Unlike most clubs where the music can be felt pumping through to the foundations of the building, the Red Card gives the impression of a warm house party. The EDM is loud but not so loud that Jim winces and tries to cover his ears.
A red lit, shiny black bar sits at one end where several patrons chat happily. Many leather couches fill the open room and several doorways lead into private areas.
Jim scans the room automatically, barely stopping himself from slipping into cop-mode. He leads them through the dense crowd towards the bar.
It’s their best bet at striking up a conversation with the strangers already dancing and kissing. The night is young, though, and with the photo of Ms White in both their minds thanks to Harvey’s research, they’re bound to find some helpful clue.
Just as he dodges a drunk couple, he spots her chatting at the bar with some people.
It’s too risky. Better get close to them and eventually separate her from the rest.
The detective takes a seat, making sure that he sits close enough to the group. It takes a moment to realise that Victor is not sitting next to him. A nudge at his thigh indicates the hitman’s position, kneeling obediently on the floor at Jim’s feet as though it’s the most normal thing. I guess it is in this place, Jim thinks.
Swallowing dryly, Jim’s hand ventures down to caress Victor’s cheek briefly in the hopes that he'll understand how grateful he is. The nervousness still lingers deep down but he’s glad to have someone familiar with him.
Three women and two men take interest in the newcomers, and Jim can overhear them talking about Victor. The ladies wear an array of lingerie and leather harnesses, and one wears a latex mask that covers her eyes and extends upwards into large rabbit ears. The men are dressed in simple, black tees and jeans that cling to their muscled bodies attractively.
One of the women steps forward bravely, looking up to Jim but keeping a respectful distance. “Never seen you here before.”
“We're new,” Jim provides. He introduces himself and his pet, briefly looking down to smile lovingly at Victor. “We were hoping to make some friends tonight.”
“Oh, well I’m sure you will right here. I’m Katie, and these are my fellow doms; Jack, Wickers, Sarah and Lucy.” Jim waves at the group with a big smile, earning some himself as the doms crowd around and start a pleasant but sex-heavy conversation. Victor also finds himself the centre of attention and Jack takes a string liking to the sub.
“So what’s the deal with these scars, pretty boy?” Jack asks as he trails the back of his hand along Victor’s scar-riddled arm without permission.
Inwardly, Victor cringes and aches to run a blade across the man’s throat. But he allows the touch, blending in to the club’s clientele without issue, and acting every bit the sub he’s pretending to be. He smiles and curls up into Jim’s side without a word, even when Jack reaches up to tug at his collar. Victor moves his head away, crawling further into Jim’s personal space and hoping the detective will notice his discomfort.
“What, can’t talk?” Jack sneers, crossing his arms over his broad chest. His questions have caught Sarah’s attention. Jim scolds and wraps an arm around Victor, keeping an eye on Jack.
“Leave him alone. Not every sub likes you groping them,” she defends before getting up from the opposite couch and plopping down between Jack and Victor.
“Whatever. He ain’t that good looking anyways.”
“Man, shut the hell up.” It’s Wickers that speaks up, before Jim even opens his mouth to defend his partner. The two oversized men start yelling, exchanging colourful insults before a staff member violently escorts them out.
“Whoa, good riddance. Don’t worry, sweetheart. You’re gorgeous, whatever your story is,” Katie adds a nod to the red lines that adorn Victor’s toned arms.
Jim stares at them too, his theory on them rather gruesome but accurate. They’re proof of his kills; he’s counting each one and priding himself in his sick, twisted assassinations.
But if he and Jim are to keep working together and perhaps see more of each other, Jim will just have to buck up and move on.
It’s your choice, buddy, Jim thinks. Accept Victor for who he is or forget him. You can’t be ignorant of his lifestyle when he isn’t with yours.
Despite his internal battle between choosing a love life with two criminals or living a sad, boring lie, Jim pulls him closer. He imagines that it’s the lack of manners that bothered the hitman, not the mentions of his scars. Hell, he decided to walk around with his arms bared proudly so that can’t be the reason for the clenched fists and tense posture.
Eventually the two ladies leave with other people and it’s just Sarah and the two men left on the couch. She skims her index along Jim’s jawline, tracing the sharp bone with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Want to take this somewhere private?” Jim offers, smirking and gesturing at the rooms designed for that very idea. The night has gone relatively well and Sarah has warmed up to Jim and Victor.
“Sure thing, darling. I wanna see what your pet knows.” She leads the way to the nearest available room, noting that most have a card on the doorknob.
