Della’s presence brought an eerie hush in the room. She had walked in from the side door when one of the bouncers clued her in to what was going down backstage. She knew she was needed.
“So, Dom, what seems to be the problem?” Della was staring directly into his eyes, her hands firmly planted on her hips. Dominic looked annoyed.
“Fucked if I know. I saw this schmuck sneaking into sweet little Savannah’s room, and, well, it just stinks, that’s all. I don’ like it. Nobody messes with my girls, that’s all I’m sayin’.”
Della thought for a minute before responding.
“Your girls? Really? Have you asked Savannah how she feels?”
Dominic shifted restlessly from foot to foot. He didn’t like confrontations at the best of times. He knew he was a loose cannon, and could snap at any moment, but he held fast.
“Listen, Della. That is your name, aint it?” He looked at her, nonplussed. Della nodded. “So, here’s the deal. Since I now own this joint, I’m the one looking out for things, got it?” He glanced around the room to show who was in charge. “These here my girls, this my stage, this my show. Aint nobody telling me how I do things, even you.” He glared at Della who stood her ground. There was a long silence. Women’s eyes peered out from behind doors cracked just enough to get the gist of what was going on. Those brave enough to have remained standing out in the open hall, kept as still as statues. Images of how this would all end up raced through Liam’s head. Would Dominic win, therefore gaining even more unnecessary power to fuel his gangster ways. Liam hated the idea. Tension hung in the air like a fuse ready to be lit.
“Well, Dominic,” Della suddenly chimed in. “Seeing as this place of yours is still under escrow, seems to me it’s not really yours yet, is it?” She smirked ever so slightly, but hastened to be too coy as to trigger the temper Dominic was known for.
“If memory serves me, you’re still trying to come up with the cash to seal the deal. Am I right, Dominic?” Della now held a poker face. Not only did Liam feel his body relax a bit but there was an overall release of pressure in the room as this bit of confidential information was given out. The only one who looked anxious now was Dominic.
“Shut the fuck up, bitch. All a yous, can just go to hell.” Dominic’s fists clenched. The group started to back away from him. “You think you’re so smart? He continued, looking first at Della, then at Liam. “Well just wait...just you wait.” With that last comment left dangling in the silent room, Dominic turned, and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
“Well,” Della sighed, letting her arms fall easily down to her sides. “That about settles that, at least for the time being. Now,” she glanced around the room at the sets of eyes looking to her for direction. “Y’all get back to your business. He’s gone, and won’t be coming back tonight, I can promise you that. Just don’t go doing anything foolish, ya hear me?”
There was a general flurry of shuffling and scurrying as people went back to their business. Liam looked at Della. Savannah, who had snuggled up against Liam’s back for protection, cautiously poked her head out from under his arm.
“So, what’s the deal, Della? Since when did Dominic take over this place…and why? I mean, I’ve been coming here for years, you know that, and I’ve never seen that guy here. Never.”
“Don’t worry about it, Irish,” Della shrugged. “He’s a big talkin’ crook, is what he is. Truth is, he walked in here sometime last month. Wanted to bail old Mitch out of the bind he was in with the rent and all. Poor Mitch, didn’t see it coming, but he had no choice. Money’s money. Thing is, Dom doesn’t have any, and if he suddenly gets some, like he’s tryin’ to do, ya know it’s dirty. But, I guess business is business. It’s not for me to say.” Della threw her hands up in dismay. All of a sudden, a shadow moved from behind the curtain and a figure emerged. It was Genevieve. She looked tired and worried, and held back from being her usual confident, even forceful self. Della picked up on her tension right away.
“Hey, G, c’mon over and talk with us. C’mon girl. Don’t be shy.” Della reached toward the general direction of where she hung in the darkness, and slowly Genevieve came forward and fell into Della’s embrace. She placed her head on Della’s shoulder in a show of defeat, but for what, Liam could not tell. Was she defeated that Dominic had been challenged and beaten, or was it something else? So far, he had not seen this demure side of Genevieve, and it intrigued him. Like the rest of the onlookers, he waited.
“Oh, Della…oh, Liam! I don’t know what to do.” Genevieve let her eyes drop to avoid letting on she was weeping. Liam moved away from Savannah and went to Genevieve, wrapping her small, shaking body in his big, comforting arms. Savannah did not look at all pleased. After a few minutes, Genevieve continued, warily at first, and then with more assurance.
