Faye Johnson

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February, 1st

23:00

 

Faye stood behind her desk, the pulsing music from the club only a faint vibration in the floor.  A hand slowly ran through her Raven black hair and a long sigh slipped through her lips as she slid papers around on her desk with her other hand.  A hulk of a beast stood near the entrance to the office.  He stood two heads above the door and his skin had a rock-like appearance.  "Mr... Jackson is it?"

 

"It's uh, James Ma'am."

 

"James."  Faye's voice took on an annoyed tone within his head.  A chair slid behind the man and a force shoved him into it.  Eyes burned into his own as she too slid into her own chair and leaned forward arms rested on the surface of the dark wooden desk.  "From what Alexei here tells me, for the past several nights you have caused disturbances among the fae guests beneath my roof.  As everyone that partakes in the ventures of my club knows, any kind of disturbance is forbidden.  This is a haven for human and nonhuman alike.  For all species to unwind, and enjoy themselves.  Now tell me, Mr. James.  What the actual fuck were you thinking disobeying my rules?"

 

"I'm really sorry Mrs. Johnson, I don't know what came over me!"

 

"He lies to you, Faye."  Alexei's thick Russian accent broke the man's words as the giant stalked across the floor with heavy footsteps. "I heard from many patrons that this puny man had been talking all night about hurting one of them 'pretty fae bitches' and 'giving them something to remember.'"

 

Faye's face was expressionless as she turned from Alexei to the man that now squirmed uncomfortably in his seat.  She rubbed angrily at her temples lowered her hands to reveal a piercing glare at the wrongdoer.  A flinch from him as he saw it and tried to jump from the chair but a stone like a hand forced him back down.  "Your first mistake was lying to me.  I would've found out the truth either way and I would've sent someone to hunt you down.  Your second mistake..."  Hands placed slowly against the desk and forced her body to rise yet again.  "... was openly admitting to wishing to hurt one of my patrons, in my club."  A hand rose in the man's direction and after a brief moment a ball of energy launched from her hand and into his chest.  Alexei released his grip and allowed James to launch backward and into the glass wall separating him from the forty foot fall to the dance floor.  He rolled around on the ground gasping for air while Faye adjusted her blouse and skirt.  "Alexei, make sure this scum never steps foot in this club, or any other establishment again."  

 

A nod from the stone man and he grabbed the man by the neck and led him out onto the fire escape on the opposite side of the room.  Faye opened the opposite door to her office causing the sound of music to drown out the man's screams as he fell.  Alexei rejoined her as they made their way down into the club.  Heavy techno music blasted the crowd as scantily clad waitresses went about delivering alcohol and illicit drugs to those on the dance floor.  Most lights within the club were extinguished.  Save for a lit platform on each corner of the dance floor that had a caged dancer atop it, only the glow sticks, bracelets, black-light, and strobe lights from the DJ lit up the interior.  Watching the crowd from the stairs to the upper office was like watching the ocean as the patrons bounced and danced to the beat that rocked the club and bled out onto the street.

 

"How are our VIP Alexei, I've had to deal with so many dicks tonight I really don't want to deal with those ones as well."

 

"The VIP are enjoying themselves, I just had Mika check on them and take a bottle of our finest Vodka as well before bringing this last problem to you."

 

"Not every issue can be fixed with Vodka Alexei."

 

"Nonsense, Vodka fixes everything!"  

 

Both Faye and Alexei laughed at that and made their way to the bar where Gemma the best fawn bartender in the city sat.  The tattooed half woman turned in time to see their approach and smiled.  She swiftly poured a large glass of Vodka for Alexei and some fancy concoction of her own making for Fae.

 

"What can I do for ya boss lady?  Pretty busy tonight, I've already written down all of the alcohol and other things we'll need for the weekend."  Gemma placed a clipboard on the bar and pushed it towards Faye who scooped it up.  "Milo said some man's been sneaking around the building trying to find a way in, the mysterious type with his hood up and everything."

 

"Thank you, Gemma, as always you're the best."  Faye sipped at her favorite Gemma drink and looked over the clipboard before handing it over to Alexei who stuffed it under his arm.  She gestured for the front door and the stone man nodded and moved through the crowd which parted around him.  "Stay safe Gemma, you know where the gun is if you need it."  

