Wilmington Woman's Club Ch. 57byParis Waterman©
Marty visited three of Fayetteville's seedier strip clubs before he located Dominic Strassi. It was Strassi whose name he had found on the envelope in Conrad's abandoned duplex in Asbury Park.
He got Strassi outside by pressing a Glock .45 into his ribs.
"Who the fuck are you?" Strassi demanded when Marty had steered him into the alley between the club and a closed pawn shop.
"Your worst fucking enemy," Marty snarled, and then punched him in the back of the head with the Glock, opening a cut that began to bleed profusely.
"You crazy? I never done nothing to you!"
"I've got some questions for you, fuck face," Marty growled and tapped him on the head again.
"Wincing with pain, Strassi said, "All right, all right, for Christ's sake. Whadda ya want from me?"
"I'm gonna offer you a deal, Dominic."
"A deal? What the fuck ... who are you?"
"I've told you who I am. Now are you listening?"
"Yeah, I'm listening."
"I'm gonna drop a name. You pick up on it, give me good information and I'll give you enough to make a couple of them strippers want to play with your dick all night."
"What's the name?"
"Yeah, I know the name," he said.
Marty breathed out. "Where is he?"
"I don't know."
Marty put the Glock back against the head wound.
"No don't!" He whined. "I saw him last week, Wrightsville Beach, it was. He was having lunch on the pier at the Oceanic."
"Did you talk to him?"
"What do you mean, no time?"
"I mean I was leaving . . . with a friend, you know?"
"You didn't stop, say hello?"
"Naw, look, I had this broad . . . she was ready, you know?"
Marty reached out and took hold of the lapels of Dominic's leather jacket, brought him up close to his face, said, "I need more than that, Dominic," spittle flew from his mouth into the other man's face.
"Wait . . . wait!" Dominic bleated with some urgency. "This week . . . somewhere at the beach."
"That I don't know."
"Yes you do. Or you will."
"I'll call you, I promise."
"As soon as I hear something."
Marty watched a beer truck roll into the lot across the street. They would be delivering a week's supply of beer to the bar directly across the street from the strip club. Fayetteville was a servicemen's town and there were plenty of beer drinkers out over the weekend.
"Here's my number," Marty said, and thrust a paper into Dominic's hand.
"I . . ."
Marty smashed his fist into Dominic's face, heard several teeth cracking, and pulled away before the blood spurted from his mouth and onto his clothing.
"Get out, and find that motherfucker!"
"Okay! Okay! Dominic said, holding one hand over his bloody mouth and supporting himself by leaning into the alley wall with the other.
"Dominic? A word to the wise. Gentner has a bad habit of killing the messenger, so running to him will do you more harm than good. On the other hand, you don't come up with something worthwhile for me; they may find you washed up on the beach after the crabs have had a chance to pick at you for a day or two."
"Hey, c'mon, don't even kid about that kinda thing."
"I'm not kidding, you just haven't realized it."
"I . . . I'll call. I'll have something."
Marty left him in the alley, went around the corner and got into his Grand Am. He started it up, pressed down on the gas, spun the Grand Am to the left, the open door slammed shut and he roared off toward Wilmington, slamming his palm into steering wheel in frustration.
The next day, Dominic called at 4:30PM.
"What do you have?"
"He's seeing this whore. She's a part time escort, a sometime stripper."
"Name? Work place?"
"Oh, yeah, name's Casey, or K.C. She's a brunette, works at Dockside Doll's out on Market in Wilmington."
"I'll find the place."
"We square, now, Marty?"
"We'll see," Marty said and hung up.
When he walked into Dockside Doll's, the bar was less than half full, a single dancer on the stage. She was barely out of her teens, short blonde hair and a cut-off T-shirt that read ACCESSIBLE TO STRANGERS.
He took a stool, nodded at the hard-eyed barmaid, asked for a Budweiser, and looked around the bar while he waited.
He looked at his watch. It was ten after eleven. The barmaid slapped the beer in front of him and picked up the ten he'd laid on the bar for her. Two other dancer's, one white, one black working the bar, smiled at him, but he didn't smile or offer any bills to them and they ignored him from then on.
He was coming out of the men's room at ten-thirty, when he saw the brunette. She was dressed in street clothes, coming out of the dressing room. She waved to the bartender and headed for the front door. He followed her.
