A staff meeting at The Zone prior to opening reveals that after tonight, those of us on loan from The Plaza will be heading back there (to the sound of much groans and moans by those not looking forward to returning to Mgr Diane's clutches), as enough new door staff have now been recruited for the venue to run on. And also a heads-up about a fire drill Evac at some point tonight, as the Fire Brigade are due to check our new alarm system and evacuation procedures.
I notice already that Hurst and Jag Nut are absent, replaced by new recruits, and also Niall Taylor, which gives me a small amount of relief. So it's pretty much only me, Animal, Cooper and Salem left of the original reinforcements, that I'm on familiar terms with. Cooper is looking kind of deflated, like he can't wait to leave and get back to his comfortable Plaza, with its dozens of secret links, corners and offices he can hide in. And Salem can't wait to ditch the neon pink Zone front-door hi-vis, which he says is only suitable for Downtown Willy's gay comedy club, opposite The Dog Star, where I shot camp hit-man Phil Preston the other day.
The new guys, in contrast, look serious and overly-professional, like an Airfix model Army. Probably recruited straight from the membership list of Heath Gardner's gym and sauna, then vetted by Mgr Stacie's eye for sun-bed use and good dental work. Hurst would call them shirt-fillers - new licence-holders, no old school experience in any of them. Just the one goofy-looking guy, who is probably the token First-Aider, perhaps from leisure centre pool life-guarding or the Territorial Army. Solange is flirting relentlessly with most of them, while Pascaline ignores everyone, texting on her phone in a corner, or vanishing to the toilets to make calls. Apparently those two girls are staying on here. Solange is happy, with so many Action Man dolls around her to choose from, while Pascaline just looks pissed off. She used to do Downtown Willy's front doors with Phil Preston. Funny, I haven't heard anything about who might have been sent to work there, as replacements. Mostly the two managers stand on the front doors of the club, as per their SIA licence-holder status entitlement, so Phil and Pascaline were the eye candy. Whose eye - it's hard to say.
Mgr Stacie looks happy with her own new eye candy, anyway. I imagine it won't be long before Mgrs Diane and Melanie are sneaking up here, with their camera phones, or arranging V.I.P. staff nights out to The Zone in order to Facebuddy the new door supervisor talent. Mind you, most of the Zone's barmaids also look like supermodels, so it'll be a full claws-out competition if they set their sights on anyone working here. Would be a relief to the likes of Ryan, Joel and Harry though, to get a bit of breathing space for themselves. Doorman Harry's actually married, although you wouldn't think so to look at him, and by the way he behaves. Apparently his wife's a geriatric nurse who likes to pole-dance when she's drunk. My psychosis has a problem with trying to picture this, having never met her face-to-face. I don't know if it means she's a pole-dancing retired elderly nurse herself - or a nurse who treats older persons, and I don't like to ask. Either would be believable - Harry has celebrity crushes on everyone from Shakira and the Olsen twins to Tina Turner, Ruby Wax and Joan Rivers. His only regret in life is he's too young ever to have met Mae West. Bit of a strange lad at times.
I think I've missed his greetings of announcing he wants to punch someone, over the last week. It's all a bit uptight and image-conscious here in The Zone.
Cooper hangs around the end of the bar, chatting idly with me as the shift starts on my bar island position, and I have a weird sense of him looking for his own reality check, which I can't help noticing I don't have a copy of on me tonight. He seems a bit too random, a bit too escapist in mood, like someone's been trying to pin him down of late. I can imagine who that might be. He seems to want to talk work, and general doorman gossip, in a way I realise makes him feel more secure in his senior door role. Even though he's several years younger than me and I've been doing the job twice as long as him, I'm always polite enough not to point this out. Not to his face.
"Have the others gone back to The Plaza already?" I ask instead, encouraging him with my lack of inside knowledge on current migratory door staff events.
"Hurst and Niall are back there tonight, Jag Nut went to his uncle's funeral today, so he's on annual leave," Cooper divulges. He accepts a glass of water from one of the bar staff, and looks at the swirling bubbles from the tap suspiciously, putting it down on the bar and watching to see if they settle.
"What happened to his uncle?" I ask. "I heard it was something sudden."
"Old landmine. He was clearing No-Man's-Land ex-security checkpoints with his team abroad. Tripped a twenty-year-old roadside bomb. Unlucky sod. Puts me off the thought of going to war for real." Cooper shakes his head as a thin cloudy layer of scum gradually forms on the surface of his glass of water. "What the Hell is that stuff in the water, are we really drinking this shit?"
"Might be residue from the glass washer tablets," I point out.
"Don't think I want to drink that either, the last thing my intestines need is a diamond-like sparkle to them," Cooper remarks, and feels in his pockets around his phone and keys for change. "Another crappy tight-wad venue that won't give its staff free drinks. Do you want a can of pop? It's all right, I'll sort you out."
I accept a cola and we both snap our tins open in front of a passing Mgr Stacie's cold nod of disapproval. Cooper glugs half of his in one gulp in order to summon a deliberately mutinous burp.
"Lara," he teases, blaming me humorously. "Gross."
I know it's immature, but I grin anyway. The situation needs lightening up generally.
"Doesn't matter, we're out of here for good at the end of tonight," he reminds me. "Might as well do what we like. Have a wander. It's this bunch of stuffed shirts who have to impress the managers now, not us. I'm off to see if there's anything not nailed down that would look good in the boot of my car."
He grins at me and saunters off. This time I know he's joking. Everything here is nailed down.
I head up to the D.J. capsule overlooking the club, and find Crank in a similar rebellious mood, eating Chinese out of the cartons, listening to Santana, and chatting on Waffle on the venue's 'Free Whiffy' wireless internet, while R&B chart trash is piped out of the mixing desk into the club.
"Thought you were off to Vegas," I greet him, as he offers me a salt-and-pepper battered king prawn.
"Decided to take the double or nothing route," he says. "Baccarat at 11:00 p.m. If I win I get to take a plus one to Vegas and fly First Class. Got any annual leave? You could be my close protection security for my million dollars."
"Sounds like fun," I remark, washing down the prawn with a gulp of cola.
"I'm serious," he says, eyebrows raised. "I'm planning on taking my winning trip in time for the Dance D.J. convention. If I win that in Vegas, I get a trip to Miami to perform at the Latino Beach Ball. From there, it's a short hop to Trinidad and Tobago to go house-hunting. Come fly with me. It'll be fun. Get you out of this dive for a few days."
"Just show me the tickets, and I'm all yours," I joke, taking another prawn as he holds out the container.
"Deal," he grins.
As he withdraws his hand holding the empty container, and stretches out to drop it on the D.J. console beside his feet, which are resting up on it, the sleeve of his grey marl No Fear sweatshirt hikes up. Before I turn to leave, my brain has registered a huge diamond Rolex on his wrist, high-roller style.
Imagining things, I tell myself. Not that I'd even have recognised it, from some P. Diddy promo or anything like that…