Carol’s sunglasses filtered out the worst of the sunlight coming in through the diner’s windows. She wasn’t used to the brightness, not any more anyway. Too much time indoors. Too many nights awake and days asleep. The sunglasses protected her eyes. Maybe they could also hide the confusion she felt, that she feared was all too visible in her eyes. Carol was good at hiding her emotions but if anyone could see through her evasion, it was Wainwright. She was a practised undercover police officer, but so was he.
Nervously she twirled the straw in her lemonade, wondering how much longer the police captain would be. She wanted this meeting over with. Maybe he was having trouble finding the place. He shouldn’t, he’d chosen it after all. He chose every location they met, and rarely the same place twice. Carol looked around, wondering why he’d chosen this diner. She couldn’t see anything special about it. Clean tables, if a little chipped and battered, the wallpaper fading, once bright colours now pastel. At least the food being delivered to the patrons smelt okay. Nothing to draw attention to the place. Food not too good and not too bad, prices not too cheap and not too expensive. Nondescript, average, ordinary. Perhaps that was the point. Somewhere you hardly remembered, the images seeping away like water down the drain in the gutter outside. And with that any memories of anyone you’d seen in the diner. If nothing else wondering what Wainwright saw in the place held other thoughts at bay. Or failed to, now that the idea had wormed its way into her head.
Carol swallowed anxiously. A couple of days hadn’t given her enough time to come to terms with the weekend, what she’d done. She didn’t know if she ever could. The memories frightened and aroused her at the same time.
She glanced at the clock on the wall. Where was Wainwright? She wasn’t worried that he was late. Sometimes he kept her waiting, sometimes he was early. She didn’t know if he wasn’t that concerned with punctuality or deliberately avoided a set pattern to their meetings. It didn’t matter. She knew that he’d be here. She was much less certain about what would happen when he arrived. She remembered that she used to enjoy these meetings, teasing Wainwright with her revealing clothes and openly provocative behaviour. It wasn’t fun anymore. Keeping her secrets from Wainwright was getting harder and harder, Carol worried what he might see when he looked at her. Reading people was one of their skills and Wainwright was no fool. He’d edged close to the truth about her mental state. Far too close for Carol’s liking. If he realised what she truly felt about whoring there was no way he’d let her continue. And then she’d have to make a choice. She didn’t want to do that, feared where either choice led.
Worry about Wainwright, the uneasy realisation that eventually he would tell her to stop, was something she’d lived with since starting her new life. Although it seemed worse now, fear nibbling away at her facade of calm. She didn’t know if it was really getting harder to keep secrets from the police captain or whether it was simply that she had more to keep every time she met him. Memories of Patrick’s party flooded her mind, she couldn’t stop the clear recollections. How Patrick had flaunted her, how she’d flaunted herself. She knew how obvious it had been to everyone there what she was. It was pointless to deny how much she’d enjoyed it, the happy glow that came with the memories couldn’t be ignored. That was the problem. Even though she accepted her situation, knew how damaged she was, Carol worried about how far she was willing to go. She didn’t want to just be a whore. The policewoman was still there, part of her mind. She knew that eventually she’d have to choose and no matter how much she loved prostituting herself, how easy it was to give into temptation every time she thought about it, she knew which choice actually offered her a future.
At least, Carol told herself, she could still worry. And if she still worried that meant she had some control. If nothing bothered her then she would really be in trouble. She swallowed again, gnawing at her lower lip. Trouble? What had she been thinking? She’d had unprotected sex. Had hardly quibbled when Patrick had demanded it. If she was pregnant then she didn’t know what she would do. She could only hope that she wasn’t. Even if she wasn’t pregnant now, Patrick might refuse to go back to using protection. Carol didn’t trust herself to deny him next time he demanded what he’d had from her at his party. Perhaps she should go on the pill. It probably wasn’t a bad idea anyway, accidents, as Mrs Bowen had said to her once, did happen. But the concession reeked of defeat, too close to admitting that the next time Patrick wanted unprotected sex, she’d acquiesce again. Carol sighed, confessed to herself that she probably would. Sex and money and whatever a man wanted.
If Carol was right, and they found Karen and Laura at Conti’s brothel, then it would all be over. She’d have to go back to just being a policewoman. Wainwright wouldn’t accept anything else. Choosing between the two sides of her life was the last thing Carol wanted to do. Still, if she had to choose, she’d do the right thing. She knew what she was, knew where Copeland’s abuse had led her. The events of the weekend had made her think, forced her to realise where her current life could lead. No matter how much she enjoyed whoring, she didn’t want it to be all she ever was. She made herself remember all the times she had told herself that she wanted to be a policewoman. Tried to reassure herself that she could stop being a whore when she had to. She had to believe that she was strong enough.
