Concrete Mona Lisa
This is a perfect example of a story running away with the writer. I started writing at about 10:30 PM and by 5:30 AM was all but begging my brain to shut it down. It went nowhere I expected it to go,and only partially delivered on what I was trying to accomplish.
Jason parked the car and made his way around the dumpsters to the back door of the club.
Big Mike was sitting on the stoop, tossing bits of pavement at the rats rummaging through the overflowing bins.
“S’up, dude,” said Mike, eyeballing another target, “I didn’t know you were working tonight.”
“Me neither,” said Jason, “Dave called and asked me to fill in for Colin today and tomorrow. Says he got the flu.”
“News to me,” said Mike, “But then again that dude’s always sick. Ain’t cut out for it.”
Jason chuckled, “What’s it like in there tonight?”
Big Mike rolled his eyes and gestured to the door, “Same as always. Junior and Cosmo are geeked up, looking for fight…”
“…One of the Jessica’s showed up with that shit of a kid who keeps waving his dates under his exes noses, and…”
“…you’ll be thrilled to hear there’s a bunch of rednecks from the burbs shooting pool in the back.”
Jason frowned, the club may have been known for its mix of clientele, but nobody ever said they got along.
Drag queens, rednecks, goths, vamps, hipsters, bikers, hookers, frat boys, and strippers of both genders never did.
“Fuck me,” sighed Jason, already regretting showing up, “Anything else? What about Creeper? Is he here?”
Mike yawned, “Ugh… Naw, man. Nobody’s seen Creeper for a while now. You know Mark told him not to come back.”
“Yeah, well…” said Jason, leaving the thought hang, “I guess I’ll be getting in then. You gonna be here all night?”
Mike shrugged, “Maybe. I’m s’posed to be off at two, but my cousin’s coming up and we’re going out later.”
“Almost forgot,” added Mike as he opened the door, “Check out the floor later. Chris did a great job with the painting.”
Jason turned back as the sounds of The Smiths washed out over them. “Awesome! So he did the Mona Lisa thing?”
“Yep,” grinned Mike, “It covers the whole floor. Looks like the real thing, too.”
“That is so cool,” said Jason, “I’ll stick around past close to get a good look. You have a good one, Mike. Be safe.”
“You too, dude,” said Mike, “I’ll be here if anyone needs me.”
Jason moved into the dark of the club and made his way around the back of the floor speakers to the bar.
Catching the barkeep’s eyes, he raised his eyebrows questioningly, mouthing the word “Mark” over the din of the music.
The barkeep pointed at the front door, then raised a glass as he mouthed the word “water” in turn.
Jason nodded at the offer, and made his way through the packed and sweaty bodies towards the boss.
He found Mark sitting on a bar stool by the door, strapping wristbands on the customers as they paid the cover charge.
Tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention, Jason leaned into Mark’s ear to shout a greeting before pointing back.
“I made it,” he said, “Where do you want me stationed? The usual?”
Mark shook his head, then leaned in nodding towards the pool room, “No, I need you to keep an eye on the pool boys.”
Jason glanced back over his shoulder to scan the room, and frowned as he spotted the problem.
A group of rough looking boys stood at the edge of the platform that separated the clubs “pool room” form the dance floor.
They were scanning the crowd, laughing and pointing, making no secret of their contempt for the more colorfully dressed.
He turned back to Mark and nodded, “I’ve got ‘em,” he said, “Have you got a cop on call?”
Mark nodded, then held up three fingers to indicate that a cruiser would be coming by every quarter hour.
“Just keep ‘em contained if they get mouthy,” he shouted, “I don’t like the way the one guy’s holding the sticks.”
Jason nodded again, then turned to make his way to the table that would serve as his position for the next three hours.
As he walked he scanned the rest of the crowd, nodding at familiar faces, cataloguing the rest in a mental notebook.
As he walked past the pool tables, he made a point of meeting the eyes of a big fellow cradling a pool cue.
Never breaking his gaze, the kid nodded his acknowledgment as Jason pulled out a stool and took a seat at his table.
