The knock at the door roused Gabai from the spreadsheet he’d been staring at for the last hour tallying the inventory for the club.
He called out, “Come in,” distractedly, frowning when once more he went down the list adding and subtracting.
“Hey, boss, we got an issue,” Rocco, the bar manager of the back part of the club, said in a squawky tone that indicated his mood.
Gabai glanced up and swallowed the sigh at Rocco’s grim expression. On the whole Rocco was a happy-go-lucky eagle shifter who’d worked for Gabai for more than a decade. “What is it this time?”
Rocco shuffled about and ran a hand through his short cropped, mahogany hair. “Someone has tampered with some of the equipment in the club… this time!”
He kept the curses to himself, never one to lose his temper, but it was getting harder with someone fucking with his business. He eased his bulk back in the office chair resigned to what was coming. Four months earlier Gabai had brushed off what was happening in his club as bored teenagers looking to create a little mischief. He’d been there.
Only things had escalated from garbage strewn outside, a broken window and some rude graffiti on the building. All that had been easy to deal with.
Then weeks before there was a couple of thefts in the club, personal belonging taken from the lockers that members used to store their things if they were using the back part of the club. Had he pissed off someone in the community? It was starting to feel like it with his senses humming from what Rocco was evidently not saying.
When Rocco got a tick under his left eye Gabai realized he was pinning Rocco in place with his stare, his heart thudding hard against the wall of his chest. “Tampered in what way?”
“The toys and equipment for the littles are ruined. It looks like someone used a knife to attack the stuffies. The beautiful furniture you had specially made has suffered a similar fate. The paints, pencils, and books are all broken or wet.”
Growling, Gabai was out of the chair and around the desk before Rocco had finished talking. “Show me!”
Rocco scrambled back out of Gabai’s way, his anxious disposition not something Gabai was in the mood to soothe with someone destroying what he’d worked hard to create. Never mind the cost of the specialty furniture he’d had made to kit out the little’s day care. Fuckers! It was his favorite space. Was this attack aimed directly at him? Everyone knew that he often was the one to run the day care for the littles.
Was it one of the littles who were interested in more and he’d rebuffed them? It had been a couple years since he’d a boy of his own. His last one had got a job offer on the other side of the country which it turned out he couldn’t refuse. It had hurt as Gabai had made him his world, the feelings it seemed had been a little more one sided. Since then, Gabai had opted to use the littles day care to get his fix without the emotional drama attached to a relationship.
Out of the office, several of the staff that came in early to clean and set up the main bar didn’t so much as look at him indicating that Rocco had already let them know something was up. He stomped through the main bar, down the hallway and through the door that led to the part of the club that catered solely to kink.
Gabai sucked in a deep breath to control the anger running hotly through his veins with images of his space trashed. Anger wasn’t something he liked to feel or unleash on others. He might be a bear shifter, but his personality was caring and loving. Something his father had never understood.
He glanced about as he walked through the part of the club that was only open at night. The scent of sex and leather lingered. The room was brightly lit right now, and only for the pieces of BDSM equipment scattered around the room on plinths to give those watching a better view indicated the activities that would go on later that night. The bar in that part only sold soft drinks and was sat against the deep blue wall on the far side of the room. On the opposite side of the room to the bar, to save floor space for tables and chairs, the wall was used to hold an array of equipment his members liked to use. It was checked and cleaned daily by the roving Dom who would be in charge for the day.
The place was ready for business which told Gabai it was Otis in charge of the club that evening.
Rocco’s breathing was labored as he came to a stop at Gabai’s side when he stopped at the locked door leading to the day care area. Neither of them reached to code in the number to open the door.
The day care area was at the very back of the club and had a separate entrance that led directly outside. It hadn’t been planned that way, more a happy coincidence as some of the shifters who enjoyed being little weren’t always comfortable for others to know it. Big, burly guys who liked to suck on pacifiers and play with children’s toys – for some it was a hard limit to be that way in front of others not into the lifestyle. The little space therefore was the most protected. Only members who had the code to the door could access the area, besides the staff.
Unable to delay any longer, Gabai keyed in the code and pushed open the door when the lock released. The breath he’d just taken got lodged in his chest as he eyed the destruction.
As he stepped into the room, he calculated the cost of the damage and the time required to repair and replace the stuff ruined. It was easier to think about that than the violation to the bright sunny room which had become a macabre picture with all the red splattered paint over all the destroyed toys. The knife used must have been razor sharp with the depth it managed to get in the leather on the beautiful, padded seats sat around the tables littles used to play at. The paint was thrown over the pictures littles had created, and Gabai had hung up with pride.
His chest burned as he walked over to the hand-crafted rocking chair and ran a hand down the scarred wood that had been gouged at and the ripped leather. The tightness in his chest increased and an ache developed behind his eyes. The chair had been his favorite – it was made to fit him while holding a man of equal size in his lap. He’d spent many hours in it since Scout had made it for him the year before when his other got past its best.
“Fuckers! Damn shitty nut-fuckers!” Gabai growled as he spun around, his nose wrinkling as he inhaled the smells in the room, looking for any scents that weren’t known to him.
After a couple of minutes Rocco asked, “Anything, Boss?” in a timid voice.
Huge knots took up the whole of his stomach. “Fucking nothing, just like all the other times. Damn it to all hell.” Gabai hated what that meant. Before he could kick the chair, Gabai spun around again and stalked out of the room, needing to breathe, to think about what needed to be done.
