Chapter 4 – The Dark Side
As I walked toward the door Holly was standing at, the strange smell that permeated the apartment grew stronger. It wasn’t coming from the room we were about to enter but another room close by. It smelled like burning and chemicals and something stale, it was sickly and sour at the same time. It definitely wasn’t Febreeze or if it was – she should take it back for a refund. Holly turned around to look at us before she turned the handle and all of the pieces of the puzzle clicked together. Her appearance, the smell, her jumpy behaviour – was she on drugs? As if the thought of seeing what was behind the door wasn’t ominous enough, now my trepidation reached levels I didn’t think were possible.
Without thinking, I grabbed Eric’s hand. I felt him stiffen somewhat before he squeezed lightly. I turned to look at him and was met with his blue eyes full of an emotion that was similar to my own. He glanced briefly at Holly’s back before bringing his eyes back to mine; it seemed that Eric had reached the same conclusion as I had. Holly pushed the door open and I closed my eyes, not knowing what we would find on the other side.
“This is where they run everything.”
Her voice snapped my eyes open and I stared at the room full of monitors and wires. I stepped forward, following Holly into the den of technology and tugging at Eric’s hand so he wouldn’t stay outside and leave me to this alone.
“Run what, Holly?” I frowned as she walked over to a keyboard and punched at some buttons.
“The whole operation.”
She gestured to the monitors; they were showing a number of different places. One looked like a group of secretaries, another looked like an empty nightclub but my eyes were drawn to the one with the most activity. At first I thought it was a group of people fighting, then I looked closer.
“Are they …”
“Oh that’s Telete, but we just call it the pit. That’s where the workers who are too far gone go; the clients don’t care if they’re … y’know … with it.”
“Too far gone?” Eric asked and walked around to stand in front of the screen with his back turned to it, blocking both our eyes from the sight of the gyrating bodies.
Holly opened her mouth to speak again but her intercom buzzed and fear crossed her features. “Shit! You have to hide!”
Eric and I questioned at the same time, but we didn’t get an answer. Holly pushed us toward a closet in the room, opening the door and bundling us inside as her intercom sounded angrier and angrier. She slammed the door closed, leaving Eric and I squashed together in the small dark space. I heard her footsteps and her voice as she answered the buzzer.
“Eric, do you have a clue what’s going on here?”
“Uh … no. But whatever it is, I think we need to go to the police when we get out of here.”
“If we get out of here.”
The footsteps sounded again, quicker this time, and the door was flung open to reveal a very scared Holly.
“You guys need to shut up, the walls and stuff ain’t too thick in here. He can’t know anyone is here.”
I opened my mouth to ask who but the door was slammed closed again. The only illumination was from the small strip of light coming in from under the door and there was no way for me to move without brushing against Eric. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that and I was even less sure of how Eric felt about it. The front door opened and closed and muffled voices could be heard. I strained to hear everything over the sound of my own heartbeat.
“Here you go, Holly, remember – that has to last you all week.”
“It will, Andre, I promise! Thank you!”
“Good girl. You remember what happened the last time you used it too quick, don’t you? You don’t want to go back to the Pit again, do you?”
“No, Andre, I don’t wanna go back there. I like being at the call centre.”
“Whether you like it or not, you didn’t file the paperwork right. You’re a good kid Holly, I feel bad you got caught up in all this but if you can’t do the job I can’t help you and you know Ames and Soph won’t put you back in circulation when you’re on junk.”
“It was Soph that got me into junk Andre, are we done here or do you wanna lecture me some more about getting in with the wrong crowd?”
“Shit, Holly, you don’t need to be so bitchy. Go and get your fix. Not in the arm though, you’re starting to get track marks.”
Footsteps came toward us and a door nearby slammed closed; it made the walls of the closet shake. I still hadn’t heard the front door open or close again, so I had to assume that whoever Andre was, he was still in the apartment. I jumped at the sound of Eric’s whisper.
“Yeah.” I whispered back, trying to stop my voice from shaking.
“Remember what I said about prostitution not being all dark and seedy?”
“I was wrong. I’m scared for Pam.”
“Me too. Are you okay in here? You’re not claustrophobic or anything, are you? I don’t think I could handle you freaking out.”
“Surprisingly I’m fine. Are you starting to freak out?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Holly I’m just going to check the monitors then I’ll leave.”
Andre’s loud voice resonated through the apartment, making me jump again. Eric’s arms went around me and I buried my face in his chest. He was stiff as a board against me, and I was willing to put a lot of money on him reciting the same internal mantra as I was.
Don’t look in the closet. Don’t look in the closet.
