Gordon sat in his dark corner and fretted over his drink. With Allen off the street he was short one guy: a good guy, if undependable; heavy on the sauce; too fond of crank; and a pathological liar. He was going to have to rewrite some of his plans for the next couple of days while Allen sat in jail, because he sure as hell wasn’t going to bail him out. That’d be asking for trouble.
He sat in his dark corner while the music pounded and the girls danced for the customers. The room was all flashing lights and staccato noise. He lit another cigarette. It’d come to him.
Laurie appeared at his table, sweating and naked, her costume balled up in her fist. “I just finished my set,” she complained, kissing the top of his head, “and you didn’t look up once.”
“I saw everything, babe,” he assured her, suddenly animated.. “You were wonderful. And you look great.” Gordon reeled back and latched his arm around her waist, pulling her in for a kiss. The skin of her back was cold to the touch.
She leaned over for his drink and finished it, then headed off to the dressing room. “You going to stick around until I’m off?” she called over her shoulder.
“Maybe not,” he shrugged. Shit happens. “I’ll slip in next to you when I get home.” She waggled her ass as she slipped behind a screen into the dressing room. He savored every wiggle.
Gordon ordered a refill from Ginger when she passed, and tipped her a twenty. The place was stripclub red and black, with plastic palms in the corners and a glittery pole on the stage. It was way too cold for the girls to be running around mostly naked like they were, but oh well.
He noticed two cops sitting at a table halfway across the room. Plainclothed. Maybe federal. Trying to fit in. There was a party of young gangstas with fake IDs that the bouncers were keeping a close eye on; a trio of out-of-town salesmen close to them giggling and showing their stiffies to each other; half a dozen guys sitting singly here and there looking hypnotized. The place was empty. He looked over at the DJ, who winked when he caught his eye. Out of blow already? My man, he nodded back, hang a minute.
He thought about his plans for a few minutes. He had a million plans, of course. Schemes, plots, conspiracies, agendas, strategies, cons. Daily scams that fed into larger swindles that fueled widespread raping and pillaging, all ending with Gordon, Warlord of the Earth. He gave his balls a friendly scratch, stubbed out his cigarette, left his drink for Laurie to steal, and went off to the bathroom to dig into his bag of coke.
When he got back to his table, he saw his very own big brother Rick sitting over near the bar. Whoah. Gordon turned his chair away and adjusted the plastic tree, but Rick wasn’t looking into the dark corners of the club. He was hanging out waving money around, looking for lap dances.
Not drinking, of course. Rick disapproved of it. Life was his high. Power, money, authority, those were his drugs. but he could really have used a good drunk to get some of that rebar out of his ass.
Gordon ordered another drink once he saw what Rick was up to. Rick was the most self-absorbed person he knew, and wouldn’t see Gordon if he sat next to him. His first instinct had been to run, but he decided he had nothing to fear from his brother. It would be best to stay out of sight, tho. He motioned a bouncer over. “Hey, Jake, guess who that enthusiast is.” He had to yell over the music. “My very own brother.”
Jake looked impressed. “He’s been in here before. Lunchtime. Spends a lot on the girls but he’s really stingy with the waitress, and the doorman never sees a penny.” He lowered his voice to a shout. “He likes Laurie a lot.”
Gordon grinned. “Great. He’s paying my rent. I like that. He can afford it. Owns a big software company. But that’s not why I wanted to talk to you. See those cops over there? Who the fuck are they?”
Jake nodded and shrugged. “Nobody any of us know. Could be Feds. Homeland Security. The IRS. Whatever, we’re keeping them entertained and safe.” They’ve been day shift regulars for about a week, but here they are, doing overtime.”
“They must be tired. What’s their budget?”
“Standard tips. The fat one drinks a lot of vodka. The black one likes Zappo.”
“Notice them paying attention to any particular girls?”
“Nope. They act like they’ve never been in a strip club, tho.”
“I’ll go over and educate them after awhile. Oh, and about my brother? Don’t go comping him because he’s family, okay? And spread the word? And if he gets out of line, fucking nail him.”
Jake said, “I don’t think it’s going to take him long to offend someone.”
Gordon sat and observed. How could he profit from imperial entanglement without attracting it himself?
Rick was really loving it. Naked girls who didn’t mind being naked, girls who obviously wanted to be fucked, not like his frigid wife. Real women, like the girl in his lap, tugging his dick out of his shorts with her ass. Couldn’t be more than 18. And she really wants it. God that feels good.
