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CHAPTER 1

Emmet can feel the beat of the music pounding in his body, vibrating through his feet and muscles, beating with the timing of his heart. It is hot in here; bodies press against him everywhere. People are damp, some are sweating and he can feel his own sweat starting to pool on his top lip, the small of his back and under his pits. It does nothing to cool him off. The lights flash in time with the music, turning the display of male and female bodies into a writhing orgy of flesh, each form indistinguishable from the next. Then the pulse lights start working. People appear before him, looming up out of the darkness every time the light flashes. It’s like stills from a film, quick images that are changed every time the light returns.

His head is spinning, his ears starting to hurt. He looks over at his friend Terry who is stood beside him. Terry isn’t enjoying himself anymore. The wide smile that he was wearing earlier is gone. The hand on Emmet’s shoulder squeezes tightly, grinding the bones together. The man that it is attached to, a bouncer in a cheap suit, glares at them when Emmet turns to say something. Emmet looks back ahead and lets himself be steered towards a door that is almost invisible in the wall. Just a small metal box beside it gives any hint that it’s there. When the bouncer lets go of his shoulder to enter the code he considers running for a moment, just turning around and getting the hell out of there, disappearing into the crowd and climbing over the back wall to vanish into the night.

It’s not a choice that he can make though. Before he even starts to turn around he sees another bouncer looming out of the crowd. The guy ignores the scantily clad girls that press themselves against him, the coy smiles through fluttering eyelashes. If it’s possible he’s even bigger than the first guy and he stands right behind Emmet and Terry with his thick arms crossed over his massive chest. Bright white light suddenly spills over them all, forcing Emmet to cover his eyes with his arm. The bouncer has got the door open, revealing the corridor beyond and the secret sanctum of the club. He heads inside and the second one shoves the pair of no-hopers through after him, herding them like cattle.

The corridor they’re in is brightly lit. It makes Emmet’s eyes hurt after the dim light of the club itself. The door swings shut behind them and all of the noise is cut out. Emmet’s ears are still ringing though and he can feel the beat of the bass through the soles of his shoes. That could just be the pounding of his heart though. The beer that he drank earlier isn’t sitting so well now and his mouth is dry, like he hasn’t drunk anything for hours and just woken up from a three-day bender. As he walks he tries to remember exactly why he thought this was a good idea and even more wonders why he let Terry talk him into doing something so God damned messed up.

“You two are in deep shit.” The man growls out, as if he’s reading Emmet’s mind. “You’re gonna wish you’d never set foot in here. Nah, scratch that. You’re gonna wish you’d never even heard of the place.”

“Save it Quasimodo.” Terry spits out. Emmet’s heart sinks. The guy always speaks before thinking things through. And he is still running his mouth off. “I ain’t scared of your boss, no one is.”

“Tough talk for a little guy.” The bouncer says.

He stops walking and turns to face them. Terry doesn’t notice in time and before Emmet has the chance to reach out and stop his friend he has walked in to the bouncer’s chest, stopping short. He just stands there, staring up in to the beast’s face. His mouth is hanging open and he looks like a terrified five-year-old.

“You won’t be saying that soon,” the bouncer growls, looming over Terry. “The boss is gonna make you pay.”

He opens a door behind him and grabs Terry by the collar. He throws him through it. Emmet follows behind his friend quickly, before the bouncer has a chance to grab him and throw him through too. He glances nervously up at the bouncer as he passes. The bouncer smirks down at Emmet and follows them in, shutting the door behind them.

It’s dark in the room they’re in. Not as dark as the club of course but dimmer than the brightly lit corridor outside. It takes Emmet a second for his eyes to adjust to yet another change in light. Soon he can make out the shape of a desk, massive in the small room, cabinets along the walls, shelves and pictures plastering every free surface. There’s a chair behind the desk and whoever’s sitting in it is in shadow. Television screens flicker with images behind the chair, making it even harder to see who’s there. The bouncer shoves Emmet in the back, forcing him to walk forwards.

“Watch it!” Terry snarls before coming up beside Emmet, “This is real Adidas you idiot.”

Emmet rolls his eyes as Terry readjusts his track suit. Terry really has no idea of exactly how much shit they’re both in. Either that or he doesn’t care. Emmet really hopes that Terry is just being an idiot rather than having a death wish.

