Mickey Finn

This free short story is brought to you by the author of Maggie's Milkman and Extraordinary Rendition. 

The three women on the dance floor were laughing, dancing and enjoying themselves, oblivious to the men buzzing around them like wasps at a jam jar. They were the very definition of beauty, all different, but all beautiful. There was something for every taste, slim, curved, taller, shorter, blonde, brunette and redhead. Their eyes sparkled, their smiles radiated and their laughter reverberated. The more they smiled, the more the men took notice but the more they took notice the more they were ignored.

Karla needed a break; she couldn’t keep this up. She signalled to the other two that she was going to the toilet and then to the bar. The others nodded, yelled that she was a lightweight and carried on dancing. Karla headed through the throng of people.  She was alone now, but still smiling. She loved nights like these, pack up all your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. She’d no idea why the words to the old song her dad used to sing to her came into her mind while she was peeing, but it perfectly summed up the evening.

Mickey had noticed the girls had split up and recognised this was his opportunity. He thanked his lucky stars that it was the one that he’d had his eye on who had been separated from the pack. He went on the prowl, stalking his prey. He could see she was going to the toilet. He’d wait for her by the bar, buy her a drink and she’d soon fall for his charms. Everyone fell for Mickey’s charms one way or another.

He was leaning against the bar as she approached, his plan was working perfectly. Karla was still smiling, she’d get three bottles of beer for the girls and then get back to the dance floor.
‘You looked good up there love.’ She looked in the direction of the voice and saw a smallish man with pinprick eyes.
‘Thanks’ she said trying to get the barman’s attention.
‘ Three bottles of Bud please.’ She shouted over the music. The barman smiled his understanding and turned to get the drinks.
‘Let me buy these for you love.’ Pinprick put his arm around her shoulders.  
‘Er you’re alright.’ Karla said, getting money out of her purse and brushing the stranger off her.  
‘Ooo think you’re too good for the likes of me do you?’
Karla looked at the pinprick in amazement, who’d rattled his cage?
‘No, but I can pay for my own drinks thank you very much.’ She took a swig of her beer while waiting for her change.
‘Only joking love. Listen why don’t you stay here for a bit and have chat?’
‘No, it’s okay I’m with my friends.’  Karla went to move away but pinprick put his hand on her arm.
‘Why don’t you dance with me then, I am sure we’d fit perfectly together.’
Karla winced, what a line.
‘Thanks but it’s a girls’ night out.’ Karla’s eyes were caught by something.
‘What did you just do?’ she shouted at the man.
‘Nothing’ he said putting his hands up like a footballer to show his innocence.
‘You put something in my drink?’
‘No I never.’
‘You drink it then.’ She forced the bottle into his hand. He let it fall to the floor before he grabbed her arm again.
‘Get off me,’ Karla yelled, ‘get off me you pig.’
‘Now listen love,’ Mickey had a firm hold of her. ‘Why don’t I buy you a new beer and we’ll forget all about this?’  A crowd had formed around the rowing couple and bouncers were moving towards them, but they were not needed. Karla brought her knee up and caught Pinprick right in his pin prick. He crumpled letting go of her arm which she swung round catching his nose with her elbow. He dropped to his knees.
The music had stopped, everyone was staring at Karla and the man on the floor.
‘This fucking rapist just tried to slip me a mickey finn,’ she shouted.
Mickey  moaned on the floor. Karla’s two mates came to her hugging her. The bouncers left the women alone, dragging a barely conscious pinprick out of the club and signally to the DJ that he could start up the music.

Sunday Karla couldn’t sleep, she tossed and turned, throwing the duvet off then pulling it back on again. She got up to check her front door was locked then made sure her windows were shut but even with that peace of mind she still couldn’t sleep. She reflected on the night. Once Pinprick had been dragged away, they’d tried to go back to enjoying the evening but the vibe was gone So they went for a curry and then went their separate ways. She’d thought she’d sleep well with all the alcohol and drama but now she was showered and in bed she was as wide awake as ever. She was angry, no, more than angry she was livid. She was angry with that prick. He’d just thought she’d give herself to him and when she wasn’t forthcoming he’d thought he could take what he wanted; like women were just there at men’s convenience. Fucking men. Fucking stupid men, either they thought they owned you or played around with your emotions, never quite willing to make that commitment. God she hated men.
But actually she knew she was angry with herself. Why the fuck hadn’t she phoned the police. She just let the bouncers drag the rapist away without getting the police involved. At the time the head honcho doorman had said the police might want to talk to her about assault so she’d agreed to let it lie. But now that bastard was out there and when his nose was better he’d be trying it again. Maybe the next woman wouldn’t notice his slight of hand and Karla would be responsible. Surely she would be willing to be charged with assault if it meant that sleaze was off the streets. She plumped up the pillows again but it was no use. Her brain was far too wired for sleep.

Karla guessed she must have fallen asleep at some stage because she was now waking up. She thought for one horrible moment that it might be Monday and she had to go to work but then her brain kicked in and she realised it was Sunday and there was one more sleep before the inevitable toil started again. She thought about the events of last night and decided she had to do something. She had to go to the police.
And tell them what? She thought as she waited for the kettle to boil. That she thought a man slipped her a mickey finn in the bar last night. She wasn’t raped or even assaulted, she hadn’t even taken the drug and was slipping someone a drug even a crime? She didn’t know. The police would laugh at her, tell her to grow up. No, she’d stay at home she thought as she poured milk into her instant coffee and promised herself for the umpteenth time to buy a Nespresso machine.

And that’s how they get away with it, she thought to herself under the shower. Because people don’t say anything, what were you saying about the Saville case? She asked herself. That those women should have spoken up at the time and now look at you ready to let it lie. You have to tell the police. You have to go, at least make them aware that he’s out there and dangerous. She finished drying herself off and started to get dressed. She’d go to the police.