His phone rang (an unpleasant buzzing that interfered with his hardon). He went to turn it off but he tapped instead of pressed and answered it instead.
“Mr. Fucks, sir, don’t hang up. It’s me Allen from the Westerbrook. 12C? Allen Monroe. Your tenant.”
Rick spilled the girl off his lap. His penis shrank and his balls started to ache. “Who? How’d you get this number? That’s Fuchs, damn you. Do you know where I am? I don’t need to be talking to you.” He reached for the headset.
“Sir! Don’t hang up. I’ve got nobody to turn to,” he pleaded, “and your number is the only one I know by heart.” He stifled a sob. “I call it every time I’m a little late on you know the rent payment. Just so you know I’m trying. Please help me.”
Rick stopped. Someone he could kick while he was down. This was as good as sex.. The girl was still hot for him, but she’d hold. She stood in front of him with her hands on her hips, inviting his lust. He felt like a winner, ruining some poor asshole’s life. “You’ve been late on the rent every month for a year, and now you’re a month and a half behind. It’s too late to turn to me. You’re on your own. Don’t drop the soap,” he chortled.
“I’ll do anything,” Allen wailed.
Rick pictured several anythings. Hmm. “It might involve bodily injury.” He looked so hopeful the girl came up and started fondling him again. He waved her off.
“Yeah. I’m good at that. If you throw my bail I’ll be in your debt forever. Whatever you want.” He started to weep. “I got nobody. My mamma died last spring and I never got over it yet.” He choked up.
The girl was looking a little frustrated now. Rick was envisioning the possibilities. A hired killer. Stupid but tractable. Someone to take all the risk. And the insurance, and the inheritance. He calculated the total. A couple of million right away. It would help in the short term.
He swore to Allen that he’d call a bondsman right now, and went back to his lap dance without noticing the bouncer coming up behind him to talk about wasting the girl’s time. She winked over Rick’s shoulder, and he backed into the darkness.
Rick was halfway there in moments, dreaming about getting someone else to solve all his problems for him. Seeing Mom’s cold flabby face shining up out of her casket years ahead of schedule. And all that money. Money he needed. That was his by rights. It should have gone to him years ago, when Dad died. But no, she punished him with it, teased him and tortured him. And spent it. His inheritance. And laughed at him when he lowered himself to practically begging for it. No matter that his company, and his stock options, dwarfed what his dad had managed to put aside in his lifetime. It was still his, and every bit mattered. Just on principal, never mind honest need.
Then the most beautiful girl in the world appeared on the stage. He opened his eyes to check if the one on his lap was fishing around near his pockets, and time just stopped as his eyes met an aristocratic gaze, a strong, coolly intelligent woman capable of meeting his strength. You could be with me, her eyes said. I could answer all your prayers. Her chest heaved with desire for him. At last, my equal, he thought, and came in his pants.
The dancer got off him, spilled his coke into his lap, and left abruptly. The manager came up as he was trying to wipe himself off with a cocktail napkin. Rick was too jolted by aching desire to speak. The man offered a bar rag and suggested that he tip the girl extra for the embarrassment. Rick peeled of twenty bucks, and another twenty, and twenty for the manager, then a fifty what the hell, and another fifty, and then the manager stopped glaring and said he’d see the girl got her tip. The man stood by while Rick got up to leave, because he was feeling a little lightheaded, and thought he might as well go home and get out of his wet things. He was too stunned to get the girl fired or threaten to sue the club. “Who’s the girl on stage?” he asked as the guy opened the door and hailed him a cab. He chanted Roxy Roxy Roxy all the way home.
“You should have seen Zora’s face,” Jake said. “She acted like someone sprinkled used cat litter on her cereal. I thought she was going to hit him.”
“That was as good an excuse as I’ve seen for a stern talking-to out back,” Gordon observed. “I hope you didn’t refrain from violence just because he’s my brother.”
“Nah. He was braindead. Don’t know what got into him. Just handed over a kissoff and left like a good little boy. It wouldn’t be any fun to beat the shit out of him like that. I’d like to wait until he does something.”
“Another time, maybe.”
Gordon got up to refill his nose, Ginger brought him another drink. He smoked a few more cigarettes and considered the club. It was a cavernous place, a small warehouse. A large gloomy room, capacity 250, with a stage going around the corner at one side, hiding a tiny dressing room behind it. The DJ’s booth was in the middle, and the bar was at the other side of the room. The front of the room was where the bathrooms were, and the front door was sandwiched between the coat room and security room. Gordon’s table was in the corner next to security. There were no lights there. It was dimly lit everywhere else except for the stage.
