This story precedes the first book of the Fatal Deceit trilogy and lends itself to crime thrillers and films of the past. It may seem old-fashioned but it's intended to entertain and keep the reader guessing who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, and what will be the eventual outcome. Therefore, hats off to every tough guy, villain and femme fatale who have shaped perceptions and set standards for crime thrillers.
It also deals with the nefarious activities of Jack Cates and his lover Elsa Bartelli. Jack blackmails rich men into parting with large sums of money by using Elsa as a lure. Her glamorous looks are hard to resist, but Jack always makes sure she’s not put in danger with these scams. As an exotic dancer in a nightclub, Elsa understands the emotional intimidation of sex hungry men. In this controlled environment she is protected. But Jack's scams can make it difficult to control the actions of the men they target.
The first chapter is shown below, please read it. If you like it, let me know and I will send you a copy of the novella. Tell me if you'd prefer a Word or PDF copy.
Everyone has a different idea of nightclubs. It may conjure diverse images but will always represent excitement, fun, and entertainment. Countless old movies portray the heroine as a husky-voiced femme fatale with a secret past. Public perceptions of the women who work in these clubs are influenced by the media. Perceptions vary. They can be the result of sensational headlines in the tabloids, or due to Internet reports on risque acts that promote sexual titillation and even out-and-out pornography.
The entertainment at the Blue Cockatoo uses sensual, attractive young girls to draw in their customers. The maximum age of the girls used as dancers is less than twenty-five and once recruited, Elsa teaches them how to move and gyrate their bodies in an overtly sexual manner. Some are gifted, with more talent than others, as in all things. The club restricts the less talented dancers to lap or pole dancing, and if they don’t have the basic skills of a dancer, there are often jobs as hostesses, serving drinks or confectionary. The club suffers from a big turnover of staff as many girls find working through the night into the early morning stressful.
Attractive girls work with Elsa Bartelli. She choreographs exotic scenes intended to whip up the sexual tension of the audience to higher levels of expectation. These scenes normally have Elsa fighting with other girls as they tear off each other’s clothes. The end leaves them half-naked and seeking solace from one another. Male fantasies are expoited with abandon.
The Blue Cockatoo, with its external electronic logo lighting at the front of the club, showing the outline of a large cockatoo with a cigar in its mouth and a girl under its wing, creates the promise of a male paradise. The décor is expensive both outside and inside, and it portrays the ideal image of a place for young men to go and enjoy themselves. They have to be in a certain income bracket because the cost of the membership inflates the prices of drinks by at least twenty percent over street rates. As long as the club delivers the entertainment, nobody seems bothered. They're all too busy ogling the girls.
In their working environment there can be tensions between the girls because of the mix of personalities, but other variant is the temperament of the customers. They take care of their customers, who have to abide by the club rules. The one broken most often is "No touching the girls". Transgression leads to an invasion of the dancer's privacy, but more importantly, could end up with the entertainment license. The authorities do not tolerate intimate behavior that falls outside the terms of the licence.
Sometimes the incidents were six of one and half a dozen of the other, with enticement leading to entrapment. The lap dancers give private performances and, although the constraints are not as rigid as in the public performance area, the rule banning touching still holds. Any arrangement between the dancer and the customer outside the club was their own business. Elsa's flat mate Julie sometimes pushed the boat out too far in these private performances, driving the customer wild with desire, and she usually got an extra tip. Sometimes it didn't benefit her if the customer got violent and Frank had to step in to keep the peace. "It's difficult for anyone to get revenge on a man with the spending power of Baldini," said Jack, frustrated by Elsa’s nagging.
She was complaining about her friend, Julie, being manhandled by a "lout" in an expensive suit.
Julie had taken him into one of the private rooms at the back of the club, knowing he had a bad reputation for groping the dancers. Expecting to be pawed, she was hoping to blackmail him if his pawing got too pervasive, knowing cameras record the seduction scenarios being played out, to prevent dancers from getting roughed up. Instead of handing over money when confronted with the threat of being reported, Baldini punched Julie in anger and then stormed out of the building, avoiding everyone.
Julie had lost money because her face puffed up, with an unsightly blackening bruise on the top of her cheek, and Roland would not let her work until the swelling had gone down. He worried her appearance would upset the other paying customers, although few of his clientele were looking at the dancer's faces. Baldini had given her a solid thump, and the lopsided condition of her face didn't disappear for the whole of the following week.
Baldini kept away from the Blue Cockatoo, worried word of his bad conduct may have got to Frank, one person he didn't want to mess with. As with all such things, there were stories about what Frank had done to other transgressors which were frightening, but it was rumor rather than truth. Whatever the truth, Baldini didn’t want to take the chance of being beaten up.
The Blue Cockatoo had a strict rule about their clients not groping the girls and some had already fallen foul of it being banned from the club, but Baldini was a high rolling customer the management wouldn’t bar without explanation. Frank was Roland’s muscle, who made sure customers observed this rule. He was an enormous, muscular man with short hair, a square jaw, and a knife scar on his right cheek. There was no doubting his credentials for his job, and few people put him to the test.
“Luckily, Julie is rooming with me," continued Elsa. “Otherwise she wouldn't have been able to pay her rent. It's just not fair!” Elsa's self-belief and determination occasionally weakened, and this was one of those times when she felt women were the weaker sex because they lacked the physical strength of men, and always got the worst end of the deal.
