Into the Lion's Den By C.S. Michaels

Jake Bryant lay there wondering what he had gotten himself into this time. He had always tried to mind his own business and stay out of trouble but no matter how hard he tried, it seemed like trouble always found him. His current situation was no different, he was in a sensitive situation and he would have to find a way out.
Into the Lion's Den
Into the Lion's Den By C.S. Michaels

Pushing himself off the cold tile that was sticky with beer, Jake stood up as a crowd started gathering around him. His head hurt where he had taken a wicked sucker punch. He shook his head as he tried to focus on the two big guys standing in front of him, pissed at what they had done to him while he wasn’t looking.

A minute earlier, while one of them had engaged Jake in conversation to keep him occupied, the other had come up from behind and hit him in the back of the head with something. It had sent Jake to the ground and now he had a massive headache but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from kicking the shit out of both men.

The two men standing in front of Jake were laughing, clearly pleased with what they had just done to him. The one on the left was six five and weighed an easy two fifty. He had short black hair with a matching goatee that was neatly trimmed. His wide shoulders tapered into a thin waist which was evident by his tailored suit.

Standing next to him was another man wearing a tailored suit, although he wasn’t nearly as beefy as the first man. He was two inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter, but didn’t appear to have any fat on his frame either. His blonde hair and fair skin was in sharp contrast to the other man.

Jake had no idea why they had sucker punched him. He had been sitting at the bar, talking to a woman when he was approached by the smaller man that was standing in front of him now. The man seemed agitated that Jake had been talking to the woman and was demanding to know what he was doing. Jake tried to explain to the man that he was just talking to her but the man didn’t seem to comprehend the fact that they were simply engaged in friendly conversation. Clearly, he had thought there was something more to it.

Thinking the woman was the man’s girlfriend, Jake had tried to calm the man down, but he continued yelling at him. Not wanting to be sitting down, which would give the man the advantage, Jake had stood up and began talking to the man, assuring him that nothing was going on between the woman and him.

Jake always tried to avoid confrontation whenever possible, but it had become increasingly evident that it wasn’t going to happen that time. As he prepared to fight the man, he was hit from behind by the bigger man. At least he assumed it had been the bigger man. Jake had actually never seen him so he assumed he was behind him which was why he was able to hit Jake without him knowing it. The sucker punch had completely caught Jake by surprise and the knock to the head had sent him to the floor.

Now he was standing there rubbing the back of his head, feeling blood in his short brown hair. He stared at the two men, knowing they weren’t done with him. Looking down at the floor, Jake could see a broken beer bottle and knew that was what he had been hit with. He was thankful that the bottle hadn’t knocked him out and that the men hadn’t started beating him while he was down. At least now he had a chance to defend himself.

“Do you want to tell me why you hit me?” Jake asked as he felt the back of his head and winced from the already growing bump.

“You were hitting on our boss’s girlfriend,” said the bigger of the two men. “Nobody does that.”

“I had just sat down and we were only talking,” Jake replied. “I wasn’t hitting on anyone.”

Looking to his right where the woman was sitting, Jake could see that she had her head down, not wanting to look at what was going on. She looked like she didn’t want to be there. It almost looked like she was being forced to be there, but Jake didn’t know for sure. She also looked like she was sad and embarrassed that this was happening to Jake, but he could be wrong about that as well.

All of a sudden, a man walked through a door on the far end of the club. Jake wasn’t sure where the door led, but he knew it wasn’t an outside entrance to the club. He assumed it led to an area that was off limits to the customers. The man sauntered through the crowd as if he owned the place then stood next to one of the big men. He said something to the big man and the big man said something back to him. They weren’t whispering, but Jake couldn’t make out what they were saying because of the noise among the crowd.

The new man must be the boss, Jake reasoned. He was wearing an expensive Italian black suit with a gray shirt and a black tie with white stripes. He was probably nine inches shorter than Jake’s six foot one and probably weighed fifty pounds less than Jake’s hundred and ninety-five pounds. His black hair was slicked back and he had a single mole on his left cheek.

He nodded to the big man then walked over to where the woman was sitting and took a seat next to her. Grabbing her face with his right hand, he pulled her close and kissed her then turned his attention back to Jake and the two men. Sitting there looking smug, he appeared to be enjoying himself as he had his arm around the woman and a sly grin on his face. It didn’t look like he was in any hurry to stop the fight that was about to take place.

“I’m going to ask you again,” the big man said. “Why were you talking to the boss’s girlfriend?”

“I just went up to the bar to get a drink and I saw her sitting at the table,” Jake replied. “She was just sitting there looking sad and I wanted to make sure she was okay.”

“Did she ask you to check on her?” the big man asked sarcastically.

“No, she didn’t. I just went over there to ask her if she was okay.”

“So you’re a good Samaritan then?”

“I guess you could call me that.”

“Well, I’m going to call you a dead Samaritan in a few seconds,” the man said as he clenched his fists.

Jake turned his attention away from the big man standing in front of him and looked at the boss. “I’m sorry if I did something to make you mad,” Jake told him, hoping he could diffuse the situation. “I just wanted to make sure she was okay. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“You should learn to mind your own business,” the man said.

“You’re right about that,” Jake responded.

Jake refocused his eyes back on the two men in front of him, preparing for a fight. Watching the bigger guy, Jake assumed he would make the first move. He was doing all the talking and he was the one that hit Jake earlier so he figured he would be the first to try something.

Assessing the situation, Jake knew he was going to have to be careful how he approached the fight. If they both charged him, there was no way he would be able to defend himself so his only hope was if one attacked at a time. Jake was comfortable enough with his fighting skills that he felt he could take each of them in a one on one fight. The unknown was if they had weapons, which would change everything.

All Jake had was a pocket knife that he kept in the right front pocket of his jeans. Thinking about taking it out of his pocket, Jake reconsidered because he didn’t want to give the two men any reason to pull out whatever weapons they had. Jake knew the odds were good that they each had a weapon so he didn’t want to go down that path. He would just hope this was going to stay as a fist fight because he liked his chances. It looked like that was going to be the case because it seemed like the big man was itching to physically punish Jake, so he watched the big man, waiting for him to make his move.

Looking around the crowd, Jake was wondering if anyone was going to stop the fight or at the very least help him. He was getting ready to go against two men that were a lot bigger than him so he figured somebody would be willing to help. As he looked around the club and the small crowd that had gathered around him, Jake could see that wasn’t going to happen. This looked like a rough crowd and to make matters worse, they all seemed to be pleased that a fight was about to take place. Since none of them were making any effort to take out their cell phones to call the police, Jake figured he was on his own.

Knowing he was going to have to fight the men himself, Jake turned his attention back to the big man. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Jake asked the man.

The big man looked at his partner then back at Jake. “Yeah, I’m sure I want to do this,” he answered as he let out a little laugh.

“I really don’t want to hurt you,” Jake replied. “I just want to finish my drink and get out of here.”

“Well, that’s not going to happen now. We’re going to kick your ass.”

“Are you going to call off your thugs before they get hurt?” Jake asked the boss as he tried to show a lot of confidence.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he replied, raising his hands and shrugging his shoulders.

“You mean there’s nothing you want to do about it,” Jake corrected him.

The man nodded as his smile widened. Jake figured he was using this as an opportunity to show everyone in the club that they shouldn’t talk to his girlfriend. They probably already knew that since they were most likely regulars in this place, but this was now going to reinforce the message.

Jake wasn’t scared since he had often fought men that were bigger than him. He had also fought men when they outnumbered him, but that didn’t mean he was looking forward to the fight. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be anything he could say or do to deter the two men so he resigned himself to the fight that lay ahead.

“This is your last chance,” Jake said as he suddenly changed the look on his face. It instantly became hardened as he prepared for the fight.

“Screw you!” the big man shouted and Jake waited for the move he knew was going to come.

