"Yeah, no shit. What do you want for a hundred bucks? Catherine Zeta Jones?"
I looked back from the not-too-prosperous-looking pimp to the two women in the back seat of the minivan. The description could have matched either of them, but I'd been looking at the one on the left, who was still holding her maternity dress up over her swollen breasts. She had the big brown areolas that women tend to get when they're pregnant -- and a big belly with that vertical stripe down the center that made you wonder if the poor thing was going to split. She was petite, otherwise, and kind of cute -- brunette, not hard to look at. You couldn't even see her snatch for the belly; for some odd reason, my attention was attracted by her red-painted toes. At the moment, she was barefoot -- naturally. The girl next to her was Filipino -- and except for color, they could have been twins. Both of them had that smile -- the tremulous one with the haunted eyes that said, "Be nice to me, Mister, because if you aren't, he won't be..."
"The holes still work," the pimp recoverd my attention. "You interested?"
What was Manny going to think if I dragged in a couple of pregnant chicks? "What else have you got?"
The pimp waved at the girls and they lowered their dresses. "Nothing else in that price range -- or even close."
For the record, I believed him. I was as nervous as a cat at the dog pound; I didn't do this kind of thing and this was the type of transaction where you EXPECTED to get stiffed. The good news was that, pregnant or not, she was in my price range -- in fact, they both were.
My name is Don, if that matters. I'm generally a straight-arrow, John Q. Citizen type. I have a fairly decent job doing tech support at a chemical company. I'm twenty-eight and a little bald on top already. Women don't even see me, so I don't have one -- no girlfriend, no wife, nothing. Never have. In the place of one, I have quiet desperation, my right hand, and porn. I've got a buddy named Manny with similar issues who just happened to have reached his thirtieth birthday and here I was, trying to negotiate something special for him -- for both of us, actually. A friend of a friend gave me a chat room handle which led to a phone number -- which led to another phone number, which led to various other cloak and dagger crap, which led me to be sitting in the back of a minivan with a black pimp and two pregnant women, wondering when someone was going to cut to the chase and pull a gun or a knife -- or a badge. That was always possible. I could become the town's latest sex offender, which would increase my chances with the ladies a LOT!
That's a pretty good explanation of why I was nervous...
Pregnant or not, pricing was better than acceptable -- which caused me to worry when the shit would hit the fan. Manny would probably forgive me for the whole pregnancy thing when warm lips enveloped his meat; the trick was probably going to be surviving this meeting intact. I looked from one of the young women to the other. "How long?"
"Business is slow. What do you want? We'll come up with a price. This pair -- well, you can see the problem with them."
"Yeah." They were really pregnant -- which said they probably weren't cops, although the pimp or his driver could still be. That left the dangers involved in farting around with criminals -- which were bad enough. "All night?"
"Buck and a half. It's a discount, but then I don't have to fucking babysit them."
I grunted. That was fine -- I had five hundred in my wallet and the same in my car; three hundred worked. I sat wondering if I could get greedy.
The pimp misread me. "Awright -- we'll go the hundred."
I covered my surprise. "What do I get?"
"Whatever you want. I don't give a fuck. If you kill her, dispose of her yourself." The girls both flinched, which caused me to believe that he was serious.
"What can you do me for two nights?" I asked.
The pimp squinted at me, realizing that he'd probably low-balled himself. "Why two nights?"
I managed a smile. "I find that nothing makes you want pussy like getting some. After one night, I'll want more -- after two, I'll probably be set for a while."
The pimp nodded. "Friday's the weekend." He was going to shake me down for a higher rate. Okay, maybe I'd have to say no. I frowned at him, waiting.
Again, he mistook my indecision for something else. "Yeah, awright. They're not covering their upkeep. One eighty -- either one." I frowned again -- this was too easy. He frowned back, "What the fuck?"
"Just surprised, that's all."
The pimp looked bothered. "Let's talk outside."
I shrugged. Outside the car, someone might notice the gun or knife play... I got out behind him. He leaned against the car and said, "Lookit, I'll be honest -- those two were a bad investment. They started out okay, but the bigger they get, the harder it is to peddle them. They're a specialty thing now, and there isn't a lot of demand. Neither one of the cunts has turned a trick in a week. If they don't show something soon, I'm gonna have to drop 'em from the inventory. You like one over the other? I might be able to keep one a couple more days -- that'd simplify the choice..."
