Fists and spittle flew as the men cursed and punched at each other, and in the background Ani heard Ed calling for the bouncers on the telephone. Pete seemed to fly off of the upper floor landing as he launched himself at the men who fought near the stage. Hank restrained some of the other men in an attempt to keep the fight from spreading. But the two burly men who raced into the room to break up the fight were the ones that caused Ani’s eyebrows to settle up near her hairline.
Fists and knuckles seemed to fly and splat as Ani watched the small fight turn into a huge brawl. What surprised her most was how happy the two bouncers were as they fought alongside Pete. She wasn’t surprised to hear a laugh erupt out of one of the staff as they tussled. Chairs were being pushed back and tripped over while beer bottles and glasses smashed on the concrete floor.
Ani felt helpless as she stood with her hands covering her mouth and a surprised look on her face. It was all she could do to pull her eyes away from the scene happening feet away and glance about the room for what she hoped would be more help. As far as she could see the bouncers were only making things worse.
Ed had escaped from behind his bar and now hung over the edge of the stand-up bar keeping his eyes on the scene. He had dragged the phone with him on its long extension cord and he held it firmly in his grasp in case he needed to call for more backup. As Ani watched open-mouthed, Syd came through the kitchen door and hurried along inside the service bar, bellowing as he went.
“Break it up fellows! Break it up! What am I paying you for?”
Those words must have hit home as the bouncers came to their senses and began pulling the two original combatants apart. When each held a fighter in their grasp they hurried them through the long entrance hallway and out the main back door. The men’s fighting words turned into grunts and a small scream echoed down the hallway and then silence descended once they made it outside.
With extra adrenaline pumping through her veins, Ani hurried around her section, cleaning up the glasses and bottles, and emptying the ashtrays. Most of her customers had left when Black Magic’s dance routine had finished, and the ending of the fight had encouraged the last few stragglers as well. Syd glanced at the clock and at her section and told her she could leave at 11:30pm and Hank would take over.
At the end of the shift, Ed took her key and rang her off, totalling up her sales for her first night. When he saw the total she had sold for the evening, he gave her a knowing glance.
“I think Syd and the old man are probably going to keep you as a waitress if you keep up this kind of work.”
“Do you really think so?” she asked as she began counting out her money.
“Hell yes! Anyone who can sell $400.00 in a four hour shift is a good waiter. You did good, Ani!”
“So what happens now Ed? I’ve counted my money and I’ve got all of this left over in tips.”
“You give me 1% of your sales and the rest is yours. And by the looks of it – it looks like you did okay for the first night anyway.”
“Wow! Is it always like this?” She dragged hard on her cigarette and looked at Ed with wide eyes.
“It’s different for everyone here Ani. Bartenders don’t make what waiters do, that’s for sure – but I’d be keeping how much I make in tips to myself if I were you. I think there are going to be a lot of jealous people with you working here anyway.”
Ani looked at him in astonishment before she remembered what she was going to ask him before Syd sent her home. “Why did I hear a bit of a scream when those two guys were hauled out of here?”
Ed grinned and popped a piece of chewing gum into his mouth before he answered her. “Have you come into this bar by that long hallway at any time?” He smiled when Ani shook her head. “Well then. Have you ever noticed what the walls are made of in this place?” Again Ani shook her head. “They are made of very rough and sharp stucco. The bouncers love to drag skin across that exact same stucco and it makes some people scream a bit.”
Ani’s eyes widened in disbelief as the understanding dawned on her. She shrugged her shoulders in disgust as she thought a little more about it before collecting her things. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night around the same time. I just won’t come in as early as I understand how things work now.” Ed nodded at her as he hurried off to fill another order from Pete.
Pocketing her tips she made her way through the bar and out into the foyer where she punched out and smiled a little wearily at the desk clerk. Then she walked down the hallway that connected Carden and Macdonell Streets. Looking about furtively as she reached the long dark hallway that marked the entrance to the strip club, she took a few steps into the entranceway and looked about for signs of blood and gore. Nothing jumped out at her in the dark and she shrugged her shoulders before exiting out onto Macdonell Street.