Sure enough, the man charged Jake.

Chapter 2

The two big men were only eight feet away from Jake so it didn’t take the bigger man long to cover the distance between them. As the man approached Jake, he seemed to be extremely confident the fight wouldn’t last very long. What he didn’t know was that Jake had been in many fights throughout his lifetime and was very good at it. He had boxed for a few years and could handle his own in a ring. However, he was even better at street fighting which was the case in this instance, so Jake was equally confident.

As the man stopped and threw a looping roundhouse, Jake stepped back six inches and the punch easily missed its target. Moving in quickly, Jake hit the man with two quick left jabs to the face followed by a hard right cross that surprised the big brute. Stepping back as the man tried to counter, Jake was able to dodge another haymaker. It was clear the man wanted to land a thunderous punch that would end the fight quickly. Unfortunately for the man, it took him considerable time to throw those punches which gave Jake ample time to react.

After the second punch missed Jake, they both stepped back, assessing the fight so far. The man felt his jaw, moving it around, making sure it wasn’t broken. He didn’t appear to be phased by the punches Jake had landed.

Jake looked at the big man, surprised that he had barely stunned him. Usually when Jake hit someone, they went to the ground. However, this man seemed to be made of granite because he hardly budged. This fight was going to be a little more difficult than Jake initially thought.

Jake could see the boss sitting next to the woman out of the corner of his eye. He was clapping, clearly enjoying the show the men were providing. It looked like he was going to let the fight continue, hoping his men would take care of Jake. As the rest of the patrons from the bar looked on, it was evident they were equally thrilled with the fight and weren’t going to make any effort to break it up.

As Jake looked around, he saw two bouncers standing close to the boss, watching the action. Both of them were standing with their arms crossed, making no effort to step in. Jake guessed this fight wasn’t going to end until one of the combatants went down. He hoped that it wouldn’t be him.

“We don’t have to do this,” Jake said, knowing the big man wasn’t going to give up.

“I’m going to kill you!” the man spat back as blood dribbled down his chin.

Suddenly the man charged Jake, not wanting to give Jake the chance to hit him again. Jake threw another jab as the man came close, landing solidly on the man’s nose, but it didn’t stop him. The man used his big arms to wrap Jake in a bear hug and started squeezing the life out of him. Jake actually feared for his life as he struggled to take a breath.

Knowing he couldn’t stay like this for long, Jake took both hands and slammed them down on the man’s ears, hoping it would be enough to force him to let go. Unfortunately, it only seemed to anger him even more and he started squeezing Jake harder.

Jake reared his head back and let loose with a massive head butt, aiming for the big man’s nose. The man managed to lower his head slightly so Jake’s head slammed into the man’s forehead, dazing both of them. As the man staggered backwards, he kept Jake in his deadly grip.

While the man was dazed and stumbling backwards, Jake quickly let loose with another massive head butt, this time connecting square with his intended mark. The man’s nose exploded from the hit and started bleeding instantly as he immediately let go of Jake.

Jake sucked in precious air as he tried to recover from the bear hug. Looking at the big man, Jake saw him stumble backwards, his hands on his nose trying to stop the bleeding. Seeing an opportunity, Jake attacked him with a thunderous right hook. The punch landed on his left cheek, this time sending the man to the ground. With blood running down the man’s face and soaking his white shirt, it was clear he was in a lot of pain.

Momentarily losing sight of the smaller man, Jake saw a slight movement to his right. Turning just in time, the blade of the smaller man’s knife barely missed Jake’s midsection. Stepping back, Jake pulled his own knife out of the front right pocket of his cargo shorts and opened it up.

Jake’s knife, when fully opened was about seven inches with the blade being a little over three and a half inches. Looking at the man’s knife, it appeared his was about the same size, maybe slightly larger.

They stared at each other while Jake kept the big man in his peripheral vision. He figured the big man was out of commission for a few minutes so he knew he needed to attack the small man fast before the big man had a chance to recover. As they stood there waiting for the other to make the next move, the two bouncers started moving in, causing Jake to wonder if they were going to join the fight.

If that happened, Jake knew there was no way he could win. He felt confident fighting two men, but he knew if the bouncers joined in the fight there would be no way he could defend himself against all of them.

All of a sudden, the man sitting with the beautiful woman, the one they had called the boss ordered, “Stay where you are and let them finish.”

The bouncers nodded and moved back so they were standing next to the boss. Jake knew a bad situation was getting worse. This must be the boss’s establishment so Jake’s hopes of getting out of this place safely were now growing slim, figuring if he beat these two then he would have to fight the bouncers next.

Jake refocused on the man standing in front of him, knife at the ready. The man lunged with his knife, but it was slow and clumsy so he stepped to his right while at the same time slashing down on the man’s arm. Jake’s knife sliced through his suit, cutting him deeply. The man pulled his arm back, wincing in pain.

As Jake watched him pull his arm back, the smaller man stepped back, holding his arm as blood started soaking his suit and dripping on the floor. At that time, the big guy recovered from his broken nose and had stood up. With blood still flowing from his nose, he charged Jake. Spinning as the man approached him, Jake sliced the man across his left shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. The man grabbed his shoulder where he had been cut and came back with a bloody hand. Looking at his hand and seeing the blood, the man looked back at Jake, staring at him with fire in his eyes. Jake wasn’t sure if he was more mad about getting cut or because it ruined his suit.

“You ruined my damn suit, you son of a bitch!” the man roared then looked back down at his suit.

With the big man preoccupied with his shoulder and his suit, Jake let loose with a sweeping right kick to the man’s left knee, connecting solidly and sending the big man to the ground in pain. The knee wasn’t severely damaged, but Jake knew it hurt the man.

The smaller man approached Jake cautiously with his right arm dangling and bleeding. The man tried to kick him, but Jake saw it coming and grabbed his leg, holding it. The man knew he was in a precarious position and tried to slash Jake with his knife, but he was off balance and the knife was too far away so he got nothing but air.

While holding his leg, Jake kicked the man in his exposed crotch. He immediately dropped the knife and fell to the ground, clutching himself as he lay in the fetal position. Jake didn’t normally hit or kick someone there because he felt like it was fighting dirty, but he figured it was two against one so anything went.

Making sure the smaller man was still nursing his wounds, Jake jumped onto the back of the big man, while he was lying on the ground. Grabbing the man by the back of his hair, Jake slammed his head onto the tile three times as hard as he could and rendered him unconscious. Satisfied that the big man was now out of commission, Jake jumped off him as he looked at the two men lying on the ground.

The smaller man stood up, clearly in a lot of pain and started making his way towards Jake. Putting his knife back in his pocket, Jake prepared to fight the man with his fist even though the man was still wielding his knife. When the smaller man was two feet away, Jake let loose with a furious combination that consisted of a jab followed by a right cross. The man stumbled backwards a few feet as Jake quickly followed. The man put up his fists, trying to block any additional punches, but it didn’t stop Jake from landing two more jabs.

When the man bumped up against the wall and a table, sending the table crashing to the floor, he slashed weakly with his knife but he missed Jake by two inches. Grabbing the man’s knife hand, he slammed it against the wall two times until the knife fell to the floor. Now that he didn’t have to worry about the knife, Jake hit him with another combination.

As the man tried to cover up, he tried to get away, but Jake made sure that wasn’t going to happen. If the man moved to his left, Jake shadowed him and made sure he couldn’t escape. The man took a wild swing, but Jake dodged it easily then moved in close and slammed the man several times with punches to his stomach. As the man lowered his guard, Jake threw the hardest punch he could, aimed directly at the man’s nose.

This broke the man’s nose and sent him to the ground. Jake could have walked away at this point, but he was still fuming over the fact that they sucker punched him earlier. Now he wanted them to pay for that kind of cowardice act. While the man was on the floor, Jake kicked him in the ribs as hard as he could three times and knew immediately that he broke a couple of the man’s ribs.