What the hell are you doing here? Wasting police time, wasting your own time. You’re a fool, get up and leave now. Karla was sitting in a waiting room waiting for a copper to take her statement. She wasn’t having second thoughts she was having 8th 9th 10th thoughts. She went over the story again in her mind, it sounded flimsy even to her. She had no name, only a vague memory of what the guy looked like and only a suspicion that he did what she claimed he did. Maybe she should go home, but the thought that he was out there waiting for another opportunity re-entered her mind just as a police officer entered the room.

He was nice enough, understanding enough, he’d been patient as she told her story but then he apologised and said there was not much that could be done. It was exactly as Karla had expected. No crime had definitely been committed, by an unknown person and there was little chance of any evidence. The copper apologised profusely and Karla almost felt like he was genuine but she left the station disappointed.

‘Well,’ she said to herself on the steps of the cop shop, ‘if they are not gonna get the pin prick off the streets, then I am.’ and with that she went off in search of a Starbucks. 

Karla stood outside the coffee shop with a large skinny latte in her hand. Her black bra was clearly visible through her white, cotton vest top further accentuating her already impressive breasts. She had a friendly face, welcoming eyes and a joyous smile but that was offset by her manly stance, broad shoulders, and powerful looking arms, arms that could break a man’s nose. She looked like a swimmer or handball player except she was sucking on a cigarette like a child may suck on a lollypop. 
Skinny latte? Who was she trying to kid? She’d never be skinny. Her mother called her big boned but she was just being polite, big was the word. She watched the world go by and tried to think how she could track down that sleaze bag. She was no detective, no Archer Stanley. She was just some Welsh Government clerk who didn’t know the first thing about catching a crook. Would she even recognise the scumbag again?
Karla guessed the best place to start would be the club. Maybe someone there would know him, maybe there would be some CCTV. She drained her coffee, stubbed out her cigarette and headed into town.
It was 2pm on a Sunday, the club was closed, of course it was. Why had she thought any differently? She hammered on the door just in case but she wasn’t hoping for much. The wind whipped down the street, she struggled to light a cigarette then she contemplated the situation. The clouds in the sky and the wind on her face told her that a storm was blowing up the Bristol Channel. Sunday afternoon shoppers scurried back and forth, she looked to see if she could see him amongst the throng but that was a long shot. Maybe she could call the hospitals, the wanker looked the worse for wear when she’d finished with him, maybe he’d dragged himself to A and E. But they wouldn’t tell her anything, patient confidentiality and all that even if he was a rapist. A seagull roared its disapproval at the wind, the squawk echoing around the buildings. Drops of rain pitter-pattered the pavement and then the club door creaked open.
‘We’re closed lady.’
The voice belonged to a youngish man, mid twenties. He was wearing scruffy, dirty clothes.
‘Hey, it’s Mike Tyson.’ Karla was confused. ‘Great right hook on you. He went down like a ton of bricks.’  Karla realised she’d been recognised.
‘Did you know him?’ She asked.
‘Seen him a few times in here,’ he shook his head. ‘but apart from that not really.’
‘Is your boss around?’
The man laughed. ‘I’m Matt, I am the boss.’ He held out his hand to her. She shook it.
Karla looked at the man more closely, a few wrinkles round his eyes and greying temples maybe he was older than first thought.
‘Any CCTV of the incident?’
The man shook his head, ‘no, it gets wiped at the end of the evening if the police haven’t been called.’
‘And you didn’t call the police?’
‘Nah love, not worth it.’
‘Can I speak to your doormen?’
‘What’s this love, wanna say sorry to him do you?’ The man laughed.
Karla’s phone bleeped in her bag, she ignored it.
‘No,’ her voice rose,  ‘I want to get him locked up. He tried to rape me. In your club.’ If looks could kill, the owner would be dead and buried.
‘Sorry, love.’ He held up his hands like Pin Prick had done the night before but this man looked genuinely sorry. ‘Doormen will be on the door again on Wednesday. Come then if you want.’
Karla lit another cigarette, mumbled her thanks and moved off. The rain was heavier now, there was a Costa across the road, Karla decided she’d have one more skinny latte and maybe a pain au chocolate while waiting for the rain to stop.

As she bit into her pastry something troubled her. Maybe the swamp dweller had done this before. She had been thinking that he might do it again but why had she assumed she was the first? She may have been the latest. If that was true, there would be women out there with stories to tell. Had they been to the police? Surely the police would have been more interested in her story if they’d had previous reports of rape, so the likelihood was they hadn’t told tales.  But how could she find out? She got out her phone, there were three messages, all from Josh.
‘Wanker’ she said quietly as she popped the last bit of dough in to her mouth. She went to Twitter and wrote a message.
‘Was nearly drugged and raped last night in Real Deal. Anyone else had similar experience? DM me, strictest confidence.’ Did she want to do it under her own name though? She scrambled around opening up a new account and then sent the message with the hashtag Cardiff and realdeal. Then she tweeted again with a brief description of the dog turd.  She’d see what response that got. In the meantime she had to get home, she’d let this consume her day, it was time to get back to life. She realised she was hungry - all she’d put in her stomach was 3 coffees and a pain au chocolate, she needed some real food, some wine and a nice hot bath.

Twitter was giving her nothing but abuse.  Women retweeted her tweets, but men thought they had to respond with something witty or something vile. She wondered if Pinprick himself was twitting obscenities. She doubted it, she doubted he could read or write. She sat at her desk pretending to be busy whilst dying for a fag. She shuffled her papers and sent a few emails then declared loudly she had a meeting to go to and locked herself in the loo and played a few games of Candy Crush. She was a civil servant in the Welsh Assembly, but even she didn’t really know what she did. She collected data and passed it on and got paid a seemingly generous amount for the privilege. Her boss was fine, her colleagues were okay, she wouldn’t choose them but they didn’t really annoy her, and she was mostly left to her own devices. The biggest problem was boredom, sheer, unadulterated boredom. The 8 hours a day she worked (and she never worked any more or any less) were the longest most tedious hours, you could imagine. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was just one day but she had to go back and do it all again day after boring day. She’d just got through a level on Candy Crush that had been giving her no end of grief when her phone buzzed showing she had a text message. Josh, of course. ‘No Josh we can’t meet tonight’ she muttered, ‘we can’t meet any night. We can never meet again.’

