Chinese Takeout Ch. 04


A couple of men in suits walking past us, into the club, looked at me. One grinned at me and whistled.

"I see what you mean," I blushed pink. Make that three times in ten minutes. I mean, I knew guys had this thing about schoolgirl uniforms and all but still.

Meek and Olaf both laughed. "Come on Blue, we gotta run, Quebec's gonna be wondering what I've been doing with you if we don't get there soon."

Meek gave me a grin. "See ya Monday, Baby Blue. And hey, tell Round Out me and Olaf here and a few of the brothers and some of the hang arounds are going for a run with our Old Ladies next weekend, Sunday, having a barbeque at the Church late afternoon. If Round Out's good for a run, maybe you'd like to come along with him, meet them." His grin widened. "They're gonna love meeting you." He and Olaf looked at each other, then burst out laughing.

Church? They didn't look like the sort of guys that went to Church at all. I didn't see that meeting me was that funny but I smiled anyway. "Thanks, I'll tell him," I said. I was still holding that twenty dollar note. I didn't want it. Yuck! I reached up and tucked it in Meek's pocket. "You and Olaf have a drink on me tonight, okay."

Meek grinned. "Sure thing, Blue, and you have yourself a good time with Round Out." Him and Olaf looked at each other and laughed again. This time I really did blush. Bright red. Guys! Honestly!

* * * * * * * *

"How many more do we have to do?" I asked as Olaf put the van into gear and pulled out.

"One more Club after this and then a couple of bars. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes for the Club, the bars are real quick. We'll be at Quebec's by four thirty, plenty of time."

"Can we stop and grab a coffee on the way?" I asked, thinking of that old guy outside Quebec's. What was his name? Charlie. That was it, Charlie.

"Sure." Olaf shrugged without shrugging, if you know what I mean. "There's a Dunkin' Donuts on the way, that good?"

"Yeah, that's great. I told Charlie I'd bring him a coffee and some donuts."

"Who the fuck's Charlie?"

"That old guy sits outside the front of Quebec's."

"Shit, that old geezer." Olaf didn't say anything else but I could tell he didn't really approve. Better not to say anything else, just leave it I guess. I left it.

"Do you do the same bars and clubs every day?" I was definitely curious about that. Was this going to be every day?

"More or less, I got a regular run, get most of them done between midday and three, some of them are like once a week, twice a week, just these ones are the busy ones down this end of town, usually the last ones I do on my way to Quebec's." He grinned that scary grin. "Train at Quebec's every day, then work back at Kitty Kat's Thursday through Saturday evenings."

"What do you do there?" All I could think was he must be on the door, like Meek.

"Mostly sit out back and study," he said, surprising me. Olaf? Study? "Come out when they have real problems that Meek and the other guys can't handle."

I nodded, my eyes a bit wider. Yeah, Olaf definitely looked like the sort of guy you'd use to sort out problems the other guys couldn't handle. I wondered what he studied. I was so curious but it wouldn't be polite to ask.

"Nursing," he added, glancing at me and grinning. "Don't want to stock vending machines for the rest of my life, studying part time at College, my lectures are mornings. Did my medic training in the Army, really enjoyed it."

"Oh," I said rather blankly. I mean, what else could I say? I couldn't think of a thing. Olaf didn't look like any idea I'd ever had of a Nursing student, but hey, I was at an all-girls High School. What did I know? But inside my head there was a lot of mental readjustment going on.

I wasn't going to ask how bad the real problems at Kitty Kat's got either. If a guy that looked like Meek couldn't handle them, they must be pretty bad. I didn't like to think what sort of customers a guy like Meek couldn't handle. And Meek was a brother of Round Out's. Okay, that made me a little nervous. On the other hand, Jay-Lin, I reassured myself, if Keith had friends like that, there really wasn't a lot to worry about. Was there?

"Here we are," Olaf said, "this is the other Club we gotta do."

I looked out the side window as we pulled in to the cab stand outside the door. "Kum Den Strip Bar" it said, with a whole bunch of Chinese characters down the side. Very glitzy. All chrome and silver and gold. "Any idea what the Chinese says?" Olaf asked me.

I had to shake my head. "No, no idea, I can't read Chinese," I had to admit. Heck, I couldn't even speak it. Ginny could, she could read a bit to, she'd only come over here when she was about seven and she spoke Chinese at home. Me? My parents spoke English at home, they'd sent me to Chinese school on Saturday mornings but Chinese, it was impossible. I listened and listened and all I heard was "wah wah wah ..." Okay, that's an exaggeration. A really bad one, I know. Honestly, I did know a few words. I could order dim sum no problem. But anything else, forget it. And reading Chinese? Uh-uh. I remembered the characters for one, two and three and that was about it.

