Chapter 26: Bathroom Dilemma
As Useless was washing his hands, he heard the shouting from the dance floor. Immediately after that, the music died, and his hands froze under the faucet.
He felt cold all down his arms and in his chest, and it wasn’t from the water he was washing his hands in. It sounded far too familiar, and his eyes went wide with fear.
It was him!
Useless shook his head, taking his hands out of the faucet and shakily moving to grab paper towels as his mind slowly ticked through what he should do. Should he go back out there? Of course he should, his boss was still in the club! It was his job to protect Mr. Jones!
He swallowed a lump in his throat and blinked to clear his eyes. The only inescapable fact was that Useless was terrified. Last time, he had run into the club without reservation, and in doing so he had almost slipped on the blood of several people he had known pretty well. They might not have been friends, but they had at least respected him as muscle, and that was something.
And he had been… Useless had seen him gut someone, and then …
The bathroom door banged open and Useless turned, startled, with arms out to prevent an attack.
“Useless, you fuck! Where have you fucking been?” M. Jones burst through the door, eyes blazing with anger.
Useless stood there stunned as Mr. Jones stalked up to him and slapped him squarely across the face, then pointed a commanding finger at him.
“Listen you big idiot, get me the hell out of here or I will kill you myself, do you understand me?”
Useless nodded, eyes stinging again as he held his afflicted cheek with one hand.
A punctuated scream turned both of their heads towards the restroom door. M. Jones turned slowly to glare at Useless.
Useless stared at the restroom door helplessly – how would he get Mr. Jones out of this club without that man seeing them escape? He could try to carry him and run through the crowd, or maybe he could use himself like a distraction, like in the movies?
“There! Get me through there!” M. Jones suddenly pointed behind Useless with eyes wide.
Useless turned to see, and spotted a ventilation duct that was perched over the last stall. “But Mr. Jones, what if he –“ Useless began, trying to logic out where this vent led to.
“Let me do the thinking you fucking moron. The shaft probably leads to the duct outside by the dumpsters. If not well then I have a place to hide, don’t I?”
Useless nodded, and immediately went to the vent, gunfire quickening his pace. He reached up and pried the cover off of the vent and propped it against the wall. Mr. Jones crowded in behind him and as soon as the way was clear he impatiently climbed up on top of the toilet and tried dragging himself into the shaft.
“Don’t just fucking stand there, help me!” M. Jones hissed.
Useless wondered how it was that he couldn’t even pull himself up into a crawlspace. Useless wouldn’t fit in there, so that would be understandable, but M. Jones was much smaller and should have been able to do it himself…
“Useless!” M. Jones snapped, head and arms wriggled into the space, his nice shoes on tip-toe on the seat of the toilet.
Useless sighed and grasped him around the knees, pushing him up the rest of the way.
Maybe it was only muscle for show. Useless hadn’t understood how that worked, but at least now he had a comparison. At least the other bouncers he’d seen with show muscles pretended to be strong.
M. Jones clamored into the shaft, cursing at the confined space. Useless watched helplessly until his feet were inside.
From deep within the shaft, M. Jones shouted back, “Close it up!”
Useless gazed at the restroom door and then longingly at the shaft. “But –“
“Do your damn job, Useless, close the fucking vent!”
Useless nodded slowly, and with distress in his heart he picked up the cover and re-attached it to the vent, making sure to check its security before stepping back and watching the bottoms of M. Jones feet disappear down the shaft.
When Useless no longer heard M. Jones shuffling down the shaft, he turned slowly towards the door. The gunshots had slowed down and the screaming had diminished.
Useless felt at his hip for his gun. It was still there, but he balked at removing it from the holster. He didn’t like shooting people, and he didn’t like hurting people. Until last month, his job had been easy; it consisted of looking big and tough and intimidating people. He was good at looking big and stoic, and if anyone wanted to cause trouble, his appearance was usually more than enough to dissuade anyone from doing so.
The door banged open, and Useless stepped back and away into the far wall, elbow almost knocking the paper-towel holder off of the wall. His eyes went wide as someone walked in.
The man in the black coat looked a little worse for the wear – but Useless would have recognized him anywhere. In fact, Useless even saw a small ‘x’ of electrical tape covering the spot where Useless’ bullet had ripped a hole.
He staggered over to the sink and let out an exhausted puff of air, shaking his head as if he was clearing away an uncomfortable buzz. Useless watched as the man’s hands clasped the edge of the counter until his knuckles were white. A snaking flash of blue wove out from under his clenched hands and seared a jagged stripe across the counter top.
It was like lightning…
Useless let out a surprised grunt, then returned to dead silence, hoping to blend into the wall. It was no use, the man in the black coat had already heard.
Useless breathed shallowly through his nose as he watched the black coat release his grip on the counter, leaving two smeared bloody hand prints in his wake. He turned to face Useless with both hands dangling at his sides.
