By Karen Singer
Chapter 28 – Looking For Answers
The door opening pulled Brandy’s eyes open as well. Two women entered the room. Brandy quickly guessed it was feeding time again, which was good because she was so hungry her stomach had stopped rumbling a long time ago. Or maybe it wasn’t good. As far as she was concerned, it would be far better for her if they just starved her to death so she could die.
She noticed that one of the women she had seen before, but the other one was new again. The one she had seen was the one that never spoke the last time she had been fed. She saw both women briefly glanced around the room, then they headed for the woman in the cage on the left. Brandy got to watch as they cleaned and fed her. Not fun to experience, and not fun to watch either, but it certainly beat the boredom of staring at the closed door all the time.
Brandy had briefly tried talking to the other two women locked in the room with her. She had managed to call out, “Hel…ah.” The closest thing to, “Hello,” that she could manage. All it did was to start the other two crying again. All her repeated attempts to communicate had yielded her nothing but more sobs. She figured she’d try again after they had calmed down a bit more.
The women finished with the first victim and came over to her. Once again Brandy had to put up with the invasive cleaning and the even worse feeding. She gulped the same bland mush down her throat as fast as she could. When they cleaned her mouth, she gulped as much water as she could. “Thak…ya,” she managed to say.
“Shut the fuck up!” the one woman she had seen before said angrily. “Don’t ever say anything. You haven’t earned the right! Objects should be silent!”
Brandy was more than a bit shocked, but she didn’t reply. She only watched as they finished with her and then moved on to the final woman in the room. Before long, quiet in the room was restored as the two women left, and the boredom set in once again.
What was up with that one woman? All Brandy had done was to try to thank her.
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Susan stared blankly out the window. She had heard about Carol talking with Ralphie. Which only served to remind her of something else. Brandy was the niece of one of her other clients. A very new client. Vinny. The mob boss in Cleveland. According to what Carol had told her, Vinny was more like a father to Brandy. Susan figured that since Brandy was missing, Vinny deserved to know. The question now was, should she tell Vinny now, or wait another day. She decided another day might be best.
She would give Carol a little more time to find some answers. But after that, she couldn’t wait any longer. It was time to not only let Vinny know, but it would be time to start closing down operations here and send everyone else home. Although she had no doubt that Carol wouldn’t be willing to leave anytime soon. That was fine. Maybe Carol could still come up with the answer to who was causing all the trouble in Las Vegas.
Tomorrow she would call and talk to Vinny. And tomorrow she would start trying to convince everyone else that they should leave…soon.
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Billy didn’t bother knocking, he opened the door and rushed into the large opulent office. “Boss! Damn Beastman’s men did a drive by against one of our whore houses and took out two pimps.
“They what?” Damn them! Damn Beastman. Where the hell was Houghton?”
“Not there, mostly because even I didn’t think Beastman would go after a joint like that.”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t have thought so either. He must know our other places are well protected now.”
“Looks like it.”
He shook his head. “I’ve had enough of Beastman. He was nothing more than a convenience anyway. The things I thought he could bring to the table aren’t worth it anymore. Go talk to Houghton. Tell him it’s time to wipe Beastman off the board. More than likely, he’ll love that assignment.”
“Yeah. No doubt. From what I hear, his guys love to shoot. I’m on it.”
“How’s the drug situation looking?”
“So far, pretty good. Better than we anticipated. With Lozano gone, along with his entire stash of heroin, we’re one of the few players in town with any at all.”
“Good. We’ll wait a few more days to drive the price up, then we’ll start bringing in bigger shipments.”
“Sounds good,” Billy replied. “You want me to pass the word to get the shipments ready?”
“No. Let’s wait. I’d really like the price of the drug to double before we move too fast.”
“Got it Boss.”
“Go talk to Houghton. Right now, I want Beastman removed from the map.”
“On it,” Billy replied before walking out.
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Carol rode the streets of Las Vegas. Most of the buildings that she knew about that Beastman owned appeared to be either deserted or heavily guarded. But then the last man she had captured from Beastman had told her that Beastman was consolidating his people to protect them. A good move…unless someone planted a bomb or had some other way to take out an entire building in one swift move.
She stopped in front of another of Beastman’s crappy looking buildings. As far as she could see, it was just as deserted as a few of the others she had driven past. But was it? She drove her bike around to the back of the building. It still looked empty. She parked her bike and went up to the back door. Locked and quiet. She pulled out her set of lock picks and went to work. The old lock yielded to her in just a few seconds. She went inside. The hallways appeared dark. She searched the entire building quickly, but it was soon obvious that it was totally deserted. No luck.