I put on my best poker face; if I was reading this guy right, being dropped from the inventory meant they were going to end up dead! "What if they turn a profit for a couple of days?"
He picked his teeth. "It won't last." Then his eyes lit. "Why don't I just sell you one?"
"What? I'm not set up with a basement dungeon, Man!" I erupted.
"No need -- they're both broken in. It doesn't take much to keep them in line. I do it by telling them I'll punch them in the gut a few times so they'll miscarry. I got them from this Armenian guy who worked on 'em until they were nice and docile."
"And after the babies are born?" I asked, incredulous.
"Hey, you've got the kids, then. Both of them are big into motherhood -- they won't abandon them. Darla's kid is by the love of her life, or whatever, who caught it from a roadside bomb in Iraq -- it's her memento, or whatever. Luz... Shit, Luz barely speaks English -- I don't fucking know why, but she's been real good."
"What the fuck would I do with them?"
"Make 'em clean houses or something if you don't want to put 'em out. I can't do that shit -- bad for morale among the other girls." He eyed me. "Five hundred. Pretty decent for permanent unmarried cooze."
"What if they're too much trouble?" I asked. This was deep...
"Put 'em on the street. Somebody will pick 'em up. The competition will -- but they won't last long; I'm soft-hearted." He grinned. Cocking his head, he said, "You could sell the kids -- but you'd have to kill the two of 'em first."
"I'm not really set up for that," I told him. "I'm just looking for pussy!"
"Yeah, sorry. I hate wet work."
I wanted to puke! Holding the poker face, I said, "Five hundred? Apiece?"
"Both?" He looked surprised.
"If it's as simple as you say it is..."
"Hey, worst case, you fuck their brains out and put 'em on the street for someone else to clean up," he replied, shrugging.
Unbelievable... "Get Darla out. I'll give you money for her. Give me a couple of minutes and I'll be able to pay for Luz, too."
I watched him think about screwing me over -- but I was doing him a favor. He opened the van door. "Darla! Move your pregnant ass out here!" Darla got out, with some difficulty. I opened my wallet and extracted three hundreds and four fifties and handed them to him. "Meet your new owner. He knows how to deal with your shit, so don't give him any." Darla nodded and moved next to me, rubbing her swollen belly nervously.
I pointed at my car. "Get in the Chevy." She nodded and waddled off. "What else do I need to know?"
He shrugged. "The Armenian trained them. A veiled threat is as good as a slap in the mouth -- especially if you DO slap 'em once in a while. The Armenian probably kills off twenty percent of his stock with no warnings as object lessons to the rest. I don't know what else he does, but I've heard tales. They've never given me any trouble -- no bitch I ever bought from the Armenian has."
"Give me a minute to collect the payment for Luz," I told him. Seeing the way he looked at me, I added, "It's all that there is in the kitty, so you have nothing to gain... I only came out to buy a couple of shots of leg, remember, not start a white slavery business." I think I actually got some respect from him. I backed away warily, going to the car and opening the left rear door to fish the envelope with my backup money in it out of the pocket behind the front seat. Darla was settling into the passenger seat in front. "Just sit there and don't do anything stupid," I told her. She nodded.
I headed back to the van. When I was about halfway there, he opened the van door and yelled, "Luz! Come out of there, you little cocksucker!" That put her little brown feet on the parking garage floor about the time I got there. She bent over and collected two pair of flip-flops from inside the van, displaying an ass no doubt widened by pregnancy. It looked good to me. I just handed the guy the envelope. He glanced inside, not bothering to count it. "You'd have been a sucker, wouldn't you?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I dunno. I wasn't wildly excited. If you're asking would I have paid this for one, maybe, given the circumstances -- but you needed to get rid of both, anyway, right?"
"Yeah." He pursed his lips. "Pleasure doing business with ya." He turned to Luz. "Luz. Car." He pointed. She started waddling. I backed away warily (not that I could have done shit), but he waited until I'd reached the car and then said, "Oh, yeah -- here's their shit," and went to the back of the van and withdrew two bags, dropping them on the floor, then climbed into the van; it pulled away, and no firearms appeared. No flashing blue lights came on, either. I'd traded a thousand dollars for the lives of two pregnant women; what was I going to get for that money, exactly? Jail time? On the surface, the transaction merely resembled more white slavery... I couldn't claim to be as pure as the driven snow, here -- I came out looking for a prostitute, and I got two... I went over and cautiously collected the bags and brought them back to the car.
