Qian’s thoughts now drifted back to the night he had decided to find out how it happened that his brother became ensnared in the web of a club woman. Dusk was approaching as he strolled down XinSheng North Road. The night lights were just starting to turn on in a staggered haphazard sequence, gradually illuminating the side walk ahead of him.
The night air always seemed transformed in a way that signaled the end of the frenetic chaos of the work day and ushered in an atmosphere of relaxation and self indulgence. A fragrance hinting of a tastefully perfumed woman passing by filled his nostrils. He guessed that he was getting close to his destination and started looking at each portal until he came to a recessed doorway with a gold placard on it that read “The Crown Club”.
Passersby in the street maneuvered around him with disregard as he stood there debating whether or not he would go in. Finally, he decided that he had to find out what kind of magical powers this Rosa possessed that would allow her to enchant his brother and lead him to destroy his marriage and plunder his family’s wealth to live a life of luxury with her.
He opened the door and entered the lobby lit only by a dim crystal chandelier contrasted against a dark wallpaper. It felt like an extension of the street he had just left except for the exquisite half moon wall table adorned with exotic potted dendrobium orchids. Soft piano music played in the background that reminded him of the muzak that played in the elevators at his office building.
Off to the side he spotted a stairway covered with thick red carpet leading to the lower level and decided this must be the entrance to the club. When he reached the bottom he was standing in front of a reception desk and beyond that he could see a luxurious club room filled with business men accompanied by attractive women. A man in a formal black suit, assumedly the floor manager, shouted over the din.
“Welcome Mr.? Is this your first visit to our establishment?”
“I’m looking for a hospitality girl named Rosa. I have her business card and it lists this club as her place of employment. Is she in tonight?”
“Rosa doesn’t work here anymore.”
“Well, can you tell me what happened to her?”
The congeniality first offered by the manager quickly faded when he suspected that Qian was only looking for information and had no intention of spending any money on entertainment.
He was not surprised to hear that Rosa had left the club. Why would she stay and cater to a bunch of lecherous business men looking for a lay once she had landed a sucker that would support her for life?
“My name is Mr. Yin and I just want to ask you a few questions about her if you don’t mind.”
“Sir, I’m sorry but we do not interfere with our employees’ personal lives. If they decide to leave the club with a customer, that is their business. If you aren’t planning to avail yourself of our club amenities, would you please leave immediately?”
At that moment, a club girl leaving the staff lounge overheard him mention Rosa’s name and demurely approached them. In a half joking manner she mildly rebuked the manager. “We are open to entertain any paying customer. You can’t just order someone that might be interested in staying to relax and enjoy themselves, to leave!” Her thinly disguised chastisement caused the manager to lose face and blush as he turned away. She then directed her attention toward Qian. “Hello, my name is Lena. And you are Mr. ...?”
“I am Yin Mo-Qian. Here is my business card.”
“I heard you mention Rosa’s name. Are you asking for her to accompany you?
“Well not exactly. I just wanted to ask a few questions about her.”
Hearing this, she leaned in toward him, obviously eager to tell him all she knew.
The manager again admonished her. “Lena, you are on duty now and your time belongs to the club. If he is not a paying customer then I must insist that you conclude your conversation and attend to other clients.”
She winked at Qian, hinting that he should play along with her. “Who says he is not a paying customer. Right Mr. Yin?”
“Oh, right. I was just getting around to that. Can you show us to a table?”
Lena cast a smug glance at the manager as they walked arm in arm over to their table. Instantly, a waiter appeared to give them menus and enumerate club policies and pricing for services.
Without hesitation, Qian ordered beer and appetizers and reserved 2 hours of Lena’s time. While waiting for their order, he noticed a stairway leading up to the first floor at street level. He supposed that it was an access to the VIP lounge area. It was not uncommon in this type of club to provide a quick, convenient exit for preferred clients trying to avoid unwanted detection.
He took out a cigarette and before he could light it, Lena deftly fetched her own lighter from her dress pocket and with a click, positioned the flame perfectly at the end of his fashionable ‘520’ smoke.
“Is this your first visit to the Club Mr. Lin?”
“You can call me Qian and yes it is my first.”
“I am really surprised that a first time customer would ask for Rosa.”
“I just wanted to find out a little background information about her and the last information I had was that she had left the Moonlight Club to work here.
“How did you come to know her?”
“Actually, I don’t know her but a friend described her to me and I just wanted to come and see her for myself. Do you know why she left?”
Hearing this, Lena began to laugh loudly. “Don’t lie to me. I have talked with a lot of people in my career and I can tell you that if you had really wanted to meet her you would have asked what club she is working at now and then turned around and left. Instead, you stayed and persisted in getting more information about her, leaving me to only guess what motivation lies at the bottom of this mystery.”
He looked over at Lena with appreciative eyes. “You are very smart so I know you will understand my reasons. Rosa is the affair that is destroying my sister’s marriage and I am trying to find out for her what kind of person she is dealing with.”
“That is the stark reality of life! It is very common for men to take a club woman for an affair. Of course every wife hopes that her husband can be protected from the predatory advances of such women but, that is not the duty of the club. We do not infringe on the freedom of the women to conduct their personal lives as they choose.”
