And as expected that’s just what I encountered on the other side of the door. Agrios was dominated by colors of red and black and gold, the low, pulsing beat of electronic music in the air. It was a large area, with little nooks generously spaced apart where clientele could have a little privacy for dancing and conversation. Marble statues were situated here and there, Greek-style, all of women in erotic positions. The overall effect of the décor was sleaze and elegance all in one.
A handful of women were on stage. Didn’t matter that it was nearly dawn—Nico had designed the club as a place where a man could fly in on the red eye from Tokyo or Moscow or Berlin and be greeted with a drink and a warm smile from one of many gorgeous women. And that sort of clientele was what I spotted as I entered. One table was packed with Yakuza, recognizable instantly by their tattooed arms and necks, and their serious demeanors. Another was a raucous table of what appeared to be Columbian drug runners, drinks being thrown back to calls of “Salud!”, their arms wrapped around the waists of their women.
When I was a young man first stepping into Agrios for the first time, the place had struck me as so grand, so exclusive, that merely walking up those stairs and through the front door had been enough to make me feel as if the world was mine.
The truth had taken the shine off the place over the last several years. Agrios was a cover, for one. The front of the house made money and brought prestige to the Drakos crime family, but the real business was done in the back. Drug running, weapons sales, even human trafficking took place. Indeed, the girls dancing were all on the offer.Just being there anymore was enough to make me sick to my stomach, to wish each time would be the last.
Maybe it would be.
Nico made the rounds, going from table to table and chatting up the clientele. He was as dangerous a man as they came, but even so, he knew how to work a room.
I hurried over to Nico, placing my hand on his arm. He glanced down at it, then up at me with an expression that seemed to say, “if anyone else other than you did this, they’d be on the floor.”
I took my hand away.
“Yes, Alexandros? Is there a reason why you’re bothering me in the middle of my duties?”
“David. He needs my attention, yes?”
He pursed his lips. “Yes, indeed he does. Johnny said that he was fine, that it was a simple matter of stitching up the wound.”
“Maybe so. All the same, a gunshot wound is a gunshot wound.”
He nodded, conceding the point. “You’re right. Let’s handle my nephew after we have a little something at the bar to celebrate, yes?” He turned his attention toward the nearest woman on stage, a stunning redhead. “Maybe I’ll even let you have your pick.”
Nico was off before waiting for my response. I glanced up at the woman, who met my gaze with a smile as she danced, nothing on her body but a skimpy red thong and matching pair of pasties—neither of which would likely be on her for long. She was gorgeous, just like all the rest of the women in the place. Truth be told, however, no woman had so much as caught my eye since my night with Georgia, other than the ones I’d thought were her, of course.
I hurried to Nico’s side. He flicked his hand toward the bartender, who responded by putting a glass of Nico’s usual cognac in his hand.
“Something for you, Alexandros?”
“Not when I’m working.”
He glanced back at me, a small smile on his lips. “Smart kid.”
We reached the door to the back area where two very large, dark-suited guards sat on both sides of it. One of them opened the door as we approached, and Nico and I stepped into the only place in New York more exclusive than the main floor of Agrios—the back of the house.
The hallway was dark, and through the open door I could catch glimpses of the various illegal goings-on in the place. One room had a table of gangsters looking over recent illegal arms purchases, another with more goons packing neat bricks of heroin and coke for sale.
In another, an Agrios manager was in the middle of speaking to a beautiful woman who couldn’t have been older than twenty. Her accent indicated she was eastern European, most likely from Belarus, and the conversation consisted of him explaining the terms of her employment which were she dances and “entertains” on demand, or she’ll be sent right back to where she’d come from.
It all made me sick, ashamed that there’d been a point in my life when I’d thought this sort of stuff was admirable. I wasn’t a religious man, but I thanked God or whoever else was up there that Nico had spotted my intelligence from a young age and decided that I’d be better use to them as a doctor than a common thug.
A moan cut through the muffled electronic music as we approached the main office. Nico knocked on the door.
“Uncle, is that you?” The voice on the other side belonged to David. But it sounded weak, lifeless.
Something was wrong.
The door opened, Johnny Baros greeting us.
Johnny, Nico’s number two man, shot a skeptical glance in my direction. Dressed in one of his usual silk suits, this one a deep red, accented with a silver tie, nearly all of his fingers adorned with gaudy rings, alligator loafers with gold bits on his feet, he was the opposite of Nico’s subtle refinement. He was short and squat, his face flashy and his head completely bald aside from his dark, bushy eyebrows and a small soul patch.
“I see you got the bullet-remover,” he said in his usual sarcastic tone, nodding toward me.
Johnny had been the one to take my father’s position after his passing. Though I’d never expressed designs on the job myself, Johnny had always viewed me as competition, a little upstart that he’d have to take care of one of these days. Sometimes I found myself wondering what might happen if Nico were ever out of the picture… would Johnny take me out just to be on the safe side?
“Mind moving your fat ass?” I asked. “I can’t see the patient.”