Laurie got to work late. She was feeling sick, and not getting enough sleep, and maybe partying a little, and she kind of missed her alarm clock. The house mom didn’t want to know. “Hundred dollar fine,” she said, pointing to the posted list. Laurie wearily promised to pay before she left, and dragged her ass over to a table to get ready.
That Rick. He didn’t drink, but he sure loved to see her knock it back. He wanted her loud and loose. She figured it was a dirty kind of thing. Some guys weren’t interested in sex unless it was dirty. Rick liked it skanky. On the floor of the women’s bathroom. Behind the dumpster out back. Crammed into his fucking Porsche.
She had more bruises, too. Her thigh again, her upper arms. There were finger marks at the base of her neck. She didn’t like that. She had to twist her head around to see it in the mirror, and that made her hangover worse. She wasn’t sure how she was getting the bruises. She didn’t think Rick was holding her down, and didn’t remember anybody else having a stranglehold. She hoped she was giving as good as she got.
Makeup and hair were an impossible task. She was so pale that if she didn’t have to cover the circles under her eyes and all those zits, she wouldn’t have to wear foundation. Her hair was so burnt and frazzled by bleaching that a bathing cap would be better. She was losing weight, too. Her neck looked like a chicken’s, and her tits were no bigger than freckles. She liked to tell herself it was because she danced so much. My body is just one big muscle. And it was true that there was no fat on her – it meant she got drunk faster.
She figured she’d put on the schoolgirl outfit, because she could never mind most of the makeup if she did. That fresh look; the young ones loved it. She went to fish it out of her stripper bag, but the skirt was ripped and the blouse was all full of nasty brown stains. She took one look at it and tossed the outfit into the trash.
Finally dressed in a lime bikini with clear plastic six inch heels, she took a last look at herself in the mirror, did a cheerleader kick, and went out to meet her public. “Hang ‘em high, hang ‘em low, just enjoy the show. Roxy’s got your dick and balls, any way you go.”
* * *
Bill waited. A new sugar daddy, he languished in his seat until Roxy came on, and the other girls could do little to cheer him up. He saved his money for Roxy because he wanted to spend all his time with her, and more importantly, wanted her to spend all her time with him, and not be off with those other guys. He wanted to take her away to a fairy castle and bar the gates so only he could look at her luscious body and those deep sad eyes.
He looked around for the Mafia guys and didn’t see them. He’d paid them 35k in small bills and was waiting for news of their success. He would know immediately if they’d succeeded. Cindy would call, on top of the world, crowing about the happy day. Then he’d tell her that he did it, and she would see what a good man he was and love him again. Or at least stop bitching.
The DJ started Roxy’s fanfare and Bill perked up. Fuck Cindy. Then Rick came in. Bill took one look at him and lost all desire for Roxy. He left a small tip for the waitress and skedaddled, hoping he hadn’t been seen.
* * *
Laurie came out on stage and did her set. She wasn’t feeling up to it tonight. She was stiff and sore from who knows what. Gordon was off somewhere so she didn’t have any coke to pep her up, and a couple of vodkas and orange juice had soured her stomach. She wanted to go home and go to bed, but these fucking men were going to insist on pawing her and saying stupid, boring things to her, and needing her to stroke their egos. She’d rather stroke their dicks.
She hated them all. Bill the Till had fled like he’d changed his mind, and there was Rick the Dick salivating away at the foot of the stage, and Allen the Tool hiding in Gordon’s seat, and Jake the Snake, her favorite bouncer, and Little Meatballs her other favorite bouncer, and Fingerfuck Jonze the DJ, and Roll of Quarters Dan the bartender. Sam the Fart and Smegma Dave weren’t in yet or she’d have a full complement of assholes, and Gordon of the Endless Schlong was out doing something no doubt interesting that she might hear about later. He’d better hurry so she could cop.
She loved them all dearly, but she hated men. This job made you see them clearly, and they were all detestable. None of them, not even the best of them, deserved anything more than abuse and torment. And she was sworn to use her God-given talents in the service of this lofty goal. After all, she was the bright center of the universe for every guy in the place, and on a larger scale, the pivot point for all of the money that ran thru the club. All those vast riches pouring around and thru her little fiercely burning soul. She felt strong, powerful, just by being there. Then she was suddenly in a bad mood again. Power goes better with coke. Where the fuck is Gordon?
