The first time Weslyn sees her she’s working the corner. Wearing short denim shorts and a black crop top with a ratty backpack placed against the wall behind her. She can’t be more than 18, he’s not even sure she’s that old. He goes to mention it to Tobis, but by then the car has pulled ahead. Plus they were in the middle of something.
Let's get this straight. In this day and age in Los Angeles, there are three situations for prostitutes.
- The best is widely considered to be brothels: Mostly owned by women, offer food and shelter, and are pretty safe. Sure they take a percentage of your money but you can choose your customers, have free will, and if a guy tries anything without consent he rarely makes it out of the building and if he does it’s without his wallet. And if the stories Weslyn’s heard are to be believed, it’s without his dick either.
- The second best are pimps: pimps are usually controlled by gangs. They offer food, shelter, and drugs. But the girls have little to no choice over who they sleep with, aren’t really paid, and usually have no free will. But if a guy tries something he didn’t pay for, or that is just straight up out of line, he usually doesn’t make it out of the house.
- The worst is largely considered to be freelancers. Sure they get to keep all their money, but they have no food or shelter offered, have no way of guaranteeing they get paid and if a guy tries anything he almost always gets away and because what the girls are doing is illegal they have no way of getting any justice. Nor do they have any protection against trafficking.
So the fact Weslyn’s concerned that this young girl is working the corner is justified.
The second time he see’s her she’s crawling around in the medical waste bin behind the hospital. Carefully reading each bottle before dumping it in her backpack. She’s wearing more clothes this time, including a very clearly stolen gang jacket. He knows it’s stolen because that gang got demolished a few months back and none of the guys survived. But it’s probably enough to keep regular people from messing with her. So he doesn’t judge. He goes to call out to her but gets stopped by Nadia who tells him to get back to the club.
The third time he see’s her he’s had enough. She’s trying to brush off a gang member who’s trying to get her services. And this gang member isn’t just anyone, he’s a member of Los Reyes. She throws a bottle of drugs his way, but that isn’t enough for him. He tries to get her shorts off. She screams but everyone on the street ignores it, including the other girls.
“HEY!” Weslyn yells as he comes running across the street. The poor girl looks up terrified, most likely thinking he’s coming over to join in. “Leave her alone,”
“Whatchu gon’ do ‘bout it?” the other guy says as he tries to shove his hand down her pants, but she squirms and kicks at him. Weslyn stares at him and takes out his gun, the man looks at him before laughing, "You think I'm scared of a gun?"
“No, but I think you’re scared of getting your higher-ups angry. Don’t want Juan getting angry at you just cause you couldn’t control your dick.”
“They don’t care.”
“They will. This is Viper territory and she’s under our protection.” He cocks his gun. “And if you disrespect her you disrespect us.” The guy finally seems to understand the consequences of what he's threatening. He holds up his hands in surrender sneering,
“Fine take your whore.” He shoves her to the ground before running off. Weslyn puts his gun away as he approaches the girl,
“What do you want?” she says as she scrambles back. He can tell she’s trying to school her face, but she still looks like a deer in headlights.
“I want to help you.” she gets to her feet, starting to back away from him,
“How? By pimping me out? Raping me yourself?” Her voice is shaky, and he can’t help himself for a second as his face slips at her reaction. “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t want your pity,” She snaps.
“You can use my help. I wasn’t bluffing about the Viper thing, I can bring you back to our headquarters and get you help.” she backs up further. “Not like that, we front as a strip club. We can offer you food and shelter as long as you work for us. You can just waitress if you want.” She still looks uncertain. “How long has it been since you’ve had a real meal? Not just food you’ve found in a garbage bin, or whatever you can get the food truck guys to give you for drugs or sex, but real food?” she looks off into the distance before softly replying,
“A long time.”
“I can get you that, just come with me.” she looks at Weslyn again before sighing,
“Fine, but if this ends up being some sort of pimp situation, I will bite your dick off.” He chuckles at that,
“Fair enough,” he reaches out his hand and she takes it, allowing herself to be walked over to the van. She crawls into the passenger seat, puts her backpack on the floor, and her feet up on the dashboard. He laughs a bit at that and she scowls at him, “Sorry it’s just… that's the same way Reina, my sister used to sit.”
“Used to?” she asks quietly. Weslyn nods at that. “I’m sorry,” she says softly,
“Not your fault,” he says before pulling out. While they're driving his phone pings and Wes looks down to see a message from Nadia,
-u done making those deliveries yet? We need you back at the club soon.
He quietly swears, before replying with,
- Nah traffics been killer I'll be back asap K?
“We’re gonna have to make a pitstop,” Weslyn says, “I got to make some deliveries to our other front, which is a bar.”
“A bar? Why didn’t you tell me about that before? Instead of leading in with the strip club?” she says crossing her arms over her chest,
“Well, the first reason is that this isn’t really our front, it’s our super close allied gangs front, and second, no one is gonna believe that you’re 21.”
“What? For all you know I could be 27,”
“I’m not even sure you’re 18, but I'm not gonna yell at you about that because we all have to stay afloat somehow.” she looks over at him before staring back out the windshield,
“Well, I am 18.”
“Okay,” He says, but she sighs, still staring out the windshield.
“You don’t believe me,”
“It’s not that… it’s just I don’t even really know you. I don’t even know your name.”
“I don’t know yours either.” she snaps turning to face him, he glances at her before saying,
“I used to have a friend named Weslyn. Turned out to be a total jerk.”
“Well I hope I’m not a jerk,” he says in response, and she smiles a little before looking back out at the road.
“Evelynn… my name is Evelynn,” she says quietly,
“It’s nice to meet you Evelynn,” he says grinning out the windshield.
So, the first few chapters of this aren't great but it gets way better around chapter 4.
Also my search history is so fucked after writing this that the FBI is definitely watching me.
So please leave kudos so I can feel accomplished while I'm in jail.
Chapter 2: Bringing home strays
They pull up outside the bar and Weslyn turns to face her.
“This shouldn’t take long, but you can get out of the van if you want.” she nods and crawls out of the van, walking around to the back as he opens it to reveal the crates of alcohol in the back
“Wes! My man.” he turns around to see Zyre walking up the steps from the bar, his entire presence the embodiment of too much,
“Got the delivery,” Weslyn says, knowing that if it was anyone but Zyre he’d be wondering just how much Necro he’s on,
“Ya, you do,” Zyre says clapping him on the back, “Who’s this Little Lady,” he says gesturing over to Evelynn, who instantly takes a defensive stance, Weslyn places his arm in front of her quickly.
“Zyre this is Evelynn, Evelynn this is Zyre, He’s one of the top members of our ally gang the Phantoms.”
“And who are you Evelynn?’ Zyre asks, and Wes prays to whatever god might be out there that Evelynn doesn’t take this as a reason to bolt for it.
“A prostitute,” she says blankly defensively crossing her arms across her chest. “Handjobs are 50 and everything else is more.” Zyre takes a step back surprised by her bluntness,
“Zyre, do you need help unloading? We need to get going Nadia is on my ass about getting back.”
“Of course dude,” Zyre says and the two of them quickly unload the truck. Zyre hands over the money before giving Wes another clap on the back, sending them back off. When they’re back in the van, Weslyn looks over at Evelynn before saying
“Sorry about Zyre, he can be a bit much.” she nods while still looking out the window, drawing her knees up against her chest.
“It’s just been a long night,” she says quietly, Weslyn nods at that and they spend the rest of the trip back in relative silence as the both of them stare out the windshield into the night. When they finally arrive back at the club and Wes has parked he turns to face her,
“look, when we go in, let me take the lead, okay? The others don’t know you’re coming and might act… defensively.”
“I know, I’m not an idiot.” Weslyn snorts at that and the two of them climb out of the van and head into the club.
Wes opens the metal doors revealing the familiar atmosphere of the club. Old red and blue lights that do nothing to make the place any brighter, loud bad music, the smell of cheap alcohol, sweat, and arousal. Straight ahead Corinna's on the stage spinning around the pole, her short pink hair flying in all directions. He turns around to see Evelyn squinting at the lights and looking a bit overwhelmed at the whole ordeal.
“There you are, Wes!” Nadia exclaims, “Jordyn wants to talk to you, and… it seems that you’ve started bringing home strays.” Evelynn bristles up behind him as Nadia looks her up and down, clearly sizing her up, before looking at Wes with a stare that says ‘you better not be fucking her’ Wes rolls his eyes, giving her a look that says ‘i’ll tell you later okay?’ before saying,
“His office,” she says before running off. Wes reaches his hand out to Evelynn and she gratefully takes it, allowing herself to be lead through the room as she deals with all the stimuli bombarding her senses. He pushes through a door on the right side of the room revealing the well lit and quiet hallway that connects to the offices,
“Sorry about Nadia. She practically runs this place, and she has to keep Jordyn on track which is a whole job on its own. And she’s super protective.” He looks back at Evelynn who nods but otherwise stays silent as he leads her down the hallway before knocking on the nondescript door three times, then two times, then three times again.
“Come in”, Jordyn calls,
“Ready?” Wes whispers to Evelynn. She nods and he opens up the door to reveal Jordyn leaning back in his chair with his feet on the desk, Darren and Nathan leaning up against the wall. And as if that wasn’t scary enough, Avry’s sitting on a stool sharpening her knives. They all look at Wes, then back at Evelynn, then over to Jordyn, then back to Wes,
“Ahh, Weslyn. I do love it when you bring scantily-clad underage girls into my office.” Jordyn says getting up behind his desk, “definitely does not look like a lawsuit.” Avry snorts from where she’s sitting,
“This whole damn place looks like a lawsuit,” she says. But Jordyn ignores her and approaches Evelynn standing right in front of her, and to her credit, Evelynn stands up a little bit taller and stares right back at him.
“Young lady, would you care to explain why you’re standing in my office dressed like this?”
“I’m a prostitute,” Evelynn spits back at him. “Would you care to know my rates?” Nathan snorts before saying,
“Damn Wes, Never thought you’d be the one to bring home the baby-” He’s cut off by Evelynn slapping him hard.
“We’re keeping her,” Avry says,
“WESLYN, would you care to explain why there is a prostitute in my office,” Jordyn says, preventing what chaos that might have happened next,
“I saw her getting assaulted by this guy on the street, so I scared him off and offered to help her. She’s a freelancer Jordyn, and she needs food and shelter. She’s just a kid.”
“You’ve always been a sucker for a good sob story Jordyn,” Darren says from where he’s been leaning against the wall, “that's how we ended up here.” He nods over at Wes, who looks back at him gratefully.
He’s always had a bit of a soft stop for Darren, He’s younger than the rest of them, only about 22 or 23. The kid hadn’t meant to get involved in all this stuff, he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up witnessing the death of a major drug lord. The dude died from ODing on his supply, but the rest of the cartel didn’t believe it and wanted Darren’s head. Long story short, you can learn a lot from one runner when you’ve got a gun against their head, and it’s easy to get them to sing like a canary for the police.
“You’ve been saying you need more people to help with the business side of things, and if she lives here with the rest of us she can pitch in. Plus, anyone who slaps Nathan is good in my books,” Avry says.
“Then most of the gangs in LA are on your good side.” Nathan retorts
“So be it,” Avry sighs grinning.
“Fine, she can stay,” Jordyn says, “she’ll have to sleep on the couch tonight, but I’ll get a room set up for her tomorrow night.”
“Thank you,” Evelynn says from behind Wes, He turns to face her and sees her eyes are shimmering.
“Alright everyone but Darren out of my office. Someone, get this child some more clothing. She looks like she could be one of the strippers,” Jordyn pronounces, shooing them all out into the hallway.
Chapter 3: A Very Big Shirt
Sorry it's short, more's coming
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Avry’s standing out in the hallway opposite the girl Wes brought in. She seems nice enough, and she slapped Nathan so she’s a badass, but Avry’s unsure about her. But she trusts Wes, and Wes likes this girl. Avry takes out one of her knives and continues cleaning it causing the girl to scoot behind Wes. Good. The door from the club bangs open to show Sarina, one of the strippers,
“Hey, Wes, the lights are being funky and Nadia asked for you to come and fix them,” Wes swears,
“I’ll be there in a second Sarina. Nathan, come with me in case it’s physical stuff. Avry can you help Evelynn?” and against her better judgment, Avry nods. Wes smiles at her and drags Nathan off with him back into the club. Avry turns back to the girl who tries to shrink back into the wall.
“Come with me,” Avry says, the girl nods grabbing her ratty backpack and following her over to the stairs, and Avry hesitates before looking back at her. “Do you have clothes for tonight?”
“Um… well I’ve got the clothes I’m wearing, but Jordyn doesn’t like them, but I have a pair of jeans and a jacket in my backpack.” Avry glances at the stains on her jeans and compulsively asks,
“When did you last wash them?”
“The place I was squatting at had a washing machine so like a week ago.”
“Come with me,” Avry says heading over to the closet and opens it revealing the big soft shirts, packaged underwear (3 pairs missing), and sleep pants. She grabs a shirt and some pants before glancing at the girl and handing her the rest of the package of underwear. She glances back at the girl who looks grateful but confused. “We have them in case the strippers end up wanting to stay the night. You know how uncomfortable those clothes are.” the girl laughs a little, “come on,” Avry says and guides her up the stairs to the first floor of the living space. “The last door on the right is the bathroom if you want to shower, that couch is where you’ll be sleeping tonight, and that’s the kitchen if you want food. I’ll be hanging out here in case you need anything.” The girl nods and Avry heads off to the kitchen,
“Wait, are there rules about which shampoo and stuff I can use?” she asks causing Avry to smile,
“Nah, but you’ll probably wanna use my things, which are the green bottles.” and the girl nods before walking off to the bathroom.
Thank you for reading this. Kudos and Comments give me life!
Evelynn has just finished taking off her clothes when she looks in the mirror. It’s the first time in months she’s looked in a mirror to do anything put apply dark lipstick and eyeliner, and she looks horrible. Her hair is matted and a little gross, she’s been on the streets for the past week. Her eyes are sunken and puffy, and her face is gaunt. Her neck and chest are covered in dark marks and bruises that haven’t finished fading. She still has the handprint on her hip and her thighs are covered in bruises and scrapes and cuts that still make her shudder when she thinks them. She breaks her gaze away from the mirror and gets in the shower. It feels so good to finally get to shower in a place that isn’t one of her customers, or in an abandoned house, or a public setting. She washes her hair twice to get rid of the gunk and lets her muscles relax under the warm water. When she finally feels clean, she gets out of the shower, changes into the clothes the woman with the knife gave her and heads back out into the living area.
“Is there anywhere I can do laundry here? I just want to wash my clothes.” The woman looks up from her phone and nods,
“Ya we have a washer and a dryer back there," she says, pointing to the back corner of the living room area. Evelynn nods and grabs her backpack dumping all of her clothes into the washer. It’s a rather small collection, just the clothes she had been wearing, an extra bra, some extra underpants, a shirt, a pair of jeans, and two pairs of socks. She grabs the detergent and starts the cycle.
“Maecy and I will take you out to buy new clothes tomorrow,” the knife woman, Avry, says,
“Oh...um, Thank you,”
“Not an issue, you need them anyway.” and Evelynn stares down at the ground for a moment,
“Thank you for vouching for me back there.” She says looking back at Avry. she back and takes out a gun and a cloth and starts cleaning it,
“Wes is a good judge of character. If he trusts you, I trust you.” Evelynn stares at the floor again when her stomach rumbles causing Avry to look at her pointedly,
“Is there any food I can-”
“Yep, in the kitchen, everything’s free-range unless it has a name on it.” Evelyn nods and head over to the kitchen. She finds some leftover macaroni and cheese and microwaves it before scarfing it down at the kitchen counter. When she’s about halfway through the woman comes and sits on the other side of the counter looking vaguely amused. Evelynn gets up and grabs an apple and some peanut butter and is cutting up the apple when Avry says,
“You were a prostitute right?” Evelynn sets down her apple,
“And yet you’re eating like you haven’t eaten in days,”
“I guess what’s tripping me up here is the fact that you were making money, yet seem to be starving, and when you were dealing with your laundry, your backpack made a rattling sound that sounded suspiciously like pills. I guess my question here is, did we accidentally pick up a druggie prostitute who was so addicted she prioritized it over food?” Evelynn sighs and rubs her eyes,
“Check my bag.”
“What?” Avry says with a sharp edge of anger in her voice,
“Check my bag.” Avry grabs Evelynn's bag and empties it on the counter revealing a large water bottle, a granola bar, a few wads of cash, and 5 different bottles, her face is a mixture between smug righteousness and anger. But before she can say anything Evelynn cuts her off, “read the bottles,”
“Modafinil, Bupropion, Pregabalin, Dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride, and Ondansetron?” her face scrunches up in confusion, “What the fuck are these, I’ve never heard of them before,”
“That’s because they’re prescription drugs for my medical stuff. That’s what the wads of cash are for. I barely make enough money to cover the cost.” The woman nods and looks a bit guilty before schooling her face.
“Right, sorry about that.”
“Don’t be. I think I’ve got some crush in there somewhere, It’s good for getting creeps or guys who can’t pay away from me.” Evelynn sighs eating more of her apple
“Weslyn mentioned that, how often did that go down?” and Evelynn is kinda pissed by that. This woman just accused her of being an addict and now wants to know about her sexual trauma?
“I don’t owe you that.” She says looking the other woman straight in the eyes. “I don’t even know your name. You don’t get to know that,” she spits out angrily taking a step back and Avry raises her eyebrows,
“Touchy subject?” she asks, and the snark in her voice makes Evelynn want to scream,
“I was a fucking freelance prostitute. You do the fucking math,” she snarls before grabbing her food and leaving the kitchen. She sits down on the couch that she guesses she’ll be sleeping on tonight and holds her head in her hands. She hears footsteps and looks up a bit to see Avry leaning against the wall across from her,
“The first time I met Jordyn I had just been beaten up by a gang for stealing drugs,”
“Makes what you said a bit ironic,”
“Look, we all have our shit here. I didn’t mean to invalidate yours.” Evelynn just nods at that, too tired to respond. Avry sits on the armchair to the right of her and grabs the remote, flicking the TV on and switching the channels before stopping on a movie that Evelynn doesn’t recognize. She leans back into the couch and watches it. It’s interesting, but her brain keeps tuning out so she misses stuff. She’s so tired and yet so scared about what will happen if she falls asleep. About an hour later, she hears footsteps come up the stairs and turns to see Weslyn and Nathan coming up.
“Hey,” He says and smiles at her, she smiles back a bit but it’s forced,
“What was going on?” Avry asks
“The lights and sound are being super weird and aren’t responding to the sliders,” Wes says rubbing his face, “We’re probably gonna have to bring in a techy,”
“Did you check to make sure it wasn’t running a set program? Or if you were on the right page of cues?” Evelynn asks,
“Um, No,” Wes says caught off guard,
“Why does she know all that?” the guy she had slapped says to Wes.
“She can hear you.” Evelynn snaps, Wes gives the guy a pointed look before turning back to Evelynn,
“You do have to admit it’s a fair question,” he says softly, trying to keep the peace.
“Highschool theater. I did sound and light cues for all the plays and most of the concerts. But, because I was in them, I would have to set programs that would run pretty much by themselves.”
“Well we just found your job,” Avry says and Wes nods.
“Hey, has Darren come up yet?” the guy asks Avry, she gives him a very smug look before responding with,
“Nope. He’s still down there with Jordyn.” He glares at Avry,
“It’s too late for this shit. I’m going to bed,” He walks over to the other staircase, and heads up to the third floor.
“Sorry about Nathan. He’s just dealing with some stuff right now. I’m going to go get some food, but I’ll join you out here in a minute,” he turns and walks off to the kitchen and Avry calls out
“Didn’t you already eat dinner? At a normal time? Like a normal person?”
“Ha Ha Ha,” Wes calls back with fond annoyance.
She closes her eyes, listening to the sounds of Weslyn moving around in the kitchen combined with the noise from the TV and she almost feels… safe? She hasn’t felt this way in a long time, she thinks it was about 2 years ago. It isn’t perfect safety. She wouldn’t trust her life with them just yet, but she isn’t scared to close her eyes around them. She doesn’t open them until she feels the couch dip next to her. She turns to see Weslyn sitting next to her, holding a bag of pretzels, and she watches his face in the TV light. It should be eerie the way his pale skin and silver hair change color in the tv light, but it’s almost calming, and she doesn’t understand why. She looks over at Avry, who still looks almost regal in the bad lighting. The tv light picks up her purple pixie cut perfectly and catches onto the golden undertones of her warm beige skin. Avry’s phone chimes and she looks at it before standing up and saying,
“Nadia says that Darren’s got closing covered, so I’m going to bed.”
“Night Avry,” Wes says,
“Night,” Evelynn says softly, Avry strides down the hallway to the 3rd door on the left and walks in. After a few minutes of watching the movie, Weslyn turns to her and says,
“I have no clue what's happening in this.”
“Neither do I,”
He picks up the remote and turns it off, leaving only the dim kitchen overhead as any sort of light. Evelyn looks down and picks at the hem of her borrowed pants,
“I don’t think I ever thanked you for helping me out. So, thanks,”
“I couldn’t just leave you there,”
“You wouldn’t have been the first,” She mumbles, and she suddenly feels two very strong arms wrap around her upper back and pull her towards him.
And it’s nice. It’s Very, Very Nice. It’s the first physical contact she’s had in the past two years that hasn’t been followed or preceded by pain or hatred. She isn’t counting the minutes down until the guy’s paid time is out, she isn’t trying to squirm out of his arms to grab and money, shower, and run. The guy isn’t doing this to feel powerful or to feel feared. He’s doing this out of the goodness of his heart.
