"So, Secret Service, huh?"
That's how I remember the Hanor. Maybe a few months back, the Hanor was put on the agency's blacklist due to a shooting involving one of our own. It was a scandal involving a stripper, who was presumably the agent's wife, that of course was pushed under the rug by the club owner: the very outspoken and known kingpin Markus Manor. It was widely known that Manor had deep pockets in the D.C. area, so it's not entirely surprising that Kai, hell even the president, are acquainted. Nor is it surprising that Kai visits establishments such as these. Hell, what politician did not? What is surprising, however, was the fact that I happened to be in the right place at the right time in all this.
"Yes," I said, short and sweet to the point.
I could feel the beats of the music pound beneath my feet and drum against my heart. I stayed calm, but my mind was spinning the further we walked.
"Hell, I'm surprised they let a felon join up. They must've really been hurting for manpower."
I clenched my fist, not wanting to cause a scene here of all places. I wanted nothing more than to wipe that smug smile off his face, but I was here on business. Furthermore, I was surrounded by mobsters.
"Not at all. I was a Marine and worked at several U.S. Embassies and Consulates with Service agents. I was recruited to work at the White House, but it was an uphill battle. If they were hurting for manpower, I most likely would be pulling down my pants to move up the ranks like you did. I was told that's how the Mafia works now a days."
A cackle spread out from his teeth, but I could see his body tense which honestly made me feel warm and fuzzy.
"Hell, you even got jokes now? Shit."
He almost seemed like he was spitting, angrily. If he pulled a gun, I'd have more than a hundred reasons to give him the beating he deserved.
"Who's the guard dog?"
I looked up at a well-built male who was standing near the back entrance. He was around my height, wearing a similar-style suit as Ian. His snake branding was neatly placed against his neck, and he wore sunglasses. It was a stupid fashion statement. Beside him was another male who barely acknowledged our presence.
"He's with the Secret Service. He's come to inspect the club."
"Heh, at these hours? Shit, you must be looking for trouble."
"You must not know many agents then. None of us sleep and all of us were looking for trouble when we signed the dotted line."
The man laughed at that. Looks like I'm winning points with the mob.
"Fuck, tell me about it," he said, opening the door for us. "Go on, do what you need to do and get out."
Ian presented a quick sign with his hands to the man as we walked past the two. The second we entered the door, the club noise jolted my body. It was so intense, that when Ian said something, I honestly didn't know what he said. Nor cared.
As I followed him down the dark hallway, I made note of the exits and blind spots. From seeing the building, there were three doors that lead to the outside. The main club door, the back entrance, which we took, and a side door that was used as a loading dock. The hallway was dimly lit with a pink haze which made it hard for you to see any potential threats. There were sprinklers on the ceiling in case of a fire and neon lights that led to the exit doors.
The music and lights intensified as we made our way to the main room. They had a main stage which wrapped around in a U shape that supported a center dance floor, excuse me...cage, for the exotic dancers. There was a top floor which was held for the VIP members. Men and women hung over the balcony near a bar. Regardless of my wants, Ian did not take me up there. However, I did find out there were private rooms only held for "prestigious" club members. I also noted that another gang member stood near the stairs to take tabs and allow entrance upstairs. Several mafia members were inside the club, laughing, hollering and hooting while keeping an eye on the paying customers. Women and men sat in their bidders laps and entertained them while others danced and threw money on the stage. In my eyes, it was nothing special, but seeing the commotion brought concerns.
"Alright, let's go." I said to Ian.
Ian smiled, nodding his head as we started to leave.
I was abrupt, but felt a strange feeling overcome me when I saw another familiar face. He was less chubby than when we were kids, but the scar over his eye was unmistakable. Trevor, the boy who held me down as I took the beating, was here as well. He came out from a room behind the stage with red neon lights that read "Viper's Nest". What was behind that door, at this time, did not matter as I felt the haint sit upon my shoulders, like a log.
"Don't you want to know why Kai asked you here?"
The ghost of my past continued to pester me, "Don't you wanna?"
Yes. I do.
What was Kai's game? Why choose the Hanor, presumably without backup? Was he trying to rile me up by exposing the fact that Ian and Trevor worked here? Hell, did he want to put me at a crossroads with the Manor Gang? If Ian and Trevor wore the brand, possibly that black haired kid did as well. Or was Kai trying to show me the bigger picture. That maybe...just maybe what transpired between us was more than what it seemed. Could it be possible that the reason I was framed and sent to jail was because the Manors—
"Well," Ian said, still a wide grin on his face even though his features told me that he wanted nothing more than to bash my face in again, "here we are!"
Ian opened the door to the club as I stepped out, walking past the bodyguards: not saying a word.
"Bye, bye now!" He called after me.
I didn't return the favor; my mind was racing again. As I walked back to my motorcycle, I looked at my watch. It was nearing 3 AM. Regardless of how this looked, as I swung my leg over my bike and kicked up the kickstand, I decided to head to the Belle.
