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Loud bass thundered through my bones. I squinted my eyes as the lights around me flashed. Hundreds of women in scantily clad clothing swiveled their hips while men groped their asses. I stifled a chuckle at how all of them hoped to get a piece of ass later on that evening.
I made my way through the crowd, avoiding several women who grabbed for me, and took my usual spot overlooking the dance floor. This club, Heist, was one of the best decisions our motorcycle club ever made.
I turned my head towards the wall behind the DJ booth. A large image of a skull mixed with a scorpion stood there proudly as if it was overlooking the debauchery below. There was no question who owned this club; The Steel Scorpions MC.
I smiled at the crowd and mentally calculated about how much money the club would be raking in tonight. Not only from club goers drinking and dancing on this level. But from our more private experiences that took place in the upper rooms of the building.
Heist wasn’t your typical nightclub and I fucking loved that.
The Steel Scorpions owned several nightclubs around the Twin Bays area, practically dominating the space. The money we raked in from our high-end clubs—and high-end clientele—was enough to pull us out of the arms’ trading business. It was great for me—I hated trading those fucking guns and constantly having to evade the damn Feds every time we wanted a big-ass payday.
To an outsider, it looked as though our club had gone one hundred precent straight. Which was helpful for us to accomplish what we wanted to in Twin Bays.
I heard Fangs, our President, calling me. “What!?”
He crooked his finger, and I knew something had gone down. There was a particularly drunk woman next to him, clinging to him as if her life depended on it. I rolled my eyes and pushed off the wall. I filled the dark corners of the club with my eyes and ears, waiting to make sure no bullshit went down in our clubs. I bounced from club to club every night with Goose, our Road Captain, just to make sure we didn’t need to whoop someone’s ass.
And as I strode toward Fangs, I knew something had popped up.
“Can you get her laid down somewhere? Her drink’s been spiked.”
I scooped the slurring, stumbling woman into my arms. “Got it. Need any help?”
Fangs shook his head. “I got Viper sniffing out who it is. We’ll get ‘em.”
Viper was our Enforcer. A mountain of a man with muscles the size of Mount Everest. I thanked my stars every god damn time I looked at him that he was on our side and not part of one of our enemies’ clubs.
And after confirming my understanding with Fangs via a head nod, I took the drooling woman into a back room that we reserved specifically for women who needed to sleep some shit off.
Which clearly, she needed.
“There we go,” I grunted as I eased her down onto the cot. “This should keep you warm for the evening.”
I nodded. “I’ll go look for your purse; just rest here.”
A tear leaked down her cheek. “Why-ee?”
I sighed. “Men are shit, that’s why. It has nothing to do with you.”
She closed her eyes. “See-ee.”
I nodded. “Get some sleep. Don’t worry, you’re safe.”
I tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, then I made sure to lock the door behind me before I closed it shut. We didn’t have to use that room very often, but we had five different beds set up just in case. Most women that stayed back there were simply too drunk to get themselves home, so we made up a space for them to sleep it off. Every once in a while, one of our high-end clientele got too embarrassingly drunk to step out into public, so we gave them the option of sleeping it off as well so the paparazzi didn’t snap pictures of them in their fragile states.
But the idea of a man in our club drugging up some helpless woman so he could get laid?
That was a dick I wanted to shove down the garbage disposal.
“Any luck?” I asked as I slipped back out into the club.
Viper nodded, but all he did was point. And when my eyes followed his direction, I saw that Angel, our Sergeant at Arms, already had his claws sunken into the bullshit excuse for a man.
I waved my hand in the air. “I’ll let him handle it this time. The woman’s back there already asleep. Make sure you check on her before we shut the club down.”
When Viper nodded at me again, I went off in search of another dark corner to perch in.
While my job was to hunt down any nefarious characters that might stumble through our front doors, I also had a nose for picking out journalists. Paparazzi that were undercover and trying to snap pictures of people who paid us a great deal of money to keep them on the down-low for an evening. I hated journalists. I hated the fucking media. They were nothing but a bunch of attention-hungry whoremongers that got their rocks off by making other people miserable for fifteen minutes each night.
And as my eyes flickered toward the bar, I zeroed in on a man in a blazer and faded jeans with his head on a swivel.
He also had his phone panning around the club.
“Gotcha,” I murmured.
I strode across the dance floor, maneuvering around the close bodies. I locked my eyes with the man and he scrambled to put his phone away. He knew he’d been caught, and I sure as hell wasn’t allowing him to go without seeing that phone first.
“So,” I said as I slipped beside him at the bar, “you did read the signs coming in, didn’t you?”
The man grabbed his drink. “Not sure what you’re talking about.”
I nodded toward the phone on his hip. “Not many people clip their phones to their belt any longer. Mind if I take a look?”
