Stories, poems and other musings from the mind of a writer who suffers from World Builder's Disease
Chapter Two of You Can’t Live Forever
This is the first draft and obviously is in need of editing.
I pulled my T-Bird to a slow stop in one of the last available parking spaces. Damn. Not even 9 PM and the place was already packed. The slick neon sign announced the club as Carpe Noctem. I laughed. Seize the Night, huh? More like get soused and seize a doll’s derrière. Below the club logo there were interchangeable letters:
8 INTO THE DARK
10 C.J. KNIGHT
11 COFFIN SMOKE
Never heard of the other two bands, but they didn’t sound like blues bands to me, nor did this joint look like any blues place I’d seen. Maybe this is why Ceej wanted to see me. She was not forthcoming on the phone, but pleaded with me to come as soon as I could. I’d planned on doing a followup on Winchester—money is money, after all, and Mrs. Handsome perfectly good crumbs spent as good as any—but C.J. was a friend, and she paid in good, solid bread. No crumbs from her.
I waited for B.B.’s Stormy Monday on the compact disk to end before I shut of the motor. The rain made pea-sized explosions on the wind-screen. It was coming down hard and cold for November. The streets were black, but not yet slick. I chuckled at the kids lined up outside, hugging the wall and cowering under umbrellas or jackets held over their heads, waiting their turn. Then there were the handful of soggy sots crouched under the eaves at the regulated twenty feet distance from the entrance, with their pinpoints of glowing red and the accompanying blue clouds of gloomy smoke.
The queued up patrons gave off half-hearted complaints as I approached the entrance and pushed through chrome-edged maroon doors into to foyer. The big-belly doorman, a chrome-dome with a shaggy black beard, rose from his stool and put out his hand to stop me. He must’ve read the look on my mug, because he stopped short of laying mitts on me.
“I’m here to see Miss Knight, the singer,” I said. Crap, the music from the band inside was so loud I could barely hear myself.
“There’s a line, man,” the bouncer told me. I didn’t hear him, so much as read his lips. Decades of living with a ghost, ya pick up the knack.
I repeated myself, this time close to his ear, and added, “…at her request. I’m a private dick and she’s my client.” And friend. But that was none of this palooka’s business.
Without backing away, he yelled, “What’s your name?,” and I told him. He shook his head, so I pulled out my license. He gave it a gander then turned. The word ‘security’ was printed on the back of his T-shirt. Well, don’t I feel secure now? Very secure. Sheeh.
He called over another guy, this one built like a brick smokestack. He was also bald, and wore designer sunglasses, and an expensive dark suit jacked over a dark maroon silk shirt with matching pocket handkerchief. Never trust a fella what wears sunglasses indoors. Either they are hiding something, or trying to look imposing or impressive. This guy managed all three, in my ever-so-humble opinion.
The bouncer had to lean way up to speak into the goon’s ear—and the bouncer was about my height. Goon didn’t so much as incline his head. I’d peg the tall man for about six-eight or nine. And from the obvious custom cut of his suit and the tightness at his biceps and thighs, he was a regular attendee at the local Gold’s.
The goon regarded me, expressionless. He turned and vanished into the saturnine ambiance of the club. As I waited in the open foyer, I could not help but cringe at the horrible music. It was some kind of post-punkish goth or some such other, heavy on the bass and steady drum rhythm, with an atonal, pale-faced, racoon-eyed lead singer spouting something about misery and loathing. Shoot me in the head, will ya? Why the hell C.J. was playing here was completely beyond me.
The place was all deep purples and maroons, with slick chrome trim and a black ceiling above those modern, color-changing and programmed spinning lights which shone down on the clustered, gyrating crowd. These kids danced like they were hopped up on the reefer, or even stronger illicit substances. But the only reek of was sweat and a jarring muddle of perfumes and colognes.
Around the perimeter was a raised, cordoned-off platform with half-moon booths peopled with well-dressed older folk. Well, older than the black-clad kids on the dance floor or waiting outside. A tip would’ve insured bypassing the line, perhaps a seat in one of those poshy VIP booths. But I was here to see Ceej, and sitting or standing, I wouldn’t stay in this joint a moment longer than I had to. Gads this music was rubbish.
Two kids–dressed all in black, go figure–approached the mook guarding the rope. They came from the semi-circular bar where they’d recently been chatting up the skirt who poured the drinks. She’d nodded toward the platform booths, and the kids made a bee-line for it. The security, another guy in a tidy suit, unlatched the hook, pocketed a palmed bills the pink-haired kid handed him, and then motioned them over to the first booth.
Meanwhile, in the far corner booth, what had to be darker than the others by design, a couple was necking. Literally. This fella had his face buried beneath his dame’s jaw. Her head was arched back and despite the gloom and shadows, I could make out an expression of ecstasy on her pretty mug.
Back at the first booth, the kids got up and headed directly for the mens’ room. Fucking drugs. This was not a clean joint. And this was no street gang-run place. I’d had a run-in or two with the mob here in Sactown, but they usually keep their dealings subtle; cybercrime, white-collar crime and the like. Perhaps this Capre Noctem was a front. Clubs like this are good for laundering money.
I was starting to see why Ceej called me. This place was dirty as hell, and between the stink, the band’s noise and whatever illicit activities where happening here, I was itching to share my knuckles with the first bozo what crossed me.
Ceej plays the blues. Southern blues. This ain’t no blues club. What in the hell is she doing on the bill here?
The unmistakably enormous goon emerged from a corridor leading backstage, between another set of well-dressed security. Seeing that he had my attention, he pointed at me, then waved me over with two fingers. There was still no expression on his square-jawed mug. Smug jackass.
I pushed through the crowd, and one of the two security men—or should I call them mooks?—unhooked a silver sash and let me and the goon pass beyond the sign that read “no admittance, emergency exit only.” I’m surprised they didn’t pat me down. Both security mooks sported tell-tale bulges in their underarm region. The man who lifted the cord was a lefty. I hadn’t caught if the big goon was packing, but with those biceps, he didn’t need to be. His fists were likely lethal all unto themselves.
The short corridor featured no posters or decor of any kind on the dark maroon walls, and the lights in the ceiling were so counter-productively dimmed that it was a hell of chore to read the “PRIVATE” signs on the first two of four doors.
The third had a similar chrome sign that simply stated, “ARTIST.” Goon rapped on the door, surprisingly gentle for a brute. In a deep voice tinged with hellfire, he said, “Miss Knight, your guest, Mister Raymond Swage, is here to see you.”
Her voice was a delight. “Come on in, sugar.”