Friday, 30 May 2014

The Woman with the Porcelain Neck pt 5

Missed parts 1, 2, 3 and 4?

When I’d told her to get out now I didn’t expect her to come here. But here she was, standing in the middle of my office, looking at me with her accusing eyes.
‘Why did you tell him where I was Mr Stanley? Why did you break your promise?’
I ignored her questions, I didn’t have to answer to this dame.
‘Where’s Nick?’ I asked.
‘On his way here.’ she spat.
‘Are you crazy?’ I looked at her, it was her turn to ignore questions. ‘When Hristov finds you’re not at home, he’ll know I’ve tipped you off. He’ll be straight back here. Don’t you people ever think?’
Again she ignored me.
‘We need your help Mr Stanley.’
‘What can I do?’ I said. ‘ Just get on a god damn bus, and get out of town.’
‘I need to know why he’s after me.’ she said.
‘You don’t wanna know.’
‘I do and youre gonna tell me.’ The broad had pulled a gun, so for the second time that day, my life was in danger.
‘He says he’s your father.’ I said with missing a beat. I was sick of these people, I wasn’t gonna keep their secrets for them.
She dropped the gun and in my imagination, I lit a cigarette, taking a long hard drag, I watched her tear fall on to my carpet. 
‘My father?’ she said. She was doing the calculations.
I nodded.
‘I’ve got to go,’ she said and turned for the door but there was a man in the doorway blocking her path. I was expecting Nick, I got Hristov.
‘There you are.’ he said, tenderness in his voice.
‘You pig.’ she hissed through the tears. ‘Why are you looking for me? So you can put your own daughter back on the game?’
‘I didn’t know who you were.’ he said, taking a step closer to her.
She stared at him, the hatred in her eyes stopping him in his tracks. I have to say I was impressed with the dame’s spirit. Like father like daughter. 
‘You were just a girl, but then I heard you talk about your mother, I put two and two together, did some digging. I was just about to come to tell you when you disappeared. You got to believe me.’
‘Why?’ she barked, ‘why should I believe a pig like you?’
‘Because…’ But we never heard his reason, a shot rang out and Hristov fell forward revealing Nick behind him, holding a smoking handgun. Hristov lay on my office floor, blood mixing with his daughter’s tears on my carpet.
I took charge.
‘You two, get the hell out of town, now.’ I said. ‘I’ll sort this mess out.’
Nick looked shocked, Louisa took him by the hand and they left my office with a murmured thanks. I turned Hristov over. Luckily the barman was better at handling gin than he was at handling a gun. Hristov was hurt but he’d live. I stood him up, brushed him down and got him to a hospital.
‘I didn’t know.’ He said repeatedly as the doctors hooked out the bullet and stitched him up. ‘I didn’t know.’
It was none of my business but for what it’s worth, I believed him.
‘Wait till she calms down’ I said, ‘maybe she’ll come back.’ What was I doing handing out relationship advice to a gangster?
‘You saved my life,’ he said out of the blue. ‘How much do you want?’
‘I don’t want your money.’ but then I remembered that smile. ‘But I do need a new secretary and I think you have just the right girl for me.’
‘Anything you want Mr Archer.’

‘It’s Archer Stanley!’

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Service Station - Beyond The Obvious

Everyone knew what she was and who she was, so there was no point pretending, but that didn't stop her. Sitting here in the harsh lighting of the service station cafe she imagined she was driving home to her husband who was dutifully waiting for her with dinner on the table. But there would be no drive home tonight, and there would be no doting husband. Instead she’d just sit and wait until she was needed, then she’d close her eyes and do her duty. There were 8 men in the place - the petrol pump attendants, the cafe staff, the three businessmen heading to somewhere - but no customers. She provided a different service at this service station.
The businessmen looked at her and whispered and smiled to each other. They were quick to judge, she was the whore, the jezebel, the fallen woman. They'd never say it to her face but their disapproving looks they gave her told her all she needed to know. Why were people so unwilling to look beyond the obvious? Did it make them feel uncomfortable to see the truth? She hadn't made the choice to sit in a near deserted petrol station on a windswept road, waiting for lonely truck drivers to satisfy their needs. She hadn't fallen, she was pushed.
Her father's abuse was physical, sexual and emotional - that saying about sticks and stones breaking bones but words never hurting is so untrue. Broken bones mend, but broken minds don't.
Her father blamed her for the abuse he dished out. He was the first man to call her a whore, the first man to make her unmarriable, and the first to remind her of that fact. But there were others, he passed her around like a spliff, allowing each of his friends to take a turn with a fragile, scared teenage girl. One of those friends had promised to save her from her misery, had promised to set her free. So one night she packed her bags and waited for him. 
He took her away all right, but only as far as a farm on the outskirts of town, where it dawned on her that the money changing hands between her ‘friend’ and the strange man was for her, she was being sold like a used carpet. She was now the property of the owner of the gas station.
Not that the other members of staff knew that he was her boss, her pimp, her lover. To them he was the respectable married man who ignored her when he visited the station and who spoke about her in disapproving, hushed tones to the others. But when the others had gone, he’d take his piece of the action and his share of the money.