She moves her arms so that they’re around his waist, and she’s holding on for dear life. She doesn’t know how long they stay that way, but it feels like forever and a millisecond at the same time. When they let go, he smiles at her before getting up and grabbing a blanket from one of the chairs and tossing it to her.
“My bedroom is the second one on the left,” he says pointing to it. “If you need anything that’s where I'll be,”
Evelynn lies down on the couch and closes her eyes. And for the first time in a long time, she goes to sleep unafraid.
Pls kudos I am very small and I have no money. you can imagine the kind of stress I am under.
Chapter 5: Several Mistakes Are Made
I mean y'all don't seem to like this but ya keep reading it so...
Look. From Maecy’s point of view, this was all very justified, and everyone shouldn’t be screaming at her. How was she supposed to know the stranger passed out on their couch was supposed to be there. If they’d been in her situation, they would have also pulled a knife on the kid. It just so happens that kid woke up, screamed and kicked her ass, holding Maecy’s knife against Maecy’s throat. And now everyone's angry at Maecy. Weslyn is standing between the two of them, acting as a shield for the kid glaring at Maecy like she just kicked his dog. Avry is cleaning her nails with her knife, waiting for the whole thing to finish going down, Jordyn just looks pissed he got woken up, and Darren is there for some reason, his hair all messed up and his neck covered in dark marks. Were Jordyn and him… oh shit.
“Maecy… Just. Don’t try to stab any sleeping kids on our couch. If you think it’s an intruder get Avry. You’ve got your job for a reason. We will all deal with apologies later because it is 5:30 which is too early for this shit.” They all look at each other and nod... well the girl doesn’t nod, she more just sleepily moves her head against Wes’s side. He’s got his arm wrapped around her and is supporting all her weight. She wonders what the fuck is going on there. Jordyn stumbles off grabbing Darren, Avry struts back to her room, and Wes turns to the girl,
“Will you be able to sleep with her in the kitchen?” She’s never seen him ask a question so gently. The girl just shrugs practically asleep, but that doesn’t stop Wes from picking her up and carrying the girl to his room, huh.
Maecy writes this all down on her phone, (especially the Jordyn and Darren thing) to tell her girlfriend later before going about her day. She’s scrolling through her phone when she sees a text sent from Avry,
-Wes brought a stray kid home today. She was a prostitute.
-We’re taking her clothes shopping tomorrow.
-I might have just accused the kid of being a druggy
-Okay you’re leading shopping trip she doesn’t trust me
Okay, so she probably should have read her texts. In her defense, she fell dead asleep yesterday at 4 in the afternoon because she had been coding for two days straight to break into the police database to corrupt the footage of their latest altercation. So she was kinda busy.
The girl was a prostitute, that’s strange. She barely looks 16 years old and like she hasn’t eaten in weeks. She gathers that the kid wasn’t a druggy from the texts, but she definitely has some health issues going on. She makes a note of it on her phone before getting herself some cereal and sitting down at the little bar… area...thing, she doesn’t know what to call it, okay.
She’s finished breakfast and is already working on tracing a rival gangs’ online activity when she hears a door open. She looks up to see Avry walking out of her room and over to the bathroom. So she goes back to trying to untangle this massive web of IP addresses, she’s about 5 deep in Greenland when her laptop is closed on her. She looks up to see Avry standing over her.
“Good morning Avry,”
“What happened to the girl?”
“Wes brought her into his room.” Avry looks up sharply,
“Fuck”, she hisses. “She’s gonna think he raped her,”
“She was Freelance, and Wes found her getting assaulted by some guy. From what I can tell, that was a pretty regular occurrence,” Avry’s pacing as she’s thinking, her purple hair bouncing with every step.
“The getting found?” Maecy asks, her voice full of false hope, Avry shoots her an unimpressed look, before starting to pace again
“You know it’s the sexual assault. Weslyn seems to be the first guy she’s trusted in a very long time, and I think he might just have majorly fucked that up.” Avry rubs her temples,
“I mean if he has she’s gonna run right? I mean it won’t be that bad. He’ll blame himself for it, but it’s gonna be fine.”
“Mae, she got a knife to your throat while half asleep.” Maecy rolls her eyes at that,
“I’m in no way trained-” Avry stops in her tracks before facing Maecy,
“-do you really think he’s gonna defend himself against her? She clearly reminds him of Reina.” Her voice is louder than it’s been during this entire conversation, and her eyes are more certain than Maecy’s ever seen them.
“Shit.” Maecy whispers, rubbing her face, “what do we do?”
“I… I don’t know,” Avry concedes, “Let's just hope I'm wrong.” Maecy nods at that and goes back to work untangling IP addresses when Avry appears in front of her again, this time not shutting her computer,
“I can’t believe you pulled a knife on her,” Avry teases her, just the faintest traces of a smile on her face. Maecy groans before pouting at Avry, causing Avry to poke her lip. Maecy squeals before responding with,
“Avry! I have a Girlfriend!” Avry snorts at that, “and to answer your question, I saw a stranger on our couch and panicked. I happened to have a swiss army knife on me, but before I could do anything, I misstepped, causing the floor to creak. The girl instantly woke up, screamed, kicked me in the ribs, causing me to drop my knife, grabbed it, and fucking catapulted herself off of the couch before cornering me against the wall.”
“I need to teach you self-defense don’t I?” Avry says leaning against the table, still clearly amused,
“Look, before last night, I had been up for 48 hours straight. My brain is scrambled,”
“Not to scrambled to code.”
“You know I’m never too scrambled to code,” Maecy says pointedly, Avry smirks at her before standing fully upright,
“You were very scrambled when you got dressed this morning,” Avry retorts, before walking back into the kitchen. Maecy looks down, she’s wearing what both Nadia and Avry affectionately call her ‘kindergarten teacher dress,’ it's bright yellow, covered in little science beakers, and has ruffles for sleeves. She sighs and takes one last look at Weslyn's door, praying that nothing bad will happen before going back to coding.
Chapter 6: Using Your Brain
I keep getting hits so...
Evelynn wakes up not knowing where she is. There is an arm draped over her chest. What. She scrambles through her brain before remembering what happened earlier. The woman with the knife. Her survival instincts. She has a vague memory of being carried here, but she doesn’t even remember making it to the bed. She starts to panic. In her line of work that's never a good sign. Being a homeless female teenager that's never a good sign. So she starts to think. Weslyn saved her last night and seems like a good guy. But, she has no real reason to trust him.
She takes a shaky breath before taking stock of her surroundings. She is wearing all of the clothes she went to bed in. Checking under the blankets she sees that he is too. She doesn’t feel any dried gunk anywhere on her body and her underwear feels dry. One thing she’s learned is that guys tend not to be very careful about their semen when they’re raping you. And lastly, she doesn’t feel any pain down there or in her throat.
Of course, she doesn’t. Jesus Christ. How fucking traumatized is she? This was the guy who saved her. Her heart is still beating a million miles an hour, and she’s as stiff as a board, so she closes her eyes and decides to just wait it out.
Weslyn wakes up to find himself curled around Evelyn, his arm draped over her. He gently rolls away from her retracting his arm. He looks at her for a second before whispering to see if she’s up. She doesn’t say anything, so he stands up and walks out into the general living space. As he does, two heads flip around to greet him. Avry is glaring at him,
“-What the fuck were you thinking?” she snarls at him, he takes a step back and blinks a few times, racking his head for what he’s done wrong, “She’s in your bed isn’t she?” He nods slowly,
“I don't understand why this is such a big deal.” Maecy rubs her eyes before exasperatedly saying,
“Weslyn. Use your brain for once.”
“Consider how many times she's woken up in strangers beds when the context hasn’t been good,” Avry says, her hands on her hips,
“Oh, Shit,” He whispers because of course, he didn’t think about that when he was half asleep.
“Yes, oh shit. What if she reacted poorly. She doesn’t know anything about you, and you don't know anything about her. She attacked Maecy this morning,”
“So that's what this is about. The fact you don’t trust her.” Weslyn retorts,
“That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that you can’t let Reina cloud your judgment”, and his vision goes red. He walks up to Avry, towering over her. She holds his gaze, but there’s a tremor in her fingers. He hates that he has the instinct to grab her arm and sweep her off her feet while she’s unstable. That he could use that momentum to swing her around and snap her neck. And that just makes him angrier. Because she knows. Avry knows about the consequences of what she said. And she still said it.
“Don’t talk to me about Reina” He growls at her, and he sees a fault in her stance.
“Wes,” Maecy says,
“No,” He says, but he backs up, signaling his disengagement. He hears the door open and out walks Evelynn, rubbing her eyes. “Hey Evelynn,” he says. She waves sleepily before asking,
“Do you guys have any cereal I can eat?”
“Ya, we have cheerios if that’s good with you,” Maecy says,
“I was fuckin homeless, I'm good with anything,” she says before walking into the kitchen. Weslyn, Maecy, and Avry all look at each other for a second before turning back to look at the kitchen.
“Cacti are fun,” Maecy says quickly and Avry facepalms,
“Maecy, that was the dumbest thing you’ve ever said,” she groans. Maecy looks up and flaps her hands around a bit
“I’m sorry I panicked,”
“At least she didn’t try to stab anyone this time,” Weslyn says smirking.
“Oh, that was you?” Evelynn says, and they all turn to see her walking in with a bowl of cheerios. She walks over to them causing all of them to stiffen a bit, but she walks straight up to Wes and leans against him. “You need to work on your form.”
Wes snorts at that, Maecy is blushing up a storm, but Avry’s just staring at Evelynn. Wes follows her gaze and looks down at the girl, and smiles a little. He can tell that’s she’s positioned herself in a way that allows her to use him as a kind of shield. She can easily sidestep behind him if things go badly. But she’s not already behind him, meaning that she trust that things might not go badly. That is a good start.
“I’m sorry about that. It’s just I didn’t know who you were and-”
“It’s fine,” Evelynn says, and Maecy exhales like she had forgotten how to breathe there for a moment. “I have woken up in worse situations.” and she takes another bite of her cereal. Wes finally feels his body relax, and he gently wraps an arm around Evelynn’s shoulder, loosely enough that she can easily brush it off.
“My name is Maecy,” Maecy says, breaking the slight tension that was still in the room.
“Oh, you were the other person that was supposed to take me shopping,” Evelynn says, and Maecy smiles. Weslyn loves Maecy’s smiles, she always looks so genuine and so proud when she grins like that.
“I’m still totally down to take you shopping if you’re willing,”
“And if you trust her sense of style,” Avry mumbles from behind Maecy, causing them all to laugh.
“I like it. It’s very Ms. Frizzle” Evelynn says, and Maecy’s face lights up,
“I love the magic school bus!”
Chapter 7: Red Bandana
Maecy’s glad everything seems to have blown over. The girl seems to have forgiven her, doesn’t seem to be angry at Weslyn and doesn’t seem violent. But Maecy can tell that Avry still doesn’t trust her. She probably thinks the girl is playing it cool with Weslyn and will get her revenge later. Avry’s always been that way, expecting the worst of people. Maecy guesses that attitude comes with being an assassin. The girl, Evelynn, has gone to get changed so the three of them can go shopping. Avry is standing in the living room looking terrifying in her high heeled combat boots and her leather jacket, which looks especially out of place in comparison to Maecy’s friendly yellow ensemble and Wes’s pajamas . The girl comes out of the bathroom she’s wearing a pair of mom jeans, some ratty converse and the shirt she was sleeping in . Her long dark blonde hair has been brushed and she put it in a side braid. She’s holding onto a ratty black backpack that she put all her laundry in after she ate.
“You don’t need your bag,” Maecy says kindly and the girl looks nervous,
“It holds everything I own in it,” she says quietly ,
“You can put it in my room,” Weslyn offers, and Maecy watches Avry tense up at that waiting for an explosion. But instead, the girl just nods and puts it in his room. When she returns Avry nods her head and the girls all go downstairs, she stops in front of Jordyn's office before saying
“Wait here.” she proceeds to kick the door swinging it open, walking over to Jordyn’s desk and grabbing a bundle of money, “let's go.” before leading them all to her car. LA traffic sucks as usual
“So what’s your style?” Maecy asks
“Um, I don’t know. I’ve mostly worn hand-me-downs or prostitute clothes throughout my life.”
“Let’s start simple,” Avry declares, “get you the basics and then figure that out on a later day,”
“That sounds good,” Evelynn says,
“What do you need,” Maecy asks,
“Everything, except underwear. I was hoping to get another bra because I only own a pushup and one that’s just lace.”
“I know where to start,” Avry says, “follow me.”
Avry leads them to a store Maecy’s never heard of before but she has to admit it’s a good choice. They sell pretty much everything,
“Here, how’s this?” Avry says tossing the girl a basic fitted grey t-shirt.
“Wow that’s soft,” she says as she grabs the t-shirt before holding it up against her body, " I think this will fit,"
“Great grab a bunch,” Maecy says, and the girl nods before coming back with three. One grey, one white, and one black, “Oh you can get more than that,”
“But that’ll be expensive-” the girl starts but Avry walks over and casually says, “The money’s from a drug bust. I’ve got about 2,000 dollars in 20s. Get what you need,” the girl nods, looking a bit overwhelmed but she grabs three more t-shirts and puts them in the basket . As they go around the store, Maecy notices that the girl tends towards big clothes that drown her body in fabric. That shouldn’t be surprising she guesses, due to her history with tighter fitting clothes. But Maecy convinces the girl to buy two tank tops with built-in bras and a few pairs of leggings. So she’s proud of that. They leave the store with a large amount of clothing, and Maecy looks down at the makeshift list on her phone.
“That was impressive, the only things can think of that you still need are jeans, shorts, and maybe a dress,” Maecy states,
“I don’t need shorts,” Evelynn says,
“It’s LA, It’s hot, plus they don’t need to be as short as your current ones,” Avry says, Evelynn sighs a little but doesn’t look too worried about it.
“Should we try Old Navy?” Maecy asks
“Sure,” Avry responds, and they head off. As they’re walking through the mall, Maecy watches how the girl looks around, still seeming overwhelmed .
“Are you having fun?” Maecy asks her, the girl quickly turns to look at her, a little surprised, but she doesn’t seem scared so that's good.
“Ya, It’s a lot. I’m not used to it yet. Just yesterday I was sneaking around in drop off bins to find a flannel so I wouldn’t be cold now that fall is coming.” she stops dead in her tracks. Maecy follows her gaze, she’s staring at a Mannequin with a red bandana hanging out of its pockets,
“Evelynn is everything okay?” the girl turns back around to face her snapping out of her daze,
“Ya, sorry. I guess I just phased out there for a moment. It happens sometimes,” she says, but she seems a bit more jittery than before, but Maecy lets it go. She’s had her fair share of space outs that leave her feeling weird while she’s coding. It’s not until they’ve gotten back to the car and Evelyn asks,
“Can we stop real quick at MacArthur Park?” that she starts to get suspicious. Avry glances at her conveying that she’s suspicious too, but she thinks they should go along with it. Evelynn won’t stop tapping her fingers against her legs until they get there. And when they finally park she shoots out of the car like a rocket running towards the building. She runs around to the side and takes a look at a piece of paper on the side before she whispers, “Shit. Shit. shit. Shit.” before running off again and flying through the underpass under the building. Maecy can’t keep up but Avry’s doing a good job, especially considering those heels. Evelynn finally comes to a stop in front of a statue. When she looks at the base of it her eyes go wide and she half shouts, “fuck!”
“Evelynn what's wrong?” Maecy says panting,
“I need to talk to Jordyn. NOW.”
Chapter 8: Los Sin Rosto
AYYYEEEE. I got another Kudos and a Bookmark? thank you so much guys.
There's an unspoken bond between prostitutes’ she remembers being told, on the night when she was picked up by the nearest brothel for safety. ‘ especially between brothel’s and freelancers.’ It was only her first month on the job when the owner saw her, grabbed her hand and told her to run. ‘No one wants to see their sister sold off into trafficking.’ she had been brought to a girl near her age and had been told to ask the girl her questions. ‘ So we have a system. No one knows where the information comes from, but it’s always been correct so we don’t question it.’ the girl had grinned and brought her into her room sitting her down on the bed. ‘ The system has three parts. The first one is at the mall, on the second floor there is an H&M. If somethings going on the middle mannequin will be wearing a blue bandanna. If we know it’s gang-affiliated she’ll be wearing a red one.’ Her eyes had been sparkling brown and her voice had the slightest Hispanic accent to it. The where her i’s sounded more like ee’s. ‘The second part is the timing. At Levitt Pavillion on the left side, there’s gonna be a flyer hung for a ‘gentleman’s club’ all the timing will be on that flyer.’ the girl had gently grabbed her hands lacing their fingers together, moving them closer together. Her entire presence had been intoxicating. ‘ The last part is known affiliation. There are two known trafficking organizations and various gangs. If we know who it is, their symbol will be spray-painted on the rock under that statue of the General. Got it?’ their lips met over and over and over that night. Desperate to find connection and unforced intimacy ‘when you see the signs come here. We close for the night and shelter freelancers. We keep our sisters safe’ when she came back a few weeks later she found the girl had drawn them together in the most beautiful piece of art she’d ever seen.
It’s the only fully consensual encounter she’s had to this day.
If she’s right about the kind of operation the Vipers are running she can save a lot of people. If she’s wrong many good people’s lives will be one the line. If she’s right she can help shut down one of the most powerful human trafficking rings in the world. If she’s wrong she’s handed over everyone in Los Angeles.
These thoughts are swirling around her head when they get back to the club which explains why she finds herself running through the building and slamming Jordyn’s door open visibly surprising everyone in the room,
“Well if it isn’t our new favorite prostitute. It’s nice to see you with more clothing on.” Jordyn says,
“We need to talk.” She says firmly and his face drops,
“Avry what the fuck is happening?” he asks looking past Evelynn towards the door,
“I don’t know, but she’s not fucking around,” she says, he turns back to face Evelynn,
“Fine. we can talk.”
“We are a family here. If you tell one of us you tell all of us.”
“The risk is too high,” she meets his eyes and sees the moment of recognition when he finally realizes the magnitude of the situation.
“Everyone out,” he says, and no one moves they’re all frozen staring at the two of them, “I said out” and everyone scrambles from the room but Avry who’s still behind them.
“I’m not leaving you alone with her. We don’t know anything about-” Avry starts
‘I can take care of myself. I’m armed. She’s not” He says clearly. Avry glares at him but leaves slamming the door behind her. Jordyn looks at the door before sitting back down in his chairs and spreading his arms, “You wanted a private audience, you got one.” Evelynn nods and takes a deep breath before crossing her arms and saying,
“What do you know about The Grim Reaper’s?” He looks at her for a second before replying,
“About as much as any gang leader here in LA. Big gang, centered in northwest Hollywood. Very rich, close to many powerful people,”
“And their operations,?”
“Only what I can assume. Probably do a great deal of what other gangs do” he looks to the left. Stike one,
“What do you know of the Sin Rostro?”
“Worked with them once. Leader’s a good dude. One of the least violent gangs in the city. Made headlines for forcing medical professionals to give free care to underprivileged families and homeless kids. Widely respected in their community, and not out of fear.” no lies there. Good.
“What do you know about human trafficking in LA”
“I know it’s a problem,” he fidgets his hand. Strike two.
“More,” she demands, and he sighs before saying,
“I know they target prostitutes, homeless kids, and people of color. I know that there’s little to no protection from it for those vulnerable communities.” Good.
“What about El Frente de liberación?”
“Less then you do probably.” he fidgets a bit but it isn’t a lie, “Its a rumor, more like a fairytale really, of an organization that’s working to liberate and protect the endangered communities of LA,” he says. She nods and thinks for a moment.
“You lied about the Grim reapers, and you know more about trafficking then you said,” Evelynn says sitting down in the wooden chair opposite Jordyn. She stares at him for a moment,
“Do the Sin Rosto trust you?” she says leaning forward. He takes a deep breath before saying,
“I hope so.” that's good enough for her.
“The El Frente de Liberacion is real. And it works. I’ve been using it since I've been on the streets. Each section of LA has one. That’s why it can work. It’s been silent for the last couple of months, and it’s been right. The amount of human trafficking victims has been down significantly. Today it was back up. Known gang affiliation with The Grim Reapers and Mountainstar. It starts in a month. However, there are warnings for scoping effective immediately,” she says,
“It’s gonna be a shit storm,” Jordyn says nodding,
“That’s why I’m telling you. You might be able to save a lot of lives.”
“I understand that, but how is a seven-person operation gonna help.”
“The Sin Rosto know. They let everyone who knows the system know that they’ve seen it. I think they’re gonna do something about it.” Jordyn sighs and rubs his eyes.
“I’ll see if we can help.”
“Thank you,” Evelynn says.
“You wanna open the door? I bet they’re all piled up on each other trying to hear. If you open it quickly it’s gonna be funny.” Jordyn responds. Evelynn grins at him before walking over to the door and pulling it open as fast as she can. This leads to Weslyn, Maecy, Darren, and Nathan all falling into the room, crashing onto the floor like a bunch of puppies. Evelynn turns to see Jordyn giving them an unimpressed look,
“Ummm,” Nathan says,
“We can explain,” Weslyn rushes. Evelynn bursts out laughing and Jordyn fondly rolls his eyes.
Chapter 9: Faulty lighting
3 kudos. Whoop whoop!
Nadia is staring at a map of LA that’s spread across three tables in the club area with a bunch of different pencils, vague information, and a prayer. Maecy said she would work on seeing if any digital trails had been left, but Nadia has a sinking suspicion that they haven’t. Or if they have, they’ve been covered up by the rich.
She originally had a map of trafficking statistics up, but Evelynn told her that it would be more accurate to look through all missing persons. Which is a problem, because, with gangs, people 'disappear’ every day. She was going to go through and highlight all of them but she soon realized the whole map would have been covered, which is depressing. She doesn’t know how she wasn’t aware of how bad this shit is. But as she’s going through the data she notices a trend. The hot spots are squiggly marks that perfectly skirt neighborhoods and split LA into 8 different sections. So Evelynn wasn’t lying, El Frente De Liberación is real and she knows where each front is centered.
