Once upon a time, Glitter Beach was going to be big. They called it the Las Vegas of California, nestled within the City of Angels. Resting on the coast, it would have some of the most beautiful, man-made beaches seen anywhere. The boardwalk, with its shops and restaurants, would be the envy of Atlantic City. Within Glitter Beach’s core, massive shopping centers, filled with only the most popular and high-end stores would draw in tourists and the elite shoppers alike. Having a flagship store in Glitter Beach meant more than just a retail outlet. It would be a showcase of that brands quality and uniqueness. It would be a place to make a statement! Deluxe apartment buildings that would rival any in New York, Paris or Dubai. Cavernous subways, state-of-the-art tunnels, and sky bridges allowed people to travel the entire five-square miles of this modern city within and city in air-conditioned comfort. They would never have endure soaring temperatures, or inclement weather, while they lived, shopped, and entertained themselves and their guests. At the gateway to this shining beacon of capitalism was the Nova Grand, a hotel built with the grandeur of early 20th century architecture a la New York City, with the material and technology of the 21st century. Even before its grand opening, all the most expensive rooms were booked solid for the first two years.
Some called it a 21st century Sodom and Gomorrah, while prominent politicians and investors praised it as a landmark in urban redevelopment and lifestyle. Those that lived on the land, consisting of low-rent housing, shopping and rampant crime, fought for their heritage. But they lost to progress and media’s lack of interest in the stories of the poor and homeless.
Like Sodom and Gomorrah, Glitter Beach was struck down, not by fire and brimstone, but by tectonic plates shifting along the southern segment of the San Andreas Fault.
Millions upon millions of dollars of investor’s cash literally fell into the Pacific Ocean. Water and sand washed up the cracked and fractured main boulevard, destroying store fronts owned by some of the biggest and most successful retailers in the world. Buildings that didn’t topple and fall were damaged to the point of being unuseable. The Nova Grand was one of only a handful of buildings that were salvageable, but by this time, the financial damage was done.
The politicians and investors that once praised Glitter Beach, fell over each trying to distance themselves from the debacle and cut their already considerable losses. Ownership of what became known as Canyon Beach, named by the surfers who rode waves down flooded streets and alleys, became as big a legal mess as the ruins of the once dream city.
Like so many things in America, Canyon Beach was forgotten amid stories of Government-sponsored animals/ human genetic experimentation, mass shootings, elections, and celebrity gossip. Legalities were settled. Investors compensated. Politicians removed and replaced by more of the same.
The Nova Grand became just the Nova, low-rental housing for those that had originally lost their homes to the Glitter Beach dream. The homeless lived amid the ruins. Small shops opened. Soon, it became a community. Once it became a community, the crime came and fed off the community.
These days, there are those that feed off the criminals, as well as helping the community, in their own ways. One such place is Pen Delaney’s next destination.
Pen creeps his borrowed sedan down the darkened streets of Canyon Beach. Few street-lights work here, which is preferable for those doing deals and wishing to stay hidden. The majority of those who wish to remain hidden aren’t even human. Since the Black Wave Event, irregulars have found this section of Los Angeles a haven of sorts. Most that come here just want a place to live in peace, without fear of being hunted down and killed. Others come to utilize their strengths and skills as enforcers, for gangs who continually battle in their on-going attempt to expand into Canyon Beach.
While most streets are quiet, with any activities covered by long shadows, a few places almost remind Pen of any typical street corner in any other city in the country. The lights of a corner store, reveal a couple of old-timers sitting and watching the world got by, while an irregular walks out of the store carrying a bag of groceries. In any other part of the country, it would be news-worthy, with police or federal agents hauling away the irregular.
Pen slows his sedan to a stop across the street from another place where people and irregulars interact. They mingle around an old store front that has been fixed up proper. New, slightly tinted glass and iron bars fill the two display windows. Behind them, dim lights shine on thick curtains with a jungle print on them. The music from within seeps out every time the giant, ten foot tall heavy, double oak doors are opened by the customers’ comings and goings. Above the door is the place’s name in old-style neon:
The Jungle L.A.
Sitting outside the door is an irregular grizzly bear that looks the size of small car. As some rowdy irregulars rodents approach, he stands up. He seems almost as tall as the doors behind him. The bear’s heavy brown fur ripples over top of a solid, muscular body. His only clothes are a baggy pair of denim jeans and a huge pair of sneakers. Around his neck, a large, rapper-style gold chain with a name molded from gold hanging from it.
The rowdy irregulars call out to the bouncer bear, as if they know him. “Izzy!”
