Casualties of Pretty Things -- Chapter Nine
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.
Cybil rummaged through the trash behind the restaurant where her father Carl abducted Denise, familiar ground for her. She found some partially eaten food and bit into it. She chewed it slowly, and swallowed hard. At her feet was her backpack, which she bent down to open and pull out a nearly empty plastic bottle of water. She observed it, considered, then went back to the trash and searched for what else she could find. She did not notice that at the end of the alley the front end of her father’s car pulled up.
When she was finished she took up the water bottle and swallowed what was left. Behind her Bertha demanded, “What the hell are you doin’, girl?”
Cybil turned, surprised to see Bertha staring at her. “Christ, Bertha. You’re gonna have to stop sneakin’ up on me like that.”
“I have told you a thousand times already, you ain’t need to dig through trash. We got plenty of kitchens ‘round here, all feedin’ the homeless for free.”
Cybil breathed a sigh of relief and wandered away from the restaurant, away from the direction of Carl’s car at the opposite end. She said, “I’m not goin’ to a shelter and I’m not goin’ to a kitchen. Ask me a bunch of questions I don’t wanna answer.”
Bertha said, “Damn, Cybil. Everytime you talk ‘bout someone askin’ you questions you look like you seen God. And not in the, ‘Oh, praise Jesus!’ sorta way, but the, ‘Holy shit, don’t take me now!’ sorta way.”
She followed after Cybil, walking down the alley. Both dug through the trash bins of various businesses.
Cybil said, “God’s got better stuff to do than showin’ up to give me a heart-attack. Unlike someone else I know.”
“Don’t be too sure. Ever tell you I seen him?”
Unseen by his daughter, Carl’s car pulled off and out of sight.
Cybil rolled her eyes at Bertha and continued on to the next bin. She said, “Bertha, you are an index of stories. But, no. You’ve never told me that one.”
“I ain’t kiddin’ ‘bout this. Got no witnesses, but it’s true.”
“You seen God? Like, God in the flesh? You could just touch him and feel him?”
A car that was not Carl’s turned into the alley. It was a far better class than what you’d expect for this side of town. Bertha and Cybil turned away from being seen straight on, careful to remain invisible to the driver. It passed slowly, as if examining them, then pulled out of the alley. When it was out of sight Bertha and Cybil went back in the direction they were walking.
Bertha said, “You damn right, I seen him in the flesh. I didn’t touch, but he was real.”
They continued on down another alley, having walked a few blocks. They were walking toward a dilapidated expansive warehouse. Bertha stopped, disturbed, and gazed around to examine the buildings. “Where we at?”
Graffiti caught her attention. She examined a number of tags.
Cybil said, “Twenty-second street.”
“That’s not... something ain’t right.”
“What did he look like?”
Bertha has lost her train of thought. “What did who look like?”
“Really?” Cybil said. “You gonna go all scattered brain on me now?”
Bertha stepped quick to the back of the abandoned warehouse and searched for an entry. “You interrupted my memory process. I just gotta think a minute. I’ll tell ya.”
“Take your time.”
The nice car that passed them before returned at the end of the alley.
Bertha forced an entry open from the edge of a plywood-covered window. “Come on. In here.”
“Just come on. We can’t stay out here.”
Cybil followed Bertha into the abandoned warehouse. Inside was a world of industrial mystery. The two set about exploring but Bertha was tired. She found a good spot to sit and watch the alley.
“This is good. Right here.”
From her spot she watched the car drive down the alley, very slow.
Cybil prompted Bertha to go on with her story. “What did God look like? Long white beard, or glowing eyes like fire?”
Bertha told the story with her voice lowered, her eyes fixed out the window: “I was asleep, dreamin’ ‘bout eating these fudge popsicles me and my brother used to eat on hot summer days. Musta been a hot night.”
“Oh, yeah. I could taste ‘em in my dream. Then I could feel the light. That’s what woke me up. I didn’t see it, I felt it. So I turnt over. We was all sleeping against a wall, seven of us, like this alley here.”
Cybil watched Bertha closely. She searched her face for signs of deception or senility. Her father was a man of science. Facts are facts and nothing overturns a fact, regardless of desires or beliefs. Her mother had only recently been open to what she called “spiritual alternatives”, if there were a so-called “spirit” at all. All bits of data now. She questioned everything.
Bertha said, “Didn’t nobody else wakeup. I looked over and saw this big empty box start to rise. But it wasn’t empty at all. There was light, like the light was inflating it. Then inside the box this man took shape. A fully grown man, naked as the day a baby is born, skin all new and shiney.”
