When a girl in a flowered summer dress comes into a nightclub you tend to take notice. The Club advertised for a temporary teller and if they were expecting any particular type it would have been a washed out dance hostess or cocktail waitress rather than a full-figured twenty-year-old with a Meg Ryan face who brought more attention round the cash register than the stage. Harry had been manager only a couple of weeks. After a string of affaires trying to unfreeze his heart in the aftermath of Alice, and a range of ventures ending in a wine bar disaster, he saw an ad in The Times for manager of a gentleman’s club in St James’s. Suits me, he thought, nice steady job supervising armchairs of elderly colonels expiring behind their newspapers. Might even come across his ex-boss from the Army.
Two things woke him up: the interview took place in a plush red-lit basement and Gabriel, small face, big nose, asked if Harry had ‘run any girls in the wine bar.’
‘Girls ran in and out all the time.’
‘Did they go with the customers?’
Ah! ‘If they wanted to,’ he said. ‘I didn’t get involved,’ thinking Gabriel must have known as much about trendy wine-bar clientele as Harry about the kind of gentlemen who used his club. Gabriel looked relieved. ‘It’s important not to be seen to be involved. But you have to keep control. If a hostess leaves with a client and then comes back the same night and goes out with another you could get done for harboring prostitutes.’
‘Of course.’ A new world beckoned. ‘The waitresses aren’t allowed to go case at all. We pay them travel expenses, dress them in Janet Reger basques and they make their money from tips. Because they’re not available the punters want them more and offer them a lot to go out. You have to watch them. The strippers get a fixed fee per performance. They’re not allowed to go case either and mostly they’re too busy anyway.’
‘Running. To make any kind of a living they have to work three or four clubs a night. We do two shows every evening, so each girl gets two spots. So they spend their time running from place to place, changing, performing and running again. We try to fit in with their schedule and give them the spots they want.’
‘Everyone works hard in the night business, Harry. Punters see the performance. We smell the sweat. The staff, musicians, barmaids, teller, desk clerk and doorman, are company employees and get a wage. Look out for fiddles. The cigarette girl, photographer and flower girl pay us to work there. Jeanette – front desk – manages that side of things. You just have to keep an eye they’re not overcharging the punters.’ Gabriel stood up. ‘You’ve got presence,’ he said, ‘you look honest and you learn quickly. Running a girlie-club isn’t difficult, just different. Pick the right girls, beautiful, sexy, discreet, keep a nice mix of dark, blonde and black. And keep the press out. They are quite obvious. They come in wanting something other than sex and don’t spend any money. And be nice to the Vice Squad. Don’t offer till they ask, and then get a signature, or at least take a note of name, date, what, how much. And if anyone mentions protection refer them to me. The office deals with that for all our clubs. We have the connections.’
He handed Harry a wad of bills from the inner pocket of his pearl suit. ‘Spend an evening at the Club as a punter. Find out as much as you can without letting on who you are. See if you can spot any fiddles, listen out for loose talk about clients.’ That night Harry learnt about the bishop who likes being led around naked but for a dog’s collar, the judge who likes being birched, and which celebrities prefer anal sex. His first job was to fire the three girls who talked. So he also learned the easy-come easy-go ways of the night, a place where the working day changes its name at midnight and the currency is corruption.
The new teller had a naughty twinkle. Harry watched her cashing-up. At four a.m., money in the safe, Bert the doorman said goodnight, leaving them alone. ‘How was it for you?’ he asked Sally.
‘I never seen so much cash.’ She had a South London accent.
‘Really? I thought tellers saw heaps of it all the time.’
‘Never been a teller before either.’
Another phony, like him, chancing it in the night.
‘Want to go for a drink?’
‘I want to dance.’
‘Candy Box then?’
‘Can’t we dance here?’ His heart started. He found the soft amber lights for the stage and put on a tape. Sally swayed to Fever and her hands danced over her body. Harry swayed in front of her, blood thick in arousal.
‘I like Maria’s act,’ she said, ‘I’m going to learn to do that with tassels. D’you think my boobs are good enough?’ With one smooth movement she lifted the flowered dress over her head and jiggled her naked breasts. He stared at a pair of green tartan boxer-shorts. She laughed. ‘Boobs, mate, boobs!’ She caressed the underside of her breasts then, suddenly, turning her back, pulled down the shorts, bent over and wiggled. Over her shoulder she said, ‘You’re over-dressed, Mr Manager.’
The spirit of Holly lives! Black tie, dress shirt and tuxedo flung over the stage couch, he danced behind her, holding her hips. She put her hand down between her legs and grasped him, putting him inside. Wow. And wham-bam. They became a single being, a four-legged animal, swaying to a loop of Fever without end. The room flooded with fluorescent light. A team of cleaners came in, widened their eyes and retreated. ‘We’ll come back later, boss,’ one shouted. The lights went down again and their laughter sounded from the lobby.
Sally and Harry stayed together almost a year. Well, not entirely together because they were both living with other people, she with a girl lover, Harry with Beli who had wedding plans. Numbstruck after Alice and his divorce Harry had started by drowning his sorrows but found more relief drowning his duck in every pond in the garden. He had suggested getting back with Anne but she wasn’t having any, instead fell for a realtor who treated her worse and squandered to boot, in a booming real estate market, her entire inheritance on a tide of bad deals before eloping with an illegally employed young barmaid from the Weald of Kent. Allegedly hung like a horse, he chose lamb over sheep.
Bright fluffy hair, fit young body, soft Liverpool accent, used to be a groupie with the Lovin Spoonful, now worked in Sales Aids for the ex-Para’s business scam, Beli jumped at the chance of sharing the apartment Harry had bought in Pimlico. A Liverpudlian lass, grown up in government housing with the soccer team in the days when they came from Liverpool, determined to improve herself, she got a secretarial diploma and changed jobs until finding one in line with her ambitions, in the House of Lords, eventually making do with an Hon’ble, a younger son, with whom she emigrated to the West Country. Harry rented a room above the restaurant hired for his wedding reception. Honoring the tradition of not shagging the bride the night before, he spent it in bed with Sally and her buddy Linda. They were into hash with their sex and next morning first thing he heard was a banging at the door.
‘Harry! What the fuck! Church in twenty minutes.’ It was his friend Jimmy. Only ten minutes late after Jimmy jumped every stop light between Fulham and Pimlico but Beli wasn’t pleased, waiting with red face in white dress, and her Mom even less so. ‘Outrageous,’ she cried. Mom had never liked Harry especially not since his remark that a woman who carries the Pill in her purse doesn’t know where she’s going to spend the night. Should have looked first but there you go, didn’t get on and never got off. Rather than break up at the church Harry and Beli tied the knot and went on to the reception. Drunk on champagne with residual hash-effects, he couldn’t resist slipping upstairs for half an hour with Sally and Linda…
*Yes, there’s more to this story, so read on with a click here!
Extract from a Story a Week for 27 Weeks, so come back soon – or take the short cut and buy them now with a click!