CHAPTER 16 - WHO CAME KNOCKING
Shock and disbelief swept over the lot of them as the extent of the damage began to sink in. It was two days after the horrible incident at The Lady. An old ghetto blaster had been set up to drown out the din of clean-up while Harry, the bartender, and a crew of bouncers set tables and chairs back in place and swept away shards of broken glass. The atmosphere was gloomy. No one had heard from or seen Dominic Diaz, which spoke volumes, but no one really wanted to see him. They all knew from their simmering anger and frustration that if he were to walk into the club right now he might not make it out alive.
As usual, Liam and Genevieve were sitting with Della at the back corner table when Miguel entered through the backstage door. What lights were still functioning cast a dim glow in the room. Although clean-up had begun, based on the dismal state of things, it was going to be a long, slow process despite the need to get things up and running swiftly.
“Hey,” Miguel said as he approached the table. “Glad to see someone’s still hanging around. Anything I can do to help out?”
“Have a seat, Miguel,” Liam offered. He scooted over on the cushioned bench of the booth to make room. Miguel obliged.
“Where’s the rest of them? Where’s Mitch and Fran?”
“They went home,” Liam replied. “It has all been too much for them, especially Franny.” He looked at Della, then to G, who was slumped in the corner, head bent forward. “They just need a break. I told them we’d take care of things.”
“Oh for sure, man,” Miguel said, jumping in enthusiastically. “I’ll do what ever it takes. No problem.”
Normally Liam would have smiled at that, but he was too distracted trying to make sense of this blatant show of revenge by who was now their enemy. The game had changed. With unspoken thoughts, it was clear to them all that this meant war. Each one bore their own outrage, their own grief, each had a bone to pick with Dominic Diaz. And, if Dom was capable of this, what else might he do? The scope of their plan felt overwhelming now, and they all wondered if they were in over their heads. But they all knew they were in it together, and Dom must be stopped - somehow.
“So, I don’t know about the rest of you,” Della broke in. “But we came down here for a reason. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll wade through this shit Dom tried to place in our path and carry on with our plan. We’re not the types to let some piece of work like him ruin our lives.” Della put her hand gently on Genevieve’s shoulder and kept it there comfortingly as if to say, everything will be alright.
“Damned if I’m gonna let that prick get away with this,” Liam suddenly blurted. Everyone was quiet for a moment, not knowing what to say.
“Irish, no one is going to let that man get away with this or anything else. No one.” Della said with gumption.
Just then the front door creaked open allowing a sliver of light to enter. A dark figure appeared, but they couldn’t tell who it was as the shadow that was being cast was larger than life. Thinking it might be Dom and his heartless thugs returning to the scene of the crime, they remained motionless while a lone, hooded figure slowly made its way through the darkness toward their table. Tension hung in the air. Liam’s body stiffened at the ready. Genevieve sat up straight, eyes and ears perked. It didn’t look like Dom, but was it one of his many goons? Then around the corner Savannah appeared, wrapped in a bulky, hooded terry cloth bathrobe, two sizes too big. A lavender silk dressing gown hung out the bottom.
“What are you doing here, Savannah?” It was Liam who spoke first. Unlike her usual feistiness, she looked around the table shyly.
“I was awake,” she started, and shot a quick glance over to Miguel, who smiled in return, which seemed to put her more at ease. “I just thought I’d come in to see if anyone was here...what was going on, that’s all.”
“Slide on in,” Genevieve said, and gestured for Savannah to squeeze in beside her. Miguel stood up, as did Della, to let Savannah in around the now crowded table.
“Well, isn’t this very King Arthur-like?” Miguel said with a chuckle, noting the appearance of them seated around the table. No one laughed.
“Listen,” Savannah began. “I think I can help.” Liam looked at her, surprised.
“What do you mean help Savannah?” He asked.
“Well, I’ve been thinking, and talking with the girls...and Miguel.” Her eyes darted toward Miguel again, but she knew better than to let them linger, not now.