Cybil waited for more data from Bertha. It didn’t come. Bertha kept staring out the window. The car outside in the alley came to a stop just at the back of the abandoned warehouse. Three men climbed out of the car. Two were bodyguards she recognized as Dom and Nico, which only meant what she had been worrying about was now happening. The other man stepping out of the car was a pimp known only as Money, concerned way too much about his appearance. Bertha swallowed her fear and bowed her head.
Cybil did not know what was about to happen. She asked, “What else happened, Bertha?”
Bertha ruffled through her clothes and produced a knife. She whispered, “Shh. I’m afraid I’ll have to finish the story later. Right now, we got company.”
Cybil took a look out the window herself. “Who is that?”
“You know all that stuff I been teaching you ‘bout the streets?”
Bertha said, “I let you down. Sorry. My scattered brains forgot all about the 18th Street Mafia.”
“Territory from 18th to 34th. And ain’t nobody like you and me welcome. Well, maybe you, but that ain’t no life you want.”
Down in the alley the two bodyguards were looking for a way into the warehouse.
Cybil looked through her backpack. She found a small club made from the handle of a broomstick and pulled it out. It wasn’t going to be much help.
Bertha motioned to the pimp down below. “See that fool down there think he the walkin’ embodiment of perfection?”
“Is he the gang leader?
“Nah. Ain’t no real leader. He just they pimp. Calls himself Money. Recruits the girls and collects the cash.”
Cybil realized the danger they were in, what the pimp had stopped for. “What are we gonna do, Bertha?”
She stood and said, “I’m gonna go down there, make like I’m outta my head, don’t know where I am. And you’re gonna get the hell outta here.”
Cybil rejected the plan. “I can’t just leave you—”
“Cybil, girl, if Money finds you he gonna hurt you, fuck you, and put you to work.”
“Bertha, there’s gotta be—”
“Ain’t no other way. Money don’t want me. I’m too old and been fucked ‘til I’m wore out. He gonna look at me and turn right around. But I ain’t gonna let him take a look at you. Now go on.”
Bertha jumped up and went into her act, making loud noises. Cybil stared at her, uncertain.
The two bodyguards forced the plywood from off the window. Money could hear Bertha inside. He strode in and ordered Dom and Nico to, “Get in here and get that bitch.” Both climbed in through the window.
Bertha was wandering around, mumbling to herself, throwing things around. Somewhere in the shadows Cybil watched, refusing to leave her only friend alone.
Dom was the first to see her. “Hey! What you doin’ in here?”
Nico was right behind him. “This 18th street property. You trespassin’.”
Bertha ignored the bodyguards. She went on ranting, nothing coherent.
Outside, Carl’s car rolled up next to Money’s much nicer car and came to a stop. He stepped out and quietly closed the car door.
Behind Dom and Nico Money stood by, careful not to touch anything.
His bodyguards accosted the apparent out of her mind Bertha.
Dom might have laughed. He said, “Hey, c’mon. Shut up and get over here.”
Nico grabbed at her. She took a swing with her knife, just missing him. “Hey!”
Bertha yelled, “Who the hell are you?!”
Nico warned her. “Watch it, bitch!”
Dom now laughed. “She cuttin’, Nico. Look out, man!”
Nico pulled out a handgun. “Shut up, Dom. Bitch gonna be laid out.”
Bertha said, “Get away from me. Rape!”
Nico saod, “Rape? Bitch, who gonna fuck you?”
Bertha kept on. “Help! Rape!”
Money had enough of the show. “You two stop playing and get her over here.”
Bertha swung with the knife. Nico knocked the knife away and sent it carelessly through the air into the shadows. Dom grabbed Bertha and subdued her. He and Nico drug her screaming to Money, who said, “Shut her up.”
Nico slapped Bertha. Her head recoiled. Dom covered her mouth.
Cybil squatted down and covered her own mouth, trying not to cry out, watching her friend struggle.
Money said, “Alright, let her go.”
Dom released Bertha and Money punched her in the gut. She fell and bent over in agony, gasping. Money leaned down and got a close look at her. he said, “Hold up. Stand her up.”
They picked Bertha up to stand again.
Money said, “Bertha?”
Bertha had a lot of fight in her. “Fuck you!”
She spat in Money’s face and laughed. Nico smacked her hard. Money, unphased, laughed with her and wiped his face. He said, “Yeah, that’s the bitch I know.”
