Casualties of Pretty Things -- Chapter 8

Underage drivers take pizza delivery car for joyride

If this is your first visit to Mandatory Midnight don't just dive in. Read CASUALTIES OF PRETTY THINGS from the beginning. 

A psychotic father kidnaps teenage girls and uses them as sex dolls in place of the daughter he raped, while her guardian will stop at nothing to find her. When sixteen-year-old Cybil believes her mother was killed by the father who raped her she runs away from Deloris, a woman who loves her like her own daughter and who operates the House of Rahab, a halfway home for young women with backgrounds in prostitution. On the streets Cybil finds the friendship she needs, only to lose it when her father finds her. Now Deloris must overcome an ingenious captor and bring Cybil home.

Chapter Eight

Alone  in  a  dark  corner of the operating room sat an embalming tank. Carl approached it wearing  safety  attire.  He  flipped  a light switch and dim lights flickered to life. He  prepared  the  tank  for  use,  pouring  in  a mixture  of  chemicals:  FORMALDEHYDE,  GLUTARALDEHYDE,  and METHANOL. 

While  the  tank  was  busy  mixing  Carl  readied himself  for  the  embalming process by placing the body of Denise on an embalming table. He cut open the appropriate veins and drained the arteries. He bent over the corpse’s face to cut out the eyes with  gentle precision and replace them with a set of large doll eyes made of glass. He placed them in  their  respective  sockets and admired them. Soon  after  he  set  to  slowly  embalming  Denise,  thoroughly enjoying his work. 

When the work was done the  body  of  Denise  was  pristine,  its  doll  eyes,  staring out  into  nothing and  contemptuous  of  reality.  

The next bit of work was to dress the doll, which he slowly lavished. 

Behind him Penny whimpered. When the doll was presentable he propped  it  up  in  a  sitting  position  to face Penny. He said, “Penny, sweetie, be nice to our guest. Denise  is going to be with us awhile.” 

He went over to Penny and knelt down. “Isn’t she pretty?” 

Penny moaned, trapped inside herself.

“Now don’t worry,” he whispered into her ear. “She can’t replace  you.” 

Carl rose and walked back up the stairs. “Be back with your  lunch.” 


Crystal’s  car  pulled  up to the curb outside Carl’s house without  its  headlights  on under the cover of night  and  came  to a quiet stop just a  few hundred feet  off.  Inside the car she shut the car off and spoke into  her  cell. “Yeah, I got it. This is the address you sent.” 

Her brother Bob was on the other end. “You’re going to sit there all night?” 

Next  to  Crystal  Deloris  kept  her  head  down,  paying  attention to the messages on  her own cell.
Crystal told Bob, “A guy like this doesn’t work in broad daylight. If he’s  out there now I’ll see him come in. If he’s inside, I’ll see  him leave. Either way works.” 

Bob asked, “Do you see his car?” 

“No. Garage is closed.”

Bob was concerned this may be unwise. “I need you to do  me a favor.” “Don’t ask.” 

He said, “If this guy’s as  unhinged as you think he is, he’s dangerous. Don’t  go prying around the house.” 

Crystal knew what she was doing. Her experience outmatched her brother’s. “Good night, Bob.” 

He knew she was going to do what she wanted. She had always been that way. “Don’t do it, Crystal.”

Crystal ended the call, put away the cell, and settled in  for a long night. She told Deloris, “We need to stay off our phones.”

“Sorry,” Deloris said.  “Just making sure my girls can handle  being alone for a single night.” 

Deloris  finished  her  business,  shut  off  the  cell and  put  it away. For uncounted minutes everything 
was quiet and she hated the quiet. She looked over at Crystal, who was alert and comfortable. She asked, “That’s his house?”

Crystal nodded.

“What do we do?” 


Deloris was not satisfied. “Isn’t there something we should do? What if Cybil’s in there?” 

Crystal said, “She’s not in there.” 

“How do you know that?” 

Crystal  pulled  out  her  cell  again and  cued  up  a  video  for  Deloris. She handed it to her and said, “Eastman sent Bob  this. Came across it when the suspect matched Cybil’s description.” 

The  video  on  Crystal’s  cell  was  from  a  security camera.  Deloris  watched  Cybil  in  the  backroom  of  a convenient  store,  pushing  the  fire-door  open  and  running  out. Her eyes watered. 

Crystal said, “He was pretty sure it’s her. That store is in the same area as the restaurant you mentioned. They just haven’t  found her yet.”

Deloris handed the  cell back to Crystal. “Thank you.” 

