Sunday, February 19, 2012

Finding Her (Muse 9: "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien")

Continued from Muse 8 Part 2

She wouldn't have believed a word he'd said if she hadn't heard it from his own lips. He knew everything, her life stripped bare. She feels the caffeine giving her a buzz and her brain's addled with the information overload but she's convinced. He is psychic, he does know every detail about her. 

"Carter's not dead..." he tells her, and the relief she feels mingled with the wish that he'd bled out beneath the mirror frame. She doesn't regret shooting him. But, she's glad she hasn't added murder to her misdemeanours.  She's thrilled that Ammeh is looking for her and agitated to see her aunt, never met but so often written to, and talked about by her mother.

"I can't go to the police," she pleads, "I have no papers, they'll send me back and Lopez will kill me or worse. He has contacts everywhere, the minute I land he'll find me."

Rick reassures her, with no authority, that they'll do all they can to keep her in the country. The warmth and tenderness in his voice disguising the affection in his heart. This girl is more beautiful than he'd envisioned. More fragile than he'd thought. He wants to wrap her up, protect her and is making promises he knows he can barely keep.

*Want to call your aunt?" The question forming a temporary distraction to his wanting Marique. He grabs his cell and dials Tala's number while Marique begins to cry.

***
"She has to go back to Colombia," her lawyer's face dispassionate despite his respect for Tala's reputation.

"That can't happen." Her tone is emphatic, although she knows gaining refugee or resident status in the US is impossible while Marique is on American soil. At least for now, she's safe with Rick Thompson, off the street and out of harm's way. 

"Joe, if she goes back, Lopez will find her. He has eyes and ears everywhere. I suspect he already knows she's here. He'll have traced my request for her birth certificate. He'll be waiting for her to hit Bogota. This is not an angry man. This is the Devil's spawn. He'll kill her or worse, do the same to her as Xavier did to her mother, she'll die a coke riddled sex slave."

Joe fondles his unshaven chin. He's worked hard to find a loophole, an avenue of escape, a reason to keep Marique in the US while her petition's read but it's hopeless.

"She could marry? It's a long shot and strictly speaking she should have done it within the first 90 days of hitting our fair land but.....harder to deport a woman married to an American."

***
The ceremony is short and held at city hall. Rick is over the moon. Marique less so. She likes him, he's been good to her. He'd never 'tried anything' or abused her. On the contrary he'd been a gentleman, given her space yet showered her with affection. He was gentleness personified and she appreciated him keeping his hands to himself. This marriage strategy is just a last-ditched attempt to legitimise her existence in a country that to date, has not treated her well. Perhaps she could even come to love him over time. He's easy on the eye and his touch gentle.  He looks particularly handsome in a suit. She looks totally stunning in a sweet lace trimmed dress that he bought her for the occasion. It's well fitting style accentuating her curves and complementing her skin. They look every piece the authentic couple in love.

Her father's legacy has given her a financial break. Her aunt's wiles and knowledge, the best legal representation. Even Silverman has written letters of recommendation and done all he can within the law to petition for her residency.  Saying "I do" for her, is a promise of a future, a life with no regrets. For him, the hope that she might come to love him. More as a token to seal the arrangement, the couple kiss when pronounced man and wife. For a fleeting moment, he feels the softness of her mouth and laments that his 'gift' doesn't allow him to predict the future. Yet his instinct tells him it will be bright and she will be the one who lights it's way.
***
Nobody knew that Morales was a crooked cop. He'd been on the take since his old narc days. Turning a blind eye here, forgetting to report an incident there. He'd made a lucrative living, and some interesting friends. Among them, a Colombian connection that had fattened his retirement fund. He'd only been seconded by Silverman on the Jimenz case because of his Colombian background. Lopez wasted no time once he got wind of Morales' involvement. It was worth calling in a favour of an old compadre. Morales had been less than communicative about what he knew to Silverman and played his cards close to his chest. He was more of an observer, leaving it to the crackpot psychic to find the girl.  The new  La Capitanana would be pleased enough if Morales found Marique. The lazy cop could retire on the benefits. Plus, he hadn't had to work too hard. The girl had been found without his help and her address known. Time to make that call.

