Chapter 13 - TACTICS
Miguel stepped through the backstage door into the dimly lit club. It was three am but he could hear The Way You Look Tonight sung by Billie Holiday, playing softly in the background while a second rate dancer performed an impromptu pole dance for the few stragglers that remained. It didn’t take much for Miguel to realize this was the time of night for young women vying for a job at The Lady got the opportunity to do their thing. Some made the cut, some didn’t. Judging from what he saw, this girl didn’t have what it took. She was young and beautiful, but had no rhythm, and lacked the moves and finesse that made a good dancer, stripper or otherwise.
He walked over the bar and ordered a bourbon, neat. As he looked around the near empty room he saw Della, so he grabbed his drink and made his way over to where she was standing. As he approached she looked at him suspiciously, and he realized she was talking to someone in a low whisper. He stopped. Then he saw Liam and Genevieve tucked in the dark corner of the table and he understood Della’s hesitance. He turned to go, but Liam stepped out of the booth and stopped him.
“Hey Miguel, what’s up? We thought you had left. Come on over and join us for a drink.” He made a sweeping gesture and Miguel followed, a bit hesitantly, and sidled in beside Genevieve. Liam climbed in beside her where he had been sitting.
“Weren’t you here earlier, Miguel, when Fran and Mitch were here? Asked Genevieve. “I could have sworn I saw you talking to Savannah and some of the girls.”
Miguel smiled meekly. “Yeah, I was here, that was me.” He cleared his throat and continued. “I came to see you.” He paused, as if looking for the right words. “And Irish of course.” Miguel stared at Liam. Genevieve couldn’t figure out whether his look was one of spite or understanding.
“So, why’d you go, Miguel?” Genevieve now looked at him, genuinely puzzled. Miguel blushed.
“We need to talk, Genevieve,” he said.
“Okay, that’s fine, Miguel,” she said. But perhaps now’s not the time. There’s a lot going down, if you know what I mean.”
Miguel looked at Della, then Liam, and back to Genevieve, and the lightbulb went on.
“Where are Mitch and Fran now?” He asked?
“They’ve gone home,” Liam interjected. “Fran heard about as much as she could take for one night.” He went on. “The main things is, the cat’s out of the bag. Fran knows the gist of it, and Mitch will fill her in on a need to know basis. At least they are back on track as a couple, which is the most important thing.” Liam took a deep breath. “Geez, we don’t need that asshole, Dom, ruining another relationship.” He glanced at Genevieve, who looked away.
Miguel shifted in his seat, trying to decide whether to stick around or leave them to their private discussion, but Liam made the decision for him.
“Della, would you mind bringing us another round, and get something for yourself, will you? Your shift has to be over.” Liam shot a glance to the stage where another girl, who did not look twenty-one, had joined the pole dancer. It looked as if they were free dancing, entertaining all of six hungry eyes staring from the front row. The men were well behaved, too drunk to move their slumped bodies from where they sat. The place was otherwise empty. Della let them be and headed for the bar. They were harmless. They’d be shooed out by Derek, one of two remaining bouncers when he was ready.
“So tell me, what do you know, Miguel? Fill me in on everything G has told you?”
Miguel waited, not sure what to reveal to Liam who, so far, hadn’t proven to be much of a confidant.
“Well, I know that Dom is a monster, that he’s been messing with everybody here at The Lady for years.” He paused. “I know that he screwed Genevieve out of money, and her life, until she took charge of it again.” He was talking directly to Genevieve now, not taking his eyes off her. She kept her gaze down now, and fidgeted in her seat. Liam put his hand on her leg to still her, or to try to set her at ease, if that were possible when discussing Dominic Diaz around her.