“She’s clever enough to evade the police,  but she’s established a pattern and that’s dangerous.  The best way to find her is to watch him. He’s smart.  Already figured out the pattern, probably gathered  from social media and  familial experience.” 

Deloris said, “He’ll lead us to  her.” 

“He’s doing the same thing she is,” Crystal said. “Evading the police. But he has no idea about us, doesn’t know  how to plan.” 

“Yeah,” Deloris agreed. Then she sat in silence again, uncomfortable as before. They both watched the house. Deloris said, “Let me ask you something, Crystal. Why do you do this? From what I’ve seen it’s not about money, and  you don’t see many people doing anything that ain’t for money.” 

Crystal countered. “Is  the House of Rahab about money?” 

Deloris said, “Okay, that’s fair. But…" 

Crystal said, “You do what you do because something changed  you, and you want to show  those girls there’s a better way to live.”

“I get that, and I  know it’s not my business…” She indicated Crystal’s prosthetic. “What happened in Palestine?” 

Crystal sighed and remained silent. Deloris saw she had provoked serious emotion. She felt the need to make a connection. “Ya know, me? I was a strung-out whore,  facing every day, hoping  it was my last. I got pregnant more than once, and that’s what really hurt, knowing I was never gonna be a  mother. Then one day, I met someone who cared. See, he paid me  up front, but he  didn’t wanna fuck. I had  guys like that before. They  can’t perform anymore  and all they  want is your  company, just treat them like the man they think they used to be. I thought that’s what this was gonna be. But this guy? This guy took me to church.” 

Crystal looked over  at Deloris and realized she did not mean that phrase in the common vernacular. 

They both chuckled. 

Deloris went on. “I thought, okay,  this is different. This guy wants me to play prim and proper and then take me  home to play house. Hell,  I didn’t care. I got paid,  so whatever. But, nope. He actually took me  to church just to take me to church. And I had never stepped one foot in a church.  And I didn’t have church clothes, ya know? So, yeah, it was different.”

Chuckling turned to laughter. Deloris said, “So afterwards I  kept waiting for all these churchy people to  blast him, call me a dirty skank, give us dirty looks or something. But that didn’t happen. Now,  not  all of them came up and  wanted to be my best friend  or anything, but there were a few who said hello and looked at me like  I was a person.” 

She stopped laughing. The memory now turned sentimental. Deloris turned her  head away and wiped  a tear.
Crystal said, “And that meant something.” 

Deloris turned back. “It  still does. After that, all I  wanted was to help every  girl I could get out of  that life.” 

“Why ‘House of Rahab’?” Crystal asked.  

“Oh? The name, you  mean?” 

“Who’s Rahab?” 

“She was a whore in the bible. And, believe it or not, she was one  of the ancestors of Jesus. So I thought, well, if  a whore is worthy enough  to be related to the Son of God… ya know?”
Crystal said, “Makes sense.” Then added, “You are a mother.” 

Deloris  looked at her as if to ask, “What do you mean?” 

“Those girls? ‘Your girls’. That’s what you call them. ‘Your girls’. For whatever reasons you’re their mother now.” 

Deloris  shook  her  head,  not  feeling  much  like  a  good  mother. 

Crystal was ready. “My unit was attached to the Sayeret Matkal for the IDF. We were deep behind enemy lines, trying to  pull out hostages. Had intelligence they were being held in a bunker under this  madrasa  –   some kind of school, abandoned. Five of us went in tight, no resistance. Recon  suggested the hostages were tucked in a corner behind a vault door. I had point…” She trailed off, the tragedy ever  fresh. “I gripped the handle of that door, the nose of my IAR straight, and  soon as I pulled back... my arm was ripped from my body. I knew that because when  I came to with the door laying over me, I was staring  at it across the room,  along with the bodies of my  entire unit.” 

Deloris gave her  a moment before speaking. “They killed the hostages just to kill your  unit?”

“Never were any hostages. Our intel was compromised. The operation was  a trap.” 

“Shit. Crystal, I’m so sorry.” 

“That’s the thing.  I’m not sorry. I would still walk down into that bunker. I would still give  my arm  -- I would give my life  –  if there was even a  slight chance I could save a life. I didn’t join the  military to kill. That’s what I want people to know. I  don’t regret a thing. There are people in this world bent on evil, and they have to be stopped.” 

The  garage  door  at  Carl’s  house  slowly  rose and broke their conversation.  Light from within  was cast on the pavement of the driveway.

Crystal  lowers her seat. “Get down.” 

Deloris lowered her  own seat and ducked. 