She headed back to her desk wondering how she was going to find Pinprick, it was like looking for a pin in a haystack she mused, smiling to herself at the play on words. Maybe she was kidding herself that she could find him, maybe it would be better to just warn other women about him and others like him. She could start a Facebook site, warning women of the dangers, or was that too corny?  She’d think about it. Bollocks it was smoke time, she detoured out of the building went across to Starbucks for her second skinny latte of the day and lit a ciggie.

Karla spent the afternoon finding out more about date rape drugs. It was fucking scary. These small white pills that could completely incapacitate you. She felt sick to the stomach as she read the accounts of women who’d been attacked. Horrible wasn’t the word for it. She didn’t know which was worse the ones who knew what was happening but couldn’t move or the ones that were completely blacked out only for vivid and shocking memories to come back drip by drip, sometimes days later. So often the police said they were powerless to act or if they did act, the CPS said there wasn’t a case. Karla had so nearly been a victim. If she’d not spotted his slight of hand, that would have been her. Would the police have believed her?  When the little hand was finally on five, she headed home more determined than ever to set up that Facebook page and to find that little wanker.

She managed to set up a page on Facebook that people could post to anonymously, like those ‘spotted’ pages. That was a result. Then she shared all the links she found with info on the drugs, and support groups etc. She also invited women to share their experiences. She advertised the group on Twitter and Google+ and before long it had 12 likes. Not many, but a start and everything had to start somewhere. She felt proud of herself, it wasn’t much, but maybe it would save one woman and that would be better than not saving one woman.

As she smoked a final cigarette before bed she checked the twitter account that she’d set up the previous day. There was a direct message. She clicked on it expecting it to be some man telling her she deserved it, but instead there were just 3 words from a newly set up account. ‘He raped me.’

Karla wasn’t ready for this. She wasn’t a counsellor, or a therapist, she was a civil servant. She really hadn’t thought this through. What was she going to do? Could she face this woman? She took a long drag on her cigarette, exhaling through her nose. She used to laugh at her granddad doing that, calling him a dragon. She looked at the message again. 3 words He raped me. She took another deep lung full of smoke as a wave of guilt washed over her. Here she was worrying about herself, worrying about if she could face this woman, when the woman had been raped by that low-life scum. She composed herself and then composed a reply.  She decided on something simple. ‘I’m here if you need me.’ Not too pushy, not too forward.

They exchanged messages deep into the night. Karla could tell the woman was putting out feelers, making sure she could trust her.  Eventually they arranged to meet. Starbucks in the Bay 5.30.

Karla yawned her way through work, she tried to concentrate and catch up on yesterday’s tasks, but it wasn’t happening. She watched the second hand judder around the clock, round and round, always moving with that jerky, unsure step but going nowhere. Try as she might she couldn’t even concentrate on Candy Crush; this was real, this was happening, she was going to meet a victim of that son of a bitch. No, that was not a good thing to call her, she wasn’t a victim she was a woman. and  no that was not a good thing to call him either, cos that demeaned his mother. Shitbag, that would do. At 5 on the dot she grabbed her bag and made for the door.

Starbucks was empty which was both good and bad. Good in that recognising each other would not be difficult but bad that ‘the woman’ was not already there. Karla bought her usual and sat in a comfy chair by the door. She tried to relax but her mind just wouldn’t let her. What if ‘the woman’ chickened out? Didn’t turn up. How long would she give it? What if this was a hoax? What if it was him? Or another different dirty sleazebag bastard coming for her? She tried to put those thoughts out of her mind. She had to be strong. This wasn’t about her anymore. Oh my god, she thought, what if I know her? That possibility hadn’t occurred to Karla before now. That would make it really awkward, or what if it was a man, men get raped too don’t they? The door opened and in walked a woman who looked very much like Karla, handsomely beautiful, strong, elegant. She smiled shyly at Karla and then approached her.
‘Karla?’ she said in a voice that didn’t match her stature.
‘Yes’ said Karla and reached out a hand. But the woman didn’t take up the offer of a handshake. ‘I’m Lucy.’ Karla didn’t know if it was her real name or not but she didn’t care.
‘Sorry I’m late, I cased the joint a bit, make sure it was not a set up, you can’t be too careful.’
‘Sensible.’ Karla smiled ‘Coffee?’
‘Skinny latte’ the woman said and Karla smiled. ‘Take away, I need a smoke.’ Karla’s smile broadened.
They walked and talked, just general chitchat, nothing heavy, just getting to know you stuff. It was a nice day, blue sky and whispy clouds, seagulls coasting on the gentle breeze and the cormorants drying their wings on the quayside. Karla bided her time. She was there to support not to pry, the story would come if it came but she didn’t really need the story. She didn’t really know what she needed. Yes she did, she needed to know she’d been right, that that tosser was a scumbag rapist and somehow she could get him off the streets.
Her phoned buzzed, not now Josh, she thought to herself, not now, but she checked it anyway, force of habit.
‘Oh fuck’ she said.
‘What is it?’ Lucy asked looking concerned.
‘Oh nothing just… It’s my sister, it’s her little one’s birthday. I promised I’d make an appearance. Sorry, I’ve got to…’ Lucy looked distraught. Karla put her hand on her arm. ‘Look you’ve got my number now, you know how to find me. Call me anytime okay?’ Lucy nodded.
‘And let’s do this again tomorrow yeah?’ Lucy nodded again.

