A Record Year for Rainfall, Chapter 10
A Record Year for Rainfall is my second book, originally published in 2011.
Please note that the subject matter in this novel can be pretty graphic.
“Fuck, it’s raining,” Trice said, looking out Tess’ balcony window. The sun shone. It was seven in the evening. The desert wind picked up, and short, burst-like sprinkles of wet God fell. “We’re going to have to take a cab.”
“We always take a cab,” Tess yelled from the bathroom. “It’s just a shorter conversation now, that’s all.”
“It’s not just me, right?” Trice asked. “But there’s been a ton of rain this year.”
“You should see it where I come from. Would put this to shame.”
Trice waited impatiently for Tess to finish her makeup. She’d done hers on the way, thinking they were going to leave early for drinks.
Tess came out of the washroom, ready. She plopped the strap of her purse around her shoulder and stood next to Trice, who was shaking her head as several beads of water bounced off the glass.
“Come on, pussy,” Tess said. “Let’s get this goddamn work over with.”
# # #
Bret sat at Jenny’s dining room table, looking at the website and floor plan for the Palomino. That morning, he’d met Album and handed him his camera. Apparently, Album knew one of the bartenders, who would smuggle the thing in for Bret to pick up once he was inside. They didn’t allow cameras in the club at any time, so it was going to take all of Bret’s cunning to get through the night without getting tossed. It was going to cost him $30 to get in the door, and he’d have to down a few drinks before picking up the point and shoot. There was no way he could have brought a quality camera in a place like that. Album knew he was going to get bad shots. But the best camera is the one you have with you, and bad shots of great things would be enough.
“You’re sure Prince is going to be there?” Bret had asked.
“For sure. I know he’s going to be there, and I know he’s purchased a good half dozen girls to entertain his entourage.”
“How do you know all this? Wait, don’t tell me. I always ask, and I always wish you hadn’t told me. Do me a favor and never tell me anything ever again.”
Bret looked over at Jenny. She was sitting on the couch, watching television. She was the reason he was still in this city. But the fight they’d had the night before had made him question just what the hell he was doing in that apartment with her. Why hadn’t he left? He couldn’t think of a good enough reason to jump.
# # #
Album sat in his apartment in his housecoat and boxers and slippers. He wasn’t old or overweight or sad, but he felt hornier than usual. He felt too horny for jerking off, like the act wouldn’t be enough. He needed a girl. “Fuck,” he said aloud. “How long has it been?”
His phone rang. He answered it.
“Hi, Album, it’s Reggie. Reggie Fane.”
Album smirked. “Allo Gov’ner.”
“Sorry. Always wanted to do that.”
“Right,” Reggie said. “Look, I’ve got a favor to ask. I’m heading up this new foundation. It’s a nonprofit charity for awareness and equal rights. Sounds great, right?”
“Sure, Reggie. Equal rights. That’s the American way, right?”
“Absolutely!” Reggie said, sounding more like an excited Christopher Walken than the hardened businessman Album had first met. “So that’s what I wanted to talk about. I need guys like you.”
“What do you mean, you need guys like me?” Album lit a cigarette with the phone crouched between his ear and shoulder.
“Well, you’re smart, young, and you’ve got the kids’ attention. I need a guy like you on my team. What do you say?”
“What do you mean, what do I say? I have no idea what you’re asking me to do.”
“Right,” Reggie said. “Sorry, I forgot you’re not in politics, and i cant speak in nods You’d work for me, as a PR guy. Book meetings. Write speeches. Be part of creative, the think tank. Figure out the road ahead. Starting salary’s forty grand.”
“Fuck off,” Album said. “I made that in May.”
“Yeah, you made that off me, fella, don’t forget that.”
“You think you’re the only reason I’m as popular as I am? J-wow’s vag would be very offended.”
“I’m sure it would, whatever that is,” Reggie said. “Still, it may be less money, but you’d get your foot in the door with a real job, you’d get to travel, and there’s lots of girls in this sort of game.”
Album got a boner, but this being a phone conversation he did a pretty good job of hiding it. “You don’t think I get tons of girls being an invisible douchebag with a blog? You must be out of your mind.”