Queasy feelings rippled through her stomach as Carol told herself it couldn’t be morning sickness. The rational part of her mind insisted that it was impossible, that you didn’t get nausea after only a few days, at least as far as she knew. Little reassurance came from the thought. She was used to stress, had dealt with it for years as an undercover officer. If what she was feeling was pure nerves, then it had never affected her like this. If it was doubt at her own resolve, her ability to give up whoring, then she didn’t want to think about that. None of the options offered any comfort. She needed to get herself under control. She couldn’t let Wainwright think anything was wrong. Carol could feel desire building, teasing at her mind, an empty feeling radiating from her pussy. She looked around the diner, wondering if she could get any of the men here to pay her for sex. Perhaps the worker in the corner, overalls creased and greased stained. Or the young man at the counter, uniform crisp but cheap, what was he, maybe some delivery boy? She was sure she could tempt either of them. She knew how to present herself, could quickly tell what a man wanted, coy or forward, innocent or knowing, how to tease and tempt.
Carol wasn’t going to do anything, neither the madam nor the police captain would approve of her moonlighting like that. That more whoring was her first thought when she needed some stress relief was too much. Giving it up when Karen and Laura were found was what she had to do. Go back to the life she’d had before. If she could.
The sound of Wainwright seating himself snapped Carol out of her reverie. He was in no hurry sitting down, pulling the chair back slowly before easing himself into it, his eyes never leaving Carol. She tried to school her features into something resembling a normal expression.
Wainwright shook his head slowly as Carol watched him, neither saying a word. So much hung in the air between them, so much unsaid, notes and bells waiting to be rung, slivers of glass, twinkling, waiting to cut the first who touched them. Carol could almost see them there, hovering, waiting for the words to be said that would bring their meaning to life. The creases on Wainwright’s face looked deeper than she remembered, shadows haunted his eyes. Instinct, something approaching normal human interaction, made Carol want to ask what was worrying him. But she feared that she knew the answer, that it was concern over her, what she was doing, that was etched into his features. The question went unasked, as she tried to ignore the churning feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t want to give him the chance to complain about what she was doing. She reached for one of the more innocuous of the images hovering in front of her.
“How’s the reception?” Carol asked, forcing herself to smile.
Wainwright looked at her for a moment, then relaxed, a little. Carol guessed he was pleased that she was asking about police work. That was what she’d intended.
“Good, we’re getting all three channels.” He paused a moment before continuing. “Do anything else interesting on the weekend?”
Carol could see the look in the captain’s eyes as he studied her. He was testing her. Wondering what her priorities were. Carol knew that she couldn’t tell him the truth, wasn’t even sure what it was. Was she a policewoman pretending to be a whore? Or a whore pretending to be a policewoman? She more than half suspected that Wainwright was thinking the latter, however much she wanted to believe it was the former. Whichever it was Carol was good at being someone that she wasn’t. She knew the answer that would satisfy Wainwright. She knew what the hidden depths behind his question were, had heard the sharpness in his tone.
She steered the conversation away from his suspicions. “Yes. I think I’ve got what we’re looking for.” Wainwright’s eyebrows shot up, but she hurried on before he could interrupt. “Joe Conti. I think they’re in a brothel he owns.” Carol kept her voice low so no-one else could hear, but she made sure the urgency she felt leaked into her voice.
“Sure as I can be.”
“Tell me what happened.”
Wainwright leant back as Carol told of him of Mandy and Tabitha, of what they’d said, of what Patrick had told her. She kept her voice low, making sure that no-one could overhear them.
After she finished Wainwright was silent for a few minutes, thinking. “Yeah,” he announced at length. “Sounds good.” He stopped and looked at Carol. “I want you out.”
A dark pit opened before Carol. She couldn’t believe what the police captain had said. He couldn’t ask that of her, not yet. If he pulled her out now then she’d have to stop whoring. She could stop when she wanted to, at least that was what Carol told herself, but now wasn’t the right time. Not yet, it was all wrong. Carol knew that she couldn’t just refuse the order, Wainwright would be too suspicious if she did. She needed time, she needed to think. She needed to stall him, at least.
“No, it’s too soon. If I disappear now, Patrick might get suspicious. We can’t risk that, not after I’ve just put those, umm, things in place.” She looked at Wainwright. If this had been any other assignment he would have never tried to pull her out like this. No-one suspected her. She wasn’t in any danger. All it would do was rouse suspicion, endanger everything they stood to gain. He had to see it. Whatever reason she had for refusing him, she knew that she was right. Wainwright would never end any other operation like this.
The police captain frowned, the furrows on his brow growing deeper, signs of the war going on in his mind. Carol held her breath as she waited for his reply, trying to follow his thoughts. He was evaluating the situation as he would any other assignment, looking for the threats to his people. He wouldn’t think it was physically dangerous, but mentally was another matter. She could tell that he feared that he was putting her more and more at risk of a breakdown the longer he let her keep going. Carol couldn’t dare tell him that she thought the reverse was true. That forcing her to the decision point was what might break her mental state. Right now, she feared that being able to whore was the only thing keeping her sane. A perverse and probably self-defeating sanity, but at least she could function as she was. No matter how certain she was that she’d be able to give up what she was doing, Carol wanted to put the moment off for as long as possible. Even if just the thought of stopping made her feel like she was being asked to cut off a limb, it was still her decision and she could make it. She didn’t want to end up as Judy had, locked in a mental hospital, her need to be paid for sex tearing her apart.