Once seated, Jason pulled out his cigarettes, shook one loose, and lit it before tossing the pack on the table.
As he smoked he looked over the dance floor, watching the crowd as they moved within the music and lights.
Through their feet he caught glimpses of the Mona Lisa, a huge reproduction that spanned the full width of the floor.
Even through the mass of moving feet, Jason could tell it was an impressive piece of work. It looked like the real thing.
As he looked he felt a small hand snake around his waist and felt the warm breath of a woman’s voice in his ear.
“Long time, no see,” said Amy, giving him a quick peck on the cheek, “Where’ve you been, stranger?”
Jason smiled and turned to give his friend a hug and a kiss. “Oh, you know…,” he said, grinning, “How you been, Amy?”
“I’m good,” she said, “Work’s fine, and I’m paying the bills. What about you? Are you here to dance, or are you working?”
Jason smirked and cocked his head at the pool room, “Working,” he said, “Filling in for Colin.”
Amy looked at the pool boys and frowned, “Ugh. Why do they even come here? Don’t they have Bud in the boonies?”
Jason laughed, “Yeah,” he began, “But they don’t have your fabulous friends. This must be like a day at the zoo for them.”
Amy turned back toward him. “Well, let’s hope they steer clear of Junior,” she said, “He’s pretty fucked up tonight.”
Jason nodded. “Where is Junior, anyway?” he asked, “I didn’t see him on the floor. Colin either”
“They went out with Alex about an hour ago,” said Amy, “Probably to get more coke. Junior’s pissed at something again.”
Jason winced, Junior wasn’t someone you wanted to deal with – the boy was genuinely crazy sober; much worse when stoned.
“Are they coming back?” he asked. Amy nodded, “Should be,” she said, “They took Alex’s car, so they have to come back.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for them, then,” said Jason, giving Amy another squeeze, “Are you here alone?”
Amy shook her head, “Nope. Here with some girls from the office. They wanted to see what the club was like, so…”
Jason nodded, “I see,” he said, “You should get back to them, then. Come see me before you leave, OK?”
“I will,” she smiled, giving him another peck on the cheek, “Be careful now, sweetie.”
Jason waved his hand, “Ah, go on you. I’ll be fine. Do me a favor, though? Ask the barkeep what he did with my water.”
She nodded, then moved away through the crowd towards the bar. Jason watched her walk away, then lit another cigarette.
His water arrived shortly and, catching her eyes from across the room, Jason raised his glass in her direction. Good girl.
Glancing back at the pool boys, he was relieved to see they had finally grown tired of taunting the oblivious crowd.
A actual game was in progress now, and it seems Sticks, as he’d come to call him, was actually a pretty good shot.
Standing to stretch his legs, Jason decided to take a walk to the dance floor to look at the Mona Lisa more closely.
The detail was really something else. Chris had not only captured the famous smile, but the mischievous light in the eyes.
Even the cracks in the cement beneath the paint seemed to give it an air of authenticity. It was simply beautiful.
A keylight flicked twice across his eyes, and Jason looked up into the DJ booth to see Andy stabbing a finger at the door.
Trouble. Turning quickly, Jason pushed through the crowd making his way to the front door.
As he drew near, he saw the source of the commotion, and evened out his stride. Mark was nose to nose with The Creeper.
Nobody knew what was wrong with The Creeper – other than he was incredibly stupid – but everybody hated him.
He’d gotten his nickname after being discovered peeping from the ceiling tiles in the ladies restrooms.
Some poor girl had come into the city for a little fun, only to find the frenzied eyes of a freak staring at her privates.
She’d screamed, The Creeper had freaked out, and had come crashing through the ceiling into a toilet.
The other girls had then pounced on him, beating him senseless with purses and high-heeled shoes.
By the time Jason had gotten to him, the Creeper was a bloody wreck, with gashes over his eyes, and busted lip.
Jason had escorted him to Mark, who had verbally crucified the piece of shit before calling a cop to carry him off.
In subsequent weeks, however, The Creeper would return, apologizing profusely and pleading for re-entry.
Every time he tried, Mark would refuse, hurling insults and threats as the Creeper skulked away.
