Casualties of Pretty Things -- Chapter 8
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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.
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?”
“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?”
“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.
Deloris stirred in the passenger seat and Crystal nudged her.
Groggy, Deloris asked, “What is it?”
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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