Neon Noir: The Second Beat

Vash has fought long and hard to own her night club. She stays ahead of the law, remains in the two families’ good graces, and keeps her suppliers happy with cash. But all that is a balancing act she needs to keep up.

Vashti Kianian

The piano walks down the lane as the drum sits on that high hat. After getting used to the groove, the piano changes up its rhythm, culminating in a blast from the horns.

Everyone but the piano drops out. Anastasia sings a soft refrain behind the curtain, giving this part of the song an ethereal feel. As she builds up her voice, the city’s heart starts to rev up, warping the sound in the club. Low horns add to the sound as everyone builds up to their moment.

Finally, the city’s heart starts up its beat as the horns play an upbeat tune and Anastasia reveals herself from behind the curtain. The crowd on the dance floor cheer as she starts to sing her siren song.

Vash watches with amusement as she sings. She picked a good song for tonight.

I’d swear, she can always tell just what the city’s heart is going to sing. Should make for a lively evening.

Not that it needs any help. Vash can’t remember when she last had a night like this.

This keeps up, I’m going to have the unenviable problem of running out of giggle juice.

While Vash would love nothing more than to sit there and admire Stasi’s voice the rest of the night, she has work to do. She gets up from her seat and takes a walk back to the bartender.

“We need more bottles, Vash!”

“Then open them.” The woman was annoyed.

“But, we’re already overbudget for the night.”

Vash crossed her arms, her dark eyes glaring straight through the young man.

“I will handle it. Open the bottles.

The bartender sputters, almost protesting when he’s cut off.

“We don’t get nights like this often. Make it count.”

Her voice left no room for protests.

“And don’t question me again.”

When did Billy get so mouthy? And why didn’t Levard have the guts to tell him to do it. I swear, there’s no such thing as good help anymore.

A young man entered the back of the bar. He was dressed in a new suit, hair cut short and tight. His broad shoulders made him stand out from the crowd.

Speaking of no good help.

Vash crossed the club to Ryan her sly smile speaking volumes.

“Mr. Shane, how does the skin feel?”

Ryan looked around his person.

“How’s the suit, babe?”

“Oh! It’s good. I think.”

Vash gives a laugh.

“Good? That is one of the finest suits you can get in this town. Come, we gotta talk a few things.”

Vash escorts Ryan through the crowd. They cross back to the bar. Just diagonal to it is a door. Vash pulls out her key and unlocks it, revealing her office.

As they enter, the sound of the city’s heart fades, just a bit. It’s still there, beating to the rhythm of some unknown music.

“Vash! Baby! Your night is looking real smooth! How do you do it?”

In her previously locked office and older man was sitting behind her desk. Vash looked surprised for but a moment, but quickly relaxed when she realized who it was.

“By the way, that’s an instance where it’d be best if you protect me,” she whispers behind her to Ryan

“Kegley! Why don’t you tell me how you seem to always get where ya don’t belong?” Vash enters the room proper as she speaks, Ryan close behind.

She heads on over to her own bar and begins pouring herself a drink.

“I might tell ya if you tell me where you get your fancy suits.” Mr. Kegley was eyeing Ryan and his new outfit.

Vash is very glad she chose to make herself a drink, as it’s the only thing keeping her from decking the old man.

“I tell ya and you’ll scare him off. Can’t have that. You know how many tailors are willing to make a quality suit for a lady like me?”

She crosses from her personal bar to the desk. She makes a gesture and Kegley moves from her seat. He instead crosses around and sits in the chair on the other side of the desk, though he does place his feet up on the desk top.

Vash sighs at her guest. Then she looks to Ryan and snaps at him, pointing to her side. Ryan gets the picture and stands next to his new boss.

“Now then, I know you, Kegs. You’re here for business. What do you need?”

Kegley smiles, his mouth missing a few ivories.

“Oh I just needed to let you in on a secret on my last shipment. Seems it was a little special. I won’t even ask ya to pay extra.”

“Special? What, you get sentimental on a booze run?”

Kegley leans back further in his chair and fishes a cigar from his jacket pocket.

“Naw, business is business. But before you run out, might wanna tell your bar boy that stuff is extra strength.”

Vash immediately taps her desk top, bringing a screen to life. She presses the vid button, and a new window opens, calling her manager.

Kegley laughs.

“I should been chargin’ ya extra for that but you know me. I’m a big ol’ softy for my Vash.”

“Like hell I care. I could have been charging extra for that stuff.”

The call connects, the face of a young, but slightly timid man on screen.

“Levard, tell Billy to charge double on all drinks.”

The manager looks surprised at the request.

“But Vash, if we go to 50 cents a drink, the customers may not like it.”

“We don’t and I won’t like it. That stuff is double strong.”

“Oh dear! I will tell him right away.”

“Thanks Levard.” Vash takes a second before adding,

“Tell him to make ’em weak too. Those animals are drunk enough as it is.”

“Of course.” Levard gives a bow as Vash ends the call.

She looks up at Kegley, smiling his self-satisfied smile.

“How did this happen?”

Kegley is chewing on the end of his cigar, surprisingly following Vash’s ‘no smoke’ rule.

He definitely wants something from me.

“My supplier got a few wires crossed. Made that stuff strong and didn’t even realize it. You still got plenty left?”

“Yeah. Not as much as I’d have liked, but I got some.”

“Don’t you ever say ol’ Kegs never did nothin’ for ya.”

Oh, I for certain would never say that.

“C’mon. Why the act? Just tell me what you want.”

Kegs grins a shit-eatin’ grin that makes Vash’s skin crawl. She can’t help but wonder what new hell he has in mind.

“Well, now that you mention it, one good deed deserves another, right?” He reaches back in his vest and pulls out a card.

“I’m here to arrange a meeting. Promised a nice payout if they could meet with you.”

Vash is hesitant. For a good payout for Kegs, and he might not look to close at the deal. He knows not to turn her in to the coppers, but she never credited him with being too bright beyond that.

“Why me?” She reaches out for the card, but Kegs pulls it back.

“Wouldn’t say. I can tell ya, it’s a skirt. Real pretty too. Maybe they just heard how much fun you can be.”

He hands it over to her. She flips it back and forth. It’s not like her cards that are embedded with a code. Just has a phone number written on it

“How much is the pay out?”

Kegs pauses, probably trying to calculate what number is low enough Vash won’t care but high enough she’ll believe.

“$200” he says. Vash rolls her eyes.

“They’re givin’ ya $500 just for a meetin’ with me?”

“I didn’t say-“

“But that’s what it is, right?”

He looks down, that smile finally gone from his face.

He didn’t ask any questions and has no idea if this might be dangerous, does he?

“Get me 10% and I’ll do it.”

Kegley almost looks angry at the implication.

“Now hold on, I got you a double proof batch no charge, and you want to-”

“Relax, Kegs. You’re still makin’ double your profit on that booze ya brought me with what remains. But if you want me to stick my neck on the line, you better be sure what we’re doin’.”

He sits there thinking for a minute. Kegs had the connections to do some rum running but there aren’t many who would credit him with the fastest brain in this city.



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