Over Her Shoulder (pt. 5 TEMPO excerpt)

The all black SUV pulled up just before midnight. A well dressed and shivering line of club goers had already formed around the block.Tempo was a 3 story local hotspot for movers and shakers in the area. Hopping out onto the thin layer of snow the girls made their way directly to the roped off entrance. Karen and Leslie used to shut down the whole strip of bars and clubs on a regular basis, specifically this one. They were in tight with the owner Sal, a 58 year old ex-Italian mob affiliate who Karen had bailed out of some serious legal trouble one too many times. Karen missed practicing law, but she didn’t miss the countless 65 hour work weeks she put in for cases like his. Sal had done some dirt in his past but he was always a sweetheart to the girls, and they loved him for it.

         “End of the line!” the overly animated bouncer barked at the women as they  approached. The scrawny boy who looked like he had just graduated college was un-intimidating to say the least. Leslie laughed in the boy’s face as she started in “I’ve been coming here since you were in diapers honey, step aside” Before the boy could respond his boss, Jarrod cut in.

      “Hey, let the pretty ladies in bud, do you know who this is? These girls used to be our biggest customers, they ran this place for years.” Leslie barged in “Thanks J” she said giving him a quick hug followed by a dirty look to the embarrassed boy. Sorry about the kid, Jarrod said to Karen, it’s his first week on. Just doing his job Karen said, as long as you guys haven’t forgotten about us. Jarrod laughed, stop that crazy talk you know you’ll always be VIP here. Karen smiled and give him a hug and kiss, thanks J, Sal around tonight? You missed em, was around this afternoon, I’m sure he would’ve stayed if he knew you beauties would be in attendance. Speaking of beauties, who’s your friend?  He said nodding to Sherri who was standing behind Karen scrolling through her phone. Karen made the brief introduction before Sherri was escorted away by Leslie. “This one’s taken J, stop trying to sleep with all of my friends” Leslie exclaimed as she shook her head. The group laughed except for Sherri who was still focused on texting her boyfriend. Have a good night ladies, he said laughing. I’ll get you set up with a spot in the lounge, he said as he signaled to one of the workers .

      The top floor lounge looked like a scene out of Miami Vice. Fluorescent neon blue and pink showered throughout the room which was filled with off white furniture and young socialites.  Karen and company were escorted to a private section in the corner of the relatively crowded space. Countless sets of eyes stared over towards them as they took off their jackets and sat down in the exclusive area. Most notably a group of handsome men nearly all sporting blazers and slacks. Two of the 5 or 6 men raised a glass in their general direction. Sherri started to blush. Who are those guys? she asked, riveted by their general presence . Oh stop Leslie said, don’t even think about it. “I was just asking” Sherri said irritably. “The hot one, the tan one that I know you’re lookin’ at, that’s Jay” Leslie responded reluctantly to Sherri. “Bender, his friends call him. Apparently he’s some young stockbroker who hit it big on a tech start-up , now he’s got his own shop in the city.” Karen had heard rumblings in Chicago about this Bender guy but had met never him. From the stories she heard the consensus seemed to be that he was good at day trading stocks and breaking girls hearts.

         Scanning the room she quickly realized she didn’t know many of the people upstairs. Out of the sea of faces she only recognized a few. A married couple she vaguely knew only through a few cocktail parties was standing by the bar. She briefly considered going to say hi, and swiftly changed her mind. Too much effort. Another familiar face she noticed was a young girl named Cindy who had interned a few summers back at the law office. She would say hi to her, she liked Cindy. The now 24 year old debutante was sitting in her low cut white dress cutting up blow with a black card. Overly aggressive men talked weak game in her ear. Cindy did a line and passed the rolled up bill to the girl next to her. Karen got up and headed towards the table. “ Cindy Wasserman, what kinda trouble are you gettin into missy” Karen said as she approached the table. Cindy’s head shot up immediately.

