“Giving Up” by Donnie Hathaway streamed from the sound bar mounted on the wall as Desmond sat at his desk. It was something about the smooth, powerful, attention-grabbing way his voice belted out the depths of the lyrics that lulled, called out to Desmond. With as loud as the music was, Donnie's voice permeated every inch of his office. He was in a mood and his employees knew not to bother him if the song was playing.
The day’s brooding was brought on by one who he considered a deplorable city councilman, Leonard Montgomery. And while he may not have just ended a call with Leonard himself, even having to speak to his aide for the umpteenth time annoyed him to no end.
Desmond Douglass, 30-year-old owner of Tones, a nightclub in Manhattan, just didn’t understand why they hadn’t accepted his no as a final answer.
Well, he knew why they were still pressing the issue, but that was their grievance. Dodging their calls and visits as long as he had been was merited. So why had it seemed that as of late, the councilman’s persistence had him on edge? Even though he was resolved in his answer.
There was a soft rap at his office door that brought him out of his dim musings.
Why was someone at the door when they knew what his song choice meant?
The knocking continued.
All six foot three inches of Desmond stood and trekked the short distance to his dark wooden door and snatched it open with a force that brought a strong gust of wind with it. “What?”
“I’m sorry, D. I knew not to knock, but the flower shop owner, Lorena Alvarez, from down the street is here and says she really needs to speak to you,” his head bartender, Phil, said leery of how Desmond would respond when he knew what the song choice on rotation meant.
Desmond drew in a long breath and released it before he said, “Send her back.”
One minute later, Lorena’s stacked frame appeared in his door. “Papi, are you just as mad as I am?”
“Lorena.” Desmond waved his hand to the side of him, indicating she could enter. He kissed her proffered cheek and she returned the gesture with a kiss to his other cheek before quickly wiping away her ruby red lipstick from his dark chocolate skin. “Have a seat.” He motioned for her to sit in the chair in front of his desk before he grabbed the remote to turn the music off.
She didn’t sit. Instead, she stood behind it, braced one hand on the back of the chair, and eyed him. “With that grande vein throbbing in your neck, I can see that you are mad, but you’re gonna stand your ground, right?” Her voice elevated as her hands went up and she went off into one of her Spanish tangents where Desmond only caught the expletives in her native tongue. “We’re in this together, right?”
“Lorena, you know we are.” He pointed between the two of them. “But what about the others on the block?”
“Aye, Papi. You know dos of them didn’t have the cajones and sold the minute the city came through with their dirty offers.”
Desmond’s hands briefly clenched at the thought of the first two business owners who had been staples in the community but sold their businesses just as soon as Leonard started hitting up the nearby businesses.
“I just don’t understand why. Why don’t they see that every shop on this block is needed and will benefit the barrio no matter what else they build around it?” Lorena lightly slapped her palm to her forehead, the gesture questioning their intelligence.
Desmond had been connected to LES, Lower East Side, ever since he was a little boy. Feeling his blood pressure rise just thinking about what was being done in the neighborhood and to the residents and business owners, he took a deep breath, hopefully to calm the pounding in his ears. He finally spoke up, “Because, they don’t feel our establishments are worthy of being in their dream, upscale neighborhood they want to plant right where a perfectly good one is existing.”
“You got that right. Everything is fine around here as is.” Lorena pumped her fist in the air.
“And that’s why Tones is not relocating. This club is staying here, no matter what.”