“Dom has to be stopped,” Miguel suddenly said. “Do you know that he truly thinks he owns the girls who work here? Not all of them, but the new ones, the young and vulnerable ones.” With a serious look on his face, he glanced from Genevieve to Liam, searching their faces for any hint that he understood what he was saying. “It starts with him offering to help them out. He gives them a job here at the club, buys them new clothes, wines and dines them at the fancy places in town, makes them feel pretty, like they’re going to have a new lease on life, then he ruins them by pimping them out on the side. He’s a first-rate pimp and he’s using some of the backstage rooms as his brothel. Not only that, he takes all the dough. Every penny those poor girls spread their legs for, or suck dick for, he takes it all.” Miguel was getting worked up with every new piece of information he shared. “Says the club has its rules,” he continued. “And until they bring in enough of a crowd with their show, which of course doesn’t happen overnight, that they owe him their earnings, like dues for him giving them their start. And if one of them questions him, she’ll come in with a black eye or a broken finger the next day and that’ll shut them all up. Meanwhile, Dom just hauls in the cash. What he does with it is anyone’s guess.”
Miguel stopped talking and downed the bourbon that Della had placed in front of him. She shoved another one over to him, having brought a double round knowing the kind of mood the conversation would elicit. Catching the tail end of Miguel’s rant was enough for her. Liam and Genevieve sat stone still.
“Is this true, Della?” Liam asked.
“I don’t really know, Irish,” Della replied, her voice shaking. “Sure, there’s been suspicion, and talk, especially over the past six months or so, but there’s just no proof, and the girls that we have questioned keep tight lips, as you can imagine.”
“Why didn’t you say anything, Della? After all this time, why not tell me?” Liam was upset. “I mean, we all know that some of the girls bring men back to their rooms after the show,” he admitted a little sheepishly. “That’s been going on for years, but it’s their choice. That’s been out in the open and everybody’s fine with it. There have been no problems, nobody gets hurt, at least that I’ve known of, but now to hear this...” His voice trailed off. “Nobody has said a thing to me about this, not even Savan...”
“Savannah?” Miguel interrupted. “Well she told me, tonight. It happened to her, it happened to all of them. It happened to G. Tell him, G. Tell him how he tricked you into working, first at his old club and then here, luring you to a better life, then eventual abuse and betrayal. But hey, these girls won’t tell a soul. They know they have every chance of disappearing, if you know what I mean. No one would notice, no one would miss them. He preys on the vulnerable. It’s disgusting.”
Liam stood up and began to pace in front of their table. He was fuming.
“You’re right, Miguel,” Genevieve said. “He is a monster, and has to be stopped, but it won’t be easy. He’s a loose cannon.” She looked over at Liam, who was getting madder by the minute. “I’ve told my story, or at least the start of it, and I’ve told Dom to his face that I won’t play his game any more,” Genevieve stopped to regain her composure. She was shaking but didn’t realize it. “That doesn’t mean I’m not scared though.”
Liam turned to her and stopped. It was the first time he’d heard her say this, felt her vulnerability, the frailty of the situation. He wanted to go over to her, sweep her into his big, strong arms, and smother her with kisses and love - real love. He would protect her, and he felt she knew that. It took all his power to refrain from telling Miguel, Della, the whole world, how he felt about Genevieve. That he loved her - he adored her, and had since the day she walked into Snippets Salon to ask for a job. At the time he thought she was adorable, albeit a bit of a flake, but she turned his head around before he knew what hit him. He learned she was as smart as a whip, caught onto new ideas and information quickly, and had that wonderful quality to be clever and edgy so that almost everyone was attracted to her, young and old. He couldn’t help think that somebody did something right in raising her, or maybe it was her ability to make it on her own that made her what she was. What ever it was, he was head over heels in love.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Genevieve said. “But I have a plan. It’ll take all of us, you, Miguel, and you Della, and Savannah and the other girls. We’ll need Mitch and Fran, Harry, and the bouncers - definitely the bouncers. And most of all we’ll need you, Irish.”
...Stay tuned...Chapter 14 will be posted next Tuesday, October 18th...