“All right, final pitch,” Reggie replied. “It’ll be your chance to really change things. You want to be a journalist? Here’s a solid opportunity to make real, positive change in America.”
“Shit, Reggie,” Album said, inhaling. “You shoulda just kept hammering on about the skirts. That was your weakest point yet.”
Reggie said, “I had a feeling you’d say no, but I had to ask. Have a good day, son.”
Album hung up.
# # #
Bret hung up the phone on Album, who had told him the camera was in place. He’d even purchased one of those expensive evdo cards, which connected to the cell tower and uploaded pictures as Bret took them. He did so only after suggesting to Bret that the camera might not make it out of the club alive, and getting the pictures was really, really important. Bret stood across the street from the Palomino, its neon sign almost a bore compared to the others downtown, not to mention the neon ceiling down the street. The Palomino was old, but it made sense a guy like Prince would party here: nobody else would bother him, and he valued his privacy more than anything. Bret had never actually seen Prince in the flesh before. Not that he was any kind of Salinger figure, but Prince was never particularly photographable. He was smart: he never partied out in public, and he had limos take him from private building to private building. Sure, candid shots of Prince existed, but they were hardly in the same numbers as, say, Topher Grace’s vagina.
Bret wasn’t particularly proud of the number of vagina’s he’d shot in his time, and saw Prince as a fitting climax. Finally, a difficult catch, one that would actually take a little bit of cunning to pull.
It wasn’t hard to get into the Palomino. The bouncer didn’t even ask him for ID. Still, the second he stepped into the black-carpeted strip club, and he heard the deep bass and sharp-tongued DJ, his adrenaline shot up and he felt the same old throttle of the work. He wore his cheap leather jacket and busted-knee jeans. He looked like he belonged in a place like this, and he wasn’t alone. The news that Prince was in the building wasn’t lost on everyone, and there were three times as many people in the club as there would usually be on a Saturday night. There wasn’t a seat to be had at any bar or any stage. There were a few clusters of girls standing around, sipping martinis. They weren’t here for the strippers. That, or they were strippers. Bret couldn’t tell. Still, he smiled. The crowd was a good thing. It meant that somebody might make a mistake. Bust a door open, that sort of thing. And if mayhem were to ensue, Bret might be able to get in there, if only for a few seconds. But that was generally all he ever needed.
Bret looked around for a brunette working the bar. There were about a dozen. Album told him that she would be wearing white, but that didn’t really narrow it down, either. The wife-beaters were out in full force with the bar staff. It was a good look for them; sexy and cleavage-powered, yet still screaming I’ll fuck you up.
He gave up, and walked up to one. She leaned forward, and he said the word. The girl ducked down, and when she returned, there was a black bag on the bar. “Take it fast,” she said.
“Thanks,” Bret said.
“Tell Album I know about those pictures,” she said. “And I’ll fuck him up for it.”
Bret thought fast. “No way. You’re Vanessa, aren’t you?”
She smiled. “One and the same.”
“I’m sorry you two didn’t work out,” Bret said.
“That’s because he’s an asshole,” she said.
“That’s true,” Bret said. “He is. This is my last job for him. He is an asshole. He had me followed. Ha gave me a nemesis.”
“He thought that would make you stupid or something?”
“Yeah!” Bret exclaimed. “Exactly. It didn’t work.”
“Mine didn’t either,” she said. “He’s always pulling that shit on people.”
“What did he think made you stupid?” Bret asked.
Vanessa poured two shots of Jager and pushed one toward Bret. She said, “Working here.”
They threw back their shots. Bret nodded, thanking her again. He didn’t stop to think that maybe Album had been right, because that would be insane. He pulled the black bag down, and pocketed the tiny weapon.
# # #
An hour went by. Tess worked like a dog. Her heels killed her. Her calves were worse. Prince’s entourage was a set of slave drivers, ordering double orders of everything and downing them in record order. Prince himself hadn’t shown yet, and there were two of the dozen or so guys who had eyed Tess bad. They wanted her. She was used to this. She could have been a model if she were a foot taller. She was used to being looked at. She was used to the odd grab, even. But she wasn’t used to being cornered.
