “God Bless America” next to lastâdonning an Elvis army cap and marching in place like a soldier. This was for the men in the audience, many of them vets themselvesâ'Nam, Korea, and now and then a World War II vet.
Just before the final number, Tommy had his girlfriend stand up. Her real name was Edwina, but Tommy called her Cill. She was seated down front, all dolled up in a 1962 yellow formal outfit Tommy had picked out for her at the Here Today vintage clothing shop on Sather Street in Jackson. To round out the look, he had Loraine's Beauty Shop bouffant her dark hairâjust like Priscilla wore it when she and Elvis were dating during Elvis's army days in Germany.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Tommy said, using his deepest baritone speaking voice, “this here beautiful young woman standing down front is the queen of my heartâtell me, is she the spitting image of Priscilla?” Man, did that get the applause.
Cill remained standing, gazing up adoringly at Tommy through his closing ballad, “I Can't Help Falling in Love with You.” Just like always, at the end of the song, Tommy dropped to one knee and blew Cill a kiss. Looking around the room Tommy saw several of the old women tearing up. Young loveâor perhaps, younger loveâalways got to the old biddies.
After the show Tommy and Cill hung around in the lobby while he signed autographs. Like always, Cill joked with a couple of the old girls, saying, “You can look, sister, but you better not touch,” and “Don't worry, honey, he's already taken,” and “I hope that isn't a room key you're handing him, young lady.”
When the final autograph seeker had been satisfied, Tommy walked out the front door with Cill on his arm, making a show of it, like it was Elvis escorting Priscilla to her high school prom. They paused at the top of the steps, just the way Tommy had it worked out. Both of them turned back and waved their goodbyes to the residents. He could tell it would be a cherished moment for the old folks.
“Standing up there tonight, you looked just like him,” said Cill. “â'Course you always do.”
Cill was a good one for saying nice things, the way a woman is supposed to about her man. Naturally Tommy knew that, try as he might, he didn't look as much like Elvis as some of the other tribute artists, especially the younger ones. But in his heart, his soul, down deep where it countedâfor those moments onstage, he
“Would the Queen care to accompany the King to his chariot?” Tommy asked.
Cill reached over and adjusted his collar, which was starting to drop from the weight of all the rhinestones. “Maybe the Queen should wait here and the King can come and fetch her,” said Cill. “That way everybody can see us ride off into the night in the Elvis-mobile.”
“Great idea,” said Tommy. “I'll put the top downâgive my fans a chance to appreciate the rolled and tucked.” Might as well. The white Naugahyde interior had set him back a cool three thousand dollars to install. It was the same type of rolled and tucked Naugahyde Elvis had on his pink Caddy. Or that's what the guy who installed it had said.
Tommy walked across to the gravel parking lot a little unsteady in his white ostrich-skin high-tops, hoping he wouldn't fall and make a fool out of himself, or worse, soil his costume. The damn thing cost a small fortune to dry-clean. It wasn't easy being Elvis on a detective's salary.
His thoughts turned to Cill. He'd finally found a woman who actually
, who he was
. He'd made his mind that he was going to propose to her as soon as he saved enough money for a ring. In the meantime, he'd set up everything else, put all the appropriate paperwork in place.
Reaching the Caddy, he unlocked the door on the driver's side, opened it, leaned in, reached up, and unfastened the hinge that secured the black canvas top in place. He gave the top a little nudge to help it fold accordion-like into its compartment behind the backseat. He got in the driver's seat, turned on the ignition but without starting the engine, and rolled down all four windows. Getting out, he opened the trunk, removed the pink leather cover, closed the trunk, and carefully buttoned the cover over the area that housed the retractable top.
He stood back and looked at her for a moment. Even in the dim light of the parking lot, the Elvis-mobile was a thing of beautyâa vehicle worthy for a king and his queen.
He opened the driver's side door, stepped inside, eased into the seat, turned on the engine, and at the same instant gunned the motor, just to hear his baby roar.