By: Jake Hatcher, Official Bookshelf Battle Blog Private Eye
I pulled my snazzy new set of wheels up to an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the city.
The joint was falling apart. Broken windows, crumbling side panels, and I’m pretty sure I saw some bullet holes.
“Are you sure this is the place, Ms. Donnelly?”
“Of course, Mr. Hatcher,” Delilah said as she stepped out of my passenger seat.
Together, we strolled to a steel plated door, upon which my colleague rapped three times.
She paused. Rapped twice more. Another pause, then four more knocks.
A booming baritone voice, not unlike that James Earl Jones fella, came through over the intercom.
“What is the password?”
Delilah retrieved a piece of paper from her clutch, unfolded it, and started to read.
“Hooray for big…”
She stopped and handed me the paper.
“Mr. Hatcher, will you be a gem and read this please?”
I took the note and read it to myself.
I looked at Delilah, my eyes begging the question, “Is this for real?”
Her nod told me it was.
Typical Delilah. She was the kind of dame who wouldn’t say “shit” if she had a mouth full of it, which was ironic because the look on her puss suggested she was always in the process of sniffing it.
I cleared my throat.
“Ahem. Hooray for big knockers!”
“All passwords must have a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.”
I tried again.
“Hooray for big knockers asterisk…”
I pointed to an “&” symbol on the paper.
“Ms. Donnelly, what is that?”
“It’s an ampersand.”
“Is that what it’s called? I always just called it the ‘and’ sign.”
“That’s the layman’s term for it,” Delilah said, “But the accurate word for it is ‘ampersand.'”
“OK,” I said. “Let’s try this again. Hooray for big knockers asterisk, ampersand, dollar sign, seven, seven.”
“Maybe you’ve been hustled.”
“I don’t understand,” Delilah said. “My contact assured me this password would gain us entry.”
The man on the other side of the intercom was back.
“You…may…enter,” he said, ever so ominously.
I grabbed the door handle and opened it.
We found ourselves in a small waiting room, staffed by a hunchbacked old butler in a tuxedo. The top of his head was completely bald, but he’d grown out the white hair on the sides down to his shoulders.
I could tell by his voice he was the same cat from the intercom.
“Good evening. I am Armand, at your service.”
He turned to me.
“Might I take your hat, sir?”
“No one touches the fedora, Jack.”
“Very well. Walk this way.”
Armand pushed open a set of heavy double doors and we followed him inside.
Let me tell you, 3.5 readers, the interior decor did not match the exterior at all.
We found ourselves in a large, luxurious indoor court. Lilly white marble floors and columns. A waterfall in the center. It was straight out of Roman times.
And speaking of Rome, there was an orgy afoot so depraved that it would have made Caligula blush.
“Avert your eyes, Ms. Donnelly.”
“I’m a big girl, Mr. Hatcher.”
All sorts of degenerate perverts were going at it every which way you looked, and that wasn’t the half of it.
A man dressed up in a clown outfit walked up to me, grabbed me by my shoulders, and stared intently into my eyes.
White makeup, curly green wig, floppy shoes, red nose, over-sized polka dot die, he went all out.
“Do you know why the tungsten mermaid swims on a bed of roses across the night shade amber of the pickle farmer’s garden?!”
His voice was all screechy, more disturbing than an owl’s screams piercing through darkness.
He laughed. His laughs started quietly, then became successively louder.
“Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha HA HA HA HA MUAH HA HA HA HA!!! NOBODY KNOWS!! NOBODY EVER KNOWS!!!!”
“A little help here, Armand?”
“Do as you think best, sir.”
I improvised. I kneed the clown in the groin, gave him an uppercut to his dopey chin and sent him ass over teakettle, dropping the psycho to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
Literally no one in the room noticed or cared.
“I’m sorry you had to see that, Ms. Donnelly.”
“Quite all right, Mr. Hatcher.”
We continued on a bit. The room was enormous.
There were multiple tables set up. Each one had men participating in various dangerous sports.
There were two men playing that game where you stab the table between your fingers with a sharp knife, timing how many stabs were possible in a minute. There was a pool of blood on the floor, suggesting an earlier participant had missed and how.
At another table, two men were playing Russian roulette. Delilah and I watched in horror as one blindfolded participant with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth pressed a revolver up against his temple.
