The rain always brought out the traffic. Like worms crawling up to the surface, afraid of drowning. The sewer system was backed up with decades of crap, and at this point, no one in the city wanted to claim responsibility. So, like clockwork, every time it rained the clogged up vents spewed forth shit. Businessmen across the city universally coming up with whatever excuse they can to get home before the street’s flooded and their precious Versace suits were forever tainted with a faint smell of the “great outdoors”.
Dan wasn’t wearing a suit however. He had had the foresight to change out of last night’s clothes into something a bit more respectable, but respectable held a different meaning to a resident of The Block. His sneakers were almost white at least. The website for “The Birdcage” was decidedly mysterious. He had surmised it was some kind of strip club, which was strange as Dan never usually visited those. Not out of any higher moral code or lofty ideals, no. But because they were bloody expensive! The price of beer was high enough and rising each year without having to add in the extra cost of tips. Still, he had a habit of blacking out these days and ending up in the strangest places. Who knows where his mind wandered when it was no longer his mind.
He had no idea how he would find this Frannie. He was hoping she’d recognize him and introduce herself. Barring that, he had thought about asking the bartender inside. If she was a regular – or one of the dancing girls – they’d be able to point her out (for a price). If that didn’t work, screaming “FRANNIE” at the top of his lungs had crossed his mind. Dan unconscioully twirled the paper note between his fingers as he approached the club across a large tarmac carpark. The rain pounded heavily around him bouncing with enough force to hit Dan’s face as he cowered beneath his jacket. He moved quickly, hopping from side to side as he ran as if he could dodge the heavenly missiles.
A smokers shelter offered him some cover to compose himself before entering. The club had a familiar look. Large purple plexiglass overhangs covered the entrance walkway and the edge of the building. The windows were all blacked out and a 15ft tall painting of a dancer covered the wall. A man in a cheap suit nodded in Dan’s direction before taking a last puff of the cigarette stub he was cradling like a new-born. Dan nodded back. He ran his fingers through his hair, flicking off the rain and trying his best to style it into anything that didn’t say “street trash”. Good luck with that. With a gulp, Dan shook out his jacket, and stepped up to the door.
One step inside, Dan was face to face with a hulking bouncer that sent tingles of Deja vu down his spine. Expecting to be thrown out, he was surprised the man stepped forward and offered to take his coat.
“Ms Welks is waiting for you in booth 5. Do you need me to show you the way?”
Dan was taken aback. He hadn’t expected it to be this easy. And how had the guy recognized him?
“Uhu” Dan managed to say. He was starting to get the feeling this wasn’t going to be just a casual hook-up. Dan’s mind reeled with the possibilities and yet came up disappointingly blank. He had nothing. Could remember nothing. All he could do was follow along and await what fate had in store.
The bouncer led him to a private room in the back of the club, waiting till he was seated comfortably and offered Dan a drink. Surprised at himself, Dan refused. The bouncer shrugged and walked off, the door clicking with an ominous locking sound as it swung shut.
“You’re the one he sent me?” Came a voice, seemingly from nowhere and everywhere at once.
” Is that Frannie? I got your note” Dan said trying to look around for where the sound was coming from. Even though the lighting was poor, he could make out surround sound speakers hung in corners of the room. So she doesn’t want to meet me in person? This was definitely not a date, Dan thought.
A TV screen flicked to life on the far wall. Static blaring, an image slowly came into focus. It seemed to be CCTV footage, grainy and low quality, but Dan could make out a man in business attire sat hunched over the bar, giving the bartender an earful. There was no sound, but Dan could make out the gist of the one sided conversation. The screen paused.
“I don’t know you. I don’t trust you. But if he says you’re his man, that’s good enough for me.” The voice unnerved Dan. He felt his muscles tensing as if he would have to start running any second. But where to? The door was locked, and he couldn’t see anything in the room that would help him get out.
“Who’s this he you keep talking about?” Dan asked.
“Ah yes. I almost forgot. He said he wiped you.”, the voice said pausing, the TV flickering off , ” Look up at the screen please.”
Dan’s eyes instinctively flicked back to the TV before his brain had time to suggest that probably wasn’t a good idea. Before Dan could look away, the screen began to emit a pulsating white light. Just like the pyramids. Where had that thought come from? He didn’t have long to ponder that question before the weight of his restored memories came crashing back down on him. Dan gulped, as if breathing fresh air for the first time. Of course, the first time had been a few nights ago, but The Judge had taken that from him. How? He felt violated. Ashamed at how easily he’d returned to his routine. And most of all angry. Sure, he’d done the same thing to himself many times over the last few months with the help of alcohol, but that was different surely?
Dan could remember the conversation on the rooftop now. The deal he had struck. He looked up at the screen, not really sure where else to look,
“I remember now. I’m meant to help you right? And then he’ll help me. But why make me forget? What did that achieve?”
Silence. Then a burst of static.
“Good. Then we can skip the pleasantries.” The voice said.
“My husband is missing. You’re going to help me find him.”
Thank you for reading this canto of Sin City.
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