Chapter 5 – Le Den Devils – The Last Ruble by Joe D Wells
Below you may read Chapter 5. As Jack is getting dressed to go to a dangerous party in Paris France. Jack reflects upon his cowboy boots and as you will learn they did not help him out as much as he thought the would.
It was only 9:30 p.m. and I was bored, but starting at 11, they would party until the sun came up. I’m glad I had a little nap and something to eat. Now to get dressed, remembering, Swiss said come at you wish. I had been wearing the suit all day. And for several days, waiting for a meeting to start. It was time to dress comfortable in my normal attire. Blue jeans, starched white shirt, blue dress jacket and my Lucchese boots.
I reflected to the day I purchased my boots. I had been buying boots for three hundred to six hundred dollars a pair. They just would not last. Within two years tops, they were falling apart. A buddy and I were in New Orleans back a few years ago. Doing what they do best in The Big Easy. It was late afternoon and we took a horse and buggy ride. We were talking about boots. Mainly, I was complaining about mine. I looked down at his asking.
“Who made those boots. You have had them for a while. And I have been through two pair since you bought those boots.”
He smiled and point down the road on the left.
I slide forward from my old leather, but well-oiled seat to tell the driver.
“Do us a favor and let us out in front of that boot store up there on the left.”
He made no jester heard me, but stop in front of the boot store. We tipped him well.
This store had been here a long time. You could tell from the architecture the building was built in the late 20’s or 30’s. And what was even more impressive, which also showed, this established had been in business a long time. The store’s name or rather what services they performed was imbedded in the building. Nice old engraving. Obviously, by a skilled craftsman, perhaps a craftswoman I thought. “Shoe Repair.” I was excited about this visit. I am remembering thinking, if they fix what they sell and have been here this long. Then odds are they knew what they were doing.
We entered the store. It smelled of fresh leather. Take a little deeper breath and you could smell some feet. Not nasty, the leather overcame. Entering the store, we were greeted by a lady. She greeted us with a purpose.
“How can I help you young men.
My buddy leads our conversation. Pointing at me, he said.
“My buddy here needs a real pair of boots.”
She looked over the counter, from her sitting position, at my feet. I was had on a pair of ragged out boots. She looked up at me and smiled. Then she pushes her eyes to guide us and said.
“Go over there and speak to that young man.
My buddy and I looked in the direction she had guided us to look. Then we looked at one another with a little wonder in our eyes. We only saw one other person in the store. We walked over to him.
“How are you, sir. My buddy here is tired of wearing cheap boots and just made a little money. You think can help him out?”
This young man had a little hunch in his back. From looking down for many years one could assume. He had on a leather apron. He sized us both up. And then he asks me.
“What size do you wear?
He was polite but to the point, so I stayed with him and I told him.
“A size twelve.”
He walked over to the boot shelf. Looking up and down. And a few times back at me. He then took a pair of boots from the shelf. Walked over to me and said>
“Put these on.”
I sat and complied. After a few paces around the room. I told him.
“I will take them. How much?
He looked at me and then back toward the rolls and rolls of boots and said.
“I thought you wanted a pair of boots. If you must ask how much. Well, maybe need to downsize the price a little. The creature these boots were made from would out last you in the swamp. And his skin will without doubt outlast you in this life time. They are horn back alligator skins. Bullet proof to what you will do with them.
“This place I was in, knew boots. There was no question in my mind. I replied.
“I take them” They were two thousand dollars.
I was dressed and it was time to go to the party. I took a different exit from the Ritz, this time stopping at the Hemingway bar, small, but very nice and very Hemingway. It is rumored this is where Hemingway invented the Bloody Mary. Because his wife would smell his breath when he came home. His way of slipping a drink in during the day. Not sure if it true. There were three or four other people in the bar. I sat away from everyone and ordered a glass of Bordeaux.
The bartender set down the Bordeaux and said.
“Welcome to the Hemingway bar, sir.”
I nodded with a smile, saying.
“Thank you. And what bar is that one across the hall there?”
He looked in the direct of the bar across the hallway and said.
“That’s a private bar, unless you’re staying at the Ritz, if you show your room key, you may enter. It’s a very private and upscale place.”
I turned back to him, replying.
“Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I’m headed to a party at The Devils Den. Have you been there?”
He said very proudly.
“Yes, I have. They have very exclusive parties.”
I told him.
“I’ve never been there.”
He looked somewhat impressed.
“Then you must know someone, sir.”
“Do you know, Swiss?”
“Swiss, she is a very charming lady.”
I pushed on with questions.
“So, you know her?”
The bar was slow, he was going no were and said.
“We have met. She is a very serious business lady. She owns part of quite a few bars in Paris.”
Finishing my glass of Bordeaux, I ordered a small taste of the appetizers, one more glass of wine, and then was ready to go. I took it very slowly. I knew I was in for a long night. At 10:45 or so, I settled with the bartender and began my walk to The Devils Den. I arrived at the top of the steps right at 11 p.m. Perhaps they called it the den because I was going to have to go down into the basement of a large building. At the top of the steps were two security guards. They were very large men dressed in matching black suits. There were about 30 people in line. I was not about to stand in line. I walked around everyone, straight to the doormen.
“My name is Jack Rivers and Swiss told me I did not have to stand in line.”
Not exactly the truth, but she did say she would leave my name at the door.
With this the large man looked at his list and then up at me and asked.
He turned to the left and pointing down the steps and said.
“Enjoy yourself. Be careful of the steps.”
I extended my hand to shake his,” Thank you very much.” When he extended his hand to return the handshake, I slipped him a $20 bill and headed down the steps without waiting for a reply. At the bottom of the steps things begin to look up as far as classy goes. There was a hat check girl in a small room to the right. Then standing to the left was another large man in the same matching suit. I passed the hat checked room, I approached two large double doors, perhaps 18 feet tall, and they were huge. The doorman opened the door for me and said.
“Welcome and have a good time.”
I just looked at him, smiled and gave a little nod. When I walked in, I was quite overwhelmed by the size of this place. The level I was on was a balcony level circling the entire room with private tables set back and about 20 feet apart, offering some privacy. I looked up, seeing a private room with one way glass, one of the sliding windows was open, where I saw a lady standing with her back to the open window. It had to be Swiss. I have seen her from the back at the café. Then, in front of me, was a double wide staircase leading down into the main bar area. When I got about halfway down, I could see all around the room. Quickly, I counted four bars and there had to be hundreds of people in this place. It was a French discotheque. I looked for the path of least resistance to the closest bar, thinking I would let my host find me. I had a feeling this night would be long and full of surprises.
I found room at the bar, ordered a Jack Daniels and Coke with lime. The service was quick by a charming, well dressed bartender who was quite cute. I was sipping my drink, perhaps for 10 minutes or so when there was a light tap on my back; it was Swiss.
“Mr. Rivers, welcome.”
I turned, looking over my left shoulder, I responded.
Here smile was deep with meaning.
“Well Jack, if you follow me, I’d like to introduce you to someone.”
We moved off to the left, got to the curve in the bar and I could see there was another private room with the same one-way glass. The doors were slid open and there looked to be about 20 or 30 people inside. There was another large man in the same matching suit as the one at the front door. And then up four or five red velvet steps to enter the private room.
Once in the room, one could tell these were the privileged group or at least thought they were this evening. The room had several areas, distinction created by different lighting. The front of the room, overlooking the dance floor, was the darkest and offered a long black leather bench seat. To my right, just inside the door was a bar lighted by gold color lighting. This was the brightest area in this room. In the middle of the room was a small dance floor with flashing spot lights gleaming down. In the far corner of the room, which was hard to see, the lighting was a dark blue. I could make out several tables and chairs full of people, but no faces could be seen I assumed Katie would be here since I had not spotted her in any of the other areas.
Swiss took me by the hand in a playful manner.
“Come on Jack, I have great parties.”
She danced us straight through the middle of the room, across the dance floor and into the dark blue lighted area. I joined in, following gracefully as I could. Swiss even took the time in the middle of the dance floor to slow our pace. She danced a few circles around me. I could see she was showing Katie I had arrived. I saw Katie sitting and looking at me, I let go of Swiss’s hand, walking directly over to Katie. I was just about to get within speaking range when Hans stepped in between Katie and me. He had to be 6 feet 5 inches and a good 250 pounds. Just as I was beginning to look up at him, one of the dancers from behind me bumped into me, pushing me hard enough into Hans that I had to put my hands up to slow my movement. My left hand went to the middle of his chest and my right hand went to his left side. I felt a gun. He pushed me back hard. This situation was about to escalate when Katie appeared from behind Hans. She just looked up and Hans, without a word, moved to the back of the dark blue room. He did give me one last glance. Again, I remember thinking, this guy would eat you.
