Chapter 6 – Casting a Wide Net
I blinked, wondering what the best answer would be. Not the right answer but the best. Did I want Eric to seriously see me as a sexual creature? Of course. Did I want Eric to imagine me in a number of sexual scenarios? Hell, yes! Unfortunately, Eric took my moment of pondering as a denial of his request.
“I’m sorry, that was very forward of me. You don’t have to answer.” He moved away from me, to the other side of the couch and looked around the room. “Would you look at the mess in here? Time to clean up before bed.”
“Eric, wait.” I reached out and circled my hand around his wrist. “You don’t need to apologise, I was just … surprised by it, that’s all.”
He scratched at his head, pulling some of his long hair from where it was held back by a leather tie. “It’s been a long time since I … propositioned a woman. I guess I’m out of practice.”
“You don’t have to proposition me, Eric; I’m already sleeping with you.” I giggled, the giggling was mostly because I didn’t know what else to do and I was nervous. “For the last while you’ve been used to having Pam to talk to and having … escorts for the … uh … other stuff. I don’t want you to regret anything we might do, so I’m letting you lead.”
Eric stood up straight and nodded, looking thoughtful. “I wouldn’t want to regret anything. Not with you. Being in your company feels very natural and … easy, but more. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, it does.”
I let go of his wrist and watched him clean up the non-existent mess. It involved moving the coffee table an inch and taking the cups through to wash. Eric was right about how it felt spending time with each other. Once we got the initial discomfort out of the way and aired our dirty laundry, things had become … organic, free-flowing. I didn’t think twice about spending time in his bed to comfort him and he had no problems being so close to me, despite what his previous encounters with girlfriends had exposed him to.
We curled up in bed that night, back to holding hands rather than spooning. I wasn’t entirely sure what my feelings were toward Eric and I was even less sure of how he felt for me. But it was obvious there was something there, and it was something new that I hadn’t experienced with any other man.
I was dreaming. I knew I was dreaming because even though Eric was kissing me and stroking my most intimate places – Pam was tapping me on the shoulder angrily and telling me to wake up. Her voice sounded weird though, it was deeper. A lot like Eric’s, in fact. I woke up when she pulled my hair and made a strange part-growl, part-groan and part-grunt noise to find I was lying on top of a very disconcerted and warm Eric. My leg was hitched over his hip and my centre was pressed firmly against what had probably been Eric’s erection, only it wasn’t so erect now. My belly felt damp where my pyjama top had ridden up and Eric cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“You wouldn’t wake up, you just kept … going and … uh … is sleep dry-humping a recognised condition?”
I leapt off of him, my face so hot I thought it was on fire. “Oh my god! I’m so sorry Eric, I was dreaming and … how can you make jokes about this? It’s practically rape!”
Eric sat up and grabbed my shoulders firmly. “It was not rape. If I didn’t want it to happen then I could have easily thrown you off me but … you were there with the rubbing and it’s been a while … I should have stopped you. You did that for me this morning, it would have only been fair for me to do the same.”
“Well, I guess what’s done is done. You … uh … you should clean up a little.”
“It’s just as well we don’t sleep naked.” Eric grinned and pulled new sleep pants from a drawer before padding out of the room.
The magnitude of what had almost happened hit me full force. At some point, if things continued on the current course, Eric and I would sleep naked. Sleep-sexing doesn’t usually involve condoms. I jumped out of the bed and ran to find my cell phone, setting a reminder for me to call the doctor about birth control.
Since the … incident had happened at 6am, we got back into bed and napped until nine before going through what was becoming a very nice routine with breakfast. I briefly wondered what would happen when my personal time was up and I had to go back to work. But that was an issue for another day. A day where Pam was home safe and we could help her come to terms with everything that has transpired. My mind immediately went to Bill. How could we tell her, after reading every selfish thought in her journal, that her husband was dead? Would she care?
It seemed I was thinking about Bill at the right time, my cell rang out and the name Lorena flashed on the screen.