Nadia’s impressed, that requires an enormous amount of information to be split up and spread effectively and quickly in a non-suspicious way. Most gangs couldn’t pull that shit off. Nadia’s not even sure the CIA could if she’s being honest, the CIA has a network and tech and firewalls. El Frente must all be done by word of mouth. It’s the only feasible way they wouldn’t have been found yet. She wonders just how many spies each gang has because Evelynn had said that at least 8 had been put in direct connection with the warnings. Nadia rubs her eyes and shoves her box braids out of her face when she looks up to see Evelynn walking in with Nathan and Wes.
“So ya, that’s our light and sound booth over there. The system’s pretty old but…” Wes says,
“I worked with public school tech. I’m good at old school” Evelynn grins at him before heading into the booth.
“Weslyn what the hell is she doing in my Soundbooth,” Nadia calls out, Weslyn looks up and smiles at her,
“Fixing it” Evelynn calls out from inside,
“Weslyn get your ass over here.” She responds, her eyebrow raised. Wes rolls his eye and gives Nathan instructions before jogging over.
“What’s up Nads?”
“You know I hate that nickname.” She says looking at him with her best ‘I’m ‘unimpressed’ face but he just smiles at her and says,
“You love it,” She cracks, breaking into a little smile.
“Fine… But that’s not what I called you over for” She hates the way that Weslyn’s face drops instantly out of happy mode and into business mode. Some might describe it as scary, she doesn’t think it is. She sees it as a reminder of how broken his past is. So broken he won’t even open up about it all the way.
“What’s going on?” he asks looking down at the map,
“Well, your little stray wasn’t lying. Look at these lines, they represent hotspots for ‘missing people’ in LA.”
“They’re sectioning lines,” He says tracing them, “It’s the people who are too far away to get the information or, in the places that are like no man’s land.”
“Right. But there’s something else I noticed. There have been about 3 instances in the past few years of high amounts of people missing from all over the city, not just the fault lines. They tend away from the fault lines. And the numbers are huge. Keep in mind I'm trying to weed out gang wars and everything so I might have missed one. But I can’t figure it out.” Nadia says rubbing her forehead. Wes leans over the map and scrolls through some of the data before looking back up at Nadia,
“Evelynn mentioned warnings, in the meeting. What if they sometimes do scouting? Or surveillance? Scope people out ahead of time to get them when they aren’t suspecting? Because I bet my money the further away from the fault lines you are the more expensive of a prostitute you are.” Nadia raises her eyebrows,
“Where’d you find her?” she asks
“We can check that theory if you tell me where you found her and she tells me what her rates were.”
“What Weslyn?” He looks back at the booth before sighing,
“The kid just met all of us. So far she’s spilled her guts about something incredibly important to her that could have gotten her killed, opened our eyes to a new issue, and is fixing our lights.”
“Weslyn she volunteered-”
“- only because she thinks she owes me for showing her basic human kindness.” Nadia looks at him and sees a kind of hurt in his eyes that she hasn’t seen in a while, the look she saw when the pain he felt was too much to bear and was seeping out of him.
“What do you want me to do,” she says rubbing her temples,
“Give her time. She’s teetering on an edge, I can feel it.”
“You’re really gone for her.” Nadia sighs, he looks at her for a second before frowning,
“I’m not-” she holds up her hand,
“-I know. But you care for her. A lot. She might just be good for you.” He looks back at her before sighing and saying,
“I hope she is… Avry thinks she’s gonna be my downfall. I’m worried she is. I care about her, and the last time I cared for someone like this…” He runs his hand through his hair
“It was used against you. I know.” She places her hand on his upper arm, and the lighting abruptly changes from regular lights, with the faded strip lights that they had to make do with closing up last night to performance lights. And she hears a small whoop from inside the booth. She turns to see Nathan staring at the booth
“You fixed it?” The girl sticks her head out,
“What? Like it’s hard?”
“Well can you set it back to regular club lights?”
“If you can tell me what they are.” Nathan gets up and heads into the booth, and the lights over the stage start to change colors and intensities. Nadia turns back to Weslyn and says,
“I think she’s gonna be just fine.”
Chapter 10: Bang
HEY! we got two bookmarks. Whoop Whoop!
Avry stands in front of the punching bag. She looks over at the tape, but fuck that. She wants this to hurt. She gets into her fighting stance and just lets loose. She kicks and punches doing roundhouse kicks and shovel hooks. It feels good to let it all out. She might be screaming, she doesn’t care. Her arms are a blur in front of her and she doesn't know what she’s going to do next. No tactics, no plan, just action. She feels when the skin on her knuckles spits and it feels good. Its been too fucking long since she’s been able to punch someone.
She keeps going until her body gives out on her. She’s lying on the mat on the floor grinning. Her hands hurt, and are bleeding everywhere. The splits got wide enough that they connected. Her muscles ache and burn. Her breathing is labored and painful. She rolls over and coughs a few times, displacing mucus.
But the adrenaline starts to drain out. It always does. She’s left feeling like a husk on the floor. She crawls over to the garbage bin and coughs up bile and mucus, her whole body shaking and sweating. It takes a few minutes, but the episode passes. It’s been a long time since she’s had a craving this strong.
“You made me a machine, a monster”
“We simply lowered your inhibitions.”
“You made me a murderer.”
“We gave the orders. You chose to shot the gun.”
She takes a few deep breaths. She grabs her phone and texts Tobis,
Weirdly strong craving. Need the weak shit.
Darren should be helping Jordyn plan getting in contact with Los Sin Rosto. Instead, Jordyn has Darren pressed against the back wall of his office, kissing the life out of him. Darren feels a hand slide up his side under his shirt and breaks away panting,
“Jordyn, we’re in your office"
“And?” Jordyn asks before going right back to work on his neck,
“Are you sure we should be doing this here?” Jordyn grins and catches his mouth again, and they get lost in each other's bodies for a little bit before Jordyn breaks away and says,
“The door’s locked and everyone’s busy.”
“You know Avry can get in here with one good kick” Jordyn sighs before saying,
“Fine. we’ll keep all our clothes on.” Jordyn says, “But we can still make out?”
“Okay,” Darren says giving in, allowing Jordyn to pin him against the wall.
Things are easy with Jordyn. When they kiss the thoughts in Darren’s head stop spinning so fast, and he’s able to focus on what’s in front of him. Plus, it’s good to have a distraction from Nathan. He needed to get over him anyway. Darren threads his hands through Jordyn’s hair pulling him impossibly closer,
“JESUS CHRIST” Darren shoves Jorydn away from him who whips around to face Nathan in the doorway,
“Nathan, what do you need so badly that you felt the urge to break into my office.”
“I didn’t fucking break-in!” Nathan splutters,
“The door was locked.”
“That lock only works about half the time and you know it.”
“You didn’t knock”
“I didn’t know I had to. Jesus fucking Christ.” and the door slams shut, and Jordyn turns back around to face Darren,
“Well. you wanna pick up where we left off?” Darren looks at the door for a second and makes up his mind.
“Why the hell not?”
Maecy is upside down on the sofa with her legs on the back and her back on the seat, coding when Nadia walks up the stairs with Avry.
“Hey Darling,” Nadia says, unsurprised at Maecy’s position, “find anything?”
“Nooo,” Maecy groans as she flaps her hands around, “every lead I get leads me to highly protected firewalls. I got through one only to be blocked by a firewall for the firewall.” Nadia smiles at her and sits down on the floor next to her, before leaning over to kiss her gently.
“Is that why you’re upside down?” she teases gently,
“I’m trying to get all my blood into my brain so it does good smart stuff.” Avry laughs from the kitchen, and leans out of the doorway to say,
“That can’t be good for you,” she says,
“You’re not my mom,” maecy pouts.
“She’s right Mace, plus you just spent the better part of two days coding,” Nadia says, gently pushing back Maecy’s hair, so it's not in her face.
“The better part? She didn’t stop, government servers time out.” Avry calls out as she closes the pantry, “Plus she was coding again this morning.” Nadia looks over at her, thoroughly unimpressed
“Alright. That’s it. Coding blackout for the rest of the day!” Nadia declares snatching Maecy’s laptop and shutting it. She walks into the kitchen and hands it to Avry who takes it, and places it on top of the fridge with a graceful hop. Nadia walks back over to Maecy and reaches out her hand. Maecy takes it and allows Naida to pull her back up so she can maneuver into a sitting position. Nadia is sitting down next to her when she hears stomping coming up the staircase. Nathan bursts into the living area,
“I Cannot Believe Him” He squawks,
“Hello Nathan, It’s nice to see you,” Avry says sarcastically, leaning against the fridge.
“I walk into Jordyn’s office, to tell him that he doesn’t have to call a technician because the girl Wes brought in fixed the lights and sound, and what do I find? Jordyn and Darren shoved against the back wall making out. I’m not talking middle school shit, I mean full on tonsil hockey.”
“That’s nice,” Nadia says, wrapping her arm around Maecy, who melts into her embrace.
“No! It’s not Nice. I didn’t want to see that!” Nathan exclaims rubbing his hands over his face.
“Sounds like someone’s jealous,” Avry deadpans, staring straight at Nathan who turns around to face her, throwing his hands up in the air
“Oh! Thanks. That’s what I needed right now. To be reminded of how bad I fucked up. Thanks, Avry. I’m all better now.”
“I’m beginning to understand why Evelynn slapped you,” Avry says, walking out of the kitchen and into the living room. Maecy’s eyes open at the new information,
“Evelynn Slapped Him!” her voice is giddy with excitement,
“Yep. He was in the middle of insulting both her and Wes and she smacked him. Hard.”
“Nice” Nadia says smirking.
“Look are you going to help me or are you just going to continue to make fun of me,” Nathan says,
“Alright, FIne, Come over here drama queen, and we’ll pity you for a bit,” Avry says. Nathan looks angry but he gives in, walking over to the couch, sitting down, placing his head in his hands.
“Feelings are hard” he groans, and Nadia pats him on the back gently,
“Amen to that,” she says.
Chapter 11: The Bracelet
Weslyn stands in front of the building with bated breath, waiting for a wave of courage to come so that he can knock, he’s not scared of the people inside. He’s scared of what he’ll find, knowing that what Evelynn went through was so much worse.
“Just show them this bracelet and they’ll understand why you’re there. Ask to talk with Miss Penny, she’s the owner, she’ll be able to give you the information you need. She might even be able to give you paper copies.” Evelynn had said,
She had given him a very cheap and simple bracelet. It was one of those beaded ones, that look a bit like you made them during summer camp. It has a very clear system of red and white beads. He clutches it tighter and knocks.
The door swings open to reveal a woman in her mid-twenties with long dark hair, tan skin, and dark eyes. She’s wearing some sort of corset lingerie and heavy makeup,
“Welcome to the Embargo,” she sweeps her right arm open and lets him in. He walks into a room filled with scantily clad women sitting in chairs. They’re all clearly on edge. He doesn’t blame them, knowing what's coming, plus his appearance is a bit off-putting. A 6’4 man with silver hair and purple eyes, who’s wearing a long red leather coat, might be a bit intimidating. He walks forward to the counter, where another woman in very little clothing is standing,
“What can I getcha,” she says, popping her gum, “the rates are on the sign above me,” he holds out his hand with the bracelet in it, and the woman's eyes widen. Weslyn thinks he can hear her quietly whisper “Evelynn.” but he could be imagining it. “What do you want,” she says, reaching down for something under the desk, he turns his head to look back at the other girls. They all have a hand on a hidden weapon. Okay. He can do this.
“I want to talk to Miss Penny,” he says. The woman behind the desk nods,
“Just a second,” she walks out from behind the counter and into the hallway that leads to the rest of the house. She returns a few minutes later alone.
“Follow me,” and he does. They walk through a corridor of doors that he assumes are the rooms of the prostitutes. They walk past one where he hears very loud moaning. She leads him around a bend in the back, that reveals a single door. She knocks three times, and the door swings open, revealing a woman with grey hair in a suit.
“It seems we have a lot to discuss,” she says leading him into the room, shutting the door behind her. In the room is a desk with a chair on either side. He sits down in the one meant for guests, and she sits down across from him,
“How did it happen,” she says coldly,
“Did you find it on a sidewalk with a note? Did she give it to you and tell you to run? Did you find her body? Did you witness her death? Did you kill her?” the woman asks, Her resolve is as cool as steel, but there’s a fire in her eyes.
“Evelynn is still alive,” Weslyn says, and the woman’s expression changes,
“Is she being tortured?”
“No,” Weslyn says, and the lady leans over to him,
“I might look old and fragile but I know 6 different ways to kill you with just a piece of twine. You better not be lying to me.” she hisses, Weslyn slides his hands up to his thighs where she can see them.
“I’m not lying. She’s alive and well at Viper headquarters, I found her being assaulted by a guy and brought her in.” the woman leans back and crosses her legs,
“Then why do you have her bracelet?”
“She gave it to me. She told us all about the upcoming trafficking raid, and how extensive it is in the city. We want to help. She gave it to me so that I could talk to you. We’ve found a lot of data but we need information from the last raid. All the missing person reports are just names. We’re trying to gather data so we can work with Los Sin Rosto to stop this for good.” the woman looks at him for a second before sighing and saying,
“You weren’t lying. I’m just wondering why Evelynn didn’t come herself.”
“Like we were going to let her out while they’re scouting? She’s an easy target” he says, the woman nods, approval in her eyes,
“Smart. You do want to help.” She says before she gets out of her chair and walks to the back of the office where a filing cabinet sits. She slides it open and grabs a few files, placing them on the table, and sitting down,
“This should be what you need. One of the files includes information on our informant, Candid Mantis. You have her burner phone number.” She goes to hand over the files, but when he reaches out she grabs his hand and looks him straight in the eye, “Be careful young Viper. You snakes might venomous, but you’re easy to kill. And above all, prioritize Evelynn. She’s been through things worse than I could ever imagine. She’s a dead girl walking.” He nods twice, and she lets go of his hands, He’s almost to the door when he hears, “wait.” he looks back and the woman tosses him the bracelet, “give this back to Evelyn and tell her I think it’s a funny joke.” he nods and leaves the room for real.
The woman who brought him here is standing outside the door, her hand clearly on a gun she’s got hidden in her pocket. She leads him out, through the corridor with the faked moaning, and back into the lobby. The girls there are still all on edge, fear in their eyes, their hands gripping onto badly concealed weapons. The fear is what kills him, it’s the same type of fear in Evelynn's eyes, these girls just haven’t learned how to school their faces. He wonders if Evelynn learned to get more customers or for another reason. Weslyn puts his hands up in the air,
“I’m not armed,” he says, and the girls glance at each other, “and it’s 15 v 1. You could take me.” He walks over to the door about to leave, but he turns around and holds out Evelynn’s bracelet, “by the way, Evelynn’s alive.” and with that, he turns on his heel and walks out.
Chapter 12: Cyrus
He grabs her body from behind, clearly drunk, and he whispers,
‘come on it’ll be fun’. But this time it’s not Cyrus, It’s Wes gripping her,
‘This isn’t you, you’re drunk.’ He ignores her pleas as he kisses her neck, leaving marks that won’t fade for weeks. She tries to wiggle away, but he’s too strong. He slides his hand up her shirt, she ’d been getting ready for bed, so she has no bra on, and he grabs her breasts firmly. The worst part is that it feels kind of good. He continues to let his hands roam and his hands slide around her upper thighs.
‘No. Please. No.' she whispers, but he doesn’t listen. His fingers move upwards, shoving her underwear aside. She clamps her eyes shut as his fingers move around, ‘You’re wet’ he says behind her, a tear slips down her face. She feels him reach for his belt buckle and tries to use it as an opportunity to run, but he grabs her arm and yanks her back. He uses the momentum to get on top of her and there’s no reason for her to try to fight. She just shuts her eyes and waits for it to be over.
It hurts. He isn’t gentle. He doesn’t use a condom. He doesn’t pull out.
Evelynn wakes up shaking and gasping for breath. She sits up and looks around. She’s in the new room Jordyn had set up for her. It’s nice, but now it just feels oppressive. She gets up and quietly slides out, walking over to the living room area, it’s empty here, she checks the time 4:00. The strip club closes at 3:00 and due to the lack of noise, she assumes everyone is already done for the night. She turns on the TV keeping it quiet flipping until she gets to an animated movie with a skeleton wearing a sombrero. It’s dumb, but it’s enough to keep the nightmares at bay. She hears a door open from behind her and tenses up. Hopefully, it’s just someone going to the bathroom, but as she hears the footsteps get closer, she knows she isn’t that lucky.
“Hey,” She hears a voice quietly say. It’s Wes. She’s scared to face him. She had gone to bed after he had gone to the brothel not wanting to see the pity in his eyes. The added shame of the nightmare doesn’t help.
“Hey,” she whispers back, he walks around the couch and sits next to her,
“Everything okay?” she shuts her eyes and nods,
"Ya, Just nightmares.” He places his hand on her back in a way that’s supposed to be comforting, but she jumps out of her skin at the sudden contact, as visions of her nightmare begin to flood through her brain. She knows it wasn’t Wes. When she glances back, his face is laced with pity and pain, “Sorry.” she chokes out,
“Why are you sorry? I was the one that touched you.”
“You were trying to be nice. I was the one that took it as a threat.” the room falls silent other than the faint sounds from the stupid movie in the background.
“Evelynn look at me,” he says, and she forces herself to. She can’t quite read his face, “The woman, Miss Penny, said that you had been through things that were worse than she could imagine. Evelynn, what happened to you?” she looks back at him, tears in her eyes,
“I don’t have to tell you that.” she hisses, trying to hide the hurt inside.
“You don’t have to, but it might help.” He says reaching out his hand. She feels a sense of déjà vu come over her as she remembers the same situation from a few nights ago. Her defensively curled up on the street him, offering her hope.
“Fine,” she whispers before getting back up and sitting on the couch properly. "But you can’t tell anyone. Okay?" he nods, and she looks at the floor trying to gain what courage she can before starting.
She had liked Aiden and Cyrus when they had first come into her life. Aiden made mom happier than she had been in a very long time, and Cyrus was nice. Her mom and Aiden dated for about three years before deciding to get married. Throughout that time, she and Cyrus had gotten along just fine, he was only about two years older than her and mostly left her alone.
But that changed two years ago. Mom and Aiden were out-of-town at some convention or other, and Cyrus had gone to a party. That night he came home drunk… and the rest is history. She had hidden in her room all of Sunday until her mom got back. She told her that night what had happened, her mom shared it with Aiden and Cyrus. Cyrus had apologized, saying that he was drunk and didn’t mean it. Her mom had insisted that wasn’t enough. Aiden pointed out that if they brought this to court it would be one half of the family fighting against the other half which would be a waste of money and time. Eventually with the promise that Cyrus would go to counseling her mom had given in. But Evelynn didn’t. She didn’t feel safe in her house, and she noticed that Aiden started to treat her differently. One night when her mom was out-of-town Aiden decided to follow what his son had done. That was the breaking point. She knew nothing would happen. Her mom would take drunkenness as an excuse despite statutory rape, she had done the same with Cyrus. The next week Evelynn prepared. She collected all the money in the house, got a new order of medication, packed her bag, turned off location on her phone, and ran. The seven and a half-hour bus ride from San Francisco to LA wasn’t nice, but it was cheap.
When she had arrived, she had hoped she could get a job as a waitress or something, but without an ID proving she was 16. She couldn’t get hired. She wanted to work at a brothel, but couldn’t prove she was 18. So she found an abandoned house, found the busiest corner, stole some clothes from victoria’s secret and became a prostitute. Occasionally she would change locations, and the abandoned places she was squatting but that was what she did for about 2 years before Wes had found her. The job wasn’t pleasant, but after everything she had been through, it was pretty easy. If the guy raped her at least it wasn’t someone she trusted. She’d always make them pay up. She generally got enough each month to get more medication, (there was a free clinic that got her prescriptions) and get food. It was only bad when her CFS and Fibromyalgia acted up.
She doesn’t make eye contact with him the entire time she’s talking. She doesn’t dare look at him until she’s done and caught her breath. When she finally looks at him she regrets it. He’s crying, quietly, but he’s crying. She doesn’t get many tears for her story, most just people telling her she shouldn’t have run, or she should have filed a police report.
“Oh, Evie, I’m sorry” he whispers, and she makes eye contact with him. And for the first time in a very long time, she believes it. He reaches out his arms, whispering, “can I?” she nods, and falls into his embrace, letting him pull her closer.
She cries into his chest, big ugly sobs, that she hasn’t let herself cry before, allowing the years of hurt to come unraveled within her chest. Allowing herself to process all the horrors she has been through. Allowing herself to feel, allowing herself to be in pain.
She doesn’t know how long she cries. But when she finally stops, sunlight is cracking on the horizon and Weslyn’s shirt is soggy. His eyes are red, and she can only imagine what a wreck she looks like. She allows herself to go boneless in his arms as the surge of
fades away, leaving her to feel a little numb. Eventually, Wes pulls a blanket over them, and she falls asleep.
And thank whatever is out there,
Chapter 13: Meeting up
Nadia looks at the email.
Los Sin Rosto wants to meet.
They’ve done it. They’ve done it.
She should probably go to sleep. She looks up at the clock and 5:12 glares back at her, illuminating what little space her computer doesn’t. Nadia rubs her eyes before stumbling over to the couch in Jordyn’s office, falling over, and crashing.