***
As the couple return, replete from lunch with Silverman and Tala, a man sinks silently into the drapes pulled across the lounge room window.  Another slides surreptitiously, gun in hand behind the front door. Neither noticing the rucksack's contents still splayed on the table. The latch being turned a signal, the door opening a sign, as silent shadows listen to the hopeful conversation of an ex-patriot and her new husband. She is the first to enter the room and the  man behind the door lunges, his arm around her waist, his hand across her mouth. The sense of deja vu filling her with terror elicits involuntary kicks and spasms in an effort to release herself from is grip. As the other shadow emerges from the curtains, Rick is torn between rescuing her and dispatching the fast approaching assailant. Marique is kicking viciously at her captor and manages to connect in that fleshiest of parts. He momentarily releases her and bends grasping his crotch. Rick makes a dive for the gun languishing and loaded on the coffee table as four hands clasp its pearlescent handle. Marique is quick to turn and disarm her doubled-up aggressor, grabbing his weapon and discharging it without hesitation. Once again she sees blood splatter across the wall as he slides to the floor, leaving a trail of red and a nasty stain seeping onto the carpet.

Before she can collect herself, another two shots crack through the small apartment and two men fall.

"Rick!" she screams. The tangled bodies of men motionless, entwined in a grisly embrace now slumped against the couch. She drops the gun as if it had sprung spikes and stung her hand. Falling beside the man she now calls husband, she turns him over. The other man is lifeless and Rick begins to groan as scarlet hues spread like a blossoming rose across his dress shirt. "Didn't see that coming...." his attempt at humour, causing her tears to flow. Even in this split second horror, she realises he means more to her than any man ever has.

"I'm alright..." his words are strained. His breath short and a grey palour emerging on his face, "Call 911...hurry...." 

She makes the call. Packs up the rucksack and the gun. Returns to his side in time to see him slip into unconsciousness. This time she kisses him with intent but he doesn't feel the passion in her embrace or envision the regret she feels in what she's about to do. His world is turning black and his visions have left him.

***
Her loose grasp on his cold hand slides as he's trundled into the ambulance amid a flurry of tubes and paramedic activity.  She doesn't accept the invitation to go with him in the ambulance. She places her own hand across her mouth to muffle her sobs, as siren's wail and the vehicle screams into the distance. She's left alone, yet surrounded by inconsiderate traffic and bustling activity. 

Police are momentarily distracted with their investigation and she's been told to wait, so they can speak with her. Letting her out of their sight for just a moment to see Rick safe aboard the ambulance. She scans the scene around her, as tape's erected and paramedics remove the corpses of two illegal aliens. Colombian both, henchmen of LaCapitanana now lifeless. She knows there will be more. Without hesitation, she collects the rucksack and disappears amid the mele. Once found, now lost. She can never be found again. Lopez search for her will be relentless. She needs to disappear for ever.

Rick's recovery is slow, hampered by his grief. "I'm sorry Rick," Silverman genuinely feels for the man who's invested so much and for so little. "She's gone. She's not coming back and really, it's a good thing. She'll never be safe here. Even LA's finest can't protect her."

There's nothing of her left. No item to touch, no precognition to be had. Secreted away he's no idea where she is, or whether she's happy. His bittersweet memories finding him more in love with the woman he cannot have, one found, now lost.

***
The Muezzin is mesmerising in his call to prayer. A slight woman leans from the window of her aunt, her head covered and her body hidden. She's about to leave the house and attend her first day at university.   Careful coaching from Tala over the past 8 months has seen her blossom into an intelligent and aware young woman. She passed the entry exam with flying colours and is excited at the prospect of learning more. The culture's strange, the language hard but she's committed, and safe in the knowledge that she'll never be found with her new adoptive family.  

Occasionally, she thinks about the man she could have loved, solving crimes, explaining his gift. A pang of regret at what might have been soon overpowered by her feeling of security and safety.  She realises that all her life, she's had to watch her back. All her life she's had to take flight. Not any more. In a land considered by others to be oppressive, she's found freedom herself.

پايان

Finding Her (Muse 8: "Dancing Around Men, Toward a Burlesque Destiny") Part 2

Continued from Muse 8 part 1

"You Ok Miss?" Her distress obvious to the driver.

"Yeh, yeh, fine..." she gasps, flushed and exhausted, her throat and chest burning, her heart pounding, her head wondering if she'd killed the bastard.

 "Just out of breath..." She gives him $50 from the rolled up cash, "Just take me as far away as this thing goes."

"To the airport?"