She went directly to a Mazda convertible, got in and turned the key. The starter growled, but didn't catch. Marty headed toward his black, Grand Am, opened the door and switched on the ignition. In the silence of the parking lot, the Grand Am roared to life.
He sat there, waiting. A moment later she opened her car door and got out. He rolled down his window and called out, "Won't start?"
"She glanced his way, shrugged and said, "It will ... at least it always has."
"Keep trying, I hang loose," he said grinning at her.
She liked his confidence, but returned her attention to the matter at hand and tried the ignition again. The resulting sound was less promising in that instead of the usual growl now all she heard was a meek whimper. The battery was dead r dying."
Marty was already opening his trunk and taking out a set of battery cables.
"Open your hood," he said authoritively.
She did, and he hooked up the cables to her battery, walked back to his Grand Am, found the cable wire was too short, and got in his car and bought it alongside hers.
He got out and opened his hood, connected the cables and started his car again.
"Try it now," he called out.
She did and the Mazda's engine roared to life.
"Thanks," she called out with a smile and a wave.
"Wait a minute," Marty yelled over the sound of her engine.
"Where are you going to find a place open at this hour?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you drive that car home, fine. But you'll have a dead battery tomorrow morning, sure as I'm standing here."
A puzzled expression crossed her face. "What do you suggest?"
"Where do you have it serviced?"
"Umm, at Ted's Exxon on College."
"Go there. I'll follow you. Leave it with a note. Put the keys under the seat or in the glove compartment and leave the door open."
"Why would I leave the door open? Anyone could come by and see it."
"Not open, open. Close it, but don't lock it."
"Oh, Christ! You must think I'm an idiot."
"Come on, get your car to Ted's, I'll follow you."
"What then?" she inquired, although she already had a good idea where this was heading.
"I buy you a drink at the place of your choosing."
"Sir fucking Galahad," she muttered under her breath, but then said aloud, "Fine, let's do it."
She parked the Mazda between a ford Victoria and a beat-up pickup. Her confidence in the Mazda's safe-keeping grew when she noted a similar note to her own on the windshield of the Victoria.
She put an extra wiggle into her walk as she made her way to Marty's Grand Am, opened the door and got in.
"I'm called K.C." she said, and offered her hand.
"Marty," he replied taking her hand and shaking it once then releasing it. "So, where shall we go?"
"Head downtown. There's a little rooftop bar I like. I think they have a band tonight, could be interesting."
Marty put his car in gear and pulled out onto College, then made a right on Oleander. He jumped onto 17th Street, took it to Market and then turned right on North Front Street, found a parking space two doors from the club, and made K.C. laugh out loud by telling her he had reserved the space an hour before.
The next hour was spent listening to the music, drinking and getting to know one another. He did not ask her to dance, and she did not suggest it.
"Every once in a while I'm reminded I had a life once, you know?" K.C. said. She sipped her drink, put it down.
"I was just asking."
"I've been a prisoner since I got back here. At least that's the way it feels. This is the first time I've been out in eons," She laughed. "Eons? Where the hell did that come from?"
"It's really none of my business," he said, and took a long swallow of his beer.
"You're right, it isn't."
The band members were starting to make their way back onstage, drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. The guitarist and keyboards were white, the others black.
"No, no. I'm sorry," she said. I was having a good time, not thinking about any of this shit. Until now."
"Forget it; I'm sorry I brought it up."
"Let's dance, I think they'll kick off the set with a slow number," he told her.
K.C. got up and he took her in his arms. It crossed his mind that she felt good, like she belonged there.
She touched his jacket, drew her hand away self-consciously, let it drop.
"No, I'm right to apologize," she said. "Getting all wound up without a reason. Things haven't been so good for me lately."
He grinned at her, and she felt herself relaxing even more.
"If it's all the same to you, after this dance I'd like to get out of here," he told her.
Nodding her head, she said, "Let me get my jacket."
She took a last sip of her drink, put it down on the bar and made her way through the crowd to the tables. She leaned over and spoke to a guy now sitting in the chair she had left, retrieved her leather coat from the chair he sat in and headed for the exit. Marty followed at a short distance, admiring her rear and calves.
