As always it felt as if the air had become charged and my nostrils was tickled by the smell of ozone, of an approaching storm. I watched as Detective Michael Malak made his way through the crowd that had gathered in front of the bar for last call. He was of medium height with black hair neatly combed back from a face that could have been sculptured by Michelangelo himself, a rock hard body that would put our dancers’ to shame, and keen amber-colored eyes that never seemed to miss a detail.
Which was why I avoided him as much as possible, despite being so attracted to him that it was almost painful.
Actually, I hadn’t seen his body, but he did fill out those plain suits of his nicely. And a girl is allowed to dream, isn’t she? It’s not as if I’m able to go on dates or have close and meaningful relationships with anyone outside my weird little circle of... well weirdness.
Why not you ask? Well, there comes a point in any relationship when questions start raring their ugly heads. Questions like: Were where you last night? And: Is that blood on your T-shirt?
Not wanting him to catch me staring, I ducked my head and focused on wiping the counter in between pushing bottles of beer and coins back to the punters who slipped me whatever cash they hadn’t put in between Nina’s or Tanya’s breasts, or inside that treasure trove that was Choco’s G-string.
“Is it too late to order a Club Sandwich?”
“Huh?” I looked up and found myself staring into eyes the color of expensive whiskey. My god, Michael Malak was even more handsome up close and his voice was that perfect blend of rough and smooth that made a tremor run down my spine. “S-sandwich?” I managed to stutter before Georgie sidled up, a big grin plastered on his narrow face.
“Of course not, Detective, anything for the boys in blue. Club Sandwich did you say? Kiffany!”
Kiffany Idlette popped her head out of the hatch. “One Club Sandwich comin’ right up.”
It’s one of the world’s greatest mysteries how Kiffany could hear the punters order through the blare of music and the noise of the customers. Maybe she had a sixth sense or something. She was a true beauty with flawless dark skin and the curves of a Ruben’s angel. Aside from being gifted with super-hearing, she was also the best fast food cook in the city. Which was why the House of Mirrors not only served delicious sandwiches, but the spiciest chicken wings, the crunchiest nachos, the juciest burgers, and these fried onion flowers that were to die for.
I might not have to eat food to survive, but I still enjoy it, especially if it’s served with Kiffany’s home made blue cheese dip.
“Slow night tonight?”
“Huh?” I blinked, resisting the urge to look around just to make sure that Malak was addressing me and not say, his own mirror reflection.
He smiled at me. “You don’t talk much do you, for a bartender I mean?”
I ducked my head, avoiding that too knowing amber-colored gaze. “I talk enough.”
“So, it’s me then? I get it”, he said, propping his elbow up on the bar and resting his chin in the palm of his hand, watching me while I wiped the counter again. “Some people get nervous around cops.”
Some undead too, I thought. Especially when they had a rap sheet that could easy cover the length of the bar, and their last victim was waiting for her postmortem down in the city morgue. I forced myself to look into his eyes and keep my voice light and even. “I’m not nervous. Can I get you a beer or a coke or something?”
He just smiled that little smile again. “Coke, please.”
I chased down the last cubes of ice left in the ice-box and managed to corner them so I could scoop them up into a glass. The coke made a nice sizzling noise when it hit the ice that for a brief moment could be heard even through the remix of Bonnie Tylor’s ‘Working Class Hero’. I placed the glass on a napkin in front of the man. “You here on official business?”
“Sort of.” He took a sip of the coke. “I’m looking for Ray O’Sullivan. Have you seen him?”
“Not tonight.” I did my party trick with the tea-towel even though the glossy counter was spotless.
The light reflected and broke in the chrome, creating an illusion of depth. Suddenly the blurry splotches of light and shadow started to move, to spin… I leaned against the counter, struggling not to fall into the maelstrom. The noise of the club turned into a low drone, blocking out everything around me save the images I could see in the counter’s mirror-like surface. And it was images that filled me with anger. Ray O’Sullivan was a big, slow-witted man, peaceful enough sober, but drunk he was like an enraged bull. He’d been thrown out of the House of Mirrors more times than I cared to remember. The blurry visions cleared and showed me scenes of abuse in painful high-definition and color.
Ray grabbing a crying woman by her bleached hair, yanking her up from a dirty linoleum floor only to throw her down on it again. The woman curled up, trying to protect her head as Ray let go of her hair and started to kick her.
I could hear the sickening crack when Ray planted his size 12 steel-toed boots on the blond’s neck, breaking it like a dry twig, and as her body grew lax in death, the hands she had held up to protect her face fell to her sides and I recognized her: Joy… one of the dancers who earned a little bit of extra on the side by giving ‘private sessions’. She was a single mum struggling to raise her two boys and keep them away from their drunk abusive father. It was almost ironic that she had left one violent drunk, only to be killed by another. The hot anger turned into cold and deadly rage, and my fingers turned into claws, talons, digging into the chrome. Ray was a dead man.