Chapter Eight (Part Three)
Trip doesn’t like Blanche any better than she had the first time she laid eyes on the whore. Blanche isn’t nearly as beautiful up close as she appears on stage because her pores are bigger, her lips are slightly too narrow, her nose a hair too long, and her eyes too close together. Still, she struts into the place like she owns it, her ass swaying solely for Mowgli’s benefit. She’s dressed in white jeans which are three sizes too small for her, a white tank top, and white stiletto heels. Nothing is tackier than high heels and jeans, but somehow, Blanche carries it off. She’s wearing enough makeup to feel right at home up on stage, and her eyes are a perfect blank. Either she’s on something, or she’s very well trained not to give herself away. She holds her head high, staring coldly at Trip before resting her eyes on Mowgli. She favors him with a wide smile which shows more gum than teeth, but the smile never touches her eyes.
“Well, what can I do for you?” Her eyes flick to Trip and back to Mowgli. “I don’t do girls, though she can watch if she wants, I guess.” Her tone is doubtful, but gains confidence as she flops on the couch. “Two hundred an hour, no kinky stuff. That’s extra.” The straps of her tank top slide down her arms before either Mowgli or Trip can get a word in edgewise. They both watch in amusement as Blanche wriggles her boobs for their benefit. Obviously, Mowgli isn’t affected by the show but appreciates the effort whereas Trip doesn’t care for such artifice, her own current look notwithstanding. “Well?” Blanche says impatiently. A flicker of uncertainty crosses her face as Mowgli makes no move towards her. She flushes and pulls up the straps of her top, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Well?” Her tone is belligerent to cover up her embarrassment.
“You’ve misunderstood, Ms. White,” Trip drawls, her eyes watching Blanche carefully. “We are not in need of your…services, though we will surely pay you for your most valuable time.” Even with the saccharine Trip ladles on her words, Blanche is quick to catch the undercurrent and flushes.
“I don’t have to take this,” she says angrily, standing up in a huff.
“Lucien Andretti,” Trip says softly. Blanche turns as white as her name as the forbidden name is uttered. She sways in place as her knees buckle, but she doesn’t leave. “Caleb O’Reilly,” Trip adds, the magnolia gone from her tone. She isn’t playing, and she wants to make sure that Blanche realizes it. “Angelica Sylvian.” Blanche is trembling as she listens to the names so Mowgli escorts her back to the couch where she sits down again. Trip remains standing so she can retain the psychological advantage.
“What do you want from me?” Blanche whispers, all traces of arrogance gone. “I don’t have any money to pay you.”
“I don’t want your money,” Trip hisses, still using the Southern accent. “We just need to have a little heart-to-heart you and me. Girl talk.” She looks at Mowgli, but he shakes his head. As much as he loves Trip, he knows her too well to leave her alone with Blanche.
“What’s there to talk about?” Blanche still hasn’t looked Trip in the eye, but steals a glance at Mowgli who smiles reassuringly at her. She seems emboldened by it and straightens her spine.
“I’m going to be frank with you, Blanche,” Trip says, her tone cold. “I know Angel is dead. I know Andretti did it. I know O’Reilly knows about it and is abetting, even if it’s after the fact. What I don’t know is where you fit in.” She stops, allowing Blanche the opportunity to talk. Blanche, however, chooses to exercise her God-given right to remain silent. Unfortunately for her, this is not a court of law, and Trip is no judge. “Answer me!” Trip’s voice lashes out, causing Blanche to flinch.
“I’m not supposed to talk about it,” Blanche says in a little girl’s voice, keeping her eyes fastened to Mowgli’s comforting face. He sits next to her and pats her knee in an avuncular fashion. She leans into his touch which causes him to quickly pull his hand away. Even in her fear, she can’t help but sexualize her interactions with Mowgli.
“Tough.” Trip’s voice is uncompromising. “Another girl died, Blanche. Evelyn Sato. Ever heard of her?” Blanche silently shakes her head, but her face grows even whiter. “She died because she knew something about Caleb O’Reilly. Murdered, though they tried to make it look like suicide. She told me some things, but held back. She would have told me eventually, but now it’s too late for her.” Trip pauses, letting the implication dangle.
“What did she know?” Blanche asks, nervously clutching her hands together.
“Would you like something to drink?” Mowgli breaks in, earning a scowl from Trip. She hates having her flow interrupted, but Mowgli is concerned about Blanche’s pallor and doesn’t want her fainting on them.
“Yes, please,” Blanche answers, trying to smile. “Gin and tonic if you have it. I wouldn’t mind some food, either.” Trip refrains from rolling her eyes, but how like a whore to take what she can get even before it’s offered to her.