He scoffed. “It’s my phone. You don’t get shit.”
“Well, you’re on private property. My guys and I own this building, and the rest of the buildings we operate out of, and we have rules you automatically agree to abide by the second you walk through those doors. So, you can hand me your phone so I can go through it, or I’ll let my friend Viper handle it from here.”
He scoffed. “And who is this Viper character you speak of? Maybe he’d like to give me a quote on something I’m researching.”
“Yes?” Viper asked.
The man’s shadow cloaked the spindly journalist, and as his deep, resonating voice shook my ribcage, the journalist slowly raked his eyes up the massive human being. Viper stared down at him with those dark, brooding brown eyes. The man was a force to be reckoned with, I’d tell you that.
That journalist tossed me his phone like it was a damn hot potato he wanted to get rid of. “Fine, fine. Whatever.”
I snatched it up and swiped across the screen. “Passcode?”
The man rolled his eyes. “9-1-1-0.”
I typed it in. “Wow, you’ve got pictures and videos. Anything else I should know about? Because you really don’t want to make me work for it.”
The journalist licked his lips. “No.”
I leaned toward him. “You’re lying. Viper?”
The mountain man snatched the guy’s arm up. “Come with me.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” the journalist exclaimed. “Th-th-th--there’s interview material, too. In the notes application. You can delete it all, just call off your dog!”
Viper growled, but I held up my hand as I deleted things with my other hand. I gave his phone a nice once-over, making sure absolutely everything had been erased from not only his galleries and his notes, but also from the SIM card on his phone.
“Think twice before you try this stunt again, otherwise I’ll have your job,” I glowered.
I tossed the journalist his phone back and I’d never seen someone run out of the club as quickly as he had.
“Good job, Viper,” I said as I held my fist out.
He fist-bumped me, then headed back into his corner to perch.
“Office time,” I said breathlessly.
I slid off the barstool and made my way back down into the hallway. I unlocked the door to the room with the beds with a key strapped to my hip and peeked in on the snoring female. She was out like a light, and probably would be until the morning. Which meant I had a hell of a long night of work ahead of me.
I always stayed the night in the office when women were sleeping shit off in that room.
“All right,” I said as I started down the hallway, “let’s get on with it.”
The second I walked into the office space, Goose and Angel turned around to clap. I took a mocking little bow before we all busted out laughing, then I flopped down into my chair at the computer. I toggled the mouse as a sigh left my lips. I hated nights like this. Nights when, had it not been for us, yet another woman would’ve become yet another statistic.
“Wait, what the hell is this?” I asked breathlessly.
I had an email in my inbox from Reaper, our Tech Officer. He had been stationed at Clutch tonight since we were having issues with the new security system that had been installed a month ago. He was in the process of bypassing a few of their own safety protocols to make the application and software work more fluently for what we needed from it, and the title of the email caught my eye.
D.R. Sighted. Chased Off.
“Shit,” I hissed as I opened the email.
Viper’s voice appeared behind me. “Got Reaper on the phone.”
I didn’t bother turning toward him. “Viper, go check on him at Clutch. The Devil’s Rage have paid our club a visit.”
“On it,” Viper said.
“You need someone to go with him?” Goose asked.
I read the email quickly before I swiveled around in the chair. “Why the fuck are these assholes suddenly making moves on our nightclubs? Didn’t they learn their lesson with Heist a month ago?”
Viper strode out of the office. “I’ll take Fangs with me.”
“Good idea!” I called after him.
Angel folded his arms across his chest. “You know damn good and well they’re trying to drive our customers away. They provide a less-than-suitable atmosphere for their strip clubs, and suddenly we’re the issue when we give everyone a nice atmosphere to go to.”
I slid my hand down my face. “I want to laugh about it, but if they keep ramping shit up, they’ll throw us into yet another turf war.”
Angel chuckled. “You think we can’t handle it or something?”
I shook my head. “It’s not that…”
I turned back toward the computer screen and read through Reaper’s email one more time. It didn’t seem urgent, which told me that he had probably chased those fuckers off before they could do much damage. But, for all we knew, they were simply casing our joints.
We have to be on our guard.
“Oh, my God!” someone shrieked.
I’d never moved so quickly in all my life. The music had stopped pumping and the lights of the club shut down. The bright, fluorescent lights that were only turned on during office hours in the afternoons illuminated the entire place, causing everyone to shield their eyes. People cursed around us while a couple of other screams came from the upper VIP level of our club.
And as Angel and myself climbed the stairs two at a time, it didn’t take us long to figure out what the hell had happened.
“Holy shit,” Angel hissed.