The band kicked into the Stone's oldie, "Satisfaction," as he caught up to her, pushed the door open and held it for her. They walked down the stairs to the street without speaking. She zipped up the leather coat as they went out into the cold.
Outside, the music from the roof was muffled. He pointed up the street to where his Grand Am was parked. She puffed, watched her breath mist, and with a girlish gesture, bumped shoulders with him as they walked.
At the Grand Am, he unlocked the passenger side door. As he made his way around the car, he saw her lean over, pop the lock on his side. He got behind the wheel, switched on the ignition, racing the engine slightly to warm it up. She smelled of cigarette smoke and vanilla musk.
"You hungry?" She asked. "There must be a diner open someplace around here."
"Whatever," he said, pulling away from the curb. There was warm air coming from the vents now. They stopped at a light. He gave the engine some gas to keep it from stalling.
"I'm kind of curious," he said. "Just how old are you?"
She looked at him, "I'm old enough," she replied.
"I didn't mean anything by that," he said. "I just . . ."
"Twenty," she said and looked away and out her side window, then turned and looked at him.
He nodded. They were silent as they drove past darkened storefronts, bars with enticing beer signs glowing in their windows. She looked around the car.
"This is nice," she said, breaking the silence, "How old is it?"
"Twelve years next month."
"Wow! But . . . it's cute, really it is. How fast can it go?"
"It's got a lot of engine under the hood. I'd say it can outrun most trooper's cars . . . say around 140 miles per hour. But I've never taken it that far."
"I love going fast," she said.
"I was hoping you were the fast type," he grinned at her, taking his eyes off the road to look at her.
She giggled, and looking back at him, said, "I deserved that, I guess, but I'm not easy, you know."
"Want some speed?"
"Yeah, go fast for me."
Marty slowed the car, made a u-turn and drove several blocks, turned onto a road that ran parallel to the highway.
"This should do for us," he said, looked at her, saw she was breathing faster.
"Hold on!" He yelled, and she grabbed at the side of her seat, braced herself by pressing her feet against the floorboards. He gave the Grand Am the gas and it took off like a rocket. The engine roared for a moment then began to purr and then whine. She looked at the road dead ahead, then out the passenger window. Everything was a blur. She looked at the speedometer, 125 MHP, and rising.
At 130 he eased up. "Running out of road," he said calmly as he brought the car to a slow stop. He looked at her then, feeling her nearness. She was looking out the windshield. Her face gave nothing away.
He turned the car around and headed back in the direction they had raced from. A few minutes later she spoke. "Turn here, oh, turn here, please."
They were in Carolina Beach now; dark, save the few bars still open, or in the process of closing.
"On the right," she said. "Over there."
She pointed at an empty oversize lot, a dark bingo parlor on one side, a church on the other.
"Can you pull in?" she asked.
The Grand Am's lights flashed across the lot, the wooden-slat fence at the back of the property. The blacktop around them was potted, cracked and split. He put the car in neutral, tugged the emergency brake on.
She swiveled in her seat, looked around the lot.
"They used to have kiddy rides here," she said, her voice a reedy whisper. "My mother used to take me on Friday nights in the summer sometimes after she got off work."
He looked at her. She was somewhere else just then.
"I haven't been back in . . . well, since the last time she brought me."
He looked out at a pile of metal, switched on his high beams. He saw rusted metal arms sprouting from the center of once-black steel. In that instant he knew what it was. The Octopus, a ride from his childhood, but the cars had been removed, left to rust.
"When you were a kid, did you come here?"
"Sometimes," he said, lying, realizing she thought he was local. He repeated himself, "Sometimes," but this time there was a somber wistfulness to his tone.
She was looking out the window again.
"Funny," she said, "How a memory like that can bring so much more back to you. "Sorry, I'm babbling, but I haven't had that much to drink, really."
"I know, I've got the same kind of feelings," he said.
"It was so long ago. It seems like a dream now." She was looking out the window again.
"Well, we tend to remember the good things," he said.
"No," she said. "I remember the bad things too. You have to concentrate to bring back the really good things. Or something like this sets it off.
"Are your parents still around?"
She shook her head.
"Never knew my father. Mom died when I was fourteen."
"You grew up on your own?"
