“Shh!” Sharon said quickly, looking to make certain Winston hadn’t heard. He hadn’t, but she playfully slapped at Doug’s arm anyway.
Doug said, “Yep. Looks like Whitaker, except with long white ears. He even has a pocket watch and chain! Why does he dress like that?”
“He does it to create an older persona,” I explained. “We talked about it, and he explained he does it for the opportunity to be more friendly with wealthy women.”
“What?” Doug said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Sure it does, Honey,” Sharon replied. “If their husbands think they’re giving money to some old guy who likes windmills, they’re fine with that. They’ve met him and find nothing to be jealous about. Would you be jealous if I spent a lot of time with him?”
“No. He’s just a funny old guy. Sort of comical.”
A scream pierced the air, and Winston and guests turned toward the sound. Mrs. Fauntly was standing, screaming loudly and looking wide-eyed at the northeast wall. A figure in familiar catering clothes had emerged from the office hallway, back and hair fully engulfed in flames! In obvious agony, he stumbled, moaned and fell against the wall, becoming entangled in the mirrored ribbons and two of the white fabric columns that hung from the ceiling. Glass mirrors crashed to the floor and the fabric caught fire. The large-framed Mrs. Fauntly fainted and fell heavily to the ground a few feet away from the burning man.
“Where’s the sprinkler system?” he shouted to the guard.
He took off his coat and wrapped it around me as I began to shiver, and then held me protectively again. “Yes, I think so, but we haven’t been able to get to the office area. It’s still burning. Fire department’s just arrived. They’ll check, but I can’t imagine anyone surviving in there.”