Ruthie’s squeal of delight broke the silence as Dan double parked. “We’re going to LaSin?” she asked, already reaching for her seatbelt. Dan shook his head.
“I’m going into LaSin. Business, remember? That, and you’re under twenty one,” he said in his dad will get his way voice.
Ruthie didn’t buy into the voice. “But you’re a cop.,” she reasoned. “You could get me in.” She saw she wasn’t winning, so she turned it up to eleven. “It’s my birthday,” she continued, but saw even less hope. “Come on Dad! I just want to dance. I have friends in school that got in a couple of weeks ago and they told me all about it.”
Dan shook his head no and got out of the car. “Ruthie, I’m a cop which means I uphold the law.”
Ruthie gestured to the car. “By double parking?”
Dan smiled his most pleasant cop smile. “Yes. It’s for the greater good.”
Ruthie didn’t want to give up yet. “But-”
Dan interrupted. “Reservations are at seven.”
Ruthie pulled out her cell phone and started to text. “Then hurry up,” she said.
Dan smiled a real smile at Ruthie, and then fixed on his official policeman glare as he approached LaSin. LaSin was an old mill along the river that had been converted over to so many different things in the past twenty years that the building could be said to have an identity crisis. The fact that LaSin had become the hottest nightclub four years ago and remained that way was a bit of a mystery to most people in the city. Dan knew the real secret. That’s why he was here tonight.
The bouncer didn’t look happy when Dan cut to the front of the line. Of course with the face he had, the bouncer probably never looked happy. “Hey, you got a note from your mommy?” the bouncer asked.
Dan pulled out his badge and flashed it to the bouncer. “I got one from yours. She told me to remind you to wash behind your ears.”
The bouncer growled, but moved out of the way. A pretend goth trying to impress his girl cried out, “What the hell! We’ve been here for a half an hour.”
Dan paused before opening the door. “Do you want me to handle him?”
The bouncer gave what must have passed as his million dollar smile. It was about nine hundred thousand dollars or so short. “Why don’t you go in for a while? Don’t worry about anything out here.”
“Wouldn’t think of it.” Dan opened the door and the cacophony made him pause a second before taking the plunge.
As the doors closed Dan found himself on a balcony overlooking the main dance floor before. Most people were moving with the beat, but there were still a few that couldn’t find it even though the beat was humping them with every thump-thump-thump of the hidden subwoofers. The colors from the roving strobes enhanced the effect of chaos to the point where there was almost a primal beauty that pulled Dan in. He had to shake his head to separate himself from the group experience.
LaSin had an interesting layout. The dance floor took up most of the first floor a couple steps down from the entrance balcony, except for the slick black mirrored bar that took up the whole back wall. The second floor for the most part had been cut out to give the place a cavernous feel. The only place where it still existed was above the bar. That was where the main office was and allowed a bird’s eye view to the festivities below. The stairs to the office also led the third floor. The third floor was where there were private VIP suites and who knows what else.
Dan scanned the crowd, looking for his target. He saw him standing along the bar and smiled at his luck. Dan descended into the sea of gyrating humanity and made for his prey. A redheaded woman dressed in crimson with a long plunging neckline and even longer legs materialized in front of him, suggesting with her dancing that she would like nothing better than to swallow up Dan whole. He smiled at her and tried to get around, but she wouldn’t let him past. Dan shouted in her ear, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for this.”
She leaned in and purred, “Are you sure?”
Dan smiled and shook his head yes. She pouted and leaned in one more time. “You’ll be back.” She then gave him a playful kiss to his ear before she spun away form him and into a African American man that looked like he walked off the cover of GQ. Still she gave him one more look of promise that made Dan almost forget what he was doing.
Dan made good time through the throng, but upon departing the sea of human flesh he realized his query had moved. Dan began scanning again, but his hopes began to deflate when after a couple of minutes he couldn’t catch a glimpse. Looking at the bar one more time he noticed the bartender trying to get his attention. Dan moved closer to see what the bartender wanted. The bartender tried to hand him a drink, form the looks of it a rum and Coke. That was his drink of choice, but… “I didn’t order this,” Dan shouted.
