BLUE NEON BITCH - TODD W. BUSH
The blue neon fit perfectly with the hot, driving rain. Summer in South Florida... home of sweat, showers, and sin.
Ruby’s wasn’t on the list of typical tourist traps they pushed in every rest stop from here to Orlando. In fact, about the only list you’d find this place on was the cops’ roll call of monthly raiding destinations. I stood under the eight-foot blinking bitch, trying in vain to keep from drowning in the midst of Joyce’s fury. Middle of hurricane season and this little floozy of a storm decides to spring up and drop a ton of water on us while barely moving a muscle. I’d lived here my whole life, so of course I didn’t own a single fucking overcoat. And an umbrella in a hurricane was about as stupid as trying to find a saint in a strip club.
And yet, here I was.
A door opened behind me and the dusty foyer looked better than my bed. The stench of stale beer, cigarettes and cheap perfume enveloped all who dared to enter these doors. To me, it just smelled like life.
The bouncer looked like part of the wall. Why all strip clubs made their hired male help wear all black was beyond me. Maybe so they could sneak up on anyone who got too close to the girls after having a few too many. But in Ruby’s wasn’t that the whole idea? His voice was too soft for his gargantuan frame. It tried to be dangerous, but fell just around creepy. Especially with his bald black head and the tufts of chest hair sprouting from his collar.
I only nodded.
“He’s in the back.”
I wish I could say that I was confused about what ‘back’ he meant. The back store room where the extra black shirts were kept, the back kitchen where they tried to cook bar food, or the back booths where what passed for gangsters and kingpins tried to look important in a way that made them look fake. But I knew the back was really the back curtain area, where ‘stuff’ happened.
The girl behind the front counter, with the name of Julie and the body of a porn star, was all smiles as I passed straight into the main room. I tried to ignore the fact that she knew me by name. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed. I’d passed that bridge a long time ago and blown the son of bitch up as soon as I crossed it. It’s just that occasionally I felt that little something in my gut. Something that tells me just how far down the road I’d gone.
‘He’ was Jerry O’Shea. Currently residing in Private #2 with the ‘lovely and talented Jasmine’, as she was called by the fast-talking, coke-dealing DJ. I’d seen Jasmine and one out of two ain’t bad as far as the truth goes in a place like this. Jerry O’Shea had his lips curled in what looked like a cross between a snarl and a smile, and his hands furiously groping at rocks that could have knocked him out if their owner had decided to shake her bon-bon. His pants were around his ankles, as were his tightie-whiteys. Jerry O’Shea was having the time of his life. He was also a local city commissioner with a sparkling record of morals and values, whose real name was Juan Alvarado.
Black hair, eyes the color of polished coal, and skin like a tanning booth worshiper. Jerry Fucking O’Shea. What a moron.
He was also my responsibility. Pete, my boss, and because of the multitude of legal and illegal campaign donations he’d steered his way, Jerry/Juan’s boss too, had put me on watchdog duty. It wasn’t my first choice, but then again, dogs rarely got a choice what kind of job they got. All we needed was to get fed, get some water, a scratch behind the ear, and, in my case, be well paid. Loyalty was the reward Pete got. And I was about to fuck the whole thing up, thanks to this prick sitting in Private #2.
I’d been called before, but this time was different. My boss wanted Jerry to move from the city commission to some sort of county position. And Jerry’s wife was a real Latina. Fiery is too tame a word. And dead would be too easy a way of describing what she’d make him if she knew he was here with his manhood in Jasmine’s talent and his political future somewhere around his briefs. I had to get him out of here before someone that wasn’t on Pete’s payroll came in and saw him. The chances of that in Ruby’s on a weekday night were slim, but that ‘slim and none’ shit had ruined more lives than any vice my boss could ever make money off of.
Gargantuan Bouncer Man was behind me as I looked at the councilman bouncing the bimbo on his lap. I could have done this without his help, but then he’d be down a lovely and talented Jasmine. Not that I tried to mess up women often, but I didn’t have time. Not even Pete knew when the cops did their raids. I tried my best to convey this with just a look. Apparently, my eyes spoke whatever language his did because he laid a hairy black paw on Jasmine’s shoulder.
She turned, saw me, but barely even noticed I was there. Eight lines of coke and a dozen highballs a night will do that to you.
Jerry O’Shea, aka Juan Alvarado, turned his half snarl/half smile into a whole frown. I kicked at his pants, and he made a show of whining as he pulled them up. Looked like a five year old who’d just gotten his toy truck taken away. Jasmine made sure to take the whole stack of money laying on the counter in Private #2. She’d need it to pay for line number nine.
Pete would have me cut into nice edible pieces for his other dogs if I didn’t get Jerry out of here.
I’d been watching him for just over a month without incident. He’d banged more tail in that month than he’d seen in his lifetime, but all of it was done either at one of Pete’s apartments or on my couch in my apartment. Why the asshole thought he needed to sneak off to Ruby’s for a piece was beyond me. My drug of choice this time was Jack Daniels, and it nearly cost me my life. If I didn’t get Jerry into my car and back to my place soon, it might still.
The addiction that normally called and killed me was the same one that had latched onto my politician friend tonight. I didn’t let Julie the Counter Girl even get a chance to look up as I pushed Jerry out the door and into Joyce’s teeth. The rain water dripping off the roof was doing a tap dance on his head. He turned to me and gave me the same frown.
“Pete’s pissed, isn’t he?”
I nodded again. Pete didn’t really know about this little field trip. But if a fear of Pete kept this guy out of Ruby’s until after the election next month, I wasn’t going to correct him.
I pushed him again toward my car, and looked back over my shoulder. The eight-foot blue neon slut was winking at me. Yeah, I’d be back. She knew me.
BIO: Todd W. Bush is the writer of the South Florida Noir series. His website is Todd W. Bush. He lives in South Florida.
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
13 hours ago