“You see, some of us girls have been keeping notes, diaries, of the money we make, lend, and are owed. As you may know, Dom takes a cut - a huge cut, in our,” she paused. “In our after-hours work.” Savannah looked around at the inquisitive faces staring at her. Were they surprised at this news? She thought not. Were they disgusted, or did they judge her for her chosen lifestyle? If they only knew her story, they might understand, might have some sympathy. She knew G had been down the same road. Surely she understood. Really, any one of them should understand, given the situation of the club they all chose to hang out in. Lost in thought, Savannah almost forgot she was telling them vital information.
“Go on,” Liam said gently, coaxing Savannah on.
“Well, here’s the deal. Dom has been not only taking too big of a cut from our hard earned wages, he also borrows money from many of the girls. Not me, because he knows better,” she smiled. “But several of the other girls. He threatens them big time not to tell anyone, including me. Luckily we all confide in each other in this business, or at least we do here at The Lady. Anyway,” she took a deep breath. “He borrows money with the pretense that he will pay them back with interest of fifteen to twenty percent. He goes so far as to sign a promissory note, which I’m sure is a fake. He probably rips it up afterward. The point is, none of these girls have seen a dime, and for many it’s been over a year. The thing is, Dom has had the money and could have easily paid for this place by now,” she said, indicating the club by pointing at the surrounding mess. “He could have paid Mitch in payments with the money he’s been getting, but he hasn’t. Dom is spending it somewhere, and it wouldn’t be hard to find out where.”
“How do you figure that, Savannah? What do you know?” Liam’s interest was clearly piqued.
“I don’t know anything...yet. But, well you see, my brother’s a cop.”
“A what?” The question rang out in unison as jaws dropped around the table.
“Savannah, with all due respect,” Liam asked politely. “Does your brother know what you do?”
“Yeah, of course he does. We come from the same background, the same seed. You know the drill. We’ve both had to try to make a go of it, we’ve just chosen different paths. He knows that, and he knows I’m a good person, a decent person, so he protects me in my chosen career till I can work myself out of this hell-hole.”
The table was quiet, but Genevieve put her arm around Savannah’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze. Savannah rested a tired head on G’s shoulder and closed her eyes for a moment while she gathered her thoughts. She knew G would understand, but there was so much to explain, so much to put on the table.
“I’m guessing there’s more,” Liam asked, trying to keep momentum going. Savannah’s eyes opened.
“Okay, my idea is this; we get my brother in on the plan.”
“Are you joking?” Della broke in.
“It’s okay, Della,” said Liam. “Let’s wait to hear what Savannah has to say. Go on, Savannah.”
“Well, I was thinking that if Billy, that’s my brother. If Billy knew the whole story - about the club and the deal between Dom and Mitch, and the sleazy way in which Dom operates, then maybe he’d be able to come up with a way to nab him. You know, dig up some old shit on him, because I’m sure there is some. Or maybe he could work undercover, and with the help of the girls, catch him in the act.” Savannah looked around the table. “You know, this trashing of the club is just a warning. Who knows what he’ll do next, but let’s not wait to find out. All we need is proof - anything at all - and we can nail his ass to the cross.”
Liam nodded as he took in this new information. He had to agree she had some good points. And they had nothing to hide from the cops, except perhaps what went on backstage after hours, which the cops might overlook since they were handing them a much bigger fish to fry.
Just then their meeting was disrupted by a loud disturbance. Liam looked over to the side door entrance where the noise came from.
“You stay here,” Liam said to the rest of the group. “I’m going to check things out. Be right back.” Liam rose and headed toward the bar.
“Wait, I’m coming too,” said Savannah, scrambling over Miguel and Della to get out. Before anyone could stop her, Savannah was bounding after Liam, who had no time to question her.
