About a year ago, Kayla graduated from booze and an occasional pot-smoking to the harder stuff. She had been having a harder time getting through her sets at works, so her stripper friends introduced her to meth, which they said worked wonders. She didn’t like it much, but she liked the energy it gave her. She tried crack, heroin, and coke in rapid succession before deciding that coke was her drug of choice when she needed a little boost. She promised herself that it would just be an occasional thing, but she found herself increasingly agitated the days she didn’t use it. The customers looked seedier, her self-loathing was higher, and she was about ready to jump out of her skin. About three months ago, she started using daily along with the booze and a Valium to come down before sleeping. Somehow, she became hooked. Her words, not Matt’s. As if it serendipitously happened, as if she had no hand in it.
Though she made good money stripping and modeling, it wasn’t nearly enough to keep up on her house and her habit, not to mention her son. She had a few men friends who helped her out from time to time, but she couldn’t be obvious about it. She wasn’t a hooker, after all. My private guess was that she had more than a few men friends and that she was less than subtle in her requests, but I let it go. It wasn’t relevant to Danny’s disappearance, and it would just piss off Matt if I mentioned it. Kayla had a dealer, of course, but she wouldn’t give Matt a name no matter how much he cajoled. She was sure that her dealer had nothing to do with it, but Matt wasn’t as sure. Neither was I, but I let that go as well. I didn’t want to interrupt Matt while he was in his flow, so I saved all questions and comments until after he was finished talking.
About a month ago, her money had run out. She had been careful not to ingest more than she could afford, but there had been a few really bad weeks at work. One of her closest girlfriends, Foxxy—not her real name, of course—had OD’d and died while another girl had been raped by one of her ‘dates’ after a show. Matt hastened to explain that it was really rape because the trick doped her drink before having his fun with her. Turned out the trick liked to play with his switchblade while having sex, and the girl was still in the hospital. Most likely, she would never dance again.
Stories like these couldn’t help but affect the other girls because they were too close to home. All of them accepted ‘dates’ after the show, and nearly ninety percent were strung out on something or the other every day. They knew it was a dangerous job, but they had to keep that out of their mind to do what they did. The reality knocked it home just how fragile they really were, and it didn’t help that the cops didn’t give a rat’s ass about a stripper who got raped. As a consequence, Kayla—working name, Circe—had used more than she normally did which left her short on rent money which meant she had to use the food money for the rent. God forbid she do without her drugs—no, she rather give up food. I wouldn’t care so much if it was just her starving, but she was also skimping on Danny’s nourishment. That pissed Matt off as well, and he decided that when we found Danny, he was going to sue for custody.
Matt stopped for a moment, allowing me to digest what he’d said. I knew he wasn’t finished because nothing he’d said so far explained why anybody would have taken Danny. When Matt deemed that I was ready, he continued. Three days before Danny was taken, Kayla had been working at her club. One of her regulars was there, a man she called Gentleman Caller because he seemed so proper, and he had a British accent. He came every Wednesday, staying the entire shift. He tipped generously to the waitstaff and the girls alike, but he preferred it when Kayla reserved her time for him. It went without saying that Kayla would go home with him after her shift, which she didn’t mind because he always compensated her a healthy amount for her time, and he wasn’t very kinky or mean. He also gave her coke from time to time which ensured that he was her favorite customer. Kayla was glad to see him walk through the door.
That night, that fateful night, things proceeded as usual. Gentleman Caller sat in his usual seat—front and center—drinking his usual drink—bourbon, neat—while never taking his eyes off Kayla. Other girls would come over to him to try to get him to buy a lap dance, but he would always give them money to go away while Kayla was dancing. If she wasn’t on stage, he might lower himself to indulge in one of the other girls, but he never allowed anything to distract him while Circe was doing her thing. That night, after the show, Kayla left with Gentleman Caller. He was on top of her in the limousine, which was not his usual M.O. He preferred waiting until they reached his house in Plymouth, but this time he couldn’t wait. Kayla allowed him to do what he wanted, knowing he would pay her more.
Once they reached his place, Gentleman Caller wasted no time. They were in his bedroom in two minutes flat. He didn’t even ask if she wanted something to drink as he normally did. He had impeccable manners, but he seemed to have forgotten them. He was harsher than usual, though not hurtful by any means. Not rough, exactly, but more intense. Usually, he kept himself aloof, as if observing the action from outside himself. This time, he was one-hundred percent into the action. Kayla didn’t care either way, but it bothered her a bit to have the routine disturbed. She’d known him for some time, and he’d never been like this before. It should have warned her that there was something off about him that night, but she never was the brightest of girls to begin with. Being on coke only dulled her wits further, so she didn’t think twice about Gentleman Caller’s weirdness.
Kayla usually didn’t mind sex with GC because it didn’t take much to satisfy him. This time, however, he demanded more from her than he ever had before. He must have been on something, meth, most likely, because he kept at her for hours until she was sore between her legs. Or rather, she would have been sore if she could feel anything. By this point, she was past the point of bombed out of her skull, so the pain was minimal. However, she was beginning to freak out from the repetitive movement. She tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn’t. He paused momentarily to flip her onto her stomach so he could go at her from behind, but that was the only respite she was given. She let her mind drift as GC rutted away at her—a bulldog in heat. When he tried to poke her in the ass, however, she started fighting him in earnest. She didn’t take it up the ass, and all her ‘dates’ knew this. If they wanted that, they had to find another girl. Kayla was wary of a few of her ‘dates’ but GC wasn’t one of them. That he was the one to pull a stunt like this blew her mind.
