There was some noise at the back door, and in walked a bunch of the guys Gordon had seen on the security camera. He was reading over the deed of sale, and thought to go out and tell them they should go around to the front door like regular customers, but three of them waltzed into the office and blocked his way before he could rise.
They were holding automatic weapons. Gordon slipped the bag of coke into the desk drawer and closed it gently. Addict’s rule number one: Always guard your stash.
He tried a friendly Hey There, but the men looked angry. They were military. Or police. Special Ops. Something. One of the three said something into his phone. More guys came in the back way. Gordon could see a small crowd on the parking lot monitors. Someone muscled his way thru the office door and stood in front of him. Everything was happening too fast for him to think about it.
“Where’s the owner?” the guy asked him. He was gray-haired and wiry, the shortest guy in the room. He had a blue tattoo on his neck, and a gold front tooth.
Gordon wondered at this. Gang leader? “I don’t know,” he answered. “I thought maybe he was in the john. Who are you?”
The man ignored him and spoke to the guy with the phone, who then made a call. He gestured to the group behind him, and they started off toward the public area of the club. The guy made another phone call.
“Where are they going?” Gordon asked.
Still no answer. The men were all wearing black fatigues and vests, with shit-stompers, and all sorts of things bulged from pockets and dangled from belts and rings. They all had short haircuts. They were all big and burly. They could pass for bouncers at the club, except they didn’t seem to have a sense of humor. Cops, maybe.
“Maybe you want to talk to me,” Gordon spoke up. “I’m the new owner.”
The leader was interested. “Oh, really? Where’s the old guy?”
“Like I said. I don’t know. He signed the place over to me and gave me the keys. His car is still in the lot, maybe he’s having a nap.”
The men stepped closer. “Well,” said the little one, “perhaps we need to have a little talk about some business facts you may not be aware of.” He looked suddenly menacing. Gordon began to sweat. “Where’s the money?” he asked softly.
“Hey, what money? I’m only new,” Gordon protested. The chief frowned, and one of the burly guys came up and mashed Gordon’s face in a bit.
“Let’s try it this way. Where’s the safe?”
Gordon led them to the safe, and used the combination that was written on his cheat sheet, and was impressed to find the safe more like a vault. And flabbergasted to find it completely empty.
The chief wasn’t, however. He barked something to the guy with the phone, who disappeared around the corner and had a few more quick conversations. Then he was back to whisper in the chief’s ear.
They all heard a shot and screams out in the lounge, from way back in the office. His guards weren’t very curious. Their leader was trying to figure out how to break the news to the virgin, while they stood around wishing they could be out front with their buddies, teaching the sheep a lesson.
Gordon was a little alarmed. His bouncers were out there spoiling for a fight. There were guys in the lounge and in front of the building, waiting for a signal. Maybe someone was trigger happy. He would have liked to go see, but the goons weren’t going to let him. He looked at the monitors with the side of his eyes.
A bunch of couches were turned over near the bar, and Jake and Dan worked the trenches. The DJ was commanding a couple of girls and customers in the booth. Allen’s head peeked around the bathroom door. The stage and floor were empty, the lights flashing on dusty black walls, the music pounding at a bunch of empty and overturned seats.
There was a small gathering of black uniforms near the door to the corridor. They were posturing menacingly and using violent gestures, pointing a lot with intimidating weapons. Then one fired off a shot as a bouncer dived behind a palm.
There was an awful lot of return fire.
Ben recorded the scene with his cellphone for posterity.
The uniforms in the office looked a little nervous. Gordon wondered at that. They weren’t expecting any opposition. The chief gestured, and his guy made another call. Suddenly the sound of gunfire was cut in half, and Gordon heard soldiers running back down the hall. In step.
“I’m going to want to talk to you,” the chief said as he turned to go. “Next time. Here’s my calling card.” And he drew his weapon and shot Gordon in the foot.
The soldiers left thru the back door as bouncers, dancers and customers came rushing down the corridor shouting and spraying bullets. People crowded into the office to see Gordon rolling around on the floor, his foot all bloody, with raw bits sticking out of what remained of his runners.