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Tom pulled up to the House of the Dead and sat there in his car for a few moments taking it in. He had heard of this place from the occasional patron, but he had never been there himself. From what he had heard, it was not a place he would likely spend a lot of time, but he had heard that they have done a lot of business. That was what he was most curious about. Tom wasn't concerned about a competitor taking business away from Club Bakkhos. The family club raked in so much cash, any competitor was largely viewed as an overflow. No...Tom wasn't here to discourage their business, but rather to leverage it for his own.

 

Tom was not simply the alcohol supplier for Bakkhos. Thyrsus was how Tom made money for the family, not from the family. Tom supplied high-end booze for most of the city. Domus Mortuorum was a place that appeared to be doing good business, but wasn't a customer of his. He intended to change that.

 

Normally, Tom wouldn't make these sorts of calls himself. Roderick or someone else would come and make their pitch during normal daytime business hours. This was a two-fold mission for Tom. He wanted to be seen. The big fight at Satyr Stadium was coming soon, and he was a walking billboard for the event. Plus, he was aware of the effect he had on people. People would pay money to see a Bakkhos Capo being relegated to gladiator work, sure. But when he interacted with people, and they felt the uncomfortable feeling of being next to him...they'd change their plans to come see who would want to fight THAT guy! 

 

He watched a dozen or so people enter and exit the establishment. This place didn't market itself to the exclusive upscale crowd. Some were dressed to impress, but not everyone. All sorts were here. This was good to know. He stepped out and walked straight to the large rock-man bouncer guarding the front. He was imposing and was well-suited for his job. Tom's brows furrowed in contemplation. He'd like to know more about this...creature. But this isn't why he was here.

 

Tom looked up to the thing's face and stated simply, "My name is Tom Gallo. I need to speak with Faye Johnson." He said this as if it were a foregone conclusion that she would be made available. Not bravado, not arrogance...it simply made sense.

 

This is how it seemed in Tom's head. Some in line heard the man and shied away from him as if he were a grenade tossed in their vicinity. He hoped he didn't inadvertently provoke the rock-golem thing. That had been happening too much lately. 

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Alexei handed off the clipboard to a man near the front who wandered off to see it get to the right hands.  Faye followed in his footsteps and made sure to greet a guest or two here and there.  She was the owner of the club after all and needed to show her face.  How could people know to respect her if her present wasn't constantly felt?  The stone man shoved the front door open, lowered himself through the hole, and turned to hold it ajar for Faye.  

 

"It would appear as if your Elven friend wishes to speak to you, Faye."

 

"Let's not get too hasty with labels dear Alexei.  I never saw this man as a friend, nor will I ever.  He's just an ever apparent thorn in my side with a lot of money."   Faye handed her drink off to a waitress outside and looked at the line of people that awaited their entrance.  Business was booming for a Thursday night.  She adjusted her sleeves and stepped to the side of the door where a tall lanky elven man stood, dressed in a fine, rather flamboyant suit.  "Mr. Ki'shan.  It has been a few days since you've graced Domus Motuorum with your presence!"

 

"Oh Faye, your words are far too kind as always."   The man was a snake, it could be heard in his words and how he carried himself.  How he procured the money he had could only be guessed as the shadiest of deals and backstabbings.  "I wanted to speak to you about a business venture.  You see I'm in the market for some new clientele for my business that we spoke of before.  Now I know your lovely club isn't a bad establishment of any means whatsoever, but wouldn't you want to rake in an extra bit of money?  It'll be fun."

 

Faye's demeanor quickly changed, her eyebrows set into a deep furrow.   "I have told you time and time again Ki'shan.  I will not sell slaves out of my Club, nor will anyone that is affiliated with me.  You may see yourself as a dangerous man elf.  But listen to me and listen closely..."  Faye took two deliberate steps towards the man and placed a finger against his chest.  He looked physically shaken as this was the first time she had threatened him.  "... I have been up to my neck in bullshit today, I have dealt with nothing but dicks, and this is the fifth time this week you have come to me offering a deal for selling your slaves out of my club.  You're lucky we're outside if we were in my office Alexei here would break both of your legs and feed you your teeth.  You are still allowed in my Club, but I will be watching you like a hawk, and if I hear from anyone you're trying to make this same deal in my club.  I will personally strangle the life from your pitiful body.  Do we have a deal?"