Katie, with a smile on her face, put her hand out to shake, which I accepted.
“I am Katherine.”
I was about to respond, she continued.
“I know who you are Jack Rivers and who you work for in Memphis. But, neither I nor my company can figure out why you.”
I smiled and leaning over a little so she could hear me above the music.
“Perhaps, you should ask.”
She responded with.
“We have, but have not been given a response.”
I smiled at her and said.
“Perhaps you are asking the wrong person.”
She showed a quick smile back and said.
“Perhaps that’s the problem. Please sit down, we’re drinking champagne.”
As soon as I sat down, a glass of cold champagne was in front of me, I took a sip, sliding my chair a little closer to her, I asked.
“Should I call you Katie or Katherine?”
She smiled, replying.
“When I am working, it is Katherine.”
“Are you working now?”
She kept up the jousting.
“I’m always working in some form or another, but tonight, please call me Katie.”
I acknowledged her choice.
“Okay Katie, who do you work for that would bring so much attention my way.”
She told me.
“You must know, we are in the same sort of line of work.”
I wanted confirmation.
“Perhaps, but enlighten me, please.”
She almost snapped at me, as she was a lady who was used to getting her way.
“Do not try to play me Jack.”
“I’m not afraid of you or Hans,” I looked over at Hans who was several chairs away; he could not hear us and I lifted my glass to him, offering a toast. Hans did not move but just kept staring at me.
Katie was quick to get my attention back and away from Hans.
“I work for D.W.C. and H. I have a PhD in business from Harvard. You on the other hand went to college for two years, yet you seem to be taking business from our firm.”
I confirmed what she knew.
“Oh, the billion-dollar trade I just completed.”
Smiling she said.
“Yes Jack, that one. May I ask how?”
I laid into her a little to see how far I could push her.
“Does hard work matter to you? You know I did not go to college so are you assuming I cannot read? The library is full of books.”
She looked almost impressed and asked.
“Is that how you taught yourself?”
Without expression, I said.
She took a sip of her champagne and said.
“If that is true, then that is quite amazing.”
“Well, I’m self-taught about finance. Any book you wish to read can be found at the library”
Testing me, she said.
“Perhaps, you should come to work for us.”
I played right back and asked.
“Why? What do you have to offer?” With this I stood and said, “Please excuse me; I have to go to the bathroom.”
She just smiled, taking a sip of her champagne, looking at me as I stood. I was about to walk away when there was a familiar tap on my shoulder. I t was Swiss, asking.
“Where are you off to Jack?”
“To the restroom, I’ll be back.”
Swiss smiled and said.
“Jack, you owe me a dance.”
I gazed into her beautiful blue eyes and said.
“Ok that is a deal. Now where’s the restroom?”
“There is a private one out the door over there and to the left, and then the other is back by the bar and to the left where I found you, your choice.”
“Thanks. Don’t leave me.
” I moved out the door and decided to get away from this crowd for a moment, choosing to head for the bathroom by the entrance.
Rounding the corner, I saw another flight of steps down to the restroom area. The stairwell was lined with men and women who were doing more than drinking champagne; there was the smell of pot. They were fried. I just took my time moving around them, even stepping over a few, perhaps on one, based upon the sounds I heard in the dark stairwell. I reach the restroom area and remember thinking; this must not be the glamorous area of the night club. There was a door to the left for women and one to the right for the men. There were just doorways, with really no privacy. Inside the men’s area, there were three or four stalls with what looked like old saloon doors. I picked one. I had to go to the bathroom. I was just finishing my standing up business when the old wooden doors slammed into my back.
I said loudly.
“I will be out in a minute.”
It happened again. I finished and as I turned to walk out, the door slammed into me again. I pushed back as hard as I could, when I heard a reply.
