Miguel was waiting at the door when Liam arrived to open the salon. It was ten o’clock.
“Morning, Miguel. What are you doing here so bright and early? Not in need of another haircut already, are you?” Liam said sarcastically, as he turned the key and opened the door. Miguel didn’t seem to notice.
“No, I have a date with Genevieve,” he said. Liam looked amused.
“Really? Why are you meeting her here? It’s her day off. Why not pick her up at her place?”
“I don’t know,” replied Miguel, who seemed to be realizing this for the first time. “She just said she had some unfinished business at the salon, and to meet her here, that’s all.”
Miguel walked straight in and sat down in the waiting area. His tight white t-shirt showed off his naturally tanned skin, as well as his taut muscles. At thirty eight, Liam was fifteen years older than Miguel, and more than fifteen pounds heavier, and had long ago given up hope of ever sporting a body like that. He had always been taller and broader than most of his peers, which, over the years, gave way to a look which suited him, and that he felt comfortable with. He looked neither fat nor out of shape, just big, and he liked it that way. Although he wasn’t an athletic man, he did spend two hours a day, Monday through Friday, at the gym, and walked the seven blocks to work. That, he felt, was enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
He took off his lightweight cardigan and draped it over the back of his desk chair, revealing tattoo sleeves on both arms.
“How long did it take you to get all those tats?” Asked Miguel, as he stood to take a closer look. “I’ve been thinking about getting one myself.”
“You have, have you?” Liam said, with a touch of condensation in his tone.
Everybody, it seemed, wanted a tattoo nowadays, especially when they saw the art covering his arms. Liam wondered if somehow it made men feel more masculine and women feel more empowered.
He had gotten his first one – a blue and green eagle on his left bicep – when he was fourteen and running with one of the local street gangs, before they had gone big-time. Later, he had acquired random tattoos in jail and from biker pals he had met in jail. Long after he put his dark days behind him, he filled in the sleeves with more positive and romantic visions to signify his future life. Stars, ships sailing on gentle waves, into an emblazoned sunset, hearts, birds, and symbols of luck and fate, intertwined with venomous snakes, sickles, dripping blood, skeletons, to create a picture of, he hoped, moving forever forward. It was important for Liam that all his body art worked together to paint the full story of his life.
“So, have you thought about what tattoo you want, or how you want to begin your story?” Liam asked, interested in teaching young Miguel the ways of tattoos.
“Yeah, I was thinking of having Genevieve tattooed across my biceps, like a Celtic band, you know?” Just then the front door opened, and in walked Genevieve.
“Well, speak of the devil,” Liam couldn’t help announce, annoyed by Miguel’s foolish remark. Everyone knew tattooing the name of a lover on your body meant trouble. Miguel was so young, Liam thought.
“What do you mean, devil?” Asked Genevieve, looking around, worried.
“Oh, we were just talking about you, that’s all. Miguel here was telling me he was thinking of tattooing your name as a Celtic band around his bicep. What do you think?”
“Irish! It was going to be a surprise,” Miguel blurted. Genevieve looked absolutely mortified.
“Miguel,” Genevieve almost screamed. What were you thinking?” Miguel looked down, red faced and sheepish.
“Listen, you two,” Liam broke in. “I’m sure that’s all it was. Miguel thinking.” He paused. “He saw my tats and we just started talking, that’s all. I really don’t think he meant to actually do it, at least not yet, did you Miguel? I mean, not until you’re at least married or something.” Liam winked at Genevieve, who couldn’t help but grin. “What I want to know is, what are you doing here on your day off? Kathy Jacobson is due to arrive any minute, so if you need my help, G, now’s the time.”
Liam opened the appointment book and scanned the day’s clients. H/C – K. Jacobson. C/C – B. Makelki, C – D. Boyd, C – P. Petroni, and so on. He was booked till five. Miguel, meanwhile, had stepped close to Genevieve and put his arms around her waist. He drew her in for a kiss, when she pulled away, seemingly still annoyed at his thoughtless idea. Liam pretended not to notice. She turned to him.
“Got a minute then, Irish? It won’t take long.” Then she walked straight back to the staff room and opened the door, leaving it ajar for Liam. He looked at Miguel, standing alone in the middle of the salon floor.
“Be right back, mate. Oh, and if Kathy comes in, just ask her to have a seat. I’ll be right with her.” He patted him on the back. “Thanks, man.”