When I reached the gates, I noticed Agent Kriss, one of the newest agents we had on the detail, in his vehicle half-asleep. Go figure. As an agency, we had a saying: do you job and don't fall asleep. However, we all knew midnights was one of the hardest shifts because acting like a vampire was not for everyone.
Regardless, I pounded on his window: awaking him to his radio going off with Agent Wyatt, the command post agent, yelling at him that I had arrived.
Kriss quickly sat up, putting down his window.
"I'm sorry, sir. It won't happen a—"
"Is Charles still in?"
I didn't have time to dilly-dally. I'd deal with him later.
He didn't know. Of course, how could he. He was asleep.
I watched him fumble with his radio, asking Agent Wyatt the same question.
"No, he left the house about an hour ago." I heard Wyatt confirm.
"Ok, thank y—"
I didn't wait for Agent Kriss to finish his comms, as I rode on toward the Belle. I parked my bike, hastily walking to the front door. When I opened it, I walked into the house: hearing my feet echo on the tile. I glided up the stairs, heading to Kai's room but before I could even open his bedroom door, he stood in the doorway. His eyes were red, whether because he was exhausted or because he had been crying, I wasn't sure. But when he wrapped his arms around my waist, his head buried into my chest, I was taken aback.
The sobs came, wetting my shirt as his hands tightened over my jacket. I didn't want this. I didn't want him to be like this, not with me. Not now.
"I'm sorry." I heard through his croaks.
I was confused, honestly. Those words made everything that much worse because I didn't know if he even knew who was in front of him at that moment: who he was clinging to. He couldn't reverse time with two words. Two words that he neglected to say ten years prior.
I roughly pulled him back, but he was strong. Stronger that I thought he would've been in his state of mind.
I yanked him off of me then. Hearing my name, the way he said it...I couldn't take it.
"Stop." I said, it was almost a yell.
His eyes widened, almost in shock. It was like I had frightened him. His reddened disheveled face, the moist tears upon his cheek, almost made me feel guilty. Me...guilty? After what he had done? I tried to control my anger, control the shit scrambling through my head, everything. I did my best but my hands tightened upon his shoulders.
"Don't, you don't have the right."
His voice was almost a yelp, and I realized my grip: loosening it.
"I didn't come here for this, Kai."
His head was facing the ground, his hand shakily grasping his right arm. I looked closer at him, realizing that the part of his wrist that shone from his long sleeve shirt was purple: like he had been bruised. Charles? I didn't know but I did know I couldn't bring myself to go down that road again.
"Did you know," I started, giving myself time to properly create the words in my mouth, "about Ian and Trevor. That they worked at the Hanor?"
He didn't respond for a moment. He looked more and more pitiful as the seconds passed us by as a tear fell from his chin to the floor. Maybe this wasn't the right—
My anger flared up again, and I had to keep myself from laughing it off.
"So, why?" I started, but I realized my voice had risen.
"Why did you ask for just me? Roy, Donny, Mack, at least a four-man team should be in that club. There are too many blind spots and you know this! Regardless of how I feel about you or this situation, your safety is what matters most."
Kai began to laugh. The same indifferent laugh that twisted my spine. The gesture that made me feel like nothing more than an animal.
He wiped his tears, looking me in the eyes. "You just don't understand. Even back then."
"What are you talking about?"
Kai slowly walked towards me. If he expected me to move or cower as I had done as a boy, he was not getting that satisfaction. I stood taller than him now, forcing him to look up into my changing eyes.
"I'll tell you, if you kiss me."
I pushed Kai backwards as I took my leave. "Fuck off."
I didn't have time for games nor time for this. In the back of my mind, I knew this was a bad idea, but I didn't have anyone else to turn to for help. Back then, all I had was Kai. It's sad when I think about it that way. How he made me rely on him only to shove me right back in a cage.
I felt Kai's hands wrap around my waist. His cheek was pressed against my back.
I grasped his hand forcefully, hearing him wince. It was then that I remembered his wrist, looking down at the pale hand in my grasp. I held it up, seeing the blue and purple that contorted down near his elbow.
"You need to see a doctor." I said plainly, dropping his wrist and turning to him.
"No." He replied, his melancholy nature returning.
I sighed, placing a hand over my eyes. This was all too much for me. "Kai, this isn't a discussion. I'll call the White House..."
Warmth. Small but warm lips placed themselves over mine as a tender hand rubbed my neck. I was shocked, appalled when Kai took to the advantage. No, I was appalled by how I felt. The way his hands massaged themselves through my hair, the way he bit my lip...I didn't want it to stop. I felt my body tingle at his touch. I wanted to shove my tongue down his throat. I wanted him to pay for what he did to me, seventy times over.
I shoved Kai into the wall, placing my hand on his chest and letting the spit part from our mouths. I looked at him hard, breathing heavily. His eyes were worn, his expression calmed: longing. I could feel my heart racing and he could feel it too. It was his hand that lay on my cheek that began to calm my aggression...my anger. If it wasn't for that, or for his next words, I would have made good on my promise.
"The Manors," he began, running his hand down my surprised but exhausted face, "own us, Max. They've owned us from the very beginning."
I was right. There was so much more to the story.