“C’mon Elsa, Julie was in no doubt about what she was doing….and don’t tell me she’s got no money because you all get a decent wedge from Roland, and that’s apart from what you get giving the private viewings,” answered Jack.
“I don’t do private viewings,” said Elsa indignantly. “I know you don’t, baby, and you don’t know how pleased I am you don’t, but Julie does. There’s always a risk, being stuck alone in a room with a man like Baldini. It’s bound to raise the potential for abuse.” This would prove an ironic observation by Jack with him using Elsa in the same way on his scams.
At the most heated part of their exchange, Roland Bannister came into Elsa's dressing room. "What's going on with you two, we can hear you from the rear of the stage?" he shouted over the top of their voices.
“I’m sorry, Roland, it’s just because Jack won’t do anything to extract a little payback from that thug, Baldini,” answered Elsa. Roland looked sternly at Jack. "Look, I don't want any rough stuff. I know he deserves a good beating for what he did to Julie, but word gets around and I don't want to put the other regulars off. You know how rumors spread, and it doesn't take long to misconstrue events in these situations. He's generous with his money, which means people will notice if he comes in with injuries or marks on his face."
“Don’t worry, Roland. I’m not into the rough stuff. I’ll leave policing the riff raff to Frank.”
“Well, I’ll have to do something if you two are too delicate to do what’s right,” declared Elsa.
“Don’t be daft, you’d only get into the same jam as Julie. It could be worse ‘cos your body is far more grope worthy than hers.”
Roland would have seconded Jack's sentiment until he saw the anger welling up in Elsa's eyes as she leapt towards Jack to slap him across the face. He was too nimble for her and had expected her reaction, grabbing her wrists to prevent being hit. Elsa struggled for a moment but gave up on her losing battle. She felt frustrated at not having the power to convince or force her man to do what she wanted.
Jack wanted to take her into his arms to soothe her anger, but he was aware with Elsa fired up it wasn't an option. Roland tried to cool down the situation. "Listen. Why don't you get your own back by scamming Baldini, hurt him where he’s most sensitive in his wallet! You know he's not discrete when it comes to women and although his wife probably knows how he acts in a place like this, she won't want rumors of his discretions becoming public tittle-tattle, because it'll reflect on her. You just need to lure him into an embarrassing and costly situation."
“How do I do that?” asked Jack.
“It’s up to you to come up with the scam. I’m just an ideas man. Besides, you’ve got Elsa. What more do you need?”
After calming Elsa and having a quiet drink with her in the bar, as the sun was rising, Jack said, "Roland's given us a good steer. There must be a way of getting money out of a guy like Baldini. He's not tactful and there's only so much rope his wife will give him. From what I hear, she runs an Italian bakery with all the old specialties, not just panini. He's the Master Baker, but his wife Elspeth doesn't need him as now she's got all of his recipes and built the reputation of the place, not just in New York, but worldwide. They even export to China!"
"Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. Why don't you bring me something? I'm Italian and know a good Zeppole when I taste one."
“OK. In the meantime, I’ll give Roland’s suggestion a bit of thought. Are you willing to help?”
“Yes, I am,” answered Elsa. “Anything to put that thug in his place.”
At a pivotal moment in their conversation, Lou and Frank passed by the bar to make their way to the exit. “Hi Elsa,” mumbled Frank shyly. “You were stunning tonight as always.”
“Thanks Frank,” replied Elsa. “I wonder if you would do me a favor?”
“Of course, I can. Anything!”
“You know Julie got hit by a customer last week.” Frank nodded. “Next time he comes in, can you let him know it is not gentlemanly to hit or manhandle the girls and it's prohibited by the club?”
“Hold it,” interrupted Jack. “Roland has already told us he won't tolerate Baldini being beaten up.”
“Frank just has to lean on him a little,” teased Elsa.
“Listen, Frank may get carried away in the heat of the moment,” answered Jack, getting more and more exasperated with Elsa’s taunting.
“I can’t,” said Frank. “The Boss has already told me not to interfere.”
Jack laughed, which annoyed Elsa, undoing all the work he had done earlier in trying to placate her. It distressed Frank to see her annoyance, and on Lou’s suggestion, he continued his way to the exit.
"Thanks, Frank. I know you'd help if you could," said Elsa, patting him on the back as he passed by her.
“Now can you see the problem? We don’t want to get Roland riled,” said Jack. "There’s gotta be a better way of doing things. We’ve just got to find the right angle.”
Elsa greeted Jack's suggestion with silence and was tired and losing interest in getting back at Baldini. After a brief silence, she said, “Start thinking, Jack, isn’t that what you do well?” she said sarcastically. “I'm sure you'll come up with something. But for now, I can't wait to get to bed. I'm shattered.”
“I hope you’re giving me an invitation. It seems ages since we’ve made love.”
Elsa looked at Jack with a mixture of amazement and disbelief and a tinge of disappointment. Despite their arguments and a long discussion through the night, her man was able to forget about their differences to take care of the devil between his legs. Just ignore it and try not to act surprised. “Goodnight, Jack,” she yawned, getting up from her stool.
“Let me give you a lift home,” volunteered Jack.
“OK, I’ll go for the ride home but nothing more.”
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