Previously: Needs of the Many
"Thank you both for meeting with me on such a short notice," the club owner greeted, gesturing for them to sit down at table with her. It was daytime, so Club Piel Desnuda was empty except for the owner, a bouncer, a bartender diligently counting his receipts.
The owner was brown, beautiful, thoroughly unlike what the two detectives had imagined. Her hair and clothes were trendy, and her makeup was actually very tasteful.
And yet, they weren't exactly surprised she went by the nickname "Strawberry."
"I had three male dancers and lost them all these year," she began. "It's been very hard keeping reliable male entertainment available for Ladies' Night."
Daos knew right away where this was going. "So you've been without male dancers for a while now."
"Correct," Strawberry nodded.
The corners of his lips tease a smile. "The ladies are no doubt...eager? To resume their former festivities, I assume?"
Strawberry blushed slightly, then laughed. "Coupled with the cheap drinks, you may find their appetite to be a bit...voracious."
"Hey," Dominador threw his arms wide, beaming a broad smile. "Ain't no worries, sweet thang. Big D and the Earl of Grey only live to serve, get what I'm saying?"
"I'll need a little time to promote Ladies' Night," Strawberry smiled. For a strip club owner, she had strangely demure countenance. She rose gracefully to her feet, making sure her skirt didn't rise also. "I'm thinking tomorrow will be perfect; it'll go hand in hand with the Thursday Night $1.99 margaritas."
Both men rose as well, with Dominador still beaming that huge smile of his. "What time you want us?"
"Be here by seven," Strawberry told them. "The liquid courage is on the house."
"You agreed to what?!??"
Daos moved in for damage control. "Chief, I can explain."
"You had better!" Chief Bibiana Solís rounded her desk and sat down. "I don't know how they did things at your last precinct, Detective, but here you do not go on an undercover assignment without consulting me first! You're not exactly anonymous, Daos!"
"I talked to Trish Flores at the Herald," he assured her. "She and her boss have agreed to keep things hush hush and not broadcast the fact I'm in town."
"Oh, the Herald," Bibiana snorted. "That's rich. Carmen Arellano runs that damn paper and she couldn't keep a secret if her own mother's life depended on it. Trust me; I know!"
"Chief, we have to do this," Daos insisted. "The usual methods won't work here - trust me. You didn't hire me because you needed another detective to run labs and dust for fingerprints. You hired me because you needed me. You needed Daos."
"The mayor is aware your presence in this town," Bibiana rasped. "He's not too happy about it. Carmen, I can deal with, but Antonello? We don't have much time before he finds some legal way to get rid of you. Ergo, we are on a very short leash, so please tell me this isn't an extended mission."
Daos flashed a small but reassuring smile. "I just need one night, Chief. I know that once I get backstage, I'll find what I'm looking for."
"One night is all you've got," she nodded briskly for emphasis. He smiled in gratitude and turned to leave.
It finally struck her that Daos...the Nicolao Daos...was going to go undercover as a male stripper.
A strange heat crept into her face; she shook her head slightly as though to clear it, and then immediately became concerned. For some reason, she suddenly remembered the Mayor's last words to her from the night before.
"You know the last Chief he worked under died, right?"
She didn't know why she was noticing Daos, really noticing him now. He was several years her junior and yet...there was something about the eyes which him seemed older than even she. He hadn't taken much convincing to come to Soleado Valle; he hadn't bargained heavily or salary or lodgings or anything like that. It was like he was an honor-bound soldier on a mission, regardless of where it took him.
Bibiana felt a strange shiver at the thought; the heat crept back into her face and she felt her breath catch. She began to realize just how little she knew about this man outside his reputation, and how curious she was starting to become.
It was until Strawberry showed the two detectives the dressing room before reality began to sink in for Dominador. Before them lay two rows of chairs and tables against mirrored walls with lights. The floor was concrete and dusty, there were female strippers walking around almost in the nude.
In short, Club Piel Desnuda was living up to the stereotype.
It took a moment for Dominador to speak. "I can't believe we're about to do this."
"We?" Daos smirked. "Or me?"
"Pick one," Dominador scoffed. "Hey, by the way...what exactly are we looking for here? I mean, I get why we came here - at least somewhat - but what are we looking for?"
"We'll know it when we see it," Daos assured him. "What music did you pick anyway?"
"Sean Paul's 'We Be Burnin'," Dominador grinned. "I, uh, may have had some success with it in the past."
"Mm-hm," Daos raised a cynical brow. "I suspect this isn't your first time doing this sort of thing?"
His young partner shrugged. "I had a life before you met me, Daos. And what music did you pick?"
Daos flashed him a sly grin. "Ever heard of a guy named Seven?"
Before Dominador could answer, Strawberry came strolling up to them with a large, old wooden bowl filled with water.
"Before you go on, I suggest you anoint yourselves," she said.
Daos and Dominador seemed to blink in unison, but it was Dominador who spoke. "Anoint...ourselves?" he inquired haltingly.
"For luck," Strawberry explained. "All the dancers do it. When the high school went secular, and the city wanted to buy it, they auctioned off its oldest pieces to raise money. They sold the statue of St. Nabirio to a museum in some big city, but I managed to get my hands on this bowl. Our dancers anoint themselves and then pray that the saint protect them from a bad death, and that he bring them profit without pain." At the looks on their faces, Strawberry laughed. "In a town like this, are you really that surprised our strippers would be Catholic?" She raised the bowl once more in offering.
The detectives exchanged looks. When they looked back at Strawberry, they spoke at the same time.
Next: Strip, Tease