Chapter 1 – A Very Bad Date
THE GIRL ON THE FLOOR in the skimpy red dress groaned softly and rolled her head to the side. The corner of her right eye was caked with dried blood. A gooey scarlet trickle ran down toward the dirty blond hair hanging in unkempt wisps around her ear. One of the thin shoulder straps of her dress was snapped off, allowing the shiny material to peel down, exposing the top half of her small breast. A knot on her forehead the size of a golf ball throbbed an angry shade of red with each heartbeat.
“We should dump her in the river,” a male voice said, without a hint of anxiety. He sat casually on the edge of a bare wooden desk in a Spartan room lacking any semblance of charm. The bed, covered with a drab brown comforter, was pushed up against the wall in front of an imitation leather headboard with large buttons holding in the padded surface. Next to it, a nondescript lamp glowed on a stained nightstand. There was no art on the walls and the floor was industrial-grade carpet with a swirling pattern that hid most of the remnants of prior visitors. The air smelled of musty sweat and industrial-strength disinfectant. The calm man, by contrast, wore an expensive suit and a gold Citizen watch. He was tall and fit, with graying black hair that was carefully groomed. He looked decidedly out of place in the dumpy room.
“She might not drown, though,” a different voice replied. “She’s not hurt that bad. Look, she’s coming around.” This second voice was agitated and came from a much shorter man, who paced within the cramped space. He was thin and wiry. He ran his hand through a head of brown curls, pondering his next move. He wore blue jeans and a plaid button-down shirt. His gaunt face looked like it was pushed together from the sides, with large eyes and a bent nose. “We’ll make it look like an overdose, but make sure she’s dead. We don’t want her ending up in an ambulance like the last one.”
“Not many people accidentally go in the river, Eddie,” the first man said, still without emotion.
“She’s an addict. She can OD, then there’s lots of reasons somebody might toss the body in the river.”
“All of those reasons involve somebody trying to hide something.”
“Yeah, I know, but what other options have we got? She was gonna run. She knows who you are, so sending her into lockup ain’t gonna be safe.”
The first man stood up, stretching his arms above his head. He was much bigger than his companion and thick, like the trunk of a sturdy tree. He looked down at the girl, who had brought one arm up to her head. She was clearly going to open her eyes in a few moments, but she was no threat to jump up and run away. “I don’t want to get in the habit of just shooting up every girl who gets out of line.”
“Nobody has said boo about the others,” replied Eddie, who stopped pacing. “I can go upstairs and get it from the doc.” He glanced nervously down at the girl, then back up at his comrade. “I’ll go right now.” The taller man nodded, and then Eddie scurried to the door and disappeared into the dimly lit hallway beyond. The heavy door slammed behind him with a loud thump.
The girl partially opened her eyes, then blinked several times. Once she focused on the tall man, a shadow of fear passed over her expression and she started to cry. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed, her body shaking, causing the remaining fabric of her dress to fall completely off her left breast. “Please. I won’t say anything. I promise. I’ll be good. I’ll be–”
Her voice was snuffed out by the man’s vicious kick to the side of her head, which then lolled in the opposite direction as her eyes re-closed and she sank back into unconsciousness.
The tall man looked down, dispassionately. “You’ll be dead, Sweetheart.”