He looked up with a bright smile on his face, despite the pain. “Is there a doctor in the house?” he asked. Three customers stepped forward. “I’ve always wanted to say that. Hurry, fellas, it’s killing me.”
The docs fixed him up in return for free drinks for a month. By the time they were finished, he was joking about being robbed his first day on the job. The steep price he paid to buy the joint. No arm and no leg jokes.
He waited until they were gone before prescribing himself a liberal dose of cocaine, a renowned analgesic. He promised himself he would sprinkle some on the wound when he changed the bandages later.
Then he hobbled out to inspect the damage to his club, leaning on Allen’s shoulder. He was shocked. There were several dead bodies, several writhing moaning figures, and several walking wounded. The place smelled like cordite. There was broken glass and broken furniture everywhere. And everyone was looking at him for decisions.
What would the owner do? Give the problem to the bouncers. He called Jake over and started telling him to deal with it in the usual way. Problem was that the usual way involved taking customers out to the parking lot and beating them up, then leaving them to sleep it off behind the dumpster, or handcuffing them and calling the cops on them for being drunk and disorderly. But these were bullet wounds.
Okay. Put the dead ones in the dumpster. No. That would lead back to the club. Put them in a taxi and take them to the airport. The driver would notice when they didn’t pay the fare. Load them into the back of a pickup and drop them off at the hospital. Crude, but it might could work. Large thank you gifts for everyone involved.
The bouncers rounded up the dead and dying, the girls straightened the place up, Dan reopened the bar and the DJ put on some gangsta rap. Gordon called for a round for everyone, on the house.
He sat at his table, working the bullet-scratched surface with a fingernail. Sam and Dave came up to him and stood there silently. He looked up at them in a mental fog. It was the pain. His consciousness was shrunk to the size of a walnut because of the pain. He hated pain. He ordered another drink.
“You two never got to play the heavies, did you?” he asked them. “Things sure happened differently than I’d planned.” Then he remembered he was supposed to turn over the owner. “Sorry, boys,” he said heavily, “he gave us the slip right before the badguys showed up. He’s gone.”
Sam and Dave shared wide-eyed, panicky looks. Dave whipped his phone out and started punching buttons. He looked at Gordon with doubt in his eyes. “His car’s out back.”
“Yes it is,” he replied. How did he know that?
Sam said, “GPS.”
Gordon nodded. Gadgets. They had a GPS on the owner’s car? Did they have one on his car?
“Do we even know his name?” Dave asked.
Gordon fished out the deed of sale. “I think he’s going to the airport. There was this taxi driver with a big bag. It was before the shooting. I was suspicious. They’re probably there by now.”
“Too big to fit in the overhead?” Sam asked.
“Twice the size. Must have been full of cash. Maybe half a million.”
Dave spelled the owner’s name into the phone. He discussed the luggage issue. Then he hung up. Sam shook Gordon’s hand and muttered how great about the club. Dave hit him up for a bag of marching powder. They left in a hurry. Got to get to those reports.
Gordon sat back and examined the past few hours. He was now the proud owner of a strip club. His men had beaten off an army. He was King Gordon and this was the first night of his new life as a player. Mom would be proud. Like he could tell her about it.
Allen sat down next to him. Gordon called for another round on the house. They cheered him.
“I guess we won’t rob the place, then,” Allen wondered.
“Right, Allen. We can’t rob it. The owner robbed it on his way out of here.”
“That bastard.” Allen looked at Gordon’s foot. The bandage was beginning to seep. “I was kinda looking forward to robbing the place,” he moped.
“We’ll rob it tomorrow,” Gordon soothed. “We’ll rob it every night.” The Vicodin was kicking in on top of a couple of stiff post-trauma drinks. He was not caring much about anything at the moment. “We’ll make it a show. Wild West Night. Come get robbed, and not just by the girls. All nude badguys. Wait, no.”