Karla left with a heavy heart but she had to go. Her sister would already be fuming that she was late. And what would she get when she got there, the same old same old that’s what. She signed heavily and headed for her car, smoking one last cigarette before putting on the family smile.

Lucy was sitting outside Starbucks sucking on a cigarette; she smiled at Karla when she saw her come round the corner.
‘Skinny latte? It’s my round.’  Lucy said, Karla noted what a pretty smile she had. Karla smiled back and nodded, a good coffee was just what she needed, work had been arduously boring. She sat at the table vacated by Lucy and lit a cigarette of her own. It was another nice day, a bit of a breeze off the water but plenty warm enough to sit outside as long as the seagulls stayed away. Karla watched the families wandering around eating ice cream.
‘How was the family thing? Lucy was back with the coffee.
‘Barely bearable’ Karla smiled, she was sure Lucy didn’t need to hear her problems.
‘Sounds like you don’t get on well.’
Karla supposed if she did open up a little to Lucy then Lucy might too. She took a swig of coffee and relaxed.
‘Oh it’s not that but it’s always the same,’ Karla blew out a lungful of smoke and stubbed out her fag. ‘My sister is everything I am not, married to an “adorable” man, two “wonderful” kids who’ve got into the “right” schools, a posh house, a creative job. It was like I ceased to exist when those kids were born unless of course my sister needs a baby sitter or my mum needs someone to complain about.’
‘Two years.’  Karla nodded.
‘I feel your pain, similar for me too.’
‘Then cheers’ Karla clinked Lucy’s paper cup and smiled.
‘Cheers, that’s a good idea, fancy a G and T?’ Lucy nodded over to the pub on the corner.
‘Oh yes, don’t I ever?’ said Karla and the two women wandered over to the bar.

‘I was so stupid, why did I wear that daft mini skirt?’ They were on their second drink when Lucy just started talking from no where. ‘I was asking for it, of course I was, tottering around in high heels and a skirt that barely covered my bum.’
Karla felt powerless, what could she do? What could she say?
‘I told him I wasn’t interested but he bought me a drink anyway, and I thought what the hell free drink. Next thing I know I was dancing with him, then …’ her voice trailed off. Karla waited but Lucy had clammed up as tears rolled down her face.
‘Look for a start don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault. You could have been stark naked and he didn’t have the right to do that.’ Karla winced at the incentive words she’d used. ‘Don’t blame yourself.’ Karla reiterated. Lucy sniffed, Karla put her arm round her and gave her a hug.
‘What did he look like? Do you remember?’
Lucy nodded and described the same slime ball who had tried to slip Karla the Mickey.
‘Why didn’t you go to the police?’ Karla asked with a sense of trepidation. Lucy was silent for a minute.
‘I felt so ashamed, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I told them in work my aunt had died. I took a couple of days off and since then I have just been a “bit emotional”.’
‘Will you go if I come with you?’
Lucy shook her head. ‘No, no! I can’t, I …’ A tear fell on the table ‘I shouldn’t have come here. I should have just let it go.’  Lucy got up, wiped her nose and left.
‘Lucy!’ Karla called out but she didn’t go after her. She knew Lucy needed space.
Karla sat quietly contemplating what her next move would be. She looked around the pub, there were a few after work drinkers left but it was quiet. The gin was getting to work and she was feeling a bit sorry for herself. What had she got herself into? What had she done to poor Lucy dragging up all those memories? And how much further had she got? Shithead was still out there with his pocket full of pills, lying in wait for his next victim. She didn’t suppose a broken nose would put him off for too long. Her phone buzzed, fuck off Josh she thought as she necked the remains of her drink and left the pub; she was dying for a smoke. 
She stood outside smoking, enjoying the evening breeze on her face. She felt around for her phone to see what Josh had to say for himself this time. She never replied, never encouraged him but the messages kept coming. But this message hadn’t been from Josh but from Lucy.
First time I’ve had alcohol since, sorry it seems to have flipped a switch. Just had a good cry, feel better. Coffee tomorrow?
Karla replied in the affirmative and stubbed out her ciggie in the fag bin. Stuck on that bin was the sign. ‘Like us on Facebook’ she’d seen the same sign on the door of the Real Deal club and the DJ had said something about tagging yourself in pictures on their Facebook page. It was time to get home and do some internet detecting.

Karla got a special fried rice from the Chinese on the way home and started eating as she started her search. She liked Real Deal on Facebook and then began to look through the photos. This was going to take all night, there were hundreds and hundreds of snaps. They were mostly posed photos rather than natural shots. She hadn’t realised how young the crowd were when her and her friends were dancing there on Saturday night. It looked like a 6th form disco.  There were pictures of girls looking the worse for wear, boys looking drunk and aggressive, lots of pictures of tongues, biceps and thighs. She ate as she looked but she was so engrossed in the pictures that she hardly tasted the food. They made her feel old and more than a little depressed. 
She needed a break, she checked her Facebook site and Twitter feed. The same old story there - women spreading the love, men sharing the hate. What was it with these bastard men? Anyway back to the pics. It was amazing how many were of the same people, week after week the same faces, just different dresses and different drinks and different partners. She’d gone back 6 weeks now, there were about 100 photos per week, her eyes were getting tired, and she was losing the will to live. It ‘d been a good idea but just because it was good, didn’t mean it was right. She’d have one more glass of wine, give it another 50 or so photos and then call it a night.
There, there, there, that was him! She hovered her mouse over his ugly, sleazy face. The prick had tagged himself. Mickey  Markson! What idiot goes around raping people and then identifies himself at the scene of the crime. She clicked on his name. He really was a Crunchie short of a selection box this one. All his info, pictures of his house, his car, his email address, everything; all his life public for anyone to see. She Googled his name. Nothing. She clicked on images. There were not many Mickey  Marksons in the world. A baseball player, an American looking kid and a Welsh arse wipe. She clicked on his photo ‘Employee of the Month’ in some mobile phone shop in Cwmbran, god she’d hate to meet the other employees if he was the best one. Maybe it was strictly a rota system.
She copied and pasted all his details, taking screen shots of pages and saving links. She’d show Lucy tomorrow if she thought she was up to it and then maybe that would convince her to go to the police. 
She poured another glass of wine to celebrate her achievement. She felt proud of herself. The Facebook page was busy - getting more likes and people were sharing useful links and she’d found who the lowlife was. It was only a step, a small step but it was in the right direction.
She looked at her watch, god it was 1.30am how on earth did that happen. She had to go to bed. One last look at Facebook and Twitter and then she’d go.
On Facebook there was nothing new but on Twitter she had a little blue dot on the envelope, signalling she had a message.
‘I think I was attacked by this man.’ The message said. Karla felt her heart bump back down to earth. How many were there out there? This guy was an animal.