The policewoman in the back of Carol’s mind was telling her to make the decision now. Walk away with Wainwright and never look back. The whore was tempting her, reminding her good the sex was, how much pleasure she felt every time she was used. How much she wanted this. The policewoman glowered back, told Carol that if she wanted it that bad then she was an addict and maybe cold turkey was her best chance. That even ending up in hospital wouldn’t be so bad if they could cure her. Carol refused to listen to either image. She wasn’t an addict, no matter how good whoring made her feel. She’d make the decision when to stop and to hell with the images in her head.
“Okay,” Wainwright said at length, resignation tinging his voice. “Okay, I’ll give it a bit longer. But as soon as we know whether the girls are at Conti’s, that’s it. No-one can do what you’re doing forever and not break.” Wainwright never called what she was doing ‘whoring’ or ‘prostitution’, it was always ‘it’ or ‘what you’re doing’. Hedges and prevarications, ways to talk without talking, avoid confronting reality.
Carol’s mind was spinning as she finally released the breath she’d been holding. It was a reprieve, but it wasn’t open ended. She knew that she’d be forced to a decision, sooner than she wanted. For now all she wanted was something to stop her nerves jangling and make the ache in her head go away.
Wainwright stood up, Carol thought he was about to leave. Instead he leant over the table, his voice low, too low for anyone else to hear, “You hear me detective?” There was a force in the question that she didn’t want to confront. The words rumbled up from somewhere deep, the sound like stones grinding against each other.
Carol nodded. Their faces were so close, Wainwright staring at her. She knew that gaze, had grown familiar with it over the last couple of years, but that didn’t rob it of any power. She remembered so many times, in his office, in the field, when he’d looked at her like that, captain making sure his officer knew exactly what he meant. But somehow the word detective seemed wrong, something that no longer applied to her. Just another role, as when one of her Johns had her dress up. Office worker. School girl. Teacher. Girl next door. Librarian. Pretend to be something she wasn’t. Just roles to cover what she really was. The thought that detective was just another mask for the whore ate at her. Desperately Carol hoped that she was wrong, told herself she was still a detective, but the feeling lacked certainty. Wainwright’s steady gaze magnified her fears, maybe she was just a whore now, pretending to be a police officer. She couldn’t let Wainwright sense her doubt. Keeping her features neutral, not showing any of the turmoil she felt, she simply said “Yeah, I hear you.” And hoped that when Karen and Laura were found and she made herself give up prostituting herself that she could find the police officer in the wreck of her mind.
Carol stared critically at her image in in the large vanity mirror she shared with Janice. Her worries had seeped away as she concentrated on getting ready. She wanted her appearance to be perfect. Not that tonight was anything special, just another night whoring. Well, it was their first night back at the brothel after their weekend at Mr Patrick’s. Mrs Bowen had insisted they take a couple of days off. “Men don’t pay as much for haggard girls,” she’d said last week, before telling them when to come back. Even without that Carol wanted to look her best. So did Janice. They always did.
They’d bought the vanity together. It was expensive, but nothing they couldn’t afford. There were three mirrors, a large main one and a smaller one on either side, to let them check themselves out from any angle. It had plenty of drawers for makeup and brushes and everything else a girl needs, the mirrors and the top all edged in decorative woodwork, white paintwork gleaming. Carol was almost ready for another night at, …, work. She checked again for any flaws in her makeup, though she knew that if she hadn’t found any the last two times she’d looked she was unlikely to find any now. And she’d check herself again after getting to the brothel. Carol knew that she looked good. She looked like a whore, a pretty, made-up, whore ready for work. She didn’t know whether it was better or worse to call it work and not whoring. Did a euphemism avoid the issue and show doubts? Or was it a way to make it all normal and accept her situation? She didn’t know. She knew that something had to give. One way or another Wainwright was going to tell her to stop soon.
Doubts haunted her, no matter how confidently she told herself that it was her decision, that she could make it whenever she wanted to. She knew that the old Carol, the Carol from before Copeland had ever got his claws into her, would have found it an easy decision to make. The old Carol would have got away from a life of whoring as soon as she could. But she wasn’t doing that, hadn’t done that. Which meant that she wasn’t the old Carol. The old Carol would never have been in this situation in the first place. She didn’t know how much she had left of who she’d been.
Unbidden, the words came to her lips “I want to be a prostitute, I’m happy being a prostitute.” Carol knew that the words were true. She couldn’t deny them. If she was honest with herself, large parts of her didn’t want to. She forced herself to fight the thoughts, slippery and treacherous, that she should just surrender, give in to her desires and forget everything else. Summoning up what strength she could Carol made herself say “I want to be a policewoman,” and tried to believe that she could make that thought win.
“You okay Steph?” Janice asked from the doorway.
“Yeah, I’ll be out of your way soon.” Carol knew that Janice needed the mirror to finish getting ready as much as she did.
“You want to go see a film this weekend?” the redhead asked a few minutes later as she worried over her hair, turning between the three mirrors to check every angle. Carol suppressed a smile. Janice’s hairstyle wouldn’t survive thirty seconds of a customer’s attention. Neither would their makeup. Yet, she knew, first impressions counted.