Nadia wakes up to the sun blaring in her eyes. She groans and turns over to look at the clock, 10:03, meh not that bad, she’s had worse nights of sleep. She sits up and stretches, trying to somewhat get the kink out of her neck. Her chiropractor will kill her if she tells her that she’s been sleeping on the couch again. She stands up and shakes out her hair and smooths down her dress. That’s what she loves about box braids, you wake up, shake them, and look presentable. She heads upstairs and finds Weslyn and Evelynn, still in their pajamas, arguing in the kitchen,
“Wes, just because I was living on the street doesn’t mean I was like one of those kids in those UNICEF commercials,” Evelynn whines from where she’s sitting on the kitchen counter. Nadia follows her gaze and understands why Wes is holding one of those disgusting nutrient shakes.
“And I don’t want to risk it, Evie, when was the last time you saw a doctor?” Evie? When did that happen? It’s cute, and Nadia thinks it suits her, but Nadia wants to know about this development,
“Last month. I went to Pax’s clinic. They offer free medical care to homeless kids and free sexual health checks to prostitutes. Dr. Zaiyah told me that we were going to have monthly appointments or she was going to take to the streets to give me checkups herself.”
“Just drink it,” Wes says pushing it over to her,
“Wes, I think those drinks should count as cruel and unusual punishment” Nadia chimes in, the two look over at her,
“Nadia, how long have you been up?” Wes asks concern evident in his voice,
“We have more important things to deal with right now. I’m calling an emergency meeting” Nadia says before walking over to the small PA system, and pressing the button, “Meeting in 5 minutes in the club. I don’t give a shit if you’re tired.” she declares loudly, as the faint sounds of crackling PA echo around from the bedrooms. She turns around to see Wes shove the nutrient shake into Evelynn’s hands, she rolls her hands but she takes it.
Nadia grabs herself a granola bar off the counter before jogging down the stairs and into the club. She always loved the club in its natural state, no lights, no fog, no glitter. It looked so normal, If it wasn’t for the poles on the stage, she could believe that this was just a bar that did standup stuff, or had live musicians. It wasn’t an extravagant club, just a stage with a partial thrust in the middle, a bar, two ‘private’ rooms, and a bunch of tables and chairs. She sits on the stage, as people start to trickle in, the first of course being Wes and Evelynn, who are quietly bickering about something or another. The next one is Avry, who’s followed by Darren and Nathan who immediately sit on opposite sides of the usual circle they sit in. Maecy comes in next and then Jordyn comes straggling in.
“Alright, Nadia. What did you wake us up at this ungodly hour for?” Jordyn asks rubbing his face,
“Jordyn it’s past 10,” Avry says, rolling her eyes,
“That is still too fuckin early Avry. We work at a club that’s open till 3 in the morning.”
“BEFORE we all get off track. Let's start this meeting” Nadia interrupts, “I got in contact with someone from Los Sin Rostro, and they want to meet with us. The leader wants a team to team meeting. The meeting starts at 11:30. I want you all in your Viper Jackets. We are going for a legitimate worthy gang look here."
“What about me?” Evelynn looks up,
“You’re not going until we know that they’re safe,” Jordyn says looking over at her, “Gang alignments change all the time. Not always willingly. You are important to this operation. You are staying put.” Jordyn points at her, she goes to protest but Wes stops her.
“Alright, I want everyone dressed and ready to go in an hour.” Nadia announces, “Meeting adjourned” she proclaims, and everyone gets up and heads out. As she heads out in the hallway, she sees Wes pulling Evelynn over to the side,
“They won’t believe you if I’m not there,” she says crossing her arms,
“And I’m not risking it,” Wes responds,
“This is my thing. I asked you guys to look into this.”
“Evelynn, Miss Penny said you were a dead girl walking. I don’t know what that means, but I don't like the sound of that. You are staying put where you are safe. I don’t want to lose you.” he says as he gently places his hands on her arms,
“Fine,” she slides a bracelet off of her wrist and puts it on his, “Don’t get shot. If you die I'm going to kill you.” he smiles at her and she heads upstairs, Wes is about to follow her but Nadia cuts him off,
“You are so gone for her,” she smirks at him,
“I’m scared for her. She told me some stuff last night that…” he runs his hands through his hair, “She might just be as fucked up like me or Avry, Nads.”
“Is it worse than we thought?” she asks him quietly and he nods,
“She’s been on the streets for two years now,” he answers before sighing, “And from what I learned from the visit, it hasn’t been smooth. Her nickname is the dead girl walking.” he says staring up the staircase as if he can see her.
“Can we get her justice?” Nadia asks, and Wes shrugs,
“The best we can do now is take down those trafficking rings,” he says before nodding at her and heading up the stairs.
Chapter 14: The Warehouse
Jordyn doesn’t know what he expected Los Sin Rostro’s headquarters to be like, but it certainly wasn’t this.
They’re standing in front of an abandoned warehouse, the kind where the name is still kinda visible where the paint has flaked off, leaving a ghost of a name in its place. He doesn’t recognize the company but he guesses they used to see something important because the driveway has one of those gatehouses where the check your identification.
“Basic formation. You know what to do,” Nadia announces, and they follow her directions. Jordyn’s at the front (he always is) with Avry and Wes flanking him. Darren and Nathan flank them respectively and Maecy and Nadia are in the middle.
The group walks up to the door, and stands there for a second, Jordyn is raising his hand to knock on it when the door is pulled open. A woman and a man who both are incredibly jacked stand in the doorway, blocking off entrance. The woman says something rapidly in Spanish, and he is about to start panicking when he sees Nadia raise her hand out of the corner of his eye before she replies in equally rapid-fire Spanish. The woman seems pleased with Nadia’s response, as she nods her head. She gestures to the man who nods before saying,
“Follow us,” The warehouse is gigantic, sectioned off into multiple pieces, each populated with people who fall silent and watch them as they walk through the ‘corridor’.
At the end of the ‘hallway’ is an open space that does nothing to hide the fact that it was a warehouse. Jordyn glances up to see that they are underneath the balcony section of the second floor now. He glances over at Avry who taps three times on her thigh. Three potential snipers. At the opposite end of the warehouse, a door opens to reveal eight men and two women. All of them stay at the back of the room except for three men. At the front of the group stands Rodrigo Gonzalez, the leader of Los Sin Rostro. The group walks up towards them stopping about 5 feet away from them. The man and woman who brought them in a step away from them, but don’t join the group. Jordyn looks up at Rodrigo,
"The Vipers, It’s been a long time since we last talked,” he says,
“Yes,” Jordyn responds holding his head up,
“And yet, yesterday I get an email from you saying we had to talk urgently. Why?”
“We want to talk to you about el front de liberacion,” Jordyn says keeping his voice steady. he hears the sound of guns being cocked from around the room, and Rodrigo’s stare turns icy,
“A few nights ago we found a prostitute and she informed us that a sort of storm is coming. For a whole month.” The man looks surprised at that and looks over at the man on his right, “We want to help,” Jordyn finishes. Rodrigo says something to the man who responds quickly, before turning back around to face them.
“Why should I believe you. You could be working with them.” He says crossing his arms, Jordyn is about to go off on an Odysseus like reasoning tangent but Wes cuts him off. He takes a step forward before grabbing something off of his wrist and handing it over to the man. The man grabs it and whips out his gun and points it at Wes. Several other people follow suit, and suddenly Jordyn finds himself on the bad side of at least 10 guns, but they’re all trained on Wes.
“What did you do to her,” Rodrigo growls, Jordyn puts his hands up in the air,
“There must be som-” But Wes cuts him off,
“Miss Penny directed us here and gave us some information you might not have,” Wes says, completely unworried, at that statement several of the guns go down, but some of them are still on Wes. “You’re our best chance at preventing what’s threatening to be a raid for trafficking. We want to stop it. We want you to help us stop it.” Rodrigo nods and takes a step back.
“We’ve worked for a very long time trying to stop trafficking. And we’ve never been able to get very far. But if she can get us the extra information we need… we might be able to start a war.” He says gruffly, “the law won’t be on our side.”
“It never is,” Jordyn confirms, “But that doesn’t stop us.”
“Good.” Rodrigo says, “We will help you. Bring the girl next time and we’ll plan." Nadia steps out of formation during that, and one of the three men walk up to her and they a brief conversation write down contact information and exchange it. Once he returns Rodrigo goes to walk out but stops himself before looking back at Wes and saying, “It’s a good thing the dead girl walking is on our side.”
Chapter 15: Car Ride
The car ride home is… tense.
Nathan doesn’t know the right word but tense seems close enough. Jordyn had yelled at Wes for ‘pulling that stunt back there’ for 5 whole minutes and when Nadia had come to Wes’ defense Jordyn had told her that she wasn’t a part of the fighting strategy for a reason. That hadn’t gone over well, as Maecy had threatened to punch Jordyn in the face, which got Avry angry. Avry had threatened Maecy, Nadia, and Evelynn in one fell swoop which got Darren angry and Darren being angry had made Nathan angry.
Nathan doesn’t know what to think. He hates to side with Jordyn, but Wes nearly got them all killed and they wouldn’t be in this situation if he hadn’t brought the baby slut home. It’s like what Avry says, Wes getting attached to things is dangerous and Wes knows that. Wes is just making choices that endanger all of them.
Plus the Evelynn girl seems shady. If she was a prostitute she must be making enough money to stay off of the streets. Something doesn’t add up and he doesn’t like it. They’re taking every word as gospel when in reality she could be allied with Los Sin Rostro in an attempt to take them down. They were way too willing to kill at the sight of a singular bracelet. And if the trafficking crisis is that bad then is involved in it, which seems like a suicide mission.
He stares out the window watching South LA roll by as it slowly turns into downtown.
“Okay is no one else wondering what the fuck that bracelet is?” Darren says, putting his hands in the air. “Because a piece of Jewelry has torn us apart and I want to know why.” Nathan rolls his eyes. Darren always tries to create a middle ground after an argument instead of letting it sit and letting people calm down.
“It’s what nearly got us killed,” Jordyn says stiffly from behind the wheel.
“Jordyn don’t start, also turn left,” Nadia says. Jordyn goes straight, causing Nadia to sigh heavily.
“Darren has a point, what is the bracelet, Wes,” Maecy asks gently, trying to keep the peace,
“It’s like dog tags. Her name is on it in morse code. But girls have started leaving them behind as alerts that something bad has happened. It’s like an amber alert for prostitutes.” He says, his voice heavy,
“So you showed them a ‘hey I was murdered’ alert to show them that everything okay?” Nathan snaps from the back of the car, Wes turns around and glares at him,
“It’s the only way to prove Evelynn’s existence. I knew what it meant to them and clarified. She wouldn’t tell anyone she didn’t trust that.”
“You don’t know that,” Avry points out, crossing her arms, “You’re letting Riena cloud your judgment, and that’s very dangerous.” her voice is like steel cutting through the air, and Wes’ head snaps in her direction. Nathan can feel the anger radiating off of him,
“And you’re letting flare cloud yours,” He hisses,
“Both of you enough!” Nadia yells from the front seat, “Wes made a stupid move that he should have told us about, but he’s trying to do something good. You don’t need to turn that back on him. The girl isn’t lying, we already confirmed that, and she has no reason to kill us.” Nadia’s voice softens,
“We don’t know that. She could be endangering us,” Avry scoffs,
“ Do you think helping you out was safe? You were running from the Chinese mob. We help people in need Avry. It’s what we do.” Jordyn sounds exasperated, but he keeps his eyes on the road staring straight ahead,
“At least you knew what I was running from!” Avry protests, her face flushing red. She knows she’s losing the argument but wants to hold on, “we don’t know shit about her”
“She’s running from being sold into slavery!” Wes’ voice rings throughout the car, sending a shiver down Nathans’ spine, “That’s what she’s running from. Is that okay with you?” The car falls silent but the tension is still in the air. Nathan still doesn’t know what to think. He gets where Weslyn’s coming from now, but he still understands Avry. It’s hard to trust people when you’ve gotten burned. And sometimes it’s even harder to watch other people learn how to trust again.
Chapter 16: a voice
10 whole ass kudos! WHOOP WHOOP!
You know she isn’t innocent.
It’s just the drugs. This isn’t me. Isn’t it? You know that you were like this afterward. The withdrawal doesn’t count. Was it withdrawal? Yes. HA! Shut up. It’s been so long the weak stuff gets to you now. You’re getting weak too. I’m stronger than you still. Still? You never were. If you had been you wouldn’t have murdered those 108 people. I was brainwashed. You were drugged with a street drug. Most people don’t become murders when they take flare. It’s a stimulant, they give it to kids with ADHD, they don’t kill their teachers, they get higher grades. It was an altered high dosage. How altered was it? SHUT UP! You know I can’t do that.
You can’t trust her.
You know things don’t add up. They do. Do they? Because she gave Wes that bracelet the other night and you know she didn’t tell him what it meant. She didn’t did she. Nope and Wes is too distracted in a fantasy world of his own to notice that she’s dangerous. What does Dead Girl Walking even mean? You know people like that don’t leave witnesses. They might have been sloppy. You know they weren’t. She’s working for them. She’s trying to kill all of them. Maybe to free herself. Don’t start. It makes sense though, doesn’t it? She’s probably been a captive, that’s why she looked so bad. But the bracelet? Who says she didn’t keep it to help her cause. You’ve left her in a place with weapons. She might kill Jordyn. She might be like you. A Murderer.
They’re all downstairs discussing. You’ve gone to clear your head. They won’t notice if you go upstairs. She’s got basic training but not enough. It’ll be easy. She won’t have back up. Get the information and go. you’ve got a knife in your boot and a gun in your jacket. She won’t be armed.
“Hey, Avry!” The audacity to act innocent . That’s what spies do. Approach, “Avry, what are you doing?”
“What is that bracelet?”
“Oh god? What happened? Is everyone okay?” A cting dumb are we?
“You tried to kill Wes that night didn’t you?” she’s panicking,
“I knew they wouldn’t kill him. It was more of a test, would he be able to pick up on the clues. If he had come home with blood on his hands I would have bolted. Plus, they would have been more violent if he didn’t have the bracelet. This time he knew and I assumed,” assumed. She knew.
“Which side are you on?”
“I don’t believe you,”
“Avry you’re scaring me,” good.
“You see things aren’t adding up and I don’t like that”
“What isn’t adding up? Most of the stuff I know wouldn’t make sense if I was lying.” Bitch. Pull out the knife, twirl it around, point towards the throat,
“You see I hate liars,” she’s reaching out? What’s going on? Her hand is on your cheek,
“Avry are you okay, What’s happening to you?” Target isn’t lying. Adrenaline levels are falling. Target… Evelynn? Oh god, Evelynn, what has she done? She feels woozy, falls to her knees, and starts to cough. Evelynn darts away, of course she does, you tried to kill her Avry. Wait what's that? Oh, a trash can. There are steps and voices she doesn’t understand.
“What’s on your neck, Evie?”
“Is she okay?”
“Withdrawal! I’m an idiot,”
“Wes don’t hurt her,”
I’m still here Avry. Jesus Christ. Nah, just you. I’m always just under the surface waiting. Die in hell. Not without you. GET OUT OF MY HEAD!
“What did she say?”
Till next time darling, FUCK YOU! Bye.
Chapter 17: Aftermath
kudos and comments fuel me.
Darren is standing in the bathroom, tilting Evelynn’s head back as he wipes the blood away from the cut that Avry had left on her neck. She keeps fidgeting her hands, and while Darren is sympathetic to her reasons she’s not doing him any favors.
“If you keep moving like that it’s not gonna help me get this done faster,”
“Right. Sorry,” she says, and while she does stop moving, he can still feel her nervous energy.
He doesn’t blame her. It had been a terrifying sight to walk into. Avry on the ground, gripping a knife covered in blood, a cocked gun in her other hand, and Evelynn in front of her next to a trash can. He doesn’t know much about Avry’s past, but he knows it isn’t good and it involves the Chinese mafia, drugs, and somewhere along the way Avry becoming a grade-A assassin. Darren isn’t stupid enough to think they aren’t all somewhat connected. Everyone has to find a way to sleep at night, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Avry depended on drugs.
He knows what drugs can do. Hell, he had just been a stupid community college student giving the homeless blankets and food when drugs had suddenly become the reason why 13 guns were pointed at him. Same basic principle here.
“Just gonna get some Neosporin, and then I'll be ready to bandage it.” The girl doesn’t respond, but he knows she's trying to keep her neck still which he appreciates. He also wouldn’t be surprised if she was hardcore disassociating right now. He doesn’t know what she saw out in the streets, but this couldn’t have been normal.
He hears a very loud bang from downstairs, accompanied by a yelled ‘fucking god damn it’ it causes the girl to jump, knocking his fingers away,
“Sorry,” she says, having already lost at trying to stay still,
“Don’t be. I think Wes just broke the punching bag, and Nadia was not happy about that.” Evelynn nods a little before carefully tipping her head back again, “He breaks the punching bags with shocking frequency. Jordyn keeps joking that we’re gonna have to get the reinforced ones that they use for Captain America.” She smiles and giggles a little bit at that, still clearly trying to keep her head still.
He’s glad that she isn’t too freaked out by Wes’ anger, He knows what the consequences of men's anger often are for women, and as Maecy said, ‘all women are more scared of men then they are of spiders’. Darren’s only seen Wes truly angry twice, and both times scared the shit out of him. Both guys didn’t make it out alive, and Wes was unarmed the second time. Darren doesn’t think Wes is angry this time, just scared and frustrated. He’ll calm down eventually, and everyone will make it out with their heads, but it still won't be fun. Nathan once called him a dormant terminator who gets activated when people he’s attached to get hurt. Nathan wasn’t wrong.
“There you go, one bandaged throat!” he proclaims, wiping his hands together quickly,
“Thanks,” Evelynn says, bringing her hand up to the spot, “It would be a real drag if it got infected.” he laughs at that, and she heads out of the bathroom as he finishes putting the supplies away. He heads out into the living area to see Evelynn walking over to Maecy,
“...that’s good,” He hears Maecy say as he turns the corner,
“Where is she anyway?”
“Jordyn and Nathan took her to Pax’s clinic. They’ve got a no snitch policy over there.” Maecy says as she continues to clean up, “Hey Darren,” she says when she sees him, “Thanks for cleaning her up,”
“No problem. I’m the first aid guy for a reason” Darren replies. Macey gives a cautious smile. The kind you learn to give when things aren’t ‘quite right’. The kind you give after someone's been shot. Or when your family is breaking apart, and you don’t know if this is a temporary thing, like a puzzle or as a glass shattering. Darren knows that smile well, he’s both given and received it 100 times. It's the kind you give when the others are on a risky job. The kind you give if you were the bench warmer, but you were kept outside the gym, so you didn’t know what was happening until you were put in.
“Where’s Wes?” Evelynn says, finally breaking the uneasy silence, she’s started fidgeting again.
“Downstairs in the exercise room,” Maecy says kindly, but her tone of voice begs Evelynn to ask no more questions. Evelynn nods,
“I'm gonna be in my room if anyone asks,” clearly uncomfortable with the tension in the room. As soon as her door shuts Maecy drops her head onto the kitchen countertop, Darren places a hand on her back, and they stay like that for a while. No tears, no breakdowns. Just tired, a bit overwhelmed, and stressed. Eventually, Maecy stands back up and says,
“Nadia says she’s not gonna let Wes come up until he’s ready, but based off of the screaming we heard earlier, she might be dead.” Her tone of voice is horrifically factual, like someone listing off the number of people who drink coffee every morning.
“He didn’t.” Jordyn says, “you know that. He’s just frustrated and scared. He’s scared for Evelynn while being scared about what Avry said in the car. If he gets angry about this, that just proves the relationship is dangerous. It isn’t but the idea that she's right scares him.” He says, and Maecy just nods,
“Tonight is going to be a very long night.” she declares. She is very right.
Chapter 18: Flying
After the events of yesterday, everybody but Evelynn has gone over to check in on Avry. Apparently, ‘maybe you shouldn’t visit someone who tried to kill you’ or whatever. They left about half an hour ago, and she’s bored out of her mind, which is why she's here, poking around the club looking for something to do. She’s sitting on the bar when she notices that the back of the stage isn’t solid, it’s stage curtains. She hops off of the bar and wanders over to the front of the stage. It’s curtains, no painting could be that good, and from how the light under the curtains is acting, there might be something back there other than a wall. She hoists herself up onto the stage, too lazy to walk over to the stairs, and heads over to the curtains. She grabs one side in each hand and takes a breath before flinging them open.
What she finds is an extra 20 feet of room, resulting in about 25 feet of space behind the poles, and all the side to side room she wants. There’s a mirror, but she doesn’t give a shit about that. She grabs her phone from the table and plugs it into the sound system. Her phone is pretty dinged up and old, but it still works. She picks a song before turning the base way down so that she can hear the music, and runs over to the stage.
She hasn’t been able to dance in at least a year and a half. Other than that one night on the roof, she could never find the space. Her body still remembers how, and it gets easier as she keeps going. The song changes to one of nostalgia, she takes a deep breath and lets herself go. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, or what comes next. All she knows is that she’s moving.
She once heard dancing described as flying and thought it was the dumbest thing ever, you are far too grounded in what your body can do for it to be that. For her dance is burning, you can’t do it forever, the flames give out after a point, but it is hot, intense, and dangerous. It’s an explosion, caused by a small trigger. And that’s what she’s doing.
She finishes dancing with the song, allowing herself to fall out of the turn when she hears clapping. She jumps startled,
“Sorry didn’t mean to scare you.” She looks at the front of the club to see the pink-haired stripper from the other night standing by the bar. “You’re the girl Wes brought by a few nights ago, right?” Evelynn nods,
“You’re a very good dancer,” she says smiling,
“Thanks, I danced for a while before I came here,” Evelynn replies, she’s mostly gotten used to keeping people out of her business, but dance is a new topic for her. The pink-haired woman seems to take it as a legitimate response, but she still looks Evelynn up and down, clearly sizing her up. Evelynn is about to turn and run when the woman says,
“Wanna learn how to pole dance?” Out of everything she could have said, Evelynn thinks that nothing could have been more surprising. But the offer seems sincere, and she’s bored out of her mind, so Evelynn finds herself saying,
“Sure.” The pink-haired woman starts grinning, and walks over to the stage, hopping up.
