Night brought no relief from the day’s heat and humidity. It was as if the city was holding its breath, waiting for something. Having dealt with the warlock, I made my way across the city and actually managed to get to work on time.
Georgie ignored me, which was fine by me. I had enough on my plate with Lou wanting me to go Nancy Drew and hunt down the Angel of Death for him. Choco was ruling the stage, sweat running down his body. Even with the AC on full, the air in House of Mirrors was stifling.
I had changed into a silly halter neck covered in silver sequins, a black mini-skirt and a pair of high-heeled sandals, and for once I was grateful for the skimpy outfit. It was Lady’s Night, which meant less beer and more drinks sporting impaled fruit and umbrellas. People seemed hellbent on celebrating the fact that it was Saturday night, despite the crushing heat and the tabloids all screaming out the news that the Angel of Death had killed again.
Serving cosmos and appletinis left and right, I didn’t notice Michael enter the club. Suddenly he was just there, a calm presence in the rowdy, high-spirited crowd. My mind immediately conjured up the image of him naked, pleasuring himself, his head thrown back, his eyes heavy-lidded and dark with lust…
Grateful that the low light hid my blush, I assumed an air of casual nonchalance when our eyes met as he came up to the bar. “What can I do you for, Detective?” I was pretty proud that my voice didn’t reveal anything of my inner turmoil. He was garbed in a dark gray suit with a crisp white shirt and tie despite the heat, and I knew he’d come on official business even before he flashed the badge.
“I need to talk to Georgie.”
“He’s in the office out back.” I jutted my chin towards the door next to the bar. Michael gave me a nod of thanks and I turned my attention back to mixing and serving drinks.
When he came back, I could sense it even before I saw him. I fumbled with the bottle of Rose’s Lime Cordial, but managed to catch it before it slipped from my fingers. I placed the gimlet on a napkin in front of the customer as Michael came up to the bar. I focused on mixing and serving drinks, smiling at the punters, all the while I was acutely aware of Michael Malak watching me. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer. “Can I get you something, Detective?”
“Is that a new coke flavor?” I asked, keeping my tone light.
Ignoring my lame attempt to joke, Michael gave me one of those no-nonsense looks. “How well did you know Joy Donahue?”
I shrugged. “Well enough to know she was turning tricks. Why do you ask?”
“Miss Donahue was found in a motel room with her neck broken.” He raised an eyebrow at my lack of reaction. “You don’t seem surprised to hear that she’s dead.”
I shrugged again. “Prostitution is a high-risk job. Thank you for letting us know what happened to her. Joy was loved by everyone here.”
“Did Ryan O’Sullivan love her?”
I tensed slightly, then I shook my head. “Ryan O’Sullivan loves no one and nothing but himself and the drink”, I said, making sure to talk about him in present form. “Why do you ask, Detective?”
“O’Sullivan was found dead early this morning.”
I focused on mixing an appletini, placing it in front of a cute young man sporting a pair of pink cherubs wings and a fohawk dyed to match.
“The coroner haven’t been able to determine the cause of death”, Michael continued. “According to her, Ryan O’Sullivan’s heart simply stopped beating. Kinda strange don’t you think?”
I crossed my arms in front of my chest and met his gaze levelly. “What do you want, Detective?”
He leaned against the counter that separated us, bringing his face close to mine. “You saw something last night, didn’t you?” He slid his hand over the stainless metal of the counter. “It’s almost like a mirror… reflecting shapes and light. Is that how your gift works, Ms. Worthy?”
I took a step back, desperate to create some space between us. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. And I don’t have any gift-” He interrupted me by grabbing my hand.
“You’re lying to me.” His voice was low, and as intense as the look in his eyes. “I know you are.”
“Let go of me!” I tried to yank my hand free. Suddenly a shadow towered over us, and we both looked up to see Choco standing there with a towel slung over his shoulder. His usually sunny gaze was pointed and narrow as he glared at Michael.
“You heard the lady, Detective”, he rumbled. “I suggest you do as she ask.”
Michael released my hand and I took a step back, rubbing it. Choco shot him another glare before turning his attention to me. “You okay, Mary?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Choco turned back to Michael. Even wearing nothing but fake leather chaps with Velcro and a G-string, he looked impressive, glaring down at the cop from under lowered brows. “You done here, Detective, or do we need to call a lawyer?”
Michael raised his hands in a pacifying manner. “All I wanted was to ask Ms. Worthy a couple of questions. I apologies if I-”
“Apology excepted”, Choco cut him off. “Have a nice night, Detective.” He dismissed him.
Michael gave the dancer a look, then turned those amber-colored eyes on me. He slid a business card across the bar. “I’ll be in touch.”
“What the hell was that about?” Choco asked when the detective was out of earshot.
“He was asking questions about Joy and O’Sullivan”, I said, handing him a bottle of water.
“I told Joy she shouldn’t get involved with scum like O’Sullivan”, Choco mumbled, taking a draft from the bottle. He shook his head sadly. “The world is a fucked up place sometimes.”
A sentiment I agreed with wholeheartedly. “Malak told me that O’Sullivan is dead too”, I said, watching him press the cold bottle against his neck.
“Well, thank god for small favors. Did someone beat him to death? ’Cause I could really do with a nice slice of poetic justice right now.”
No. He got his soul ripped out of his body. Out loud I said: “Apparently, his heart stopped.”
“A too easy death for someone like him”, Choco muttered. “He deserved to suffer.”
Oh, he did suffer, I wanted to say, and he will suffer for a long, long time. Choco took another mouthful of water, then poured the rest of it over his head and returned to the stage and his adoring audience.
The rest of my shift was uneventful, and I was too busy serving people to let my mind stray to Michael Malak. Or at least that’s what I sternly told myself. The thought of him was a like a sore tooth. It was impossible to stop tonguing it. I sighed annoyed with myself and dropped the towel on top of the others in the bucket standing under the counter. The cleaning crew that came in during the afternoon would take care of washing it, as well as whatever laundry the club generated.
Georgie was sitting at one of the tables, counting the night’s takings. I pushed the small heap of coins, topped off with a couple of wrinkled bills that was my accumulated tip for the evening, into napkin that I rolled up, then I headed over to my employer.
Georgie handed me an envelope even thinner than usual. “I told you I would deduct the hours you missed from your pay.”
“Well, look at you, sticking up for your principles”, I taunted. “Good for you, Georgie Porgie.”
His fancy ’stash started to witch. “You better shut that smart mouth of yours, Mary, or someone will shut it for you!”
I sneered at him and gave him a toss of my hair as I turned around and headed for the back of the club. “Bigger men than you have tried and failed.” I couldn’t care less about my wages, or what Georgie thought about me. All I wanted was to get out of the sticky air that stank of sweat, stale cigarettes and booze.
Choco and the other dancers had left almost thirty minutes earlier, and the dressing room was in even a worse state than usual. I grabbed my bag from the dressing room and put the envelope and the rolled up napkin into the hidden pocket inside it before I exited the club and stepped out into the warm night.