“Maybe, anything good on?” Carol replied.
“No idea, I haven’t looked yet,” Janice shrugged.
“Why do you want go then?”
“Oh, nothing special, I just thought it might be nice.” Carol could see the other woman’s eyes fixed on the mirror. She could guess the thought Janice added to what she’d said. That it might be a nice change from last weekend. That it might be nice to do something normal. They didn’t do much that could be considered normal. Carol even less than Janice. At least the redhead had her studies. Neither had anything that could be called a social life. So sometimes they went out together. Just two friends, pretending that there was more to their lives than being whores.
“Yeah, okay.” Carol replied, her eyes on her own image in the mirror, one hand fiddling with her dangling earring. The temptation to spend every moment she could being a prostitute was strong, but Carol resisted that. It was a small victory, she told herself, a step on the way back to the life she’d had. She ignored the thought that maybe it was another defeat, pretending she could be a whore and have something like a normal life.
When they arrived at the brothel Tom told them to go straight to the madam’s office. Mrs Bowen was there, half-lying on one of the couches, her feet tucked up underneath her. She waved to them to sit down.
“Enjoy your weekend?” There was a sly edge to Mrs Bowen’s smile. Carol suspected the madam had been a prostitute herself in her younger years, most women in her position had.
“Yeah, sure,” Carol replied as Janice nodded. She could have said more, but she wasn’t sure that letting Mrs. Bowen know just how much she’d enjoyed herself was a good idea. She didn’t want to give the madam any more leverage over her than she already had.
“Any problems?” the madam asked. The questions, sitting in her boss’ office, made it almost feel like a debrief. Carol’s perception shifted, overlaid with memories of Wainwright’s office, his questions after her assignments. It was too similar. Her head swam, she had to struggle to focus her attention. She looked at Janice, found the other girl looking at her. After a moment they turned back to Mrs Bowen.
“No, nothing,” said Carol. She was on edge, nervous. The similarities made it too familiar, too easy to slip into, something more making this feel normal. And did the madam know something? Had she gone too far with Patrick? Worse, had the listening devices been discovered and somehow been linked back to her?
Mrs. Bowen idly waved a hand at her, a reassuring gesture. “Oh don’t worry dear. I know you put on a little show for Colin. He likes you, nothing wrong with that. I just want to make sure two of my best girls are fine.” The madam looked at them, appraisingly. Like a storekeeper might assess their shop window display. The two girls smiled back at her.
“Good, you remember to tell me if anything ever goes wrong. Got that?” An order. Had Wainwright ever used those words? A memory told Carol that he had. An image flashed through her mind, Wainwright, at his desk, saying exactly those words, emphasised by a thrust of his hand, cigarette held between two fingers, whirls of smoke drifting up to the ceiling to be caught by the fan. For a moment she wasn’t sure where she was. Or who she was.
“Yes ma’am” Janice replied as Carol simply nodded.
“Any of the other girls there give you any problems?”
Carol relaxed. She was where she had to be. To find the two girls. To whore. “No, it was fine.”
“We were kept busy,” added Janice.
The madam nodded, “Good, good. You get that many girls together, especially from different establishments, and the competition can sometimes be, well, fierce. And Patrick always chooses the best for his little do’s.”
The madam’s coy turns of phrase made Carol smile. Then a thought struck her. “I was talking to a couple of girls, Mandy and Tabitha. They said they were from Joe Conti’s place? They seemed pretty good, I wonder if we could tempt them away? But I don’t know much about him, so.” She was babbling, half-deliberately. Anything to get Mrs Bowen to open up about Joe Conti. Anything that might produce some information on the brothel where the two missing girls were likely being held. She held her breath, nervously awaiting the madam’s response.
“Hmm, Conti’s an irritating little man. I doubt he’d let them go for anything if they were the ones Patrick chose.” The madam paused, considering the possibilities. “But if they were at Patrick’s party they probably are good workers. You think they’re interested?”
“Not sure, to be honest. But they, you know, stood out.” Carol softly let the breath she’d been holding flow out. She wasn’t lying, not exactly. She remembered Mandy and Tabitha as pretty, and they seemed popular with the men, even given the competition. “Maybe if I talked to them again? Do you know where Conti’s place is?”
Mrs Bowen laughed, a surprisingly hearty sound. It was the first time Carol had heard her really laugh. “You think Joe Conti’s going to let you waltz into his place and try and tempt two of his best girls away? You do, don’t you? You’ve got gumption, Stephanie, I’ll admit that. If I thought you were stupid.” The madam shook her head. “But you’re not, are you? I think you just could do it. And even trying it would be worth it just to see his reaction. But he’d never agree to let you in for that. You two run along and let me think about how to get you in there.”
It was better than Carol could have hoped. If she could get inside Conti’s brothel she might be able to find out exactly where the two missing girls were held. Wainwright would have to value that.
