Henry and I strolled into The Royals night club nestled cozily within the Freemont District, and we didn’t walk in alone, four of Henry’s guards – two to the front and two to the back – walked in with us. I assumed that if this were any other respectable night club we would have definitely drawn attention but since The Royals was a known gangster hangout, the attention was minimal.
Perhaps it was the dim intimate lighting blanketing the crowds below, or maybe it was the faint haze of distinct cigar smoke lingering across the night club, or could it have been the various inaudible of cocktail conversations beneath Sade’s sensual mash-up songs that had something to do with the minimal attention? Whatever the case, it made me comfortable enough to put down my defenses and ease the tension that had been shifting throughout my body since we left Henry’s place.
Henry slipped a casual arm around my waist and led me to the bar that was literally in the shape of a dollar sign. The entire bar’s counter brim was literally decked out in crystals giving it a jagged look nostalgic of the 60’s and 70’s while the surface was a smooth and polished midnight black.
The bar was full with literally no place to sit; it was like an SBO – standing bar only – I mean, it was literally that packed with various men in slick back hair, Armani suits and expensive cologne to draw even the most condescending woman this side of Vegas while the ladies were in sexy short cocktail dresses with plunging necklines and backlines, many sporting stilettos strippers would cut off a foot just to have – the visual was that intoxicating.
Henry removed his arm around my waist as he motioned to one of the four male bartenders. They were dressed in white long sleeved shirts and black bowties. They were clean shaven with neither showing any tattoos.
“Heineken and a straight Bourbon whiskey,” Henry ordered.
“The lady can have my seat,” a gentleman in his obvious fifties and wearing a Fedora then said giving up his bar stool to Henry beneath a stiff nod.
“Thank you,” Henry returned the nod. “Have a seat,” Henry said pointing to the empty stool. The legs were polished chrome and the seat was leather black with a crystal button in the center and the stool’s brim mimicking the bars’. I quickly sat down to avoid someone else claiming it.
“I’d say you blend right in,” Henry then winked and smirked down at me after he had spent five minutes checking out the ladies.
The “ladies” were quite young, and it was obvious that they enjoyed partying with dangerous men because neither harbored a care in the world; they just smiled, laughed and flirted, tossing their plush long manes around as if they had just spent some serious money on their hair and they wanted everyone to notice. And what was it with solid red porn length nails because it seemed like every woman I gazed at were sporting them. I glanced down at my nails – they were half the size and French manicured – suddenly I felt out of place that is until a woman I thought I had forgotten casually stood beside me. She was holding a Corona with her nails painted clear as the day. I looked up at her and she gazed down at me with a certain amount of curiousness as if pondering to why I was even here. The young woman grinned behind her pretty green eyes – to which I believed were still contacts – and sipped her beer sensually for a moment before opening her pretty pout to speak.
“It’s quite surprising to see you here in this,” and her words abruptly halted with her eyes sweeping around the club inquisitively, “little slice of criminal heaven,” she added beneath a sensual croon.
“Hmm,” I said taking an unnerving sip of my Bourbon whiskey. “No Ginger Ale tonight?” I said through a pretty pout all my own. The young woman’s body language shifted from guarded to sensual.
“Nope. Just Corona’s for me, baby,” she then said running a delicate finger down the silhouette of my jawline. I was going to slap her hand away as women weren’t my thing but Henry already had a hold on her wrist, and from the looks of his grasp, it wasn’t gentle. But before either could object to the other’s intrusion, Henry’s guards stood to attention as well as the woman’s guards: The young woman was Carmelo’s girl.
My heart skipped a massive beat, particularly when I looked up and saw that burning rage penetrating Henry’s eyes which took me by complete surprise. I mean, the last time I saw him semi-pissed is when I jacked his Jag and stole his money. But to see him this way – untamed and enraged – sent shivers up and down my spine. “Keep. . .you’re fucking hands off her,” Henry then seethed between a perfect set of gritted teeth strong enough to literally gnaw Carmelo’s girl in half.
“Ooh,” she then winked while I gasped, “So Romeo does have a hard on for big girl pussy. . .mmm!”
“I’m serious, Ruby.” Henry maintained as Ruby’s wrist continued to choke within Henry’s grasp.
“Do me a favor, Henario, and wipe that cum off your dick; Carmelo is asking to see the both of you!” Ruby snapped, snatching back her wrist. She then gave it a quick nurse before motioning her head toward the back of the club.