“Holy shit” she said excitedly, fuckin Karen is here! Oh my god Karen, how are you?! Before Karen could answer Cindy had her arms around her, this is my idol she said over and over to everyone in the near vicinity. “She used to be my boss, this lady is a fox,” Cindy praised. The compliments became redundant and uncomfortable after the 6th time she said them. Karen thanked Cindy and calmed her down. The two sat and  each gave a brief synopsis on their past year or so. Karen left out the divorce. She assumed Cindy knew, the whole town knew. She only spoke of the positives , and slightly accentuated them, as she always did.Cindy nodded her head in amazement of Karen’s achievements. Cindy followed Karen with a blunt recollection of recent happenings in her life. The highs and the lows. Her new co-op gig at law firm Mason and Hendricks (M&H) while she continued her studies at Loyola. Her abusive boyfriend who she kept giving another chance. She told it all. Karen admired Cindy’s honest. Everything was transparent with her. Sure, she could be a little overboard and in your face sometimes, but what you see was what you got. Karen wished she had a little more of that. Cindy put her flaws on display just as much as her successes. One minute she was bragging, the next she was self-deprecating.

Karen stared at the block letters on the adjacent wall that spelled Tempo in faded pink. She felt guilty for not sharing the whole truth with Cindy. Here Cindy was thinking Karen had it all figured out, she most certainly did not. “Want some?” Cindy asked nodding to the excessive amount of cocaine on the glass table. No thanks she said laughing, I’m too old for that, honey.  “Never too old to party” a random male bystander said in a suggestive tone as he grazed his hand on the back of Karen’s shoulder. Karen turned around and shot the man a cold and unamused look. The man took the hint, she wasn’t in the mood for his tired courting tactics. Cindy laughed at the poor attempt. “C’mon just do a bump, for old times sake!” Karen contemplated briefly but then declined again. After a few more minutes Leslie and Sherri stopped by the table. We’re heading down to the alley, you guys comin’? Leslie asked. Karen nodded and extended the offer to Cindy. “. I’ll be down there soon, gotta finish up here!” Cindy said gesturing towards the mound of snow her and the surrounding crowd were indulging in.

Leslie looked longingly at the surplus of drugs laid out on the table. She looked to Karen, then back at the table, hoping for a partner. Karen shook her head. Leslie next looked to Sherri who was staring romantically across the room at Bender. “Fuck it. Leslie said, let me hop in for a quick line” she said to Cindy and company. She hadn’t been asked, but Leslie didn’t feel like she needed an invite. Apparently no one else did either. “The more the merrier!” Cindy yelled. Leslie rolled up her own crisp Franklin and made quick work of a fat rail at the edge of the table. She left the 100 on the table, said thanks babe as she bent down to half- hug Cindy and then began to head towards the stairs. Karen laughed. Just then she recognized another figure who was in the circle of people near them. His back was to her but she recognized him. Danny. One of Roy’s old buddies. Total douchebag, even worse than Roy, which was nearly impossible. She really didn’t want him to see her. Time for a quick exit.  As she started to leave she looked back at Cindy. She was proud of the young girl, but also scared for her. “Hey Cindy, keep doing well girl, and don’t take shit from any of these guys- don’t take shit from anybody” Cindy smiled,” You got it Karen, I’ll see u guys down in the alley! ”

“The Alley” was the lower floor of TEMPO. Before Sal had bought the place, the basement was a family bowling alley for years and years. Sal had engineered a pretty impressive setup of the building. Bottom floor “the alley” was open only on the weekends and housed live bands and loud Dj’s. The alley was the liveliest floor and where everyone ended up once they couldn’t see straight. The main floor was a more casual scene, and had a long bar stretching against the back wall with a small space for dancing. During the day the floor coupled as a relatively refined Italian lunch spot. Upstairs was known as the luxury box. Folks pre-gaming with expensive drugs while flashing their newest wristwatches and handbags. TEMPO had something for everyone. Sal had figured out the formula. Tempo had all a young city dwellers heart could desire. Fine wine and pasta by day, cocaine and loud music by night.

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