The man rolled on his back, clutching his ribs so Jake climbed on to the man’s stomach, straddling him then hit him with several punches to the face using his right fist. The man tried to block the punches with his hands in front of his face, but it didn’t do any good as the punches still landed with vicious effectiveness.

Figuring that was enough punishment, Jake stood up, looking at the two bodies on the ground. They would live, but they were going to be hurting tomorrow. Covered in blood, they were definitely going to need to go to the emergency room to get stitched up. Jake, on the other hand was in relatively good shape, except for the blood that was matting his hair from the initial sucker punch.

Jake looked at the boss and his girlfriend. For the first time that evening, the girlfriend seemed to have a happy look on her face. It was clear that she didn’t like the two men Jake had just put down. Although she couldn’t show it, she did appear to have just the slightest grin.

Jake looked at the bouncers, waiting for them to make their move so he took out his knife and stood prepared with the knife in his hand, ready for what was going to happen next. They probably weighed as much as the big man, but they had a lot of fat on them. Jake wasn’t too concerned about them if they decided to join the fight now since it would be two on one again. As long as they didn’t charge him at the same time, he should be in good shape.

The bouncers looked at the boss, waiting for him to give the signal to attack Jake. By the looks on their faces, Jake could tell they weren’t too eager to fight him after what Jake had just done to the other men. The boss just stared at Jake then started clapping with a big grin on his face as he stood up and started walking towards Jake.

Walking over to Jake, he looked at the small man lying next to the wall then stepped over the big man as he approached Jake. It was evident the man wasn’t going to fight him so Jake put the knife back in his pants while he relaxed a little. He still wasn’t a hundred percent relaxed because the boss could pull a gun out and shoot him, but Jake didn’t think that was going to happen since there were so many witnesses standing around.

“Get those two off my floor and get them out of here,” the boss said to the bouncers. “I need to talk to my new friend.”

Chapter 3

The boss stopped then looked back at his girlfriend and gestured with his head that she should follow him. Getting up, she walked around the big man lying on the floor and joined her boyfriend. They walked by Jake and the boss signaled him to follow as well.

Not having any clue what the boss wanted, Jake hesitated, unsure if he should follow or not. The boss stopped when he noticed Jake wasn’t following him and signaled again for him to follow. Deciding he might as well see what the boss wanted, he nodded and followed the boss as he watched the bouncers attend to the men on the floor.

Looking around the darkened gentlemen’s club, Jake could see the patrons were going back to their tables as the women went back on stage to resume their dancing. The music started playing as everyone got back to what they were doing before the fight started.

The club was rather large, probably five thousand square feet and had a U-shaped stage for the women to dance. There was a two foot wide table that lined the stage and followed it the length of the “U” where men could sit and get a close up view of the women. At any given time there were three women dancing along the stage, one in the middle of the “U” and one each at the end of the “U”. There were poles in each location so the women could use those as part of their routine.

There were forty tables spread throughout the rest of the bar so people didn’t have to sit right up front if they didn’t want to. In the back corner was the bar where a bartender made the drinks and the scantily clad waitresses would pick up the overpriced drinks and take them to the patrons.

In the far corner of the club were steps that led up to a private area. There was an entrance that was covered by a door of beads and Jake assumed there were probably four or five booths up there where people could receive private dances. He didn’t know for sure if that’s what the area was used for, but throughout the evening, he had seen some of the dancers lead men up there for a song or two so he figured it had to be a place for private dances, away from the prying eyes of all the other patrons.

Walking through the crowd, they made their way to a table along the side of the club. The music continued to play as the next stripper got on stage and started dancing, shaking her body much to the delight of the men as some of them made their way to the stage so they could give a dollar and get a face full of tits in return.

“Please join me,” the boss said as he sat down in the booth, waving Jake to take the seat opposite him.

After waiting for the woman to sit next to the boss, Jake sat opposite of them and waited for the boss to speak. “That was very impressive,” the boss said. “Those are my two best men and I’ve never seen anyone do that to them.”

“Thanks,” Jake replied as he looked behind him, afraid to get sucker punched again.

He always preferred to sit with his back against the wall so he could see what was going on, but the booth was along the side of the building so no matter which side he was on, he wouldn’t be against the wall.

“You fought well.”

“I didn’t realize it was going to be a dirty fight until one of your guys hit me from behind.”

“Yes, I didn’t think you would get up after that happened,” he replied.

“He’s lucky I didn’t kill him,” Jake snarled.

“Well, thanks for not killing them,” the boss said with a laugh. “As I said, they are my two best men and I would hate to have to replace them.”

Jake shrugged his shoulders as he looked at the woman next to the boss. She was gorgeous with her long blonde hair that was slightly curled and hazel eyes that peered into Jake’s. Wearing a nice skirt and sweater with boots that went to her shins, Jake had noticed her long legs when he was talking to her at the bar. Looking at her now, Jake could tell she had gone back to her solemn demeanor now that the fight was over.

“What’s your name?” the boss asked.

“My name is Jake Bryant,” Jake answered. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Paul Masseloni,” he responded. “They call me Big Paul.”

Jake had to suppress a smile when he heard that he was called Big Paul. Clearly the man was self-conscious about his size so he wanted everyone to call him Big Paul. Either that or he was compensating for something else and the name made him feel better.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Jake replied as he waited for Paul to introduce him to the woman next to him.

Suddenly, Big Paul got serious and to the point. “Tell me the truth, why were you talking to Amanda?” Big Paul asked.

“I’m assuming this is Amanda,” Jake nodded towards the woman sitting next to Paul.

“Of course this is Amanda,” he replied. “Why were you talking to her?”

“I already explained that.”

“I don’t buy your explanation.”

“I didn’t know there was a law against talking to her,” Jake remarked. “I meant no harm by it and I’m sorry if it offended you.”

“What were you talking to her about?”

“She didn’t look like she felt very well so I was just asking her if she needed me to call a cab.”

“So you were just being a concerned citizen, trying to help out a woman?” Big Paul asked, clearly not believing Jake’s story.

“That’s correct,” Jake replied because it really was the truth.

Turning towards Amanda, Big Paul asked her, “Is that true?”

Lifting her head, she looked at Paul and seemed to hesitate to answer. “Yes, Big Paul,” she said. “He was just making a comment about how nice your place is. Then he asked me if I was feeling well.”

Nodding, trying to determine if the two of them were telling the truth, he looked back and forth between Jake and Amanda. Jake sat there, hoping Big Paul believed them. It was the truth, so the man had no reason to doubt what Amanda had told him, but it looked like Big Paul was insecure and worried that another man may take Amanda away from him.

“So there wasn’t any other reason you were talking to her?” the boss asked as his eyes bore into Jake’s.

“As I tried to explain to your thug, I was just making sure she was okay.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I doubt that single woman come to a strip club by themselves very often so that struck me as odd,” Jake explained. “Then I noticed she was just sitting there, staring into her drink so I thought something might be wrong.”

“Well, my guys didn’t seem to think that’s what was going on.”

“There’s nothing I can do about that,” Jake replied. “But it is the truth.”

Paul nodded as he looked Jake in the eyes, trying to decide if he was telling the truth. Jake didn’t appear to be nervous and he kept looking Big Paul in the eyes rather than looking away. Paul studied Jake, checking to see if he would continue making eye contact. In Paul’s experience, if someone was hiding something they usually looked away.

“Okay,” Big Paul responded, confident Jake was telling him the truth. “I believe you.”

“I wish we could have met under better circumstances,” Jake said, trying to change the subject.

“I do too,” Big Paul said as he let out a short chuckle and was suddenly in a better mood. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”

“I’m self-taught.”

“You fight really well.”

“Believe it not, this wasn’t my first fight.”

“I believe it.”

“Is this your place?”

“Yes, it is,” Paul responded as he waved his arm around. “It’s all mine.”

