When he set the tray down on the table in the corner, he turned and did something odd that had me watching him more closely. His hand went to his back as he looked over at the men, who were still busy talking. When his eyes came to me, he smiled before walking out of the room. I looked at Tessa to see if she had noticed anything strange, but she was busy handing out the drinks and flirting with the men at the table.
We stood to the side again once the men had their drinks. Every once in a while, they would ask me a question about the club, and I told them what I knew. About thirty minutes after they had their first drinks, I called and had more ordered. This time, when the guy came in, he did the same thing—hand at his back, looking at the table. I had no idea who he was, but I planned to find out as soon as the men left.
One of the men received a phone call and stepped out of the room, and when he returned, he had another man with him. They all sat down. This time when they called me over, they wanted a bottle of Chivas Regal Royal Salute Scotch. One glass of the stuff cost close to six hundred dollars, making it over ten thousand dollars for a bottle. I placed the order and waited for it to be delivered.
When the knock sounded on the door, I opened it up, and the same man from earlier came in and set the tray down. I watched to see if he would do the same thing he had done the previous times. Sure enough, his head turned towards the table and his hand lifted behind his back, but this time, he lifted his jacket, pulling out something black.
It took a second for me to realize what it was, and by that time, it was too late. He let off four rounds in rapid succession then turned and fired another round, hitting Tessa. I screamed as he turned the gun on me, and before I could think, I ducked down and ran as fast as I could out of the room. I felt a bullet whiz past me as I turned the corner and another as I entered the main part of the club.
I spotted Mick. Right away, his eyes got wide, and I yelled at the top of my lungs, “HE HAS A GUN!”
Everyone started screaming and running in every direction. I ran into a solid wall, and when I looked up to see that it was Link, he wrapped an arm around my waist, turned, and pushed me behind the bar. I stumbled in my heels, falling to my knees and hitting the ground hard. I crawled under the counter and curled myself into a ball, shaking out of fear for my life. I listened as people screamed but didn’t hear any more gunshots. I don’t know how long I stayed like that, but it felt like forever until I heard police sirens.
“Autumn,” Link called, using my real name, snapping me out of my terrified huddle.
I peeked out from behind my hands as he crouched down in front of me. “Did you get him?”
He shook his head, putting out his hand for me to take. I shook my head no. I was safe; I didn’t want to move from that spot.
“Come on, Angel. He’s gone.”
I shook my head again.
“Nothing is going to happen to you. I promise you’re safe.”
I swallowed against the lump in my throat, squeezing my eyes closed. “Tessa?” I asked him. His eyes closed and his head dropped forward. “No,” I whispered, shaking my head. “No.”
“Sorry, Angel,” he said quietly.
“Not sure, but the cops are here. I need you to come out of there so you can talk to them,” he told me gently, holding out his hand again.
I nodded, reluctantly taking it. Even though I didn’t like Tessa, she didn’t deserve what had happened to her. None of the people in the room deserved what had happened to them.
“I should have tried to help her.”
“Nothing you could have done,” Link said, and my eyes went from to the floor to his. He shook his head, wrapped his beefy arm around my shoulders, and walked me over to a barstool.
I sat there until the cops came up a few minutes later and told me that they needed to talk to me at the station.
“Can she get some clothes on?” Link, who had given me the shirt off his back and hadn’t left my side, asked one of the detectives.
“Sure,” the guy mumbled.
I slid off the barstool and dazedly walked to the dressing room. When I walked in, all the girls were there huddled together and crying. I didn’t know what to say to them; most of them had been friends with Tessa. I felt horrible that they had lost their friend, but I was unsure if they would want me to express my condolences.
I walked to my locker and started to pull off my stockings when one of the girls came up to me, wrapping her arms around me. Shocked, I hugged her back, and more of the girls gathered around me. We all stood there silently for a few minutes. Most of the girls were crying while a couple mumbled about how everything would be okay. I wasn’t sure anything would ever be okay again; I’d just watched five people die and was lucky to still be alive.
“I have to go with the police,” I told the girls when it didn’t seem like they were going to let me go.
After a second, they all started breaking away from me one by one, giving me reassuring hugs. “Call me if you want to talk,” one of the girls, Elsa, said, handing me a business card with her personal information on it.
I looked at it for a long second before nodding. I had never really been friends with any of them. Maybe that needed to change.
I went to my locker, pulling off my clothes before slipping on a pair of jean shorts, a black tank top, an oversized, grey sweater, and a pair of black flip-flops. I grabbed my bag, shoved everything from my locker into it, and left the room without a backwards glance.
Link was waiting for me outside the dressing room door, his back against the wall, his head tilted back, looking at the ceiling. I’ve known Link since I started working at The Lion’s Den. He’s a nice guy, with blond hair cut low to his head, tan skin, blue eyes, and a Southern drawl that made women fall to their knees. He used to flirt with me when I first started, but when I didn’t return any of the banter, he laid off and became a friend. He is one of the only people who knows about my past and the things I’ve gone through.
“You didn’t have to wait for me,” I told him, pulling my bag across my body.
“I’m not letting you go through this alone.” He pulled me into his side.
I could feel tears stinging my eyes, and I fought them back. I wasn’t going to cry until this was all over, when I could do it alone while hiding under my covers with my face stuffed into a pillow…like I always did.
He gave me a squeeze, and I felt his lips at the top of my head.