Cybil was panicked, breathing hard. It was too late to run now.
Money interrogated Bertha. “The fuck you doin’ here, Bertha?”
She lied. “Lookin’ for a fix, Money. Can I get a hit?”
Money smacked her. Dom and Nico laughed. Bertha spat blood. Money said, “Bitch, you ain’t too old to choke on a dick. Do not make me repeat myself.”
Bertha tried again. “I’m runnin’ from the damn police. You know they ain’t come down here.”
Money said, “Oh, you got metro problems? Yeah, I might believe that... if Dom and Nico hadn’t seen you with some new ass just ten minutes ago.”
Cybil’s eyes reddened. She shook while trying to make her way toward Bertha’s knife without being seen or heard.
Bertha said, “Shit, Money. You know I don’t need no little bitch tagalong.”
Nico and Dom laughed. Money shot them a look to shut the fuck up. He looked back at Bertha, serious. He said, “Bertha, do not make me look for her.”
Bertha struggled against Dom and Nico. “Let me go!”
Dom grabbed one of Bertha’s arms and twisted it behind her back. She cried out in pain.
Cybil picked up the knife with quiet hands and pulled it close to herself.
Money said, “Nico, take a walk. Bring me something pretty.”
Nico was happy. “Oh, don’t mind if I do.” He took off jogging through the warehouse, his gun before him acting as a guide. Somewhere else in the shadows a figure held a scalpel in hand. Bertha and Money’s voices were heard from a distance in those shadows.
Bertha said, “You know what, Money? It’s cute you think I’m this stupid.”
“Yeah, keep on talkin’,” Money said. “You gonna find out how cute I can be.”
Nico was coming. Cybil was able to see what was happening but she had to be ready for him. And someone else was there. She watched him approach a figure she couldn’t make out. Someone from a rival gang?
Nico hopped around, excited, nearing the lone figure in the shadows. He taunted his prey. He said, “C’mon, now, sweetie. I had a good look at you out there. You fine. We gonna make you nice and comfortable, get you cleaned up and fed. Won’t nobody hurt you. Just give us a little taste of that sweetness.”
Nico turned into the shadows with the lone figure standing there, looked at the threat just two feet in front of him. Carl’s face lit up with a smile. Nico said,
“Who the fuck are—”
Cybil’s face was struck with the realization her father had found her.
In one motion Carl stepped forward, grabbed the gun with one hand and swung the scalpel with the other hand at Nico’s throat. Blood spattered in a stream. The helpless bodyguard gripped at his throat and tried to lash out at Carl. He fell to the floor with a thud, struggled before succumbing and unable to call out to Dom and Money for help.
Carl looked down as Nico’s eyes stared up into his. He tucked the gun into his pants.
At the center of the warehouse Bertha, Money and Dom all heard the distant thud. Bertha looked concerned, thinking the worst had happened.
Dom said, “Sounds like he got her.”
Bertha couldn’t stand it. “No... No! Cybil!”
Cybil wasn’t dead. She backed herself into a corner and cried out, alerting the others. That was a mistake. She covered her mouth.
Money grabbed Bertha by the back of the hair. He told Dom, “Go check it out.”
Dom ran off in the direction of the thud.
Bertha fought back. “Fuck you, money. Fuck you!”
Money smacked Bertha and thew her to the floor.
“Shut up! Shit. We givin’ her a better life. Show some gratitude. You pissed ‘cause you can’t work anymore? Don’t want someone else doin’ better for they-selves? You just old, bitch. Get over it.”
Out of sight, Dom called, “Money!”
Money answered the voice. “What, Dom?”
Dom stood over the body of Nico lying in a pool of blood. He said, “Nico’s down.”
Money said, “What?”
Dom didn’t want to step in the blood. He wanted to get as far from this shit as he could. He said, “Think he dead.”
Money knew Dom did not react well to blood. He said, “Look, just keep your shit together. Find me that bitch and bring her here. And be careful.” Then he pulled Bertha up by the hair. “I wanna be reasonable, Bertha. I can understand she scared. Maybe think we gonna hurt her. But she young, so I know killin’ my boy Nico was your shit idea.”
“She’s just a kid,” Bertha said. “She’s scared. Leave her alone.”
“Nuh-uh. She’s pussy. Pussy is money. And money is my money. Do not use my name in vain, bitch.”