“It’s nice,” Jake replied, although he really didn’t care about the place. He was just trying to stroke Paul’s obviously large ego.

“What do you do for a living, Jake?” he asked.

Jake saw no reason to lie to the man. “I don’t really do anything for a living.”

“You don’t have a job?”

“No, I don’t have a steady job,” Jake responded as he turned his head slightly and watched the two big men getting dragged through the front door by the bouncers, probably getting taken to the hospital.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I move from town to town taking odd jobs where I can find them.”

A red headed waitress came over to the booth, setting a drink in front of Paul then another drink in front of Amanda. Jake assumed the waitress knew exactly what they liked and had the bartender make it when she saw them move to the booth.

“Can I get you anything?” she asked Jake.

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

As the waitress turned around to go wait on customers, Paul sat back, putting his arm around Amanda as he thought about what had happened in the club and about this unknown man sitting in front of him. Jake certainly was dressed like he didn’t have a job, sitting there with ragged shorts and a t-shirt, unshaven for days.

As Paul sat there thinking, he decided that he liked Jake. He respected the way he fought his men and laid them out. Sure, he would have preferred that his men won, but it was quite a sight to see.

“What brought you here?” Paul asked as he took a drink from his glass.

“Do you mean to Los Angeles? I’ve never been here so I thought I would check it out.”

“I meant, what brought you to my club?”

“I have a motel room down the road. I wanted a beer so I walked down the street and saw this place so I walked in. The rest of it you already know.”

“Isn’t the beer kind of expensive for someone that doesn’t have a job?”

“I have a little money saved up from my last job.”

“I could use someone like you,” Paul stated, getting right to the point. “Would you like a job with me?”

“What would I be doing?” Jake asked, surprised because he certainly didn’t expect Paul to offer him a job after he beat the hell out of his men.

“You would be on my security detail.”

“Why do you have a security detail?”

“I just do and it’s none of your business why,” Big Paul responded.

“Okay,” Jake said as he held up his hands defensively, indicating he didn’t mean anything by it. “I’ve never met someone that has a security detail.”

“Well, I do have one and I would like you to join it,” Paul said.

“I’ve never worked in security,” Jake replied. “I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“It’s no problem. You just have to make sure nothing happens to me.”

“That doesn’t sound too difficult, but why me?”

“It’s clear you can take care of yourself. I could use a man like you.”

“So all I have to do is protect you?”

“Yes, you would drive me around and accompany me where I go.”

Shrugging, Jake said, “Sure, why not?”

“That’s great,” Paul said as he stood up. “Follow me to my office and we’ll talk some more. I have someone else I want you to meet. Amanda, you stay here and wait for me.”

Standing up, Jake took one last glance at Amanda then followed Paul to the door at the other end of the bar. He knew this was the moment of truth. Once they walked back to the office and were out of sight of witnesses, they could easily kill him. Big Paul may be lying about the job and he may want retribution for Jake kicking the shit out of his two best men. Jake was going to keep his hand ready to grab the knife and if he sensed anything that didn’t feel right, he would be on top of Paul before he knew what had happened.

Leaving Amanda at the table by herself, they walked to a door that was located on the right side of the stage. It was the same door that Paul had walked out of earlier when Jake was getting ready to fight the two thugs. There was another door on the other side of the stage that Jake had seen women use so he assumed it was used by the dancers to enter and leave the stage so he knew that had to be the dressing rooms.

Big Paul opened the door and they entered a short hallway. As the door closed behind them, the music faded away until they couldn’t hear it. Jake didn’t know what the walls were made of but whatever it was, it silenced all the noise.

The hallway had tiled floors with a couple of rooms on each side that appeared to be empty. The doors were open, but the rooms were dark. Through the darkness, Jake took a quick look inside and could swear he saw a bed in each room and wondered why they were there. It seemed odd to have bedrooms in a strip club, but Jake had never been in a strip club before so he didn’t know if that was indeed unusual or not, but his gut told him that it was unusual.

Following Paul down the hallway they approached two other doors with one on the left of the hallway and one on the right side of the hallway. It looked like they led to offices and Jake assumed one of the offices was Paul’s.

There was a door at the end of the hallway that had the word exit in neon green above the door so Jake knew that was the back door. If something started to go wrong, Jake told himself to use that door to get out of there as quickly as he could.

Big Paul opened the door on the right and poked his head inside. “Come to my office for a minute,” he ordered whoever was in there.

“Okay Paul,” Jake heard a voice say.

Turning around, he opened the door on the left and entered with Jake following behind him. The room was approximately thirty feet wide and twenty feet deep with red carpet throughout the office. It was decorated nicely with expensive paintings on the wall and at the far end was a nice mahogany desk. A pair of samurai swords hung on the wall behind the desk, crossing each other. The office was in stark contrast to the rest of the club because it was decorated much nicer and with more class.

As Big Paul took his seat behind the desk, he motioned for Jake to sit in one of the two chairs opposite him. After sitting down, Paul asked, “So where are you from?”

“I was born and raised in Chicago.”

“What brought you out here?”

“As I mentioned earlier, I just wanted to go somewhere different so I thought this would be as good a place as any,” Jake replied as he shrugged his shoulders.

Jake heard a noise and knew someone was behind him. Turning around quickly he saw a bald man with glasses enter the office. He had a small head with a round face dominated by a big nose. Wearing cheap slacks with a wrinkled blue button down shirt, he looked rumpled.

“You wanted to see me, Paul?” he asked.

“Yes, Clarence,” he replied. “This is Jake Bryant and he’s going to work for us.”

Clarence looked at Jake skeptically. “Hello Jake,” Clarence said, trying to be cordial.

Jake stood up and shook Clarence’s hand. “Hello Clarence,” Jake responded.

“What kind of work is Jake going to do for you?”

“He’ll be a bodyguard and driver.”

“He’ll need to go through the normal process as the others.”

“Jake, do you mind if we have you fingerprinted?” Paul asked as he looked at Jake.

The request surprised Jake and he wasn’t sure how to answer. He wasn’t sure what they wanted his fingerprints for, but he assumed it was to check him out. Most places Jake worked for paid him under the table and it’s what he preferred. He had hoped this would be the same type of arrangement, but the request to have him fingerprinted worried him.

Jake was down to his last few dollars so he desperately needed a job. He also sensed that there was something wrong with the relationship between Amanda and Paul and that made him want to stick around to see what was going on with that. He didn’t know if she was in an abusive relationship, but he was determined to find out.

He decided he would take the job, but he certainly wasn’t expecting to be fingerprinted. Jake had a feeling that if he said no, he would be asked to leave immediately so he decided he would allow it, but he was reluctant.

“Why do you want my fingerprints?” Jake asked.

“I just want to make sure you are who you say you are,” Paul answered.

“What do you mean?”

“People lie to me all the time. I want to make sure you’re not one of those people.”

“I’m not lying to you.”

“Then you shouldn’t have a problem with me running your fingerprints.”

“How will you run them? Don’t you need access to government computers to do that?”

Smiling, Big Paul said, “Clarence has methods for doing that.”

Jake knew there was much more to it than what Paul had just stated. It was obvious Paul wanted to know more about Jake. Now Jake was curious about what was going on so rather than leave and not worry about getting a job, he wanted to do whatever he could to get the job.

Figuring he better not make too big of a deal about it he decided he would just agree to it. “Sure, that will be no problem,” Jake said. “Do you have a fingerprint card like the cops use?”

“You sound like you’ve had this done before.”

“Yeah, I was arrested and thrown in jail so I’m familiar with the process,” Jake said. “I wasn’t convicted of anything though.”

Jake hoped that comment would not hurt his chances of getting the job. Somehow, Jake figured that wouldn’t be a problem for Paul. He seemed like the kind of guy that had broken the law a time or two as well and Jake was willing to bet the two men he fought earlier had been in their fair share of trouble.