"Shame, I've always wanted to know," Olaf said, shaking his head. "I mean, the name in English is kinda cool, but still..."

I looked at the english name blankly. Kum Den? Made no sense to me. Didn't sound like any Chinese I knew either. I shrugged and took a photo with my iPhone. I could ask Ginny later. I was jumping down out my side as Olaf climbed out his. Looked like a strip of Chinese bars, shops and restaurants. This was a part of town I'd never been to with my parents. Or without. It did look a bit seedy, not like the Chinese mall I went to with my parents or with Ginny. Olaf loaded me up with boxes of condoms. Same deal with the condoms. I guess it didn't matter whether the guys were gweilo's or Chinese, they were all ham-sup-lo's. That dick Peter Wong, he'd feel right at home here. I followed Olaf in. No doorman.

"Hey Song, she's with me." Okay, there was someone. Another tough guy, Chinese tough guy this time. Almost as big as Olaf, muscular arms, one of them with a braided wire tattoo, long hair braided into a pigtail. He looked at me without any expression at all. Nodded once. His lack of expression, the way his eyes followed me, I could tell he didn't like me. Chinese girl with a gweilo. Not only that; a Chinese girl with a gweilo who looked like Olaf. No, he didn't like that at all. His attitude was like an aura or something. It radiated.

I could feel his eyes watching me as I followed Olaf in. Inside, this club was different. A lot more expensive looking than Kitty Kat's, cleaner, glitzier, all glass and chrome and wood panels, but it was empty. Nothing going on, the lights were all on, a couple of old women busy wiping down the tables.

I nodded as I passed them. "Lei ho ma Aunty."

They nodded back without looking up, mumbling something.

Okay, the routine with the vending machines was the same. Open them up. Clean out the cash. Fill them up. I filled faster this time, knowing what I was doing. Olaf left me to work on the first machine while he did the second. I glanced around as I opened boxes. Yeah, the place was bright and it was clean, but when you took a close look, you could see the finish was done on the cheap, new paint just slapped on over the top of the old paint with odd patches missing or peeling, the wood paneling was cheap veneer, the silver was just cheap reflective plastic sheeting, screws were mismatched where I saw them, the tables chipped and scarred. It passed the five foot rule. It'd look good from a distance with the lights off as long as you didn't examine it closely, but with those bright lights on, it looked like what it was. Second rate and battered.

Waiting for Olaf, I heard a door open down the short hallway behind us. The sudden sound of many voices, the clashing clatter of mahjong tiles. Looking around, I saw a pretty Chinese girl walk out. Okay, she was pretty but she had a pug nose and she dressed like some of those girls I saw every now and then when I went clubbing with Ginny and our other friends. Heels, short skirt, tight top, bright red lipstick, a bit too much makeup, you know the type. Maybe a couple of years older than me. She looked at me, blinked, looked surprised for a second, then ignored me as she talked happily to the middle-aged Chinese guy whose hand she was holding.

I gulped. I knew that guy.

Ginny's Dad.

I quickly turned my head to look back into the bowels of the vending machine. He was talking away to the younger guy walking with him. God, I hoped he hadn't noticed me. But he had to recognize the uniform. Ginny wore it to school every day, just like I did.

"Olaf." The younger guy nodded. In that quick glimpse, he'd looked like an older version of that asshole Peter Wong. Same face, same muscular build, same clothes, same ostentatious bling. He sounded like him to.

"Mr. Wong." Olaf nodded. Jesus, Olaf being deferential. This guy must be important. I buried my head deeper in the machine. I so did not want Ginny's Dad to recognize me. No way. I so did not want to see him holding hands with that girl either. She wasn't much older than Ginny and me. Old sleaze.

"Got a new helper there?" Mr. Wong's voice. "Looks like a hard worker."

Ginny's dad's voice chuckled. "Nice ass on her too." He sounded like he'd been drinking. A lot. I could just about feel his eyes crawling over my ass and my legs. Yuck!

"Henry." That must be the girl he was with. "Don't you like MY ass?"

I heard a light slap, followed by a giggle. "I love your ass, honey."