Beyond the main room was the VIP lounge and private booths, and behind that, down a starkly lit corridor, were the kitchen and storerooms, and the office. There was a back door. There were cameras everywhere: out here and in the lounge, the booths, the halls, the kitchen, in the dressing rooms, in the bathrooms, out in the parking lot, at the front and back doors.
Not in the office, tho. That only stood to reason. Lots of things went on in the office that were nobody’s business; everything else was the business of the guy in the office. Likewise the courtesy telephone was recorded; the office phone was not. There were hidden microphones in the palms and cameras in the ceiling fans, but security had bug sweepers for the office and the owner’s car.
Gordon wanted a piece of whatever was really going on there.
When he got back to his table, he noticed his brother-in-law Bill, sitting right up against the stage. Fancy that. Family night. Gordon watched him for awhile. Bill had a real eye for the girls. They’d been out a few times after Bill and Cindy got married, and those were some wild times. Gordon could hold his liquor (he was still practically a kid back then), but Bill could outparty him every time. They hadn’t hung out in years, as Gordon’s career took him farther away from legitimate work hours, but they still snuck out together for a snort whenever they met at some family thing.
Gordon was tempted to go over and say hey, but he had work to do, and didn’t want to get stuck palling around with anyone he knew too well. So he stayed in his corner like a spider, watching Bill taste everything that came his way.
Bill was in a rare mood tonight. Cindy was out with her girlfriends doing something silly so he was here soaking up the pussy. He always had as much as he wanted from all sorts of women. It wasn’t as if he had to pay for it. He just loved looking at them. All shapes and sizes. These girls were young and skinny with fake breasts, and he preferred plump and juicy, but a girl smells like a girl, and he wanted to meet them all. And since he’d run thru all the girls at the Pink Beaver crosstown, and Pole Acts downtown, he thought he’d test the water at the Scarlet Pimpernel.
And the water was fine. Dollar bills were never so well spent. The girls here did things they didn’t do at the other clubs. It was outside the city limits and the rules were so loose that you could almost touch the girls with your hands. And they’d put their thing right up next to your face. And they’d bend over and let you have a good long look. He liked it here.
Bill ordered a beer. Bottled so he could be sure it was a real beer. A couple of girls came over and asked for lap dances. He obliged them all. And then he found one he really liked. She didn’t ask for a lap dance, she stood there until he remembered his manners and asked her to sit. She let him buy her a glass of wine (white grape juice and soda, he assumed). They talked.
They were instantly attracted to each other. She was so friendly, so soft and gentle, with a forlornness about her that he felt protective of right away. They liked the same books and movies and shows. They wanted to see the same foreign countries. They believed in the same political causes. They shared the same religious views. It was as if he had run into his long lost identical twin. Except his twin wasn’t a man. And he wanted to make love to his twin for the rest of his life.
She was obviously a very sensitive, refined creature. She told a sad tale about why she was in this business: she had ambitions to be an actor, but her evil mother mutilated her so that she could never go out in public without shame. That threw Bill until she explained that a very nice friend once offered to pay for plastic surgery. He wished it could have been him.
She never offered to do a lap dance for him. She seemed too depressed, too weighed down by life. He felt sorry for her. He wanted to protect her. She had too much good breeding to be in a filthy den like this. And she hated being here. But she had to make enough money to pay her dog’s vet bills, which were enormous. The poor doggie had cancer and she wanted to leave work right now and go home early because she was so worried about it. But the operation was tomorrow and she still needed hundreds of dollars to pay for it.
He patted her hand and wondered why other women’s skin wasn’t as soft. After awhile she started to yawn and snuggle into his shoulder. He loved that feeling. A waif. Where are your parents, little girl? I’m lost, can you take me home, mister? But he couldn’t dwell, and it was breaking his heart. He had to leave right now if he wanted to get home before Cindy. There’d be questions if he didn’t. So he tenderly roused the vision of loveliness next to him and promised to come back tomorrow, pushing a fat wad of bills (mostly ones) toward her so she wouldn’t have to go home penniless.
Gordon watched, amused as Bill turned over all his money to Laurie. She came by his table and complained about how hard her customer was to get money out of her, and how tired she felt. He slipped her an antique bottle full of coke and went off to the bathroom himself. It was just getting busy on the floor. The night was young.
* * *