She went back out to her bike and drove away, heading for the next of Beastman’s establishments that Wu Enterprises had found. It was a bit of a ride, but she didn’t mind at all. She would have enjoyed it much more if she was out of the city. Her ride took her to another part of the outskirts of town. She stopped at a traffic light. The light turned green, but she didn’t move. Her attention was caught instead by the sound of guns being fired. A lot of gunfire! The car behind her honked its horn and instead of heading straight like she intended to, she turned to the right, towards the sound of the guns.
As she got closer, she suddenly heard a different gunshot. A deeper one. There were a few more shots, then the shooting stopped completely. She was close now though. She pulled her bike to the curb and parked it. Ahead, she could see a lot of men moving all around out in the street. Men with guns. She also saw a car that had crashed into another car parked along the side of the road. Most of the men were running towards the crashed car. She heard a few more gunshots, noting that several of the men were firing into the parked car. And then it all seemed to be over.
She sat on her bike and watched as the men pulled three dead black men from the car. But what caught her attention even more were the men who weren’t paying attention to the car. Those men were actively searching around, including the rooftops of all the buildings in the area. Carol quickly realized that the one odd gunshot she had heard hadn’t come at all from any of the men ahead of her. That shot had come from a military rifle. Beastman’s men must have been doing a drive-by shooting. That was what all the gunfire she had heard was about. But that one shot had to have been from a sniper somewhere who had taken out the driver of the car, causing it to crash and letting the other men finish off the other men in the car.
So who were the men that Beastman had been targeting? And more importantly, that one odd gunshot, had it come from one of the mercenaries? Carol started her bike and began driving around the area, searching for any sign of the mercenaries. After half an hour of searching, she had found nothing.
Why had the mercenaries been there? If they took out the driver of the car, it sounded like they were protecting whoever was in that building…whoever they were. And, if it was the mercenaries, the men in the street hadn’t seemed to act like they knew anything about whoever that shooter might have been. Another mystery. It was also more evidence to Carol that the shooter might have been one of the mercenaries.
So…if she were a mercenary, and if for some unknown reason she been given an assignment to protect someplace without being seen, how would she do it? Where would she place herself so she could do the job and nobody would know? She drove around the streets of the area a little more, trying to figure out the best logistics for the job. She soon came to one perfect solution. The best place to protect that building, was from on top of the building itself. The shooter could station himself up there. He wouldn’t be seen by anyone inside the building. And he could cover all four sides of it with very little trouble. In fact, the fact that it had taken him so long to get his shot off might be because he had been somewhere else on that rooftop. It made total sense to Carol.
The only problem with that theory was, if the men in the building didn’t know about him, how did the mercenary get all the way up to the roof without anyone seeing him? Or…did someone in that building know he was there? Either way, Carol now wondered if the man was still up on that roof, or had he fled. Of course, that was assuming someone had been up there to begin with. But it was the most likely scenario that she could think of. The more she thought about it, the more likely she figured that someone inside that building had to know about him…or them? Maybe it was them – multiple shooters on the roof. The mercenaries did seem to work in groups of two.
That left her with one last question. How could she get to the roof and find out? She drove all around the building again, studying it as quickly as she could. There were very few men on the street now, only a few stationed out front. A tow-truck was pulling the wrecked car away. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, Carol saw no police cars at all. Someone didn’t want the police involved. Just the way she liked it.
She left the area and found a fast-food restaurant to stop and eat in. Taking her time. Killing time. When the sun started to go down, she finally left the restaurant, heading back to that building. She drove around the area. All seemed to be quiet, but she did see two men still stationed out in front of that building. She drove around behind the building and parked her bike at the curb a block away. In the distance she could see two more men posted behind the building.
As she was taking her helmet off, she saw a dark van suddenly pull up to the curb in front of the back door. The door to the building opened and two men came out. Two men carrying automatic rifles. Two men with their heads wrapped in black cloth. The men got into the van and the van quickly pulled away. Pulling her helmet back on, she followed it, staying well behind it, often with other cars between her and the van so she wouldn’t be spotted.
The van finally parked a few blocks away from one of Beastman’s buildings. Carol watched as six men, all with their heads wrapped, all with military rifles, quickly got out of the van. They separated into three groups of two and each group hurried off in different directions. All of them vaguely heading toward Beastman’s building up ahead.