Carl’s  car  pulled  out  of  the  garage.  Half  way down  the  driveway  it  jerked  to  a  stop.  It  sat  there motionless, running, brake-lights on. The garage door  closed and the car resumed down the driveway. It pulled out into the street and drove  off. 

Crystal  and  Deloris  readjusted  their  seats.  Crystal turned the car over and followed after Carl. “Let’s see what he’s up to, shall we?” 

They drove out of the suburbs for about twenty minutes and into the nearby city. Crystal  and  Deloris  watched  Carl’s  car  pull  into the drive-through  of an all-night fast-food joint called “Burger Girl”, famously locally for never being closed. In fact, since they opened the only day they had ever been closed was for kitchen repairs caused by a grease fire. A banner proudly displayed read: WE NEVER CLOSE.  

Crystal  hung  back,  careful  not  to  be  spotted.  Carl made his  order, picked it up,  paid  for  it,  and  drove  off.  Crystal followed. 

Back at his house Carl pulled into the driveway with the garage  door  opening.  The  car  pulled  into  the  garage  and  the door rolled down behind  it. 

Deloris and Crystal watched the garage door  close. Deloris asked, “What’s he doing?” 

Crystal said, “He made us.” 


“Unfamiliar car parked in the neighborhood,” she said.  “He must’ve seen us before he pulled out. Can’t  let him see us again.” 

“Well, shit. What  now?” 

Crystal  drove her  car  up  to  a  curb  behind another vehicle and shut it off. She said, “Now we wait.” 

Dawn passed. Deloris was asleep, unaware Crystal remained alert watching Carl’s house, which seemed empty. She yawned and looked in the rearview mirror to see a patrol vehicle pull up.  

“Damn it.” 

Deloris stirred in the passenger seat and Crystal nudged her. 

Groggy, Deloris asked, “What is it?”

“Wake up.” 

Deloris turned in the seat to see an officer get out and approach. “Shit. Are we in trouble?” 

Crystal said, “Relax. We’re not doing anything illegal.” 

The cop walked up and Crystal was already rolling the window down. He said, “Good morning.” 


“Been sitting here awhile?” 

Crystal said, “We’re waiting on a friend.” 

He nodded. “Yeah. See some I.D. Both of you.” 

Deloris was nervous handing over her ID. She did not like cops. The cop took both their IDs and walked back to his vehicle, where he stepped in behind the wheel. Deloris shook her leg, a nervous habit. 

Crystal spoke calmly. “We’re okay.” 

“Cops don’t like me.” 

“Everyone’s got a past,” Crystal said. “He’s just going to run us off.” 

Deloris and Crystal noticed that the garage door at Carl’s house was opening. Deloris cursed under her breath. “Fuck.” The garage door finished opening and for a few breathless seconds they watched nothing come out. 

A second patrol car arrived, Deloris cursed again. It pulled up next to the first. Both cops stepped out onto the street. Momentarily the first cop walked back to Crystal and returned their IDs. His newly arrived partner walked behind her car and stood at the trunk. 

The cop at her window said, “Here ya go.” Then asked, “Mind opening the trunk?” 

“Sure,” Crystal said, “but let me tell you what’s going on. I’m an investigator, former military. So I’ve got registered firearms back there.” 

The cop at her trunk watched it open and saw that inside were a few handguns and one M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. His eyes widened. He pulled out his sidearm and walked around to the passenger side.

Crystal made certain her hands were visible on the wheel and said, “Detective Eastman in Missing Persons can confirm. Peter Eastman.” 

The second cop, not yet raising his sidearm, told Deloris, “Get out of the car.” 

Deloris, not shocked but nervous, asked, “What?” 

The cop on Crystal’s side of the car asked his backup, “What’s up?” The second cop gestured toward the trunk. “Take a look.” He walked back to the trunk to see what he thought of as a drug-lord cache of weapons and drew his own sidearm. He ordered crystal. “Out of the car.” 

Deloris and Crystal complied. In the driveway they both saw Carl’s car now slowly pull out of the garage and come to a stop. 

The second cop pulled out his cuffs and shackled Deloris. Deloris sighed, expecting the worst. If this was an arrest the House of Rahab would be closed. She held back angry tears. She looked over at Crystal, who was also being cuffed. 

“I’ve got license and registration,” Crystal said.  

The cop arresting her indicated Deloris and said, “She’s got priors...” He then indicated the IAR and said,“...and that’s an assault weapon.” 

As they were being politely assisted into the first cop’s vehicle Carl’s car pulled out into the street and drove off. Deloris imagined she heard laughter.  

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