He stopped in the doorway, his large body trembling with his distress. Not looking back, not needing to see the devastation again, he took a deep breath to get his head thinking. “Change the code to the door so none of the members can get in here until this mess is fixed. Take pictures of all the damaged furniture and send them to Scout and ask him if he can repair it. Make an inventory of all the things that aren’t salvageable. When you’re done, I’ll be in my office calling members to let them know this part of the club is out of action for now.”
“Will do, Boss. Should we call the sheriff’s department?”
Up to now, they’d not bothered reporting any of the petty stuff that had been happening. It had been more of a nuisance. Evidently whoever was doing the damage had decided to up the ante. It needed dealing with, but Gabai was loath to get the sheriff involved. His experience of dealing with the sheriff’s department wasn’t always positive with running the only BDSM club in a two-hundred-mile radius.
He sighed, still facing forward, Gabai considered what his options were. “No, and I want you to keep this quiet – whoever you’ve told, they aren’t to talk about it with anyone else. I’ll deal with it.”
“Okay… but won’t folks be suspicious with the day care area being shut?” Rocco didn’t sound confident, which was fine, right then Gabai wasn’t feeling it either.
“If anyone asks, it’s being decorated.” He didn’t wait for an answer, as he stomped angrily through the club meeting utter silence from those working in the bar. No one spoke to him, which was good, because he wasn’t sure he’d be civil. Back to his office, he didn’t slam the door, but it was close.
At his desk, Gabai pulled up the security camera feed for the front of the building and skipped through it for the day and night before, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. There were no animals that he could see, not that a small shifter couldn’t hide in the shadows.
More cursing. Gabai sat back and ran a hand through his hair. There were too many possible scenarios and Gabai had never been known to jump to conclusions. His gut twisted at thoughts of accusing one of his staff of this. He was careful when employing staff, and he’d not hired anyone new in more than a year because he was so picky.
Could someone have stayed in the building when they’d closed up and gone into the room, and then slipped out the back? There were no security cameras at the back of the building because Gabai had wanted to maintain the privacy of the little’s area. Had someone used that knowledge to wreck the place? Because that’s what it looked like. But speculation wasn’t helping him, and Gabai needed help.
He ran through his options and came up with just one, Bree, the wolf pack alpha, who was a member of the club. She was also one of his most trusted friends. When she’d become alpha of the only wolf pack in the area, she’d come to introduce herself, something the old alpha would never have done. She was a ‘get to know everyone’ kind of alpha. One who wanted to know where the threat might come from in a town where the population remained solely shifters, many not affiliated to a cell, herd, brood, or gang for whatever reason.
Bree was a ball breaker and could be very discreet. Gabai reached for his phone with a shaking hand, his mind spinning with the pictures of the destruction, as he dialed Bree’s private number. The list of people he needed to call twisted his insides, wondering how they’d take the news the room was out of action, but for now that would need to wait.
“Yo, what have I done to deserve a call in the daytime. Aren’t we meeting next week? You aren’t cancelling, are you?” Bree said before Gabai could utter a word. This was the way she was, she only went at one speed, fast.
“No, I’m not cancelling, I’m looking to bring it forward. I need to talk to someone I trust.”
There was the sound of a hissed breath before she said, “Shit, hang on.” Gabai could hear her voice but not what she was saying through whatever she’d muffled the phone against. “I’m alone. What’s up?”
He decided to start at the beginning and lead up to what had been found today. His gut didn’t feel any better as he outlined the timeline. He finished with, “Have you heard if anyone has got an issue with me? With the club?
“Don’t you have security cameras?” she asked instead, which was just like her.
“At the front of the building, yes, and I’ve checked it. I can’t see anything untoward. At the back there isn’t any for privacy as you well know.”
“Fuck, I forgot that, it’s been a while since I used the day care. And no, I haven’t heard that anyone has an issue with you or the club. Fuck, it’s a little late for anyone to be pissed about a BDSM club now. You’ve been here since god’s dog was a pup. I should think by now most folks have been in the main bar part at least with how many bands you get to play in there.” There was a moment of silence before she tapped on the phone, a habit she had when she was thinking. “Do you think it’s a member of your staff? Or a club member? That room requires a code to enter, how many folks have access?”
He didn’t snap as she fired questions at him without letting him answer the first one.
“Do you know if you have any shifters who could get in without opening the door?”
He waited her out and then answered her in order of the questions. “It could be either, I suppose. As for members, maybe a hundred or so between the Daddies and the littles. Possibly more for those who ask for the room for a private party. That includes my staff. What a shifter is has never been something I’ve considered I needed to know. My senses help to identify many, but not all. I have some that are small, but off the top of my head I’m not sure how many and if they use that room.”
There was a snap of teeth down the phone. “That’s a lot of suspects.”
Gabai was back to running a hand through his hair. “Yep.”
“You looking for my help?”
“I might have the answer. Are you still looking for someone to fill Red’s vacancy? You mentioned you were struggling to find someone that fit.”
“Yeah, you know I’m picky, and everyone I’ve interviewed didn’t give the right vibe for me.” Her laugh caused the hairs on the back of his neck to lift. “I think I have just the person that could help you out. I’m thinking you need someone who’s never been in the club. They will be able to see the whole place through fresh eyes.”
He chuckled without humor. “Didn’t you just say nearly everyone has been in the club?”
“Oh, don’t worry, this guy will be perfect for you. I’ve got you covered.”
Gabai couldn’t say why the way she said it made him think she was up to something, but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Not when he was the one to reach out to her.
“Okay, who is it?”