Izzy is not pleased. “You were warned before. You aren’t welcome here. Leave.” he tells them in a deep voice that sounds more like an landslide.
One of the rowdy irregulars makes the terrible mistake of slapping Izzy’s arm, like they were old friends.
Izzy grabs the rowdy irregulars’ hand and crushes it. He then points a huge, clawed finger a the others. “You aren’t welcome. Leave, or I’ll make rodent stew.”
Izzy releases the irregular rodents hand. He and the others scamper off while Izzy sits back down on a heavy-duty stool.
“Bloody hell.” Pen murmurs to himself as he makes his way across the street.
Izzy lifts his head, then rises to his feet. He towers over Pen. “Weapons?”
“Nah mate.” Pen replies.
Izzy gives Pen the once over then sits back down. “Nice boots.” he comments.
“Thanks.” Pen smiles, nodding. He walks past and into the Jungle LA.
Once inside, the remains of the small shop are long gone, gutted and attached to the warehouse-sized building behind it. A half wall, ten feet past the display windows, separates the main entrance from the rest of the bar. Along each side, glass display cases show-off classic Hollywood memorabilia that was left behind during the quake. To the left, a doorway leads to a coat check. On the right, a small gate with a booth for cover charges. Its still early, so no one mans the booth.
Pen steps through the open gate and looks out at what is supposed to be a bar. The main floor seems to stretch out before him for nearly half a block. On either side are two of the longest bars he’s ever seen. In the middle are chairs and tables surrounding a grouping of chesterfields and recliners. In the center, a grouping of booths for more privacy. Wide isles lead out from the booths towards the bars. Beside each entrance into the booths, a stand with a phone for a waitress to take orders. Towards the back, an open space for dancing. To the left of the dance floor, a stage for live acts. Over-looking both is a DJ booth, in the upper left corner. A set of stairs runs from the DJ booth down the main floor. Beside the booth is a room with mirrored glass for those who want even more privacy. Past the dance floor, separated by oriental-type screens, is a private dinning/ sitting areas. The place is made for everyone.
Pen makes his way over to one of the bartenders. “I’m lookin’ for Stromberg. Need to talk ta him.”
The bartender looks wearily at Pen, before turning and walking away.
“C’mon, mate, that’s just poor service.” Pen grumbles.
“Can I help ya with anythin’?” a sweet voice asks, with a hint of an Irish accent.
Pen turns to see a stunning young woman standing behind him. Her short, blonde hair, encircles her angelic, slightly tanned face. Her perfect figure is only hinted at beneath her short, but demure skirt and clingy t-shirt. She’s the American dreamgirl-next-door. But as Pen gives her a visual once-over, he notes the hints of hardship her life been seen. Despite her beauty, there’s a shell just under the surface. Her persona of sweet and friendly is part of that shell.
“I’m looking for Stromberg.” Pen repeats.
“He’s had enough visitors.”
Pen smiles, “You his assistant, or his bodyguard?”
She puts her hands on her hips, a look of bravado in her eyes, on her lips. “I’m the one who decides if you walk out, or get carried out in a wee tiny bag!”
Pen chuckles and puts his hands up, in surrender. “Ok, don’t hurt me.” he lowers his hands and bows to her. “If it pleases you, m’lady, could you inform Boris Stromberg that Pen Delaney is here, and that I’d like to have a polite chat with him. At his earliest convenience.” he lifts his eyes to meet hers, “M’lady.”
She gets a little flustered by Pen’s charm. Her arms drop and she steps out of her bravado stance. “Yeah, ok. Whatever. Just take a seat.”
Pen pours on a little extra charm, “As you wish.” He straightens up, a smile on his lips.
She turns and walks away.
“M’Lady!” Pen calls out.
She stops, but doesn’t turn around.
“Do you have a name?” he asks.
“Yes.” she replies and continues walking.
Pen smiles, then turns to the bartender. “What do ya have on tap?”
The Jungle fills up quick. Humans and irregulars mostly stay close to their own, but when their paths cross, there isn’t any more animosity than there would be in any other large, rowdy bar. The DJ whips up a frenzy of beats, drawing strong, energized bodies to the dance floor, while others bob their heads and watch the dancers writhe and move.
As Pen watches the night unfold, he marvels at the set-up. Despite the booming bass, the area around the booths in the center, and the more comfortable seats around it, aren’t deafened by the music. As he turns his gaze to the back, where oriental screens are, he suspects beyond there, the music is virtually non-existent.