Luz opened the back door and got in, belting herself in securely -- with a fatalistic lack of concern over future events, it seemed to me. We could be going for a ride to the sausage factory, or to view some shallow graves from close up -- but she was going to get there uninjured. I opened the bags and checked them -- clothes -- then threw them in the trunk, and got in and fired up and pulled out of the garage, turning left -- heading nowhere special, since I had no idea where I was and I wasn't headed home. I needed to know if we were being followed, at least.... Darla was sitting quietly, but there was something in her eyes... "Okay, talk..."
"Anything you want, Mister!" Darla burst out. "You got it! We were dead, you know? If you looked us over and said no, we were headed for the city limits -- and Luz and I weren't coming back! That goon of his has this neck-breaking twist he likes to brag about -- and he was going to practice on us!"
"You could have made a run for it, I guess..." I offered.
"Are you kidding? You've seen me walk! A little old lady in a wheel chair could catch me! I'd have just pissed him off and he'd have hurt me for a while first..."
I couldn't see anyone following me; unless I was the target of some superspy TV cop thing, I was probably in the clear for now... I glanced at her. "Okay, look. I frankly don't know what to tell you, because all I want you to know is whatever it takes to keep you from giving me a lot of trouble. I'll say this about that -- I was offered several easy suggestions for how to deal with you if you give me any crap -- some of which seemed pretty damned simple to execute. Are we good so far?"
"Things are... nebulous. I didn't show up with the intention of taking you off Whatshisname's hands." I related. "That means I don't know what I've gotten into and who knows what I'll do if I get a lot of crap from the pair of you. I guess you could say that your previous owner was a wholesaler and I'm a retailer. There are going to be changes, but I'm not sure you'll notice right away. I put out a decent chunk of change for you so I'm going to want you to do who, what, when, where, and how I want for a while. Did you do any domestic shit for Whatshisname?"
"Domestic shit?" Darla blinked.
"Cook, clean, laundry, yada, yada, yada..." I replied.
"Oh. Not much. We kept ourselves together, mostly. He had some chicks who handled that for him, I guess," Darla related.
"Well, it'll be added to your other duties, I figure. I'll be keeping an eye on the rat poison," I grunted.
"So we're not going somewhere to do a snuff video, then..." Darla mused.
"Not hardly," I replied. "You do birthday parties, though. It's my friend Manny's birthday, and you two are the present, for starters." I sighed. "I wish I could believe a fucking thing he said -- it would sure make life easier."
"What do you want?"
"I want you to do what you've no doubt been doing -- make me and my friends happy. I want you to behave yourselves and not go running up and down the hallways of my apartment building telling everyone in sight that you're a slave and you're being forced to fuck against your will and would someone call the cops? I want to stick my dick in you several times over the next few days, and I want to enjoy it and I want to be able to believe that you do, too. After that, I have no idea; I certainly can't expect a couple of decades of unmarried domestic bliss, but it would be nice..."
"When do you plan to kill us?"
"It's currently not on the agenda. As your previous owner said to me, 'I'm not into wet work.' The longer you behave yourself and make my life easy, the longer I don't have to think about such things -- and I never want to, actually."
"Sounds too good to be true."
"Then I probably fucked up and let too much slip already," I sighed, "which means I'll probably end up in jail for rescuing you from certain death, just because I'm a pushover. Look, the future is kind of dim and murky for all of us, but I don't THINK it's the inside of an oblong box." I started looking for a way to get pointed toward my apartment. "This is gonna sound like the stupidest fucking question..." I grunted. "He said you don't run and you don't fight and you don't have to be tied to the furniture at night. How much of that is true -- like I can afford to believe you."
Darla shrugged. "Where would we go? Tying us to the furniture wouldn't be fun, since I have to pee about six times a night..."
"Somebody is looking for you, right?"
"You mean besides the cops and pimps? Mister, we've both been picked up once or twice -- and we kept our mouths shut. That means we're regular whores as far as the cops are concerned. My family isn't looking -- they disowned me when I moved out to be with Darrin -- and Darrin is dead, which is how I fell into this hole. Luz is legal by marriage, but her American hubby was more of a purchasing agent and pass-through than anything else -- she went straight to the Armenian. If we turn up on the street in THIS town, we'll just end up in someone else's stable -- and if we don't produce..." Darla shuddered. "Somewhere else it probably wouldn't make any difference." She paused for a moment. "So you want a couple of housewhores. That's the best offer I've had in months. Does it come with a medical plan?" She rubbed her belly.