 

"Yes, Faye.  We are understood completely."  

 

The man visibly gulped and walked away, shaking with fear.  Many knew what happened to those who crossed Faye.  It was never pretty, nor did it ever end well.  She'd once cut a mans tongue out for speaking ill of the fae race in her presence.  She saw herself as the mother of people who stepped into her club.  Everyone who entered was protected by her, anyone who threatened the safety, or talked down to her patrons were dealt with.  She had eyes and ears everywhere.  Not to mention the tank of a man Alexei to bring them to her.

 

Faye perked at the mention of her name.  Tom Gallo.  She sucked air between her teeth as Alexei's arms folded across his chest and he straightened up to his rather tall height.  Molten lava colored eyes stared down at the man before him and Alexei chuckled.  

 

"Little man thinks it's that easy to talk to Mistress Faye?"  Alexei laughed a little louder and the group in the line nearest the conversation chuckled themselves.  "You make me laugh little man, but you also make me angry.  You need to talk to Mistress Faye you make an appointment.  Little men cannot just walk in here and say that..."

 

 

"It's quite alright Alexei.  Any member of Bakkhos is welcome to have a conversation with me." Faye stepped toward the duo a hand placed on Alexei's shoulder, a sign to stay close in case he tried anything funny, the other reached out in greeting to the other man.   "I am Faye Johnson.  What is a reputable family member such as yourself doing on this side of town Mr. Gallo?  Bakkhos has never bothered me before, and I wasn't quite expecting it to happen now."  She motioned for Tom to follow and turned to make her way back into the club.  Alexei would follow suit behind the Bakkhos man a different guard moving to take his place.

 

"Mr. Gallo, don't bother speaking.  It's a little too loud in here for me or my associate to hear you.  But I shall explain the rules to you as we walk."  Her voice was crystal clear in his head as they moved, no matter how loud the music and patrons within were, her voice was like it was right next to his ear.  Soft, honey-like.  "There will be no violence, no talk of violence, no disturbing of the other patrons, no weapons, they are forfeit at the door, no outside alcohol or drugs they are also forfeit at the door, no use of dangerous magic that could cause harm to another patron, no shifting, no talking about other clubs within my club.  If you want to go to that club, don't take my customers with you.  Breaking the rules is dealt with in a three-step manner.  First, a warning, second, physical harm and removal from the club, third permanent forfeit of life.  I am the judge, jury, and executioner within these walls."  They approached the stairs and Faye slowly made her way up, a quick glance over her shoulder to be sure that she didn't lose the man.  A hand snaked inside her shirt and between her breast where she produced a large skeleton key that slipped into the door of her office.  Any mage could feel a shift in the mana pool as the door unlocked and swung open.  "After you sir."

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"You make me laugh little man, but you also make me angry.  You need to talk to Mistress Faye you make an appointment.  Little men cannot just walk in here and say that..."

 

Tom looked up at the giant statue and smiled a pleased smile. He was impressed. If he had simply let him in, he’d question how strong this place truly was. Whether or not Alexi recognized him was unimportant. He was her protector.

 

He opened his mouth to speak just as Faye stepped outside. Then he ‘heard’ her voice. A telepath. Great. They often misread his intent...rarely seeing past the rage inside. His experiences have been that his inner-beast scared the mind-snoopers.  Another piece of the puzzle slid into place. Tom had no preconceptions of what this place was. This was as much a scouting mission as it was a business venture. Tom hated the unknown. He was removing some of those unknowns now. As Faye turned to lead him in, he first turned to face Alexi and nodded in approval. If no one in line recognized him, his presence and demeanor toward the giant statue muted any mocking bemusement they still had.

 

He followed Faye in silence as she led him up the stairs to her office. The interior of the club was certainly not as upscale as Bakkhos was. He saw the allure of it though. No one thing was suited to everyone. This was competition for the Bakkhos Club only marginally.