Was Beastman there? Was Brandy there? Riding slowly now, she headed down to the next corner, then turned to the right, following behind where one of those groups of mercenaries had gone. She watched as the mercenaries turned left at the next corner, she went straight and parked her bike. Leaving her helmet on, she raised the visor and went after the mercenaries on foot.
The men moved quickly, seeming to know exactly where they were going. As Carol followed them, she tried to work out a plan to capture them both without causing too much of a ruckus. These weren’t your average run of the mill street punks. These were seasoned professionals. But the answer to how she wanted to try and take them came quickly and easily. Stopping briefly, she pulled her helmet off, then pulled the gasmask accessory out from the suit and pulled it over her head. When she was ready again, she pulled her helmet back on. From her pocket, she pulled the little glass vial of knockout gas that she had gotten from Beastman’s man. He hurried to catch up to the mercenaries.
Ahead, she saw them both pause at the corner of a building on the corner. She saw one of them peer around the side of the building. Stopping them now would be the better option.
“Hey guys,” she called out loudly as she ran toward them.
She saw both of them turn their heads towards her. The one behind turned fully and lowered his weapon vaguely in her direction, but Carol could see he didn’t want to kill her. She ran right up to them and started to stop as if she just wanted to talk to them. They were both facing her now, but neither of them was aiming their guns at her. Their mistake. Instead of stopping near them, she accelerated and ran past the first man. Jumping high into the air, her foot came around and caught the second man square in the head as her hand grabbed the rifle the other man was holding. As she came down, she jerked on the rifle, pulling the man off balance. As her feet hit the sidewalk, she threw the tiny glass bottle down between the two men, causing it to shatter. Twisting, her leg came up and caught the man still standing behind his neck, pulling him hard down to the ground. She saw the first man starting to get up, then he faltered and sat back down. Both men immediately looked woozy. In seconds, they were both totally out. Carol had to hand it to Beastman. The gas made a very effective tactical weapon.
Carol let them breathe in the gas for a few minutes while she walked away and made a phone call. “I’ve got two special ones ready for pick up.”
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The sound of the door opening pulled Brandy’s eyes open again. She saw Alfonso entering the room. Their eyes locked for a brief few moments until he purposely turned away. She watched as he walked over to the woman on her left. He never touched her, but he walked all the way around her, seeming to look her over. She heard the woman let out another sob.
Brandy saw his eyes raking over her again as he walked across the room toward the other woman. Again, he walked around her without touching her.
When he was done, Brandy watched as he stopped between the two women, looking at her. For some reason, he didn’t appear happy. She watched as an angry sneer crossed his face, then he turned and walked out. What had that been about? With the brief show suddenly over, she closed her eyes and dreamed of all the things she used to do…when she could move.
Her dreams were interrupted by the door opening again. She watched as two men entered the room. They each gave quick glances to the other women in the room, but it was clear right from the start that they were interested in her…especially since they were heading straight for her. Uh-oh. She braced herself for more abuse.
As the men split apart and headed for each side of her, she groaned. She knew her ass was about to get pounded again. She was surprised though when the two men stopped on each side of her. She felt them grabbing her cage and lifting it. Uh-oh. Was it party time again? She expected her cage to be lifted off the base and set on the floor, but they lifted her into the air, and then began turning her around. She felt them setting her down again, and then they seemed to leave her. A moment later, she heard the door open and close.
She could no longer see the door. She could no longer see anything at all…except the dull tile wall in front of her face. She wanted to scream, but she didn’t. Instead, she cried. They had just found a way to make her existence even more unbearable. They might as well have blindfolded her or taken out her eyes. She couldn’t turn her head at all, so she couldn’t see anything at all…except the beige tile wall in front of her face.
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It was amazing the taxi drivers agreed to pick him up. It was amazing the hotel hadn’t thrown him out. It was amazing that all the restaurants he ate in didn’t throw him out. It was amazing that nobody seemed to mind him at all…except the pimps on the street when he tried to talk to the girls looking for customers. The bouncers in the clubs knew him now, but Ralphie knew he was watched very closely every time he went near one of the girls. For some unknown reason, he was tolerated, but only to a point – as long as it never kept the girls from mixing with any possible customers.