I clung to Eric like a limpet as I listened to Andre walking around the room beyond the door that hid us from sight. He mumbled and tapped at buttons before cursing and leaving very quickly, slamming doors and shouting as he made his exit.
“Holly, there’s trouble at the kitchen. I’ll see you next week.”
For a while after that we simply stood in the closet, I could feel Eric’s heart thumping against me as I was glued to his torso. I had no idea how long we stayed in there, it could have been minutes or hours. The apartment was silent except for the sound of our breathing in the confined space. The acrid smell of something burning permeated the air. I cleared my throat and pushed away from my hiding partner.
“I think it’s safe to go out now.”
I felt Eric’s body move as he nodded and reached out to open the door. His hand stayed on the handle as he took a breath. “I don’t mind being stuck in here with you. I mean … I mind the stuck part and the hiding part but the proximity … I don’t mind that at all.”
I opened my mouth but quickly closed it again. There wasn’t much I could say to that. ‘I’m glad you enjoyed being squished in a tiny space with me’ didn’t seem like an appropriate reply considering Eric had problems getting close to anyone. The door swung open and I took a deep breath, instantly regretting it when the scent of whatever Holly was cooking filled my nostrils. It smelled like someone had tried to recreate the smell of cold, stale coffee using chemicals. I gagged and felt Eric tugging at my clothes. My eyes watered, the smell was getting stronger, but I could see Eric had pulled his shirt up to cover the lower half of his face. I was wearing a dress, and I knew if I tried to cover my face with it I’d be flashing whoever could see, but at that moment I didn’t care.
We ran out of the apartment and Eric hammered the call button for the elevator. My eyes were drawn to his toned stomach and the ‘V’ of his hips where his low slung jeans rested. Then the view was obscured by his shirt again and I realised I still had my dress covering half of my face. I looked at Eric to find his eyes trained on the top of my thighs where my baby pink lace boy shorts were on full display. I dropped the fabric and smoothed it over my legs again, noting Eric’s disappointed stare as I did so. I barked out a cough, making his eyes snap up to mine again. Thankfully the elevator dinged and the doors slid open, interrupting the awkwardness.
“So, where to now? The police?” I asked as he pressed the button for the ground floor.
“Well.” Eric puffed out his cheeks and sighed. “We’ve got drug supply and use, possibly several places running sex clubs and the indication that certain women are being targeted and groomed to work as prostitutes … so, yeah, police it is.”
I bit my lip, wondering if Eric was thinking the same thing as I was. “Do you think they got Pam hooked on something? She’d never inject heroin, I know that much, she’s terrified of needles.”
“There are other drugs.” Eric shrugged. “I didn’t know that about Pam, the needle thing. But now you mention it she went really pale a few months back when I said I was going to donate blood.”
“Oh, you should have seen her when I went to get my tattoo!” I snorted. “I asked her to come in with me and she passed out when she saw the equipment.”
“You have a tattoo?” Eric smirked. “I didn’t see it.”
“That’s because it’s hidden.”
“Where? I mean, I’ve accidently seen quite a lot of you today and …”
I sighed and turned around, lifting my hair out of the way and exposing the cluster of stars on the back of my neck.
“There, see, hidden. You thought it was somewhere else didn’t you?”
“Yes, but in my defence, you often find the nice girls are the ones with sexy tattoos on their private places.”
“My tat isn’t sexy?” I mock-pouted at him but wiped the look off my face when I realised it might have seemed like I was fishing for compliments. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot or make you uncomfortable.”
“It’s okay. I like yours.” My eyes widened as he licked his lips. “In the right circumstances and the right position, your tat is … very sexy.”
The elevator doors opened again just as my blush was reaching optimum redness. I rushed out but stopped at the mailboxes, making Eric bump into my back as I scanned the names. Apartment 3b, H. Cleary & A. Broadway – bingo! We tried to act casual as we walked back out past Wybert, I smiled sweetly at him and Eric nodded but when I glanced back inside through the glass doors; I could see him having a very animated conversation on the phone.
It was 4am when we finally got out of the precinct. Detective Arlene Fowler, vice, had interviewed us together and separately. Eric had told me not to mention Pam’s diary, he said it would feel like we were incriminating her. I didn’t tell Det. Fowler about it, not because it might incriminate Pam in any wrongdoing, but because I wanted to know what happened and find her myself – not sit by the phone and wait for some cop to update me on the investigation. Maybe it was selfish; maybe it was withholding evidence but it was driven by my need for Pam to be found by someone who cared for her, not handcuffed and dragged out during a raid.