The bartender shouted back, “On the house. He’s in the office.” He then pointed up above and Dan finally understood. He took the drink and made his way to the stair. Another bouncer located at the foot of the stairs didn’t even look twice at him before pulling aside the velvet rope. Dan wondered if he should tip him but decided against it and moved upstairs.
The door to the office was slightly ajar so he let himself in. There behind the mahogany desk was Jorge Pereira, resident filth, but filth that had some conscience, and Dan could work with that. Jorge was wearing his all black outfit today. He believed in monochrome if he could help it. He had something about keeping the choices simple. Jorge hated complications. He was looking a bit under the weather tonight. His normally jet black hair had a bunch of grey making inroads, and his eyes looked a bit haunted. He even had a large bandage on his left forearm. Dan closed the door behind him and the sound was muted to where two people could have a conversation without losing their voices after three sentences, though the beat still threatened to turn into a real earthquake up here.
“Thanks for the drink, man,” said Dan as he sat down in the only other chair in the room, across the desk from Jorge.
Jorge raised a shot glass full of whisky. “Here’s to your health.” With that Jorge threw the shot back and poured himself from the almost empty bottle that was the only other thing on the desk.
“No offense, but you need it,” said Dan, “You look like crap. What happened?”
Jorge gave out a course laugh and then was quiet for a bit. “Just business woes. This bull is catching up to me. I wish I had gotten out sooner, but what ya gonna do?” Jorge slouched back and ran his hands through his hair.
“You could just walk away now,” Dan said as he sipped his drink. “Move to Minnesota, pick up fishing, buy a snowmobile.”
Jorge gave another course laugh. He waved his shot glass at Dan. “You know why I like you Cunningham?”
“My impeccable taste in clothes.”
“You’re such an asshole. You know that?” Jorge pounded back another shot, then reloaded.
Dan put his drink on the desk and leaned back. Something heavy was going on. “That’s why you like me?” Dan asked. “Most people don’t find that part of me a positive.”
“They’re idiots. Trust me on this. I know people.” Jorge almost took the shot but put it down and looked Dan in the eye. “I know why you’re here. Just go away. Trust me on that one. It isn’t worth it.”
“Why am I here Jorge? I didn’t know you can read minds.”
Jorge leaned forward across his desk to get closer to Dan. The smell on his breath put Jorge at about a blood alcohol content of oh point two or so. Dan had to fight a reflex to lean away and instead leaned closer.
Jorge practically whispered. “You’re here to find out what happened to Bobby Gleason.” Jorge sat back with a triumphant look on his face.
Dan smiled a bit. “Close but no cigar Jorge. I know what happened to Bobby Gleason. He was killed pushing weed in territory he wasn’t supposed to be in.”
Jorge smiled. “That’s a good story, isn’t it?”
Dan nodded. “Good enough for me.” Dan stood up and leaned across Jorge’s desk to imitate what Jorge did earlier. “What I was more interested was meeting your new boss.”
Jorge lost what little color he had and he downed the rest of the bottle, leaving the shot glass where it was. “How screwed up are you to want that?”
Dan took a seat on the desk. “Simple, screwed up enough to want to meet the new man in town.”
Jorge shook his head violently. “No, no, no! No way. I told you I liked you. Why do you want to do this? Why do you hate me?”
Jorge had a great idea about opening this place seven years ago. When traditional funding sources had all said no, he resorted to untraditional ones. The people whom he borrowed the money from thought he was a fool, but his dream was contagious. He paid them all back before it was time, with interest. The bad thing is people like that don’t like being cut off from the cash cow. They also like the cover it gave them for pushing drugs, prostitution, and especially laundering massive amounts of dirty money through Jorge’s use of consultants and contractors. They gave Jorge a small percentage and allowed him to have his day job. Dan allowed Jorge to exist because Jorge always let him know when someone was trying to go big time. Dan got publicity, Jorge got rid of trouble, and the mayhem that lived under the surface had a stable place to play. Nobody really liked the solution, but it was one food chain that worked for all involved and no one wanted to rock the boat. That is until someone new had come to town.