“You all have no idea what a beast Dom is.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. Liam held her close and stroked her shoulders to help calm her down.
“He won’t let me out of his clutches. Ever since I broke up with him – almost six months ago – he…he has kept me like I’m his…his…like he’s my pimp.” Genevieve broke down in tears.
“It’s awful. You have no idea,” she said again. She looked up at Della. “He expects me to dance every night and to hand over my tips to him. He pays me, of course he pays me, but not enough to make it worth it. If I try to quit, he calls his thugs and they rough me up.” Sobbing almost uncontrollably now, Genevieve could hardly get the rest of her story out. Most of the women hanging around, began to move toward her from their prospective perches, all wanting to comfort her, like they could somehow relate to her story. Liam stood speechless. He didn’t know what to do. Once again, Della took charge.
“Tell me, honey, how long has this been going on?”
“Almost since we broke up, at least six months.”
“And were you a dancer here before you met Dominic?”
Genevieve quietly looked down. “No. I mean I had considered it, as a way to make extra money, that is. I’d always been good at dancing. Took ballet for seven years, and tap and jazz too. Stripping was a real scary decision for me to make, but after my first time, I realized it wasn’t so bad. I could block out the audience, you know, all the hootin’ and hollerin’, and go into my own world with the music and the movement, like I used to do in the dance studio, or later on when I was home alone, and danced in my living room.” She seemed to slip into another time and place as she drew from her past.
“Once I got my first paycheck, not to mention the tips, I figured I could work nights while keeping a day job and no one would be the wiser. So, that’s how it all began, eight years ago at The Royale. You know, over in South Beach? I was only seventeen, but it really worked for me, had a good routine going on, that is until I met Dominic.” She lowered her head again.
“Go on, sweetie. What changed?” Genevieve thought for a minute.
“Well,” she stammered. “At first he was real sweet to me, Dominic that is. He encouraged me to keep dancing at the club, work as much as I could. I think he liked the money.” She smiled at the irony. “That’s where we met, you know?”
“No, I didn’t know that.” Della replied in a kind, interested voice. “Go on.”
“He would send roses and champagne to my backstage room, like he was real proud of me. He’d send a car for me after work so I didn’t have to make my way home in the dark alone. He seemed to really like that I was a dancer, made me feel special.” Genevieve got quiet again.
“About a year after we met, I got the job here, at The Foxy. That’s when things started to change with Dom. He started bossing me around, telling me when to work and even what I should and shouldn’t do when I worked. He wasn’t supportive anymore, and you know something else? He stopped coming into the club. Never once did he come see me dance at The Foxy. Not once. Don’t you find that strange? I do. I think it’s really weird – disturbing, actually.”
Genevieve had stopped crying. Liam noticed a faraway look in her eye, as if in reverie. She didn’t look sad anymore, she looked confused yet relieved.
“It’s too complicated to go into details now, Della, but let’s just say that Dom is a controlling type.”
“You’re telling me,” said one of the girls across the room.
“I think…no I’m sure he was using me to gain control of, not only my life, but this club and everyone in it.” She looked around at all the faces nodding in agreement. “He did it so cleverly that I didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. And here I am. I don’t know how to extricate myself from his evil clutches. It’s like being a Mafia wife, locked in a lifestyle forever because you know too much.”
“What do you know, Genevieve?” Della’s question was gently put but urgent in need.
“I think we’ve been through enough for one night, don’t you?” Liam nodded toward Della, avoiding Genevieve’s eyes. “We certainly have a lot to discuss, but it’s late. Why don’t we all get some sleep and revisit this tomorrow, or sometime in the near future. What do you say?”
Della agreed. She took Genevieve by the hand and started toward the door.
“Come with me, little angel. I’ll make sure you get home safe and sound.”
“But…” Genevieve suddenly looked desperately at Liam, who looked back at her, surprised, and somewhat anguished as to what to do next.
“Irish, don’t you have some business to finish?” Savannah Porsche pulled at Liam’s arm in the direction of her room. In all the commotion, he’d forgotten what he had been up to before this had all started, and now he had lost interest.
“Oh, Savannah, maybe another…” But before he could get the excuse out of his mouth, Savannah dragged him into her room and closed the door behind them. It was only a matter of minutes before soft but burning moans could be heard resonating through the backrooms of The Foxy Lady strip club.
...stay tuned...Chapter 7 will be posted next Tuesday, August 23rd...