Speak of the devil. Gordon had been out in the parking lot with Sam and Dave, and waved guiltily as he walked past the bouncers. Laurie finished up her set and went over to crowd Allen out and get her manicured fingernails into that bag of blow.
* * *
Sam and Dave, who never had smegma in his life, were sitting out in the parking lot trying to do lines off the steering wheel. Bits of marching powder kept cascading off the worn plastic. Sam smeared in what fell onto his pants.
“Let’s try the dashboard,” Dave suggested. “We got to get cokes the next time we do this.”
Sam writhed as a snort made its way down his throat. “I don’t like the taste of this stuff. I think maybe a V-8 would coat my throat better than a soft drink.”
“We could go back to energy drinks,” Dave suggested. “I liked the kick.”
“Well, have at them. That shit tastes like cough syrup.”
“I like cough syrup.”
“Well, I like this stuff. It works great.”
They did some more herbal energy vitamins.
Dave sniffled back a rush of snot. “I was thinking. This plan of ours to take over the club.”
“Do we actually plan to take it over?” Sam asked. “I could see us running the club. You know, as an ongoing sting, getting the dirt on all the movers and shakers in this part of the country.”
Dave had been resisting the desire to abandon the rules and do it their way. “No, we don’t actually plan to take over the running of the club. That’s just our cover. Don’t get buried in the part.”
“Yeah, right,” Sam reflected. “We’re Federal agents, after all. On a mission.”
“My idea is we could be planning to rob it instead.” Because if they robbed it, they’d have lots of money, and could finance their undercover operation for awhile.”
Sam scoffed. “You’re insane. How are we going to rob it? You’ve seen those bouncers. They’re all armed, they’re all on steroids.”
“Yeah, but if we cut them in, then they’ll be on our side,” Dave pointed out. “We can use the money to take over the club later.” Yarrgh.
“I like that.” (grandiose coke)“So, what, do we hang out and rob them as they’re leaving to go to the bank?”
“I’m thinking.” Dave did another line. “Our first job is to collect information, and we still don’t know much about what management is up to. We need an informant to tell us where they keep the money.” He paused to wipe his nose on his sleeve. “Maybe we shouldn’t have beaten up on Allen so hard.”
Sam put on his Russian accent. “Mafia not have informants. Have muscle.”
“Christ, man, that’s Apache.” He looked into the empty bag. “We’re professionals, remember. We’ve got reports to write. Perps to catch.”
* * *
Gordon sat in his corner behind the palm trees and sipped his drink slowly. From where he sat, he could see all the players, see who was using the front door, see who was heading to the back or the john, see who was sitting at the bar, see who was sitting in front of the stage. He could even see into the DJ booth, where Rick was fucking Laurie up against a speaker. He was only looking thru a little opening across the room, and it wasn’t well lit in the booth. But Laurie’s garter flashed and Rck’s white ass shone, and Gordon watched the rhythm develop, spasm, and stutter to a stop. Ben the security tech had a much better view in his basement across town.
Rick left hurriedly, the usual change of heart after he’d come. The only other people he wanted to see weren’t there yet and he didn’t want to waste his time in a cheap, sleazy hole.
Laurie stopped by Gordon’s table a few minutes later. “Baby, I’m dry,” she huffed as she sat down next to him and grabbed his drink. She smelled like a wet dog. “Where did you get to before? I really needed you.”
“I was just out supplying our Mafia friends with a little cocaine.”
“You’re not comping them, are you?” She felt protective of her stash.
“No, I wouldn’t do that.” He laughed, “They’re so funny. The black guy tipped me the first time they bought some (slang). I almost gave it back, but figured, hey – they learned to tip. That had to be good.”
Laurie’s foot brushed against a plastic bag. “What’s this?” She hauled it into her lap and had a look. Candy.
“Allen brought them in. I’m not sure I’d eat them. He said he pulled them out of the trash.”