"Why don't you take her upstairs Henry, she can wiggle her ass for you up there." Mr. Wong chuckled. "Give Henry a nice workout, Chantal. He deserves it after losing like that on the tables. Give him a round the world to help drown those sorrows."

"Okay Mr. Wong, sure." Oh my god. I recognized that voice now, I placed the face. I did know her. Chantal Chua. The bitch's older sister. She'd been a senior at Saint Bernadette's when I was in my freshman year. Jesus, what was she doing here? Okay, well, I guess I already knew the answer to that one. I could hear her heels click-clicking away with Ginny's Dad. This was so not good. I was wishing I'd waited in the van. No way was I coming into this place again. I so wished I hadn't seen Ginny's Dad. How could I look her in the face again and not remember this? I wanted to floss my brain.

"Who's your helper, Olaf?" Mr. Wong's voice was polite, but it also seemed it was a voice even Olaf didn't say no to.

"Friend of a friend's, she's helping me out today Mr. Wong."

"Well, if she's coming into my club, better introduce her. I don't like anyone in here outside of normal hours that I don't know." Mr. Wong's voice was a lot colder.

"Sorry about that Mr. Wong. Won't happen again. Blue, this here's Mr. Wong, owns the club."

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I pulled my head out of the vending machine and turned around. I didn't proffer my hand. Mr. Wong didn't extend his. He just looked at me. Looked me up and down, coldly, undressing me with his eyes. "Blue huh?" He added something in Chinese. Sounded like wah-wah-wah to me.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand Chinese Mr. Wong." Not only that, he was speaking Mandarin, not Cantonese. The little Chinese I knew was Cantonese.

He shrugged. "Banana huh." It was a statement, not a question. Normally, I'd be offended. Now, I was just a little scared. "Not bad looking." He looked me up and down. "Not bad at all. Once the bruises go, anyhow. If you ever need a job, look me up, we can always use another looker here. Especially one that doesn't mind a few bruises now and then." He handed me a business card from inside his jacket pocket, one handed, casually. Insultingly. As his jacket flipped open, I saw a large wad of cash there as well. Really large.

I took that business card with one hand, the way it'd been offered. Gweilo style. If he was going to insult me, I'd at least return the favor. "Thank you Mr. Wong." I didn't even look at it, it went straight into my school blazer's pocket. The outside one. No way in hell I'd be calling him. Ever.

He seemed to know what I was thinking. He smiled. That smile didn't touch his eyes at all. He looked me up and down one more time, nodded to Olaf, "Olaf," turned and walked away. I watched him until he was out of sight.

"Jesus," I said. "He's scary."

"Yeah, he is. Mr. Wong, he's one of them Chinese gang bosses, don't want to cross that guy," Olaf nodded. "Sorry 'bout that Blue, he isn't usually around 'til later, haven't run into him for a while. Maybe best if you stay in the van when I come by here from now on." He gestured with his head, lowered his voice. "Got an illegal casino out the back there, mostly Chinese customers, that's where the real money here comes from, the strip bar here, it's just a front for laundering the money." He looked around again. "Sorry 'bout that Blue, really should have thought about that before I brought you in here. Let's finish up here and get out."

I nodded, realizing how hard my heart was pounding. "Yeah."

My hands were still shaking as we finished stocking the machines.

* * * * * * * *

When we left, there were half a dozen girls and a single older Chinese guy outside the entrance, standing around on the sidewalk talking, puffing on cigarettes.

"Harry." Olaf nodded.

"Olaf." Harry nodded back. Neither of them were the chatty type.

At a guess, the girls were the strippers. A couple of Chinese girls, a couple of girls I thought were Filipina's, one black, one Hispanic. They stopped talking, their eyes following me as I walked past with Olaf. Those eyes weren't friendly. This was nothing like the Kitty Kat Club. I stayed very very close to Olaf until we were in the van again. I was shivering when I sat in the passenger seat.

"Sorry 'bout that Blue," Olaf said again. He really sounded apologetic.

"That's okay." I took a deep breath. "What've we got to do to finish."

"Two bars," he replied, "they're quick. You stay in the van. I'll do them."

He did. Fifteen minutes later we were done. "Quick stop to get that coffee," Olaf said, "we'll be at Quebec's in fifteen minutes."

At Dunkin' Donuts, I picked up a large coffee, double cream, double sugar, along with half a dozen donuts. The big Boston Cream ones with loads of chocolate on top. Pure poison, nothing but fat, sugar, artificial additives and petroleum byproducts. Mind you, from the look of what Charlie had been drinking, anything that diluted that stuff and didn't have alcohol in it would be good for him. Who knew, the preservatives in those donuts might actually help him.

