Chapter 1: Club Oasis
A stage. A band. A show.
This is Club Oasis. A small club located on the outskirts of Los Angeles. A place where the sounds of laid back jazz and soulful renditions emanate nightly like clockwork.
Every night is busy here, and business is plentiful. In the midst of the mood-lit club, deep blues and highlights of various greens reflect and shimmer off of the faces of the clientele as they sit at their respective tables and booths...
As the talking and murmuring of the people simmered down, a woman walked out onto the stage. Her caramel colored skin was accompanied by a seductive smile that alluringly matched her tight-fitting red dress. As she reached the microphone located at the front center of the stage, she stopped, placing one hand upon it with a delicacy that befitted someone holding a fragile flower as opposed to a metallic object. Leaning forward, she paused as she looked at the crowd—fully aware that most of its inhabitants were already undressing her with their eyes. With the knowledge that she now held the anticipation of everyone around her, she led with a smile before the words left her confidently pursed lips.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” she said in a voice that flowed like silk “I’m Selina.” She then extended her arms elegantly as she introduced her accompaniment on stage. “These fine gentlemen are The Wanderers. Welcome to Club Oasis. I hope you enjoy yourselves tonight.”
The crowd clapped in response. It wasn’t an uncontrolled clapping, but instead was one of ordered and almost reserved class; a class that suited the highbrow nature of the establishment.
On cue, the band started to play. First, the sound of a light flurry of the bongo drums led the performance, which was then quickly accompanied by the bass guitar, and then finally the rest of the band joined in. Selina started to sway to the hypnotic pulse of the gentle guitar and bongo drums behind her—rhythmically moving her hips from side to side like a pendulum. As the music penetrated the moment, she smiled, closed her eyes, and began to sing.
On the other side of the room a small girl sat at a booth. Her light brown skin, pigtailed brown hair, casual blue hoody, and black jeans set her apart from the formally dressed patrons of the establishment. Add to this the fact that she was only 7 years old, and Sophia was the most obvious of anomalies at the club. As the crowd looked at the singer on stage, Sophia was instead fixated on her mobile phone.
As she texted, Sophia’s attention was suddenly divided between her phone and the room around her. As Sophia looked at her phone, someone walked past her. The slipstream of feint air, and rose tinted scent, peaked the 7 year old’s interest enough for her to look away from her screen. Looking up, Sophia saw a woman walking past her.
Like Sophia, the woman she was looking at was part of the crowd, yet somehow disconnected from it. The woman wore a pitch-black evening dress that complimented her elegant, twine-thin figure. Her waist was tapered, and she had a burnished complexion that accentuated her natural tan. A pair of arched eyebrows looked down over her sweeping eyelashes, and her delicate ears framed a button nose. Her shoulder length hair flowed freely as she walked, its blackness shined and shimmered against the lights of the establishment. Her enticing brown eyes hazed over puffy, heart shaped, lips. Bethany Blackstone was so well put together, yet so undone. Her outward appearance was a cheap veneer, one that masked a very deep and very costly emptiness that she felt.
Bethany took a seat a few tables away from Sophia. Sitting alone in the booth, Bethany seemed just as out of place as Sophia did. Bethany’s elegant appearance, coupled with her mature, yet agelessly beautiful face, should have made her a natural part of the environment. But the lack of interest in her eyes gave away her boredom.
Looking away from Bethany, and back at her phone, Sophia sighed before she put her phone back on the table. She missed her dad and wished that he was here with her now. Around her father, Sophia felt safe, protected. A feeling she now missed.
As she looked around the room for something, anything, Sophia noticed the woman again. Unlike all the other adults here, the woman wasn’t looking at the singer, nor was she talking about boring things with other adults. Instead she was folding and kneading at a small piece of paper in her hands. Sophia squinted as she tried to focus on the paper. The woman was making something, and it tickled Sophia’s interest as to what it was. As she tried to figure out what the woman was making, she also noticed the tattoos on the woman’s fingers. It was hard to tell what the tattoos were. They looked like shapes, maybe letters—it was hard to be sure.
At that moment Bethany looked up and directly at Sophia. The young girl felt startled and looked down at her plate. Bethany smiled wryly at the child, before she returned to her origami.
Sophia picked up her fork and started poking at her food. She wondered where her mother had gone. It was loud and she didn’t like it here. She wanted to go home. As she thought about where her mother might be, she used her fork to segregate the carrots from everything else. She tentatively looked up at the woman again. The woman was looking around the room, but then she noticed Sophia again.
This time Sophia didn’t look away. This time she was brave like daddy had taught her. Bethany looked back at her with nothing but a blank expression. Sophia felt a little unnerved and wanted to look away. But she forced herself to keep looking. Eventually the woman looked away from Sophia as she gently put down the paper she had been shaping.
Bethany then took hold of the glass of water in front of her, started to drink from it, and then let the water dribble out from her mouth.
Sophia couldn’t help but let out a giggle.
Bethany smiled as she wiped away the water from her mouth and chin with the back of her hand.
The funny woman was fun, Sophia thought to herself as she checked her phone again.
Suddenly Bethany’s attention was diverted from the fun-filled moment with Sophia, and to a group of men that entered the club. The group of men were well dressed. Wearing black tailored suits, they should have seemed at home here, however they had a look of menace about them that made them stand out from everyone else in the club.
One of them in particular stood out to Bethany. An aging figure with balding grey hair, glasses, and a thick grey beard. He seemed to be enveloped by the other men, as if protected. The same man also commanded respect from the manager of the club who rushed to meet him and almost bowed when greeting him.
The group of men didn’t take a table or seat, but instead were led by the manager to an exit located at the far end of the club.
As the group of men passed by her, Bethany checked her phone. The image on the screen matched that of the aging man walking past her. The name ‘Petrovich’ sat neatly under the image on Bethany’s smartphone.
Bethany stood up, and left her booth to follow the group of men.
As Sophia put down her phone on the table, she looked up and toward the booth with the ‘Funny woman.’ But she was gone. The only thing left was a paper crane on the table.