“I…know you.” The man in the black coat said, eyes narrowing.
They were a dull gray blue with an awkward intensity. Useless shifted his weight uncomfortably, swallowing a lump in his throat.
He did not want to die. He may not be the most ambitious, or the smartest man in Cellar City, but he had dreams too, and he felt something crumble off of his heart at the thought of never being able to do those things.
The man cocked his head to the side and gave Useless a long looking over. After he thoroughly studied Useless, his eyes dropped to his own coat, and the patch of electrical tape that marked where Useless had shot him.
Useless’ heart began to thud heavily in his barrel chest. His hands were flat against the wall behind him, and he felt the cold sweat on his brow, but he couldn’t find any words to contest this man.
This man made him uncomfortable. Not like how M. Jones did, with his blatant shows of sexual conquest, or how the other bouncers made him uncomfortable by putting him on the spot and calling him Mexicano… A new discomfort wrapped around Useless. It was the discomfort that a mouse felt when being scrutinized by a snake.
It was alien and frightening to the large, muscle bound man and he didn’t like it.
“You shot me.”
Useless felt himself nodding.
The man approached Useless with a predator’s gait. Useless tried to get his muscles to move, but for all of them he had none would obey him. Part of him was afraid to move because he had seen the aftermath this man had left last time. Another part of him was looking at the man in the black coat and seeing how thin and how pale he was. Despite his employment, he was finding it difficult to think about hurting this man based simply on the fear that Useless could break him in half.
Before he could convince himself of any action, the black coat had already gotten only about a foot away, and was gazing at Useless’ gun.
“Give me that.” The black coat said, jerking his chin towards the gun.
Useless didn’t move.
The man looked up at Useless with narrowed eyes, and held one hand out between them. “Give it.”
Useless swallowed the dryness in his throat and slowly unbuttoned the clasp and withdrew his gun, dropping it into the madman’s outstretched hand.
The man in the black coat grinned from ear to ear. He pressed the barrel of the gun against Useless’ side.
Useless whimpered. He didn’t like pain either.
“It’s only fair, right?” The black coat cocked his head to the side with the grin still on his narrow face. Useless noticed then that he had streaks of blood in his hair, and it splattered across the front of his dark clothing, and if he gazed past him for a moment he also noticed the bloodied foot prints leading from the door.
This man was insane. Useless could see it clearly in his eyes- they were wild and shameless. A gray cloud hung in them like a veil and Useless was terrified of what could lie behind the eyes of someone who killed so easily.
The bathroom door banged open again.
“X!” A woman’s voice.
Useless looked and saw the dark haired girl from the bar standing breathless in the doorway. She looked as scared as he felt, and her eyes were fixed on the man with the black coat.
The madman stiffened, and cast his eyes to the floor.
“Naughty, Naughty girl.” He tsk-ed at her, slowly shaking his head. He pulled back the hammer.
“X, leave him alone!” She hurried to his side, the proximity of her making the man’s muscles almost convulse with how quickly they all tensed. Useless even noticed the rigidness of his posture shift from relaxed and nonchalant to hardened and focused.
“He shot me.”
“Can’t you see how afraid he is?” She pleaded.
X looked up at Useless’ face, and he felt himself flushing with embarrassment. He wasn’t supposed to be afraid, he knew. But he didn’t want to die.
“Yeah. So?” The black coat shifted his weight and flicked his eyes in her direction.
Useless remembered her name; she had called herself Lenora. He was going to tell her his name until he had seen the expression on her face when his boss had been mentioned. He felt another pang of shame in his heart at the memory.
Useless saw Lenora very tentatively place a hand on the madman’s forearm. Useless felt his heart stumble in the fear that the motion would startle the madman into firing the gun, but his hands were surprisingly steady.
As if the motion itself changed the madman’s mind, he immediately un-cocked the gun and stuffed it into the front of Useless’s belt. The madman cast his eyes to the floor and deftly shrugged away from Lenora’s touch.
“Whatever. I’ll get him later.”
The tone made all the little hairs on the back of Useless’ neck stand on end.
Lenora only spared a quick glance at Useless before she looped her arm in his and started to slowly lead the madman from the bathroom. As soon as they neared the door, the madman shook her arm off.
“I can walk myself, thank you.” He then kicked the door open with a vicious snarl, and positioned himself in front of it to keep it open, bowing in mock-elegance and gesturing with a flourish that Lenora should go on ahead.
Lenora looked at the madman for a second before she scurried from the bathroom.
The madman watched her go and then gave Useless another wide grin. With his fingers, the madman took aim and fired at Useless, and despite his common sense, Useless flinched from the motion.
“Gotcha.” The madman chuckled and shook his head, obviously amused. He left the bathroom without further antics, and the door swung shut behind him. As it bounced before settling closed, Useless could hear the chuckle grow to a hysterical fit of laughter that receded away from the restroom.