from the book
The bass vibrated through Mahir's bones as a pair of bouncers led him along the staff-only corridor in the nightclub. He caught a line of the rock lyrics — tough luck, tough guy — and thought it ridiculously fitting. He was already seeking conclusions and grasping at nothing, like that meth head from last week who had received messages through the TV, convinced that God spoke to him on the shopping channel.
He walked between two goons who'd hopefully soon be his colleagues, trying not to appear too eager or too relaxed. Saeed, his cover identity, would be alert, but he also needed to radiate competence. He must've done a good job of it to have made it this far.
The goon on his left rapped on the last door of the corridor. The door opened, and the goon waved him in.
The room was half supply cabinet, half office. Boxes piled high against the wall. A water cooler looked out of place between the Formica table and cheap folding chairs. There was only one man in the room, and he stood off to the side.
He was taller than Mahir, though not by much. Just enough that he'd have to look up a little if they were ever standing face-to-face, which Mahir hoped didn't happen anytime soon. That wasn't to say the guy was unattractive. Well dressed, well groomed, dark hair arranged perfectly, and tailored shirt and slacks crisp and smooth. He was slimmer than most of the guys working in this ring but certainly not lacking. His white sleeves were rolled to the elbows, showing off strong, sinewy muscle. And if his forearms were that cut, Mahir could only imagine what the man was hiding under the rest of his clothes.
It didn't help that Mahir knew this guy played for his team. If he was the head of Lombardi's security, he was gay. They all were. That was how Lombardi kept his men from fucking with his girls.
Yeah, he was gay and he was attractive, but there was an air about him that made Mahir more than happy to stay on the opposite side of the room. The guy radiated a menacing intensity. A focused, predatory aura that pulled all of Mahir's nerves taut.
The room was dim, lit only by a single weak bulb over their heads, but the still, silent man wore sunglasses. Dark ones. The slightest motion of his eyebrows said he was looking Mahir up and down. Mahir had seen guys like this before. Some were just douche bags who wanted to look like gangster badasses or action-movie leads, but then there was this kind: the guy who didn't like people looking him in the eye. It probably unnerved the shit out of most people, and Mahir had a feeling that effect was not accidental.
Question was, how much of this was a test? Was Mahir supposed to be intimidated and unsettled or look this guy straight in the eyes — well, lenses — and not back down?
The butt of a high-caliber handgun stuck out of a shoulder holster beneath the man's arm. He didn't play around. Working for a notorious pimp who was likely also a high-powered drug dealer meant he didn't have to play by the same rules Mahir did. Passing whatever test he was currently taking wasn't optional.
Deep, even breaths. "You must be David Ridley."
"And who the fuck are you?"
Mahir swallowed. The guy's voice was smooth but sharp at the same time. He'd probably sound sexy as hell if every word wasn't laced with give me a reason not to shoot you.
"I was told you were expecting me."
"I'm expecting someone." The guy raised his chin, drawing Mahir's attention to the flawless lines of his jaw and throat. "You might want to introduce yourself before you start asking questions."
"I'm Saeed." Social protocol suggested he...