“The first rule of pole dancing is to not overthink it. I’m just gonna show you some basic moves, the first being the firefly, you just walk around the pole hop up with your ankles on each side and spin down.” Evelynn approaches the pole and goes for it, anticipating that she’s going to fail, but it’s surprisingly easy. Even as the woman shows her harder and harder moves Evelynn can keep up. She likes it, it feels so effortless and almost weightless. It feels like she’s doing something new, something just for her.
She hasn’t had anything just for her in a long time. It’s nice.
“You’re a natural, You know we can use another person in our set, I can teach you a simple routine, and as soon as we find your schtick, you’ll be ready to go.”
“Schtick?” Evelynn asks as she hangs from the pole with one arm,
“We all have our ‘act’, for example, Willow is the ‘bad girl’, so her solo costumes always include leather. Micah’s the ‘girly girl’, so her costumes are always pink and she tends to dance to pop music. I’m the ‘manic pixie dream girl, which is why my hair is dyed. When we do group numbers we stick to the same theme. for example, last week we did a circus-themed one, and we all wore color-blocked costumes... I’m talking too much.” She says slowing down, blushing a bit,
“No, you’re not,” Evelyn rushes to say. The pink-haired woman grins at that,
“Well, I’ve got to practice, plus I have to teach the other guys a routine in like an hour, but you’re welcome to hang out if you want.”
“I’m good, but it was nice to meet you…”
“Sarina,” Sarina says smiling, "And it was nice to meet you too,"
“Evelynn,” Evelynn clarifies, causing Sarina to grin.
“I’ll see you around Evelynn,” she says laughing a bit. Causing Evelynn to feel just a little fuzzy inside. When Evelynn reaches the doorway she looks back to see pink hair swirling around the pole. Sarina. She smiles a bit and heads upstairs.
Chapter 19: Watered Down Flare
Avry is sitting in the back of the car clinging onto a ‘remission drug’ which is just watered down flare. It's supposed to make her less violent when remission kicks in, but it isn’t just remission that makes her violent. It’s the drug itself. She knows whatever she was given got fucked with, and with the mental conditioning added on top? Forget it. This bottle of pills won’t do shit.
The car ride is quiet. She hears a song playing softly over the radio, but other than that, nothing. She’s okay with that. She doesn’t want to talk. Wes is sitting in the front seat looking like a marble statue, rigid and unmoving. Darren’s driving, as he’s the only one who’s emotional state they trust enough to drive. But he keeps glancing in the rearview mirror to make meaningful eye contact with Nathan next to her. Maecy and Nadia are slumped against each other in the middle row. Neither of them looks like they’ve slept, both probably on 'calm Wes down' duty. Jordyn is sitting next to her, grasping her hand tightly, frantically trying to see if she’s still there.
She wishes she could tell him everything. About the conditioning process, the fact that they made her think she was doing well while she trained, about how the drugged her with different drugs to make her obedient yet violent. How they’d punish her by taking away the drugs, leaving her sick as a dog.
She wishes she could tell him about the time she failed. That she found herself face to face with a photograph of herself before she disappeared. That she held a gun against her mother’s head, but as soon as her mother said her name, she broke. But despite that, the neural conditioning is still there.
She wishes she could say that sometimes she still gets an animalistic thrill out of killing. That sometimes, she thinks that she would murder who Jordyn told her to without a second thought because she trusts him. When you teach a 5-year-old to trust and obey, she never leaves that instinct behind.
She wishes she could say that when she was face to face with her handler, she broke down in tears at the thought of killing him. That he was only the second person she hadn’t killed on instinct. That she let him go.
But she can’t.
Because a monster shouldn’t tell her secrets.
That’s what she is. A monster.
Chapter 20: The Front Seat
Meanwhile, another monster sits in the front seat of the car. This one is vainly attempting to pacify his instinct to kill the monster in the back seat. The instinct to flip into the back and snap her neck, he could take out the rest of the car in under a minute. That's without a gun.
'A killing machine' is what they called him. He’s like a semi-automatic. He doesn’t always control the trigger, but when he goes off, it’s over.
He takes a deep breath and works on calming himself, Avry didn’t mean it, he knows what that’s like. To have your eyes opened to what you did. To see the destruction you caused without meaning to cause any of it. But it’s hard to look at a gun that shot the person you love and to not blame it. Evelynn’s okay, a little shaken, but okay. The cut on her throat is healing well, it might not even scar.
But she’s been agitated around Wes for the past few days. He understands why, Maecy had talked to him about it, a long time ago, back when she had just joined the vipers. They were fighting with a big drug cartel, and the man who ran it had... a history with Wes. But at the time they hadn’t known it when Wes saw him, he snapped. Between him and Avry, the entire Los Angeles branch of the cartel had gone extinct an hour later. When he came to, he found himself covered in blood and staring at Maecy, who was pressed against the wall sobbing. She didn’t talk to him for a week, until Jordyn had shoved them together in his office, telling them to ‘communicate god damn it’. She told him about how terrifying it was.
It’s not your fault Weslyn. You’ve been conditioned to react a certain way, I understand that.
It’s just… when I looked in your eyes, you weren’t there anymore. You barely recognized me. You saw me, but I wasn’t Maecy, I was an ally. Another Pawn in your strategy
They broke you, Wes, Far more than you would ever admit. I’ve only seen eyes that blank once before. And it was my mother.
He sees Darren's eyes flit towards the mirror several times, and Wes can only assume he’s having one of those silent conversations with Nathan that they have. He wanted to drive, but Nadia said no, because he hadn’t slept in over 24 hours.
What she doesn’t know is that he can go for 50 hours straight when he gets concentrated. When he gets angry and goes into ‘military mode’ as Smith had called it. He could probably go for more with Necro, but Dad hadn’t wanted to waste valuable drugs on that experiment. Plus, after 50 hours everyone’s dead anyway.
He remembers the first time he went on a job with the gang. It was a small crew, and Wes hadn’t been trying to prove himself. He remembers when dad pointed his finger at the man who was holding the drugs and saying, " he was involved. He was part of it," Wes had gone blind with rage and acted on instinct. He had broken off from his father, making the split-second decision to go around from the back, (It was how they discovered his knack for military strategy). He slid up behind the man and shot him as soon as the customer couldn’t see. You never report the murder of your drug dealer. It’s common sense.
He remembers how it felt when the body went limp in his arms, He had been filled with regret and guilt and self-hatred. When they had gotten home his father stared at him and said, " never regret hurting someone who hurt you. A real man does not forgive. He gets revenge."
He tries his best not to remember much of the 5 years after that.
He remembers the first time he turned away from his anger by his own choice. He always does now, when he makes this choice. He remembers when he learned the awful truth. He stood in front of a man he thought he had known. A man he thought he could trust. It would have been so easy to have just tortured him, or killed him. Instead, he called the police. His dad was furious. He remembers telling his mom he had finally done the right thing and the two of them clinging to each other while they sobbed.
The whole gang went to jail, except Weslyn, he plead guilty via entrapment, provocation, and duress, and got off free.
He sometimes wishes he had told the full truth. They wouldn’t have let him go if they knew everything. If they had known what they were allowing back into society. You wouldn’t leave a gun on the street just because ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people' it might be true, but would you willingly give people another way to kill each other?
They finally arrive back at the club and start to head upstairs, a slow but steady march. When they reach the living area he sees that Evelynn is sitting on the couch, biting her nails, and Jordyn escorts Avery towards her room. Wes doesn’t even notice it at first, but eventually, he realizes he has placed himself between Avry and Evelynn. He’s halfway to fight stance, waiting for something to happen. For something to go wrong. He tries to force himself to relax, but he can’t do it until he hears Avry’s door shut. He’s so focused on it he doesn’t even hear Evelynn moving towards him until she’s standing behind him.
“Is she okay?”
“She will be,” Evelynn nods and rests her head against his back, he goes to talk but is interrupted by the sound of footsteps as Maecy drags Nadia downstairs and Darren drags Nathan upstairs. When the commotion has finally ended starts again.
“I’m sorry that I scared you,”
"It's fine," she says too fast,
"It isn't. You trusted me and I freaked you out,"
"It wasn't you. It's angry men in general," her body jerks in reaction to what she just said. She looks up and he sees the panic in her eyes,
"Evelynn," he says trying to calm her down,
"I'm sorry, I know you didn't mean it and you would never hurt me, please don't be mad."
"I'm not." She looks at him, confusion all over her face,
"What happened to you isn't your fault. It takes a very long time to recover. I can't promise that I won't get angry again, but I need you to know that the others won't let me do anything bad to you." With that, Evelynn lets out a breath it's clear she didn't even know she was holding. Wes walks over to her and circles his arms around her. It takes her a moment but allows herself to relax in his embrace. It isn’t perfect but it’s something. Maybe he’s not as much of a monster as he thought.
There’s another email on Nadia’s computer.
It’s a good one.
Los Sin Rostro is meeting them here, so they can talk to Evelynn. It’s a good thing Jordyn decided to close early last night, deciding on shutting the club down at midnight. Sure they had lost business, but all of them were too tired emotionally and physically to function. She glances at her watch, 9:00. That gives her about an hour and a half to get everybody ready. She glances over at Maecy who’s asleep in their bed, and shuts her computer, deciding to head downstairs and evaluate the situation down there. What she finds is empty space. Both Jordyn and Evelynn's doors are open, giving her a clue to where they are. She could be nice and wake everyone up or…
She slams the intercom button which makes a hideous crackle as it starts up,
“Rise and shine kids. Meeting in the kitchen in two minutes. Chop Chop.” She hears the unmistakable sound of a groan coming from one of the bedrooms. She slams the intercom button again, “No whining.” she finishes, grinning. So she’s a bit sadistic, what else is new?
The door to Wes’ room opens and out walks both Evelynn and Wes, both still in Pajamas. Nadia isn’t surprised, after everything that went down with Avry, it would make sense that Evelynn would seek comfort and safety. Avery walks out of her room completely dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt, wearing her vipers' jacket over it accompanied by black combat boots. So she’s putting up her shields, it seems like all chance at conversation over what happened is gone. Jordyn walks out after her in the same jeans and t-shirt he wore last night. He’s always been attached to her, so Nadia isn’t surprised to see that he spent the night watching over her. Maecy comes downstairs, wearing one of Nadia’s old flannels and leggings, but she isn't wearing any makeup and her hair isn't done. Darren and Nathan are both in their pajamas, and Darren doesn’t have a shirt on.
“Okay. Everyone grab some food and meet me in the living room.” As soon as she says that, Nadia watches the general chaos start. Wes goes over to the pantry and tosses both Evelynn and Maecy breakfast bars. Nathan has a banana somehow. Nadia thought they had run out of bananas last week, but she isn’t gonna question it. Both Darren and Jordyn grab cereal. Avry takes a granola bar from the counter, but Nadia has the sneaking suspicion that she isn’t gonna eat it. Everyone settles down in the living room, Darren immediately heads to the table, due to his cereal, and Jordan's about to walk off, but Nadia gives him a look, and he sits down on the other side of the coffee table.
“I got another email from Los Sin Rostro. They want to have a business meeting with us. It’s going to happen here so that they can talk with Evelynn. I want everyone to be dressed formally. Like a real business meeting. Jordyn, I want you in a white button-down, black tie, your nice jeans, and that black blazer I got you. Wes, Darren, Nathan, Black button-downs, nice jeans, no ties. Wes, you can wear your jacket. And Nathan please brush your hair, you look like a lost goth kid.” She mentally evaluates who she has left, “Avry, I want you in the straight-legged black jeans, you know the ones I'm talking about, the loose white button-down, the high heeled combat boots, and maybe your sleeveless leather jacket.” She looks up and squints at her girlfriend for a second before bursting out with, “Maecy… I know! The mustard tuxedo dress, and can you put your hair in a bun. I’m gonna wear the blue dress, and…” she looks over at Evelynn, “I have no idea what you own.”
“We got her a dress and a skirt at the mall,” Maecy says,
“Good, show them to me. Everyone else, finish eating and get ready.” The next 5 minutes is a bit of a blur as everyone frantically finishes eating and runs off to get dressed.
Evelynn leads Nadia into her bedroom and opens up her closet to grab the skirt and dress. The skirt is a midi circle skirt, with a slight high low hem. It’s a maroon and covered with little white flowers. The dress is a 40’s inspired dress, It has a v neckline with buttons that go all the way down and a belted waist. It’s a pretty gray plaid. Nadia holds both of them up in front of Evelynn squinting, “what can you do in terms of hair?” she asks. Evelynn reaches back and grabs her braid,
“I can undo this, it’ll leave a wave pattern in my hair,” she says,
“Can I see it?” Nadia asks. The girl nods and quickly undoes the braid.
“Perfect. Wear the skirt with a black top and a belt.”
“Tank top or t-shirt?” Nadia squints at the girl,
“Let's try tank top.”
When Nadia returns from changing, she walks into the living room to see Maecy gently twisting Evelynn's hair, pulling in more as she goes. Evelynn is smiling from where she is on the couch, talking with Maecy as she stands over her. Maecy took a liking to the kid quickly, despite the almost incident, and Evelynn seemed to forgive her almost immediately. Maecy has always done so well being an older sister figure. Nadia figures it must come from foster care, but it seems a bit more natural than that. Jordyn is standing in the kitchen with Avry, who’s smoothing his hair back. Eventually, everyone makes it into the living room, and Nadia starts back up,
“Alright! I’ve decided that we should meet downstairs in the actual club. We’ll rearrange some tables to make it a bit more professional.” she gestures to them, leading them downstairs. “I want us to do a variation on relaxed formation. I was thinking two triangles, One with Jordyn, Avry, Me, and Nathan. The other one with Wes, Evelynn, Maecy, and Darren. I want Wes to be next to Evelynn. Sitting at the table should be Evelynn at the head, Jordyn to her right, Me to her left. I want Avry sitting next to Jordyn and Wes standing behind Evelynn. Maecy behind me, everyone else falls back. Any questions?” She turns around and sees Evelynn shyly raising her hand,
“I didn’t understand any of that.”
“Wes or I will show you where to go,” Nadia says smiling. "let's get going, gang"
They walk into the club as a group, and Nadia surveys the layout. Aha! There. It’s Evenly spaced between the stage and the bar. Gives Evelynn an Easy out while still being pretty open.
“Let’s set up there,” she says pointing at the spot. The group gets to work, Darren and Wes move tables, While Maecy and Jordyn run around grabbing chairs. Nadia’s so busy looking at the commotion and writing things down on her clipboard she doesn’t notice Evelynn approaching her until she feels a tap on her shoulder. “Hey, what’s up kid?”
“I’m kinda nervous. I thought I knew what I was doing, but then all of this started to happen and you started using all this jargon and…” she looks down and starts playing with her nails.
“Hey, Evelynn, look at me.” She looks up, her green eyes boring into Nadia's, “All you have to do is answer their questions. We can handle the rest. You are a tough kid, you’re gonna be fine.” Evelynn nods and heads over to help arrange chairs. They’ve just finished when Nadia feels a buzz against her wrist. She looks down at her watch to see a text.
“It’s showtime. Everyone in standing formation.” Nadia proclaims as heads to the front door. She stands in front of the door and takes a deep breath before shoving it open.
Oh ho ho! A Cliff Hanger! Wowee.
If you didn't totally hate this pls leave kudos. It makes me feel happy and validated.
Chapter 22: Questions and Answers
To say that Evelynn is worried would be an understatement. She’s scared. She doesn’t know why. She’s been in way worse situations that could have lead to way worse consequences. But this… just feels different. Maybe it’s because the questions they’re gonna ask are gonna open up doors into her past that she doesn’t want to walk through. Maybe it’s because there’s some stuff that she doesn’t want them to know about. Because she doesn’t want to see the pity in their eyes every time they look at her.
She glances up at Wes, who gives her shoulder a small squeeze, before looking back towards the entrance of the club. She takes one final deep breath, as the members of Los Sin Rostro appear in the doorway of the club. There are 5 of them, or at least there are 5 people here. They stand in some sort of a V formation, as they follow Nadia, and standing front and center is the man who must be Rodrigo Gonzales. To his right is a small woman in heels, who’s carrying several files, she must be their Nadia. To his left stands a slight man, who looks young, only about 22. Behind them stand two Very Big Men, who look like they could crush Evelynn’s skull in with only one hand. All of them are in suits, but oddly enough, Evelynn doesn’t feel like she and the rest of the vipers are underdressed, in fact, it feels like they’re in more control dressed this way. Like they know that they’re calling the shots and don’t have to impress anyone. Wait, did she just mentally include herself in a gang? She doesn’t have time for that right now. Nadia swings her arms open in a gesture that's somewhere between ‘you may enter’ and ‘tada’. The young woman gives her a curt nod, and the big man steps forward.
“Jordyn,” he says nodding,
“Rodrigo,” Jordyn returns the courtesy,
“Sorry about the delay, we were busy,” Rodrigo says,
“Trust me. We were too. How about we get this meeting started?” Nadia asks, butting into the conversation, Rodrigo looks at her,
“Right to the point are we? I like you” He says, nodding.
“Thank you, but I don’t need your approval. Would you like to sit?” Nadia says, her voice teetering on the edge of cold. But Rodrigo laughs at that, nodding at her in approval. Evelynn sits at the head of the table, immediately feeling more anxious. But she catches Nadia’s eye, who winks at her and she feels better. On the opposite side of the table from her sits Rodrigo. So she’s facing off against a gang leader. Okay, that’s fine, just a normal Wednesday. Rodrigo looks at her and says,
“So, you must be the prostitute,” Evelynn nods, “I’ve heard a lot about you, dead girl walking. Helen was always tellin’ me to look out for that pattern.” Evelynn nods again, “We’ve got a plan, but that plan depends on you, and the information you can give us. We think we found one of their allied gangs holding cells. But we wanna check with you to make sure we’re right.” Rodrigo says, leaning both his arms on the table.
“Holding cells?” Jordyn asks, looking confused,
“It’s an outpost for their scouts. It’s where they bring the ‘easy catches’ or the ‘flight risks’ and where they compile the data and sightings of the rest of them.” Rodrigo explains.
“What makes you think that it’s a holding cell?” Nadia asks, looking up,
“We have some clues that lead us there. We’ve been seeing a lot of women go in there and not come out, waitresses go missing, and a lot of shady men frequent there too much.” Rodrigo clarifies, Nadia nods,
“Fair enough,” she says as she writes everything down. Rodrigo turns and faces Evelynn, clearly a bit annoyed with all of the extra questions,
“So I guess our first question for the girl is this: Are the rumors true?” Evelynn looks at him for a moment, before asking,
“Which ones?” He nods at that. Everyone has their reputations and you don’t want to confess when you don’t know what you’re fessing up to.
“That you’ve been heavily scouted 3 times.” He says, and Evelynn can feel everybody's eyes suddenly turn to her. Giving her looks of confusion, curiosity, and accusation. She can feel Wes’ eyes burning through the back of her head, to the point where she thinks he might be able to see into her soul. She takes a deep breath in, and says,
“I’m sorry what?” Jordyn exclaims, looking to everyone for an answer, but Rodrigo pushes on, not allowing the interruption to continue,
“What did it entail?” Evelynn swallows hard before responding,
“The first time it was just a dude lurking. The second time it was a dude trying to convince me to go somewhere. The third time, was more aggressive. as soon as I figured it out I ran and he chased me. I managed to get away by hiding in a dumpster.” She watches Nadia’s eyes flick back to Maecy’s in concern,
“Did you ever change locations?”
“Each time,” she says, picking at her fingernails, Rodrigo nods at that before turning back and saying something in Spanish to the young guy. The young guy responds, and Rodrigo turns back to face her.
“How’d you know the first time?” he asks,
“He was wearing a suit,” Evelynn says, and the woman scribbles something down,
“The second guy wasn’t?” Rodrigo asks, confused.
“There are types of scouts. Fancy, middle, and low. It makes sense for each of them to be in different parts of town.” Evelynn explains tapping her finger pads on the table.
“Can you describe each kind?” Evelynn thinks for a second before responding,
“From what I can tell from talking with other girls, the fancy guys always wear suits and briefcases with them. The middle guys are button-downs and khakis or jeans. Business casual. Low, wear jeans and sweatshirts, they're going for the thug look.” The woman seems to be writing everything she says down, nodding as she goes,
“If they’re all so different, how can you tell who they are?” The young guy bursts out. He instantly withdraws, clearly expecting to be in trouble, but Rodrigo simply nods to him, before turning back to Evelynn.
“They watch for way too long without approaching. They usually start halfway down the street. They should either have somewhere to be going or be doing something but they aren’t. They aren’t on their phones or going anywhere. They just lean against the building. They get slowly closer over the night. They spend way too much time sizing you up. They all check their watches way too often. Plus they all wear the rings," she rambles. She’s about to keep going, but Roderigo cuts her off,
“The rings?” he asks,
“Right-hand middle finger,” she says, looking down at her hands, pointing to the finger,
“Do they look like this?” he slides something across the table and she catches it. When she flips it over in her hand, she sees the familiar black and silver stripes, and her heart starts racing.
“Yes.” Her voice sounds like she just got punched,
“Alright then, our suspicions are confirmed.” He says leaning back in his chair, he goes to talk to his assistant but his cut off,
“You mentioned a plan earlier, what does that entail?” Jordyn asks leaning forward.
