Casualties of Pretty Things -- Chapter Seven
Previously: Deloris runs the House of Rahab, a women's shelter for young women with troubled pasts and prostitution. Her best friend Jolene left her husband and with no where to go, she brought her daughter Cybil to stay at the shelter until they could get on their feet. Deloris came to love Cybil as much as the other girls she cares for at Rahab, perhaps more. She learned Cybil's father had been raping her and it broke her heart. With the help of Deloris the healing process had started, but when Jolene suddenly died she feared her father was responsible and would soon come after her. She ran away and Deloris has been looking for her since. Now, there may be some hope.
A car pulled up outside the House of Rahab and shut off. Crystal, the sister of Bob, stepped out. A war veteran with an amputated arm and a prosthesis in its place, her face was hardened. The arm itself was decorated with military tattoos. She walked up to the door and knocked.
In the kitchen it was a busy morning. It hosted six young women and a few of their children. Now that Tiff had been evicted there were only five women, not including Deloris: Amber, Lucretia, Penelope, Nelly and her infant son Diego, Sienna and her toddler daughter Valerie, and Maria and her infant son Micah, who were currently out of the room. They were all going about the business of making breakfast and feeding the children.
Deloris hovered over numerous files and confirmed the day’s assignments with everyone. She looked down at the time on her phone. She said, “Sienna, you’ve got an interview at 10:30. Better get a move on.”
Sienna said, “I have to take Valerie, I’m not sure—”
Deloris knew better than to let her start making excuses. She said, “Amber’s going with you. She can watch Valerie. Doubt they’re gonna start you today.”
Amber played with baby Valerie. “I got you, yes I do. Yes I do.”
Deloris called out the next assignment. “Nelly, someone’s gotta do the shopping today. Can you and Lucretia handle that?”
Nelly looked over at Lucretia, who looked back to Deloris.
Lucretia said, “We need the truck.”
“Truck’s D-O-A,” said Deloris. “You can use my car.”
She handed the keys over to Nelly, who said, “Yes!”
Deloris warned her: “You will log every mile and drive as if your life depends on it.”
Lucretia asked, “Can we shop for ourselves?”
“Do you have money to shop for yourselves?”
Nelly said, “I do.”
Lucretia said, “Deloris, come on. You can’t send me out to shop and not give me something for the trouble. I need a new shirt for work.”
“I’ll give you enough to buy a shirt. Shit, girl. Didn’t ask for no drama.”
The girls laughed at “mama drama”.
Deloris moved on to Maria. She said, “Maria, you and Micah have an appointment with the obstetrician at—"
She looked up to see Maria was not in the kitchen.
“Where’s Maria? Maria!”
Maria walked into the kitchen holding Micah, looking tired. Behind her Crystal followed her in.
Maria said, “Visitor, boss. Say she got an appointment. I need coffee.”
Deloris rose from the table and looked at the time again. She walked over to Crystal. She said, “Crystal! Yes. Thank you for coming.”
The two shook hands. Deloris could not help but notice that Crystal bore no family resemblance at all to Bob.
Crystal thought she may be intruding. “Bad time?”
“Not at all,” Deloris apologized. “I just forgot the time. Let’s go to my office.”
Before Deloris led Crystal into her office she turned back to Maria, who waited at the coffee pot. Deloris told her, “There’s a guy coming at one to fix the water heater. I need you here for that.”
Maria nodded and Deloris walked out of the kitchen with Crystal. From the hall she called out, “And clean the kitchen!”
The girls left behind at the table whispered to one another about Crystal’s prosthetic arm.
Deloris and Crystal walked into the front office and Crystal took a seat. Deloris feigned cleaning up.
“Sorry ‘bout the mess.”
Crystal did not mind. She said, “Not a problem. Looks like you got better things to do around here than clean.”
“Yeah, they keep me busy.”
Deloris kept trying to avert her eyes away from Crystal’s prosthetic arm.
Crystal held up the prosthetic and said, “Souvenir from Palestine.”
Deloris flushed. “Sorry. That’s rude of me. I’m sure you get that all the time.”
Deloris took advantage of the tension being released and got a good look at the prosthetic, and the tattoos.
“Not a problem,” Crystal said. “At least not for me.”
“It’s cool. I love the ink.” She shrugged in observance of her own tattoos. “Obviously.”
“Gives people something to stare at.”
Deloris looked up from the prosthetic and directly into Crystal’s eyes. She said, “I do notice things. That’s why I was wondering why you and your brother don’t look like you and your brother.”
Crystal was amused at the way Deloris phrased her observation. She answered, “I’m adopted.”
“Ah. Well, mark me down for not noticing the obvious in my noticing of things.”
Deloris sat. She asked, “So, what did Bob tell you?”
