15. Pop Goes the Weasel
The public conveniences in the bar of the American Hotel were in keeping with the theme of the place. Certainly they smelled like they hadn't been cleaned since a radio in the headboard was a startling innovation. I hadn't booked a ticket to a dive behind the Pentagon city metro station, but I was near the Potomac and, more important still,I knew the senate select committee was in Government Issue Land. No doubt the meetings would last until it was time to eat dinner in some nearby restaurant, where the napkins' were more starchy than a General's pants. I'd missed my appointment with Buckfast at Good Guys. It wasn't a matter of finding somewhere similar nearby and waiting for the Senator to turn up for a smoke, while he watched the peelers. There wasn't anywhere like that in Arlington, VA. The G.I.s had to trek out to Laurel or Alexandria or head into DC for such things.
But, like everywhere, there were places that don't have neon signs outside or a page on the World Wide Web. There was a place outside the Fillmore Park. It looked like a big body-shop or a small meat warehouse on 1st Road North. It was near an elementary school, but I supposed that didn't matter so much. The door on the building inside the compound was a roll-up and over, wide enough to accommodate a 16-wheeler bringing frozen beeves from Montana. There was an intercom/bell entry affair. It looked like it had last worked before Jimmy Hoffa went into freeway construction in a more literal manner than intended. But it did work. An accent straight out of Goodfellas said 'yeah' like it was both a question and a challenge to a knife-fight in the restrooms.
I said 'Joey sent me,' because I could. Then a buzzing sound began, while the door rolled up slow and noisy. It rolled down fast and quiet after I stepped in. The familiar itch began in my shoulder blades. It made me wonder when I'd get the wings unfurled next. It was all soft-lights and daises with poles or cages surrounded by middle-aged guys with more dollars than sense. The few younger guys were polishing glasses behind the bar or bussing plates of comped wings and ribs to beer-barrel tables by the platforms. And the place was full of smoke. They wouldn't need any dry ice, whatever the acts were doing and whatever the music was. No-one stood out as being the boss. I went over to the dais right at the back. You couldn't hear the music until you got your elbows on the side of the raised platform .
I looked up at a red-head with a bored face and tight calves. She was 'dancing' to a weird 60's version of Pop Goes the Weasel. The only time she made eye-contact with me was when I laid a ten-dollar bill on the sweat-slicked linoleum of the her dance-dais. The song ended with a 'pop' sound and Red passed me without a backward glance, but with the 10 dollars in her hand. I put a hand out to stop her. This brought the boss, but it also brought 3 guys who made up a gang of 9 or 10 on their own.
'Just wanted to speak to the boss, seemed the quickest way.'
The gorilla holding my throat let go. The two guys holding my arms didn't.
'Watcha gotta say?'
'Buckfast come in here?'
'Who wants to know?' The boss was a short,squat man with a 5 o'clock shadow at 11 in the morning and the eyes of a fighting dog.
I couldn't resist it, 'Well, that'll be me, since I just asked yuh the question.'
Gorilla #3 didn't grab my throat again, but I wished he had. We angels really are like humans with wings, so you know why I wished it.
My fake ID showed Virginia State Police.
'We gave already,' the owner said.
'It's not about money, I just need to kn...' The scream I gave out seemed to satisfy the 3rd Gorilla, as he let go of my cojones before they came off in his hand.
'So happens I don't like Buckfast,' the boss man went on. 'You a frenna his?'
'N-no. He just owes me a favour. I'd like to make sure I can collect.'
The man smiled. Like an alligator. 'Your lucky day, Goombah. He'll be here.'
,He waved a hand and the other two primates let go my arms. They all walked away. The boss man looked back.
'No blood in the club, Goombah, hey?'
I nodded my head and the vibration hurt so much I stopped.