"If that's your last stop, yes."

She hears the wail of sirens in the distance and knows they wail for her. A slut, an idiot, an illegal alien and now a murderer.  She's glad she's killed him but this isn't Colombia. Someone will care, someone will try to find her. At best, she'll be deported and back into the clutches of Lopez. At worst, she'll be tried for murder. Fear doesn't cut it as she secrets the gun into the bag and wonders how she's going to smuggle it aboard a plane.

***
Her wits click in, even if she's terrified of what she's doing or where she's going. The airport is confusing but she takes deep breaths and heads for the ladies room. She's in luck. Showers. She needs to cleanse the sullied touch of her past from her body, and scrubs until her brown skin feels raw. She stands in front of the mirror, thankfully it's late and the place is quiet. She rummages through the rucksack, dons her jeans and Paris T-shirt and ties back her hair in a conservative ponytail. On the wall between two mirrors a post 9/11 warning and cargo rules in tiny print:

  • No Aerosols, sharp items, knives, swords, razorblades or Firearms in cabin luggage
  • Firearms and ammunition are accepted as checked baggage only and must be declared to an agent at check-in.
  • Firearms will only be accepted if unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided container such as a rifle case. TSA approved locks are accepted.
For once, she's grateful to Xavier. Her gift came wrapped in a hard leather case.
  
 ***
Rick's car is swerving from lane to lane. He's driving like a lunatic, fast as he can at midday in LA. He ignores the 'No Standing' sign outside LAPD HQ and lunges up the steps taking three at a time.
Silverman's there with the guy who found the backpack.

"Ah Mr Thompson, this is Mr Rodrigues. The gentleman who found the backpack.....and this..." He brandishes three photographs, "Is Miss Marique Jimenez!"

Thompson's already shaken the hand of the confused and scruffy Rodrigues. And lurches forward snatching the photos from Silverman's hands

"It's her...its the girl. It's the one I saw."

As if the scenario couldn't become more bizarre, a uniform escorts a woman in; well dressed, tall, refined. She smiles at Silverman.

"Hello Josh. Good to see you again. You have news?" She's accented but her English is perfect and has an American twang.

Josh explains that they're getting close. The bag, the psychic, the homeless man and the Iranian Aunt form an incongruous posse in search of a woman who has no idea they exist.

"We think she's somewhere in Van Nuys." Silverman declares, "Probably laying low, looks like she had a little trouble in Miami, came as far west as she could and decided to get lost here. But now we have the pictures, the insight of Mr Thompson, the testimony of Mr Rodrigues, we're on her tail again."

Tala sits and tears well in her eyes. Clearly relieved that there's at least a sign of life.  Rick is excited, he's fantasised over this woman long enough and catches a glimpse of his poorly shaven reflection in the window.

"Right." Silverman claps his hands with a smack. "Let's get on it."

***
She'd forgotten about the tiny roll of money in the bottom of her backpack. Andrew had taken most of it as back payment for her room and board. Still, there was enough to find a share room with a Hispanic family in downtown Van Nuys and to buy some retro clothes. Maria Alvarez, the 'lady of the house' had kindly cut her hair, now shoulder length and curling around her face.  She'd even found her a job cleaning house. 

One evening the girl had told her story and Maria had cried for her. "No girl should lose her mother in such a way. No girl should have no parents." Maria hugged her hard and for the first time in a long time, despite feeling safe, the desperation of her disappointment caused Marique to sob. Free but desperate, she had reached rock bottom. Compromised her principals, been betrayed, shot a man, travelled across the country to become what? A cleaning lady? A boarder with a family that is not her own? An illegal alien in a country that does not want her.
***
Tala has also been on the case. It took time and connections but she's a bright woman with good connections. She has a name, a photograph and the legal nouse to work the system. Her wealth and knowledge enables her to acquire the girl's birth certificate and to enlist the support of an immigration lawyer. All is prepared and ready for when they find Marique.And she's sure, that soon, they will.

***
As he returns to his apartment, Rick realises that he has little more to offer. The contents of the backpack have given up their secrets and he has nothing recent to help locate Marique short of tramping the streets of an LA suburb in the hope there's a trace of her. The likelihood of that happening hitting him like a hammer as impossible, a proverbial needle in a hay stack. As he casts eyes down, key penetrating the lock, he hears the footfall of someone behind him and glances sideways to catch a glimpse of brown calves and flat shoes.As his eyes climb from the shapely ankles to the familiar pink uniform worn by the cleaners in his building, his jaw drops. She smiles, "Good afternoon Senor" and sashays past him, unlocking another door to the apartment across the hall.