"Probably, as long as I stay out of jail to pay premiums," I muttered.
"Luz." Darla turned in the seat and sat there, rubbing her belly under her maternity dress while she rattled off some pidgin Spanish or something. The next thing I knew there were hands on my chest and a lot of long, black silky hair on my neck and a voice husked, "I'm gonna take such good care of you, Baby..."
"Tell her to put her seatbelt back on -- she doesn't want to distract me and get us all killed!" I croaked. Darla rattled off something and Luz sat back. "What did you tell her?" I asked.
"That we weren't going to a studio for a snuff video and that we'd probably live through the night," Darla replied. "Oh, and that you were her new owner."
"She gets happy easy," I muttered.
Darla shrugged. "You learn to. I've had the shit kicked out of me so many times, I've learned to expect it -- like breakfast. Except I don't EXPECT breakfast any more."
I felt sad. She was small and soft and fragile -- and very pregnant -- and had been treated probably worse than I would treat a dumb animal. Her hair was up in a bun and little soft tendrils hung loose below it, making her look vulnerable. Now, if I just didn't have to discover the hard way that she knew eight different ways to kill someone with a butter knife...
"There isn't going to be a lot of trust between us to start," I said. "From where I sit, I don't see any reason for you to like me or to be happy with your lot. That makes you a danger. You need to do stuff to earn my trust -- and I need to do stuff to earn yours. I'm being up-front, here; I don't want you disappointed if I don't let you play in the knife drawer."
Darla nodded. "Okay, I get that."
Nobody said much for the twenty minutes that it took to get to my place; Luz and Darla went back and forth once and they could have been deciding how to carve me up, but it didn't happen. The security guy got a kick out of me arriving with two pregnant chicks carrying suitcases; I thought about making excuses for them, but didn't bother. He could entertain himself trying to figure it out -- and would probably not even get close to the truth. Once in my apartment, I had a problem; pregnant or not, I wasn't ready to fence off two women from everything that might cause me physical injury. I waved them onto the couch and then wandered the apartment, trying to figure out what the Hell to do. "What's wrong?" Darla asked.
"I'm not set up for prisoners. I'm not set up to be able to deny access to anything dangerous to a couple of adult women. I'm trying to figure out what the Hell I'm going to do."
Darla shrugged. "Got any rope?"
"Yeah..." I had some Velcro for cable management of my home machines. I went and got it. Darla sat forward on the couch. "You want to go for behind the back."
I sighed. "Am I being an idiot here?"
"Well, no -- but you're wasting your time," Darla replied. "If I have to advise you on security, it won't take me long to forget to tell you something."
Luz lit off for a moment with a stream of chatter. "What was that?" I asked.
"She's bitching me out," Darla related. "You can't wipe when you pee with your hands behind you."
"And you pee a lot. I know." I sighed. How did they do this in the movies?
Darla was grinning. "We could pinky-swear or something."
"Yeah." I sighed. "Fuck this shit. After tonight, if you want to walk, just do it. But I want some of what I paid for, first, you know?"
"Good." I tossed the Velcro on the end table. "I need to make a phone call. You'll be entertaining in an hour. Dig in your suitcases and change and clean up and pee -- whatever."
"Okay." Darla gabbled at Luz and the pair headed for my bedroom.
"Damn! Can you stay in sight? I haven't woman-proofed that room!" I erupted.
"Come in and watch, Silly! You own us!"
"Yeah..." So I stood in the door watching two pregnant women dig in their suitcases and stuff while I called Manny...
"What the fuck, Don!"
"Get your ass over to my place."
"And what the fuck for?"
"Got you a birthday present."
"Not this," I told him. "It's got an expiration date. Turns into a pumpkin at midnight. Besides, I've got a twelve-pack of your favorite brew."
"Not in the mood."
"Man, if you miss this, you'll be kicking yourself until your thirty-first birthday!"
"Shit. You make it sound like..."
"Does it start with a 'p'?"
Dead silence. Then, "What?"
"I was just guessing..."
"Donnie? You didn't, did you?"
"You didn't hire a..."
"I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me."
"Fifteen minutes! No, fuck! Twenty! I gotta shower!" The phone went dead.
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