“We don’t need to use a fingerprint card. We have the beer bottle you were drinking out of and we’ll be able to use that.” Turning towards Clarence, Paul said, “Doug has the beer bottle. Get it from him and then use your contacts to run the prints.”

“Right away Paul,” Clarence responded then he turned and walked out the door.

“Is there anything you want to tell me before we run the prints?” Paul asked after Clarence left the office.

“Who’s Doug?”

“He’s the bartender. I had signaled to him to grab your beer bottle from the bar.”

“I didn’t even notice that.”

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” Paul asked again, getting impatient with Jake.

Jake thought about how much to say then decided it would be a good gesture to make it look like he was trying to be as open as possible. Paul was already the distrustful type so Jake wanted to make sure he was as open as possible with him, giving him no reason to doubt him. Not only that, but Paul was going to find out anyway so Jake decided he might as well hear it from him.

“There are probably a few things that you’ll want to know,” Jake responded.

“Like what?”

“I’m sure it will come back and say I was connected to some murders in Seattle and Omaha,” Jake said. “It may even mention something about Alaska, although I’m not sure about that.”

“Are you wanted for those murders?”

“I don’t think so.”

“How many murders have you been connected with?” Big Paul asked, raising one of his eyebrows.

“A few, but I was never convicted of anything,” Jake replied, making sure to state it that way rather than using the word innocent. He wanted Paul to wonder if he had committed the murders.

“What happened?”

“It’s a long story, but if you don’t want to hire me because of my dealings with the law, I’ll understand,” Jake said, although he was certain it would make his standing even better with Paul.

“Let’s see what comes back and then we’ll decide how to proceed,” Paul said, confirming Jake’s suspicion.

“That sounds good to me.”

“Have you been in trouble a lot?”

“Let’s just say I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“That happens to a lot of us,” Paul replied with a wide smile.

“I guess.”

“Alright, you can leave.”

“Do I have the job?”

“Come back here tomorrow and then we’ll decide if we’re going to hire you.”

“Thanks,” said Jake as he stood up, shook hands and made his way out of the office.

Chapter 4

Jake walked outside of the gentlemen’s club, passing the sign that had the club’s name on it, which was called Knockers and headed back to his old, run down motel that was only three blocks away. Although the motel was a short distance away, it seemed like it was in another country. The neighborhood was in terrible shape. There was graffiti on the buildings and bums were in the alleyways.

Jake saw drug deals going down on a regular basis so he always tried to stay on the opposite side of the street of where he saw it, fearful he would get busted if the cops ever came down to this part of town. Although that probably shouldn’t be much of a concern because Jake had never seen any cops around.

As Jake approached the motel, he walked into the parking lot, making his way to his room. The motel was two stories tall and was shaped like an “L” that lay sideways. The office was on the left hand side then the main part of the motel ran right, keeping parallel to the road. The building then went perpendicular to the road, going away from it, making the “L” shape. There were ten rooms per floor in the part of the building that was parallel to the road and seven rooms per floor in the section perpendicular to the road.

Walking around the building, Jake climbed the stairs to the second floor and walked to his door. His room was furthest away from the road which was what he preferred. He liked being away from the noise of the street so he always requested the furthest room.

Unlocking his door, he walked inside the room and placed his key on the beat up, round table that was in the corner of the room, complete with one chair that looked as if it could fall apart any day. The table and the chair looked like they had been in the room for forty years and Jake figured they probably had. There were two double beds against the wall on the right, each with a brown bedspread. The twenty year old TV sat on an old wooden stand against the wall on the left side of the room. The stand had three drawers in it which easily held the few clothes Jake had.

The bathroom was straight ahead from the door and consisted of two parts. On the left was a counter with one sink that seemed to only have cold water running out of the faucet. On the right was a door that went into a tiny room where the toilet and the bathtub were located.

The walls in the room had originally been painted white, but they had a yellow tint to them now. They were most likely in need of new paint fifteen years ago. The curtains were tan in color and hung over the one window that didn’t open. Jake didn’t know if the window was designed to be permanently closed or not.

Emptying his pockets, he tossed his money onto the table. Jake took his shirt off, folded it and laid it down on the table next to his money. Next, he took off his shoes and socks and made his way to the bed. Flipping back the bedspread, Jake climbed in bed, ready to get some sleep, tired from fighting the two thugs in the bar.

Closing his eyes, he tried to fall asleep, but he was too restless. Lying there, Jake thought about the events that had led to him being in Los Angeles, where he had now been for a little over two weeks.

After spending a couple of months in Alaska earlier in the year, he had decided he wanted to go somewhere much warmer. Having always wanted to go to Los Angeles, he figured that would be a good place for him to go next so he headed in that direction.

After leaving Alaska, Jake had been bumming around Oregon as he slowly went south, making his way through California until he reached Los Angeles. He had always heard that it was a beautiful city and now he knew why. It was sunny and warm every day and palm trees were everywhere in the city.

Lying in bed, thinking about his journey, he started debating whether he should take off or if he should continue with the potential of working for Paul. It would be very easy for Jake to check out of his hotel and move to another one or he could just continue going south and spend some time in San Diego. He had always heard that was a beautiful city as well, so he wouldn’t mind spending some time there and just getting away from Paul and his goons.

The problem with moving again was that he didn’t have a lot of money on him. Sure, he could live for six or seven days on the money he still had left. He had earned that money while he made his way to Los Angeles, but he was going to need more money soon. He could work for Paul for a month, earn enough money then move on like he always did.

The only reason he debated with himself about taking the job was because something didn’t seem right. Who fingerprints someone to be a driver of a man that owns a strip club? Also, why does that man need someone to protect him? Obviously, he’s into something bad if he feels he needs protection. On the one hand, he wanted to see what was going on with Paul and Amanda, but on the other hand, he had a feeling that Paul was into something bad and Jake knew it might be dangerous for him to hang around.

Not to mention, the two bodyguards that Jake had beat up earlier in the night might start looking for some revenge. Jake knew that if he had been the one to get beat up, he would want revenge. That meant that if Jake did take the job, he was going to have to continuously watch his back, knowing the men would have no problem punishing or even killing him when he wasn’t looking.

Every instinct told him to leave, but Jake knew he needed to stay, mainly for Amanda. It seemed to him that something was wrong with Amanda and the situation she was in. Jake didn’t know if she was being held against her will or what the issue was, but he knew there was something not right about it.

Seeing her constantly looking down, told Jake that there was more to this than meets the eyes. He wanted to find out what that was and to help her. Even though he always tried to mind his own business and stay out of trouble, there were instances where he felt like he had to intervene and this was one of those instances.

He was just going to have to be careful and mindful of his surroundings, making sure he always knew where the two bodyguards were. Hopefully, Big Paul would make sure the bodyguards stayed away from him, but Jake didn’t know if that was realistic or not. He knew he would have to discuss it with Paul when he went back to the club in a couple of days.

Lying in bed, Jake thought about everything that had happened that night and knew he was lucky he wasn’t dead. Sure, he had a massive headache and quite possibly had a concussion from being hit with the bottle, but he had survived and that was the most important thing.

As he thought about it some more, he finally came to a decision. He was going to stay in Los Angeles and get hired as a bodyguard then he would try to figure out what his next move would be.

Thinking about all of that, he finally drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 5

The next day, Jake woke up, rolled onto his back and immediately winced from the bump on his head. Sitting up, he rubbed his face then got up and walked over to the mirror. Looking at himself, he saw a man in his mid-twenties with emerald green eyes and a seven day scruff on his face. He had medium length brown hair that was usually parted on the side, but now was unruly since he had just woken up.

The hair on the right side of his head was matted with blood where he had taken the hit from the beer bottle. Reaching up, he gently felt the bump on the back of his head. It wasn’t bleeding anymore, but it was extremely tender and there was a huge lump underneath the hair. Touching the bump pissed him off again and he was glad he beat the hell out of those guys at the club.