I was bone-tired after talking and aching all over from sitting in the hard plastic chair. I was also bitterly disappointed. The judge had issued a search warrant for Amelia and Holly’s apartment at 11.30pm but by the time the vice squad got there, it had been stripped and all that was left was Holly’s dead body. Cause of death was attributed to a heroin overdose, which led to another round of questioning for Eric and I. The good thing that came out of it was that Pam was now officially a missing person and the police were also searching for, and investigating, Amelia Broadway.
Eric swung into his parking spot at his apartment block, until the engine in the car switched off I had been in such a daze I had no idea he wasn’t taking me home.
“Aren’t you taking me home?” I yawned out the last word, rudely, but figured it was 4.30am and I’d had a hell of a day – I didn’t care if it was rude.
“We learned a lot of things today, scary things, and we’ve been through the ringer. I know I don’t want to be alone, do you?”
I thought about that a little, not for long though. I would feel better if I knew someone else was around. “Okay, I hope your couch is comfy. And you’ll need to take me home tomo … later on today so I can shower and change.”
Eric nodded and looked relieved. “Thank you, Sookie.”
We entered Eric’s home and he gave me a basic tour. Where the bathroom was, where the cups and coffee were kept in case I woke up before he did. The final stop was the second bedroom, which Eric had turned into an office. It, thankfully, had a much comfier looking couch to the two he had in his living room but it was still very neat and angular. I went to the bathroom to wash my face, and relieve the pressure in my bladder from all the vending machine coffee I drank at the police station. I heard a tapping at the door followed by Eric’s voice telling me he was pretty sure he had a spare toothbrush in the cabinet over the sink. I checked and smiled when I saw that there was, it was identical to the toothbrush that sat in the holder and after I used it I didn’t want to put it in the same place in case Eric got mixed up between them, so I sat it on the sink behind one of the taps.
When I went back into the office, Eric was placing a pile of blankets on the couch. He was wearing some dark blue plaid sleep pants and that was all, I could see the muscles in his back tense as he realised I was behind him. When he turned around, I struggled to keep my eyes on his face. He looked really tired; although I didn’t look so hot myself from what the bathroom mirror showed me.
“Uh … do you have a shirt or something I could wear to sleep in?”
He nodded and went back out, I took the opportunity to sort out my makeshift bed with the selection of sheets and blankets Eric had left there. I heard him clear his throat from the doorway and turned to see him holding something soft and grey out to me. When I reached out for the shirt, Eric stepped forward at the same time, our fingers brushing against each other as I took the shirt from his hands.
“Uh … if you’re not comfortable here, there’s plenty of space in my bed.” I arched an eyebrow at him and smirked. “I mean, if you get upset … thinking about Pam and where she might … anyway, I’ll leave my door open and my lamp on in case you don’t want to be alone.”
I nodded and said goodnight, standing in the doorway and watching him walk down the hall. When he got to his room, he stopped and turned back. The look on his face broke my heart. I couldn’t help but think that his little offer of comfort if I got upset reflected how he felt. Maybe he wanted comfort? Maybe he was upset thinking about all the awful things Pam might have done and seen?
“Yes!” His features brightened.
“Are you okay? Would you like some company?”
“Uh … well, only if you want to.” I smiled and nodded, holding myself back from shaking my head, typical man. “I promise to be a gentleman.”
“I’ll be there in a minute; I’ll get changed in here.”
I quickly stripped off my dress and then stood for a while, contemplating whether to take my bra off. I never slept in my bra but I didn’t want to send any mixed messages. In the end, I decided to take it off and go for physical comfort. At this point, seeing as we live in the south, I was probably safer with Eric than most girls were with their cousins. I padded down the hallway and peeked in the room. It was very … ordered. Eric was sitting up in bed, his very lickable chest on full display. I knew my smile was strained but I hoped he would put it down to exhaustion rather than hormones. Luckily, he slept on the left. I always slept on the right with John, and even now I gravitate toward that side even though I had the whole king size bed to myself.
Eric pulled down the covers and smiled at me as I got into bed. The bed shook as we lay down and huddled under the covers, trying to get comfortable. It was a very nice bed and the fact it smelled like Eric made it even better. He reached out and tapped the base of the lamp to turn it off, my eyes accustomed to the dark and I could see him looking back at me. There was movement and I jerked slightly when I felt Eric’s hand touch my arm, my breath hitched as his fingers trailed down from my bicep to my wrist until he reached my hand and squeezed it with his own.
That’s how we fell asleep and that’s how we woke up the next day.