“Hi Lorena. How are you holding up?”
“Sookie, it’s … we’re fine. Just arranging things. Bill’s funeral will be on Saturday, is there any news about Pam yet?”
“No, we’re still looking but she’s registered as a missing person now, at least the police are looking for her too. So, Saturday?”
“Yes, we couldn’t hold it off any longer, the funeral home refused to keep his body for more than 6 days when there was no need for a post-mortem.”
“Of course. We’re doing our best to find Pam and get her back home. Do you want us to tell her about Bill?”
“I think the sooner she knows the better, whoever finds her first will need to tell her.”
“I understand. Hopefully we’ll find Pam before then but even if we don’t we’ll be at the funeral.”
“We? Are you and Eric a couple now?”
“Uh … we’re working together to find Pam and spending a lot of time together but I wouldn’t say we’re dating or in a boyfriend/girlfriend scenario.”
“Oh, my mistake. I’ll pray for you guys and that we see Pam soon.”
“Keep strong, Lorena and take care.”
“You too, Sookie.”
I sat my cell on the coffee table and looked at Eric. He was looking at my cell, so I picked it back up and put it in my purse. Eric smiled at me and beckoned me over to look at something on my laptop. It was another PM from FDCDom, as I read through it my eyes widened.
“He wants to have a meeting with us … at his club?”
“Yeah, he definitely knows more than he’s letting on in this message. I know where this place is, it’s not far from the bank we use for Baldur’s.”
“He didn’t say what kind of club it is.”
“I’ve only seen the outside of Shibari, but the people queuing up to get in looked kind of gothic.”
“No latex shorts or whip carrying?” Eric shook his head. “So if we wear black we should fit in fine.”
“Yep, this place is legit, a proper bar and club – there won’t be anything going on that the public could stumble on to. I’ll tell him we’ll be there at ten that gives me time to change and pick you up after work. I’ll pick up something to eat on the way home.”
I nodded and took some clothes out of my bag, heading to the bathroom to get dressed. Eric said I could shower there but if I was going out to a club that night I would shower when I got home so I had all my products on hand. Once we were ready, Eric gave me a soft kiss on my forehead before getting in his car to go to work. It was nice, it was affectionate … it made me smile most of the day.
I stood in my robe, staring at my wardrobe. I didn’t own Goth clothing, I owned Sookie clothing. In the end I teamed up one of my black pencil skirts that I wore to work with a black Basque that hadn’t seen the light of day since John bought it for me. Luckily, the Basque was satin rather than lace. Unluckily, it was a cup-size short of fitting me properly. My girls were more exposed than I usually liked and I raided the depths of my closet for something to give me more coverage but the only thing that came close was my ice-blue bolero jacket that matched my old prom dress. That’s when I saw it; it was an awful, shapeless, shift dress that I had bought before trying on and never got round to returning on time. Black polyester with a lacy overlay, but take the polyester away and it would be perfect. I snipped carefully at the seams while dinner was in the oven and by the time I had finished my pizza, I had a lacy cover-up to complete my outfit.
Early evening was spent on tenterhooks, pacing my living room in my black pumps that I kept for work. I checked my make-up at least ten times between seven-thirty and eight and by the time 9pm rolled around I was a nervous mess. My intercom buzzed and I rushed to answer it, Eric was waiting for me outside the building. I double checked I had everything we might need, including Pam’s diary, and locked my door with shaking hands.
I was scared that it was an elaborate trap, no matter how ridiculously contrived it would be. I was scared that he might ask for something in return for helping us. I was scared he would tell us to forget about Pam because she was in too deep. I was just plain scared. And when I looked into Eric’s eyes as I walked out of my building, he was scared too.
We didn’t really speak as we drove through the streets of Shreveport. When we got to Shibari and parked outside, we sat in the car for a few minutes before getting out and joining the line to get in. Eric placed his hand against the small of my back, it was warm and comforting, I leaned into him and his hand moved around to rest on top of my hip.
