Since he was currently working with them on leads, it wouldn’t be weird that they’d send him a text. When she called me with the news, all she told me was that when I got there, I should make sure to have my camera phone ready.
Pulling up to the Hyatt in Mishawaka, I call Paige as I make my way inside and step into the elevator.
“Are you sure this is the right place? Why did you send him to a hotel?” I ask her as I press the button for the third floor.
“One of my friends from college is having her bachelorette party there tonight. I may have called and told her that a man, matching Griffin’s description, would be knocking on the door claiming to be a bounty hunter, but he’s really a stripper,” she informs me. “I also told her that no matter how much he denies it, she should just play along.”
“Paige, you didn’t.”
The elevator dings and the doors open up to the third floor and I can already hear screams and catcalls coming from a room at the end of the hall.
“You can thank me later. Take lots of pictures!”
I end the call and shove the phone into my pocket as the screaming and cheering gets louder and louder the closer I get to room 325. Taking a deep breath, I knock loudly on the door. It’s immediately flung open and a woman wearing a tiara and a sash that reads bride to be greets me with a huge smile.
“Yaaaaay, another guest! You’re just in time,” she squeals as she grabs my arm and drags me into the room. All I see is a group of twenty or so drunk women huddled in a circle.
The bride-to-be shoves a few of the women aside and pulls me front and center of the circle and my mouth drops open when I see Griffin sitting in a hotel chair shirtless, with a pink feather boa draped around his neck, swatting away hands that are reaching for the button of his jeans.
“Seriously, ladies, it’s flattering that you think I’m a stripper, but I really need to get back to work.” He tries to get up from the chair and five women all huddle behind him, shoving him back down in his seat by pushing on his shoulders.
“Wow, you guys are freakishly strong,” he mutters as one of the girls gets down on her knees by his feet and starts untying his boot to the tune of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.”
I really need to help him. It’s all fun and games until some other woman tries to undress him. Watching them manhandle him is making me stabby. I’m kind of struck dumb by the sight of him with his shirt off. He doesn’t have a six-pack—he has a ninety-five-pack. And when did he get a tattoo above his left pec? It’s the United States Army insignia and I have the sudden urge to run my fingers over it. And then my tongue.
“Um, excuse me,” I say loudly to the group at large.
No one hears me except for Griffin. He looks over the head of some woman wearing a headband with a giant plastic penis on it who is currently motorboating his crotch and raises his eyebrows at me.
I’m not going to lie; I feel a little ashamed of my actions now that he’s glaring at me. This whole payback idea was stellar after a few bottles of wine. Now that I’m sober and the entire town thinks I’m a call girl and the bachelorette party will most likely pass around Griffin’s phone number to everyone they know to recommend his stripping services? Not so much.
“Ladies!” I try again, shouting as loud as I can. A few of them turn to look at me and are none too happy that I took their attention away from the main event.
Raising my hands in a please-don’t-kill me way, I try to reason with them.
“Sorry to interrupt, but this guy really isn’t a stripper. It was a big misunderstanding. If you’ll just let me get him out of here, you guys can go back to your partying,” I explain to them.
“Is this part of the show? I think we’re supposed to just play along, isn’t that what Paige told us?” one of the girls whispers to someone behind me.
“Ooooooh, she’s probably a stripper too! I’ve never seen a female stripper!” someone shouts from the other side of the room.
I start shaking my head frantically back and forth when everyone’s attention is suddenly on me, giving Griffin the opportunity to get up out of his chair untouched. He walks through the throng of women who are eyeing me up and down lecherously and I hold his arm, pulling him toward me for protection.
“I’m sorry. I swear to God, I had nothing to do with this. Help me get out of here with my clothes on and we’ll call a truce,” I whisper to him in a panic as a hand smacks my ass.
“TAKE IT OFF, GIRLFRIEND!” someone screams.
