He exhales smoke from his nose, meditating on the length of ash that extends past the filter of the cigarette in his stained hands. Finally returning from his mental sojourn he taps the ash into the ashtray before crushing out the cigarette. The throbbing beat that he can feel in his bones calls his attention back to the stage. Some young waif is covering her chest while collecting the dollars on the stage the unwashed perverts had thrown at her. On some nights he’d be one of those unwashed perverts. Tonight he was on duty. His red eyes scanned the crowd for anything abnormal. For a strip club, everything appeared above board. He was starting to think that the tip was a wash. Rising from his table in the corner, he edge around the back of the club, sucking in his gut that had developed since he took a bullet in the knee when he was a beat cop. They wanted to have him riding a desk, easy work, mindless work. He wasn’t ready to give up the thrill of the chase. His sergeant told him about a group outside of the department, a military unit that might offer him what he was looking for. He was skeptical at first, what would the military want with a washed up beat cop with a bum knee. It turns out it wasn’t his physical prowess they were after, but his detective skills. Saddling up to the bar, he gave three quick raps in the top with his knuckles. The middle aged bartender, who’d likely been a stripper in her younger years and still dressed like one walked down the length of the bar and leaned her ample cleavage on the bar in front of him. “What’ll be Charlie? The usual?” “Not tonight Majorie, I’m on duty. Just a cola.” “On duty? Does Jerry know?” she asked raising an eyebrow while pouring the drink. “You know how he feels about trouble in his club.” “And you know I wouldn’t be here without good reason,” Charlie responded taking a drink. “You had anyone new coming around, that sticks out?” “You know how this place is Chuck, we’ve got the regulars and we got the ones that come and go.” “What about the man in the black coat?” A new voice entered the conversation. They both turned their attention to the thin mousey man whose nose looked like it was barely strong enough to hold up his oversized glasses. “The one who’s been talking to the girls instead of letting them do what they do during the lap dances.” “I suppose there is that guy,” Majorie said placing her hands in her back that ached from years of carrying around such a large chest. “What are you looking for?” “I just have a few questions I’d like to ask this person.” Charlie scanned the crowd, but didn’t see anyone matching the description. “Is he here tonight?” “Yea,” the mousey man said,” I saw him taking Tesla into private room three.” “Thanks,” Charlie said throwing a five on the bar top. “I’m telling Jerry,” Majorie called after him, “Don’t start no trouble.” His grunted response was lost in the throb of the music. As he drew nearer to the door Charlie could smell the distinct smell of ozone coming from under the door. Picking up his step he lowered his shoulder as he launched the full weight of his body into the door. It exploded off its hinges knocking the man in black through an open portal. Instinctively Charlie grabbed the girl Tesla by the wrist ad pulled her back into the club. The music stopped and the lights came up at the disturbance. “What the hell Char...,” Jerry began but was silenced by a fireball the rocketed from inside the portal. “Everyone out!” Shouted Charlie as he drew his service weapon, a .44 magnum with saltpeter to prevent magical healing. “I was saving them,” the man in black hissed stepping back through the portal, his wand raised menacingly. “You humans allow them to sell their pound of flesh in the night while their soul wastes away.” “And you wizards, would prefer to claim those souls for yourselves to fuel your infernal powers,” Charlie replied. He didn’t like the situation, he much preferred to get the drop on his quarry, they were less dangerous that way. Now he was stuck in a stand off with a magic user. “Why don’t you put down the wand so we can talk this over like men.” “Like men? I am so much more than a man!” The wizard roared, and as his eyes twitched Charlie put a single shot between his eyes. The only safe wizard was a dead wizard. Holstering his gun he turned back to the club. Tesla still sat on the floor in shock with Majorie’s arm wrapped around her shoulder, Jerry’s half burnt corpse still smoldered in the middle of the floor, the mousey patron and the dozen others had disappeared. “You want me to help you clean up Majorie?” Charlie asked. “It looks like you’re the new owner of Shooters.” “That’d be nice,” she said helping Tesla to her feet. “Why don’t you go pour yourself a drink, while I get her taken care of, I think you earned it tonight.” He watched her sway her thick hips as she walked back towards the dressing room with the shaking girl who would never be the same. Maybe this will be a chance for her to turn her life around. As he poured himself a triple shot of scotch, he thought to himself how funny it is to earn a drink for doing what had to be done to keep the world safe.
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