 

As she shared all the rules of her club with him, he was deciding if she was one who was in full control…or if she was insecure and these rules helped protect against that. If she wasn’t going to speak, then voice-tells were something he’d have to do without while trying to read her. 

 

He accepted the invitation to enter her office ahead of the other two and remained standing as they entered. Whether or not Alexi followed them in or posted guard outside, Tom locked eyes with Faye and in a friendly, respectful tone said out loud, “You have a good man there. Loyal. Fearless.”

 

His eyes hardened somewhat, as he thought silently, intending her to ‘hear’ it. “Are you reading my thoughts, or just what I volunteer?” The question was pointed and deliberate. It was obvious how he felt about having his thoughts plundered through…Tom wanted to get to the point. If she were going to pick his brain with or without his consent, he’d just volunteer the whole reason he was here and skip with the niceties. No matter what he says, though, she’ll likely detect the furnace of fury that burns below the surface. His demeanor and attitude is genuinely nice…however it is clear that there is a rage inside of him that he is forcibly restraining.

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As the Capo slipped into her office she followed and Alexei close behind.  He wasn't going to leave her in a room with some Bakkhos stranger.  People had codes of honor, but Alexei wasn't one to hold people to them.  He'd killed enough people since working for Faye to know better than to underestimate someone.  He slowly closed the door behind him and the music from the club drowned out, the room itself perfectly soundproof with the thick windows overlooking the dance floor.  

 

Faye slid over to her desk and slipped into the chair with a sigh.  "He is loyal because I saved his life long ago.  We've been as close to best friends since.  That is a story for another time though."  She reached out with her mind and a short moment later Gemma the beautiful faun slid into the office with a tray, atop it vintage scotch and two crystal glasses.  "I don't just slip into peoples minds, Mr. Gallo. It is something I have stopped doing for quite some time.  If you give me any reason to distrust you, then I may be forced to venture into that noggin of yours.  As it stands, I will not.  Though I don't have to to see the rage that sits inside of you, that sits in your eyes."   Gemma stood near the door waiting for an order or something.  It would be about now that Tom would notice this entire time she had only been talking to him.  Alexei looked towards the dance floor for trouble, though he occasionally gave a glance towards Faye.  "Gemma dear, pour our friend Mr. Gallo a drink, me as well."

 

"Yes, ma'am."  Hooves clicked lightly against the dark wooden floor with the fauns approach.  The tray set gingerly on the desk and Gemma slowly poured to half glasses of the rich scotch.  "Will there be anything else Miss Faye?"

 

"No thank you, Gemma, you're a doll."   With a wink, Gemma smiled and trotted off leaving the Scotch behind.  She gave a playful swat to Alexei's butt on the way out and he made some sort of comment in Russian as she disappeared on the other side of the door.  "Down to business Mr. Gallo.  What could Bakkhos want with my humble little club?  And please don't waste my time.  It is very valuable when you run an establishment like this as I'm sure you know."

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Faye's silent coordination with her subordinates was unsettling. This was the source of her certainty and control. She wasn't posturing to Tom while dictating the rules to him. She was just letting him know how things work here. Another puzzle piece was put in place in his mind. The whole picture was coming together. He had to trust she wasn't listening to his mind. He couldn't stop her. Perhaps this would count as a measure of good faith. 

 

 "Down to business Mr. Gallo..."

 

Music to his 'ears'. He wasn't in the mood for pleasantries. The moon was just a few days ago, but his ire waxed and waned WITH the moon...so while most lycanthropes were weak and nearly docile at this point...Tom was still rather angry. Thankfully, the change bleeds out a lot of the rage that builds in the days prior...it builds back up rather quickly. 

 

"Business then." He looked Faye in the eye. "Straight to the point? I want to forge a business relationship between Thyrsus and 

To Domus Mortuorum." His face is stoic and pure business. No hint of deception, malice, or ire. Just business. "I do not know where you get your supplies for your bar, however I'd like to recommend my store as your supplier." He paused a moment to let her consider that a moment. He then continued.