All of his work and questioning so far had given Ralphie a pretty good picture of who each of the pimps worked for. The pimps might not always know the ultimate boss’s name, but from the little information he had heard Brandy and Carol discussing, he was able to come to some conclusions. And it seemed that the girls who ultimately belonged to Beastman, weren’t that hard to find.
As Ralphie rode in the back of the cab, the bright city lights seemed to assault him from everywhere. He’d much rather the city be totally dark with no lights or electricity at all, just so nobody could see him. Sometimes, the entire city looked like one big red-light district to him. He guessed that with all the showgirls in their skimpy costumes running around, there wasn’t much of a difference. He tore his eyes from the bright lights around him and looked down in his lap instead. He could see the skirt of his red dress, and further down at the bottom of his shaved legs, his red stiletto heels. He was a walking embarrassment, and he knew it. It was amazing anyone allowed him to come anywhere near them.
The cab deposited him right where he had asked to be taken. The car seemed to vanish the moment he closed the car door behind him. Taking a deep breath, he pulled his eyes up from the sidewalk to attempt to look everyone in the eye. It wasn’t easy. In truth, he didn’t have that kind of courage. But he had no choice but to try.
He had seen some of the girls often enough now that they greeted him like an old friend, as long as he stayed out of the way of their business. This time, the things he asked them were different, more exacting. Have you seen or heard of a girl named Brandy, or as most everyone seemed to call her, Retribution? A lot of the girls laughed at that. None of them seemed to have heard of anyone like that. The few pimps and bouncers he was able to talk with didn’t seem to know either. It wasn’t long before he felt like his entire mission was nothing but a fool’s errand. A fool’s errand, for a fool. Like him. Fitting.
It was getting late. He was about to start looking for a cab to take him back to the hotel, when he walked up to another group of Beastman’s girls that were working the streets. He saw the pimp watching them giving him the eye, but he had talked with these girls before.
“Ralphie!” one of the girls greeted him, while she eyed one of the passing cars, trying to attract a customer. “You’re looking sweet, sweetie,” she told him.
“Thanks,” Ralphie replied. “Hey listen, I know this sounds weird, but I’m kind of looking for a friend of mine.”
“What’s his name?”
“No, it’s a she. A real she.”
“A hooker? What’s her name?”
“Uh…no. Trust me, she’s no hooker.”
“Then I doubt I can help you. Now some of the guys that come around pretty often, I know them.”
“No. I was just wondering if you ever heard any rumors about a girl named Brandy…or as she seems to more often be called, Retribution.”
“Retro what?” the woman laughed. “Heaven’s no. Not that we would hear much anyway.”
“Okay, thanks,” Ralphie told her and turned to walk away.
“He turned back.”
“Why would you be asking us?”
“Because, I’ve figured out that your big boss is someone named Beastman, and he kidnapped her. Now I’m trying to find out where she is.”
“Oh gee. That’s tough. I really don’t know. Sorry.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” He turned and walked away.
He turned back to the prostitute again.
“Look. It probably won’t do you a lick of good, but one of the girls that used to work with us caused a bit too much trouble once and was taken away. She was gone a long time. Months! Literally! We all figured she was dead. But she just came back yesterday, and from what I hear, she’s like…not the same person at all. She’s really messed up in the head. From what I hear, she hardly talks, she sleeps on the floor, naked! And she goes crazy trying to get every man who comes near her to let her go to work on him. You know? And trust me Ralphie, even for a woman in our position, she didn’t used to be that enthusiastic about it. But she sure is now. So I was thinking, I don’t know where they took her, but wherever it was, I sure hope it isn’t the same place they took your friend.”
“Where can I find her?”
“I don’t know. I expected her to be working the streets with us, but last night and tonight they grabbed her instead to work some special parties.”
“Where would she usually work?”
“I’m guessing, right here. They’ve just been keeping her busy since she got back, and trust me, she’s going out of her way to please everyone.”
“What’s her name?”
“They usually call her Sally Sweetlips. I’m not sure though if they’re still calling her that or not. I just heard most of this from some of the other girls. I haven’t seen her myself since she got back.”
“Sally Sweetlips,” Ralphie repeated. “Thanks. Maybe tomorrow I’ll come back and see if she’s around.”
“Yeah, sure Ralphie. And hey, maybe if you keep hanging around in dresses like that, Marco back there will let us do a makeover on you and you can work right here with us?”
Ralphie smiled, but inwardly he was cringing at the thought. His life was already too much like theirs. “See you tomorrow.”
Sally Sweetlips. He had heard much worse names for a hooker.