Walking over to the table, he looked at his shirt and saw blood all over it. Tossing it into the trash, he knew he was going to have to get a new shirt to replace that one. He could go to a laundry mat, but he preferred to just go buy something cheap.

Jake looked in one of the drawers and saw two pairs of shorts, one pair of pants, one long sleeve shirt and one short sleeve shirt. There were two pair of underwear and two pair of socks. He traveled light and that was everything he owned with the exception of a backpack sitting in the corner of the room.

Jake wasn’t a believer in having a lot of material goods. He carried everything he owned in his backpack. If he didn’t have something then he figured he didn’t need it. If he did need something then he bought it. However, if he did have to buy something, he always shopped at thrift stores so he could get the best possible deal. He didn’t have much money so he had to make what little money he had last and he didn’t care if he wore something that someone else had worn.

Thinking of money, he walked over to his backpack and pulled out the remaining money he had. Looking through the folded bills, he saw he was down to one hundred and forty-three dollars. He had paid for a month at the motel, so he didn’t have to worry about that for another couple of weeks. He figured if he was careful with what he ate, he could make the money last for a week or two.

After taking a shower and shaving, he decided he needed to do some shopping before he went back to Knockers. He was quite certain he would get the job so he needed a few items before his job started, knowing they weren’t going to find anything in his past that would hinder him. For once in his life, his past would probably help him.

Seeing how Paul and the bodyguards were dressed, Jake knew he was going to need to buy something that looked professional. He wasn’t going to buy a suit like the bodyguards had because he didn’t plan on working for Paul very long so that would be wasting his money. That meant he was going to buy something that was cheap and was considered business casual. He would buy slacks and a button down shirt. He would probably need to buy some socks and shoes as well because he didn’t think his tennis shoes would go with that outfit.

Thinking about all of that, Jake wasn’t thrilled with dropping money on clothes that he would only wear while he was working for Paul. As soon as he was done here, he would throw the clothes away so that meant he was throwing his money away, but there was nothing he could do about that if he was going to try to help Amanda.

He was taking a chance, gambling that he would get the job. If he spent his money on the clothes and didn’t get the job then he would have wasted his money. It wouldn’t matter that he spent the money at a thrift store and got a good deal, it still could have been money that he would have been able to spend on food instead. However, it was a chance he was willing to take.

Putting on his clothes, Jake grabbed his money and his motel key and walked out of the room. Since he was staying in a shady part of town, Jake knew he was three or four miles from the stores he needed. That wasn’t a problem for Jake since he was used to walking and running everywhere he needed to go.

After the night he had last night, he was ready for some exercise to release a little tension. He was more concerned about somebody trying to rob him so he kept a close watch for anyone that might be on the streets. Since it was still morning, he figured most people that would try to rob him would still be sleeping. He doubted those kind of people got up before noon. That was his experience in Chicago and he figured it would be the same way in Los Angeles.

Starting a light jog, he ran for the next forty minutes until he found an electronics store. Going inside, he saw the clerk helping an elderly man figure out a camera he had just purchased. The clerk was in his early thirties with long black hair parted in the middle. The hair hung to his shoulders and had a greasy look about it so Jake assumed he hadn’t washed it in a couple of days. He was short and thin and looked like he barely weighed a hundred and thirty pounds. The man looked like he hadn’t eaten in three weeks.

Jake waited in line, trying to be patient as the old man continued to ask questions. The clerk kept trying to explain everything to the old man, but it was obvious he was confused and didn’t understand. Jake didn’t consider himself an expert on technology, but even he appeared to know more than the old man. The clerk was getting frustrated, but tried to remain calm and was eventually able to answer all of the old man’s questions

After the old man walked away, the clerk nodded at Jake. As Jake walked by the old man and up to the counter where the clerk was standing, it smelled like someone hadn’t showered for a few days. He wasn’t sure if it was the clerk or the old man, but one of them reeked.

“I’m sorry for the delay,” the clerk said, which confirmed that it was the clerk that smelled.

“No problem,” Jake replied as he took a step back, trying to put some distance between him and the clerk.

“What can I help you with?” he asked.

“I need a prepaid phone.”

“Sure, what options do you need?”

“I just need something that can get me on the internet and show maps of the city.”

“We have several options,” the clerk said then started pulling some models out from under the counter, laying them on top of the counter.

“I want the cheapest one you have.”

“These two models are the least expensive,” the clerk replied as he put the other two back.

Jake studied them, picking each of them up and looking at them as if he knew a lot about cell phones. “How much are they?” Jake asked.

Having had a need a couple of years ago for a phone, Jake was somewhat aware of the models and the prices, however he still wanted the clerk to review it with him. Although he had experience with a phone that was similar, Jake knew technology changed quickly so it could be completely different than it was before.

The clerk started going through the functions and prices with Jake, explaining what the differences were. Jake only needed a prepaid phone to get him through the next month. He thought that if he hadn’t figured out how to help Amanda or if she didn’t help then he would just leave and go to his next destination, wherever that may be.

After several minutes of the clerk explaining the features and functions of the two phones, Jake settled on the phone he would need. He paid cash, which cut into his reserves even further then took a minute to get familiar with the functions of the phone, especially the ones he was most interested in.

Once he was done with that, he walked outside and into the nice California sun and decided he needed to find someplace to eat. He hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before so he was hungry and didn’t want to wait any longer for his next meal.

As he was walking down the street, he saw a McDonald’s and was instantly happy. Looking at his favorite restaurant, he was glad that it was mid-morning because that meant they were still serving breakfast. That was his favorite meal, especially at McDonald’s.

After ordering his food, he took his tray to a corner booth and started looking up thrift stores on his phone while he ate. There were several stores in the Los Angeles area so he focused on the ones that were closest to him. He plugged in the address of one of the stores and put it on the map so it displayed his location as well as the location of the thrift store.

There was a time he would have refused to use a cell phone, but he had to admit that they certainly had their uses. He was glad he purchased one because it was going to save him a lot of time finding places he needed.

It looked like there was a store less than a mile away so he got up, threw his trash away and headed outside. Within twenty minutes he was walking through the doors of the store and started looking around for some clothes. He wanted a couple of t-shirts and another pair of shorts. Finding those, he started looking at the dressier clothes. The big men at the club were dressed in suits that were tailored, meaning the suits were probably expensive. Even though Jake wasn’t about to buy a suit that cost a couple of thousand dollars, he knew he needed to find something that would look respectable.

Finding the nicest pair of slacks, sports jacket and buttoned down shirt he could find, he took all of his items to the counter and paid for them. Realizing he had forgotten socks and shoes, Jake went back to the clothing area until he found a pair of loafers that fit. There weren’t any socks that he could buy, although he wouldn’t buy them from a thrift store even if they had them. He would just have to go without socks until he found another store that had them. If he ended up not finding any socks, so be it.

Paying for the shoes, he walked outside and pulled up the internet on his phone, looking for a store that sold camping and hunting gear. Finding one that was another couple of miles away, he put the clothes in his backpack and started jogging towards the next store.

Two and a half miles later, he entered the large store. There were animal heads mounted on the walls and canoes hanging from the ceiling. To the left was camping equipment, to the right was fishing equipment and straight back was the hunting equipment.

Heading to the back of the store, Jake made his way through the aisles until he got to the counter that housed all the knives. Not only were there knives, but there were rifles of every kind behind the counter and along the wall. There were pistols of all kinds in the glass counter to his right. As much as he would like to get a pistol, he knew he wouldn’t be able to pass a background check so he focused on the knives in front of him.

He already had one knife on him. It was the same knife he had used last night when he fought the two goons in the club. Always keeping it with him, it had come in handy on more than one occasion. However, he wanted two more knives to carry with him, just in case. Not knowing what he was getting himself into, he figured it would be better to have multiple knives. He hoped he wouldn’t need them, but he wanted to be prepared.