“You look great, Sookie, black suits you.” Eric murmured in my ear as we shuffled forward. “Are you worried about this?”
I nodded and turned my head to answer, feeling his lips brush against my temple as I did. “Yeah, you?”
“A little … after going through Red Candy and Holly, I have no idea what to expect.”
When we got to the entrance, the doorman looked us up and down before lifting the rope. Eric stepped toward him, earning him a growl. I gripped the fabric of Eric’s jacket and tried to stay smiling.
“Hi, we have a meeting here tonight with Felipe. Our names are Ricky and Susan. Is there any way you could let him know we’re here?”
The doorman narrowed his eyes and unclipped a small handset from his belt, mumbling into it and holding one hand to his left ear. I arched an eyebrow at Eric and he shrugged before leaning down to whisper.
“I’m not stupid enough to give this guy our real names. Ricky and Susan seemed like good names at the time.”
“Okay, you’re early; Felipe won’t be ready to see you for twenty minutes. You two need to go in and wait at the end of the bar under the Miller sign.”
We nodded and stepped into the building, Eric paid the cover charge and I paid for the coat check. The walls were rich red and the floor was dark wood, scuffed but clean. There were pictures on the walls of people tied with thin rope in intricate patterns, criss-cross diamond shapes of naked flesh between the twine and knots. There weren’t vulgar, there were no intimate body parts on display, female backs, male torsos, thighs, ankles. They actually looked very artistic.
The music from the bar sounded just like any other bar, the people milling around looked just like the people you would find in any other bar. Well, with the exception that there was a predominance of black; black leather, lace, latex, corsets and collars. There were a couple of guys talking animatedly and looking at a board on the wall. It had ‘Classifieds’ in silver gothic writing at the top and was covered in little plastic pockets with white cards inside. I stopped at the board and Eric put his hand on my back again, like he didn’t want to stray too far from me.
Hand-made Leather goods.
Finest quality, tailor made to your specifications. Bull whips and unique collars a speciality. Call for a free quote.
Inexperienced but enthusiastic Dom seeks willing sub and trainer.
Make your collaring ceremony something to talk about! Full catering, bar and DJ supplied.
Okay, so I didn’t think it would be people selling bikes their kids had grown out of or sofas that didn’t match the new decor, but I was still a little shocked.
“Are you looking for something in particular sweetie?”
“What?” I stared at the man who had spoken to me, he looked sympathetic and kind, another shocker.
“Are you looking for something?” He smiled at me and flicked his eyes to Eric. “First time huh?”
I smiled, relieved that he didn’t seem to be laughing at us or making fun of us. “Yes, we’ve never been here before.”
“Well, you kids stick together. Most of the folks in here are nice but there are sharks in the most placid of waters.”
“Uh … thank you.” I smiled and nodded, tugging on Eric’s shirt so he would move with me.
Yes, thank you for that ominous warning. It’s sure to put us at ease.
We dodged through the crowd, Eric’s hand gripping my shoulder firmly but not painfully. The club was large, with a central dance floor surrounded by booths and a long bar against the right hand wall. I felt my shoulder being squeezed a little tighter and looked at Eric to see him pointing to the neon ‘Miller Time’ sign. The music was loud but not unbearably so, the crowd were polite and either moved out of the way when they saw us or smiled and nodded when I half-yelled ‘excuse us please’. Thankfully, the sign was in a fairly quiet corner. There weren’t any stools to sit on but we leaned on the bar and kept an eye on the two ‘Staff Only’ doors in front of us.
We ordered some drinks from the bartender while we waited. Eric had a bottle of beer and I had a coke, bobbing my head to the music as I sipped. My eyes closed and I swayed as the opening chords of ‘Wild Horses’ came through the speakers. When I opened them again, Eric was looking at me nervously, his eyes flicking between me and the dance floor.
“You like this song?”