‘Talk to me, you are not alone.’ She replied. She waited and waited but there was no response, so with a heavy heart and heavy eyelids she went off to bed.

Karla woke up with a start, she fumbled for her phone but only managed to push it on to the floor. She turned the light on, found the phone and looked at it. 2.37 am and a message from Josh. She’d been in bed for less than an hour but it felt longer. Her hair was matted and her pillow damp from where she’d been sweating. She’d been dreaming of those pinprick eyes watching her. Just staring at her. But there was more, someone else, a figure at his shoulder. Someone she knew, but who?  A few wrinkles round his eyes and greying temples, older than he first looked. It was Matt, the owner of the club. By why had her dream put the two of them together? The brain works in funny ways when the body sleeps. But was this just a random coincidence or ….? She got out of bed and padded into the living room, opening the top of her MacBook Air as she went. She got herself a glass of water and sat cross-legged on the sofa, lighting a ciggie as she did so. She didn’t normally smoke indoors but this was a special occasion.
She went back to Facebook and looked at moron’s profile, clicking through his photos one by one. She noticed there were no girls, no girlfriends, and not many friends.
 Car, dog, beach, bicep, ugly face, ugly face, ugly face and Matt. Yes there he was standing side by side with the gutter rat. She hovered again to see if he was tagged. He was – Matt Markson – Brother.

The lying little toe-rag. He’d said he didn’t know the rapist but he was his fucking brother. Why? Why would he lie? Were family ties so strong that he’d prefer to see a woman get raped than his brother go down? Karla explored Matt’s profile. He was much more careful with his privacy settings than his brother but it looked like the profile of a decent enough bloke; a bit of a wide boy maybe but a wife and kid and a bit of sense. Surely he knew what his brother was up to and he just let him get away with it? Karla was angry now, really fucking angry. That tosser had lied to her. Looked her in the eyes and lied to her.  She sucked hard on her fag and realised her eyes were full of tears - angry, vicious tears. But she wouldn’t cry. No she wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. She was better than them, and she was going to get that sleazebag locked up and the other one closed down. She checked Facebook and Twitter but nothing new, there was no response from the 2nd vict..woman. So she shut the top of her computer and went back to bed knowing that it would be a miracle if she slept a wink.

Karla yawned for the 26th time that morning. It was cold in her office but her eyes felt heavy and her heart even heavier. Then second ‘vict… woman’ hadn’t been in touch again and Karla felt utterly helpless. It was a man’s world and when men wanted to they could pull rank and close ranks and women could just fuck off and know their place. There was no point going to the club to ask the doormen if they knew the worm, Matt would have seen to it that they had a unified silence, a male Omerta - to be upheld at all costs even if that meant that women’s lives were ruined.

She made a decision, she checked her flexi-time, got up and grabbed her bag and went in to see her boss.
‘I know we’re meant to give more notice but I really need to take this afternoon off. I have the flexi, can I?’
Her boss looked at her, she must have looked a mess, sleepless eyes, angry brain, he didn’t dare say no. ‘Okay but in future blah blah blah ’ Karla stopped listening.  
Blah, Blah, Blah repeated Karla as she walked down the corridor, it’s all right for you you’ve got a dick. You don’t know what it’s like.

She marched into town, got to Real Deal and banged on the door. She waited stubbing out her fag as she did so. The door opened, she was greeted by a woman about Karla’s age, pretty, no make up.
‘We’re closed.’
‘I know,’ Karla said, thinking I’m not stupid. ‘I’m here to see Matt.’
‘Is he expecting you?’
‘Then he’s not here.’
‘Hey this isn’t some police drama, now let me in, I need to speak to him.’
But the woman didn’t have to let Karla in because Matt had appeared behind her.
‘It’s okay.’ He said to the woman, ‘ I meant Wednesday evening not Thursday afternoon.’ He said with a smile, ‘we don’t need doormen on a Thursday afternoon.’ He hoped humour would placate the angry woman at the door.
‘Let’s go to your office.’ Karla said with a stern voice and a sterner look.
‘Okay,’ Matt led the way down to the corridor.
The place stunk of stale booze and body odour - the downside of the smoking ban. Karla was scared, she was entering the lions’ den. Why had she gone there alone? Matt opened the door to a dingy office that was as messy as it was small. It also stank of body odour and wind. He cleared some papers off a chair and invited Karla to sit down. She did.
‘Why are you covering for him? I know he’s your brother.’
‘Then you know the answer then.’ Matt said with a smug look on his face.
‘Even though he’s raping women?’
‘That’s what you say, but I don’t see any raped woman in front of me, if anything it was you doing the assaulting wasn’t it? I should have called the police.’
‘You didn’t call the police cos you knew what that pig was up to. I got lucky but I have two women who weren’t as lucky as me. Turn him over to the police or I will make sure you get done as well for covering for him.’
‘Listen love don’t come here with your vague threats and nonsense. You don’t know who we are, you don’t know who we know and you certainly don’t know what you are getting yourself in to. So I suggest you back off, go back to where you came from and forget this whole thing.’
Karla laughed, she laughed right in his face. Look at him, some jumped up prick from Cwmbran who thought running a club in Cardiff made him one of the Kray twins.
‘Or maybe,’ she said, getting her face close to his. ‘You don’t know who you are messing with. How do you think I found out about him? Do you think I would come here alone? Think about it chum, maybe it’s you who doesn’t know what he’s getting himself involved with.’
He tried to keep a straight face but did Karla notice just a trace of fear behind his steely eyes? She turned and left the smelly office and headed for some fresh air, saying goodbye to the cleaner as she went.  She needed a smoke and a coffee.