Studying the knives closely through the glass, Jake pointed to two knives that were relatively the same. The man placed them on the counter and Jake picked them up one by one, examining them, holding them in his hand to get a feel for them.

Both knives folded in half which was mandatory if he was going to keep them in his pocket. They also had a blade that was three and three-fourths inches long. He picked one, moved his hand with the knife in it then put it down and did the same thing with the other knife. Liking the second knife better, Jake told the clerk he could put the other one back.

As the clerk was ready to ring him up, Jake said he wasn’t done with shopping for knives yet. Looking through the glass, he saw a hunting knife that was much bigger than the knife he had chosen. Asking the clerk to take that out, he waited while the clerk reached inside then set the large knife on top of the counter. This knife was much bigger and didn’t fold in half. Instead, it was ten inches long with a serrated blade that was six and a half inches in length.

Holding the knife in his right hand, he liked the feel of it. The only issue was going to be where to put it since it certainly wouldn’t fit in his pocket. Having an idea about that, he said he would take it and he paid for both knives and sheathes then put them in his backpack and walked outside onto the street.

With his backpack on, he looked up one more store on his phone. Finding it, he made his way to that store and bought some material so he could rig a way that would allow him to hide the knives, but still make them easy to get to.

He made his way back to his motel just as the sun started setting, tired from all the running he had done that day. Working quickly, he was able to strap the sheathe that held the small knife to his right leg, on the inside of his calf. The sheathe that held the big knife was a little more difficult to situate, but Jake was able to rig it so it was located in the middle of his back.

This would enable him to reach over his shoulder and under his sports jacket to retrieve the knife if needed. Having two knives in addition to the knife he already had was probably overkill, but he didn’t trust Paul or his goons so he wanted to make sure he was well armed. If it came down to fighting the goons with weapons, Jake would rather have a gun, but that wasn’t feasible.

Once that was done, he decided another shower was in order after running around town all day. After the shower, Jake dressed in his slacks and button down shirt. He placed the small knife on the inside of his calf and the other knife was tied to his back. He put his original knife in his front pocket which was where he always carried it.

Jake knew his knives wouldn’t do him any good if someone started shooting at him, but he figured it was better than not having any weapon at all. Also, Jake had become quite proficient at using a knife so he felt extremely comfortable using them if it came down to it.

Looking at the remaining money, he hoped he would get the job with Paul because he didn’t have much money left after his shopping spree. Not worrying about it, he put the money in his pocket and grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair by the table.

Slipping his jacket on, Jake headed out the door and made his way to Knockers.

Chapter 6

Paul was sitting at his desk, leaning back in his chair and had his size seven feet propped on the desk. His hands were interlocked behind his head as Clarence sat across from him with a couple of sheets of paper on his lap, prepared to give his report.

“What did you find out?” Paul asked.

Clarence looked down at his paper then cleared his throat. “According to his fingerprints, he is Jake Bryant.”

“That’s good. So he is who he says he is.”

“Yeah,” Clarence said, but it was clear to Paul there was something more.

“Is there something more?”

“It’s really weird. There’s no record of him until three years ago.”

“What do you mean there’s no record of him?” Big Paul asked.

“I mean there’s nothing on the internet about him,” Clarence explained. “It’s as if he didn’t exist until three years ago.”

“Isn’t that unusual?”

“Yes. In today’s world even kids have some kind of history on the internet. For example, if they played in tennis tournaments or entered swim meets then they would have been listed when the tournament organizers listed the competitors and what place they came in.”

“So maybe he didn’t play sports.”

“There are other ways of having a history on the internet as well. If they had received academic awards then that information would have been out there. Almost every human in the United States has some kind of record on the internet these days. Even yearbooks, if they’re online would show information.”

“So it is strange that he’s not listed anywhere,” Big Paul stated.

“It’s a little strange, but I wouldn’t say it’s rare,” Clarence replied.

“What could explain not having anything out there until three years ago?”

“If he didn’t belong to any groups and if he didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities then it wouldn’t show up on the internet.”

“So it’s possible?”


“Let me ask you this. Does it concern you that there’s nothing out there on him?”

“Not really. It’s unusual, but doesn’t necessarily make me concerned.”

Paul sat back and thought about that for a second. He knew if he did a search on himself, he would get all kinds of information, just like most of the population. It seemed odd that Jake wouldn’t have anything until three years ago and Paul didn’t like things that were odd.

“Could he have made up an identity?”

“It would be awfully difficult to do that and he doesn’t seem like the person that would do that.”

“Well, I’ll ask him about why there isn’t anything on the internet when he was growing up. You said there wasn’t anything until three years ago. What did you find out about the last three years?”

“This is where it gets really interesting.”

“What do you mean?”

“Three years ago he was somehow connected with several murders in Seattle,” Clarence said. “Apparently, there was a huge drug ring and several people associated with it were killed.”

“Was he wanted for the murders?” Paul asked.

“No, he wasn’t a suspect in the murders, although he was wanted as a person of interest but they never issued an arrest warrant for him.”

“That’s interesting.”

“They even ran a picture of him in the paper for several days because he was the prime suspect in a woman’s disappearance,” Clarence said as he slid a printout of the article and Jake’s picture across the desk so Paul could look at it.

Picking up the paper, Paul read the article and looked at the sketch of Jake. It was a good likeness. “Why was it a sketch?”

“They didn’t have a picture of him at the time so they had to use a sketch artist for the picture.”

“Did he kidnap the woman?” Paul asked.

“No, it turns out she was his girlfriend and they were both on the run from several killers. Those people are the ones that ended up getting murdered.”

“That’s quite a coincidence that they chased Jake and his girlfriend then wound up dead.”

Paul sat there thinking about that for a second. It didn’t surprise him that Jake was a person of interest in several murders. In fact, he wouldn’t be surprised if Jake committed those murders just from what he had seen of Jake. He appeared to be a man capable of such things.

“What else?” Paul asked.

“He was arrested two years ago for some murders in Omaha,” Clarence answered.

“He was arrested, but not convicted?”

Taking another piece of paper, Clarence handed that to Paul. “He was released by the Omaha police but then a few days later they said he was a person of interest and ran this article and picture in the paper. Since they had already brought Jake down to the police station, they had a mug shot to give the papers.”

“I take it he wasn’t charged for the murders?” Paul asked as he looked at the mug shot. Jake did not appear to be very happy when he had that picture taken.

“He was eventually cleared of everything after the cops arrested the people that had committed the crimes,” Clarence answered.

“That’s interesting. He seems to be able to extract himself from those situations. Can you get more information on the murders in Seattle and Omaha?”

“Not without alerting someone. My source can pull up the high level details and share them with me without too much trouble. He would have to do some digging to get more information and I don’t think we want to alert anyone that we’re checking on Jake.”

“You’re right. We don’t need any more information than what you have.”

Paul started reading the high level details on the murders in Omaha and Seattle. “Well, that’s not surprising that Jake has been in those situations,” Paul said as he looked at Clarence. “The way he handled Al and Pat showed me that he is a capable of anything.”

“Yeah, he doesn’t seem to be someone you want to mess with, that’s for sure.”

“No he doesn’t. Thanks for getting that information for me.”

“That’s not all.”

“There’s more?” Paul asked, amazed that so much could happen to one man in the last three years. “What else could there be?”

“Last year he was involved in another situation.”

“What kind of situation?”

“I guess the best way to describe it is that he was involved in an international incident,” Clarence responded.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Paul asked, shaking his head in disbelief for what he was hearing about Jake. “What kind of international incident?”

“I can’t get all the details but I think it has something to do with that incident between an American boat and a Russian boat. The details were never released but the Russians were furious with the United States.”

“Oh yeah, I do remember something about that. It was on the news a lot. Didn’t the Russians think it was an attack by the American military?”