Days passed and the madam said nothing to Carol about Conti. She knew that it was no use prodding Mrs Bowen, all that might do was get the madam irritated. Carol couldn’t afford that. She just had to hope that she’d have her chance before Wainwright organised the raid on Conti’s brothel. She didn’t think it would be too soon, given the flimsiness of what she’d given him it would probably take him weeks to get the go-ahead, the permission crawling through the courts and the bureaucracy. Then they’d have to scout out the place and come up with a plan. Carol thought about asking Wainwright to let her join the raid. Then told herself that he’d never agree, that there was no point even suggesting it. She knew his trust in her was paper thin. The thought hurt.
Carol found other things to distract her. She needed to know more about Conti. She told herself that a covert approach suited her better, that it was better for an undercover policewoman, much more her style than a full-on raid. Subtly she questioned Mrs Bowen when she could, the bouncers, even some of her customers, anyone that she thought might know Conti. She’d hoped one of the girls at the brothel may have worked for him at some time, but that proved a bust. Even so she gradually built a picture. Self-centred, obnoxious, someone who liked being in charge. Nothing she couldn’t have guessed. Carol did find one girl, Gabriela, who Conti had used when he’d visited Mrs Bowen on business. She filed away what the girl told her, at least Conti hadn’t been violent, but the busty Latino had told her that there was nothing considerate about him either.
She even dared asking Mr. Patrick about Conti. As Carol had suspected Patrick refused to go back to using protection. “Our little secret,” he called it. He’d held her chin, his fingers gripping so hard they hurt, Carol painfully aware of their difference in height, and told her she was to use protection with everyone else. He’d kill her if he caught anything from her.
I don’t have to do this, she’d thought. A whore could choose that much. Choose what she sold.
If a man pays me I’ll let him do whatever he wants. She wasn’t just a whore. She had the words. The words were controlling her. Carol had to admit that. If it wasn’t for the words she wouldn’t be where she was. With this man standing in front of her. Telling her to let him have unprotected sex with her. To let him shove his bare cock into her pussy. The most intimate contact she could give. She’d carry his cum inside her after he left. Not because of love or even affection. But because she was a whore who’d agreed to sell one of the small pieces of herself that she had left.
It would be one more thing she’d give away. If she said no now she could write off the party as a mistake. But if she agreed she knew Patrick would never go back. He’d always want it. Taking her however he wanted.
“Okay,” she’d said, and smiled. A warm, friendly smile, that she’d practiced so often even she couldn’t tell whether she meant it or not.
I’m happy to be a prostitute. the words told her.
Carol knew that it was true
She lay on the bed after Patrick left, holding the extra money he paid her tight to her chest, like a love-sick girl would hold a note from her boyfriend. She stared at the wall of her room. She couldn’t believe that she’d agreed, hadn’t even wanted to disagree. At least she knew by now that she wasn’t pregnant. But she was relying on the pill to keep herself that way. She knew it wasn’t foolproof. Visions of carrying Patrick’s child haunted her, but even that hadn’t been enough to make her refuse him.
At least Patrick had been willing to talk about Conti. He’d confirmed things Carol knew, added some more, spoken disdainfully about the Italian’s prickly pride.
“Conti? That little Italian prick? Struts around like some damned peacock and splutters like a baby if he thinks his pride’s been hurt. He’s a paranoid little shit too, thinks everyone is out to get him. You don’t want to go working for him do you, baby doll?”
Carol had reassured him, made him laugh at some joke, then took his cock in her mouth. Nowhere it hadn’t been before, but it seemed to make him forget any worries about her defecting to Conti’s stable. The policewoman was satisfied with the information she’d found about Conti, but that only encouraged her. Now she was taunting the whore, telling her that Jenny and Laura would soon be rescued and she’d be back in control. The whore glowered back, and flooded Carol’s mind with a kaleidoscope of images, arousing and degrading. The war in her mind made Carol’s head feel like it would burst.
Carol pushed the policewoman to the back of her mind, told her to wait, that her time would come. That if Jenny and Laura were to be rescued they needed the whore. Always in her undercover work she’d spent most of her time doing whatever it was her cover was supposed to do. She’d submerge herself in whatever identity she assumed. Days would merge into weeks and sometimes months and all she would be was the role she’d been assigned. Carol had disappeared for long periods of the recent years. If she thought and acted like her cover there was less chance of a slip-up. She was good at it, very, very, good. The police work always came in rare moments.
It was easier now than it had ever been. She didn’t have to make herself pretend. Whoring, giving herself to her Johns, was what she wanted to do. She didn’t care how they used her, came in her, on her, it was all the same to Carol. She loved whatever they did, whatever they had her do. As every cock found its way into her pussy, rammed or gentle, every time cum, hot and sticky, splattered onto her face, her breasts, every time she was groped and fondled, every time she was spanked and degraded, every time she revelled in the names men called her, every time a man used her mouth or arse, every time she watched yet another man’s eyes drink in her naked form, open and available to him, she felt the words seep deeper into her being, becoming more and more real, more and more a part of her. I want to be a prostitute. I love being a prostitute. Carol told herself that when the time came that she’d be able to stop. That what she did now would just make it easier, have her fill and walk away. That it was her choice and when Laura and Karen were safe she’d be able to rid herself of what Copeland had done to her, he’d be finished and they’d all be safe. But that time wasn’t yet, and she was thankful for that.