“I don’t hate you,” said Dan. “I’m your biggest fan. Remember I even sent you those ascots for Christmas. I don’t do that for everybody.”
“You’re quite the comedian. Trust me, you mess around with him and he’ll have your balls in a vise and he’ll never stop turning the crank.”
Dan shook his head. “I know he’s here tonight,” Dan said. “Just arrange a short face to face. I want to make sure he understands the rules.”
Jorge got up and into Dan’s personal space. “I’m doing this because you’re still my favorite jerk. Go away. Check out Minnesota for me. Just run.”
Dan put the police stare on. “Calm down or I’m going to call in the cavalry and shut this place down. What would your boss say then?”
Jorge sat back down in the chair and slumped down, his energy poured out of him leaving him as empty as the whiskey bottle that he was staring at. “You know your signing your own death certificate. I’m not going to do nothing.”
Dan paused and just starred at the man in front of him. “Are you sure you want to go there?” Jorge didn’t move a muscle. Dan yelled, “What the hell has gotten into you?”, but there was still no response. “If that’s the way you want to play it.” Dan left the room and slammed the door closed.
Jorge picked up the full shot glass and hurled it into the door, shattering it. He sat there looking at the empty bottle for a while and then got to his feet and wandered the best he could to the door. He pulled it open just in time to see Dan about to brave the dance floor again.
Dan sensed something and turned around and saw Jorge in the door. Dan shrugged his shoulders in a way of asking if he should continue. Jorge waved him to go on. Dan shook his head and plunged back into the dancing throng. Jorge could see the woman in the scarlet dress dance her way directly towards Dan while she was watching Jorge. Jorge willed her to stop, but he was as powerless in that as he was walking away from this dream that had turned into a waking nightmare. Why was he always sucking on the wrong end of the cigar of life?
Dan saw the woman in the scarlet dress and tried to avoid her, but the woman was not going to be denied. She used the wave of humanity around her to pin him in a small space of relative calm. Dan was hoping the riptide would come back soon and rip her away.
She danced along his body and yelled in his ear, “I knew you’d be back.”
Dan went rigid so he wouldn’t encourage her. “Please move out of the way. I’m really not interested.”
The lady in scarlet ran her hand down his crotch. He snatched her hand away but she just smiled at him. “Me thinks you are lying to me.”
Dan didn’t let go of her wrists right away. “Don’t do that. I’m a police officer.”
She licked her lips. “Nice to meet you Mr. Cunningham. My name is Mandy. It rhymes with candy. If you want to see how many licks…”
Dan let her go with a bit of a shove. “Excuse me.” Dan began to move on in a straight line, shoving whomever was in his way and wearing his “try it and I’ll kick you back into your mother’s womb” look.
He was half way across the floor when someone grabbed his shoulder. Dan spun around, his fist raised when he noticed it was Mandy. Dan yelled at her, “What part of no don’t you understand.”
Mandy cracked a grin and pointed at his crotch. “You may say no, but he said says yes.”
Dan couldn’t help but look down. He realized it wasn’t showing anything and looked back at Mandy, but this time she was pulling a key out of her cleavage. Dan had had enough. He went to reach for his cuffs when Mandy yelled, “He’s waiting in the three twenty four.” Dan stood there poleaxed as Mandy gave him the key and kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t keep him waiting.” She rubbed against him one more time. “Maybe next time you won’t be in such a hurry.” She then made a bit of room between the two of them and was swept away in the human current. Dan looked to the office and saw Jorge walk into his office a broken man and slam close the door. Dan looked back at the key and wondered if it was really worth it.