 

"Bakkhos has no interest in coming in and stealing your club. The stereotypical 'goons' won't come and try to shake the place down. The law is a tool to be used, not always something to bind yourself to, certainly. However this isn't your grandfather's 'mob.' We only wish to prosper. Some of the old hats believe that has to come at the expense of others. I, however, know that this is not a zero-sum game. I believe we can prosper together."

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Faye sipped lightly at her Scotch as Tom spoke.  Not exactly the conversation she had expected to have.  After all, she wasn't exactly keen on sharing a business venture with a rival.  But she let him speak, her eyes ever so intent on him, the mismatched color difference between both irises intent on him.  Her hand slowly set the glass on her desk after his first go around.  "Mr. Gallo, as you can see I have alcohol.  That's not what my club makes the most money off of though..."  Her voice trailed off for a moment in thought.  A finger danced around the lip of her glass.  "... granted if I were to go on this business venture with you it would be putting money into my competitions pockets.  I don't know about you but that doesn't exactly sound like a wise decision.  You're a businessman and I can respect your effort to forge what little you can to line yours and Bakkhos' pockets.  At the same time, Bakkhos has money, as do I.  My suppliers aren't actually making me pay that much as they have VIP status within these walls and are treated rather well..."  Again her voice slid off and she allowed her hand to lift the cup to her lips for another sip.   "... what exactly can you offer me, that my current business arrangements don't already?"

 

She rose yet again from her desk having finished the Scotch off and turned to a personal stash of glasses and vials near the door to the fire escape.  "I would not be frightened if goons came to shake me down.  I have certain..."   Faye paused a moment in thought, a hand placed lightly on one bottle of green liquid.  A fairy painted on the front of it.  "... measures to see against any outside attacks.  Promises as well to keep this street and my club protected.  Regardless it pleases me to know that Bakkhos isn't attempting to impede my business ventures.  I would hate to have some sort of rivalry with a group as esteemed as yours.  I do also enjoy myself a challenge though."  After her glass was filled with the Absinthe she turned and leaned against that same table with a smile,   "How much research did you do on me, Mr. Gallo?  Or did you come into this blind to who I am?"

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Tom locked eyes with the confident club-owner. Her different colored-eyes would be off-putting to some, he was sure. She was one who liked to negotiate from a position of power. He respected that. He raised his glass briefly towards her before taking a drink.

 

If you are completely satisfied with what you have set up here, then I likely have nothing to offer you. I respect you, Faye. What little I have learned about you speaks of great strength and resolve...a boon for those whom you look after. 

 

He paused a moment before continuing. He knew that she was going to find him a threat whether he wanted that image or not. He was always viewed as a threat. That damn beast projected an aura of 'dangerous monster' wherever he strode. It served him well in some instances. It was a huge handicap in others. 

 

She was not going to like what he said next. He had been ferreting out some of the other smaller suppliers and buying them up discreetly over the last year or so. Too many bootleg and counterfeit bottles have been making their way into the businesses across town. Some of them were quite dangerous. Tom was seeking to have a shadow-monopoly on supply and distribution, and whether other competitors knew it or not...70% or so of alcohol sales touched Bakkhos hands at some point along the way.

 

Except here. Tom wasn't sure where she got her supplies. Faye had shed a little light on that subject. Trading status within the club for discounts on product. Status was cheaper to give out than money, that was certain. He wondered about the quality and legitimacy of some of her product. Like she said though, that was ancillary at best to the revenue of the place. 

 

I have made it my business to know from where and from whom booze enters the city. It started out as a small curiosity, but it turned into a mission over time. There are many counterfeiters and bootleggers out there taking advantage of this world's newfound chaos. I am slowly restoring order to this little portion of the world. I understand the booze trade is not high on your list of interests. Out of respect for you, I will tell you that, in all likelihood, alcohol that I have touched will be on your shelves sooner or later. 

 

He paused a moment. He had to remember to breathe. He was trying to navigate that narrow area between braggadocios, threatening, and matter-of-fact. He didn't want to be taken the wrong way. That happened far too often lately. 

 

We are not competitors in the strictest sense. We are not lions fighting over the same prey. You don't eat at the same restaurant every day, or wear the same shirt every time...why should I believe that any patron would come to the same club every time? Except for the fact that your club offers something different from Bakkhos. We are not competitors, really. You trading money with Bakkhos does nothing to hurt your little enterprise here. 

