• D.J. Lutz

No one else to call - Episode 4: God only knows, and she's not telling.

By Douglas Lutz

An underworld fixer stages a daring escape to start a new life as an upright citizen and private eye. The more he tries to do good and find happiness, the more he finds his old skills in demand, especially when there is no one to call.

“That’s another twenty, pal. Food don’t come free here.” The bouncer, now inside the joint, pointed to my half star entree. “Bubs, what did I tell you about that? You know the man’s not going to like it, and if he hears about one more charity case, you’ll end up back in the traveling show.” The man held up his cell phone, then sided up to me as I skimmed another Jackson across the oak bar to pay for the food. “And I know you don’t want that. Do you?” He didn’t expect or want an answer.

The lug turned to me, saying, “Show starts in an hour, pal. Either pay for two more drinks or go home to mom.”

I wasn’t his pal by any means, and I wasn’t thrilled with how he treated the person offering free food to a guy just laid off from the shipyard. But I made a vow to start a clean life, so against all my natural instincts, I drew two more bills from my wallet. Bubbles, nee Trixie, gave me the eye when she brought over two more cups.

The top shelf behind the bar was laughable. High-end bottles, covered in dust, lined up like little soldiers ready for inspection. I noticed right away they had no tax stamp and the liquid inside didn’t always match the label. Not only did this bar dupe customers into paying top price for bottom dwelling booze, but it cheated the Commonwealth of Virginia out of tax revenue. The Alcohol Beverage Control guys inspected every bar and tavern with a license at least twice a year. So either this place had no license or it had ABC guys on the take. Probably both.

I winked at Trixie. “What’s it going to take to get some honest to god moonshine here? Have any hidden away?” I pulled the rest of my cash out of the wallet. This got the big guy’s attention fast.

“Go get the girls up and feed ‘em some breakfast,” he said to Trixie. “Tell them shows start in thirty minutes. We have a paying customer here, after all.” He ditched his phone, then pushed my girl out from behind the bar and rummaged through a nondescript cabinet below the sink. A few seconds later, I had my ‘shine.

As I nursed my twin beers, I asked the man if cigar smoking was allowed. When he offered me a box of matches, I had my answer. My left hand opened and closed the box slowly, just a twitch or bad habit I suppose, but it gave me something to do as I listened for clues as to what was happening behind the stage. This sound of chains being loosened from doors told me this was worse than I thought.

“Where’s the head?” I asked innocently.

The man pointed to a door opposite the runway. Thankfully, he never noticed I palmed his cell phone when I stood up. Inside the restroom, which for propriety's sake I will not describe here, the phone received just enough signal for me to text investigative reporter Hank Raeburn.

Hank - Fishnets and Poles - front for trafficking - girls in back - muscle up front. ABC on the take. Prob others. Use Roy L. at FBI. You’re welcome. - Mardi Gras.

Knowing Hank and his gusto for getting the scoop first, I figured I had less than an hour before the raid. Euro-tech music designed to give me a migraine pulsated throughout the club. The lights dimmed, except the row of spotlights focused on the runway. My beer and jar of ‘shine now awaited me at a table shoved up to the runway. I was being given the VIP treatment, I’m sure until I ran out of cash.

Trixie was back at the bar; I dropped another bill in her tip jar - and palmed a note to her. The bouncer now played the part of DJ and master of ceremonies. One by one, young girls, probably still in their upper teens, came out to dance. Clearly not much had been spent on their clothing seeing the lack of it. I threw small bills out to each at first, then stopped tipping. I needed to draw the big guy over to my table and being cheap would do the trick.

The club had no windows, but through cracks in the front door’s weather stripping, I could see flashing blue lights in the parking lot. My message worked. Now to execute part two of my plan. I had but a few seconds. Trixie had read the note and closed the register. She quietly wandered backstage.

“Two drink minimum,” he repeated, “and you have to tip the dancers. That’s the way it works here, pal.”

“Not your pal,” I said as I spilled beer onto his shoes. As he called me an idiot, and mentioned the price of his shoes to which I could not care at all, I coated him with moonshine. Lifting his stun gun from the belt, he soon regretted activating it. The vapor from the moonshine ignited, coating his arm in a luscious blue flame.

The front door burst open, flooding the dark club with sunlight. “FBI - no one move!”

Seeing the man running from wall to wall, trying to extinguish his burning sleeve, the FBI man holstered his gun and found a fire extinguisher. By the time the smoke cleared, Hank was interviewing eleven girls outside, the bouncer was in handcuffs and flipping on his boss, and Trix and I were on that Royal Enfield, heading north for the James River Bridge, known locally as the JRB. As long as there wasn’t a bridge lift, we were golden.

Our destination? God only knew. And she wasn’t telling.

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