That’s when he opened the bar. He and Allen paid a customer for a table dance. The girls sat around drinking, stuffing dollars into the garters of hairy, naked men. The DJ got a blow job while he was queuing up songs. There was heavy betting on it.
Gordon hobbled off to the back to spend some time in his new office. He sat and looked thru the desk drawers. He looked thru the files. He looked thru the computer hard drive. He looked a good part of the way thru the big bag of coke.
He wondered about the attack on the club. Who were those guys? Why were they there? What did they want? He didn’t bother wondering if they’d be back. He never for a moment thought he could be in above his head. He never noticed the circling shadows beneath him.
He had a lot of ideas. Ways of improving the club. New decor. New theme. What if they were to start a retail line? Videos. Clothing. Condoms. Ah, energy drinks. A few secret ingredients (cocaine and speed) and they’d be a real hit. Or some concoction of prescription drugs and cocaine he could call marching powder, in honor of Sam and Dave.
He wanted to liven up the routine in the club. It was always naked girls dancing and rushing the customers for money. What if they had theme nights? Slumber party, and all the girls could wear baby doll costumes. Halloween. How about a beauty pageant? Miss Nude Girl. Why not mud wrestling?
King Gordon the Great.
He was in the middle of unwrapping his foot to use a line of coke as a topical anesthetic. He glanced at the security monitors. There were lots of them. On rotation, nine at a time tiling the screen. Finally he noticed the camera that was focused on the dumpster in the parking lot. Rick was out there, fiddling with something. He called Jake, who sent Thumper the bouncer out to see what was going on. Thumper reported that Rick was fucked up, and that he’d been escorted to his car.
Gordon was hobbling down the long corridor to the front of the building, halfway decided to warn Ben so he could save Alice, when he heard another shot. The army was back.
But there was no second shot until Gordon came busting thru the door and Rick took aim at him.
Rick had eaten the chocolate he snatched from Alice earlier. He was unsteady, he couldn’t see straight, sweat was pouring into his eyes. He was shooting with his left hand. He’d been sleeping it off in the car but woke up and decided to come back in and get even with Roxy for mangling his fingers.
Laurie was sitting on the edge of the stage, her shoes dangling. She was rubbing her shoulder where Rick’s first shot had grazed her. Dan the bartender handed up a drink and she took it gratefully.
The bouncers surrounded Rick and disarmed him. Gordon had a few things to say about the reputation the club was going to develop if they let this kind of thing continue. They dragged Rick outside to teach him a lesson.
Rick staggered in a circle under the security lights, surrounded by grinning bouncers. They’d never liked him. He was a lousy tipper. And so superior. Only the fact that he was Gordon’s brother had kept them from giving him a whipping months before. And since he’d just shot at his loving brother, they figured all bets were off.
Rick was defiant. He slurred his words, announcing in a whiny yell that he’d been recording everything that went on at the club, for months. He had the shit on everyone of them. He knew what each one was up to, and had enough evidence to close the club down and put them all in prison. He postured, he threatened, he insulted them. He was still trying to come out on top, even surrounded by a pack of snarling bouncers. He still wanted to bully a big bribe out of someone to keep quiet about it.
The bouncers circled closer. It started out as a standard ass-whipping. But then he slipped and went down, and they moved in.
Gordon appeared at the back door, hobbling over to have a look. Rick was curled up. He was dirty, his clothes were torn, he was scraped and scratched, and blood leaked out of the side of his mouth.
“You okay, big brother?” Gordon asked, bending down to look into Rick’s eyes. Rick began to cough and spit, and started trying to get to his hands and knees.
But Gordon kicked him viciously in the head, and Rick went down again.
Gordon fainted right on top of him. He’d kicked his brother with his wounded foot and the pain shut him right down. The bouncers pulled Gordon off of Rick and propped him up on the side of the dumpster. He came around a few moments later, and looked over at his brother.
Rick was lying in blood and vomit and piss, left for dead by the bouncers. Gordon decided the club needed a different policy for undesirable customers. He struggled to his feet with difficulty, kicked his brother once more in the head for old time’s sake, with his other foot, and stepped over him on his way back inside.
* * *