“Well, looks good to me. I’ll brush them off. Mind?” He shrugged. She took the bag with her when she got the coke stash off him and excused herself.
* * *
Sam and Dave walked in ten minutes later. Allen spotted them. He’d been waiting for them. He’d told Gordon about the various attacks on Mom. It was pretty clear to both of them that after failing to get Allen to kill her, Rick was now taking potshots at her windows.
“But what about all these other things that might be suspicious? Like that accident she almost had. Like her brakes failing last week. Like the drapes going on fire.” Gordon saw a pattern.
Allen shook his head. “No, the drapes got to be an accident. She said one of her son in laws put them up.” Gordon wondered. Frank? Bill? “I don’t know,” Allen said. “You and Rick are the only ones I know in your mother’s family. But I know all about them.” He leaned forward. “She likes you the best.” Gordon nodded.
He got up and left Gordon to think about his family, and approached Sam and Dave. Allen was being very brave. Six beers, a beta blocker and a Valium will do that. He circled like a submissive dog until they noticed him, his tail down and his ears forward. They scared him. He’d been paying them weekly, just like they asked, even tho it was hell getting that much money together every week. He was successfully dodging his fucking landlord, and being able to put the rent money toward protection was good, but it was never enough. He could upsell Judy whole ounces instead of quarters, and he was expanding his customer base by dealing to the local kids on their way home from school, but it was just stupifying every week, where the money could have went.
He was risking a beating, talking to mobsters. They’d beaten him up every time they’d seen him so far, so it was only in the strip club that he felt safe to approach. The big one got up as he got close. Allen started to sweat. He talked to the black one, he wasn’t as scary. And he couldn’t understand the fat one’s accent at all.
After assuring them that he was happy to pay protection, and that there would be an extra something in it for them next time, he mentioned that he thought they should know a few things about someone they might be dealing with but were maybe ignorant of certain facts about. With all respect.
“So what do we know about this guy?” they asked each other after Allen had gone. Industrial espionage, securities fraud, tax evasion, conspiracy to murder. He was trying to kill his own mother. He was in desperate need of money. He was selling secrets to the Russians.
“But he’s not, of course,” Dave objected.
“He sure is. He doesn’t know we’re not the Russians.”
“Avast. We’ll snare him in his own ambitions.”
Sam had an idea. “Well, hey listen to this. I know how we can get some money out of the cheap son of a bitch. Since we’re planning to take over the club and run it as an information clearinghouse, let’s find out if he’s interested in coming in as a partner.”
“Yeah, well if he’s not, we’re going to have to go back to plan C and rob the place in order to keep going.”
Gordon walked up to their table as they were discussing the new wrinkle, quietly enough to hear most of it.
“Gentlemen, a little birdy told me you were interested in a hostile takeover. I want to be your corporate raider.” He had Dave’s vote right there, and had Sam the moment he mentioned the nightly deposit. His plans sounded just like their plans. Great minds think alike. Gordon ordered a round of Patron. And felt the ground shaking. Were they drilling back in the office?
* * *
Gordon was hanging out in the parking lot, having a smoke and gazing out at the stars visible beyond the security lights. It was cold. He snuggled inside his thin leather jacket and wished he’d worn a t-shirt under his shirt. He turned around when he heard gravel, and saw the owner driving up in a cloud of dust.
“Gordo, just the man I’ve been looking for. Get in. Let’s go for a drive and look at the stars. We’ll put the top down.”
There were half a dozen kilo bags of coke on the floor behind the seat. White powder leaked from the open ones and swirled like snow in the turbulent air of the Porsche, shining briefly in the darkness as the wind took it. Gordon stuck his tongue out and his tongue grew numb.
There he was, in the passenger seat of a car that could do 150 and not shudder or wobble even a little bit. It was soothing, like sleeping on long trips in his dad’s car. Except for the sobering way oncoming traffic bore down on you when you were going that fast. He could get used to it, tho. He could get there. He sat and dreamed of endless riches and power. Trading places instantaneously with the guy living the life, like in some movie.
The owner told Gordon about his huge empire. The strip club was only the first floor. He also laundered money. He also sold girls as sex slaves in Asia. And he was an arms dealer. And he supplied all the necessaries for a private for-hire mercenary army. His efforts had led directly to government overthrows in three countries.
