The Palace (The Full Story)

Feature by Scott Cassidy | 16 May 2006
It has been said that The Palace is a wee bit rough. That's like saying Mike Tyson is a wee bit tasty with his fists. It isn't rough, it's crazy; crazy in a Beirut meets Baghdad sort of way. You can go in looking like Brad Pitt and come out looking, walking and talking like the elephant man's uglier brother. The customers don't go to impress the opposite sex with their slick moves or polished chat. They go to drink cheap vodka and warm beer, get pissed, have a fight and get shagged. Simple.

It was with a racing pulse and a weak bladder therefore, that Neil (Jackie) Jackson pulled his Audi TT into The Palace's pot-holed car park. He took a few deep breaths and stepped from his car. He looked up. The neon lights made him wince. In the queue somebody was sick. Ownerless hands launched a drunk through an open fire escape and a bevy of people bayed to get past a monster on the door. At least the building wasn't scary, just an ugly box of grey metal. It nestled between the various DIY stores that completed the Fort Bosworth Business Park.

Jackie's mind struggled to grasp the reality of the situation. He was the player, he was the man, the 'hump them and dump them' king. Christ, the trainees in his office worshipped the ground he swaggered on and his wife, well, his wife understood and accepted that late nights were part and parcel of his latest promotion.

"Eh, alright mate. I'm here to see Sally, could you let her know Jackie's here please?" Jackie thought he'd done alright, enough to fit in, he'd roughed his voice up and dropped his t's. The Monster on the door stared back, more than a little cock-eyed. He curled his lips back and sneered. His teeth sat like condemned houses, and when he spoke spittle flew outwards. Jackie blinked, painfully resisting the urge to wipe his face.
"Pull the other one Jacqueline," the brute hissed, "you'll queue with the rest!" Despite his fear Jackie felt his face flush with anger. Who did this moron think he was? Jackie tried again.

"She's expecting me, we…" He was stopped, mid-sentence by Sally herself. Her petite frame appeared from a non-descript door behind the Monster and she waved him through. Jackie relaxed a little, smug in his minor victory and nearly laughed when he heard a mumbled "Sorry Boss, have a good night Sir."

"I see you've got the monkey well trained." An attempted icebreaker.
Sally grinned, "Aye, Davey's a wanker but he knows better than to fuck with me. I pay his wages and the job keeps him from a holiday at Her Majesty's pleasure".

Jackie flinched, his usual choice of female companion, fellow solicitors and other city types, wouldn't dream of using such language. Sally was different. She looked like butter wouldn't melt but she had a gutter mouth and a list of put-downs that a comedian would sell his Granny for. Jackie had seen this as a turn on at first. He liked common birds and in his eyes men deserved a bit of rough just as much as women. Anyway, conquests like Sally made for great chat over his post-work gin and tonic. But somewhere along the line the dynamics had taken a somersault and here Jackie was, at the beck and call of a first class nut job, Sally Scott, owner of The Palace, daughter of a psycho and officially the date from hell.

Jackie felt Sally take his hand. She led him towards a wall of smoke; they skirted a dance floor reminiscent of a battlefield and headed for an empty cloakroom. The rancid smell of sweat was overpowering and already Jackie's head hurt. The strobe light stabbed his eyes and the music spun like a wrecking ball inside his head. Sally lifted a hatch giving them access to her office and almost tripped over two sprawling figures. Jackie looked down just in time to see tangled limbs futilely grasping for clothing, clothing that Sally already held and proceeded to rip with a knife pulled from thin air.

"What the…? Where the…? Oh Shit!"

"If I catch you ugly fuckwits at it again you'll be shagging in wheelchairs!" Sally's eyes were manic. In the blink of an eye her yelling turned physical. Stiletto heels were raised and driven towards the hapless couple, fists were clenched and a horrific beating was dished out before Jackie could even think of intervening. Then, as quickly as it began, the attack stopped. Sally flashed Jackie a toothy smile, pulled him into her office and locked the door.

Despite his attempted protest Sally had attached herself to Jackie, left hand pulling his head towards her, right hand shooting straight for his fly. He was dreaming, had to be dreaming, his wife's magazines never mentioned violence as a form of foreplay. Her hand was inside his trousers now, the same hand that thirty seconds ago held a knife. His mind was reeling, her perfume filled his nose and despite his shock and fear Jackie found he was turned on; a smile formed briefly, quickly buried in an avalanche of kisses.

"No, wait Sally, wait, get off me!" he clamoured, his conscience winning the battle. "You just kicked the… that doesn't matter; this isn't what I came here for, I mean, we can't do this, I'm sorry but we were drunk on Monday, you're a lovely girl but…."

"You Bastard, You absolute fucking pig!" The words were spat through clenched teeth. "Fine for a bit of fun, huh? A pissed up knee trembler after a club. Well fuck you! Don't want to see me? Fair enough, but no one and I mean no one comes here, to my club and makes a fool of me. My Dad would eat you alive if I told him, but…"

The rant continued but the mention of Sally's father had stolen the strength from Jackie's legs. He grasped a filing cabinet, will power alone keeping him upright. Fear coursed through him and his mind flashed back to the fateful morning, five days previous, when a certain Archibald Scott strolled into his office.

"Mr Jackson, There's a gentleman here to see you, I've explained that you're busy but he's adamant he won't keep you more than five minutes"

"No probs Lynne, I can give him a couple of minutes, do you have a name?"

The office door was already opening. "Archibald Scott" the stranger said, voice deep, right hand extended. He looked immaculate, a man of at least sixty yet obviously fit. His three-piece suit hung perfectly from an enormous frame, short silver hair was combed neatly to one side and he took Jackie's hand in a vice-like grip. He was smiling as he introduced himself and Jackie smiled back.

"Neil Jackson. Please, take a seat Mr Scott. What can I do for you?"
Both men were now sitting face to face and despite Archibald Scott's warm smile Jackie caught his first glimpse of malice lurking behind the friendly façade.

"You shagged my daughter last night." It wasn't a question.

"Eh… say again sir. I mean, right eh Sarah, no Sandra, the lovely Sandra. Yes, I was with Sandra last night. Lets not get crude though. We were both consenting adults and I care for her."

Jackie wasn't fazed. He had been in bother before with past lovers' parents, partners and even their kids. A few choice words and a friendly smile would see the old man on his way. Wrong.

"It's Sally, her name is Sally." Voice steady, eyes burning. "What was she, a bit of fun, an easy target, a slag? YOU THINK MY DAUGHTER'S A SLAG?" The man's voice hit Jackie like a punch to the face.

"Not at all Mr Scott." Voice shaking, eyes to the floor. "She's lovely, a real gem, in fact I was planning on phoning her tonight." He lied. He didn't know why but this man, this pensioner, seriously gave him the shits.

"Likely fucking story you stuck up shite. If it was up to me I'd tear you apart for even looking at her. She's leagues above you; Man United to your Dundee United. For some stupid reason she thinks she likes you, she thinks you're different. She wants to see you again and believe me you will see her and you won't fucking hurt her. Oh, and she'll never, ever know about this wee chat"

Jackie was confused. He was in his office, his territory and he gave out the beastings, but he was shaking like a beaten dog, terrified of this man. He wanted Archibald Scott to leave. He wanted to wind the clock back and stay at home last night.

"I'll call her tonight, go for a drink or something. She's a special girl and…"

"You didn't even know her name." Voice quiet, back turned. The psycho's parting shot.

The meeting had lasted all of one minute. Jackie's left hand massaged his temples and his right reached into his bottom drawer and lifted out a green bottle. His trembling hands removed the lid and he took three large gulps. Much better. The whisky caressed his nerves, he giggled like a scolded child and his mind whirred, looking for a way out.

An early finish and an appointment with the remaining whisky gave Jackie the courage to make the call.

"…so did I, it was great and yes of course I want to see you again. The only thing is Sally, I'm away on business until Friday." He'd bought some time.

"Well it'll just have to be Friday night if you can wait that long. We'll be at it like rabbits; fucking magic!" Cringe. He hated her already.

The days passed and unanswered questions pushed the fear from Jackie's mind. Why had he been so stupid? How did she know where he worked? Why'd she tell her dad? And why did he let a pensioner scare him witless? The answer landed on his office desk on Thursday morning. Amongst his usual mail sat an A4 envelope. He ripped it open without a second thought and was surprised when he found newspaper cuttings, some old, some recent. They all had one thing in common: Archibald Scott. The message was clear.

With a sinking heart and rising pulse Jackie read tale after tale of the man's violent past; cases won and cases lost. He'd done a lot of time. The less reputable tabloids gave gory descriptions of his crimes, copper pipes and barbed wire, blowtorches and acid, victims that would never walk, victims that refused to talk and victims that were never found. The lunatic was free because of police error. They'd taken a journalist with them when they raided his house, a journalist who subsequently contaminated key evidence that tied the latest attack to Archibald Scott. Coincidence? Jackie didn't think so.

A slap from Sally brought Jackie back to reality. She was still ranting at him. His conscience crumpled and he changed his mind.

"I just didn't want to rush things Sally. I don't want to end things, and I want to get to know you better!"

She stopped mid sentence, confusion spreading over her face, slowly turning into a grin. BANG! Her lips smacked onto his and her hands moved south.

"I knew you wouldn't hurt me"

Jackie couldn't move. She was nuts, had to be, nobody flicked through emotions like this. Sally Scott was a whirlwind; if you got too close she'd suck you up. If you tried to run she'd leave havoc in your wake.
Jackie was caught in a no-win situation. He had two choices: tell her it's over and face Scotland's scariest man or fall deeper into this current mess, no chink of light, no way out. In the end the decision wasn't his to make.

Sally pulled away. He wasn't kissing her. She looked hurt. The penny had dropped.

"Wait a minute Casanova. You didn't want to know me a minute ago and now you want to play happy fucking families! Do I need to ask why the change of heart or should I just ask when and where you met my Dad?"

"What you talking about? I've never met your father." His eyes shifted to the floor.

"Don't try and kid a kidder, I've grown up with liars; good ones. You're a bloody amateur! And anyway he has a word with all my boyfriends."

Jackie was astounded. He couldn't believe she'd called him her boyfriend. He'd only met her twice.

"That's because he's nuts!"

Another flashback. Archibald Scott in Jackie's office: "…she'll never, ever know about this wee chat."

She did now. Jackie waited for a reaction. He'd as good as told her he wasn't here through choice. Would she attack him? He thought he could handle that. He could get past her and out of the club. But what then? Would Daddy pick up the trail and go to work? He waited. She stared. The passing seconds unnerved him and he was surprised when finally, Sally spoke.

"Wait here."

Her voice, barely a whisper had rooted Jackie to the spot. His body had been tense, ready for fight or flight but she had looked so hurt. He had caught a glimpse of the real Sally Scott, a vulnerable girl behind the tough talking front. And then she left, locking the door.

Surprise subsided, panic grew and eventually his body reacted. Nobody to fight, no room for flight; Jackie was trapped. His mind raced. What was she doing? Where was she? Jackie slumped, coming to rest in a leather chair facing the door. His imagination ran riot. Image after horrific image plagued his thoughts. Who would come through the door and what on earth would they do? Archibald Scott? The monster on the door? Sally with her knife? All terrifying outcomes to a very sticky situation. His memory wandered to newspaper cuttings, stories of torture and missing victims. How the hell had he ended up here?

Jackie fished for his mobile. No signal. He smashed it off the door. He got up and began pacing. The office was bare, purely functional, no creature comforts. The phone line was dead. Three hours passed, the music in the club stopped and Jackie feared the worst. An empty club meant no witnesses. Tears formed and were quickly fought back. He might get off with a beating and a warning not to hurt Sally again. She might even let him go. Three hours of confinement was surely punishment enough. His hands began drumming on his thighs, nervous energy finding an outlet. Then he heard voices.

Footsteps echoed in the empty club. The sound amplified in Jackie's terrified mind. Monsters were coming. He backed into a corner, put the desk between him and the door, too scared to feel ashamed of his weakness. Keys rattled, the lock opened, but the door stayed firmly shut. An eternity passed. Enough was enough.

"Come on you bastards, get in here and finish it. No one deserves this!"

The door opened.

"Oh it's already finished and you deserve this Jackie" The voice was quiet, yet carried venom far deadlier than any monster. Jackie looked up. His world imploded. The tears escaped and the door closed. Jackie was alone. His wife had gone.