Bertha screamed, kicked, punched -- whatever she could to get away from Money. It was useless. Money punched her in the ribs and forced her to her knees. He said, “I’m givin’ you one chance to make this right. A life for a life. You give me that little money-makin’ pussy and your debt for the life of Nico is paid in full.”
Bertha tried to reply but could not gather enough breath to say, “fuck you”.
“Now call out to her.” He waited but Bertha was quiet. “Do it!”
Dom was about to pass Cybil, unseen. She panicked, gripped the club and the knife, fumbled with both and dropped the club. Dom whirled and saw Cybil alone in the corner. He tried to speak calmly to her. He said, “I don’t know how you got the drop on Nico, but this ain’t no hide and seek.”
Cybil held up the knife in hopeful defense. Dom walked unafraid toward her, but slowly. He pulled out a handgun and showed it to her. He said, “I know you ain’t stupid. Drop the—”
Cybil screamed. She watched her father leap out of the shadows and slash Dom’s throat, spattering blood. The gun was dropped to the floor and a shot rang out.
Bertha and Money were startled. Bertha took her chance and tore away from Money, running off. She cried out, “Cybil!”
Money ran after her. “Shit!” He pulled out his own gun and fired at Bertha, sending the bullet into her back and clean through her chest. Bertha didn’t feel it. She ran on toward that little girl. Had to get to her; had to get her outta here; get her to a better life than this shit. But her legs gave out. She collapsed.
Cybil stared at the gun in front of her while Carl eyed the writhing body on the floor. Dom, gurgled on blood, spat, and fought for his last breath of life, reaching upward toward his killer. Carl stood silent until Dom was completely still. Then he stepped over the body and looked at Cybil, who was now standing with the gun fixed on her father. She held it with shaking hands. Carl slipped one foot forward and Cybil threatened with a motion.
This was not happening how he hoped. Carl said, “Ah, baby girl. You’ve been making friends I see.”
She did not want to hear his voice, and had only one question. “How did you find me?”
“That’s it? That’s the question you have for me? No hello, daddy? Glad you found me?”
He slipped forward again.
She warned: “Stay away.”
Money cautiously made his way through the shadows of the warehouse, dodging imagined hazards and calling out with profane threats.
“Whoever’s in here, that’s yo’ ass, motherfucker. When I find you I own you.”
Back where she lay Bertha groaned with agony, listening to Money. She crawled and pulled herself up from the floor. Looking down at her chest she saw a great deal of blood flowing out of her. She prayed God would give her just a little more time to kill that motherfucker Money.
“Where you at, goddammit?!” Money yelled.
Bertha pushed herself forward into the shadows. “Hold on, Cybil... I’m comin’.”
Cybil and her father listened to Money. Carl wasn’t worried. He said, “Your mother never moved out of state. I paid a lawyer a little something extra to keep tabs on you. Spent just about everything I ever made. I figured she would’ve at least moved out of the city. When she died—”
She wasn’t going to listen to his lies. “You killed her!”
Both Money and Bertha could now close in on them.
Carl raised his hands as a show of faith and kept them there. He said, “I did not kill your mother. C.P.S. should’ve made it clear that your mother was killed by a city bus.”
“That’s... A bus? That’s not true. You killed her.”
He tried to reason with her. “My lawyer showed me the proof. After that, I knew I had to find you.”
“Baby girl, listen—”
“Don’t call me that!”
He said, “You’re experiencing a lot of grief, I understand. And I know it may be impossible for you to trust me after what I did to you. But, I’ve recently taken measures to insure nothing like that ever happens again. Took me a few to get it just right, but there won’t be any more problems, I promise you that.”
The hell was he talking about? “What?”
“You need your father right now, Cybil. All I want to do is take you home and give you a new life. We can start all over.”
Cybil’s eyes narrowed. “You just killed those men. How can I trust anything you say?”
He said, “Oh, I’m not going to apologize for that. I would kill anyone to protect you.”
Money stomped in, his gun fixed on Carl. “You the motherfucker killed Dom and Nico?”
Carl was annoyed. He turned to see Money coming up behind him. Now there were two guns pointed at him. Cybil did not lower her own.
“Oh, hello,” Carl acknowledged. “Uh, yes. I killed your men. Dom and Nico, apparently.”
Money wanted what was his. “What’s this shit? Some family drama? You her old man? That’s my bitch now.”
Carl said, “That is my daughter, yes. And the only thing you are to her is another dead thug.”