True to his word, Eric was a complete gentleman. I caught him checking out my legs a couple of times when I was having a coffee before I got dressed and there was some very obvious boob staring after I’d been in the fridge for the milk. But there wasn’t any leering or any suggestive comment. It was almost 11am when the alarm woke us up, for me that was a horrendously long lie in but when I considered it had been almost 5am when we went to bed, I changed my mind and thought it would be good to stay asleep all day.
Eric had to be at Baldur’s Gate by 12pm, so we had to hustle for him to drop me off at my apartment and make it to work on time for the deliveries. I actually felt sad when I entered my empty home, knowing I wouldn’t see Eric until after he had finished working. I showered and threw on my favourite worn out yoga pants and long sleeve T-shirt and settled on my couch with a large cup of coffee and Pam’s Diary.
21st April 2010
A & me went to LPM just the two of us tonight. She said there was someone she wanted me to meet without Y there. I was surprised when Sophie-Ann turned out to be about 10 years older than us, she looked like one of those high powered lawyers with her skirt suit and French roll, anyway, she was hot and she liked being in charge. A gave me another shooter, it wasn’t absinthe this time. She said it was apple schnapps with an extra kick. Wouldn’t tell me what the extra kick was but about an hour after knocking the booze back I was horny as hell and ready to take on the world. A made sure I drank plenty of water and I needed it cos I was screwing and sucking on anyone nearby. Guys, girls, Ames, Soph and they were more than happy to return the favour; I came so many times I lost count. Amazing buzz but today I feel like hell, like I drank 20 shots instead of one. I’d do it all over again though.
And there it was, the moment we’d been looking for, the moment where Pam went from sexual experimentation to recreational drug use. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of drug they gave her. I was pretty sure Heroin couldn’t be used to spike a drink; roofies wouldn’t make her horny and energetic. Maybe it was ecstasy? My knowledge of drugs could fill the back of a postage stamp, I smoked some weed in college and threw up afterwards, never went near anything else after that. Suddenly I had the answer. I already knew someone who went to Le Petits Morte and I had her phone number. I just hoped Yvetta would talk to me. The phone rang once before it was picked up.
“Hey, Yvetta, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, have you heard from Pam yet?”
“No, but we’ve … found out some stuff. Like about Le Petits Morte and that she was given drugs of some kind. How much do you know about Amelia?”
“Not much at all, I’d seen her around plenty at Hudson’s. We seemed to go for the same girls, sometimes we shared but other than sex we didn’t hang out with each other.”
“Have any of the other girls she was … hanging around with just stop coming to Hudson’s?”
“Y’know, now you mention it, yeah. I just figured she got them involved with Petits and then they realised Hudson’s was too tame.”
“I see. Have you ever noticed any drugs going around at Petits? Drinks being spiked and stuff?”
The line went very quiet and I had to ask if she was still there.
“I’m still here; you have to understand that some people … they like to loosen up in different ways. Petits is known as a good place to really throw off your inhibitions, sometimes a little meth goes a long way.”
“Is it addictive? Like heroin grade addictive?”
“Depends on the person, I’ve tried it a couple of times and never got a real jones for it but others … have addictive personalities.”
“You think Pam got hooked on meth?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll need to investigate further. Thanks for talking to me, Yvetta, I really appreciate you giving me the inside info.”
“Y’know, if you want, I could take you to Petits? Maybe you can see what you’re missing? And that big blonde guy … Eric, he can come too.”
“I’m really not into all that kind of thing. I’m very reserved compared to you and Pam.”
“No, I mean see what you’re missing like following Pam’s footsteps, seeing it through her eyes. Maybe you missed something by not going there, I know you really want to find her – you wouldn’t be asking questions about meth and Petits if you weren’t working off a list of clues.”
“You’re right that we’re working off a list of clues, but I’m not sure going to a sex club is the best course of action.”
“Well, if you change your mind you know how to find me. You take care.”
“You too, Yvetta. Bye.”
Did Yvetta have a point? I now knew what Amelia looked like, and I also knew the names of other people involved with … whatever Pam was involved in (I didn’t want to think about my best friend being drugged up and kidnapped into prostitution). We could go to Petits Morte and I could maybe ask if anyone had seen Andre or Amelia or Sophie-Ann. I didn’t have to say I knew them just that someone said I should talk to them. About what, I had no idea; maybe I could say that I’d heard they knew where I could have a really good time? That sounded lame.
I tried to tell myself it was a bad idea. It was an idea on the same scale as wondering what happens if you leave the lid off the blender, or wanting to find out how far down the garbage disposal goes with your hand. Following Pam’s trail to a sex club, especially with Eric and his general hotness in tow, was a very bad idea.
So why was I already wondering what I would wear?