Finally Mrs Bowen called her in to talk about Conti. Carol sat down on one of the lounges, curled her legs under her, could see the madam smiling at her.
“I’ve thought of a way to get you in to Conti’s,” Mrs Bowen began, “Can’t guarantee those two girls, what were their names?”
“Mandy and Tabitha.” Carol replied, burying thoughts of the other pair, Karen and Laura. She didn’t want the madam to have any idea Carol was interested in them.
“Yes, that was it. Anyway, no guarantee they’ll be there. And if they are, you’ll have to find them by yourself. Of course I didn’t tell Conti you’d be looking for them. So I had to think of another reason.” She smiled at Carol, one conspirator to another, “I told him we needed to talk about Patrick’s parties and you’d have the details. We should charge Patrick more for the next of his parties. He pays for the weekend, but you girls need time to recover. He should pay for some of that too. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. Patrick will complain that he pays us a premium as it is. I wouldn’t mind if we could get some more out of that tight-fisted Irishman. Anyway it’ll get you in there. Just make sure Conti doesn’t see you talking to those girls. If you can get them to switch it’ll probably be the end of any agreement with Conti about Patrick, but Conti will be clawing at the walls, and that will be worth it. So get the girls or get Conti onside.”
It sounded reasonable to Carol. Except, well, it sounded like something the madam should do herself.
“Umm, okay, but why would Conti listen to me? I’m well…” Her voice trailed off. Uncertainty ate at her.
Mrs Bowen looked at her, her gaze pinning the younger woman, “Just a whore? Maybe, but you’re not stupid. You’ve got some sense about you.”
Carol wanted to protest. Getting into Conti’s brothel was what she’d wanted, but she was drawing too much attention to herself. In undercover work you had to stay unnoticed. Being too good at your job drew attention, and that could be dangerous. It happened, sometimes, but it upped the risk.
“What about Janice, she’s still at college and,” Anything to divert attention from herself but Mrs Bowen cut her off.
“Smart and sense aren’t the same thing. Oh, neither of you are stupid are you? Don’t bother answering that. You’re pretty, and good at the work and you like it. And both of you have more brains than the rest of the girls.”
Carol looked at Mrs Bowen questioningly. The madam looked her up and down, assessing her. It reminded Carol of the first time she’d met the madam, when the older woman had decided whether to let Carol join the brothel. She wondered what the older woman was thinking this time.
“Janice is a nice girl, smart. But she’s a follower. I’ve seen how she looks to you when there’re decisions to be made.” Carol hadn’t thought of it that way. She’d noticed her friend defer to her in front of Mrs. Bowen. But she’d thought it was because Janice knew that Carol was a policewoman. If Mrs Bowen thought it was something else, something that didn’t make her suspicious, well, that was fine with Carol. She stopped, remembering the files on the Copeland case, back before she’d even set foot on the College campus. The police assessments had said all the missing girls were followers, not leaders. That applied to Janice as much as to the others. Maybe Copeland had thought girls like that would be easier to break. Had he thought the same about Carol? It could be that her efforts not to stand out, typical of undercover work, had made her appear like his other victims. She’d sometimes wondered whether the security guards had targeted her or whether her kidnapping had been opportunistic. The latter didn’t fit the pattern, so it was probably the former. But she hadn’t put up the same act in the brothel. She worried that it was going to get her into trouble.
“Is that a problem?” Carol asked nervously.
Mrs Bowen smiled, warmly for once, “Not at all. I like a girl with a bit of drive. Reminds me. Never mind.” She waved a hand at Carol. Carol thought she’d been about to say it reminded the madam of herself.
Instead the madam looked at her. Carol felt pierced by the older woman’s gaze. “Umm, is everything okay Mrs Bowen?” she asked.
“You were one of them too, weren’t you?” the madam asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Umm, sorry?” Carol’s instinct was to hide, to deny anything that made her stand out. She tried to shrink into the lounge.
“That professor, what was his name, Chapman?”
Maybe the madam didn’t know that much, she didn’t seem to know Copeland’s name. “Who?” she asked, hoping she could pretend innocence.
The madam’s reply was whip-crack sharp, Carol startled by the contrast to Mrs Bowen’s normal air of casual benevolence. “Don’t play me for a fool, girl. I know about Janice and she’s your friend, so you have to know. Her name was in the papers. But I know there was another girl, another one that professor didn’t sell on. I know all about his little scheme. I wasn’t going to get involved, too much risk, kidnapped girls and all that. Too much to get the police interested.” The madam’s eyes held Carol. The brunette wanted to look away, but feared that would only make the madam angrier. She said nothing, letting Mrs Bowen continue, hoped that a tongue lashing was all she would have to suffer. “Good decision, too. When the fools that bought those girls from him got thrown in the slammer, it meant more business for me.” For moment a look of smugness played over the madam’s face. Then it faded, replaced by her usual casual charm. “But I know. When Janice came to me I recognised her name, almost sent her away. But there was something different about her, something special. She wanted the job, her choice, no risk to me, so I took her on. I can see the same thing in you. You’re that other girl aren’t you?”