I nodded. “It’s one of my favourites, but you don’t need to dance with me, its okay.”
“It doesn’t sound like the kind of song you dance to alone.” He came closer and placed his hands gently on my hips. “I want to dance with you but …”
“Not with all those other people who might sweat on you?” He frowned a little before nodding. “We can dance here, if you want, it’s nice and quiet.”
I wrapped my arms around his neck and we swayed together. I felt his nose nuzzle the top of my head and looked up into his eyes. He looked happy, content. For a second it felt like we were the only two people in the world.
“Ricky and Susan?”
We let go of each other and turned toward the voice. It belonged to a dark haired man; he looked like he was from Spanish descent. We nodded and he smiled at us, holding open one of the doors and gesturing for us to go through. There was a flight of stairs but just as we started to climb the door behind us slammed closed, making us jump.
“Please go into the office on the left at the top of the stairs.”
His tone was firm but even, authorative and controlled. When we got into the office, it was in stark contrast to the bar below. The walls were light cream, the mouldings and furniture were maple or pine and there was a pale terracotta carpet covering the floor.
“Sit … please.” Eric and I perched nervously on the two chairs on one side of the desk while the man relaxed into a large, brown leather chair on the other side. “As you may have surmised, I am Felipe. I want you to tell me more about this missing friend and how you came to the conclusion that she was embroiled with Dunkelheit?”
Felipe smiled. “That’s what Sophie-Anne called the club before … well that’s a story for later. Right now, I’m interested in you.”
Eric and I took turns in talking, telling Felipe about the messages Pam left for us, Bill, the diary, Hudson’s Rock, Red Candy, Holly and her apartment and Le Petits Morte. Felipe nodded and listened intently, he didn’t interrupt once even if he looked like he had a question. When we were done, he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, placing them on his lips and closing his eyes. I took the opportunity to glance at Eric; he was picking at a loose thread on the cuff of his long sleeved black t-shirt and worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. Finally, Felipe spoke.
“I would like to see the diary.” I looked at Eric and he nodded. I pulled the diary from my purse and handed it to Felipe; he smiled at me as he took it before flicking through the pages. “Yes, you can see the changes in your friend without even reading what she’s written.”
Felipe showed us the first entry and then flipped through to the last. The handwriting was different, on the first page it was curvy, feminine and clear and in the last it was hurried, spiky and harder to make out. In making the mistake of reading one entry at a time, we had missed this little detail. I would have to make a point of reading the whole thing, from beginning to end, no matter how much it disturbed me, no matter how much I wanted to put it down and look at the clues she’d left.
“From what I can gather, without actually reading this, Pam’s story is one of many. Beautiful young women lured into a different world by the promise of excitement. Sophie-Anne always could spot someone ripe for corruption.”
“You know Sophie-Anne?”
Felipe nodded. “Yes, but we are not friendly in the least. For fifteen years, I have been the master of Ctrl/Alt, the head of the community and the organiser of all of our activities. It doesn’t suit everyone; some don’t like the structure. I run things with a mix of old and new leather, but that is to ensure safety. Sophie-Anne used to be a member; she was one of those who didn’t like structure, she thought it was stifling and un-needed.”
He went on to tell us about how some of his younger members started missing sessions and he heard news of Dunkelheit, an exciting new club that had all of the fun but none of the rules. He had tried speaking to Sophie-Anne, tried convincing her that someone could get hurt, but she laughed at his warning. He told us about the rumours he had heard that Dunkelheit was no longer a club, but a brothel of sorts. A few men had entered Shibari expecting the same services in the months following its creation. Felipe attempted to contact the members of his community that had not visited in a while and found one who was willing to speak to him.
The girl, Diane, was in a very bad way when he went to see her. She told him about how a man, Andre, had become a partner in Dunkelheit and that Sophie-Anne called him her ‘chemist’. Diane had been offered, and had accepted, a number of different drugs to ‘heighten her experience’. Felipe took her to the hospital; she was treated for a number of injuries including a dislocated hip and a prolapsed anus. Diane told her story to the nurses, then the police. But by the time there was a raid the club had moved and it had never stayed in the same place more than a week since then.