“Oh, my nose, I think he broke my nose.”
I walked out and said.
“Do that again and I will break more than your nose.” Then at that moment, I felt a sharp pain in my left kidney and dropped to one knee. My boots had no grip on this nasty slippery floor. I had been punched hard.
I heard a second voice from behind me.
“We do the breaking around here, American.”
I tried to get up, but a fist hit me in the middle of my back, and then the voice of the man hitting me said.
“You stay down, American. This is our club.”
In pain, I asked.
“Who are you guys and why are you doing this? I am just here to party a little.”
This time I did not try to move, but looked back under my body to see where the second guy was standing; the floor was nasty and slippery. Looking up, the first guy was still holding his nose. He looked down at me and said.
“We are your worst nightmare, American.”
I had the second guy’s location. I could see both of his feet, just to the back left of me. He was standing close. I used my right hand, which would give me the most leverage, taking hold of his left pants leg. I pulled fast and as hard as I could back toward the right and up under me, crossing his legs up, then I kicked straight back as hard as I could with my left leg into his right leg, taking all his balance away from him. With the floor being so slippery, he lost his balance, hitting the floor hard. By this time, I had my senses back from the two cheap shots he had given me from behind and came up fast. The first man was not paying much attention, thinking his buddy had me under control; he had moved to the mirror and was looking at his swollen nose in the cracked mirror. By the time he realized I was standing, it was too late for him to react. I hit him hard on his red nose. I quickly glanced over my left shoulder to check on the second man, who was sitting up on the floor rubbing the back of his head. These guys were not muggers or even fighters; someone put them up to this act. I turned my attention back to the red nose man. He was back looking in the mirror.
I put my right hand on the back of his neck, pushing his face up against the mirror; I got close to his ear and said.
“If you don’t tell me who put you up to this, I will use this mirror to cut your nose off. Who do you work for?”
He cried out in pain.
“I cannot tell you. He will kill us.”
“Was it Hans?”
He was ready for this adventure to be over and said.
“Yes, yes, it is Hans.”
I just let him go, pushing him away, so I could use the broken mirror to clean up a little. Over all I was fine. My side still felt the punch and my knee was a little wet from the floor. I started to leave, but turned and walked over to the second man still on the floor rubbing his head. When I walked over, he lowered his head, covering it with both hands. Now I knew for sure these men were not fighters. I just left.
I stopped back at the bar where Swiss had found me, ordering a drink to get my composure; I was not done with this group. After finishing my drink, I returned to the private room. As I approached the table, I could see Hans watching me, I did not let on I could see him. There was a man sitting in my chair next to Katie. I tapped him on the shoulder, while leaning over and said.
“Please excuse me for a moment, I really need to speak with Katie.”
He looked at me, and then at Katie, who gave him a smile so he stood and moved away and I sat down.
“Good to see you back Jack.”
I looked at her hard and said.
“I thought it might be a surprise, but we did not finishing talking.”
She had a nervous smile.
“There is always time to talk.”
Still staring her down, I said.
“Yes, and then there is time when action is better than talking.”
She said with a surprised tone of voice.
“What do you mean Jack?”
I thought maybe she did not know what Hans was up to with his guys in the bathroom. I picked up my glass of champagne, turning my head toward Hans, while sipping down a drink. Hans was looking right at me, but this time he was only one chair over from me so I knew he would be able to hear me.
I said calmly to him.
“Hans. You should learn to be man enough to do your own dirty work.”
With this Hans lost control, coming up out of his seat after me. This was my plan. I knew Hans would not go over Katie, making him hesitate with his movement toward me. This gave me time to get hold of his tie. I pulled his neck hard to the table, and then reached into the side of his coat. It was a pistol. I knew the doormen would be on us fast. Quickly I removed the clip from his gun, then as the doormen separated us, I put the clip in my pocket and sat down like nothing had happened, just waiting to see the reaction of Katie or perhaps more so, Swiss.
Katie was the first to speak.
“Jack I’m sorry. I don’t know why Hans acted that way, are you okay?”
I was worked up and asked aggressively.
“Is this how you scare off the competition?”
Katie continued her defense.
“I swear Jack. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
I relaxed a little and said.
“Time will tell.”