"My mother's sister. It wasn't good. I ran away."
"I had my reasons. Can we stay here a few minutes?"
He shut the headlights off.
After a moment, she said, "It's not fair, is it?"
"All those things . . . happen to you when you're a kid. Things you had no control over. And, and, you never get out from under then . . ." She began to sob, "No matter what."
"Maybe it's what you do with it that counts," he offered and put his arm around her shoulder.
"That's what the therapist told me."
"What happened there?"
She looked directly at him, then, said "At the end of one of the sessions, she tried to kiss me. I let her."
"Yes, are you shocked?"
"Not too professional of her," he said, suddenly striving to remain calm beside her.
"It wasn't. But I brought it on myself. I was hooking on the side and kind of enjoying shocking her with some of the things I encountered . . . some of the things I did for a buck."
"You must have given off some vibe to get her to . . ."
"Am I getting to you too?"
She glanced at his lap and the bulge he was trying, unsuccessfully to cover.
He didn't see her look and she decided to keep talking. "Sure, the flirting . . . I could see the effect it was having on her. Of course, she knew the business I was in, so she must have figured I was a safe bet. But the reason I let it happen was that the therapy was becoming a little uncomfortable. I didn't want to hear certain things and we were certainly headed in that direction. I knew it and of course, she knew it."
"So you took control of the situation."
"Yeah, like I've done all my life."
"You go back to her afterward?"
"Once or twice. It wasn't the same and I stopped going. Shit, she was charging me $300 a week, and that's not chicken feed."
He looked out the windshield, said, "And here you are."
"You don't want to fuck me?"
He blushed with guilt. It was exactly what he wanted to do, right then and there.
"Christ," she said sarcastically, "You're blushing. You know, you're the first guy I've met since I was fourteen, didn't want to fuck me."
"I never said that," he said, defensively. "You don't quit do you?"
"Sorry." Now it was her turn to stare out the window. But Marty could see her smiling.
"Can we go now?" He asked impatiently.
"In a minute," she said, and leaned toward him. He turned and she cupped the back of his neck with her hand, pulled him close. He tried to get his hands up between them, but then her lips were on his, her eyes closed. Her mouth opened and he could taste the sweetness of alcohol. He met her tongue with his own. His hands came up, cupped her face, and she held his wrists as they kissed, then pulled away, smiling.
He was breathing shallowly, his heart racing.
"Sorry," she said. She let go of his wrists. "I probably shouldn't have done that, should I?" She leaned back against the door, watched him, alert for any sudden movement on his part. "It's like I was telling you, you know, the way I deal with things."
He saw her amusement, felt a surge of anger sweep through him.
"Are you mad at me?"
He let his breath out, put the headlights on, let the brake go then shifted into reverse.
"You are, aren't you? I can tell," she said, not looking at him.
"You can? Well good for you. You'll probably have your own therapy service soon."
He backed out into the street, turned toward Carolina Beach again. She put her left hand lightly on his thigh.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He took one hand off the wheel, used it to gently ease her hand from his leg.
"Now I get the silent treatment, huh?" She said after a moment. "You don't say another word all the way back?"
"Give me a break."
"Take me to your place; I'll give you more than that."
He looked at her. She looked back, not smiling.
He turned right onto Atlantic Avenue, shook his head slowly.
"You sure you want to pass up this opportunity?"
They swung around the lake, he didn't answer.
"But you will, won't you? Because you want me to know you're different."
He didn't answer, made a right onto South 3rd Street. After a few blocks, she said, "I ruined your night."
"Just drop it," he said and turned off Greenville Avenue onto Ft. Fisher Boulevard.
He drove by darkened houses, read street signs.
"Make a left at the next corner," she said.
He turned left; saw the house directly ahead on a cul du sac. He parked at the curb.
"I guess I should thank you," she said, "For—"
He pulled her to him, cupped her face; kissed her, felt her sudden intake of breath. Her mouth opened and he tasted her again, his fingers in her hair. Her left hand slipped into his jacket, touched his chest. Her right hand slid quickly up his thigh, stroked his hardness through his jeans.
He began to undo the zipper of her leather jacket, His hand slid inside and she caught it, lifted it to her left breast. He cupped its warm softness, felt the nipple harden through the cloth.