She dreamt of happy endings, but there were no fairy tales in her world.  So she'd sit here, proud, straight back, waiting, waiting for the next client to take what he needed. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Woman with the Porcelain Neck pt 4

Missed parts 1, 2 and 3?
I tried to put Hristov off until Friday but he turned up at my office unannounced. At least this time he knocked. He sat waiting for me to speak. He looked a little impatient, I liked that.  I busied myself with nothing much, keeping him in suspense a little longer.  We’d do this on my terms.
‘So,’ I said, settling back into my chair. ‘The girl’s safe.’ I waited for his reaction but he remained calm. ‘But she doesn’t want you to know where she is.’ Again I paused. This time I could see a little flicker of anger in his eyes. ‘So my work here is done.’ I said, more in hope than expectation.
‘Mr Stanley,’ he said. I noted he’d got my name right. ‘I hired you to bring the girl to me. The girl isn’t here. So there’s still a job to do.’
‘The girl doesn’t want to come to you.’ I said and watched the blood boil in his temples. ‘There’s nothing more I could do.’
‘There’s always something you can do Mr Stanley. I don’t care what the girl wants. I care about what I pay you for.’
‘You haven’t paid me.’ I said boldly.
Hristov stood up, he had enough. He went to leave the office and then turned back. I looked up to see the barrel of a gun in my face.
‘Tell me where the girl is, Mr Stanley.’  Why was this joker so concerned about this strange woman with the porcelain neck?
‘I told you she’s safe.’ I said, brazening it out.
He took a step closer, the look in his eye confirmed what Andrews had told me, these guys were nasty. He was gonna pull that damn trigger.
‘Why are you so keen to know?’ I asked.
‘She’s my daughter.’ He said without missing a beat. I was not expecting that.
‘You put you own daughter on the game?’ I said.
He ignored my question. I don’t blame him. I’d have been embarrassed too. What a sleaze.
‘Tell me where she is,’ he said.
‘She’s safe’ I replied.
‘Tell me or wear a bullet Archer Stanley.’
I had little choice; he was going to shoot me. I gave him the address of the barman.
‘You’ll find her there.’ I said.
‘Thank you Mr Stanley, pleasure doing business with you.’ He put an envelope down on the table and turned and walked away, leaving just enough money to cover my expenses and not a penny more.
Luckily I had the barman’s number.  The girl picked up.

‘Get out now, Georgiev’s on his way.’ I said and then hung up, I'd done all I could, it was out of my hands now.

For part 5 click here

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Waiter

She stirred her coffee again, she didn't know why; the sugar had long since dissolved. But she needed to do something with her hands, so it was either stir her coffee or play with her phone and her phone was part of the problem. Its stubborn refusal to bleep just reminded her of the loneliness she was mired in. She was aware of the waiter loitering around her table, he'd been back and forth, to and fro, buzzing around her like a wasp around the sticky dried fruit in the market place in town, but whereas the wasps were brave enough to land on their prey, the waiter seemed nervous, unsure of his next move. He was a handsome young man, tall, lithe with clear skin, it looked like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth but many women would melt in his eyes. She wished he'd make a move or buzz off. She circled the spoon again watching the liquid swirl around. She wanted to dive into that maelstrom and disappear. This damn holiday, it had meant to be about restarting, about discovering herself, but she wasn't sure she liked the self she'd discovered. 
She really should go back to her room and then go out and explore the town, but the crowds of people further reinforced the fact that she was alone. She thought of him, he wouldn't be alone now, he'd be waking up next to her, the woman he'd been promising to leave for 6 years. 6 wasted years of broken promises of better tomorrows but as her mother had always told her, tomorrow never came. The waiter was still finding 100 things to do at the next table, it would be the cleanest table in the whole restaurant.
‘Are you finished with this?’
She jumped at his voice. He was pointing to her breakfast plate.
‘Sorry I didn't mean to scare you.’ His English was good but the accent was thick, swarthy.
She smiled at him.
‘It's okay I was miles away.’
‘You have very pretty eyes.'
She laughed, such a corny line and so direct but at least he'd stopped beating around the bush.
‘How about we meet for coffee, I finish at 11?’ Again direct and to the point.
How clichéd was this? A waiter in a hotel hitting on middle aged, single, female tourist. She should say no, of course she should. She knew the story already, she'd read it 100 time in soppy novels while waiting for him to leave her. The waiter was just after her money, a few days taking advantage of a lonely woman before moving on, a prostitute of sorts.  So she’d say no, be flattered by the interest but be sensible and act her age.

‘That would be lovely’ she said. She looked surprised by her own words but  they were like a pressure release valve. She felt her forehead uncrease and her shoulders relax. He smiled and she was glad she was sitting down. 

For part two click here