“Do you know the bar Dragon Teeth?” Jordyn looks around, and everyone shrugs,
“No.” He says,
“It’s an upscale bar in Beverlywood.”
“And you think it's an outpost,” Nadia says,
“Yes. But, we can’t go in guns blazing. It’ll draw too much attention and we don’t know how they’ll react. However, we do think that through this bar, we’ll be able to find information about the Grim Reapers.”
“How?” Darren asks, surprising Evelynn,
“Paystubs, delivery statements, these girls are sold like cattle to other countries. If we can’t find anything about the grim reapers, at least we’ll be able to destroy some of their operations,”
“How are you going to get this information?” Darren clarifies, and Rodrigo glances down at the table,
“That’s the other reason why we’re here. Dragon Teeth is hiring, and that’s where you come into play.” He says looking at Evelynn,
“What are you implying?” Jordyn says stiffening in his seat.
“That she goes job hunting,”
“Absolutely not!” Wes exclaims from behind her, “You think we’re gonna endanger her like that?”
“She won’t be in danger,” Rodrigo says putting his hands up,
“You just said waitresses go missing!” Nadia says, crossing her arms, and everyone starts talking, Evelynn starts to instinctively tune the noise out, focusing on Rodrigo, who grabs a piece of paper.
“Not as a waitress,” He says loudly, stopping the commotion and snapping Evelynn back to the present. He slides the piece of paper across the table, and Evelynn catches it, “They’re hiring talent. So here’s the real question, is our dead girl walking a songbird?” Evelynn stares down at the piece of paper.
The Dragon Teeth Bar
Young Female Talent Needed
Must be able to sing or play an instrument
Jazz experience preferential but not needed
No CV or Fancy Resumes. Just come in and sing us a song.
3-5 pm any day of the week.
Details will be supplied as needed.
They’re right. It’s shady as fuck, but it’s achievable. If she gets the information, they’ll be one step closer to shutting this shit down once and for all. Sure it’s dangerous, but her life for hundreds of girls? There’s no competition. The amount of good she’ll be able to do… is immeasurable. She’s good at sneaking around and finding things that shouldn’t be found. She has years of experience of grabbing food and money from unconscious strangers. She looks up from the piece of paper,
“I can sing,”
Everyone stops. Evelynn hadn’t noticed the noise she’d been blocking out until it’s gone. Everyone is staring at her. She wants to melt into a puddle. But she sits up a little straighter,
“I’m good at it too.” Rodrigo nods, understanding what she means,
“Evelynn you don’t have to do this,” Wes says from behind her, “It’s too dangerous,” he says, moving forward so that he’s at the table,
“Wes. I can handle this. I want to do it.”
“It will get you killed.” He says crossing his arms,
“It’s the kind of job I would take if I was out on the streets. If I get this, I’m protecting some other girl, who has no support, or way of getting out.”
“I don’t want to be a downer, but if they know who she is, she’s already gone,” Nadia says coldly.
“That’s why she’d be in disguise,” Rodrigo says, “It shouldn’t be very hard. They were putting together a very loose profile of her. Height, hair, and clothes. All of those are pretty changeable.” Nadia nods, at that, conceding his point, and she looks back at Maecy.
“I can give her a bob, and dye her hair. As long as she isn’t wearing form-fitting clothes, she should be pretty unrecognizable. Even if she does, there are loads of girls who look like her.” Rodrigo nods,
“So are we all agreed?”
“No." Avry says, surprising everyone, "How are you gonna keep her safe?”
“Comms, and a panic button bracelet. She presses it, we go in and shoot up the place. There will always be a member of Rostro in the bar or close by. Otherwise, the plan is adaptable to whatever happens.” Avry nods at that,
“One last condition," Maecy says, stepping forward. “I get to put a tracker on her. It’ll be on hearing aid frequency, so they won’t find it. Okay?” Rodrigo nods,
“I think we have ourselves a deal,” He says, standing up, “when’s the earliest she can be ready?” he asks Maecy,
“Tomorrow, I want time in case something weird happens with the hair dye.” She says.
“Alright then. We will see you tomorrow at 2:45, We’ll email you about the meeting spot. It was a pleasure working with you Vipers.” He says.
With that, all five members get up and walk out of the bar in perfect formation. It isn’t until Evelynn hears the doors shut that she allows herself to relax, slumping into the table.
“You didn’t have to do that” Wes says softly, but Evelynn sits around and turns to face him. She can feel her face burning and the tears forming in her eyes.
“Yes, I did. I can’t… I couldn't live with myself if I didn’t. To know what it’s like to feel that fear and then turn my back on it? Those girls are people and… I was one of those girls, Wes! I can’t turn my back on that 17-year-old girl shivering in the dumpster, unable to breathe, but too scared to leave. Hoping that the rat on the other side won’t come over and bite her because she can’t afford that, but unable to make noise to scare it off, because she can still hear the men looking for her. That girl is a part of me, Wes! I hate that she is, but I can’t get rid of her.”
“I’m not asking you to, I’m asking you to think about your safety.”
“I am! I’m thinking about that 17-year-old girl's safety. I can help stop that from happening to someone else Wes.” He looks at her, seeing the tears that have fallen down her face,
“Okay,” His voice is soft and forgiving, and he squeezes her hand,
“Ready to dye your hair kid?” Maecy asks Evelynn looks up at her and nods.
“Let’s do this.”
Maecy is standing over Evelynn in the third-floor bathroom. Evelynn is sitting on the toilet, on top of an old towel, wearing one of Nathan’s old shirts. He volunteered the shirt as a peace offering when they were looking for one earlier. He said he had 'underestimated her'. It presumably had something to do with the slapping. Nadia is sitting in the bathtub, on her computer doing work, (The bathtub is empty, don’t worry.) Maecy is holding a pair of scissors just staring at Evelynn, probably looking like a serial killer. Who was that guy? Sweeny Todd. She fucking looks like Sweeny Todd. She snips the scissors together twice before asking,
“How attached are you to your hair?” Evelynn’s eyes go wide, and she looks confused.
“Umm,” Evelynn says, “it’s attached to my skull?”
“Emotionally I mean.” Maecy clarifies,
“Uhh,” Evelynn is shooting some serious SOS looks Nadia’s way. Nadia just laughs at them and says,
“Mae, you have to realize what a weird question that is,” smiling at her affectionately.
“Okay, I’ll rephrase. How much do you care about the length of your hair, do you like it long?” Evelynn stares off for a second before saying,
“I haven’t touched it for 2 years and I wasn’t able to wash it properly all the time. It’s kinda gross. Do whatever you want. Honestly, I care more about not being recognizable.”
“Smart,” Nadia chimes in. Maecy rolls her eyes at her. She looks back at Evelynn and just decides to go for it,
“I’m just gonna start with shoulder-length and we can go from there.” Maecy decides and Evelynn shrugs.
“I’m okay with that.”
“Okay, turn around.” Evelynn follows the instructions, turning around to face the mirror and Maecy starts to cut. Evelynn stares into the mirror, watching the strands fall around her. Maecy can’t name the expression on her face, It’s somewhere between apathy and nostalgia. When she finishes the first cut, Evelynn does an experimental shake of her hair.
“Well, it’s different,” she says, but her tone is unsure.
“It’s hideous, you look like a page boy from medieval times. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving it this way.” Evelynn sighs, clearly relieved. Maecy precedes to squint at her, looking her up and down, trying to figure out what the fuck she’s doing. She usually has more time for this shit. She had a week to figure out Avry’s signature style of the purple bob, and even longer to decide on Wes’ silver hair.
“You could try that Lob haircut that was popular a bit ago.” Nadia chimes in looking up from her computer in the bathtub.
“Oh shit. Can you show me one of those again, I wanna make sure I'm doing it right.” Nadia nods before typing something in and turning it around. Maecy studies the picture for a bit before looking back at Evelynn. She thinks she can replicate it, Evelynn has some natural texture in her hair, so she should be able to pull off the effortless look pretty easily. “I think I know what I’m doing now. I am very sorry if I don’t.”
“It’s fine. As long as I don’t look like a page boy,” Evelynn responds, but she’s smiling. Nadia snorts at that, and Maecy smiles,
“Fair enough,” Maecy grabs the comb and starts to section Evelynn's hair, before grabbing the scissors and carefully snipping away at it.
When she looks up into the mirror to see her progress, she sees that Evelynn's staring intently at her reflection in the mirror. She’s never seen someone stare so thoroughly at their reflection before. It looks like she’s desperately searching for something, examining the face in the mirror. It awakens something in Maecy, a memory that she had kept stifled in the depths of her mind for a very long time.
She’s in the bathroom of her childhood home. She’s maybe 10 or 11, she doesn’t remember. Her mother is standing in front of the mirror touching her face and singing to herself. It isn’t a song that Maecy knows. It’s a haunting tune from the hollows of her mother’s brain,
Who’s that face in the mirror.
She’s not the girl I know.
She’ll fly away on a breeze one day.
Just like a leaf in fall.
Maecy blinks herself back into the present and continues to cut Evelynn's hair. When she moves to get another section, she catches Nadia’s eye through the mirror. She looks concerned, but Maecy just waves it off. Nadia goes back to work, but she looks unconvinced.
After a certain amount of shaping and layering, Maecy takes a step back,
“Well, that’s as good as we’re gonna get,” She says nodding a bit,
“It’s...good.” Evelynn says, “I look so different,”
“Let me see,” Nadia says, and Evelynn turns around, “Wow. That radically changed her face shape.”
“Right!” Maecy says, smiling. Prouder of her work than she’s willing to admit.
“Once her hair is dyed, she’ll be unrecognizable,” Nadia says smiling,
“About that. I grabbed a bunch of different colors, not knowing what to go with.” She grabs the bag from the counter and pulls out the boxes, “I’ve got brown, black, darker red, and lighter red.”
“Hold them up next to her face,” Nadia says, “okay, both the lighter red and the brown look pretty natural.” Maecy nods at that, both the darker red and the black had weird purplish hues that made them look weird. Both the light red and brown were much more natural,
“Okay. I was going to go with brown because it blends in so well,” Maecy says, but when she turns to Nadia, she’s shaking her head.
“No. Go with red. There are so few redheads you never forget them. Plus the main feature of a redhead is red hair. That's how you recognize them, you never see their faces. If she shows up as a redhead, they’ll figure that they’ve never seen her before.”
“That’s brilliant,” Evelynn says, looking over at Nadia, slightly stunned. Nadia beams from the bathtub and says,
“Red it is.” Maecy declares and pulls out all of the tools to dye Evelynn's hair. She mixes and pours until she’s happy, and then starts to carefully section the hair,
“Why do you know so much about hair?” Evelynn asks as Maecy starts painting the dye onto her hair. It’s a fair question, as the hacker of the group, she has no reason to have any idea how to do any of this.
“We had a run-in with the police at one point, and Avry almost got recognized. Jordyn gave me 50 bucks and told me to go to the drug store and make her unrecognizable. So I googled hair dying and it just kinda went from there.” Evelynn nods at that, well as much as she can nod without disrupting Maecy’s work.
Maecy goes back to dying Evelynn’s hair but is careful to not look in the mirror too much, or too deeply. She wonders if Evelynn is looking in the mirror for the same reason her mother was. Searching for any resemblance in the reflection, hoping that she’ll find herself within. Maecy shakes that thought out of her head, she’s managed to ignore that shit for long enough. She can keep repressing it now. When she’s finally done, she grabs a shower cap and places it gingerly over Evelynn's head. When Evelynn looks at her oddly, she explains,
“The heat from your scalp will help develop the color, and we want to avoid getting hair dye everywhere,” Maecy says, Evelynn responds with,
“I kinda look like an alien,” Nadia laughs at that,
“Kinda,” she says grinning. Maecy grabs the packaging and reads the directions,
“Okay, you gotta let that sit for an hour. Go do whatever you want, and come back in like an hour. You don’t have to be super precise though.” Evelynn nods, and leaves the bathroom, presumably heading downstairs. Maecy rubs her face and looks at herself in the mirror, while she’s looking, she manages to catch Nadia’s eye through the mirror.
“You wanna talk about it?”
“No,” Maecy says, shaking her head. She starts cleaning up after herself, sweeping up all the hair, cleaning up the sink so that no dye can set on it. When she’s finished rubbing down the sink for the third time she looks back up into the mirror. Nadia’s reflection looks back, thoroughly unimpressed.
“Should you talk about it?”
“Probably” Maecy admits, grabbing the dustpan, and sweeping the floor again.
“Alright. You’ve officially lost deflection privileges.” Nadia announces and places her hands on Maecy’s shoulders. Maecy notices that she hadn’t noticed that Nadia had gotten out of the bathtub. “Talk to me.” Maecy turns around to face her girlfriend, whose face is an equal mixture of stern and caring. It reminds her of her first-grade teacher.
“I just remembered something while I was cutting Evelynn’s hair,” She says taking a deep breath, “I saw her staring at her reflection so… intently, like she didn’t recognize herself. It reminded me of something that happened a while ago with my mom.” Nadia doesn’t say anything, but her expression is one of ...and? “It just… took me back there. It was one of those memories that you deeply repress, so when you take it out, it’s like grabbing a card from the middle of the deck and knocking all of the other ones over. We forget shit for a reason. I’ll be fine, it just kinda… tripped me up that’s all. Like I wasn’t paying attention to the sidewalk, I didn’t fall, but I did stumble a bit, and lightly hurt my ankle, you know.”
Nadia twirls her around before wrapping her arms around her in a hug. The two of them are perfectly framed by the mirror. If they weren’t in a bathroom, it could be a cheesy stock photo image.
“Maecy I love you. But you speak in such bizarre, convoluted, yet accurate metaphors. It’s kinda freaky.” Maecy giggles at that, the joke lightening her mood.
“Hey, monster GF is a large subsection of lesbian culture. I’m just halfway there.” Nadia bursts out laughing at that, still holding Maecy so that she feels the laugh resonate through her body. It’s something, but it’s good. A good something if you will.
Maecy needs to take a nap.
pls give me validation. Kudos, comments, anything.
Chapter 24: Cup O' Joe
“This is it?”
“Yep,” Maecy nods at Evelynn, both of them gawking at the poorly painted ‘Cup o Joe’ on the concrete building.
“huh.” Is all Evelynn can manage to say,
“Shall we?” Maecy asks Evelynn nods, trapped in the thoughts swirling through her head. She doesn’t notice she’s been staring at the sign until Maecy takes her hand and squeezes it. She looks at Maecy and smiles, but she can feel how unconvincing it is. “You ready kid?” Maecy asks, repeating herself,
“Yep,” Evelynn says, and the two of them had into the coffee shop.
As soon as the door opens, Evelynn is smacked in the face with the smell of stale coffee. It smells the way that you’d imagine coffee beans from the revolutionary war would now. As she walks in, her shoes stick to the floor a bit, making that weird peeling noise, like removing duct tape from the roll. The lighting inside is eerie, the store was designed for natural light to be the main light source, but the windows are all dusty, making it feel like a shitty old western movie.
There aren’t many people in the coffee shop, and Evelynn finds Rodrigo and his crew easily, tucked into the opposite back corner. Even though they’re trying to blend in, they still have an air of ‘you respect me and I respect you’ coming off of them. It’s a different group than the one that came to the club the other day. Sitting to Rodrigo’s left is an incredibly buff woman. She's wearing serious stomping boots, jeans, a muscle t, and a sleeveless leather jacket that shows off her tattoos. To top it all off, she has a serious undercut, and her hair is styled to be fashionably messy on top. She might just be the hottest woman that Evelynn has ever seen. To Rodrigo’s left is a slightly less buff man, that isn’t saying very much though, as he’s still jacked as hell. He’s only dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a black t-shirt.
As Evelynn and Maecy make their way over to the table, Rodrigo looks up at them and does a doubletake, causing him to grin. He gestures them over to the two empty chairs at the table.
“Ahh, Dead Girl Walking, and Techie, It’s good to see you,”
“It’s nice to see you too,” Maecy says,
“You did an impressive job with her hair, I only recognized her because of you,” Maecy sits up a little straighter, looking proud.
“Thank you,” The girl with the tattoos lets out a cough, directed at Rodrigo,
“Right well, that’s enough small talk. Dead girl walking, techie, meet my two members on this case, Manuel and Josephina. Manuel and Josephina this is…”
“Evelynn,” Evelynn says nodding,
“Ahh, there we are,” Rodrigo says smiling. Josephina leans forward towards Evelynn, making her feel tiny
“I’ve heard about you before,” she says, her voice gravely,
“Oh,” Is all she can make herself say as her brain short circuits between fear and being turned on,
You’re an idiot if you’re thinking of going through with this,” Josephina says, and Evelynn straightens her back and takes a breath before replying with
“Bravery and idiocy are the same things. The only difference is that bravery always has a cause behind it. I have a cause.” Josephina seems pleased with this answer, smirking a bit in respect.
“Alright.” she leans back into her chair crossing her arms. Rodrigo takes this as his opportunity to pick the conversation back up,
“Evelynn, you’ll be going in under a fake name, Arly Mcneil. You go in there, sing a song, introduce yourself. If they ask you questions about living situations, give them answers that keep you living in the bar. Got it?”
“Yep,” Evelynn says nodding,
“Other than that, it’s pretty basic. Do as your told, and when possible sneak around and look for clues. Raid an office, eavesdrop around,” he motions his hands to indicate, etc. Evelynn nods again before responding with
“Got it,” Rodrigo then nods, to the man, Manuel, who moves forward in his chair,
“Great, This is your help bracelet.” He says, holding out a small gold bracelet with a flat rectangle in the middle that has some small fake jewels on it. Evelynn takes it from him and puts it on. It feels nice to have something on her wrist again, she took off the prostitute bracelet back at the club. It’s a fancy bracelet, a bit too fancy, Evelynn thinks, “that flat rectangle in the middle is a button, Just press it and it will end an emergency signal to all our computers.”
“Can I get on that signal too?” Maecy asks, and Manuel nods and goes to ask,
“Yes… do you need-”
“-Got it!” Maecy exclaims holding up her phone to prove it. Manuel just blinks at her before saying,
“...Nevermind then. This necklace is a communication device. Tap it once and it starts sending us audio. You can use this to record conversations or talk with us. Tap it again to turn it off.” Evelynn stares at the necklace before asking
“ What if I don’t want you to listen, but I don’t have an excuse to fiddle with the necklace?” The man nods and thinks for a second before replying with,
“That shouldn’t be an issue but if it is, say ‘Do you like my necklace,”
“Okay,” Manuel nods, and looks at Rodrigo,
“We’re good?” Rodrigo asks, Evelynn nods at Maecy, and Maecy nods back
“We’re good.” She confirms.
“Techie, you mentioned a GPS?” Rodrigo asks, and Maecy nods.
“Already set up, it’s under her fingernail.” Manuel looks surprised,
“That’s small,” he remarks,
“That’s the point,” Maecy responds snippily.
“Dead girl walking, you ready?” Rodrigo says, stepping in as to prevent a catfight between the two of them,
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Evelynn says, looking at the bracelet.
“Alright if you ever feel scared, but it isn’t an emergency, fiddle with your necklace, it should create a really weird static noise, as well as turning on and off like crazy. One of us will always be in the bar, and we’ll get you out of there.” Rodrigo says in an attempt to reassure her. It is somewhat successful, as she already feels better knowing that she has an out.
“Okay,” she says, nodding her head and hoping she sounds way more sure that she is.
“Hey, Dead girl walking,” Evelynn looks back up at Rodrigo, who has a very kind look on his face,
“Ya,” she chokes out,
“You’re coming home okay” he looks right into her when he says it. It’s strange. Most people don’t look that fully into her eyes, turning away at the surface level.
“… promise?” she asks, hating how painfully childish it feels,
“Promise,” Rodrigo responds, placing his arm across the table to squeeze her shoulder. She takes a deep shuddering breath before responding with,
“Alright. Let’s do this.”
Running away had been less linear than Evelynn had thought it would be.
You see, becoming a prostitute was less of a decisive plan than she had made it sound to Wes. What she left out was that first week, when she spent every night in a 24 hour McDonald’s, or Denny’s and the staff pretended not to see her curled up asleep in the booths.
She hadn’t meant for that to be the plan. The first night she was in LA she crashed in a park, shivering, and curled up into a ball. She woke up in the middle of the night to find a man sliding his fingers into her pants. She had shrieked, and scrambled away, yelling out, ‘I’m 14 you pervert’ before running off. She wasn’t 14, but she figured the younger she said she was, the less likely he was to pursue. For the next couple of days, she tried desperately to not fall asleep and just walk the streets, but her chronic fatigue made that harder than she had planned.
Eventually, she found herself standing in front of a 24 hour Dennys, at 2 am. She walked in on a limb, knowing she’d probably be turned away at first sight. But she wasn’t. The hostess gave her one look and wordlessly brought her to a table. She ordered a glass of water, and, although she didn’t mean to, fell asleep in the booth. She slept for 6 hours. When she woke up, she found the pen in her bag and wrote ‘thank you’ on a napkin before heading out.
One would assume she would go there the next night, but Evelynn knew not to stretch her luck.
Instead, she went to the 24-hour McDonald’s. The only person there was a boy about her age. She almost turned around at the sight of him, until she heard his phone conversation with his boyfriend. So she walked up to the counter and ordered a small sprite. The boy looked her up and down, but gave it to her anyway. So she went to a booth, curled up with her backpack, and went to sleep. When she woke up the boy was gone, replaced by a girl with blonde hair, who glared at her and said, ‘you gonna order anything or you gonna get out?’.
She got out.
