...Crypto's impressionable barmaids have undergone a transformation overnight. There's so much fake tan they look like they lost a peanut-butter vs. gravy-browning fight. Primarni's underwear section must have sold out of jello-bras. Blingtastic Booty has definitely done a good deal on shoulder-dusting dangly earrings and clip-on hair extensions today. It looks like it was buy the earrings, get the Porn Star locks free. Waists are cinched in, hipsters are low and diamanté-spangled thongs are pulled high. Pierced plastic nails are in serious danger of gouging the bar, as change is gathered and counted.
Sadie, whose weekend off bar-duty for a family wedding last night meant she missed the newcomer, has come in for a drink to gloat about 'being virtually a bridesmaid' and to show off photographs of herself yesterday in her designer frock. Upstaging the bride evidently not a concept in her Universe. And has turned up rather tragically for her in her occasional anti-fashion-statement baggy brown trousers, innocent-farm-girl lumpy sweater, khaki Moon boots, Michael Caine National Health glasses, and Detective Columbo dirty mac. Which she wears when she wants to make everyone else look tarty, and herself look suitably student-like, interesting and artsy (and to get compliments about how she scrubs up well in a posh dress and heels when she shows off the photographic evidence). To be faced on her arrival with a red carpet effort by the other girls, and a new Adonis in a black uniform on the door team. A clamp could not have kept her mouth shut when it dropped open in shock. I wonder whether to warn her that walking around in public dressed like a tramp is quite hazardous at the moment, but Elaine runs around from behind the bar and gives me a massive hug and conspiratorial giggle.
"I've just looked at Sadie's Twaddle update, and she's posted on it that the Crypto Club has gone really downhill all of a sudden and not worth a visit," she confides. "Look at her - just because she thought the object of attention was going to be her tonight, and she missed the whole Joel Doorman boat. It's like she just fell off the Moon. I think a disciplinary might be in order for slagging off her place of employment on a public website, don't you?"
"Yeah, but you know the people who understand Sadie," I reply, unable to hold back a smile myself. "It'll only attract more people here wanting to know what's wound her up, so they can wind her up even more about it."
"Very true, very true, but I don't want to keep encouraging her," Elaine agrees. "I can just imagine that she'll have one glass of wine then go home to change, and come back wearing a La Senza baby-doll nightdress and Perspex heels with fairy-lights in. Then get as drunk as a skunk and pretend she can't get home to suck up to the door staff for a lift. I've a good mind to send her down to the cellar saying she's got to re-set all the rat-traps."
"No, she'll just milk the attention and pity for it afterwards. Let her do her worst with the Porn Star outfit and drinking like a skunk, it'll be funnier," I say. "Wow, it looks like the make-up counter Oscars in here. Is that Charmaine Lysander wearing a basque? Blimey. Jag Nut is really losing his street cred to this new guy."
"That's him over there," says Elaine, pointing to the console, where D.J. Sammy is talking to the newcomer. "Just graduated in Sports Science, ex-Rugby boy. You might have spotted Chelsea and Yolanda and the other Gucci Cheerleaders, lurking around territorially trying to make our barmaids miserable."
I look at the new guy. Broad shoulders, short dirty-blond hair, twinkly eyes when he smiles, Yankee-style sports good looks - very 'Nick Stokes' from early original CSI. Enough to bring the hardest chav girl to her knees (and not because she's about to grovel either). Funnily enough, I already know him.
"Oh, Joel," I muse. "Joel Hardy. Yeah, I worked with him when I was covering The Galloping Grimaldi Bar on Tuesdays in West Village last summer. He's nice, I had an unrequited crush on him."
"Really?" Elaine's eyes light up like Blackpool Illuminations. "Oh, good, you can introduce me properly!"
I spot Elaine's hidden agenda just as she grabs my arm, and is about to lead me protesting to the D.J. stand, when I look across helplessly and see Joel already turning and striding our way.
"I think he's going to do that for you," I say, relieved.
"Hey Lara." Joel grins his easy grin, and greets me with a kiss on the cheek. "I thought that was you I saw coming in. You look well. How have you been?"
"Yeah, good. Busy," I answer, smiling in spite of myself. Joel was, after all, one of the few genuinely nice guys I had ever worked with. Everyone who met him liked him. He didn't have any of the arrogance, or stand-offishness or attitude, that seemed to go with looks and a door badge. I try to block any traitorous feelings of glee that he noticed me come into the club. "How about you?"
"Yeah, well, finished Uni, looking for a day job, the usual," he says wryly. "Are you working here now?"
"I was, but not any more," I say. "I'm down at The Plaza. You know, the nightclub mall."
"Yeah, I heard they don't like us Heavy Duty doormen because we get paid more than the in-house staff."
"Yeah, tell me about it," I agree with feeling, having felt plenty of backstabbing going on in the last eight months. "I'm just calling in to see my best friend here. You must have been introduced to Elaine already, staff manager and strict mistress of Crypto."
"Of course," he grins, but she doesn't get the chance to do more than smile coquettishly. "I better leave you ladies to catch up. I'll give you a ring after the weekend, Lara, we should catch up properly. Go for coffee or something."
"Yeah, that would be nice," I say, not quite sure I believe what I'm hearing, as the barmaids' ears all point my way like little radar dishes. "See ya later."
He leans over and gives me another kiss on the cheek, before walking away with almost an apologetic grin over his shoulder. Elaine thumps me on the arm.
"Did you just get asked on another date, right in front of me?" she asks, in mock horror. "You strumpet. I'm shocked."
"He said coffee, not nookie," I say, trying to get her to lower her voice, as all the female bar staff seem about to aim their psychic W.M.D.s at me.