She didn’t know how long he fucked her ass because she passed out sometime during the act. She welcomed the blackness as it meant no more pain. She didn’t know how long she was out, but GC was snoring like a baby next to her when she woke up. She stared at him with something close to hatred buried under a throbbing headache. She couldn’t believe he had done that to her, and all she could think about was making him pay. She found his wallet on the nightstand and grabbed the cash contents which amounted to a couple thousand dollars. In addition, she took one of his rare sculptures which looked like three women having sex. Kayla didn’t know anything about art, but GC had bragged about how expensive the piece was when she first met him. She knew it was his favorite, which was why she took it.
She couldn’t afford to stick around too long because GC wasn’t the heaviest of sleepers. She scrambled back into her clothing and called the taxi service that she and the other girls employed while they were working. The company guaranteed to get a cab to the girls within ten minutes of a call no matter where the girls were. Kayla was banking on this promise because she had to get out of there as soon as possible. She went outside to wait, smoking a cigarette as she did. Too bad she wasn’t in the city so she’d at least have a fighting chance of finding a cab on the street, but not out here in the boondocks. She knew if GC woke up to find her gone with his cash and gross statuette, he would kill her. She was supposed to spend the whole night which included breakfast the morning after, but she couldn’t bear waiting around.
The cab company held to its promise, and a cab screeched to a halt in front of the house in seven minutes flat. On the way back to her own place, Kayla tried to think of what she’d tell her boss about the night’s adventure. The trouble was, he would hit the roof when he found out she took the stuff from GC. Even if GC had been rougher on Kayla than he normally was, there was no excuse for stealing from a ‘date’. It made it worse that Kayla always got her money ahead of time, so what she stole was on top of her usual fee. For a minute, she thought about turning around and returning the loot, but then she thought about the pain in her ass and nixed that idea. The bastard deserved it for what he did to her. She’d think of what to do when she wasn’t so high. Thank God GC didn’t know her real name or where she lived. That was the last rational thought she had that night.
“That’s about it,” Matt said, finishing the sordid little tale. I didn’t say anything as I thought about all the possible permutations of what he’d told me.
“So what’s her hypothesis?” I finally asked, my face set. I didn’t want to give anything away before I had all the information I needed.
“She thinks GC found out her name from her boss and took Danny as a warning. She expects to get a note saying something to the effect of, “Give me back my statuette and my money or the boy dies.’
“Bullshit,” I said bluntly. Matt looked at me as he waited for me to explain myself. “She’s still not telling you the truth. Oh, I think that’s the gist of one possible explanation, but it doesn’t make sense. Why would this guy take Danny? Why not just storm the house and reclaim his stuff? For that matter, why not just take Kayla and make her pay it off in trade? I don’t believe Danny was kidnapped for that reason.” I frowned because something I’d said triggered something in my mind, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. “Did she give you Gentleman Caller’s name?”
“Yes,” Matt said, much to my surprise. Not that I doubted GC existed, but I didn’t think Kayla would give up his name that easily. Maybe her story was true. Even if it were, however, I still didn’t buy it as a reason for kidnapping Danny. “She said his name was Stephen Banks.” He pronounced it with a short ‘e’ and not a long one, with the ‘ph’ as a ‘f’ and not a ‘v’. “She even gave me his cell phone number.”
“She gave it up too easily. If this guy is the one who took Danny, it wasn’t for that reason.” I didn’t know if Stephen was the kidnapper, but I was sure about my conclusion. “Kayla is still holding something back. You may have to sleep with her to get it out of her, or at least promise to take her on a date.” I was half-joking, but Matt took me at face value.
“She was all over me the minute I stepped into her place. You may be right.” Matt made a face which indicated that he wasn’t overjoyed by the prospect. “I don’t know how else to get the big secret out of her.” He thought about it for a minute. “I have an idea. You might not like it, Scar, but hear me out, ok?” I had a glimmer of what he wanted me to do, but I waited for him to say it out loud. “I think you might be able to get it out of her if you saw her alone. Dress in black and do some hocus-pocus. You could probably spook it out of her.”
“I thought you said she laughed at all that witchcraft stuff,” I said, not wanting to be alone with Kayla. “What makes you think I could rattle her with it?”
“She laughed at it, but it was one of those laughs that said she was trying to convince herself it was nonsense. I think she’s afraid of it, even if she doesn’t totally believe it works.” Matt looked at me hopefully, realizing that he was asking me a big favor.
“All right,” I said reluctantly. Even though I would rather get a tooth pulled without the benefit of Novocain than be alone with Kayla, I knew Matt was right. Kayla was the type of woman who needed to be bullied, which was one of my fortes. “Not tonight, though,” I said, barely suppressing a yawn. “The only thing I’d be likely to do tonight is gross her out by drooling on her. I doubt that would be enough to get her to talk.”
“No, not tonight,” Matt said, standing up and stretching. I stood up as well, preparing to retire to my room. To my surprise, Matt caught me in his arms and hugged me fiercely. Even though we were the best of friends, he rarely showed spontaneous affection. “Thanks, Scar. You’re the best.” I could tell that he was still hard, but we both knew it wasn’t the time for fun and games. Matt kissed me on the cheek and squeezed my hand before we went our separate ways. I fell asleep the second my head touched the pillow; no dreams interfered with my sleep.