I stand outside the strip club and look up at the sign: Kitty City. It’s the hot spot in Detroit and owned by the notorious Motown gang. Besides it being one of the most dangerous cities in the country, I don’t know much else about Detroit or how its streets are run. But I do know that the Motown gang rules it, and this is their headquarters.
Taking a deep breath, I run a hand over my hair to smooth it down before walking inside. The black tile floors and lack of windows make the club dark. The only lights are from the bar that’s to my left and the stage in front of me. There are chairs spread out, covering the big and otherwise empty space. A few booths line the walls. It’s quiet, not what I expect from the most popular place in the neighborhood.
The sign outside the door says they’re open, but there’s no one inside. That familiar nauseating sensation in my stomach comes back. It’s been there since the moment I finally decided that getting a job here is the only way I’ll be able to afford to open my beauty store and get out of my mother’s house.
A door slams in the distance, and a woman with blond hair comes from behind the stage and walks toward me. There’s a smile on her face, but she looks tired.
“Hey, can I help you?” she asks.
I shift in my heels. “I’m…um…looking for a job,” I sputter.
She gives me a look that I can only describe as sympathy. “Oh, honey, I don’t—”
“Bunny.” A deep voice cuts her off. It’s not loud, but it has a punch to it that demands attention.
Movement to my right catches my eyes as a man stands from one of the booths. I hadn’t noticed him before, probably because of the black T-shirt and dark jeans he’s wearing. I wonder if he chose his outfit with the intent to hide in the darkness. As he walks toward us, I’m able to pick up on more of his features. He stands over six feet tall, muscular but not bulky. His hair is cut short with deep waves embedded in the strands. He has dark, smooth skin that looks untouched by the elements, but I know that’s not true because the man staring at me is the most dangerous in the city.
“Let’s talk in my office,” he says coolly.
At first, I’m not sure if he’s talking to me or the woman next to me he called Bunny. When I don’t move, he raises an eyebrow at me.
“Oh yes…that would be great,” I say.
His lip twitches as if he wants to laugh. Jerk.
Bunny gives me a wave as I follow behind him into an office. There are no computers, bookshelves, or decor besides a mahogany wood desk; nothing else indicates it’s an office. Even with the lack of decoration, there’s still a warm feel to the space. There are no windows, and the only light comes from a lamp on the desk.
“Sit,” he says, closing the door behind us. I take a seat in one of the oversized chairs. He walks around to sit on the opposite side. I expect him to ask me some questions, maybe interview me, but he doesn’t. Instead, he stares, like he’s unsure what to do with me. It’s uncomfortable to have those light brown eyes on me, eyes that have probably caused more destruction in Detroit than I can imagine.
I clear my throat before shifting in the seat.
“I’ve never danced,” I blurt out. “I’ve seen girls dance…well, once. It was a long time ago. On vacation, not here, here like at this exact club. But I can do it. I just need a teacher or mentor. I’m a hard worker, and if you give me a chance, I’ll show you how good I can be.”
I feel like an idiot as I finish my word vomit. I wait for him to respond. One minute turns into two, then three.
“You don’t belong at a place like this,” he finally says, his eyes roaming over me, taking in my long black hair, which I’d installed yesterday just for this meeting. I wonder what else he sees that makes him think I’m not cut out for a “place like this.” His tongue jets out to lick his bottom lip before he sits up straight and grabs a weed grinder from the table. He acts like I’m not even there as he opens up the grinder and sprinkles out the weed onto rolling papers.
“You can go now,” he says, not even bothering to look up. My cheeks heat with embarrassment. I came here for a reason, and I’m not leaving without a job. I’ll do anything at this point to leave my mother’s house.
“No,” I say.
He glances up at me, his expression blank.
“I’ll bartend. I don’t have to dance if you don’t think I’m…um…if I don’t fit the look.”
The side of his lip curls in an amused smirk. He’s still staring at me, and I get the feeling he’s a man who is comfortable with silence.
“If I put you on that stage, you’d out-earn every single one of my girls,” he says in a slow drawl.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Why are you so desperate to work in a shitty strip club?” he asks, ignoring my question.
I don’t answer.
He sits back and lights the blunt he rolled.
This is useless. He’s not going to give me the answer I want, so I might as well just go back to the drawing board. I stand on my feet, ready to leave. At the same time, he reaches under the desk and passes me an envelope across the hard surface.
“Take this down to Harry’s, ask for Elvis, give this to him. Then come back.”
I look at the yellow bubble mailer. There are drugs inside. There has to be. He’s the biggest gangster in Detroit. I swallow.
“Or you can leave,” he offers.
I pull my shoulders back and lift my chin. “I don’t have a car.”
He tosses a keychain on the desk.
“You’re giving me a lot of trust,” I say.
“My trust lies in my reputation, not in people.”
Another shiver runs down my spine. I hear the message underneath his words: You know what I’m capable of, so you won’t betray me.
I take the keys and the bubbler.
“Come right back,” he warns as I leave the office.