Outside she was shaking so much she could hardly light the damn thing but she always found a way. She’d called his bluff by bluffing big time herself, but what if he had 4 aces, she only had 8 high. She had to talk Lucy in to going to the police.

 Lucy looked like a different person, she stood up a little straighter, her skin was less pallid, and her eyes had just the faintest hint of a sparkle, what’s more the smile that Karla had noticed the day before came a little more naturally.
‘You know’ she said taking a mouthful of coffee and blending it with the lungful of smoke. ‘You’ve been a lifesaver. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.’  She blew out the smoke. ‘I hadn’t told a soul, not even given a clue, then you came along and I’ve poured out my heart. Last night I cried for two hours and they were the first tears I’ve cried. Boy it felt good. You did that, you made me cry. Thank you.’ Karla blushed, she felt awkward she didn’t know what to say and she then realised her own tears were dripping down onto the table.
 ‘I’m so glad he didn’t get you. No one can imagine, no matter how hard you try, you can’t imagine what it feels like. No amount of showering, no amount of soap can wash him off. When you hugged me last night I realised it was just about the first time anyone had touched me since.’ Lucy bowed her head. Karla wiped her tears and mascara away with a finger leaving a smudge on her face. A seagull came close to them pecking at a discarded pieces of pastry. They sat in silence for a while just the three of them, two smoking, one eating croissant.
‘He wore a condom,’ Lucy said from nowhere, ‘I thought it was to protect me but it was to protect himself wasn’t it?  He’s seen those cop shows. Leaving no traces. Bastard.’ Karla put her hand on Lucy’s for a moment and grabbed her bag.
‘Let me show you what I’ve got.’ Karla said, getting out her folder. Lucy winced when she saw Mickey’s face.
‘He’s the brother of the owner of the club,’ Karla told Lucy. She told her all about the meeting with Matt.
‘Jesus you’re brave.’ said Lucy.
‘Stupid.’ said Karla.
‘Whatever, thank you.’
‘And,’ Karla said brushing off the gratitude. ‘Look!’ She showed Lucy the Twitter message. Tears formed in Lucy’s eyes again, ‘Jesus now I’ve started the waterworks I just can’t stop.’ She tried to laugh. ‘I hoped I was the only one. The poor girl.’
Again they sat in silence but words weren’t needed. Karla reflected that they’d only known each other 3 days but they felt like best friends. The seagull moved off looking for more scraps to feast on.

They both reached for their cigarettes at the same time, like a pair of synchronised swimmers in the pool. They laughed as they lit up. Lucy took a long drag and then as she exhaled she said ‘I will go to the police but give me time, give me time.’  Karla nodded and smiled. It was another little step in the right direction.

Karla had a busy day ahead of her, she had one rape victim for lunch, another one for coffee and a third one in her inbox. This was becoming a crisis. When she’d got home from seeing Lucy she had two Twitter messages, the first one was from the second vict.. woman arranging a meeting, the second was from a third vict.. woman. How was this guy getting away with it? It seemed that week after week he went to the same bar with the same pocket of pills, found a girl he liked the look of, drugged her and raped her. He had the barefaced cheek to go back time and time again. He knew the girls wouldn’t come forward, and if they did it would be his word against theirs. The drug was hard to detect, it was out of the system within 48 hours, so who’s to say they didn’t consent? He used protection so he didn’t leave any of himself behind. Not physically anyway. But he left behind mental scars all right, big, ugly invisible scars that would take a long time to heal.  She sent an email and grabbed her bag, it was time to meet woman two.
Karla was half way through a game of Candy Crush when the woman she was waiting for came in the café. She didn’t need to ask if it was Molly, she could just tell.
Molly was tall, slim, pretty. This deviant obviously had a type.  She looked tired, haunted, like she hadn’t slept in weeks. She smiled at Karla if you could call it a smile. Karla put her phone away and got up to shake Molly’s hand and then went to the counter to get her a flat white.
Molly spoke in a low monotonous tone, emotionless. There were no tears, Karla felt all the tears that could be cried had been cried.
‘I was in a club, he was dancing near me, I liked him to be honest, he smiled at me, I smiled back. We chatted at the bar. Then, well then it all went black. The next thing I remember I was sitting on a bench trying to work out what had happened.’ Karla sat quietly, listening intently. ‘I had pain, down there, I realised my knickers were gone. I knew what had happened even though I had no memory of it. Then the memories came back, hazy, grainy memories, but not a dream more than a dream, too real to be a dream, but I don’t know.’ They sat in silence drinking coffee. ‘Now I can see it all, his flat, his hands, his face, his…’ the words ran out but there were still no tears.
Karla showed Molly the dossier she had put together. Molly winced when she saw the smiling face from the Facebook photos.
‘Why didn’t you go to the police?’ Karla asked.
Molly shook her head, I couldn’t. I was ashamed, upset, confused. The story sounded ridiculous to my ears. I just couldn’t make sense of it let alone to be able to tell it. I just wanted to forget it happened.
‘So why are you talking to me?’
Molly shrugged ‘because it didn’t go away.’ She said quietly. ‘it didn’t go away.’
‘Will you go to the police now?’
‘What’s the point?
‘We’ve got to stop him.’
‘I’ve got to get back to work.’ Molly stood up and walked out of the coffee shop leaving Karla there alone.
Karla walked back to work smoking a cigarette and contemplating the latest development. She felt her phone buzz in her bag. Bloody Josh. When would he get the message?  But it wasn’t Josh, it was an unknown number. She slid her finger on the phone.