Beads of sweat dripped from the man’s brow and he trembled as he pulled the trigger.
An instant sigh of relief all around.
“The guns never have an actual bullet put into them,” Armand informed us. “The game master just keeps spinning the empty chamber, fooling thrill seekers into believing their lives are at stake.”
“And what are those fellas up to?” I asked.
I pointed to another table where two men were talking rather calmly. Given the other events, it was a little disappointing.
“I’m thinking of a number between one and ten,” the first man said.
“Five,” the second man guessed.
Enraged, the second man flipped the table over and socked the first man right in the kisser, sending his victim’s teeth and blood spewing everywhere.
“Lying sack of shit! You know it’s five!!!”
Disgusted, Delilah turned away and buried her head in my shoulder.
Suddenly, this place didn’t seem so bad.
Armand finally answered my question.
“High stakes pick a number.”
We kept walking.
A tall, statuesque Amazonian broad wearing skimpy leather lingerie that left little to the imagination was walking a grown man with an orange ball gag in his mouth.
“Heel, worm!!!” she commanded as she pulled on a leash attached to a spiked collar around the man’s neck.
Ever so eerily, the woman cocked her head to one side as she looked me over, then poked me in the chest with a riding crop.
“Do you wish to be my slave, maggot? I will bark orders at you morning, noon and night and you will lick my boots, do my bidding, and cater to my every whim!!!”
I rolled my eyes.
“No thank you, ma’am. I’ve been married three times already.”
Not sure what to make of me, the dominatrix yanked on her dog man’s chain and walked him away.
Delilah pressed her hand over her mouth to stifle a chuckle. Delilah laughter was rare, but not entirely unheard of. I enjoyed it when it came.
“That was quite humorous, Mr. Hatcher.”
“I have my moments, Ms. Donnelly.”
Our moment was ruined by, get this, a goddamned real life bengal tiger. A butt naked woman who’d shaved her head bald was riding the oversized cat like he was a pony. The woman’s body was covered with an elaborate tattoo of two pandas slapping each other with bamboo sticks.
You think I’m making this up. I’m not.
I reached under my trench coat for my shoulder holster, where I kept Betsy safe and snug.
“It’s housebroken, sir. You needn’t worry.”
Sex. Alcohol. Gambling. Assorted debauchery. We saw it all until Armand led us to a bar.
The bartender wore a full length woman’s dress, red with shiny sparkles, but other than that, wasn’t attempting to not appear as a man. He had a buzzcut, a mustache, and spoke in a tone that reminded me of my Army drill sergeant.
Oddly, he also wore a spaceman helmet. He lifted up the visor so he could get a better look at us.
“What can I get you?” the barkeep asked as he set out a tray full of pharmaceuticals and narcotics.
“Uppers, downers, poppers, floppers, choppers, grinders, whirling dervishes…”
As he rattled of the names, he pointed to a different crystal goblet holding the illicit substances.
“…Crank, yank, and spank. Meth. Coke. Horse. Oxycontin. Flintstone’s chewable vitamins.”
“We’re good, Jack,” I said.
“You sure?” the barkeep asked. “I make a good airplane glue bath salt sorbet.”
My reaction was a resounding, “What the?”
I leaned in to Ms. Donnelly’s ear and whispered.
“I don’t get it. He wants to take a bath with me and build a toy model?”
“No,” Delilah said. “I believe people use these products to, as they say, ‘get high.'”
“Great Caesar’s ghost.”
“Perhaps a beverage?” the barkeep pressed on. “We have absinthe, ambrosia milk, devil’s delight, and Diet Shasta Orange.”
“It is a trifle stifling in here,” Delilah said. “I’ll have a water if it’s no bother.”
“Not at all,” the barkeep said.
He poured the lady lawyer a glass and set it on the bar. Immediately, I put my hand over it and pushed it aside.
“Perhaps we shouldn’t accept drinks offered to us in a room full of perverts, Ms. Donnelly?”
I was in my element. I’d spent a lifetime dealing with scum, knew exactly how to act around lowlives, and I could tell Ms. Donnelly was grateful.
“Armand, what the hell is this place?”
“Anything goes, sir.”
“I can see that,” I said. “But what’s the name?”
“That is the name. You are in the ‘Anything Goes Club.'”
Copyright (c) 2015 Bookshelf Q. Battler.
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