He also notes the woman he talked to earlier. A few extra bills added to a tip spilled the beans on her from the bartender. Her name is Zoey, and rumors has it, she isn’t so apple pie sweet. The bartender lays out a few sorted tales that Pen dislikes and ignores. It also causes the bartender’s tips to dry up.
Night turns to early morning. Booze causes false bravery to well-up. Words get louder. Anger flares. Pen smiles, sensing things about to get interesting.
His attention focuses on a group of six bikers. This isn’t their usual haunt, judging by how they gawk at the irregulars, and their mocking words that grows in volume as more alcohol is consumed. The irregulars in question are a group of felines who remind Pen of veterans from an unknown war. They might have been Cat Clan once, but after the Black Wave Event, they went AWOL to lick their wounds and find a new way of living. They might be intimidating in any other bar in the country. But here, they are regulars, locals, trying to enjoy a night out.
Pen makes his way over to the bikers, to hear what they are saying. It isn’t nice, or pretty, or clever.
Zoey approaches them. “Guys, cool it or your gone.”
They just laugh at her, and add her to their comments.
She looks past them, towards the door, trying to catch Izzy’s attention. Unfortunately, he’s busy.
A biker grabs Zoey and hauls her down onto his lap. She fights back.
He grabs her by the by the back of her head with one hand and drives his fist into her face. Blood explodes from her nose. The fight in her arms stops. They laugh as Zoey’s attacker tries to lift up her skirt.
A shot glass slams into Zoey’s attacker’s forehead. It shatters. Minute shards of glass and alcohol splash across his face and into his eyes.
The biker plasters both hands over his face, yelling, dropping Zoey.
She hits the floor and scrambles backwards.
The other bikers stand, looking for the attacker. Other on-lookers give them a direction to look. Standing three tables over is Pen, with a shot glass in each hand.
Four of the bikers reach for their weapons, but they handed them over at the door. A fifth one smiles as he draws a pair of switchblade knives from behind his belt. A bright steel blade snaps out. He flips the knife in his right hand, so he’s holding the blade. He whips his arm. The knife spins out of his grasp, towards Pen.
Instincts and years upon years of training take over. His eyes never leave the knife hurtling towards him. He casually juggles the shot glass in his right hand to his left hand, with a split seconds worth of time to snatch the knife out of the air inches from his right shoulder.
People watching the stand-off are silenced by Pen’s quick hands.
Pen spins the switchblade around and stabs it into the table beside him.
“Get him!” the blinded biker bellows.
The four bladeless bikers toss others aside and barrel towards Pen.
Pen grabs the two shot glasses from his left hand and pitches them at the charging bikers. Both hit their marks, shattering into the foreheads of two of the on-rushing men. They stumble and fall. The other two close in.
The biker with the remaining switchblade slowly follows after the others, wanting to plunge his knife into Pen’s throat.
Pen kicks a chair at one of the two charging bikers.
He’s tripped up and falls over the chair.
Pen uses the last biker’s momentum, spinning him around and slamming his face into the table beside him. He grabs the switchblade he stabbed into the table and runs it through the back of the biker’s open hand. He kicks the table over, forcing the biker to do go with it.
Pen turns to face the biker he tripped up with the chair. He collides into Pen. They fall backwards, sprawling across the floor. His weight and the force of his collision knocks the wind out of Pen. He tries to push him off, but the biker grabs his face and slams his head into the floor.
The world swirls for a second. He feels his head being lifted again. He tries to find strength to fight back, but can’t.
The biker yells as someone grab a handful of his hair and yanks his head back.
Pen looks up to see Zoey as she tears out a clump of the biker’s hair. She follows it up with a chop to the biker’s throat with the side of her hand. He falls off Pen, coughing and choking.
Zoey turns to Pen and offers her hand to help him up.
She doesn’t see the biker with a switchblade behind her.
Pen grabs her hand and pulls her down on top of him.
The biker’s knife misses, but he adjusts and plans to drop on her and drive his knife through her.
Pen rolls Zoey underneath him.
The biker’s knife is buried into Pen’s back.
Zoey looks up, wide-eyed, at the biker as he pulls the knife free, blood soaking it.
“Never did get your name.” Pen says quietly.
“Izzy!” Zoey screams.
The commotion of the fight are deafened by a roar that sounds like thunder. The crowd parts like the Red Sea as Izzy tears through chairs and tables.
The biker stupidly raises his knife to fight. He’s obliterated in a blur of brown fur and a hail of clawed fists.
The last thing Pen sees as he passes out is Zoey’s tear-filled eyes.
Pry: The Ghosts of Promises Past: Iron Bow Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.