Henry grabbed my hand and tugged me off the stool and pulled me close to his side. “How come you never said you knew Carmelo, huh?!” Henry then took it upon himself to scold me like I was some fucking child which I truly must’ve been because I said nothing in my defense. I just followed Henry’s lead until we both came face-to-face with Carmelo and his fairly large crew who were fanned out around his very own private booth.
Carmelo had a couple of very young girls sitting dangerously close to him. Their lips were painted in big girl colors while the rest of their features remained natural to give that virginessence appearance even though both girls – possibly in their early teens – looked like they could host an orgy or three and still make it home to eat dinner and get ready for school the next day. It was. . .a sight.
“Well,” Carmelo smiled as his predatorily eyes sized me up then down, “I must say it gives me great pleasure. . .in seeing you.” And Carmelo hadn’t even completed his sentence as Henry had Carmelo’s head by the barrel end of his customize Glock after he mustered the word “pleasure”. “You two are lovers?” Carmelo smirked because his men now had Henry and his men by the barrel of their guns. For a moment the entire club fell silent after they had grasp sight of the various Glocks surrounding the booth with Carmelo, Henry and I at the very center of its heat.
“Henario,” Carmelo spoke softly, “please, have a seat,” he then smiled as he motioned to the left of the booth which was Henry’s right. Henry’s jaw clenched thus forcing him with no other choice but to pull back his Glock after he saw that we were clearly outnumbered.
The club immediately returned to business the moment Henry settled his Glock down to his side. I maneuvered around Henry and slid into the booth, taking his hand so he could sit down beside me. Henry didn’t resist taking his seat but he couldn’t resist putting his gun away as he kept it exposed on top of the table in front of him; he still had his fingers wrapped around it. But since Henry and Carmelo were busy having their own pissing match about who had the bigger balls – compliments of their heated gazes literally burning through their eyes – neither noticed me taking my Glock out of my purse nor as I settled it carefully just above my left knee.
“Careful, DiamonD,” Ruby cautioned with a look of arousal that could have easily had me eating out of her pussy if I hadn’t been such a sucker for men.
In my honest opinion, Ruby was by all definitions a “drop-dead gorgeous” woman who could easily have any man she desired if only she’d do away with the tough guy act and if she’d lost that strap-on constantly tucked in between her long legs.
“My, my,” Carmelo chuckled at Ruby, “seems like we’re all packing tonight! Verda, mija?”
“Cut the fucking bullshit, Cortez, and tell us why you requested to see us, hmm?” Henry snapped as he wasn’t amused. Carmelo and Ruby exchanged smiles. And the way they were both smiling at each other left a bitter taste in my mouth which indicated that something was up. I braced myself.
“Actually, I wanted to talk to DiamonD here,” Carmelo said urgently.
Henry looked at me and I looked at Henry with neither of us saying a goddamn word. “So talk,” Henry said shifting his attention to Carmelo and staring at him dryly.
“Fine,” Carmelo said straightening himself in his seat while his baby hos sat there stiff and listened. “I’d like to know what you’re doing here in this place filled with gangsters and hitmen when there’s a thirty million dollar contract on your head.”
“‘A thirty million dollar contract’?” I repeated whimsically as I sat back in my seat and stared at Carmelo baffled because I hadn’t heard anything as outrages as that. I mean, Carmelo did flash me a smirk which could be taken as him toying with me but then I noticed that Ruby wasn’t sharing any of her boss’s humor which meant there was some seriousness in Carmelo’s words.
“By whom?” I finally summoned up enough courage to speak after my eyes glanced over my shoulder in search of anyone wishing to stake their claim on me. And when I saw that there was no attempt from behind or around me, especially from Henry – who just sat there with this apprehensive look mirrored to mine – had I thought to ask.
Instead of answering, Carmelo instead picked up his Dos Equis and finished downing the last of his beer without a care in the world. “Monet Monteagudo,” Carmelo retorted as he motioned the passing waitress for another beer.
“Come again?” Henry dared to intervene, shifting a suspicious glance between me and Carmelo before that suspicion eventually settled on me. “What’s he fucking talking about, Jane? And why would that cartel put a contract on your head?” And while I would have liked to have sat there believing that he felt a genuine concern for my dilemma, Henry instead did the opposite and presumed, “What did you do to piss her off?”
“What?” I was stunned. Henry let out a hefty sigh and shook his head in utter disbelief.
“Fuck!” he then exasperated coercing Carmelo to smirk. It was obvious that he enjoyed seeing Henry plagued by a bit of grief which automatically told me that there was some beef between them.
“He doesn’t know?” Carmelo then had the audacity to fuel Henry’s already raging fire. ‘Cause a second later, Henry got up from his seat and abruptly grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the booth with him.