Carol hesitated, then decided lying wasn’t worth it. More of her undercover training, never lie unless you have to. The truth is easier to defend, making it harder for anyone to unravel the lies buried beneath it. “Yeah, it was me.”
The madam nodded, tight-lipped. “I thought so. You were too much like Janice, girls might be willing, but you don’t often find ones as keen as you two. You really like the work don’t you?”
Carol paused for a moment, teetering on the edge between silence and opening up. She imagined this was what criminals felt like, just before their confession. There was a pressure in her chest, things she wanted to say, that she’d only ever shared with Janice. But that wasn’t the same, Janice already knew her secrets, had lived them herself. Carol needed to let it out, needed to tell someone who didn’t know. She knew Mrs Bowen wouldn’t help her, that anything she told the madam would just sink her further into her new life. Maybe even give the older woman the keys to her mind, let her know how to keep Carol working if she ever faltered. Although that didn’t seem likely. Mrs Bowen didn’t seem the type to lock someone up and brainwash them, she’d just said she’d refused to even buy such a girl, let alone do it herself. Opening up was what Stephanie would do, confide in her madam. Carol knew that it was a risk, revealing more to Mrs Bowen than was safe, but she didn’t care, the feeling was too much, she had to speak or she was going to burst. And when she started she couldn’t stop, the tale coming out in a torrent. About how she was kidnapped, what Copeland did to her, how she and Janice escaped. About how she felt when she was offered up as a bet in the poker game, how stunned she was when she discovered that Janice was a whore. How anxious she was when Janice brought her here, worried she’d be rejected, how she felt about being a prostitute, working here, how much she loved it, needed it. She didn’t tell the madam everything, told her nothing of being a policewoman, or of the extra service she gave Patrick. But that was all she left out.
Carol realised she was crying and Mrs Bowen was holding her, gently, like a mother with a distraught child.
“Shush now child,” the madam whispered, gently rocking her. “You’re alright.” She offered Carol a lace-edged handkerchief for her tears.
“That’s quite a story. You going to be a good girl for me, Stephanie?”
Carol nodded in reply.
“Without that Copeland you’d have never have been here would you? You’re not going to run out on me are you?”
Carol nodded. “No, no, I wouldn’t. But it’s okay, I’m not sorry. I love this too much.” Maybe there was a lie there. Part of her was sorry about what Copeland had done to her. She’d never wanted to be a prostitute, not until she was kidnapped, not until Copeland put the words in her head, words that she couldn’t free herself from. Was only there because the words had changed her. But a large part of her wasn’t sorry at all. Being a whore just felt too good. It had been easy to tell the madam that she wasn’t sorry and maybe it was close to the truth.
“Hmm, alright then,” a thoughtful look came over the madam’s face, “but you can like anything too much. Any time you have any worries, anything you think I should know, you come talk to me. You got that?”
Mrs Bowen looked doubtful. “Really? I’m the madam, I say what goes. Yes, Stephanie?”
“You’re the madam, you say what goes.” Carol promised. The idea slipped easily into her mind, it was what a whore would say. It was what a whore would believe. It was part of playing the role, and Carol was good at that.
Mrs. Bowen was looking at her. It was all Carol could do to stop blurting out everything. That she was a police officer. That she was in the brothel undercover. She just barely managed to stay silent.
“I’m mean it Stephanie,” the madam said, a hard edge to her voice.
She’s the madam, she says what goes. It was so easy to believe that. Stephanie would believe it. Stephanie would do just what she was told, like a good little whore. There was room in Carol’s head for the idea. It was part of her role as a whore. Part of who she was as a whore. A good whore did what her madam said.
She’s the madam, she says what goes. It was so easy to repeat that.
Carol swallowed, hoping it wouldn’t join the other words in her head. She didn’t want to be that beholden to the madam. Even if it was what Stephanie would do. What a whore would do.
“Yes, Mrs Bowen.”
She’s the madam, she says what goes.
“Good girl, there’s no point keeping secrets, is there?” Mrs Bowen patted her on the knee, a reassuring gesture, like a teacher with a small child. Carol felt a little puff of guilt about her unprotected sex with Patrick. A whore would confess that to her madam. But the policewoman still lurked in Carol’s head and Patrick was too important a source of information for her to risk upsetting him. And maybe a whore would keep quiet about something like that.
“I’m going to have to have the same talk with Janice, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Carol nodded.
“You’re both good girls, you just need to do what I say and it’ll be fine. Anytime you want to talk, you know where I am.” The benevolent, caring, madam was back, but Carol had seen beneath the façade. She knew that she was putting a lot of trust in the older woman, and that was probably foolish. But all Carol felt was relief, that some of the responsibility was out of her hands, despite the risk she was taking. She loved being a prostitute, and it was natural for a prostitute to do what her madam told her. Her only fear was that the madam might prove true to her word in offering to take care of her. An ever-present danger of undercover work was becoming too attached to the people you lived amongst. She’d seen officers go native, watched them lose the ability to keep the role separate from the reality. If Carol became too comfortable with her situation, too reassured by the madam’s concern, it would make it harder for her to walk away when the time came.