After three days spent crashing at the Denny’s, she asked to apply for a job, the waitress laughed and said, ‘you got any identification?’ Evelynn just shook her head and didn’t ask any more questions. She knew every day she stayed was borrowed time. Each day she got closer and closer to being kicked out. She heard the way the staff gossiped about her, their theories about her situation. The busboy ‘thought she was homeless’ but the cook said ‘she was too clean’ the busboy didn’t buy it ‘YMCA has bad security, she can probs sneak in and shower.’ the hostess said that ‘She’s probably just a foster kid in a shit home’ and the waitress seemed to agree, ‘it probably has to do with abuse, she acts like one of those rescue dogs’ ‘should we call CPS?’ the other waiter asked, ‘about what? Hey, there’s a girl who has been in our Denny’s a lot, we don’t know her name, but would you check her family life out?’ the hostess snapped ‘cps doesn’t give a shit. They never have.’ Evelynn just pretended not to hear them. She simply stuck around until the waiter told her ‘Dude the managers starting to get suspicious. Don’t you go somewhere else to go?’. And Evelynn simply couldn’t help herself, she burst out laughing. She got up, grabbed her bag, and said ‘you’re funny’ before leaving the restaurant.
She wandered for the next few days, and her fibromyalgia kicked in, making her chronic fatigue worse, to the point where she could barely walk anymore. She could barely find the energy to get food. One night, having gone 3 days without food, she got kicked out of the ally where she was sleeping, she ended up slumped against the wall, half-dead, when a dude outside a bar smoking said ‘you look like shit’ Evelynn had simply nodded, ‘you need somewhere to spend the night?’ She hadn’t had enough energy to respond. ‘I’ll bring you back to my place for the night, you can shower too, as long as you suck my dick in the morning.’
So she did. The next morning, he left the news on the tv while he was in the shower. (he had let her shower first after sucking his dick). She hadn’t been watching until something caught her eye.
It was her face. She knew that picture, her mom had taken it the night before the whole Cyrus deal went down.
… Evelynn Hansen, a girl from San Francisco, has been reported as missing. She is said to have gone missing about two weeks ago when she went to school on Wednesday morning and didn’t come back. It is unclear whether she has run away or has been kidnapped. The investigation has now been opened up to the entirety of California…
She was so distracted by the news, she hadn’t realized that the guy had returned, ‘Is that you?’ he asked, she looked back at him, grabbed her bag, and ran.
She did that for about a month. Different men, different accommodations, same basic deal. It was all fine and dandy until she realized that she was running out of meds, and she didn’t have the money for it. She had no idea how she was gonna get the money… until it hit her. She was already basically a prostitute, she might as well seal the deal. But first, she stole all the money out of that night’s guy’s wallet. If he slept with clearly underaged girls he deserved it.
She found the clinic through some suspicious research on a library computer, and she found the place she was squatting while walking there one day. It was an old building, that looked extraordinarily run down, but her curiosity got the best of her and she decided to have a look. The doors didn’t open, obviously, but the windows jiggled open pretty easily. Once she was inside, she found that by some miracle the electricity and water still worked. She wrote down the address before heading to the clinic to get her prescription refilled.
She occasionally changed buildings, if she didn’t feel safe, but she kept going back to that one. It seemed like the city had forgotten about it. She made sure not to use too much water or electricity, in case someone got suspicious. Having a place to live was great, it meant she wasn’t as desperate to get a customer every night, to the point where she would lower her rates. It meant that she almost always had the money for her meds and food.
But since leaving home, she has never felt as terrified as she does now. Staring down the enemy. Face to face with the Dragon Teeth Bar. She’s beginning to think she’s made a mistake.
She tries the door, it’s locked. She knocks.
The door opens.
A man in a shirt and tie steps out. His eyes are not unkind as he looks her up and down. More just curious.
“I’m here to apply for the talent job here. I saw it on a flier…” Evelynn says, her anxiety is obvious and she hopes he reads them as audition nerves.
“Oh! Yes! Come in, come in!” he says. He has a thick accent, but he’s mostly understandable. The strangest thing is that he sounds so genuinely excited, “You’re the first girl to come in about this job. I told Tang that we should put it online, but he said no,” he ushers her into the bar, “I’m so sorry, I’m being rude, my name is Yoo Jin Pyo, but you can just call me Eugene or Mr. Pyo, and I’m the manager of this bar.”
“I’m Arly McNeil,”
“Well, it’s lovely to meet you, Arly.” He says, clasping his hands together, "I’m going to go get Tang, he likes to be called Mr. Min-soo, and then we’ll start,"
And with that, he leaves the room. Now that he’s gone Evelynn finally has a chance to look around the place. It’s very modern, everything is either made of metal or is black. It feels nothing like the slightly beat-up club that Evelynn now calls home. The actual bar itself is to Evelynn’s left, all of the bottles illuminated by colored lights placed on the bottoms of the shelves. To her right is a section made up of white leather chairs surrounding metal tables. When she turns around, she sees the stage area. It’s clear this is not a stage used for karaoke. She’s in the middle of looking around when she hears,
“Ah, there she is!” she turns around to see Mr. Pyo, walking into the room, “Arly! Meet Mr. Min-soo,” Mr. Min-Soo walks up to her, taking her hand and kissing it,
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he says, His accent is less thick than Mr. Pyo’s, but his voice has a smooth quality that’s untrustworthy, to say the least. But Evelynn can’t waste her time thinking about that. So she turns on the act, blushing a bit and smiling at the action, acting as flattered as possible,
“It’s lovely to meet you too,” Mr. Pyo steps forwards, disrupting the moment, which is good because Evelynn doesn’t think she can take Mr. Min-soo’s abused horny eye contact anymore.
“What will you be singing for us today Arly?” Mr. Pyo asks, Evelynn takes this as her cue to hop up onto the stage behind the mic.
“I’m gonna be singing Blue Skies,” she says,
“Ah, a classic” Mr. Pyo responds, “I actually know the accompaniment for this piece,” he says gesturing to the piano, “May I?”
“Please!” Evelynn responds, smiling. Mr. Pyo hops up on the stage, and takes his place at the piano,
“I’m gonna give you 4 bars of intro, okay?” Evelynn nods, and he begins to play. She takes a deep breath and lets the music flow out of her,
“Blue skies smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies do I see
Bluebirds Singing a song
Nothing but blue skies from now on
Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you're in love, my how they fly
Blue days, all of them gone
Nothing but blue skies from now on
Blue skies smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies do I see
Bluebirds Singing a song
Nothing but blue skies from now on,”
She gazes out into the club while singing, glancing at Mr. Min-soo. His eyes are squinted and he’s tapping his toes, his lips are twisted into some sort of sick smirk. He’s the kind of guy that if you saw him in the street, you would find yourself looking over your shoulder until you got to a safe place, just in case. He’s the kind of guy Evelynn wouldn’t have trusted in San Francisco, let alone now. Evelynn’s surprised he’s involved in this operation, wouldn’t you choose a guy that girls would trust? Or maybe he’s too high up to ever see them. She glances over at Mr. Pyo who has a gentle smile on his face even as he’s focusing on the keys. She wonders if he even knows about what this operation is, but how could he not? From what Roderigo said, it sounds like the girls are brought here. How does he not notice girls coming in and not going out, how does he not notice the girls being stored here?
Evelynn ends up losing herself in thought to the point that she almost doesn’t hear Mr. Min-soo clapping. Luckily the noise is just enough to pull her from the trance of thought.
“That was very good,” he says, still smirking, “Good enough that you don’t need to worry about the competition. You got the job!” his tone sends shivers down her spine,
“Really! Oh, thank you so much,”
“There really was no competition,” Mr. Pyo says genuinely, “that was very good.”
“yes,” Mr. Min-soo says, sounding annoyed, “Eugene, I think there are some deliveries that need to be signed for in the back, how about you go take care of those,”
“They can wait a minute, I’m, sure” Mr. Pyo responds,
“Now.” Mr. Min-soo says, and Mr. Pyo quickly makes his exit. “You really were very good,” he says smiling at her,
“Thank you… um, when do I start?”
“Tonight.” Mr. Min-soo says, with a tone of finality, “Hopefully that won’t be a problem,”
“No, it won’t,” Evelynn says,
“Good, You know, part of the deal of taking this job, that you might have seen on the flier, was that we have a free room for you to stay here,” he says, getting closer to her, and gesturing for her to get off of the stage.
“Really!” she says trying to keep her tone light,
“yes, I know this might seem… presumptive, but you seem like a girl who’s been through a rough time.” this is it. This is the moment she can break or make this mission,
“Umm… well… yes.” she says, careful to blush just enough,
“We can make it easier,” he says, and she feels the door to the outside world starting to shut.
“Thank you. But what about my things?” she asks, trying to gauge just how final this deal was,
“You can get those another time,” he says, gesturing vaguely in the air, “right now though, it’s time for you to get acquainted with the bar.” his tone changes to one that drips with suggestion,
“Oh?” she asks, trying to seem innocent,
“Particularly our management.”
“Mr. Min-soo…”, she says, but he doesn’t budge,
“You want this job child.”
“Prove it to me.” he places his hand on her shoulder, and she gives in to the pressure, allowing herself to be pushed back onto the table. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She’s doing this for the greater good.
She’s doing this for the greater good.
I am begging you... even if you hated this... please leave me one measly kudos.
Chapter 26: Tick Tock
Prove it to me
Ohh… oh… mmm…
Nadia reaches forward and flips the audio feed off. She’s just unable to listen anymore. She should feel some sort of anger or righteousness she supposes, but all she feels is nauseous. She looks back at the rest of the group, trying to gauge their reactions. As she expected, Jordyn's face is stoic and unreadable, his arms are crossed, but he shows no other reaction. Avry looks resigned to the situation, almost as if she expected this to happen. She’s smarter than most of them, so she probably did. Nathan looks pale, almost ill at the realization of what is happening. He looks like a kid to just came face to face with the front line of a war he had only heard about on the news. But, two faces surprise her. The first is Darren, she expected him to look sad, or just upset, but instead, he looks angry. Furious actually. Like he is trying to hold himself back from breaking into that bar and punching that man in the face. His face is red, and his hands are clenched. But the most surprising to Nadia is Wes. She expected him to be furious, righteous with anger. She was ready to have to fight him about saving Evelynn right now, she expected to have to talk him out of burning the whole place to the ground; she expected him to already be holding his gun. Instead, his expression is blank,
“There’s nothing we can do now,” Jordyn’s voice breaks through the silence. His tone is measured and robotic. It’s almost as if his voice has been dissociated from the situation. “We’ll simply get an overview from Roderigo at the end of the night.”
“We can’t just leave her there!” Darren bursts out as he turns to face Jordyn,
“We can and we will.” Jordyn’s tone has an air of finality to it that Nadia has never heard before, he turns on his heel and marches out of the room, shutting the door. The room remains so silent, that Nadia can hear his footsteps recede down the hall until he opens the door to his office and swings it shut with more force than is strictly necessary. Darren just stands there stunned,
“He just wants to abandon her?”
“It’s not abandonment. She’s on a mission.” Avry says, her tone is even more cold than usual. Nadia imagines that this is what zero Kelvin sounds like. “She’s smart enough that she knew that this was coming, and she still agreed to do it. If she wanted out she would say so by now.”
“She can’t be okay with this,” Darren argues,
“She’s so desensitized to this stuff that it doesn’t even feel dangerous to her anymore,” Nathan says, surprising everyone. They all turn to look at him, and he stares back at them, “Well? Am I wrong?” Nadia can feel herself shaking her head,
“You aren’t and that’s the worst part about this whole thing.” She concedes, and the group falls back into an uncomfortable silence. The clock on the wall ticks by and it’s the only reason that Nadia believes that time is still passing by.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock... Tick
“I’m going to Jordyn’s office.” Avry declares, and she turns around and exits the room, leaving just the four of them still in there staring at the speaker.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock... Tick
Darren breaks the silence,
“I’m also going to-”
“-Like hell you are.” Nadia says, turning to face him, “I will not have anyone fighting while Evelynn is in danger. You are going to go blow off steam and only then will you interact with Jordyn let alone talk with him.” She doesn’t mean for it to come off as biting or as patronizing as it does, but it sounds like she’s scolding an 8-year-old for breaking a window. Darren stares at her for a moment,
“Fine.” he finally spits out, he storms out of the room, slamming the door behind him. But she doesn’t hear him walking towards Jordyn’s office. So that’s a win,
“Jesus Nadia,” Nathan responds, “No need to be so harsh on the kid. He’s just upset is all.” he shakes his head, and turns to address Wes, “I’m gonna go check on him, okay?” Wes nods jerkily and Nathan leaves the room, not bothering to shut the door. The room falls into a tense silence again.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock...Tick
“Wes?” Nadia finally asks, and she notices his face is entirely blank. It’s unlike the blankness she sees when he fights. He almost looks hopeless. She's never seen him like this before. He’s always bounced back and forth between normal and angry, Avry does the same thing. It’s a defense mechanism, the neutral but scary resting face, and the anger that removes all semblance of personhood from behind their eyes. But unlike Avry she doesn’t know what he’s defending himself from. Sure she knows the basic story, the outline of what happened, but there are a lot of blurry details, like a paper that is all topic sentences and the rest has been crossed out. Like a television show, you haven’t watched, but have seen reaction videos and crack videos of instead.
With Avry she understands the magnitude of destruction that she caused, the magnitude of what was done to her, she knows about the brainwashing, being kidnapped at a young age and being conditioned to obey. That her childhood was one big propaganda wash in which she was trained to not ask questions and to do as she was told. She knows what Avry was trained to do, and generally what Avry did. She knows that she escaped and Jordyn found her.
With Wes, all she knows is that the death of his sister was used against him and was used to make him do bad things. She knows that ever since he’s been wary about creating genuine connections and feelings with others, terrified of how those feelings will be used against him. She knows that he’s gotten closer to Evelynn over the past two weeks then he’s ever been to anyone since his sister.
“There’s nothing I can do.” He whispers out, and something in Nadia’s brain clicks. The thing is with Reina, anger didn’t help, but it didn’t hurt either. She was dead. Full stop. But Evelynn if he gets angry, she could get killed or hurt or worse. And so the only way to help her is to do nothing, “She’s being raped in a bar halfway across town and all I can do is sit here and listen.”
“I know,” Nadia chokes out,
“The worst part is that this has all happened before, to her and other girls, but no one cared enough to notice,”
“I know,” Nadia says, gently placing her hand on his arm, Wes looks at her giving her a forced smile.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock...Tick
“I’m gonna go check on Darren and Nathan. Make sure they haven’t killed each other yet.”
“Alright, but for the sake of your sanity, knock.”
“I’m not making that mistake again,” Wes says, and while the joke doesn’t carry the same punch as it usually does, she hears a little hope in his voice.
Nadia watches as the door shuts before sitting down in the spinny office chair. She spins around it in a bit, before gathering up the courage to switch on the audio feed again. She immediately regrets it. It turns out the 15-minute intermission she gave them was not enough time for Mr. Min-soo to finish up what he was doing. She flips it back off and sags back into the chair. S he uses up the rest of her time by jotting down notes of what they overheard, especially noting names, before whipping out her laptop. Maecy might be the expert hacker, but Nadia knows how to get good information off of google. She busies herself with that until she gets a text message from her girlfriend.
-Hey babe, turn the feed on again.
Nadia heeds her words and turns it on, to hear shuffling and muffled footsteps.
"This will be your room,"
"Get some rest before tonight. A woman will be by to fit you for outfits, okay?"
"Yes. thank you."
"I’ll come up to tell you when we get dinner,"
She hears more shuffling, and a door shut with some intensity, there’s some static as Evelynn must be fumbling with the microphone before she hears Evelynn say,
“Okay, I’m alone.” Nadia leans forward and grabs the microphone,
“Well done kiddo,”
“What should I do next?”
“Hold tight for now, we don’t want you getting in trouble before the first night,”
“Okay,” she hears another crackle before hearing her girlfriend's familiar voice,
“You know you can back out at any time right?”
“Yes..” Evelynn answers,
“And that still applies now,” Maecy prods,
“Why are you… you heard didn’t you,” there’s a sickening pause before Nadia responds with,
“Shit, I thought I turned the audio off,”
“Kid,” Nadia says, sighing,
“I didn’t mean for you to hear that,”
“Evelynn” Maecy’s voice is sterner than Nadia has ever heard before, “you have nothing to apologize for.”
“Okay” Evelynn’s voice is painfully small
“Did he… did he… oh fuck it, this is no time for subtlety,” Nadia sighs, “did he use a condom?” she says rubbing the bridge of her nose.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock...Tick
“No.” Evelynn breathes out,
“Shit,” Maecy swears,
“It’s not like it’s a problem,” Evelynn says, “It's not like I can get pregnant, anyway.”
“ Evelynn, ” Maecy says, her voice breaking.
“I’m going to take a nap okay.” Evelynn says, “I’ll tell you when something else happens,” and the audio stops decisively after a few seconds of static. Nadia hears Maecy breathe out from the other side of the audio connection,
“She’ll be okay. She’s a fighter.” Nadia says,
“I know. But that doesn’t mean she should have to fight all the time.” Maecy says,
“... I know.”
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock...Tick
Chapter 27: Three
When you are at your lowest when you cannot carry on when you just can’t do it anymore, you have two choices:
- Commit suicide
None of them can deny wanting to choose number 1. All of them could have. One of them almost did it. One of them would have had to be very creative. One of them thought about it day and night. Each one had a plan. One had pills, one had a gun, the other one was going to snap her neck. One of them didn’t do it so that her mother wouldn’t find their body. One of them didn’t do it because she didn’t get the chance. One of them didn't do it so he could get revenge.
So they narrowed down their choices, filled in the bubble that said number two, handed in their scantron, and ran before they got their results. One of them ran from home, one of them ran towards it, and one of them had no idea where home was. One took a bus, one took a motorcycle, and one was so hyped up on drugs she can’t remember how she did it.
When you run, you don’t know where you’re going. Even if there’s a destination on the ticket, you are aimless. How long are you gonna stay there? Are you going to get there? Or will you abandon ship halfway through and go somewhere else.
Can you ever stop running?
All of them ran from being the victim of a crime, but only two of them ran from being the criminal. All three of them have committed crimes. Two of them have been brainwashed. All of them instinctively know they are like the others, but none of them would say that out loud. All three of them are currently facing a door, waiting for it to open, and all of them are worried about the others.
None of them know what to do now.
They can all feel each other's pain, each other’s fear, its what keeps them going. Knowing they are doing this for someone else, they are holding on for someone else. It’s easier that way, especially when you ran away from who you were, and don’t know who you are anymore.
They all feel like they are standing on an edge, ready to take the plunge. A feeling all too familiar to be comfortable. They’d all fall, but they know they have no wings to carry them down despite wishing they did.
Hope is a thing with feathers.
None of them are very hopeful now. They all wish they felt like things would be okay. But they aren’t dumb enough to believe that. They aren’t foolish enough to think they have wings. So they hold onto the ledge tight and pray that there will be a safety net down below.
But at least now they have a destination.
And all of them are praying that a safety net is set up. But they are gonna hold on as long as they possibly can, just in case there isn’t one.
They all have one objective.
Survive long enough to help others out.
It’s kinda funny, isn’t it?
Chapter 28: Rage Against the Punching Bag
Nathan can hear Darren before he can see him, he can hear ‘rage against the machine’ playing as he walks down the hallway to the empty supply closet they turned into a gym. ‘Rage against the machine’ has always Darren’s angry music, apparently ‘as an ex-social justice major it just speaks to me.’ Darren has left the door wide open, displaying the gym in all its tiny glory. A punching bag and a few weights in a literal closet, it would be a little bit funny if not for the situation. Darren is standing in the middle of the room, shirtless, taking out what seems to be years of aggression on the poor punching bag. It’s kinda hot, but that's not why Nathan’s here. Nathan leans over flicking off the speaker, before asking,
“Did that punching bag insult your mother?” Darren glares at him, and punches it again,
“Nah,” Nathan says smirking. Darren glares at him again, but Nathan can see the amusement in his eyes,
“I’m pretending it’s Jordyn's face.” He says before punching it again, to demonstrate his point.
“Shouldn’t you be making out with it then?” Nathan teases, expecting an eye roll or to be flipped off, instead, Darren punches the bag again,
“He broke it off the day Avry went to the clinic.” He says refusing to make eye contact.
“Oh.” Darren punches the bag again,
“He said that she needed him more than me right now.” Nathan shoves his hands into his pockets,
“I’m sorry,” he says, trying to sound as genuine as possible. But Darren just turns on him, his face stoic,
“No you’re not.” he retorts
“I’m not,” Nathan says looking at his feet, not bothering to lie. He takes a deep breath as Darren assaults the punching bag again. “Look… Avry just sent me down here to check on you, and to apologize.” Darren rolls his eyes,
“No, she didn’t.”
“No. she didn’t.” Nathan admits, “But I did come down here to check on you.” He says as he shoves his hands into his pockets. Darren stares at him like he’s grown another head before asking,
“Why?” and god if that doesn’t break Nathan’s heart a bit.
“Cause I care about you,” He says softly, but Darren cuts him off
“Ha!” he says dryly, whacking the punching bag, “what’s the real reason?” Nathan's heart shatters as soon as he processes those words. He walks up to Darren and grabs both of his hands, forcing Darren to look at him. Nathan stares him in the eyes and says,
“Even if we’re not dating, I still give a shit about you,” Darren looks at him for a second and nods,
“Right.” It isn’t until he sees Darren’s gaze drop that he looks down and sees how close they’ve gotten. He’s still holding on to Darren’s wrists, and there are about 2 inches of space between them. He looks back up to see Darren staring at him. He goes to say something,
“Hey, guys?” Wes’s voice rings out, and the two of them fly apart, ending up on opposite sides of the punching bag, “Sorry, were you in the middle of something?” Wes’s tone isn’t actually sorry at all, “The door was wide open so I figured...” he gestures vaguely as his sentence drops off, his implication left unsaid.