“You really are dumb fucks.” The shadow in the chair says.

A light comes on and the chair shifts to block out the television screens. The lamp lights up the desk and reveals Chris, the club owner. He has a massive frown on his face.

Emmet stares at Chris, not saying a thing. He glances over at Terry and wants to groan when he sees Terry just glaring at Chris. He hears the bouncer behind them chuckling.

“You are serious dumb fucks,” Chris says, “You actually thought that you could swan in here and sell your shit? In my house? To my punters?! Are you fucking mad?”

“It’s good shit!” Terry says, “Like really good shit.”

“I don’t give a fuck!” Chris snarls at him, standing up now and putting both hands on the desk. “You don’t come in to my house and then try to sell your shit, especially without asking me first.”

“It’s better stuff than all the other crap you sell here,” Terry says, still not getting the hint.

Emmet is tempted to whisper at him to shut up but Chris carries on talking before he can. Hopefully Terry will shut up soon anyway.

“Maybe it is,” Chris says with a shrug, “But it’s my stuff that they’re selling. I’ve heard you’ve been doing the rounds around town, trying to get your shit into places. And then when you couldn’t get it in and you thought you could still sell it here without asking?”

Terry starts to say something but no words come out. His mouth just moves up and down and he looks like a fish gasping for air. Emmet winces and looks away from Terry, back at Chris and the bouncer who’s standing beside his boss. Both are watching them with sadistic smiles on their face. Chris sits down and puts his hands on the desk in front of him, linking his fingers together.

“I’ll show you what I do to people who try to sell shit without my permission.”

He reaches for the phone and picks up the handset. He taps in a few buttons and there’s a moment of silence. It’s so quiet that Emmet can actually hear the ring tone.

“Walker please,” Chris says when there’s a quiet murmur on the other end. There’s a series of clicks and then a bit more of a dial tone. A deep voice then grumbles on the other end.

“Jezzer, how you doing?” Chris says. “How’s the wife? …Glad to hear it … How did little Ellie’s dance show go? … Really?! That’s fantastic…. Yeah, everything’s good with the missus.”

Emmet tries really hard not to roll his eyes at this. Here’s a guy who looked like he was about to beat the crap out of them both and now he’s talking like a housewife. Doesn’t make sense. And it definitely isn’t scary. Somehow hearing the club boss asking after a little girl’s dance show temporarily takes away the menace. Emmet tunes the sound of the one-sided conversation out and looks around.

“Yeah mate, I called you for a favour,” Chris says, catching Emmet’s attention again. “I’ve got two divs for you here…. Trying to sell in my place…. Yeah, 100 pills on them.”

Chris presses a button on the phone and the Detective Constable’s voice fills the room. It’s deep and gravelly with sleep.

“Nice one mate.” He says. “I’ll be right over. I always like to get hoodrats off the street.”

Chris smirks and puts the phone down. A wave of his hand and the two bags, each holding one hundred pills appears on the desk in front of him.

“Tut tut boys,” Chris says, shaking his head at them. “You really should be more careful. Can’t believe my boys found these on you so easily. You didn’t even try to hide them. Here, catch.”

He tosses Emmet’s bag at Terry who reaches out and grabs it automatically. He fumbles the catch though and his fingers end up covering every inch of the plastic bag.

“Now both of you have got prints on that thing,” Chris says with a smirk. “Don’t think you’re going to get off a dealing charge now. Marky, get the scrawny shit to put the bag on the desk.”

Chris reaches out for the other bag as the bouncer, Marky makes his way around the desk. Chris bounces the bag in his hand, staring at the contents. Then he opens a drawer and drops it in.

“Will test these out later lads,” he says. “Since you rate them so highly. Might as well see what you risked it all for.”

Marky shoves Terry, gets him to put the bag on the desk. Then the bouncer shoves Terry back towards Emmet. He towers over the pair of them. Emmet swallows deeply, tries to stop his knees from shaking. Another bouncer comes in and joins Chris, standing beside the desk with arms crossed over his chest. It’s the big guy from before, the one who looks like a beast. Terry and Emmet are both seriously fucked and there’s no way that they’re getting out of this one.

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