Olaf shook his head as I climbed back into the van. He didn't say anything though, not even when we stopped outside Quebec's and I jumped out. Charlie was there, sitting up against the wall on the corner of the building.

"Here you go, Charlie." I walked over to him, handed him the coffee and the donut box. He put the coffee on the filthy pavement beside him, opened the donut box, looked at them, looked up at me. There were tears in his eyes.

"Thank you ma'am." His voice sounded shaky, slurring. I could smell the booze on his breath from three feet away. I hoped he didn't smoke as well as drink. His lungs'd catch fire. "Bless you."

"You enjoy them Charlie, bring you some more on Monday, okay."

"Bless you," he muttered. "Bless you." He was already jamming the first donut into his mouth as I walked back to Olaf, waiting for me with my gym bag and my backpack.

"Sorry Olaf," I said apologetically, "didn't mean to keep you waiting."

Olaf had a strange look on his face. "No problem, Blue." He hit the buzzer above the door. "Olaf." The lock released, Olaf swung the door open, ushering me inside. The same sounds as yesterday greeted me. Voices, crashes, yelling, thumps, and shouts. Suddenly, I was nervous.

"Oh, by the way," Olaf said, and now he was grinning, "saw you checking out the boxes, so I put a few samples in your backpack for you, so's you can check out the product. If you're gonna be filling the machines with me, gotta be familiar with the product. Don't want any mistakes. Round Out can help explain if you've got any questions." He winked, then chuckled as I took my backpack from him, turning bright red.

We stepped into the cavernous gym. The noise redoubled as the door closed behind us. I breathed in that same scent of sweat, testosterone and male aggression that had seemed so strong yesterday. It hadn't changed. Quebec saw us and waved. My nervousness redoubled as he strode towards me. I forgot all about those condoms.

* * * * * * * *

"Hi Jay-Lin, got your workout gear? Good. Come on, you can get changed in here." Quebec led the way down the side of the gym, through a door, through another room and into an office. A very cluttered office, an old wooden desk, filing cabinets, a couple of storage racks filled with boxes contained god alone knew what, an old couch that looked even more beaten up than the desk. It wasn't anything like as pristine as the gym outside, although it smelled the same.

"I'll wait for you outside. Leave your bags on the couch, nobody'll touch 'em." The door closed behind him. I was alone.

I changed as fast as I could. My school shoes went into a plastic bag inside my gym bag, my school uniform neatly folded on top. I swapped my bra for a sports bra, threw on my t-shirt, stepped into my tracksuit pants, got rid of my ribbon and tied my hair up in a tight bun instead of its usual ponytail. Gym shoes on, sweatband on, I was as ready as I was ever going to be. Heart in my mouth, wondering what I'd let myself in for, I found myself walking out of Quebec's office and into that sweat and testosterone-loaded cavern.

Quebec nodded as soon as I walked out. "Kay, now what we're gonna do Jay-Lin, I'm going to walk you round the gym, explain what you're going to be doing and the whole philosophy around training here while we warm up. You gotta understand as well, this is a private gym, we don't take just anyone that walks in. We're not like Anytime Fitness or Golds Gym or any of those guys. What I do here, I support and train guys and a few women who want to train for fighting. We're a fight preparation gym, that's what I specialize in, some of the guys train for MMA, some for street fighting, there's a few guys from the military here, depends what they want so now, you gotta understand this completely, you're totally unusual here." He grinned.

"Everyone else that trains here, they know what I do, what's expected, they asked to join, they understood what we do before they asked to join, I'm pretty choosy about who gets in. You're in here coz Round Out asked me to train you and I can see you got the right attitude and you got motivation but you've got no idea what we're about, so I'm gonna explain that to you while we warm up" He gestured at a running machine. "Let's do a few stretches, then you can jump on that, we can jog while I explain."

For the next fifteen minutes I was stretched like I'd never been stretched in my life. I was sweating and sore just from the stretching. A minute after that I was on the machine, running slowly, Quebec on the machine next to me.

"Now, what we're about, Jay-Lin, understand this, we're totally a fight gym, we're dedicated to that and anyone who trains here, they're expected to push themselves as hard as they can every day and keep on pushing. We all encourage each other, but the push, that has to come from inside, it's something you have to want, we can reinforce your own self-discipline but we can't give you discipline if you don't already have it, if it's not inside you."

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