‘Back off lady, I’m watching you.’

Karla's evening meeting with Lucy had not yielded much. Lucy was still having doubts about the benefits of going to the police. It was frustrating but that was how it was. Karla had refrained from calling her a selfish bitch but only just. She had to remember what this woman had been through. Karla had nearly been drugged and raped, this woman had experienced it and no matter how close Karla had been, she just couldn't imagine what that was like. The problem was Lucy needed time but that time might lead there to being another Lucy, another Molly.
After their coffee Karla stayed where she was. She'd had enough caffeine for one day but she had someone else to meet. She waited patiently, preparing what she was going to say and wondering what she was going to drink. Claire was the third victim woman, they'd chatted all afternoon on Whatsapp. Like the others, she hadn't wanted to give away too much digitally but she agreed to meet for a coffee. Karla wondered what this one would bring, the same story from a different mouth or something different. Only time would tell.
She recognised the woman as soon as she came in but it took a while to place her, it was the cleaner at the club; the angry woman from the other day.
How on earth could she still work there if she'd been a victim of the owner's brother?  She looked prettier today, about the same height and size as Karla and Lucy and Molly for that matter, but a nice feminine face, lightly made up.
‘Hi’ Karla said tentatively suddenly concerned this might be a trap. Was this the brothers getting to her somehow?
‘Hi’ Claire said and sat down looking around making sure she didn’t know anyone. Her face was impossible to read.
‘I've got information, she said. When I found out why you'd come to the club I just had to find you and talk to you.’
Karla was still wondering if this was a set up but she listened carefully.
‘Mickey's a wanker, he's always at it, but Matt's no better, in fact if anything he's worse, he's got the connections and supplies the drugs, not just to Mickey but others too. Then he goes with Mickey, rumour is he just watches but still…’ Her voice trailed off.
Karla couldn't believe her ears,
‘How many?’
Claire shrugged, but it was a shrug that told Karla that it was more than the two she knew about.
She shook her head again.  ‘No way!’ she paused and then almost mumbled an explanation. ‘I'm their sister.’
Karla was shocked. She sat in silence trying to process this news.
‘Why are you telling me this?’
‘Cos it has to stop.’
‘Why not the police?’
‘I can't go to the police can I? I can't snitch on my own family.’
‘But if the police came to you?’
Claire gave a small almost undiscernible nod signalling she would talk to them.
‘I wouldn't testify though. No way.’
Karla felt her phone buzz. She ignored it.
‘Mickey's got pills at home, they are in his sock draw and there are some in the safe at the office. if you tell the police that and you won't need me.’ She paused and fidgeted. ‘If they know I spoke to you they will kill me, and be careful, I think they are getting sick of you.’ She got up to go.
‘Thank you’ said Karla,
‘Be careful’ Claire replied before leaving.
Karla checked her phone, it was from an unknown number.
‘I know where you drink skinny latte.’ 
Karla smiled, she wasn’t scared. In fact this was exactly what she hoped for.

She shot off a reply and put her phone back in her bag. She had a plan, she was going to have to be cruel to be kind but it was time to act.

As she walked down the street smoking a cigarette and looking for a Starbucks to quench her thirst, Karla felt simultaneously elated and distraught. She'd spent the morning presenting her case to two detectives, telling Lucy's and Molly's stories as well as her own. Unlike last time when she'd got a spotty uniformed officer barely out of school, this time she felt like she was talking to pros and what's more, they were taking her seriously. Despite the rapes and the stories of pills in sock drawers, it was the text messages that were the key. They were something that were real and tangible. It was exactly what Karla had expected and exactly what she wanted, knowing that with each message pinprick had sent he was incriminating himself. At the end of the meeting the two coppers told her they'd do their upmost to investigate everything including the rapes.
So why was Karla so distraught? She'd betrayed her two friends, that's why. She'd promised them confidentiality and had then gone and blabbed it all to the police. She'd promise to give them time, to let them go to the police when they were ready, but she'd ridden roughshod over those promises. She'd known it was the right thing to do, they needed to put that cesspit away before he had chance to create another Lucy or Molly, time was of the essence, but she felt awful, guilty, cheap, dishonest.
Her phoned buzzed in her bag, her stomach flipped, had one of the women already been visited by the police? Was this them telling her she was a traitor? Or was it pinprick with another one of his obscene threats. She almost hid her eyes as she looked at her phone. It was just from Josh, gosh Josh, he’d had seemed such major problem just 5 days ago but now he was the least of her worries. She'd deal with him when all this was over.
'Skinny latte please' she said to the Barista.
'What's your name love?' He replied.
She hated giving her name, it felt like an invasion of privacy somehow. Having your name written on a cup and shouted out when her drink was ready wasn’t right. Scum like pinprick could use that against you.
'Janus' she said reflecting her mood, the barista didn't flinch he just wrote it on the cup and took her money.
Karla flinched though, when she looked around for a place to sit and saw him sitting there waiting for her. This could not have been a coincidence, he'd followed her, was putting the frighteners on her? Thank god she hadn’t given her name.
She got out her phone and played with it while she waited for her drink, trying to avoid those nasty eyes watching her. Then she took her coffee and sat as far away as possible but still in the safety of the cafe, a nicotine hit could wait. She was aware of him watching her for a bit before he stood up and left. He hadn't said a word but he didn't need to. Karla was shaking like a leaf.
She checked her phone, the image wasn't steady but the video clearly showed him, clearly showed those ugly eyes staring at her. She found the business card the detectives had given her and sent the video to them.
She'd recovered her composure just enough to go outside to have a smoke, but after only two puffs her phone rang. It was Lucy.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. But she had to answer it.
She hit the green button.
‘What the hell have you done?’ Karla could tell Lucy had been crying. ‘They came to my house, to my home! Invaded my life.’
‘I'm sorry.’
‘I trusted you? You, you cow’.
‘Did you speak to them? Did you tell them?’ Karla was trying to brazen it out.
‘Of course I spoke to them, I had to.’
‘Good girl.’
‘Don't you good girl me you patronising bitch. I never want to see your ugly face again.’
With that the line went dead and Karla's knees went weak. Tears fell to the floor. God she needed a hug, but who was there to hug her? 