Mrs Bowen was speaking again, Carol’s attention snapping back. “But,” the madam asked, her brow creasing, “How’d you keep your name out of the papers? Rich family? Anything I need to worry about?”
Carol shook her head, a rapid, nervous gesture “No, nothing. The police said it was just bad luck Janice’s leaked somehow. They said they wanted to keep all our names quiet, but some got out.”
The madam frowned at her, obviously considering her answer, “Alright then, but if you’re hiding anything I won’t be pleased.”
Of course I’m not hiding anything, Carol thought to herself, a sardonic edge to the voice in her head, it’s not like I’m an undercover cop or anything. She could feel the queasy nervousness eating at her again, lying to Mrs Bowen was becoming as hard as lying to Wainwright.
“So when do I go see Conti?” Carol asked, pleased at the directness of her question. Not something a whore who was simply her madam’s puppet would ask. Carol may have felt safe, safer than she should, but she knew there were limits, that all Mrs Bowen looked on her as was a business asset, something to be used and, when the time was right, disposed of. But while she was valuable to the madam, Mrs Bowen would look out for her.
Mrs Bowen frowned, “I’m still working on that. I think the little rat is trying to play hard to get, probably wants to see how keen I am. I’ll let you know when I pin him down.” Carol’s heart sank. She knew the raid was still some way off, but she couldn’t wait for ever. She needed to get the missing girls out, didn’t think Wainwright could manage it without some inside information. She didn’t have the time for Conti to play games.
The madam must have noticed her disappointment. “You let me worry about that, I’ve got something else for you.”
Carol cocked her head, wondered what the madam wanted “Yes?”
“There’s a booking coming this weekend, for a stag do, they want some girls overnight. It’s a high-class address, probably all on the corporate ladder. The pay is good, if you’re interested.” The madam may have phrased it as a question, made it seem polite, but Carol knew that she was expected to agree.
She almost did, but then stopped herself. The temptation was strong, so strong, a night’s whoring, extra money, her desires, her needs, were telling her to say yes. Part of her was saying no. It wasn’t at the brothel, it would be someone’s house. After what she’d done at Patrick’s party what would that matter, she’d already flaunted herself to so many people. But, she told herself, those people had been criminals, or their families or hangers on. This would be different, average guys, even if well-paid. She didn’t need to do it. Her need to whore, to be paid for sex, was never far away, yet she could satisfy it here, in the brothel. She didn’t need to go looking for anything more. The weekend at Patrick’s had been different, that at least had the pretence of police work, more than pretence, she had actually done her job as an undercover policewoman. There was none of that here, no reason to agree. Didn’t mean she couldn’t though and it seemed so little different to what she did now. The brothel, a house, it seemed a small step, not one worth worrying about. She looked at Mrs Bowen, sensed some doubt in the madam’s look.
I’m happy to be a prostitute.
“What’s the matter?” Carol asked.
A look of disdain passed over the madam’s face. “These company boys can be, hmm, less than considerate. Selfish little punks, all of them. Get some beer in them and any façade of civility, of decency, drops away.” Carol had to stop herself laughing. She was a whore, what did she care about civility and decency? Yet there must be something worrying the madam, so she stayed quiet and kept listening. “Ex-frat boys, the whole lot of them, most likely. Less well-behaved then Patrick’s people and you won’t have him there to protect you. You need help, just phone and Tom or one of the other boys will come, but it will take time to get there. You think you can handle yourself Stephanie?”
Stephanie would say yes, wouldn’t want to disappoint her madam. Carol thought she could say no. No was just a little word, so easy to say. She didn’t want to say it, so much of her wanted to say yes, Mrs Bowen wanted her to say yes. The policewoman was begging her to say no, but Carol ignored her. She told herself that she needed to play her role, that she needed the madam onside until Karen and Laura were found, that she’d said she’d do anything to find them. Carol tried to tell herself that this was just one more little thing, that with everything else she’d done it didn’t matter. Then tried to tell herself that one day she might believe that. Her doubt almost made her say no.
She’s the madam, she says what goes.
“Okay, sure,” Carol said, trying to hide her nerves. It was what Stephanie would say and Carole knew that she had to play that role. It was so easy to play that role. She was sure she could handle a mob of junior executives. If anything went wrong she’d be outnumbered, but she’d been trained to handle situations where she was one against many.
“Good girl,” the madam said and Carol felt a warmth at her approval, her doubts melting, “I knew I could count on you. You won’t be alone. They’ve asked for three, so I thought you, Janice and Ellie.” Carol wondered if the customers had asked for a full set. She was a brunette, Janice a red head and Ellie was a blonde, long golden hair flowing in waves over her shoulders, the other whore that Cal had brought to the last poker game. Whoever was organising this party had asked for the best the brothel had to offer. And when Mrs Bowen told her how much she’d earn for the night, Carol knew that the madam had made them pay for the best. She felt a warm pride at her value.
Carol wondered just how broken she was.