Liam followed Genevieve, closing the staff room door behind him. Once inside, he noticed how jumpy and edgy she was, not her usual bouncy and exuberant self. It bothered him.
“What’s up G? You’re not perturbed about that silly tat idea, are you?”
“Yes. But no, that’s not what’s really bothering me. It is weird though, you have to admit.” They both laughed.
“Actually, Irish, I’ve got some news from the front.”
“Yeah, the club, you know, The Foxy Lady. Another new development.”
“Oh, okay then, out with it.” Genevieve had Liam’s full attention now.
“Della overheard Dominic talking about how he and his cronies were going to fudge the books at the club, again, to make it look like he is now making more money than Mitch did when Mitch ran the place. Apparently Dom and his cohorts have been monkeying around with the numbers to make it look as if Mitch was losing money so that Dom could make his move to take over. He’s offering Mitch a super low price to buy him out, because Mitch thinks things are financially bad, when they’re really not.”
“Are you sure about this, G?”
“One hundred percent sure. Della spoke with Betty, Mitch’s old bookkeeper, who was told to leave her job about a year before all of this shit started. Apparently this guy, one of Dom’s thugs, paid Betty off after telling her that things were going to change, and that she should take the money or risk losing her job and being left with nothing. Sounds like he pretended he was working for the government, like he was trying to scare her or something.”
“And how did she find out it was a hoax?” Asked Liam, now more curious than ever.
“The new bookkeeper, Sandra, who works for Dom, is friends with Betty. Of course they keep their friendship a secret, but like a lot of jobs, bookkeeping is a small world.”
Liam stood for a minute, rubbing his chin and contemplating what to do.
“So now we need to get to Mitch, fill him in on what’s been going on, and somehow try to help him. That will be the hard part.”
“But getting to Mitch won’t be,” said a slightly cocky Genevieve, with a smile on her face.
“What do you mean, G? I have no idea who Mitch is or where to find him.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised at the contacts you have in that little black book of yours. We hairdressers aren’t nosey for nothing.”
“Does the name Frances Del Monte ring a bell?”
“Frances? Sure, she’s one of my best clients. Known her for years. What could Frances possibly have to do with this?”
“She may have nothing to do with this, but do you know her husband?”
Suddenly the light bulb went on.
“Oh my god, Mitch! That’s the Mitch from the club? Who would have guessed? Apparently not me.” They giggled. “I guess I need to be way more attentive and inquisitive when shampooing.”
“Apparently,” repeated Genevieve.
The door knocked and Miguel’s voice could be heard telling Liam that his first client, Kathy Jacobson, had arrived.
“Thanks, Miguel. Be right out,” Liam answered. He looked at Genevieve. He noticed the lines around her big brown eyes, strained earlier, had started to soften. Her mouth was not as terse and was back to being plump, red and luscious, and her arms were now uncrossed and dangling by her side. He felt better seeing these small changes in her demeanor.
“Gotta run, G, but thanks. Really appreciate your confiding in me like you do.”
“Who else is there?” She replied in a meek voice.
“Well, Della, for one…and Miguel.”
“Are you kidding me? Della, sure, but Miguel,” she lowered her voice. “No way! I probably shouldn’t have led him on in the first place. I wasn’t thinking…”
“G, really, I don’t need to hear all this,” Liam cut in, not wanting too much information.
“No but…” Her voice broke off. “Well, you know how it is sometimes.”
Liam nodded agreement, even though he didn’t feel that these days he really did know ‘how it was’ anymore.
“Okay, well, we’ll talk soon,” Liam said, stalling the inevitable of getting to work. It occurred to him he could stay in the staff room talking to G all day, and wondered what that realization was all about.
“Okay.” There was an uncomfortable moment where neither of them knew quite what to say or do, where no one wanted the moment to end. Then Genevieve stepped forward and grabbed his wrists and held them. Standing on her tip-toes, she craned her neck up and kissed Liam with her full, moist lips, on the corner of his mouth. It wasn’t directly on his mouth, but it wasn’t on his cheek either, and her lips lingered there for much longer than if it was just a friendly peck. Liam’s loins immediately kicked in, and without being able to stop it, he instantly had a full and hard erection. If Genevieve had felt the rise in his pants, she pretended not to notice. Graciously, she looked up and backed away, giving him the space he needed.
“Alrighty then,” Liam said, blushing. “Best be getting to work now.”
Liam turned on his heels without looking back. He was afraid if he did, he may never walk out that door.
...stay tuned...Chapter 8 will be posted next Tuesday, September 6th...