“So, Diane was the only solid evidence you ever came across?”
“She is the only person ever to speak of their experience. When she was released from the hospital, she was found just hours later, dead from a drug overdose. Sounds familiar, yes?”
“Holly.” I breathed out in a gasp.
Felipe nodded solemnly. “The Modus Operandi of Sophie-Anne and Andre is that they find young women and men, eager for sexual debauchery. Then they introduce them to drugs and have them earn money for them by having clients pay to use their bodies. The victims are unaware, often too high to string a decent thought together. Of course, a lot of this is assumed, with no evidence and no living victims, it’s hard to really work out what they’re doing. The police have been trying, and failing, to gather enough information to even bring Andre or Sophie-Anne in for questioning.”
“So, Pam had been … used for money?” I tried to swallow the bile that crept into my throat. I felt Eric squeeze my knee and I looked over at him, his eyes were haunted and brimming with unshed tears. “We need to get her out of there, we need to know where this place is and drag her out if we have to!”
Eric edged closer to me, our shoulders pressed against each other. “Do you know where it is right now, Felipe?”
“It … it may not be as simple as that. Out of all of the men and women involved with Dunkelheit, you think there are only two who have tried to get away? If everyone stayed, they wouldn’t need to recruit would they?”
“Oh god! Do they … do they kill them? When they’re … all used up?” My cheeks were wet without me realising that I’d been crying.
“I think that a trail of bodies would be noticed. The occasional drug overdose here and there … but more than a couple would lead to a pattern. And every dead body leaves evidence.”
“So they’re hiding the bodies?” Eric was confused, so was I until I remembered something in Pam’s diary.
“Maybe there aren’t any bodies to hide.” I grabbed the journal and leafed through until I found what I was looking for. “Here, she mentions that Sophie-Anne was talking to some big shot oil baron and that he was really interested in her. Is it possible that they’re … selling people?”
Felipe leaned back in the chair again. “It’s shocking and brutal but … I wouldn’t put it past them. I will find out where the club is these days, you say that Pam is now registered as a missing person?”
“Yes.” Eric answered before his eyes brightened. “We find out where the club is and then we can call the police to say Pam has been sighted there. The police raid the place and we get Pam back!”
I looked at Felipe and he gave me a meaningful glance. He was thinking the same thing as me.
What if Pam had already been sold?
We left Felipe’s office with the polar opposite of demeanours. Eric had fallen apart; he was clinging to me as if he was terrified I would leave him. I was numb; my brain was still processing having my worst fears confirmed. In a way, it was better like that. If we’d both fallen apart we’d never have gotten back to my apartment safely without calling a cab. Eric let me drive his corvette, which at any other time would have gotten me excited. But tonight it was necessary and not for pleasant reasons.
Once I had gotten Eric into my apartment and settled on the couch, I went back to his car for the bags he’d left in the trunk. When I came back in he was lying on his side hugging his knees, I had no idea why this was affecting him so much. He’d completely fallen apart. And I had no idea what to do or say to comfort him. I slowly sat on the couch and leaned over to put my hand on his thigh.
“Would you like some tea?”
He shook his head and looked at me. “Is there any bourbon left?”
“There is, but I’m not so sure it would make you feel better. I’ll go and get it if you want?”
Eric nodded and I left him to get the bottle and a glass from the kitchen. I sat the glass on the coffee table and filled it halfway before screwing the lid back on and sitting the bottle of Four Roses next to it. He slowly sat up and rested his elbows on his knees before putting his head in his hands.
“What kind of person would buy another person?” He reached out and swallowed back his drink, grimacing a little. All of a sudden the colour drained from his face. “Me. I bought those women from Red Candy. I used them and paid them and never let them dwell in my thoughts once I was finished.”