“Yes, but there was never any proof that the military was involved.”

“Weren’t there several people that ended up dead?”

“I think so, but everything was quickly hushed up so they never did release all the details about what had happened.”

“You mean to tell me Jake was involved with that too?” Paul asked.

“That’s the way it looks, yes.”

“You’re kidding me. So what happened?”

“Well, a lot of that is classified and my source couldn’t get more information. I could only get information that was in the papers and that wasn’t much.”

“Does your source have any ideas on what could have happened?”

“No, he would need access to some databases that he doesn’t have the authority to look at,” Clarence answered. “All we know is there was a gun battle and Jake was up there at that time.”

“That’s a big coincidence.”


“Death seems to follow young Jake wherever he goes. Our friend seems to find himself in a lot of bad situations yet he somehow gets out of them.”

“There’s never any direct proof that he committed any of the crimes.”

“It almost seems like it’s been made up. There’s no way all of that could happen to one person.”

“What do you mean?”

“The police have tried to bust us on a couple of occasions, right?”


“Maybe they are trying to put someone undercover so they made up a cover story.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“Could the feds have planted that information knowing we would look into his history if we were going to try to hire him?” Paul asked.

“It’s possible, but highly unlikely.”


“All of these events were in the newspaper.”

“They were in the paper according to your source. Maybe it was just information that was planted so it could be found if anyone checked on him. We should try to find the actual newspapers and see if all of this really happened.”

“I did do that,” Clarence said. “It was definitely in the newspapers.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“I am. I think he’s legitimate.”

“Okay. I think he’s legitimate too,” Paul said. “But I think there’s more to Jake Bryant than we know.”

“Are you going to hire him?”

Big Paul didn’t answer. Instead he took his feet off the table, stood up and walked over to a bar that was against a wall to his right. Scooping a few ice cubes into a glass, he poured himself a whiskey and added a touch of water to it. Taking a sip, he savored the taste then walked back to his desk, sat down and placed his drink down.

“Did you see the way he fought Al and Pat?” Paul asked.

“No, I was in my office working at the time.”

“Oh yeah,” Paul replied. “Let me just say that you don’t learn fighting like that from training, like the FBI. He learned that by fighting on the street. By the look of his fighting, he has fought a lot.”

At that moment, there was a knock at the door. “Enter!” Paul commanded.

The two bodyguards that Jake had beaten up walked inside the office, both looking like they had been in a car crash. They walked in gingerly and made their way to Paul’s desk, but remained standing.

“Sit down,” Paul said, motioning for them to take a seat.

Clarence stood up so Al and Pat could sit down in the two chairs across from Paul. Al was the bigger of the two bodyguards and he had tape over his nose with two big black eyes. His forehead was also black and blue and had several stitches in it from Jake smashing it on the ground.

The smaller bodyguard, relative to Al, was Pat. He was holding his side almost like he was protecting it from getting hit. The broken ribs hurt, especially as he was sitting down in the chair. He also had two black eyes and a fat lip, courtesy of all the punches he took.

“You guys don’t look so good,” Paul said.

“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch if I ever see him again,” Al responded.

“You guys are both lucky he didn’t kill you last night,” Paul said.


“Shut up,” Paul said. “I don’t want to hear any excuses. You guys are supposed to be my best and you let him kick your asses. Maybe I should demote you back to being bouncers and promote two others.”

Neither of them said anything. They looked down, averting their eyes from Paul’s, knowing he was right. There really wasn’t anything they could say to defend themselves. Everyone in the club had watched the fight and saw the whole thing take place. The man really did kick their asses and there was no way to put a positive spin on it.

“We’ll find out who he is and then we’re going to make him pay.”

“I already know who he is.”

“What’s his name?” Al asked.

“His name is Jake Bryant.”

“Boss, we’ll find him and we’ll get revenge for what he did, I guarantee it.”

“He’s living in a motel not too far from here,” Paul responded.

“We’ll go make sure he’s never heard from again,” Al said as he started to stand up.

“Sit your ass down. You’re not going to do anything like that.”

“Why don’t you want us to find him?” Al asked, clearly confused.

“He will be coming to us.”

“What do you mean?”

The phone rang and Paul picked it up. Paul listened for a second then said, “Send him in.”

Setting the phone back down, Paul looked at his two body guards. “The man that kicked your ass is here and he’s coming into the office now.”

Chapter 7

After Jake had told the bartender that Big Paul was expecting him, the bartender picked up the phone and called someone. Jake assumed it was Paul on the other end of the phone. The bartender said something, listened for a second then set the phone down and walked back over to Jake.

“He said you can go into the office.”

“Thanks,” Jake replied.

“Do you know the way?”

“Yeah, I was in there last night.”

“Oh yeah,” the bartender responded, realizing Jake was the person that had been involved in the fight the night before and consequently went with the boss back into his office.

Jake followed the path he had taken the night before and made his way to Paul’s office. Jake was leery about going to the back office, knowing they could be luring him there so they could try to kill him. Well, if they were going to try to kill him then he would try to take out as many as he could before he died, he reasoned.

However, if they pulled a gun on him then there wasn’t really anything Jake was going to be able to do about that. By the time he tried to take out one of his knives, they would be able to shoot him five times. Feeling the knife in his front pocket, he still felt a little better having it with him.

Jake knew the odds were slim that they were going to shoot him because the boss could have killed him last night if he had a gun hidden on him. Jake figured it would be fine, but he was still going to be careful and vigilant.

Making his way past the rooms with the beds, he noticed two of the doors were shut as he approached the last door on the left. Standing in front of it, he took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself for what was on the other side of the door. He felt the knives one more time, although he had already checked several times, but he liked checking because it gave him comfort.

Knocking on the door, he waited for a second. “Enter!” a voice commanded which was clearly Paul’s voice.

Jake slowly opened the door, but didn’t enter until the door was all the way open. He wanted to make sure he didn’t enter and have someone jump him from behind the door. To his relief the door opened all the way, hitting the stop against the wall so Jake knew there wasn’t anyone waiting behind it.

As Jake slowly walked into the office, he saw Clarence standing against the wall on his right and the two bodyguards sitting in the chairs in front of Paul’s desk as Paul sat behind the desk. They were all staring at him as he stopped in the middle of the room, waiting to be addressed.

“Come on in Jake,” Paul said. “Take a seat.”

There weren’t any other chairs available but that didn’t matter. When Paul told Jake he could sit, that must have been a queue to the two bodyguards because they stood up, looked at Jake menacingly and moved to the wall where they stood next to Clarence.

The two bodyguards stared at Jake, obviously not happy with what had happened the night before. Jake didn’t blame them for being mad at him for what he had done, but he figured they started it so they got what they deserved. Jake felt no pity for them as he stared back at them, knowing they must be in a lot of pain.

They probably weren’t used to getting whipped by anyone, let alone one man, especially when Jake was so much smaller than those two. Their pride was most likely hurt just as much as their bodies were.

Jake watched them closely, making sure they weren’t going to pull a gun out and shoot him where he stood. Although they looked extremely mad and wanted to do just that, it didn’t look like they had any intentions of shooting Jake. At least it didn’t look like it yet, but Jake knew that could change anytime.

“Take a seat,” Paul repeated.

“No thanks,” Jake replied, not wanting to be in a vulnerable position. “I think I’ll stand.”

“Whatever. If you’re worried about them killing you then you have nothing to worry about. If I wanted you dead then you would be dead by now.”

That was a good point because they could have shot him right when he entered, Jake thought, so he walked over to one of the chairs and sat down in the one on the left, moving it a little so he could still keep an eye on the bodyguards, just in case.

“You’re not a very trusting person, are you Jake?” Paul asked as he saw Jake keeping an eye on his bodyguards.

“Well, they did hit me from behind once already. How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

“That’s a good point,” Paul said, laughing.

* * *


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