(Following on from Part I)
Above the middle of the ante-chamber, over the small ATM that likely had the highest fees in the entire state, shone what looked like a bright spotlight. It must have been a regular ceiling fixture, but it was backed up against the wall, turned outward accusingly, its light bursting across the otherwise dank and dark area. He doubted that “gotcha red handed!” was the vibe that the proprietors of this establishment were going for. The cone of shame did point him towards the teller-style window, above which hung a sign with “Barker’s Club” printed in flowery cursive. Behind the window sat a perturbed-looking middle-aged woman, looking like a clearance-sale mannequin at the saddest department store. Her dyed blonde hair pulled up in a bun, she appeared to be ensconced on a small stool that had been completely eclipsed by her ample hips and thighs. He felt bad for her — had she worked here long ago as one of the dancers? Was she related to the owner? What led someone to take this position, in this kind of place, in this part of the world? The last question tried to push him into a mental twisty-slide of debating whether he was showing some sort of coastal or urban bias by judging someone for living in a perfectly viable rural community where they may have long-standing roots — but before he could fully engage in such self-distracting analysis, she lifted herself up and gave him a “What are ya waiting for?” cock of the head. He shuffled over to the window and slid a twenty dollar bill through the exchange trough.
As the cashier’s hooked fingers jabbed at the register, Ethan eyed the thick red curtain to the right of the booth. Behind that lay the inevitable stage, poles, stained fabric and awkward conversation. And maybe her. He sniffed in a deep breath. Jesus, what was he doing?
“Yeah?” The cashier had a quizzical snarl on her face. It accentuated the loose strands of smoker wrinkles and black hair on her upper lip.
“Change?” Ethan put his hand out in front of him, but didn’t hold it out towards her. He smiled to try to not seem demanding.
“No change. Twenty.” The woman folded her arms and stood up as tall as her five-foot-at-best body would let her. “Saturday night.”
On principle, he wanted to point out that the club’s website had said it was a ten dollar cover at all times. Normally he might have even called up the website on his phone and shoved it against the window, Will Hunting style. But not now, not with all this going on. Certainly not in a state with a blind eye to enforcing open carry laws. Instead he shrugged, a gesture of fake apology, and turned towards the curtain.