Griffin wraps one arm around my waist, pulls my body up against his naked torso, and stares down at me with a calculating grin.
“So now you want to call a truce. I don’t think so, honey. I think you should do as the ladies say and take it off!” he yells.
Twenty sets of arms go up in the air as they all start chanting. “Take it off! Take it off! Take it off!”
Aside from the fact that this is the most mortifying event in the history of my life, I can’t help but enjoy the feel of Griffin’s arm around me. I want to snuggle into the heat of his half-naked body. Even if he IS trying to throw me to the wolves.
As I smack random female hands away from the buttons of my formfitting, button-down black shirt, Griffin takes notice of the panicked look on my face and finally decides to come to my aid instead of instigating the drunk masses.
“All right, ladies, show’s over. We really do need to get going,” he shouts as he starts to walk backward through the crowd, pulling me along with him.
“But we want to see naked people!” someone argues and the crowd starts to boo and glare at us.
Jesus, who knew drunken bachelorettes were so angry?
There’s a knock at the door and Griffin turns away from me to open it as I hope and pray that it’s hotel security. I have a feeling these bitches aren’t going to let us out of here alive.
The door opens and my father stands there in the hotel hallway with one eyebrow raised questioningly.
“Paige sent me. She said you might need my help,” he tells Griffin as he takes in the scene behind us. Let’s just say, I’m pretty sure my father has never seen so many fake penis products in his entire life. The woman with the light-up penis earrings may just put him over the edge.
“A SILVER FOX!” the bride-to-be shouts when she sees my father.
I cover my ears and cringe as the screams of approval make it to new heights.
A group of screaming and giggling women shove Griffin and me out of the way, grab on to my dad’s arm and drag him into the room. I don’t feel the need to save my father because he’s a hard-ass. There’s no way he’ll let this go on for much longer; he won’t have the patience for it.
The women are fawning all over him at this point, running their hands through his hair and kissing his cheeks. Any second now he’s going to yell at all of them to back the fuck up.
Any second now…
“No, there must be some confusion. That’s my daughter and she’s not a stripper,” my dad tells them with a stern look as they start asking him questions about his “stripper partners.”
I sigh in relief that this will all be over soon and we can get the hell out of here.
“No, I’m serious. She’s not a stripper. She’s a hooker.”
“Oh dear God,” I mutter as they push my dad into the chair Griffin recently vacated and one woman straddles his lap.
I can’t look. This is just…Oh my God…I’m going to puke.
“Griffin! Do something!” I scold him as I point angrily in my dad’s direction while he looks up happily at the woman giving him a lap dance.
“Hey, Buddy! You need some help over there?” Griffin yells across the room to my dad.
“Nope. I got it under control. You two run along now. Go do some talking or something. Or better yet, go bust Kennedy’s back door and pay her for it so she gets in a better mood,” he yells back.
Griffin salutes my dad with a chuckle, grabs my hand, and pulls me out of the room. The door closes behind us just as a cheer erupts from inside and I can only imagine what is currently being done to my father.
GD drunk bachelorettes.
All I know is, he didn’t come home until three in the morning and he fell asleep with a huge-ass grin on his face. And I’m pretty sure I saw stripper glitter sparkling in his hair when the light hit it. What the hell happened?” my brother Bobby asks Ted as he loads a round of bullets into his service pistol and takes aim at the paper target ten yards away.
I walk up behind them at the tail end of their conversation and try not to think about what could have put such a big smile on my dad’s face the previous night after Griffin and I left the hotel.
Every week since Bobby moved back in with my dad, the three of us meet at the indoor shooting range and throw out career ideas to him. It looks like this week Bobby’s future is not going to be the main topic of discussion.
I clear my throat softly behind them so as not to startle them—never a good idea with people holding loaded weapons. Ted turns around, puts his gun on the ledge, and immediately wraps his arm around my neck and tugs me into a headlock, rubbing his knuckles against my scalp.