“Eric, those girls at Red Candy know what they’re getting into. The situation with Pam is different; she had no idea what she was involved in. The escorts know they’re being used for sex in exchange for money, Pam didn’t. You know I’m right.”
Eric nodded and let me pull him into my arms. “Thank you for being here Sookie, I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t with me.”
I stroked his hair and held him even closer. My emotional outpouring could wait. I knew it was coming, but I knew that if we both fell apart at the same time then our search for Pam would fall apart too. My heart was exhausted when we climbed into bed. There was no awkwardness or resistance as we held each other under the covers and drifted into sleep.
We managed to avoid any sleep sexing that night, which was a relief but a little disappointing at the same time. Lord knows, we could have both done with the feeling of losing ourselves in something other than fear. But everything we learned from Felipe had tired us out, emotionally and psychologically. After breakfast, I left the house at the same time as Eric and made my way to my Doctor’s office for my appointment to have a Mirena Coil fitted. It was a simple procedure and I was back home two hours after I left.
I put on a full pot of coffee and sat on the couch with Pam’s diary. I was determined that I wouldn’t stop reading for anything other than bathroom breaks, refilling my cup and eating. As I re-read the early entries I was shocked again at how desensitised I was to it. I noticed more things as the story flowed in front of me. The handwriting was the tip of the iceberg; you could see her outlook on life change from being inquisitive to being cold and selfish. But there was more there than the description of thoughts and sensations, she had started adding the addresses – like she knew it was going south and people would start to look for her. By the time I got to the last few entries, my face was soaking with tears.
27th June 2010
Something is happening at the club, Siegebert has gone missing and no-one will tell me where he is. Ames says not to worry about him. For the first time in a few months I went out sober to the Warehouse on Benton Kelly Drive, they moved the club after that guy came in the other time. I dumped the meth shot, I felt like shit because coming down is the worst feeling you can imagine. But something isn’t right. I noticed a lot of envelopes changing hands and hated myself for counting the number of people I fucked or sucked. 8, 8 people in one night. The worst part was when Ames asked why I was off my game. I told her I wanted out; I didn’t want to go there anymore. She laughed at me and walked off, the next thing I knew I was in an office with Sophie-Anne and Andre. They knew everything about me. Bill, the bar … everything. They had film footage of me doing the most depraved things. And I know they’ll use it if I try to get away.
15th July 2010
Andre was in the car when Ames came to collect me tonight. They took me somewhere different, it was awful. The sounds, the smells, those poor people. Ames said it was an underground club called Telete on Caldwell Street, this was where you went when you pissed Soph and Andre off or if you had gotten so addicted to the drugs that you weren’t able to perform anywhere else. I was scared shitless, anyone would be. They didn’t say that I’d be thrown to the wolves there but the threat was there. Andre told me I had to cut my ties with the life I knew because things would change on the 24th. When I was taken back to the club, Andre demanded to know if I’d ever done anal. I cried because I’ve never did that, I thought he was going to rape me up the ass but when he dragged me back to the office the Oil Baron was there again. Andre told him I was perfect for him, they agreed on $200k. Apparently, if I’d been fucked up the ass before, the price would have been much lower. When I stood up to tell them they were fucking with the wrong woman, the Oil Baron punched me in the guts. I think he might have busted my ribs; I used to be stronger than this. I looked in the mirror, I’m a skeleton and my strength is just gone. I can’t remember the last time I ate a full meal.
23rd July 2010
Clancy has noticed I’m acting weird, I can’t let anyone know what I have planned. Almost all of the papers for the bar have been signed over to Eric. Anything personal isn’t a problem that goes to Bill automatically. I’ll never forgive myself for doing this to him. He was a good husband; I hope he finds someone worth his affection. I’ve made arrangements to see Sookie and Eric one last time; I hope they can help me. I got everything I needed from Ame’s room-mate Holly, just in case, if it all goes to hell – they won’t get me alive.