Money knew this fucker was another idiot boasting his white privilege. “Motherfucker, you must have balls made of steel, talk to me that way. Shit. You know what I’m gonna do to her now?”
Carl and Cybil saw Bertha approaching Money from behind.
Money demanded an answer. “Huh? I said, you know what I’m gonna do to her?!”
Carl reserved his annoyance. He answered and said, “I would imagine it is your intention to shoot me, probably in the chest. Then you will rape her and force me to watch as I die.”
Bertha was breathing hard, closing in.
Money was absorbed with pride and vengeance. He told Carl, “That’s a good motherfuckin’ idea.”
“That’s not going to work out for you,” Carl said.
Money laughed. “Oh, it’s not?”
“I would caution you to have a look around,” Carl started. “You entered this facility three strong. Yourself and two bodyguards. I easily overcame your partners, leaving yourself unprotected.”
Money baulked. “Unprotected?” He waved his gun. “What the fuck is this?”
Carl said matter-of-factly, “That’s the gun I’m going to kill you with.”
This was now tiresome. Money moved forward, pulled the hammer of the gun back, and—
Bertha jumped atop Money and the two grappled against one another. Carl sprung forward at Money while he was entangled, grabbed the gun and twisted it inward towards Money’s head. Money elbowed Bertha in the face, causing her to fall to the floor with a bloodied nose. Carl and Money struggled but Carl had the advantage and forced the gun close into Money’s face with just a little bit of joy on his own face. Money’s pride vanished. He briefly pleaded.
The gun went off and echoed through the warehouse like thunder. Gore exploded from the back of Money’s head and his face partially collapsed inward. Carl held Money’s loose body dangling for a moment and then dropped it, where blood flowed out beneath it. Carl observed the gun and then tucked it into his belt with the other gun.
He looked back to Cybil, who had lowered the gun she held and gazed at him with blank expression, defeated. He said, “A promise made is a promise kept.”
On the floor Bertha moaned. Cybil broke free of her fear-induced paralysis, dropped the gun altogether, and rushed to her, careful to stay out of her father’s reach.
“Bertha,” she cried. “I’m so sorry.”
Bertha looked up, dying, past Cybil, beyond anything earthbound.
Cybil looked up at her father to beg. “You have to help her.”
He knew what she was asking. “She’s pretty bad off.”
“You’re a doctor.”
Carl knelt down to examine Bertha. He pulled out a syringe, showed it to Cybil. “I brought this for you.”
She didn’t know what it was or how to reply.
He said, “If you cooperate nicely, if you come with me without any problems, I’ll give it to your friend.”
Cybil agreed to the terms. “Okay, yes. Please. Please, help her.”
Carl turned his attention to Bertha, who weakly resisted and choked on her own blood. He said, “I want you to know I appreciate you taking care of my daughter, and I don’t want you to suffer.” He injected her with the needle. “I can tell you’ve had an unfortunate life. There’s no reason your death can’t be painless.”
Cybil yelled at him. “What? No. You’re supposed to help her.”
“I am helping her.”
Bertha’s breathing slowed. She looked to Cybil. “I can see... God is with you.”
Cybil watched until Bertha’s eyes were still, helpless.
Carl quipped, “That was cryptic. Never know what the dying are going to say.”
“You said you brought that for me,” Cybil said, tears streaming.
Carl held up the empty syringe and then tucked it away. “You don’t think I was going to give you this whole thing? No. I just gave her an overdose. I would’ve given you only enough to calm your nerves.”
He stood up and Cybil backed away, reaching for the gun on the floor. He said, “Oh, come on. We had a deal. And haven’t you seen enough to know guns are not the answer?” He pulled out the two guns under his belt. “See? Look.” He tossed them away, not caring in which direction. Cybil picked up the gun and held it on her father again.
“Alright,” he said. “Let’s do this. If you’re going to shoot me do it now. But make it efficient and be sure I’m dead. Because I do not want to live without you in my life.”
Cybil tried to make her finger squeeze the trigger. She thought of letting the gun go but held onto it instead and dropped to the floor. She looked over at poor Bertha and thought of everyone she knew he killed. She thought of her mother. What would she want?
Carl walked over to her, unafraid of the gun, and said, “It’s alright. You can keep it.” Then he picked up his daughter and carried her away.
Minutes later a fire was burning inside the warehouse as Carl set blaze to Money’s car. He turned away from it, entered his own car, where Cybil was stoically waiting, gun still gripped tightly in her hand, and drove off down the alley. Behind them the fire grew.
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