Trice had left the room to get more drinks, and these two guys, both buff and tall and wearing tank tops, had had their fill of the strippers. They stood and surrounded Tess.
“Hey girl, you want to dance?”
“Sure,” she smiled. “Let’s dance.”
They put their hands around her and they formed a Tess sandwich. This wasn’t too far out of the ordinary, but two minutes into the song they had begun to touch her, and she had to say something.
“Hey fellas, there’s girls over there who you can pay to do anything. I’m just here to serve.”
“Damn right you are,” the one behind her said. “And you’ll fucking serve.”
“Right,” Tess said. “So, drinks? I can get you drinks.”
“No,” the one in the front said. “You said serve. We’re going to use the liberal definition here, aren’t we?”
“Yeah,” the one in the back agreed. “What he said. Liberal.”
“All right,” Tess said, inching her way out of from between them. “Line, fellas. I’m just here to get drinks and dance. Let’s keep it cool, eh?”
The bouncer at the door that divided the private room from the rest of the club, his head turned toward the three of them.
“All right, be cool be cool,” the taller one said. “You’re here to make sure we have a good time.”
“I’m not a fucking whore,” Tess stated, as frank as she could. “And if you don’t cool down right now, I’m out of here.”
They backed off. For whatever reason, drunken men could listen to reason temporarily. They went back to their couch and talked. Tess was worried, though. She thought of leaving, then. But it hadn’t been the worst spot. She’d experienced far worse. And she could suck it up, for the money. Trice returned with another bottle of Courvoisier for the room, and the two men took their eyes off Tess for the time being.
# # #
Bret had waited nearly an hour, but he finally saw a girl leave the private room. She was a brunette, scantily clad, but too far away for him to really get a good look at. On her way back, he took a zoomed shot and went to the men’s room, closed a stall, and took a look at her.
“Fuck,” he stated.
It was a sad coincidence that Trice was there. He didn’t want to cross paths with her again, especially if she was friendly with any strong-armed employees of the establishment. He really didn’t feel like getting beaten again. But that didn’t change the fact that it had been an hour and nothing had happened. Bret had to be more proactive, and he had devised a plan. He’d use the crowd.
Bret returned to the main room. More people had filled the space since he’d first entered. It was mostly women. The strippers must be confused, Bret thought. What the hell are all these women doing here?
Bret spotted a set of cougars at the bar. It made sense. Young girls had little to no interest in Prince. Most people Bret’s age and younger just thought he was weird. But forty-year-old married women with too much time on their hands still found him irresistible. And Bret was about to use this to his advantage.
He bought a martini from the bartender and raised it, getting their attention. “Hey beautiful ladies,” he said, trying his best to sound like his married gay friend Gas. “To Motherfuckin Prince, am I right?”
They smiled, raised their own martinis, and screamed “Wooo!” And then, the one closest to Bret, a stretched-thin fake blonde with fake tits and an extremely gaudy necklace asked him if he’d heard anything, like where Prince would be, when he’d arrive, anything.
“Well,” Bret said. “Don’t take it from me, but take it from me, you know? I just spoke with one of his fellas in the men’s room…” and he paused, letting them believe that something may have happened in there. “And he told me that, well, you see that door up there, just at the end of the room? That’s the entrance to one of the VIP rooms, and he’s going to be in there. He probably won’t come out, so if any of us girls have a chance of glimpsing the man I think we’ve got to really mow that door down. Now who’s with me!”
Again, they screamed. One of them spilled her martini, but most just sipped theirs like the classy sexy fake women they were. Bret had apparently grabbed them just at the right moment of easy drunkenness, because they all started marching to the door.
“Damn,” Bret said to Vanessa across the bar. “I really did not think that would work.”
“If this place goes down,” Vanessa replied, holding up a bottle opener. “I’m taking you down with it.”
# # #
Trice sat down on the couch with the one guy who had been really eyeing her. He was Spanish and wore his shirt half open. He whispered in her ear, and she giggled like an idiot. Tess didn’t think of it until they kissed on the couch. Still, it was her business. She’d just brought back another bottle for the guys when she saw it, and thought, “Well, that’s her business.” But then the Spaniard’s hand went up Trice’s shirt, and she didn’t stop him.
