“Is that it?”
The entrance was in partial darkness, the walkway behind me dimly lit with flickering tubes. My heels had clicked on the floor as I passed small piles of rubbish and stained brick effect cladding. The heels didn’t really work here but I was out of my depth and struggling to catch up. Same as the clothes, my designer suit was a little out of place in this riot of grey. A splash of colour in a drab working world.
“People don’t come down here much,” explained my guide, the rental agent for the mall. I’d forgotten his name and instead thought of him as Mr. Greasy. It suited him, his hair was greasy, as were his clothes; even his smile was up there on the grease-o-meter. He probably thought of himself as a ladies’ man, I know we were out on the fringes but surely not? Maybe a desperate ladies’ man but I wasn’t desperate. At least not that desperate. Not yet.
Mr. Greasy was still talking. “It’s been dead down this branch since the new diner opened in the extension.”
I knew where he meant; we had passed it on the way here, all gleaming chrome and fresh baked aroma. The barista was archetypal, white teeth and blond, a role model for Mr. G. Maybe someone should tell him.
He turned a key and pressed a button. The steel security curtain rolled up, to reveal a wide window and a narrow door at the side. Faded lettering proclaimed that this was the ‘ucky Strike Bar and Grill.’ The ‘L’ had fallen off. As the mesh rose, dust fell from the links; the place had been shut for a while then.
“What happened to the last owner?”
“There was a change in the law, no booze allowed anymore. It kind of stopped him in his tracks. He gave up and walked away, owes me a month’s rent too,” said Mr. G as he opened the door. He flicked the light switch; dim red lighting came on, just enough to see tables, chairs, and a bar. Everything was covered in dust, there were dirty glasses on the tables and the overhead video screens were blank and cobwebbed. I shuddered, I don’t like spiders.
“The kitchen is out back, together with stores and living space,” continued the sales patter, “a nice bedroom, en suite.” He leered. “Plenty of room for a little lady like yourself. I’ll show you.”
“Take your word for it,” I answered, not wanting to be in a confined space with him, his breath was probably greasy as well. I didn’t want to know about his hands. “Are the fittings and stock all included?”
“All the alcohol’s been impounded but everything that’s here is yours for 200 a month, one month up front.”
“I’ll take it.” It wasn’t ideal but I was fed up with running, and who knows I might even grow to like the place. And there wasn’t anywhere further to run.
“What you gonna do with it then?” he asked. It was a fair question, I didn’t really know but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
He moved closer. “Let’s seal the deal then,” he suggested, with a wink.
One of the advantages of being a short shrimp, as my mother used to say, was that you didn’t have to reach down too far to do a man serious damage.
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