Crystal was quick to answer. “Says you need to find Cybil.”
Deloris ran a finger over the frame of one of Cybil’s pictures. She said, “Yeah. Cybil. Police can’t do dick right now, so he gave me your number. Can you do anything?”
Crystal had an answer. Deloris could see it. But she wanted to probe. She said, “Well, why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Deloris handed Crystal a picture of herself with Jolene and Cybil, and said, “Cybil and her mom, Jolene, came here more than two years ago, after Cybil’s dad was convicted of raping his little girl.”
Deloris waited for a reaction. Crystal remained quiet, letting her talk, examining the picture.
Deloris went on. “Bastard was a doctor, like a real high-paid surgeon. They could’ve been taken care of but Jolene didn’t want anything to do with him, didn’t want him to be able to contact Cybil, so she divorced him, gave up everything and came here.”
Crystal gave the picture back to Deloris. She took it and held onto it. She said, “This really wasn’t the program for them. All my girls are former prostitutes, addicts. But after I heard their story I couldn’t turn them away. Especially not Cybil.”
A cold question came. “Why not?”
Deloris held up a wrist where Crystal could see a faded scar. She said, “My dad used to do the same thing to me. I fell so deep in despair I tried cutting myself. Did it wrong, of course. Then I just walked out of the hospital and never went home.”
“That’s pretty rough.”
“Four months in I knew I had to keep them. Like, adopt them. If I could I would. That’s how close we were. Jolene… she was my best friend. And Cybil?”
Deloris did not finish.
“That’s okay. You don’t have to. I get it. Just tell me what made Cybil run off.”
Deloris choked back tears. “Few weeks ago, Jolene was headed into work, standing at a bus stop, just up the street. Didn’t even see it coming. The bus hopped the curb, and that was it.”
Deloris cried. Crystal tried to console her.
“Somehow Cybil got it in her head her dad killed her mom. She was terrified. Like, he made a promise to kill her and kept his word, then he was coming after her.”
Crystal asked, “Do you have any reason to think she was wrong?”
“Her dad’s a pedophile but I don’t think he’s a murderer. And I think he’s still in prison.”
“No,” Crystal said, “not actually.”
“Over a year.”
Deloris stared at her.
“And I do think he’s trying to find Cybil.”
“The fuck? Cops couldn’t tell me?”
Crystal explained. “Detective Eastman in Missing Persons got a new case.”
She pulled out her phone and scrolled through the gallery. She said, “I need you to prepare yourself, Deloris. This won’t be easy.”
Deloris braced for the worse. “Oh, God!”
“Description matches Cybil.”
Crystal handed Deloris the phone. She looked at image of Denise and Jamal standing in an alley, arguing. Relieved, she said, “That’s not Cybil.”
Deloris scrolled through the gallery and came to an image of Jamal struggling with a blurred figure of Carl.
“You ever see any pictures of Cybil’s father?”
“I… No, I don’t think so.”
“Bob said he was told the boyfriend reported his girlfriend missing. Said she was kidnapped. I think—”
“Wait,” Deloris said. She had caught something in the pics she recognized.
“What is it?”
Deloris handed the phone back to Crystal, fixed on the image she recognized. She said, “I know that restaurant. It’s one of our favorites.”
Crystal examined the image, then glanced back up at Deloris. She said, “This is not a coincidence.”
“Right. I get how this could lead us to her dad, but how do we find Cybil?”
“It gets worse, Deloris.”
Crystal cued up a few more pics on her phone.
“Worse? Cybil’s out there alone, frightened. Her freak dad is kidnapping, probably killing. What’s worse?”
Crystal handed her the phone again. She said, “Six weeks ago another girl matching the same description went missing.”
Deloris looked over the blurry images of Penny struggling with Carl in the empty parking lot of a high school at night. “Oh, my god. He is trying to find her.”
“I think he’s acting out some fantasy. Those girls? His victims? They’re Cybil’s substitutes until he can find her.”
“We’re not gonna let that happen.”
“I’d say we’re working with a limited time-frame. He’s established a pattern. Every six to four weeks he needs his fix.”
Deloris exploded with emotion. “What about Cybil? We have to find her before he does!”
She paced the floor, sobbing, trying to control her emotions. Crystal approached her, placed her hand on Deloris’ shoulder.
“This is probably one of the worse things you’ll hear, but you have to hear it. You know there’s a possibility she’s already dead.”
Deloris looked at her, distraught.
“But get your shit together. If she’s alive she needs you.”
Deloris took a moment, nodded her understanding.
“There’s no way I’m going to let that son-of-a-bitch get to her before we do.”
Deloris pulled herself together. She said, “I’m gonna hold you to that.”
Crystal took her hand. “Deal. Now, tell me everything you know about Cybil’s father.”