She stubbed out her cigarette and took a circuitous route home, watching, eyes everywhere making sure she wasn’t being followed and feeling like shit.

While the police were interviewing Lucy and Molly, a warrant came through to search two properties - a residential address in Cwmbran and a nightclub in the centre of Cardiff. The searches didn’t take long, but police left clutching evidence bags containing pills, computer equipment, video cameras and several pairs of women’s knickers. In other words a right little treasure trove of evidence that meant Mickey and Matt were heading for a long stretch of jail time. The problem was they didn’t  find either of the two scumbags, but the detectives involved felt that was just a matter of time.

Karla felt weird, for the first time that week she didn’t have a coffee date with Lucy. It sounded strange but she’d miss her. They’d become friends. She knew she’d betrayed her, but it was for the best. She decided to head into town. She’d tried to lose herself in the shops and then decided that she’d head to Starbucks anyway. She’d miss Lucy but she couldn’t live without the coffee hit. There was rain in the air, that fine, misty rain that Cardiff was famous for. She threw down her cigarette butt, stamped on it and went into the dry cafe and ordered her skinny latte.

She tried to play Candy Crush but she couldn’t concentrate, possibly because she was struggling with the level. She shut her eyes and tried to make sense of it all. What kind of world were they living in that men watched each other raping helpless women? What kind of men were they? She sighed heavily. And Prince Charming kissed the sleeping princess and they all lived happily ever after. But they didn’t did they? They didn’t live happily ever after. Not even her perfect sister, could she really say she was happy? Karla wondered how many times she’d been asked why she wasn’t married, why she didn’t have kids. But no one asked married people why they got married, why they had kids. But were the married ones any happier than the single ones? Ah her brain, it was back on this old chestnut. It must mean she thought the whole pinhead scenario was coming to an end if her brain could start thinking about the humdrum problems that usually accompanied her coffee. She yawned, she was tired, it was time to get home, get some food, have a nice bath and a glass of wine.

She got off the bus and headed up her street, the rain was still hanging in the air, making her hair stick to her head. She’d wished she’d brought a brolly. She heard steps behind her and quickened her pace. It was probably harmless but she was still a bit freaked out from seeing pinprick earlier.
‘Slut!’ Did she hear that or was she imagining things?
‘Bitch.’ She wasn’t imagining it. Someone was calling her names.
‘Lesbian.’ She quickened her step, so nearly running, but careful not to slip on the wet pavement. The voice were louder, the footfalls closer. Karla could feel her heart beating, she could hear her panting breath, she had to give up smoking. She daren’t turned around so she couldn’t see who was behind her but it must be pinprick or his brother. She was defenceless, helpless, doomed.
‘You fucking, fucking bastard.’  The voice had changed from male to female. The words were accompanied by heavy thuds. Karla turned around to see a tall woman whacking a short, weaselly man with an umbrella. Karla ran back towards the scuffle.
Pinprick was cowering on the street as the blows rained down. Lucy was putting more and more force into each thwack and, each time she hit the slime ball she yelled another obscenity. Karla had never heard so many synonyms for a sleazebag.
A blue light flashed down the road. Karla decided enough was enough and went to pull Lucy away from her target.
‘It’s okay,’ she pulled her off pinprick and hugged her, tears falling down both women’s faces.
The police car screeched to a halt, two policemen jumped out.
‘She was trying to kill me.’ the lowlife yelled.
One policeman told him to stand up and then cuffed him, read him his rights and unceremoniously dumped him in the squad car. The other copper approached the women.
‘I’d better take you two in too, just to check what was going on here.’ He said almost apologetically. A second car will be here in a mo, and with that another blue light appeared.

‘I was coming to apologise.’ Lucy told Karla outside the cop shop while they were waiting for the taxi. ‘I over reacted, you were right. But then I saw him, heard him yelling at you. I didn’t even know it was him at first, I just snapped.  Then when I recognised the little tosspot and saw he’d recognised me…’ She mimed hitting him. ‘Wow it was cathartic.’

They laughed and Karla got the feeling her friend was on the first steps to recovery.

Encouraged by Lucy, Karla was determined to sort out the other problem in her life. So here she was on her sister’s doorstep ringing the doorbell. If Karla had got her calculations right, her sister would be with the kids at karate class. The door swung open.
You listen to me Josh.’ She said to her sister’s husband.
‘We did something very stupid when we were both too drunk to care. But I’m not going to let one drunken kiss between us ruin my sister’s life any more than it already is. So back off. Whatever fantasy is going on in the dumb brain of yours forget it. There is no me and you, there is no us. If I get one more message from you, I’m telling Lorna. Understand?’

Josh nodded meekly. Karla turned away smiling to herself.

Did you enjoy this free short story? If you did, then please consider buying one or both of my novels. Details available here.

1 comment: