The back alley club was almost offensively loud, both to the ears and to the eyes. A pulsating neon sign on the roof proclaimed that this was the Backflip Lounge. A smaller sign underneath read "dancers wanted -- no experience necessary" in purple letters that faded in and out to the beat of the music within. Gaston grimaced as the first notes of another remixed abomination hit his ears. The other people standing outside the club didn't seem to mind the noise; in their defense, the vast majority were drunk.
"Excuse me," Gaston shouted to the bouncer, struggling to be heard over the music. "Does a girl named Belle work here?"
The bouncer looked like a stereotypical Hollywood thug, an appearance he obviously cultivated. "What's it to you?" he said suspiciously from behind his mirrored sunglasses.
"I'm her father. I need to talk to her." For a second, Gaston was sure that his request would be denied, but just then a large group of intoxicated twentysomethings reached the club and demanded entrance. The bouncer rolled his eyes and nodded at Gaston to enter.
The air inside was thick with smoke and smelled like stale beer. The few lights were directed on the stage, where a line of girls wearing little more than identical feather boas were pretending to dance. Gaston scanned the girls briefly, looking for his daughter's familiar face. There she was -- the tall beautiful brunette second from the left. Belle, having not noticed her father, broke off from the main line to give a lap dance to a middle-aged man sitting in the front row. Unable to watch, Gaston turned away.
After the song was over, the dancers left the stage and mingled with the customers. Gaston caught his daughter's arm and drew her away from an old coot who looked like he would fit better in a nursing home than in a strip club. The look of surprise on her face changed to one of anger as she pulled away from her father's grasp.
"I told you not to come looking for me, dad." she said bitterly.
"Belle." His stern expression softened. "Come home. We miss you."
She glared at him. "No, dad. I'm happy here." Gaston glanced around at the disgusting surroundings and raised an eyebrow. Belle blushed. "I'm in love."
Gaston sighed. "Another one of your drug dealer boytoys?"
"No!" she said indignantly. "Adam's different. He's a real gentleman. Come upstairs, and you can meet him." She turned on her six-inch heel and left. Against his better judgment, Gaston followed. Adam turned out to be the owner of the club, the same middle-aged man from before. He eyed Gaston while smoking an expensive cigar, obviously unimpressed. The feeling was mutual. "So you're her father." the man said in a whiny, arrogant voice.
Gaston didn't bother to respond. "You're in love with him?" he said to Belle, pointing an accusatory finger at her boyfriend. "The man's an absolute beast!"
Belle pouted, and Adam raised his fist. "Now look here, asshole-"
Gaston didn't know why he hit the guy. In retrospect, it was probably a really stupid thing to do. For one thing, Adam was twenty years younger and could punch like a prizewinner. For another, that burly bouncer from outside didn't take long to get there, and Gaston had no chance two on one. In less than ten minutes he lay panting on the filthy floor, broken and bleeding. Belle was clinging to Adam's arm, trying desperately to keep him from hitting her father again.
"Stop! Please stop!"
Adam, breathing heavily, finally stopped fighting. Feeling woozy, Gaston struggled to get to his feet. One particularly hard blow was causing him to see double. Perfect. He could barely bear to see the guy's smug smile once, let alone twice. Suddenly sparks flew across his vision; he tripped and tumbled out of the nearby window, twenty-five feet to the sidewalk below. Had he survived the fall, it would have been little consolation to know that the police, alerted by a passing bystander who saw the fight through that same window, arrived thirty seconds afterwards. Adam was arrested and convicted of Gaston's murder, although he swore that the man had fallen accidentally. Although many said it was too harsh, he was sentenced to life at a local prison. The day of his incarceration, Belle and Adam shared one last passionate kiss between the bars before she was escorted out.
"Dance for me, sweetheart," he called out as they led her away. Belle smiled and walked out of the jail swaying her hips.