The problem was, the two guys who liked Tess saw this act and then got right up and headed toward her.
“Hey, bitch, you said you weren’t up for anything,” one said.
“I’m not, I’m just here to drink and dance and make sure everyone has a good time.”
“Well, your friend over there’s giving it up.”
“That’s her business,” Tess said. “But it’s not part of the job.”
“Oh, I think it just became part of the fucking job,” the other said.
Tess thought, “is my knife still in my boot?”
The shorter one grabbed Tess by the hair and she screamed. He was rough and his hands were hot with sweat. His breath was filled with drunken testosterone. The taller one grabbed her shirt. They were forceful, pulling her back in between them. “Fuck!” She screamed.
Trice heard the scream and got up immediately. She ran toward Tess, but the tall guy inadvertently elbowed her in the stomach and knocked her down. The bouncer approached next, moving slower but with more power. He wrapped his enormous forearm around the neck of the tall guy, pulling him off Tess. The short one held onto her, though, pulling her shirt off and falling back, both of them falling to the ground.
It was at that moment the horde of cougars broke through the door, screaming and hollering and hunting for Prince. And right in the middle of them was Bret, hollering along with them, snapping pictures of the room and everything that moved. The bouncer let go of the tall guy and tried his best to corral the cougars out the door, but there were too many of them. Bret got past him and he saw Tess, topless and on the ground and his heart sank and everything about everything seemed completely fucking worthless.
“Tess!” Bret screamed. Time stopped for him. The chaos narrowed. Her head popped up, her arms covering her tits. She saw him and her heart felt like a hundred pounds. He was holding a camera and must have caught her. Everything Trice had told her had come true, and way, way too soon.
“Bret What the fuck are you doing here?”
“What the fuck are you doing here?” He repeated back.
The bouncer saw this. He squared his feet, and bellowed “EVERYBODY OUT!”
The cougars, who had collectively noticed Prince’s absence, were slowly corralled out. The entourage gathered their things and headed out the same exit. That left Bret, Trice, Tess, and the strippers. The bouncer eyed Bret and Tess.
“You two,” he said. “Come with me.”
They were escorted out the back. Tess put her dress back on as best she could. Bret took off his jacket and wrapped it around her, which was the first nice thing that had happened to her all night.
The bouncer put his hand out. “Give me the camera.” Bret complied. The bouncer held it open in his hand, looked at it for a second, then swiftly smashed it against the back brick wall.
“If I ever see you here again,” he said. “That will be your liver. Got it?”
Bret held his hands up in defeat.
“And you,” the bouncer said, motioning to Tess. “I apologize for what those men tried to pull. Come back here some night, and I will make sure you get a free drink or ten. We pride ourselves on treating our girls right, and I regret this whole scene. Please forgive me.”
Tess bowed a little. “Thanks.”
The bouncer went back in, leaving Tess and Bret alone in the alley.
They looked at each other, impatient for the other to go first. Tess finally snapped.
“Okay, just what the fuck?”
“Exactly what I was thinking,” Bret said. “What were you doing in there?”
“Working,” Tess said. “What were you doing?”
“Working,” Bret said. “Just like you. Well, not just like you. What happened? Why were you on the ground with your clothes off?”
“There was a struggle. Two guys groped me and they took it a little far.”
“Shit,” Bret said.
“Yeah. Now you go.”
“I was trying to get pictures of Prince for Album.”
“And the women?”
“Part of the plan.”
“Your plan was to stampede a bunch of cougars so you could sneak in?”
Tess sniffed. “Okay, that’s a pretty good plan.”
They stood there for a minute. It was getting cold. The rain had stopped hours ago, but there were still puddles in the alley.
Bret asked, “Did I save you?”
Tess shook her head. “Maybe. It’s hard to say. Sorry about your camera.”
Bret knelt down and picked up the pieces. He pocketed the corpse, and tried to find the memory card. It had broken into three pieces. He wasn’t sure if the evdo thing even worked.
“Prince wasn’t even fucking there.”
“Yeah,” Tess said. “He wasn’t even fucking there.”
Bret kicked the wall in a light, Charlie Brown sort of way. “Want to get a beer?”