"It means the same thing, to a man!" Elaine hisses.
"Not to Joel, he is actually just a nice guy," I reply. Hoping that I'm right. Otherwise I might be put in the position of having to choose, I think, almost making myself laugh out loud. Just picture it. Me, the psychopath. Getting to choose between Connor, who knows everything about me already, and is a good kisser, and Mr. Genuine Nice Guy With The Normal Life of the kind I would like to escape into one day, when I've finished with this hit-man lark. It's a nice thought, thinking I might have options like that. But not the kind of thing that happens every day. Most usually, in my world, coffee means coffee. With milk and two sugars, if I'm lucky. I say so to Elaine.
"Goodness me, I should be so lucky as you are," says Elaine. "You've just got men falling over you, haven't you? First P.C. Connor asking me for your number, then Niall Taylor trying to booty call you over to the casino last night, and now somehow my hunky new doorman already knows you and wants to talk to you alone, not in front of me, your best friend. Whatever next, the head doorman of The Plaza ringing you at all hours demanding First Aid for his special needs that only you can fulfil?"
"Yeah, actually Cooper already does that. I get about six missed calls or questionably necessary texts every night from him," I admit wretchedly. "Special needs sums him up pretty well, I'll remember that."
"What about Mr. Blonde Venice Beach you were telling me about too?"
"Oh, he just wants to fiddle with my car. He's got it at the moment actually."
"Sounds like he wants to fiddle with you, you mean." Elaine's look of comedy horror is one I want to frame and hang on my kitchen wall to cheer me up whenever I'm doing the washing-up. "I think it's very selfish of you hogging all these men, you should learn to share like a nice girl."
"I have no idea what you mean - none of them have got my name tattooed on their arm or put a diamond on me," I tease her. "It's just men being random, fishing for random encounters, like they do with all women. I'm sure there's far more deluded women than me who think they're way deeper into relationships with these guys than I am. Anyway, how dare you, Niall lives with his girlfriend. He was talking about her last night as well."
"Ooh, looking for sympathy or your trust that nothing untoward will happen, I bet," says Elaine. "You better make sure he doesn't get you drunk ever. Sounds like a very naughty boy to me."
"Cheers. Nothing's plain or innocent to you, is it?" I ask, realising I sound like I'm arguing with my own prejudices about men's agendas.
"Well, I don't think you've looked in the mirror lately," says Elaine, tapping my sternum. "It's not just the fact hunky Joel said hello to you that my staff are giving you their bestest evils right now. You look like Paris Hilton with boobs. Whatever you're doing, keep doing it, because men are starting to notice, and women are starting to get jealous."
...Something like seventeen customers were ejected or voluntarily walked out. Meaning I have a collection of people's details to write up at the end of the night, on scraps of paper torn out of doormen's notebooks and handed to me. Having to translate descriptions into correct report-speak things like: Fat Buddha white polo shirt, or Grey jumper greasy ginger chav, and White Snoop Dogg torn back pocket in fight & was commando not pretty. The African doormen's notes are more polite and say Gentleman blue shirt white sneakers, or Lady blonde pink dress flowers red shoes attractive. While the Polish guys like Axwel say useful things like: Yellow tee shirt drug dealer barr'd from Crash, and Short man FCUK shirt bootleg pimp razor bladez in shoe fake £20 notez stolen driving licence white yellow powder on chin (cokain or wiz) lot of pillz found in pocket three week ban.
Luckily I spotted this one and called police on site by radio, just as the delightful-sounding individual was leaving the mall so they could stop and question him. I mentioned to Niall, now acting deputy head doorman, that Doorman Trebor could use a quick chat about the two types of ban - three months or life - no soft Equal Opportunities alternatives for customers under five foot three. Even if they are socially repressed, and requiring an understanding light admonition not often seen in law courts. Niall thought this was funny, and said he'd suggest the idea to Cooper about introducing the mini-ban of three weeks for short audacious criminals.
I'm sitting in V.I.P. after work where the tables are clean enough to lean the report book and First Aid book on, writing up this epic and drinking Jungle Juice out of the bottle. The cackling and squawking of the barmaids keeps the boys' attention occupied.
Manager Damien approaches me holding out his phone.
"Police want a quick word," he says, with a look on his face that translates it as: 'This better be properly documented or I'll be hearing from the company directors at Cobra Star Leisure blah blah blah…'
I nod and take the phone.
"Hello," I say, tucking it into my shoulder and still scribbling, crossing out the word 'Buddha' where I've accidentally copied part of a customer's description verbatim from Doorman Harry's scrawl.
"Hey Trouble," head office greet me. "We've got a target for you down at Origins Bar, closing at 4:15 a.m. Kaavey Canem."
"Wasn't he your walkie-talkie man?" I ask, hoping Damien is getting his money's worth out of eavesdropping, while he's pretending to watch the bar staff tidy up.
"Yar. He's working with Igor on the front doors tonight. We've got a special request on him, you'll need specific arms for it. If you can get yourself to Sin Street you'll find what you need in their stock-room."
"That's only an hour," I say, looking at my watch. "If you give me five minutes to write this fight up and get back to my car, you can call me on my phone and give me the details."
"No problem." They hang up and I put the phone down on the table. I slide it in Damien's general direction, without trying to play at calling him over, knowing that he was already paying attention. He strolls over and retrieves it.
"Everything all right?" he queries, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, just something they're concerned about generally, nothing to do with the venue," I sigh.
I can see Damien isn't easily convinced, but that's his problem. My problem is, what excuse am I going to come up with for going to Sin Street, and poking around in their cellars?