 

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"Most business owners are money hungry.  Will do anything for a couple bucks.  I'm not exactly for that.  I am a provider for my people Mr. Gallo.  The money is nice yes, the alcohol, the power, etcetera.  It's all well and good, but consider me a..." She paused a moment in thought, swirling the drink around in her cup.  "...Protector.  There's a reason a majority of the money taken in by the club goes to its employees and back into the club.  So, the more I pay you for alcohol the less my people get.  Does that sound okay to you?"

 

Faye listened then.  Letting him talk, accepting his words for what they were, and leaving it at that.  People in their line of business had different ventures than the ones everyone saw on the surface.  Faye is one of them.  She pays a pretty penny to people she's hired to hunt down ancient artifacts of the magical and mundane sorts.  Not many people knew about it, and those that did remain rather tight-lipped about the situation.  It allowed her to not have to worry about paying competitive prices to artifact hunters when she had a handful of loyal ones.  But that was one reason she wasn't surprised at Tom's words.  She could've expected him to have dipped his fingers in the alcohol of every company out there, but if he had was there really a reason for him to be there?

 

"Bootleggers, counterfeiters, and whathaveyou don't concern me, Mr. Gallo." She pushed from the alcohol table and slid back into her seat across from the man, still swirling the drink in her glass as she looked at him with a smile. Faye knew the game, she knew how to intimidate someone and when it was useful.  She didn't like to play with all of her chips on the table and kept a majority of them close to her chest.  So as the man gloated and said what he did she could only hold that same grin.    "Isn't it all just meaningless to you then?  This meeting anyway.  You said so yourself, alcohol that you've touched will be in my club sooner or later.  Are you here to just speed up your own agenda, because if so you're doing exactly what I told you not to at the beginning of our meeting..."   The smirk finally faded as she leaned forward, elbows placed on her desk and head cradles on her fists.  "Wasting my time."

 

He kept going on.  About how they weren't lions fighting over the same prey.  She'd been to Bakkhos clubs before, most of her clientele wouldn't set foot in those walls.  A majority of them didn't even have the money to think about it.   "Alright. Mr. Gallo.  So we aren't competitors.  Bakkhos is already a powerful family and runs a powerful business.  To what does my tiny little club owe the honor of such an esteemed venture of affiliating with Bakkhos?  What do my people get out of it?  Good liquor does the same thing as poor liquor...  I need to make sure my people are taken care of before I agree to anything, so I don't have to worry that the extra money I'm putting into alcohol doesn't come out of their pockets."

  

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When Faye's smirk vanished, Tom's returned. She was a fierce protector, staring down a threat. Great. A threat. He was really hoping to avoid that. What's done is done. Time to make his point and get going. He moved to stand, smirk gone and froze. A thought had come to him and he sat back down. 

 

Her interest was purely in the protection of her people, employees, and patrons. She would certainly see his point. It was time to gamble.

 

It is evident that protecting your people is paramount. Despite whatever preconceptions of Bakkhos are, know that I also protect my own. Those who work for me are loyal. Not out of fear, but trust. I see that same passion in you. 

 

Prick the protector spirit a bit and pause. He sniffed his drink and thought a moment. This bottle was good...but he was sure he could spot a hand full of fakes if he looked for them. If he found a dangerous one...then he might get somewhere. 

 

You are right about one thing. Cheap booze will get someone just as drunk as good booze. Bad booze will kill a man whereas quality-controlled booze will just keep them happy. There are dangerous distributors mixing stuff in their bottles. I'm in the process of squashing them, but they are like rats and find new holes to hide in. If you permit, I'd like to examine your stores of liquors you have here at your establishment. If I can ferret out some bad, fake, or dangerous bottles...perhaps we have more to discuss. If not, then I will leave you alone and compensate you for your time. 

 

It was half statement, half question. There was a concentration of...something here. Gaspari hadn't explicitly mentioned this place to him before, but he knew there was more to this hole in the wall than drugs and cheap booze. Based on the proprieter and her choice of bodyguard...something VERY interesting resided within these walls. 

 

Deal?

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