“Of course I realize that it all depends on the character of the man and I don’t blame the women for trying to better themselves. But my sister’s husband is a lecherous ass hole looking for some bitch to lead him around by his penis!”
“In that case, what can I tell you that will be of use to you?”
He leaned in closer to Lena squinting playfully at her. “What I am curious about is you.
When you heard me mention Rosa’s name I could tell you were very interested. If what
you said about not interfering in employees affairs is true, Rosa should have nothing to
do with you. You didn’t need to talk to me. You could have just let the manager bounce
Lena responded with a pleasurable laugh. “If someone wants to pay money to listen to
me complain about my life as a club entertainer why would I refuse?”
Again, Qian smiled at her honest humor.
“So, what do you want to know about her?”
“I already told you that I want to know about her character.”
“When she first joined us, she was did not really fit in and was unpopular. But, she
remained humble and congenial and gradually won over her colleagues. She would
bring warm bread or tea cakes for everyone to eat before starting work. This was greatly
appreciated by the other women because having some food to digest helps prevent the
undesirable effects of drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. And, she always had
hangover medicine handy for those who over indulged the night before.
Over time, she had gathered a lot of information about the club and all of us but, she revealed very little about herself. Whenever we asked about her last place of employment, she only replied that this was her first job in a club and she only chose to try it because she needed to earn a lot of money to pay her ailing mother’s medical bills. Her answer seemed reasonable since she hadn’t brought a client base with her. We felt sympathy for her and appreciated her thoughtfulness so we introduced her to some of our regular customers.
She persuaded us to sign up with her to become her sub-distributors for home health products. We all knew that this was just a pyramid scheme and didn’t expect to earn any significant amount of money from it but we did it to ease her financial burden. She also organized an investment co-op for pooling money that members could borrow from by paying interest back into the pool. Investors also included a group girls from another club, or so we were told.
But when one of the club members, Annie, requested a loan, Rosa claimed that the organizer from the other club had taken the money and disappeared. We had no knowledge of who this person was so we could only chalk it up to bad luck and the loss for each member was insubstantial. But poor Annie was desperate because her brother had been arrested for drunken driving and was counting on her to post his bail. We all suspected that Rosa had kept all the money for herself and from that time forward, our perception of Rosa changed drastically.
The suspected embezzlement was bad enough and we did our best to suppress our animosity toward her. But the last straw was her blatant violation of club rules. We are forbidden to alienate customers from a co-worker. But, Rosa did exactly that. She spread malicious gossip about Annie being poor and looking for anyway to extort money from the club customers.
One night, Annie overheard Rosa spreading this gossip to a table of her customers and slapped her hard across her face. A fight ensued and the customers at the table paid their bill and left, obviously trying to avoid getting embroiled in a cat fight. Later we learned that Rosa was intimately involved outside the club with one of them. We were all outraged by the shameless greed of this scheming bitch and we pressed the manager to fire her.
“I can understand your anger but you seem particularly interested in exposing her to me. What did she do specifically to make you so angry?”
This took Lena by surprise and she hesitated as if trying to evade a direct answer. “Her actions were despicable enough. In fact, we tried to hire a couple of men to rape her just to punish her!”
He had recalled that during their conversation, the floor manager exhibited a more than casual interest in them and appeared at times to be nervous. By contrast, Lena had been very calm and confident up to this point.
“Was she fired or did she resign?
“She was guilty of such a flagrant violation of club rules and the manager didn’t fire her? That’s outrageous!”
“Oh, he made the excuse that Rosa had earned a lot of money for the club so he had no reason to fire her. I think she was fucking him to avoid being thrown out.” Lena’s lips suddenly curled back, revealing her clenched teeth.
Suddenly he recalled how Lena and the manager had interacted when he first asked about Rosa. “That manager wasn’t the same one that tried to eject me from the club by any chance was it?
Lena nodded the affirmative and he continued on. “What is your relationship with him? I was surprised that he let you get away with challenging his authority. Club managers typically want their orders strictly obeyed without any back talk.”
Lena could no longer avoid a response to his more direct implication. “Your intuition is correct. Truthfully, he is my boyfriend. When I heard you ask for Rosa, I suspected that she had committed yet another reprehensible act and I wanted to help you out in anyway I could. Especially since you seemed like you rarely, if ever, frequented clubs. If I hadn’t acted so boldly, I may have never had a chance to speak to you again.”
Anyway, that bitch seduced him but he said it meant nothing. He can tell that to any ghost that might listen. The fucking coward doesn’t have the balls to admit his lust. But, now that I know she has grabbed your sister’s husband, I don’t have to worry about her any more.”
In the dim atmosphere, tiny spotlights from the stage reflecting off the mirror ball on the ceiling and dancing across the walls and floor had a mesmerizing effect on Qian. He contemplated briefly the karma of life; how what goes around comes around. Lena, discovering that Rosa had shifted her attentions from her boyfriend to someone else’s husband, suddenly lost any interest in further discussions about her. The indignation and dismay previously expressed melted into a callous attitude of ‘better her than me’.
Even Qian’s multitude of experiences couldn’t obviate his surprise to such a degree of selfishness and cruel abandonment of the less fortunate victims of fate.