Jim enters first, holding back a shudder at the display of toys and bondage gear strapped to the walls. He hears the door click and spins to see Sarah grabbing a knife from the display.
But she’s too slow.
Victor pounces on her in an instant, tackling her to the ground which sends the knife skittering across the floorboards. Jim grabs it before anyone else.
Pinned under Victor’s weight, Sarah grits her teeth and punches the hitman hard. His head twists under the force but he chuckles, spitting blood in her face. Sarah’s disgust is voiced loudly but Victor knocks her out by grabbing her head and smacking it down on to the floor. The impact causes a sickening crack and her eyes roll back.
“Let’s get her out of here,” Jim says as he scoops her body up easily. Victor opens the door a smidge, peering out into the hallway. His hand gestures for Jim to follow, and soon they exit through the fire door and join their driver.
Blinding lights illuminate the concrete room. The LEDs line the walls and ceiling. A single chair sits in the middle, and zip-tied to it is Sarah. Her head lolls against her chest and dried blood cakes down her neck.
“Wake her up, Victor,” Jim orders as he watches from the door of the hitman’s basement.
The hospital-like room unnerves him. Neat cabinets store a variety of tools and bottles and a folding bed occupies one corner. A bar with metal cuffs hangs from the ceiling by chains and Jim shudders at the thought of what horrid things have happened in this room.
Zsasz smirks and takes a bucket of ice cold water from the sink, before tipping half over Sarah’s head. She gasps and shivers, a half-scream dying on her lips as she’s ripped into consciousness. Her body contorts and fights against the restraints but the throbbing pain in her skull stops her erratic movements with a whimper.
“What do you want from me?” She demands, her eyes watering from the white lights. The pain in her head intensifies and she screws her eyes shut.
Victor glances back at Jim, who nods his acceptance at the hitman’s unspoken question. He smirks and places the bucket down, away from Sarah’s legs. They’re tied down but Victor doesn’t like to take risks.
“Hi Sarah, I’m Victor Zsasz. I'd like to know the names of the people involved in the Penguin’s kidnapping.” The words are spoken slowly and calmly, but Victor can’t keep his grin hidden.
“I don’t know about that.”
“Really? That’s a shame. Well, if you don't know... I guess you’re free to go.” Victor says nonchalantly as he rounds the chair and cuts the zipties.
Sarah watches him with uncertainty before slowly standing up.
She stumbles towards the door, the pain making it difficult to walk straight.
Jim stands aside, allowing her to step towards the door. Just as her hand touches the handle, Victor grabs a fistful of her loose hair and yanks her backwards. She yells as he throws her to the floor, her body impacting the tiles painfully.
“Did you seriously think I'd let you go? Now, this can go two ways: you tell me everything you know or I will tear you apart until there’s nothing left. Choose carefully, Sarah.” Victor kneels over her, one boot pressed heavily against her spine to keep her from crawling away.
She whimpers and nods, allowing the hitman to drag her back to the chair.
“There’s a gang. On the North side. Professionals. I hired them.” Sarah breaks into tears, the pain overcoming any inner strength or pride. Victor laughs cruelly and clasps a hand on her shoulder. “The leader is called Jamey. He wants Penguin gone too.”
“There you go. That wasn’t so hard. One more thing, did you never think that I would come after you? That little attempt back at the club wasn’t very well thought out, now was it? You should’ve known I would kill you no matter what.”
“Victor...” Jim chimes in, stepping forward at the clear threat. This isn’t part of the plan like with the boy in the Narrows.
Zsasz turns to him, his body tense and face blank. “Not this time, Jim. She dies, same as the others. You knew you would end this way.”
“I won’t let you,” Jim steps forward, hand hovering over his GCPD issued handgun.
Victor sighs, anger and disappointment blending together across his face. His own gun is raised and aimed at Jim before the detective can unholster.
“Victor. Put it down.”
“Thank you, Sarah.” He smiles, his voice light and kind even as he faces Gordon.
The gun turns to her temple and a second later, her brains are splattered across the wall and floor.
“I’m sorry, Jim. I thought you knew what you were getting into,” Victor tucks away the gun, and fishes his phone out of his pocket. He dials and holds the phone up to his ear, walking past the shocked detective without another glance. “Yeah, need a clean-up crew down in the basement. Bullet to the head. It’s pretty messy.” And then the heavy door opens and swings shut, and Jim is left staring at the remains of Sarah White.