“And all this is going thru the club?” Gordon asked, flabbergasted.
The owner looked at him and laughed. “Ever hear of drop shipping? Only the orders come thru the club, not the merchandise. Well, not the weapons. Or the girls. The drugs come thru all the fucking time.”
“We’re moving a hundred kilos a week.”
“How?” You could have knocked Gordon over with an empty ziplock bag.
The owner looked sly. “Some secrets, eh? Want to find out, come work for me.”
Gordon got back on track. “Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. There’s these Mafia guys been staking out inside the club for awhile.” The owner watched the road. “Regulars.”
“Feds, tho, right?”
Gordon shook his head. “No, I’m certain they’re from one of maybe six international crime rings.” It sounded good.
“Whatever.” The owner acted bored.
“Anyway, they’re after you.”
“Oh really? What makes you say that?”
“Mainly intuition, to tell you the truth. But listen here, they ask a lot of questions about you, and they’ve been talking about setting themselves up as rivals. I don’t think they want to set up across the street or nothing. I’m pretty sure, from what they say, that they’re planning on muscling in on your business and never mind having to get permits, if you know what I mean..”
“Well, I’m glad you told me that. It’s good to have people who watch your back for you.” He passed Gordon an eight-ball and a spoon. “I keep saying it, I need someone like you working for me. I’m getting ready to expand and move to the next level, if you know what I mean. And right now there’s nobody here competent to do things the way I like them done. That’s why I’ve been telling you all this. See if you’re interested.” Gordon’s heart sang.
After he’d dropped Gordon back at the club, the owner called one of his guys and told them to watch him extra carefully from now on.
* * *
Rick pulled over around the corner from Mom’s house. It was quiet and dark. There were no streetlights. He was alone. He pulled on a dark hood and gloves, and snuck thru the bushes between houses until he got to his back yard. He thought of the place as his, especially now when having it was so near he could count the sale price. Mom would die, he would get it all, and then he could go back to living the way he had been before there’d been all those financial complications.
Rick used the key under the mat to open the door to the den, and slid the glass doors open silently. He crept thru the den, almost stumbling on a large parabolic heater in the middle of the room. He tiptoed into the kitchen, carefully removed the burners, lifted the stovetop, and blew out the pilot lights. Then he turned the gas on, all four burners, and turned to go. There was a pile of old clothes on the table that Mom was giving to Goodwill.
Rick turned back to the sink. He piled the clothing in the den and poured lamp oil all over it, and took a can of WD40 and sprayed it all over the rug and the couch, and turned the heater on high.
He chuckled as he stood in the back yard, sheltered by the bushes. He would have waited for the fire to start, but a dog attacked him, and he had to run for the car, scratching himself on sticker bushes.
Rick went home feeling jubilant. He would have stopped by the club for a quickie with Roxy, but his shirt was full of spots of blood from hundreds of tiny pricks, and he wasn’t sure if he’d gotten bit.
Alice was asleep, but woke up when he turned the light on. “What are you doing, dear?” she asked sleepily. Then she saw him pulling at his bloody shirt. “Did you get attacked? Are you all right? What happened?” And so on. She nattered on the whole time she was cleaning him up, and paid no attention to the fact that she was stinging him with the disinfectant. Finally he grabbed the bottle and threw it, and shoved her against the wall. She pretended to be hurt so he’d stop, so he fucked her in the ass like she also pretended she didn’t like.
* * *
Allen was asleep in his nest in the playroom. He woke up with a full bladder and went up to the kitchen to pee in the sink and retrieve one of the beers he kept in the vegetable keeper. It was foolproof because Mom had confessed that if she couldn’t see it, it was invisible.
He smelled gas, and saw that the cat had been after a mouse and had turned on the gas chasing him thru the burners. Good luck, cat. He turned the burners off and whipped his lighter out to relight the pilots. He lit a cigarette on the pilot for luck, and wandered into the den, where he found the door open and the heater on. She’s such a forgetful old dear, he shook his head fondly. Good thing she’s got me. He turned the heater off and went back downstairs to bed.
* * *