62 - Charlie's Birthday
Mugs Millman, in response to the commotion behind the closed door, shut the till, cleared the bar of glasses, put on his dark specs and black pork pie hat and waved away the two waitresses waiting to collect loaded trays. They knew the routine. They picked up their full trays from the bar. Sauntered towards the back and stood to one side near the booth where two dark suited men were seated.
Millicent, the strangely blonde singer, skipped a few beats but nonetheless kept reasonable pace with the slick, five piece jazz outfit so in the grove that wild horses and all that crap would not stop them. A few nervous head turns of punters being fed overpriced champagne and cocktails. Eyes drifting away from the stage towards the door. Starting to rise. Unsure of events unfolding. The La La girls appeared twirling sexily, kicking out long, black fishnet stockinged legs upping their tempo to divert attention. In the dark corner, in the booth by the door marked 'Private', Shifty Stevens and Dark Jones smiled the smile and waited, anticipating trouble. The waitresses shuffled a bit closer.
Lucky Bazza, the doorman, flicked back the spy hole cover then swung the metal clad door inwards admitting a tall wondrously attired, clearly animated and well inebriated woman. Long blonde hair wildly flying as she swung her fist catching the not so lucky Bazza’s left cheek a weak, ineffective blow. Her momentum nearly throwing her off her feet. She staggered but recovered well.
“What’s that for Charlie?” he said with his arm raised to fend off expected repeats.
“That,” replied Charlie with a kind of leery, drunken smile and a wagging finger in front of Bazz’s face as she slightly wobbled on six inch heels, “is for all the trouble you might be thinking of causing me. Now shut the door Bazz and comb your hair. You look a mess.” Then kissed him on the cheek leaving a bright red splodge.
The La La girls were excelling themselves. The threat of Charlie style retribution provided impetus to their near naked exploits and enough to once again capture and enthral the eclectic mix that frequented the heaving establishment known as ‘Charlie’s Place’. It was ten-thirty on a Saturday night.
Satisfied that all hell being let loose had been averted, Mugs pulled a bottle of Charlie’s favourite bubbles out of the bar fridge, popped the cork and put a half dozen flutes on the stainless steel bar top. Removing the dark glasses but retaining the pork pie hat, but pushed back a bit on his short dark hair, he said through a cheerful grin, “Good evening Charlie and happy birthday. The drinks are on me.”
The waitresses resumed their journey unloading trays of chinking glasses with their multi-coloured watery cocktails taking payment as they went. Shifty Stevens and Dark Jones stood and swaggered to the bar and took the glasses Charlie kindly pushed their way. The La La girls moved to the left of the small stage in a state of near exhaustion while Millicent grabbed the microphone from its stand, swung a glance at the band, tapped a foot, one, two, three and they swung straight into the groove of Happy Birthday but with the sort of zip only a top notch jazz outfit could achieve.
The final line of the well known ditty and what a time to have a row. The row again behind the steel clad door. This time the band stalled. Millicent’s throat dried up. The La La girls were too exhausted to attract the audience's attention so they all stared at the door. The waitress trays were empty so they simply shot through the door marked 'Private'. Both Shifty Stevens and Dark Jones stood from their perches on high bar stools and stared at Lucky Bazza who only shrugged. Mugs replaced his dark glasses. The only out of place reaction was Charlie and she just grinned, swayed on her stool, lifted her flute and shouted, “Cheers.”
The extraordinary crash on the door made the audience jump. All as one as though they were choreographed. Lucky Bazza, spied through the peephole, slipped the bolt and stood back. The door flew wide and two uniformed coppers stepped through. One a tall sergeant the other something of a bear. Behind, with the collar of his dark raincoat up and waving an open envelope strode the authority of the evening who shouted, “This is a raid,” and grinned the grin of total exuberance.
Pushing past him, a steady flow of suited gents and ladies confronted the startled audience who panicked and sprinted for the EXIT. The one lit up red. Pushed the bar and hit the street. Ran past the stream of cop cars lining the kerb. Filtering into the many side streets, alleyways and dark corners that littered that particular neighbourhood.
Inside, the authority had reached the bar and Charlie, who was leaning, elbows on the bar top, staring at Mugs. He knew the score, reached behind and grabbed a bottle, “Bourbon Guv’nor,” he said. “At least a double I assume.”
“You assume correctly,” replied the authority looking at the back of Charlie’s head, “Hey, Charlie,” he shouted.
Slowly Charlie turned and stared into what was actually a handsome face, looked at the envelope and said, “That ain’t going to be enough.”
“What,” replied the authority, “a card not good enough. How about this?” And he pulled a case from his inside coat pocket and flicked the lid brightening the whole area with sparkling stones. “Did you really think your old man wouldn’t get you something proper… Now, I’ve brought all the crew as you said, the place is clear, the band’ll soon be playing and I want to see the La La’s doing it… Come on everyone get yourselves settled… Let’s party.”