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The Clone in the Closet

                                                                                                     Chapter 1



Franklin Amadeus Jackson, part time drag queen, full time oversize black man with an affinity for feather boas and Village People playlists stopped and stared. The city of San Francisco is known as the melting pots of melting pots. Whatever race, whatever species you’re looking for and whatever flavor it comes in you will most likely find it right there in Fog City, even if it sometimes wears size 16 red Christian Louboutin pumps. What you do not expect to see is two of Frankie, as he prefers to be called, but there it was, his double standing not fifty feet from him chatting with Billy Bunty, the hotdog vendor.

Frankie raised a hand and called, “Yoo hoo! I say, Mister Good Looking! What are you doing here with my face?”

Frankie stands bare inches shy of seven foot something, and at a mass closer to that of livestock than humanity, he has the built in volume of a bullhorn. Let’s just say his voice carried.

Said Mister Good Looking looked up, half a polish sausage in his hand, and the other half in his mouth. He saw Frankie waving, widened his eyes as he saw himself calling to himself, and took off through the Market Street crowd. When a semi-tractor decides to plow through a traffic jam the sedans give way…or else. This was essentially the effect of the double’s charge. The last Frankie saw of his double was the flapping tail of a trench coat vanishing around the corner of the art supply shop.

He pulled up adjacent to Billy’s cart, puffing.

Some overweight folks—no, who am I kidding?  Billy Bunty is obese on a Guinness Records scale, but he makes up for it in being one heck of a nice guy. He could find good in anyone, so it was with acknowledged genuine concern that he peered up at the big guy. “Frankie, what’s wrong? Was the polish too spicy? And how did you change so quickly? That red shift looks pretty good, though. What is it? Are you and Tony on another case?”

Frankie, catching his breath, looked down at Billy with probably the same expression most folks use, confused affection. You just can’t dislike the guy, not even when he’s taken a firm hold on the wrong end of the stick.

I didn’t mention it earlier. As Billy said, the red shift; Frankie was in full drag, blonde wig and all. He’d won himself another starring gig at the drag queen theater down in the Castro. His current getup included a form-fitting spandex gown with a UK stars and bars motif, a wavy blonde wig that hung down to the small of his back, and a feather boa long enough to be worthy of the fourth Doctor.

He huffed and puffed a couple more times and said to Billy, “Umm, I’ll have another of what I just had. Okay?”

                                                                                             ♦          ♦          ♦

            “And then he handed me a Jackson Special,” Frankie said, flopping back into his chair and staring at me, eyes wide.

            “A what?” I asked. Knowing the big guy and his sometimes off the beaten path ideas of what cuisine was, a Billy Bunty Jackson Special could involve any number of weird ingredients.          

            “I said,” Frankie leaned forward, working his mouth, “A Jackson Special. Tony,” he said, in his little boy voice, “I don’t have a Jackson Special. I never heard of one, and besides that, everyone knows I abhor sauerkraut.” He shook his head, “I think we’re getting pulled into another one of those weird deals… again.”

            I checked my watch. It’d been about two months or more since the big guy and I had been involved in one of those “weird deals”. The last one involved a bunch of pirate ghosts, zombies, illicit gambling and the fate of the universe, and, to top it off, Frankie being killed. Yeah, you heard me, the big guy was snuffed, iced, axed, and whatever pulp novel term you choose to use in being shot and left to die in your partner’s arms.

            I hear you, and I know the next question, if Frankie was killed, what was he doing telling me about his conversation with Billy? If you’ve been made aware of my other cases, you should already know the answer. If you’re a newbie, let me just say this, San Francisco has some rather unique qualities, one of them, it’s lousy with the supernatural… from both temperatures. One of the players in that realm, a whale, a major player, and a whole host of other descriptives that simply don’t do the job, decided I needed the big guy to remain in my life, and so it was. I came home ready to make the funeral arrangements and he was in the kitchen, cooking. Like I said, supernatural. I was getting pretty fed up with the supernatural, almost to the point where I was thinking about taking on divorce cases. Yeah, and the Niners were going to move back to Candlestick, win the Super Bowl and then retire as the next incarnation of the Village People.

            I said to Frankie, “I wouldn’t worry about it, Jackson is about as common among the darker-skinned demographic as Smith is in Utah. The guy probably looks a bit like you and, face it big guy, people are growing…still. You may no longer be unique.”

            Frankie sniffed, “I am so. I will always be unique, and that imposter is going to be brought to heel, Tony. I swear it!”

            I gave him my best gimlet stare, all 90 proof of it, “Frankie, if you start quoting Wrath of Khan in the original Klingon, I’m eating at The Snug.”

He opened his mouth for a comeback and the doorbell started singing. I had to smile, literally, saved by the bell.

                                                                                                        ♦          ♦          ♦

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