Swiss was the next to say something. She was standing, so as she began to speak to as soon as I stood. She asked.
“What is happening Jack.”
I was brief.
“Not sure, but it seems Hans does not like me.”
Swiss seemed surprise at what was happening.
“He’s an animal. I’m sorry Jack.”
I remained on watch to my surroundings.
“No one got hurt, but I think it is time for me to leave.”
Swiss smiled at me and said.
“I understand, but the night is young in Paris. Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
Swiss went to the bar in the corner and was back in just a minute. When she returned, she handed me a card, saying.
“There’s a bar just down the street from here, to the right when you leave the club. Give this to the doorman and I’ll be down in about an hour.”
I looked at the card and then back at Swiss and said.
“Thanks Swiss. I’ll think about it.”
I left. There was not much to think about, Swiss was a beautiful lady and I would not pass up a chance to have another drink with her. And they seemed to have Hans in control.
Entering the nightclub, I heard blues music. Swiss did know a little about me. The music was loud so I had to shout to the bartender what I wanted to drink but he kept pointing to his ears. Finally, I realized he did not speak English. Turning, I noticed the band was playing old blues songs from Memphis; I decided to wait until they were on break and ask one of them to order for me. At their break, one of the band members came to the bar. I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, again quickly figuring out he spoke very little English. They could sing the songs, but not talk the language. He was nice about it, soon figuring out I just wanted a drink, and he said something to the bartender. The bartender motioned me to come behind the bar, pointing to the glasses, ice and liquor. I could make one drink, Jack and Coke with a lime. I made myself a drink, then looking up, there was a couple pointing for me to make them what I had just made or at least this is what I thought they were trying to say. I made them the drink, they tasted it and smiled. Soon, everyone in the club was at the bar and I was making everyone the same drink. It was great fun. This went on for an hour or so.
I saw Swiss walk into the bar. She looked at me, smiling with amazement, she said.
“I guess I’ll have what everyone else is having, Jack. You’re one crazy man.”
She helped keep the moment light, so I went with her attitude.
“Great place, great people and thank you for sending me here.”
Still with a smile and a question or two for me looming, she responded and asked.
“It’s my pleasure. What time do you get off?’
Smiling, I said.
“I think now would be a good time.”
I motioned to the bartender who was enjoying the break I afforded him; he smiled, shaking Swiss’s hand and resuming his job.
I sat down next to Swiss, and said.
“I’m sorry I left your party but I thought it was for the best.”
I was convinced she was not part of the scene at her party when she asked.
“What happened, Jack?”
“No big deal and nothing I could not handle,” then I told her about what happened in the bathroom.” We continued to chat for about an hour. “Swiss I think it is time for me to go to my room.”
“Are you at the Ritz? It is on my way. I had better walk you home to keep you out of trouble.”
We entered the Ritz by the Hemingway bar. I noticed people going in and out of the private bar. I pulled on Swiss’s arm to lead her in, saying.
“Let us have a night cap in there. I was told with my room key I could get in this place.”
She almost pleaded, as if she knew more than I.
“Jack, this bar can be dangerous and Hans comes to this place.”
I smiled, kept pulling on her and said.
“Good, I’m not afraid of Hans and I have something that belongs to him.”
Reluctantly she quite resisting and said.
“As you wish Jack, but I may not be able to help you in there.’
I ordered two glasses of champagne. My eyes had adjusted to the lighting, and there was Hans, sitting in the corner with two men, who looked to be Middle Eastern.
I leaned over and whispered to Swiss.
“Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
She begged me.
“Be careful, Jack.”
At the table, I leaned over, speaking to the two men sitting with Hans. I said.
“I’ve nothing against you two gentlemen, but Hans here is a different story,” looking at Hans, “Right Hans?”
Hans was about to get up, when the man sitting next to him, put his hand on his arm. Hans settled back into his chair.
I look at the man and said.
“Thank you. Hans, I have something that belongs to you.” With this I tossed his gun’s clip on the table, “You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. It’s just that simple.” I turned and walked away. He said nothing.
Returning to Swiss and told her.
“I think I should leave well enough alone and leave.”
She smiled as she wanted no more trouble either.
“I agree, Jack, let us go to your room.”
Morning came, we had breakfast and Swiss left.
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