As a threat, The Creeper was nothing; little more trouble than belly button lint. It was Mark that Jason worried about.
Mark hated The Creeper the way Ahab hated the White Whale. Sooner or later, one of the two was going to get hurt.
Jason moved to step between the two just as Mark’s hands started to come up for The Creeper’s throat.
“Get this pervert piece of shit out of my sight!” screamed Mark, “Or I swear to God I will cut his fucking balls off!”
Jason grabbed The Creeper by his shoulders and spun him around for the frog march to the door.
As usual, The Creeper moved without fuss, allowing Jason to walk him to the curb before the blubbering apologies began.
“Whatever I did, man,” he moaned, “Whatever I did, I’m sorry.” Jason stood silently for a moment, waiting for it to come.
“It’s just…,” The Creeper continued, “They never want to talk to me, and now Mark won’t let me apologise.”
“There ain’t nothing you can apologize for,” said Jason, “The girl you scared ain’t here – she’ll NEVER be here again.”
And, as usual, The Creeper turned to look sadly back at the club, before sighing heavily and walking away.
“Every week,” thought Jason, shaking his head, “Every goddamned week.”
He walked back into the club, stopping briefly to make sure Mark had calmed down before making his way back to the table.
As he passed the pool boys, Sticks stepped down off the platform to block his path.
“You get a lot of freaks here,” he said simply. Jason stepped around him to grab his cigarettes off the table.
Shaking one out, he held out the pack to Sticks, “You could say that,” Jason said, “But then again, it’s never dull.”
Sticks took a cigarette and bowed his head to grab a light from Jason’s offered match. Inhaling deeply, he looked around.
“I ain’t never seen anyplace like this before,” he continued, “It’s kinda cool, though.”
Unable to help himself, Jason laughed out loud and took Sticks by the arm to his table. “That it is, buddy,” he chuckled.
He motioned for Sticks to have a seat. “My name’s, Jason,” he said, offering his hand in introduction, “What’s yours?”
“Phillip,” the boy responded, shaking firmly, “Nice to meet you, Jason.”
“Nice to meet you, Phillip,” said Jason with a smile, “What do you do for a living?”
“Construction, mostly,” he said, “My dad brought us up to strip down an old hotel for renovation.”
Jason wiggled two fingers into the keylights, and mouthed the word “coke” to the DJ booth so Andy could relay the order.
“The big one in Midtown?” he asked, returning to the conversation, “That’s gotta be a shitload of work.”
“It will be,” said Phillip, “But right now it’s just a demo job and they need guys who can swing a sledgehammer.”
“I see,” said Jason, “So what made you decide to come here tonight? I take it this ain’t your usual kind of place?”
Phillip laughed and shook his head, “No, it definitely ain’t. One of the guys heard about it from a friend.”
“And when we saw the painting on the news,” he continued, “I thought it’d be cool to come see.”
Jason’s eyebrows shot up. “On the news?” he exclaimed, “They put the dance floor on the news? Jesus.”
Phillip gestured at the packed floor, “Even with all them people on it, you can still tell it’s a hell of a picture.”
“And it’s not just the painting,” he smiled, “The women ain’t bad looking, either. Music could be better, though.”
Jason laughed again, and pointed as the waitress approached, “Hope you don’t mind, but I ordered some Coke.”
‘Thanks, man!” beamed Phillip, taking the glass, “Do I owe you anything?”
“Nah,” said Jason, waving his hand, “On the house. One of perks.”
Phillip raised his glass in thanks, then asked, “So what do you do here, Jason? You some kind of bouncer?”
“Kinda like that,” said Jason, “I work for the owner – fella named Dave – and make sure things stay peaceful.”
They both turned to watch the dancers, and Jason suddenly sat up as he saw Junior’s head making his way through the crowd.
Junior’s eyes were wild, and he was shoving through the crowd with purpose. He was looking for someone.
“Excuse me second, Phillip,” he said, “Trouble’s brewing. Do me a favor and tell the barkeep to fetch Big Mike.”