Feeling anxious, and sensing a need to act, Miguel grabbed what he figured was his only opportunity to talk with Genevieve. It had been too long. They had been so distant lately, due in part to everything that was going down at the club, but also due to their drifting apart over the past few days. Miguel knew they needed to discuss things, but it had been next to impossible to find time alone together.
He had felt Genevieve pulling away from him. On reflection, their last intimate time together had been at the beach, which seemed years rather than days ago. Since that time she had become aloof, had avoided being alone with him and made a point of being too busy to get together anymore. No doubt he was hurt, especially after the passion they had shared that day, and the freedom she felt for the first time in who knew how long. Somehow he believed he’d played a role in her liberation, yet that was as close as she’d let him get to her. For Miguel, it was a turn of events, and it had been that point when he realized that, no matter how attracted he was to Genevieve, or how amazing he thought she was, the connection they had was strictly physical. Ironically, rather than simply enjoy their erotic and often wild sexual encounters they had, he had been the one trying to make more of it, trying to create something that was not meant to be. Wasn’t he usually the no strings attached guy? Yet with G, he had been trying to drive their romance upstream rather than let it go with the flow. He had become his own worst enemy, and now had become hers. Ironically, Genevieve had changed the way he viewed relationships by playing at his game. And ironically, he had found the smart, sexy, independent woman of his dreams when he wasn’t looking, when he let go of trying. Once he met Savannah did he truly understand this.
Lately it had become harder and harder for Miguel to be in G’s presence and not confide in her, not tell her the truth about what was going on, what had been going on, not only inside him but with Savannah. He wanted to talk about the choices they had made, or more specifically, the choice he had made, so they could end this now nonexistent relationship and carry on as friends. He believed they had a good chance of doing this, but they had to talk.
“G,” Miguel said in a whisper, turning to Genevieve in earnest. “We haven’t had a minute alone and...and so much has been happening. We just have to talk.” Miguel stopped and waited for her response, but she gave none, so he continued.
“Listen, G, I’m not trying to mess things up between us or anything, but...”
“But what, Miguel?” Genevieve looked across the table, but Della seemed to be preoccupied with Liam and what all the commotion was about, so she turned back to Miguel. “It hasn’t exactly been a stress free time in anybody’s life right now, has it?” She continued. “So I’m sorry if I haven’t been there for you the way you’d like me to. I’m sorry, okay?” Miguel looked puzzled.
“It’s not you, G. It’s me. I’m the one. I...I haven’t been one hundred percent...”
Suddenly all the lights went out. The ghetto blaster quit playing, leaving only muffled sounds of confusion in the room.
“What the fuck? Who turned off the lights?” Cried an annoyed male voice from somewhere behind the bar.
“I can’t see a thing,” said another.
“What’s going on? Irish...Irish?” Della was groping her way out of the booth, either on her way to find Liam, or on her way to the fuse box. Genevieve climbed out of her seat and met Della in front of the table.
“Sorry, Miguel. We’ll have to finish this conversation later.” Then Della and Genevieve headed slowly and cautiously toward the hubbub.
“Irish, where are you,” Genevieve yelled in the direction that she thought Liam and Savannah had gone.
“Someone have a light? We need light.” It was Harry who hollered from somewhere across the room.
“Shit. Where’s my torch when I need it?” One of the work crew could be heard fumbling around for a lighter.
“Get off me...quit touching me you queer,” came a voice all too familiar. It sent chills up and down Della and Genevieve’s spine. Their pace quickened, but in the pitch blackness and with the debris strewn around the club, they were limited.
Hands desperately grasped at the dark, panic stricken voices called out. Something, a beer glass or pitcher, fell to the floor and shattered, a bar stool tumbled over, landing with a loud bang on the concrete floor. For what seemed eternity there was mild chaos, then a tussle at the bar ensued, and out of nowhere a shot rang out, followed by a terrifying silence.
...stay tuned...Chapter 17 will be posted next Tuesday, November 8th...