Chapter 48: The Performance
The late lunch was some of the best food Lenora had ever eaten. Fresh meat, green-house vegetables, naturally grown foods from Sky City, and all of them out of her enemies pocket.
She found she was enjoying that particular tidbit.
What she didn’t like was the intensity with which she was being watched. Mr. Jones was like a hawk watching her scurry about. She could almost feel his talons dig into her. The worst of it was that he was nothing as she imagined him to be.
Mr. Jones cursed like a mechanic and dressed like a supermodel. He was dismissive and rude to everyone else except to her, and downright detestable towards any other woman he saw. He would smirk, wink and lick his lips like a predator, but favor her with an electrifying, charisma-soaked smile that made her knees buckle.
Lenora did not have to remind herself who he was. This was the man who had owned the Pussycat Club. This man endorsed what had been done to her. This man bought and sold flesh like textiles, and if he was given the choice, Lenora was certain he would sell her off in a heartbeat if he could.
But she could at least get a meal out of it.
Every now and again she would favor him with a small smile, and she would force herself to bat her eyes and stop from pulling away every time he put his hand on her knee or her elbow or her shoulder or touched her hair or leaned in too close…
After they had eaten, he took her to his club. Vixens opened early in the day, and he had ‘business’ to do. Hoping to get her to perform again, (she shivered at the thought,) he had offered to have her shadow one of the other girls, watch her and get comfortable with the others, and then have dinner and dancing with him later in the night.
He had leaned in again, before surrendering her to the perfumed skin behind the curtains. His breath had the sweetest note of fine wine and his cologne still lingered on his collar. She felt her insides twist, and she clenched her fists to keep the bile down.
“If you like performing here, I would love to see a private show.”
Lenora gagged in hindsight.
Currently, she was watching a woman named Linda swing and shake to some old-age techno. She had a rough attitude, and didn’t ask questions, but throughout rehearsal and introductions to all the other girls, she had been nothing if not pleasant. Pleasant and sad.
After Mr. Jones had left, Linda had placed a comforting hand on Lenora’s shoulder, and her eyes had an understanding sympathy that chilled Lenora’s bones. She had smiled thinly at Lenora and ushered her back stage where flurries of activity had chased the sympathy from her eyes and replaced it with the command that seniority presents in many social spheres.
Exotic dancing not excluded.
Several girls made comments about her performance – asking where she had learned to dance like that, how long she had been dancing, all those types of questions. Lenora had seen all mix of emotions behind the eyes of these girls; admiration, jealousy, lust, regret…
So far this experience had been more sad then anything.
Eventually, patrons started filtering in. Linda sat her behind the curtain so she could still watch. Linda’s dance was 5 minutes and 36 seconds long. Lenora could generously add a at least two more minutes onto it for collecting tips and making a trip around the audience.
So when Linda’s dance started, she knew she had about eight minutes to get into the back office and look around. So when people were too busy entertaining, Lenora slipped from her stool and stole into the back offices, where to her surprise, the door was unlocked.
But at 9:30pm, the office was not empty.
“Lenora.” Mr. Jones – Martin – smiled his predatory smile and took his earpiece out, placing it gently on the desk. The blue speaking light went out as he did so, ending a call.
“I – “ Lenora stammered, hugging herself instinctively, color rising into her cheeks. She had expected him to be in the audience, enjoying the performances, not back in the office. Then again, it was hard to see the audience from the stage – the crowd had grown quickly, and she hadn’t been keeping tabs on anyone…
Foolish, very foolish…
“Did you miss me?” Martin leaned against the desk. His jacket was draped over the chair, and his tie was loosened and the first button of his shirt was undone.
Lenora’s first instinct was to run – but she held still. She could find something here to help X. She could find something about … about anything. But what could she say?
I can do this. I know I can do this.
“Yes.” She found herself saying. Lenora closed the door behind her, and his hunter’s grin spread wide. She felt her world narrow around her. She had chosen this road, she had to follow it.
“I was dying to see you again.” Lenora lied through a mouse’s smile.
X-XIII found the car outside of Vixen’s. It was easy to follow a fancy car through this city – there weren’t a lot of them around. The shitty car, as expected, followed like a faithful dog.
Vixens… Vixens… why does that sound familiar? X pulled his lips back in a snarl and tapped his front teeth with one fingernail.
He cast his eyes around the street. Cocking his head to the side, he spied the license plate of the fancy car – ‘J0NE5’.
My, my, what delightful luck. Isn’t this lucky? X’s face contorted into a grin and he started walking up to the door. Past the throng of people crowding it, he slipped in with minimal interaction. Taking a deep breath, he sighed.
It smelled like all the other places on the list: sweat, booze, and a fascinating mixture of shame and ego.
Upon first glance however, it looked different. This one had only one stage, for example. After a moment of standing among the pulsating throng, he began to pick out the familiar detestable details. The make-up underneath the dancer’s eyes, and the frown lines that were barely hidden by the obtrusive lighting. The murmured whispers of the barkeep were a baseline corrupting the rhythm of the music playing.
He saw a man – that man, a weasel faced man who had thrown a bottle at Westy’s shop, how dare he, that was HIS place – with his arm sliding lower and lower on a woman’s back, both of whom sitting at the bar.
Who gives a shit if she wanted ‘it’. X didn’t want ‘it’. She shouldn’t want ‘it’. Especially if he was giving ‘it’ to her.
Just look at the guy. Look at him. Whatever ‘it’ is, I bet it’s thin and crooked like his crooked little nose. Fuck, I bet he’s diseased. They’re usually all diseased here.
Slipping through the crowd, he felt the blood rush to his eyes and his vision was quickly – too quickly- framed in red. People parted in the crowd for him without even knowing why until he had passed.
When X-XIII reached the man, he pulled the stool out from under him. As the weasel crashed to the floor, X-XIII brought the stool down on his face, again and again and again.
When the man stopped moving (other than the occasional twitch,) X-XIII dropped the stool to stare at the sudden stillness around him.
The music was still playing, but a circle had formed around the ‘incident’, each person’s face twisted in horror.
X felt his lips twisting into a smile, and he used the back of his hand to wipe a blood splatter from his cheek.
After a second, the music stopped too. X cast his eyes from left to right and shifted his weight slowly from one foot to the other.
This is new. High class place, where people don’t automatically start to scream.
While watching the crowd, X horked a lunger and spat it onto the man’s ruined pulp of a face. No reaction except one lone gasp.
…Yeah I’m done with this.
X-XIII shot his arms out in front of him, a fleck of blood arcing and slapping one poor girl in the face, startling her into wakefulness. As the blood flew, X bared his teeth, and he felt his eyes burn, that familiar tingle of blue across an otherwise bloody red landscape in his vision.
“Scream!” X commanded, lightning flickering from his eyes.
And on queue – the screaming began, and X howled with laughter as the first bouncer started lumbering towards him.
He was dead before he even got within arms reach.