Honestly I didn’t know what the fuck was going on or why Henry was even tripping over something that had nothing to do with him. I mean, as far as I was concerned, we were just out for some conversations and drinks, not for him to get sucked up in all my pimp drama crap!
“What the fuck, Henry!?” I bellowed from beneath the cigar haze and a Harry Connick, Jr. tune.
Henry abruptly halted in his tracks and quickly moved me off to one side leaving me completely stumped, particularly when he did a double glance over his right shoulder as if he were looking for someone. A second later, he motioned his head guard to him and whispered something in his ear. The guard nodded and shot another of the guards a certain look that I took as an order of diversion, and I assumed, against Carmelo.
Henry looked back at me with an expression that I had recognized as clear as day and that was for me to keep my mouth shut and follow his lead wherever it led. I gulped back my fear. And even though it was just a bunch of small time gangsters and hitmen that should have sent me literally pissing my panties, it was actually the fear of Henry and I being outnumbered and not necessarily the fear of being threatened by what they were.
Henry had opened his mouth to say something but his cell unexpectedly pinged him. Henry read the text quickly and merely nodded. He shoved his cell back into his trouser pocket and casually leaned back with me slightly leaning forward to get a glimpse of who Henry was looking at. Two of Carmelo’s men were heading our way but they were having difficulty squeezing through the crowd that had gathered on the dancefloor. Right then and there, Henry grabbed my hand and rushed us out of the club and into a Pearl Escalade where two of Henry’s guards anxiously awaited us. Once we were situated inside, the Escalade sped off with another of Henry’s Escalades trailing us.
We coasted down Freemont Street for about a good mile before the Escalade veered off onto a side street where it then drove two blocks up before coming to a dead stop on the parking lot of an old Mom and Pop’s restaurant.
“Come on,” Henry said grabbing my hand and ushering me off the Escalade as fast as he could.
“What are we doing?” I pried anxiously with my heart still beating rapidly from the getaway.
“Switching vehicles,” Henry said quickly as he led me to another awaiting vehicle, a Jaguar sedan. It was quiet out except for the clicking of my heels and a couple of dogs barking further down the street. A car drove past us, and just for a second did I freeze, hoping that it wasn’t any of Carmelo’s men because from what I saw those motherfucks weren’t exactly pushovers; they were big guys with obviously nothing to lose except for a few pounds. After the car disappeared from sight it was then when I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“So, seriously, Jane, what did you do to offend Monet to put a contract out on your head?” Henry asked about five minutes into the drive. I noticed we were heading east, away from the Strip and the District.
“Are you taking me home?” I said ignoring Henry’s question. He nodded. “Why? I mean, it’s still early out.”
“Knowing Monet, she’s got a lot of Vegas covered. And Carmelo is right up there with her. There’s a good chance he’s dropped a dime on you already.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” I retorted confidently as I stared out the window; my eyes trying to catch sight of every building we passed but it was useless because every building we drove past was a blur.
“Why? I mean, it’s obvious you and Carmelo know each other?” Henry pointed out quickly. I nodded.
“I gave him some “stock” a few months back.”
“You ‘gave’ him some stock?” Henry raised a quizzical eyebrow. I nodded. “Hmm,” he then pondered for a sec before asking, “In exchange for what?”
“Bree,” I said rousing in my seat a little.
“I don’t follow, Jane?”
“What’s there to follow, Henry?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Okay,” Henry nodded turning the Jag onto a main street. “But just so you know, that that doesn’t mean he’ll be loyal?” he then added, now referring back to Carmelo and Monet with Carmelo possibly snitching out my whereabouts.
“I know,” I said keeping my gaze glued to the street. “There’s no loyalty in this business, right?” I said as I looked at Henry critically because my comment had also applied to him.
Henry got the hint and chuckled. “And here I thought I was doing you a favor by keeping your kids out of harm’s way.”
“No, that’s not it,” I disagreed.
“Then what was it? Because I can assure you, Jane, that I’m getting bored with the same conversation.” Henry stated boredly – literally.
“Never mind,” I said looking back out the window. “So now that Carmelo is aware of me, and so is Monet. . .what’s the plan?”
“You still haven’t answered my question about why you made Monet your number one enemy?”
“It’s a long story, Henry,” I complained.
“Well make it short then,” Henry suggested dryly.
“Fine. She’s pissed because I took something of theirs that didn’t belong to them. And when it was all over, we ended up taking a whole lot more.”
“Ah! I’m listening,” Henry urged.
“And that’s the long story short.” I reminded.