Phillip’s eyes widened, but Jason was already moving. He needed to get to Junior before Junior found his prey.
He caught up with him at the bridge of the Mona Lisa’s nose, and threw out a hand to slow him down.
“Junior!” he shouted, “How’s it going, big guy?”
Junior stopped and blinked, eyes blurry and unfocused. “Jace?” he said, “What the fuck are you doing here, Jace?”
Jason moved closer so they could hear each other talk. The other patrons continued dancing, oblivious to the tension.
Jason positioned himself directly in front Junior, blocking whatever path he’d been on. “What’s up, Junior?” he asked.
Junior blinked again, scanning the crowd over Jason’s shoulders. “Where’d he go, Jace?” he asked firmly.
Jason shook his head, “Where’d WHO go, Junior? I got no idea who you’re talking about. Who you looking for?”
“The little shit who sold me that coke,” yelled Junior, “Motherfucker cut glass and shit into it!”
“I still can’t help you, Junior,” said Jason, “I don’t know who you mean, but you’re obviously pissed and need to chill.”
Junior stopped searching the room for a moment and cocked his head at Jason’s statement. “I gotta do what?” he said.
“You gotta calm down,” said Jason evenly, “Why don’t you come on over to my table and tell me what happened.”
Junior’s face went totally blank – absolutely nothing registered in his eyes. One hand moved behind his back, and stayed.
“Talk about what, Jace?” he said, calmly, “I ain’t gotta tell you shit, and you best be getting out of my way…”
“…This ain’t none of your business,” he continued, “Step off now, you hear?”
“If it’s in here, it IS my business,” said Jason, equally calm, “You come talk to me and we’ll work this out.”
By now the people around them had realized something was going on and had formed a circle around the pair.
Jason nodded down at Junior’s hand. “And whatever you’ve got in your belt, you can leave there and we’ll get outside.”
Junior smiled, and pulled the knife from his belt. “I don’t remember saying anything about going outside, Jace.”
Jason took a half step back and shifted his feet. “Don’t do this…” he started, but Junior already had.
The knife flashed forward, ripping across Jason’s chest. Someone screamed, and the crowd jumped back as one.
Jason lunged forward and to his left, slashing the thumb side of his palm up into the soft flesh of Junior’s throat.
Junior’s head snapped forward, and he stepped back as his free hand shot up to clutch his shattered throat.
Jason stepped back to check the wound to his chest. It was a deep cut, and it was bleeding freely. This had to end soon.
The two of the them stood circling one another, blood dripping on the face of the concrete Mona Lisa.
Jason tried once more to talk him down. “Come on, Junior. Let’s talk this out, buddy. There’s no need for this.”
Junior croaked an unintelligible response and charged again, this time slashing down with the knife.
Jason tried to drop to his knees and roll to the right, but his timing was off.
He had just enough time to raise an arm before the blade punched through his left bicep.
Nevertheless, his momentum carried him sideways, and the weight of his body helped pull the knife from Junior’s hand.
It also helped open the wound in his bicep. He struggled to his feet and turned to face his attacker.
Junior stood gloating on the crest of Mona Lisa’s brow. “You’re done, bitch.” he croaked.
As he started to step forward for the finishing blows, two shapes flew out of the crowd and nailed him from behind.
Phillip and Big Mike had each hit Junior with the full force of a blindside blitz. Junior’s never saw it coming.
The force of the blow sent Junior flying face first into the Mona Lisa’s smile.
There was an audible crack as the concrete proved to be a lot thicker than Junior’s skull. He went immediately limp.
But then, so did Jason.
The wound on his arm had clipped the vein running across the top of his bicep, and he was losing blood quickly.
As the crowd stared, Phillip ran to call an ambulance, while Amy tried using one of her stockings as a tourniquet.
Big Mike was sitting on Junior’s back, binding the man’s arms and hands with industrial zip ties. He was not being gentle.
Mark was waving the crowds back from the scene. Demanding that everyone give space, just like they do in the movies.
And beneath them all, beneath the life and the blood and the pain, the eternal mysterious smile of the concrete Mona Lisa.
~~ THE END~~