“What up, sis? Ready to get your ass kicked today?” Ted says with a laugh as I punch my fists into his side until he finally lets me go.
“Jesus, Ted, grow up,” I complain as I stand back up and rub my sore head. We both stand silently in the lane at the indoor shooting range and watch Bobby fire off a few rounds, all but two hitting the center target.
“So, what’s new with you? Aside from the fact that you’re now a prostitute and Dad has decided to open a strip club?” Bobby asks as he steps back out of the lane and gestures for Ted to go next.
“Funny,” I tell him with a smack to his upper arm. “I’m still trying to catch this fucking bail jumper while attempting NOT to strangle Griffin in the process.”
Ted takes aim and unloads his clip into the target. Buddy laughs when half of them go wild and pierce the outer circle of the target.
“Son of a bitch! Something must be wrong with this gun. Here, you do something with it.” Ted steps back and I reach my hand out for it.
“Go easy on Griffin. He’s good people,” Ted tells me and I load the clip with more rounds.
With a roll of my eyes, I lift my arms up, take a deep breath, and begin firing when I exhale. All but one bullet hits the center target.
“Ooooh, I do believe that makes me the winner,” I gloat.
“I don’t understand how you always beat us when WE taught you how to shoot,” Buddy grumbles.
“Oh, I almost forgot. I got some information about your guy, McFadden,” Ted tells me as he pulls a folded-up piece of paper out of his back pocket.
Taking it from his hand and putting the gun down on the ledge, I scan the information.
“Back when he was a teenager, he got popped for marijuana possession. The file was sealed because he was a minor at the time, but luckily, I know people,” he informs me as Bobby steps up behind me and reads over my shoulder.
“He took the rap for some guy named Steven Lawson. They grew up together in the same neighborhood and were best friends,” Bobby reads aloud.
“We already got this information and looked into the name Steven Lawson to question him and there weren’t any hits on him. I questioned the friends of his I could find, but Steven Lawson didn’t have a current address listed and none of the old friends remembered that name. What does this have to do with anything now?” I ask Ted as I look up from the paper.
“You’re lucky I went on a date with one of the file clerks at the courthouse and completely blew her mind last week,” Ted tells us with an arrogant grin.
“Shut up and get to the point,” I warn him.
“Fine. Buzzkill. Steven Lawson changed his name after he got out of juvie. He now goes by the name Sven Mendleson.”
My mouth drops open and my arm automatically reaches out and punches Ted in the arm. “Shut the fuck up. Are you serious?”
“Owww,” Ted complains as he rubs the spot on his arm. “Serious as a heart attack, dude.”
“I’m confused. Who the hell is Sven Mendleson?” Bobby asks as he takes the paper out of my hands and reads through it again.
“I asked Ward about Sven. He’s some annoying guy who does shit to Kennedy’s hair and wouldn’t shut up about the fact that when McFadden showed up at his salon, he put his life on the line trying to apprehend him,” Ted explains with a roll of his eyes. “Ward’s pissed now that he knows Steven and Sven are the same person.”
“That rat bastard. He let McFadden get away on purpose. I’m going to kick his ass.”
“Slow down there, rough rider. If Sven Mendleson is Steven Lawson, you need to tread lightly. This guy isn’t someone you mess with. He’s kind of a big deal in the pot world,” Ted warns.
“Seriously? You have got to be kidding me. There is no way that little asshole with the fake accent is a big deal in anything. He’s probably been hiding McFadden all this time. Son of a bitch, I’m going to kill him!”
I start pacing back and forth in the small booth with thoughts of homicide by hair dye swirling through my brain.
“I’m telling you, Kennedy, do NOT go into this alone. Now that the police are aware of the connection between Sven and Steven, they are taking control. You agree to let the police handle this or I go to Griffin and make him hold you hostage until it’s settled. I only gave you this information so that you’d stop with all the wild-goose chases,” Ted warns me.