The body laying right there at the top of the steps dripped blood onto the floor. Women shrieked and started toward the back stairwell emergency exit and burst through the doors, sounding alarms that caused everyone to stampede out of the fucking club. I looked around and found a suede blanket hanging off one of the couches upstairs. I ripped it off the arm of the piece of furniture and tossed it over the man’s body, who had been rumored to be part of the mafia in the first place.
While I didn’t care much for the outside proclivities of many of our clients, I knew this was bad.
“He was in a private fucking room all night,” Angel said flatly. “I guided him up here myself and gave him the key. Hadn’t seen him since.”
I gestured down to his lifeless body. “Well, obviously he left at least once.”
He bent down and picked up the blanket. “I don’t see any injuries. No broken bones. He’s just… bleeding a hell of a lot from his eyes, ears, and his—”
“Shit,” I hissed when I peeked my head into the cracked door of the VIP room. “Angel?”
He came up beside me. “Yeah?”
I threw the door open, revealing the dead escort lying on the floor. “Does his lack of injuries look like hers?”
Angel turned his head away. “They were poisoned. They had to have been.”
I chewed on the inside of my cheek. “I need to know who the fuck else was in this room and I need it now.”
“Um, eh—excuse me?” a soft voice asked.
I whipped around and found a young girl with tears streaking her cheeks leaning against the railing of the second floor. She had her arms wrapped tightly around her and she trembled so violently that I was concerned her legs would bottom out beneath her. I turned to face her, tilting my head and attempting to make myself look as unintimidating as possible.
“Angel, I’m going to take her downstairs for some water. You got this up here?”
He pulled out his cell phone. “Yeah, I got it. You go.”
I offered my hand to the young woman. “Come. There’s an ice water with your name on it.”
She quickly took my hand and I guided her down the steps. Her heels were impossibly high, and about halfway down the steps I paused so she could take them off. I offered to carry them for her, but she didn’t pass them on to me. So, we eased our way to the bar as the last of the panicked crowd exited through any door they could find.
“Can someone turn off those fucking alarms!?” I bellowed.
And a few seconds later, an eerie sort of quiet washed over the expansive, empty space.
“Ice water?” I asked as I wrapped myself around behind the bar.
I dismissed the bartenders with a wave of my hand as the young woman nodded. “Yes, please. With ice to munch on?”
I grinned. “Ice water with extra ice, coming right up.”
I made both of us the same drink before I leaned against the counter, hoping she’d open up to me.
“All you need to do is tell me what you saw. That’s it. No more, and no less. Okay?” I asked.
She chugged the water back before she started chewing on a piece of ice. “I don’t know. I mean, we had drinks delivered—”
“What kind of drinks?”
She thought for a while on it. “A bottle of…”
Her eyes scanned the bottles behind me before she pointed.
“That red bottle, there. And two of those gold and black bottles.”
I peeked behind me. “All right, so a gin and two tequila bottles. Any mixers?”
She shook her head. “Just soda chasers. That’s all they wanted.”
“Do you know what kind of soda?”
She nodded. “Dr. Pepper and Sprite. It was all I drank that evening.”
So, the poison was in the liquor. “Do you know who delivered the bottles?”
She shook her head. “I didn’t recognize the guy, no.”
A guy delivered the liquor? We didn’t have any men that worked the VIP bar upstairs.
I reached out and patted her arm. “You did good, thank you for—”
“What the fuck is going on here!?”
A man and his cronies stormed through the front doors, startling the young woman so much that she jumped. Ice went everywhere, and she scurried from the barstool and rushed toward a back exit.
“Wait, wait, wait. Not that doo—”
And the second she slammed through it, the alarm blared once more.
“God damn it!” I roared.
I whipped around to face the men.
“I take it you’re here to retrieve bodies,” I said.
One of the men in all-black suits rushed up to me, glaring me down as if he was supposed to mean something to me. “So, it’s true? He’s dead?”
I nodded. “And one of the women he was with. So, you guys can either start talking or we can start investigating. Your choice.”
Just before either of us swung, though, Angel interrupted things. “You guys really need to see this. Come on.”
We all looked around at one another before we followed Angel up the steps. We passed the bodies and we passed the VIP room where the crime had occurred and we found ourselves standing behind the private bar on the second floor. And right there behind the bar, collapsed with her eyes wide open, was Mora.
The bartender that had been scheduled that evening for the private affair.
“Shit,” I hissed, “get me a blanket.”
The men in all-black suits turned away. “We need to see his body.”
I pointed. “He’s the one next to the stairs.”
And as the men walked away from us, I dipped down and whispered a soft prayer for the lovely woman we had just hired mere weeks before.
Then, I stood to my feet and drew in a deep breath. “Angel?”
I slowly turned to face him. “Call Fangs. We need church, and we need it now.”