“Fair enough,” Henry mustered as he made a left turn onto another street. I was starting to feel faint with all these sporadic turns, and the fact that Monet had a contract out on my head didn’t make my situation any better; it just intensified it.
I leaned back further in my seat and tried to concentrate on something else; something that didn’t pertain to the Life but it seemed that everywhere I turned it was there like an open wound that I couldn’t bandage and let heal because it was constantly being ripped open by some infection or another.
“Jesus, Henry,” I mustered beneath a labored breath, “now that they know I’m here, they’re gonna come after me – ”
“Relax, Jane,” Henry said squeezing my hand.
“No, Henry,” my voice cracked, “they’re going to hurt me and everything I hold close to me. Don’t you see?!” I cried out scared.
“Jane, please, I’m driving,” Henry reminded unevenly which I assumed was the exact way he was feeling emotionally. “Let me get you home, and then we’ll decide something.”
“So. . .you don’t have a plan?” my voice cracked again. Henry sighed out worried and left it at that.
“I need to hide this car in your garage,” Henry said as we pulled onto the neighboring street to where I lived. “You got a remote?” he then pried. I shook my head.
“It’s in the van. . .in the garage.”
“Call the house and tell them to open the garage.” Henry said. I picked up my cell and dialed Tommy.
What? Did you buy a car? Tommy thought to argue. Obviously he didn’t hear the overwhelming concern in my voice. So I repeated myself, only a little more aggressively.
“Tommy, please! Just open the fucking garage!”
Jesus, Jane! Shit! Tommy then bitched, hanging up on me.
I was glad to see that the light to the garage wasn’t on as I didn’t want any neighbors seeing us pull in with a Jaguar. I guess I was just worried about bringing to much attention to Tommy and the others since I had already brought attention to myself.
I quickly jumped out of the Jag the second Henry parked. He hadn’t even cut the engine by the time I had hit the button to draw down the garage door which was always quite slow and nerve wrecking.
Henry got off the Jag and followed me into the house. There was music playing off the HD TV as Henry and I stepped into the kitchen from the hallway leading to the garage. I hadn’t noticed Tommy and the guys, and Amby and Tyan sitting at the dining table surrounded by tonight’s earnings and a few bottles of beer until Tommy jumped up from his chair and stared at Henry like he had just seen his worst enemy.
“What the fuck is he doing here?!” Tommy seethed after Lennon had cut the music with his TV remote. Lennon, too, was on his feet as well as K. Vaughn. As for Amby and Tyan, they were literally glued to their seats.
“It’s good to see you, too, Tommy,” Henry spoke like a true gentleman.
“Umm. . .we all have to talk,” I instead said. “Where’s Slim and Vi?” I then asked settling my purse on top of the breakfast bar where Henry also settled the keys to his Jag; I saw that my hand had trembled.
“What’s wrong?” Tommy said suddenly, stepping to me concerned. He could clearly see that I was troubled which troubled him.
“We have a problem,” Henry retorted shortly as I stole an anxious glance at him. I could see that Henry was trying to be neutral especially toward Tommy who looked like he was just seconds away from beating Henry down with his bare fists.
“Oh, yeah,” Tommy’s lips pursed, “what’s the problem?” he then said looking to me for the answer. Henry had picked up on Tommy’s vibe and kept to his silence.
“Hey, Jane!” Slim said cheerily as she came down the stairs with Roman in her arms. My heart instantly lit up with all my troubles fading away the second my eyes swept over my son.
“Hey, Slim,” I said beneath an earnest smile. I quickly left my stance and greeted Slim at the bottom of the last step and took Roman from her. I held him tightly in my arms and kissed his tiny lips gently. I placed a finger against the palm of his tiny hand and his tiny fingers curled around it; the gesture melted my heart and brought a tear to my eye because I was his momma and he trusted me enough to hold onto. I couldn’t think of any other feeling other than that feeling in the world – to trust somebody wholeheartedly – that was the trust my son had with me.
And right now my job was to get him home, back to The DiamonD, back to Shane as it occurred to me just now that I couldn’t have the blood of those I loved on my hands, particularly my son’s. I had to leave. I had to go somewhere far so that Monet wouldn’t hurt him or those I loved. The contract was on my head and my head alone; no one was to blame but me. I had started this war for Bree but now I needed to end it to give me peace and closure from Bree since I’ve had nothing but ill will toward her with her betraying me. And I realized that between blood and family, blood had to come out alive. And with Shane and I at a potential for being killed, we’d both be useless to our son, and I couldn’t have that, not with him as he was my second chance in everything.