“No. It’s fine Wes.” Nathan says,
“Good. Because apparently, Los Reyes is trying to start dealing on our property. Be ready to roll in 10 minutes, and bring extra ammo.” Wes says, before walking away. Nathan looks back at Darren, trying to find some of the honesty in his eyes from before, but the moment has been ruined.
“Let's go kill some guys?” Nathan offers,
“Let's go kill some guys,” Darren says nodding,
Avry does not go down to Jordyn’s office. Avry just needs a cover for about two hours. Sneaking off, are we? Whatever the lady at the clinic gave you wasn’t nearly enough. Shut up. She won’t make the same mistake as before. She needs a clear head for this. So you want to keep her alive now? You’ve just decided to trust her? Yes. Yes, she has. She can get truly clean later. Fuck she hates this. She hates them. Fuck with a drug to the point that the 10-year-old needs it, send her on missions on the brink of withdrawal, and only give her the drug if she complies. Make her need the drug so bad she’ll murder for it. Right. It was totally them. Ugh. It was totally the drugs, not you at all. I’m not listening.
She gets on her motorcycle and takes off, not even bothering to put a helmet on. It doesn’t take her long to get there. She leaves her motorcycle in the ally, no one is stupid enough to steal a motorcycle that has a clear gang affiliation written on it. You’d just kill them if they took it anyway, wouldn’t you? She takes a deep breath and she pulls the door open.
The bar is no different than when she left it. The interior is still a dark wood, dark enough that if a beer spills, the stain won’t be that noticeable. The stools are still made of that red plastic material that diner stools are made of, the metal is just painted black. The walls are still filled with stupid knick-knacks. The bar’s still pretty empty, what with it being two in the afternoon. She walks up to the actual bar itself and kicks on it three times.
The noise prompts Zyre to come stumbling out of the back area, clearly jacked up on something. Her best bet is crush but who knows.
“Avry! How’s it going girl?” you could just kill him… Tempting, but no thanks. Right, you need to get the stuff to cure me. Shut up.
“It’s going great Zyre.” she says, leaning forward, giving him just the right amount of her scary face to remind him who’s really in charge here.” me. Nope.
“You here on business?”
“What can I get for you?” she stares him straight in the eye.
“Come with me.” he gestures to the back door that she knows well, her boots stick to the green carpet with every step. until she reaches the metal staircase.
“Thought you were going clean,” he says as they walk down the stairs. you wish
“Didn’t work out.”
“I can tell,” he says opening the door to reveal the library of drugs, shelves placed evenly. “Tobis said that you didn’t come in last month but texted him a week ago that you needed the weak shit cause of the craving.”
“Remissions a bitch,” she says, crossing her arms.
“It feels like every month you say it’s the last month. That you’re going clean. And every month you find yourself back here.” he knows too much. Avry chooses to ignore him. She scuffs the floor with her boot before saying,
“I want normal strength this time. The weak shit didn’t work,” she says, watching as he walks through the stacks of meds,
“Got it.” 5 minutes later he comes back with a bottle filled with familiar yellow liquid. He holds it out to her, and she grabs it and shoves it in her pocket.
“So you aren’t trying to go clean this month?” He's persistent. yes. I know he is.
“How much do I owe you?” she says, trying to remain calm.
“We give discounts to loyal customers.” you could kill him… Avry clenches her jaw and glares at him. “Not funny. Got it.” He says raising his hands in the air.
“Here’s your fucking money,” she says shoving a handful of bills into his palm. And turns on her heel, getting ready to head up the staircase.
“Wait. Avry.” Zyre says, and she turns around, “How’s that chick that Wes was hanging with doing?”
“How the fuck do you know about her?” she asks. Reaching into her pocket for the tiny gun that sits there.
“He brought her by once when doing deliveries,” Zyre says taking a step back. “I just wanted to check-in.”
“I don’t think it’s any of your fucking business.” Avry spits out. She whips around and storms out of the bar. She goes to the alleyway, grabs her motorcycle, and hightails it back to the club. She moves fast, ignoring Nadia who’s still sitting in front of the speaker, and slides into her room.
She snatches the syringe from her drawers and opens the bottle with her teeth, before shoving the syringe in. Watching as golden fluid fills it up until it reaches the line she’s marked with a red sharpie. She yanks down her shirt to reveal the port placed just underneath her breast.
She’s had it since she was 9 years old. She remembers the procedure she went through to get it. They gave her muscle relaxer but no pain medication. She couldn’t fight, but she could feel it. And it hurt. She screamed for her handler begging to know what she had done wrong. What had she done to deserve this? But her handler didn’t come. Instead, the man in the white coat had just chuckled at her antics and laughed at her screams.
But most of all what she remembers was when she was given it for the first time, two days later. She had successfully completed one of the hardest training exercises. and when she had come back, her handler showed her the honey-like liquid and lifted up her shirt, before flooding her veins with it. she had shivered at the sudden feeling of cold had swept through her veins. but she mostly remembers just how good she had felt. The world buzzed a little less, she was less hungry, it was easier to complete her mental exercises, but also that scared feeling inside of her that she had been fighting every day since she had been brought in two years ago, was good. the small hole in her chest was filled.
She pops the port open and shoves in the syringe haphazardly. She places her finger on the top and slowly but surely pushes down on it. She feels the cold rush as the liquid enters her veins and her muscles start to relax. She removes the syringe and places it on top of her drawers. She reaches around in her brain for that tiny voice, but it’s beyond her reach. Good. she screws the top back on the bottle and shoves both it and the syringe back into her drawers.
That was too close for comfort.
She’ll be more careful next time.
Sorry, this took so long. I had massive writers' block.
Chapter 30: Dress fittings
I lied about the break. Whoops.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There’s a knock on Evelynn’s new bedroom door. It’s been about two hours since she was dropped off, but she’s been too scared to leave the room. There’s this unspoken contract that says: You are here now. You cannot leave. You will stay here or else. If she was younger, or dumber she would ask the question of ‘or else what?’. She knows the answer to that question though and it scares her.
“Ms. Arly?” a voice asks through the door, snapping her out of her thoughts,
“Yes, coming!” she calls out, scrambling off of the bed to open the door. The door opens to reveal a short Korean lady in her 50’s with chubby cheeks. She has a clipboard in one hand, and a tape measurer hanging around her neck,
“Hello, you must be Ms. Arly. I’m Min-Ji.” Evelynn has no idea how to spell or pronounce that. So she just nods awkwardly. “I do wardrobe for Dragon club. I am just here for you to be fitted.” the woman says, gesturing to a rack of dresses even didn’t even notice before.
“Oh, um, sure. Come in.” Evelyn says, stepping out of the way. The woman glides into the room with her rack of dresses and positions them carefully before smiling at Evelynn. She pulls out a step stool that must have been on the bottom of the rack and hops on top of it.
“Come here. I measure you now?” she asks, frustrated with her lack of ability to say what she wants to.
“Sure,” Evelynn says, before walking over to the woman. As soon as she stops moving Evelynn feels the tape measurer being wound around her, “you are very pretty girl,”
“Thank you,” Evelynn says awkwardly,
“Too skinny though.” Min-Ji tisks, while scribbling down her waist measurement. “Need to get you some food, eh?” The tone of voice indicates that this is a joke, so Evelynn laughs awkwardly. Min-Ji beams at that and Evelynn smiles back. She seems like a kind lady.
Once she’s done measuring Evelynn, she walks over to the rack of dresses and starting pulling some aside, glancing at tags, and back at her body shape. She picks up two and holds them up in front of Evelynn trying to picture what she’d look like. She grabs a third and walks over to Evelynn.
“Try these on. They will not fit. This is okay, I fix them up for you.” she says. Evelynn complies, taking off her clothes. She looks around for a second for somewhere to put them, and Min-Ji grabs them and lays them on the bed, before laying two of the three dresses out. She hands Evelynn, the remaining dress. It’s a beautiful plum full-length sheath dress, made out of some fancy fabric. Evelynn doesn’t know the word for the neckline, it’s somewhere between sweetheart and halter, each of her boobs has a cover but they are not connected. It’s not too tight, but not too loose. Min-Ji walks around her strategically pinning somethings, but she doesn’t have to do much at all. “Okay second dress,” she says. Evelynn carefully takes off the dress and hands it over to Min-Ji who exchanges it for a bottle green one. The skirt is made of carefully constructed panels that make it flare out, while still having no waistline. It reminds her of the dresses medieval princesses wear in paintings, except the top is one of those illusion necklines, that is rather revealing around the boobs, instead just changing into lace. Min-Ji spends more time tucking and pinning the dress, but she seems rather satisfied when she takes a step back. She gestures again to Evelynn who now understands to take off the dress before she gets handed the third. The third dress is interesting. It’s backless, and that goes so low it almost reveals her ass. The front somehow also manages to be revealing, with a deep v-neck, and very long straps. The dress is tight enough, that there’s a slit at the front, which goes a bit too high for Evelynn’s liking. She’s pretty sure she had more fabric on her body when she was a prostitute. Min-Ji’s nose wrinkles at it, as if she hates it too, but she diligently pins the dress together.
“Can I ask why all the dresses are so formal?” Evelynn finds herself asking out of nowhere.
“Important men are coming tonight. You must look your best.”
“Yes. They do Business with us. What business I do not know. But they give much money.”
“Are they the club’s suppliers?”
“No, no, no. But they talk much of transport, and moving things, as well as finding things.” The Girls. These men are somehow involved. She just needs to get close enough to hear what they’re saying. And if they’re coming soon, that might mean any sort of paper or digital trial won’t be cleaned up yet.
“Oh. Well. Thank you.”
“It is no problem. You are very nice girl.” she smiles at that before adding,
“Thank you, you seem like a very nice lady.” Min-Ji finishes fitting the dress, pinning and tucking as she goes. She takes a step back and sighs with an expression that screams, good enough I guess.
“Alright. That’s all. You can put your clothes back on now.” Evelynn attempts to side out of the dress, but gives up and just undoes the lacing on the back, allowing the dress to fall so she can peel it off of her body.
“I don’t like this dress,” Evelynn announces as it gets stuck around her hips.
“I do not like it either.” Min-Ji says, leaning forward like she’s telling a secret, “But Mr.Pyo say, she must look good, so I listen.” Evelynn finishes peeling off the dress and putting on her clothes, as Min-Ji hangs up all the dresses and writes down some notes on her clipboard.
“The dress will be back tonight.”
“Thank you Min-Ji.”
“No problem, no problem. Oh, and you can be with me while I sew dresses. Eh?”
“Thank you,” Evelynn says again, smiling. Watching as the woman pulls all of the dresses out of the room, and letting the door close behind her. As soon as the door is shut, Evelyn grabs her necklace.
“Guys? Guys? Did you hear that?”
“Yes!” Maecy’s voice filters through, “I’ve alerted Jordyn, He’s gonna have Darren and Nathan on the case, they’ll be situated to watch for all interactions.
“Just… tell them not to interfere yet. Something’s not adding up yet, I want the whole picture before we start firing.”
“Will do kiddo.” she hears a little click as Maecy… hangs up (is that the right word? Evelynn honestly has no clue) on her. Leaving Evelynn alone on her bed.
Against her will, her mind starts running a mile a minute. Are they moving everyone out tonight? Will there be anyone left tomorrow? Who are these men, and who are they working for? Where are the girls? She assumes they get brought here and then brought somewhere else and… distributed? The very idea makes her want to throw up. How is she gonna be close enough without getting too close and falling in? How does she protect while staying protected?
She can’t deal with any of that right now. Right now she just needs to make it to tonight.
It’s for the greater good.
It’s for the greater good
I have a constant need for validation. Please. just one kudos or comment. anything.
Chapter 31: Waiting
to the 20 of you who actually read this, thank you.
Darren kinda wishes he was anywhere else in the world right now. But instead, he’s here, sitting inside a bar that’s a cover for a sex trafficking ring, and trying to pretend like everything's fine. Nathan’s outside, hiding in an alleyway or something, and Darren wishes he could change places, but he’s the only Asian one, so he got stuck. So far he’s counted three girls, who look far too poor to be in this bar, being escorted by men into a ‘private room’. the music is purposefully pretty loud, but he knows that if he was any closer to the door, he could probably hear the screams. Okay, don’t think about that right now. He was told that if he got anywhere near aggressive, Evelynn might just die. He isn’t gonna risk that, but he can feel his gun burning in his pants pocket.
As he looks around some more, he sees several rather young scantily clad women, walking around, handing out drinks. Almost all of them are Asian, and they all look terrified. A slightly older woman, her late twenties he guesses, approaches him. She’s wearing a suit that’s a bit revealing, but not nearly as bad as what the waitresses are wearing. She leans over before asking him something in a language that he doesn’t understand. He guesses it’s Korean based off of names he’s heard being thrown around,
“Son-hye?” she asks, looking at him confused,
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else.” The woman says, her American accent impeccable.
“Sorry, no,” he says, giving her a small smile to try and diffuse the tension.
“Not your fault,” she says, but she gives him a once over before leaving. Well fuck. He’s been noticed, and he doesn’t know how to deal with that. He follows the woman and watches her approach an older man, who’s wearing a fancy suit. She says something to him and gestures in Darren's general direction. He’s nervous, but the man seems to console the woman, making her seem less on edge. The woman glances back at Darren one last time, before walking off, going behind some door or another. Darren pulls out his phone under the table and shoots Nathan a text,
I think I might have been caught. It’s unclear.
What do you mean?
I think they don’t know who I am, but they know I don't belong.
Okay let me text Jordyn
Avry says to hang in there for a bit longer. Until you’re certain shits gonna hit the fan.
It’s not cool, but he doesn’t have a choice. So he sits back and waits, watching. He notices that one of the men who brought in a girl who was far too poor has returned. Alone. His chest tightens up, and he makes himself breathe deeply, as to not get carried away by his anger.
He’s so focused on trying to calm himself down, that he almost misses the three men coming into the bar. He’s lucky he looks up when he does. They’re all in very expensive suits, and carry themselves in a way that indicates that they’ve spent their whole lives being told yes. There’s power in the way they hold themselves, and it scares Darren a bit. At the very front, is a white man with perfectly styled black hair, wearing a pinstripe navy suit. He looks a bit like a 20’s mob boss. Something about him feels naggingly familiar to Darren, but he can’t quite place it. He’d send a picture to Jorydn but this man feels like he’s the kind of guy who knows who’s looking at him at all times, and Darren cannot risk getting caught. As the man walks, his suit catches the light just so that Darren can see the faint outline of a gun in his jacket pocket, with three extra magazines. When he moves his arm, Darren can see that he has a knife strapped to his forearm.
“Min-Soo.” The man booms, causing the general noise to die down.
“Mori!” A short Asian man in a suit replies. So that’s the man who… Darren has to pinch himself to keep himself from whipping out his gun and shooting the man right then and there. Instead, he focuses on turning the recording function of his watch on, as discreetly as possible.
“It’s been a long time.” The man, Mori, says. Walking over to the man, but his voice is still loud enough to fill the entire bar. He feels a bit like a heavy-handed villain in one of those old-timey western films.
“Indeed it has,” Min-Soo responds, clasping his hands together. “I see you’ve brought some friends,” He says, gesturing to the other two men. Darren looks at the two of them.
Both of them seem rather powerful, but nowhere near the level of Mori. The man on the left seems to be Hispanic, but Darren isn’t quite sure. He has a buzzcut and is wearing a maroon suit that fits him like a second skin. Darren spots a small handgun in his pockets but no obvious ammunition. However, the man is wearing several rings that make Darren suspect that this man’s fighting style is more hand to hand than anything else.
The other man makes Darren's skin crawl. He’s scrawny with his brown hair slicked back into a bun, but everything about him screams trust fund baby. He hasn’t earned his power like the other two. It was just given to him. He’s a wild card, not understanding the costs of his actions, not understanding the virtue of caution. The kind of man who would blow up a building for fun. He has what Darren assumes to be a taser in his pants pocket and a gun in his outer suit pocket. Darren doesn’t see any obvious ammunition, rookie mistake.
“Ah. Yes. This is Valerio, and Caruso,” he says, gesturing to the men behind him, “I brought them along, for this special occasion. I hear you have a new act with you.” Darren's stomach twists at the mention of Evelynn. “I thought these boys would love to hear a songbird sing.” It takes every last bit of Darren’s patience and soul to not vomit, crush his glass, or shoot them on the spot. Min-soo nods at them,
“Well then. Let us introduce our establishment's newest act, our very own songbird, ARLY MCNEIL!”
Chapter 32: The Act
Do people seem to like this? No.
Do people seem to read this? No.
Do I keep writing this? Yes.
She doesn’t fully process her singing, she simply recognizes the music flowing through her. Breathe through the diaphragm, place your vowels, and let go . H er energy is on holding and moving her body like she’s in a shitty film noir, but not a legitimate one, the kind filmed today. Relax your shoulders, stick out your ass, slink around . Roll your head, half-close your eyes, grasp the mic, move your lips.
Perform Monkey! Perform Slut! Do what you’ve been doing since that awful night. It’s all an act, that’s what you are. An act, a character, a trope. You’re no longer a prostitute on the street, you need to hide your bite just a bit more. You can’t be a real threat to the men. You have to be a game for them. A game they will win.
Ignore the men drooling over you like a piece of meat. Ignore the men calculating your worth as the merchandise.
Ignore the fact that not one single fucking Human Being in this room thinks of you as a Person. Thinks of you as anything more than a means to their ends. A vehicle from point A to point B.
You aren’t Evelynn Hansen anymore. Shed her skin, but not all her memories. Shed her personality, but not all her body language.
You are Arly McNeil. She is a Femme Fatal.
Not a little girl who’s personality is pulled in so many directions by who everyone thinks she’s supposed to be.
Evelynn Hansen is complicated and murky: She’s Essay Responses and Document Based Questions, s he’s Bibliographies and Counterclaims.
Arly McNeil is simple and clear: She’s multiple-choice, She’s one-sentence answers, She’s General knowledge. She's facts .
Evelynn’s a better singer than Darren fully expected. He knew she was good, but he also knew she only had to not be tone-deaf to be hired here. All she needed was an innocent little smile and to pretend like she was stupid. But she’s good.
The patrons are slobbering over her, begging for their chance with her. She’s a prize they want to win and it makes Darren feel nauseous. It’s moments like these that he wonders if his life would have been better if he hadn’t run into that Drug Lord. God knows what he’d be doing. Maybe he’d be a secretary for a lawyer or politician somewhere. Maybe he’d be a pro-bono lawyer like he’d always wanted. Maybe he’d be protesting homelessness. Maybe he’d be a part of a homeless shelter.
But something tugs at his soul. In all of those fictional timelines, he might still be clueless as to the sex trafficking crisis. Or if he wasn’t clueless, he probably wouldn’t understand the magnitude of the situation. Maybe he’d technically be doing something about it… protesting it or something. But he’s probably going to make more of an impact in this life than in any other.
Isn’t that fucked up?
You can only really make a difference with spies, guns, gangs, and blood.
Welcome to the real world kid.
Nadia and Jordyn sit across from the audio feed, which they have moved from the club into the livingroom. It’s the biggest space they have, plus it’s got the couches for crashing on if there’s downtime. But there isn’t really downtime is there? They’re both exhausted but too nervous to sleep. Jordyn feels a bit like a conspiracy theory YouTuber… only for him, someone’s life is at stake.
“He’s presenting her... with a nickname... to other people? What the fuck is that about?” Nadia says rubbing her face, “something here isn’t adding up."
“He knows she’s acting.” a voice says, and they turn to face Avry, who’s holding out a live recording that Darren must be taking from his watch. “Look, he keeps nodding as she does certain things like she’s been somewhat instructed on what to do.” Looking at Min-Soo’s face, something inside Jordyn clicks,
“It’s like the club,” he says, reaching forward and grabbing the red marker, before running back to one of the giant sticky notes they’ve got hanging on the wall because They’re Cool Like That. “They’re using her as a… a… distraction… no…”
“Diversion?” Nadia offers,
“Yes! A diversion!” he says uncapping the marker, “She’s the perfect amount of sexy, she’s got the men at her command. She’s a fantastic asset. It’s like the girls at the club. They disarm the enemies, loosen up the bargainers, disorient the temperamental, further intrigue the potential allies." He says scribbling things down, “They make the others putty our hands.”
“Like the Razors!” Nadia says, catching onto his drift.
“Exactly. Min-Soo wants to loosen them up.”
“Okay. But why?” Avry says, breaking Jorydn’s flow,
“Oh, shit.” Nadia says, “Wait, Avry, can you show me the video again,” Avry nods, and hands it over. Nadia squints at it for a while, and Jordyn can see the gears turning in her head, “Oh My God!” she exclaims standing up. “Jordyn, look! Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure that that’s-”
“-Mori,” Jordyn and Avry say in sync, Avry reaches down and grabs a marker before running over to the sticky note.
“Min-Soo’s either bargaining or apologizing. He’s trying to make a deal or not get killed.” Avry says as she runs over to one of the other sticky notes and moves it, so it’s right next to the current one. “Remember how I said it’s like she’s been instructed? Well, she couldn’t have been. We would have heard it.” she says, “And she’s only been there… what? Two days?... This doesn’t have to be perfect so it isn’t an apology...It’s a deal.” Avry takes a few steps back before looking at the other post-it notes. Both Nadia and Jordyn glance at each other but know better than to distract Wes or Avry during their brainstorming sessions.
“Due to what Evelynn has said and what the Dress lady said,” she says circling something and drawing an arrow. “It has to do with the girls,” she says before jotting something down. She steps back from the paper to stare at the dots she just connected, before turning back to face Jorydn, her face pale. “Jordyn call Roderigo right now.”
“Why?” Jordyn asks, crossing his arms.
“Min-soo is making some sort of deal having to do with transporting the girls.”