"Excuse me..." he's turned and dropped his keys, incredulous with his luck. "Do I know you?"

A pang of fear rises through her core. Who is he? Does he know her? A punter from the club? A face from her past that she doesn't remember? Her flight response kicks in.

"No Senor, I don't believe we've met."

"Is your name Marique?" She drops the plastic container and cleaning accoutrements fall carelessly onto the polished linoleum floor as she turns to run.  He grabs her arm.

"No wait. I don't want to hurt you. I'm here to help."

Her struggling causes him to be firmer than he should as he pushes her back against the wall, She says nothing, afraid she might attract further unwanted attention but she's like a deer facing the headlights and terrified he might be in a position to expose her. 

"Marique, It's OK.My name's Rick. I live across the hall but...I've been looking for you. Others have been looking for you. I have a gift, I know what you've been through. I know all about you and there are people you need to meet. Come in with me, I'll make you coffee and explain everything."

Despite her trust in strangers being shattered, she's cornered and in no position to refuse. He releases his grip as the vibrations of her life course through every vein.She's as beautiful as he'd supposed, vulnerable yet strong. She agrees and picks up the spray bottles, their leaking fluid making small puddles on the floor and follows him into his apartment. Her gasp is audible when she sees her backpack splayed across his coffee table.


Muse 1 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Finding Her (Muse 8: "Dancing Around Men, Toward a Burlesque Destiny") Part 1

Continued from Muse 7

There's a tiny silver pendant among Marique's belongings. Hanging gently on a filigree silver chain a tiny archer draws a long bow, the metaphor makes Rick sigh. Just touching it causes his tears to well. He's exhausted and emotional. He wants it over. He wants to find her, rescue her, meet her.  So much wanting, needing and so little resolving. He catches his breath and sighs, collecting himself and focusing on the necklace. The clasp is broken.  Rick rummages into the pockets on either side of  the bag and pulls out the note from "Ammeh". 

"What the fuck?" A flash of heat combined with the picture of a woman makes perspiration bead on his forehead. The pendant in one hand and a feeling of violence and drama contrasts with the sweetness and warmth he feels from letter in the other, and he's conflicted. These two are connected and he can't see how.  The handwriting on the note, smooth and perfect cursive. The writing of an academic perhaps, definitely a woman, possibly a left hander, absolutely a foreigner. He can hear the song of a Muezzin singing from minarets and the engines of a plane. 

"They're related!" 

The epiphany exciting. Flashes of a regional airport mingled with a girl, a rucksack and a customs official probing its contents. A woman in a hijab, loosening it's tie. The confusion as cacophonous as a Rachmaninoff concerto. The phone rings and breaks his concentration.

"Rick," it's Silverman, "There's something I didn't tell you." 

Rick wipes his brow with the back of his hand, "Who's Ammeh?"

"Ah, you've read the note." Silverman seems relieved. "She's an old friend of mine. The one who pushed this case. She's looking for...you are not going to believe this....her niece. The child of her brother and some holiday liaison with a FARC woman in Colombia 18 years ago. Now I'm not psychic but I think there's a connection. This woman's come to America looking for the girl, she has photographs. They're old but....and a name...Marique"

Ricks face lights up as he informs Silverman, "The girl's alive. She's here, somewhere in LA and I know her name." 

This is the first time he's shared such information with Silverman. He's been aiming to solve the mystery with a solid session and meet the girl before the Authorities get hold of her. It seems futile now that Silverman has such information so he capitulates and tells all that he knows to date.

"She's had some trouble. I think she caused some trouble, but she's alive and I'm pretty sure she's in California. Gimme a few. Get hold of that hobo that found the bag. Bring him in. I'll call you back."

He focuses hard on the pendant...and feels he cool of steel between his legs, the salt of tears upon his cheeks.


***
His eyes never leave her as she winds legs around a pole. Dressed in little more than a pasties and diamante g-string. Her face expressionless yet the pain of years beyond her age no simmers behind hollow eyes. He's kept her at bay for two weeks and now she makes her debut a grotesque representation of burlesque porn, gloated over by fat cats and Hawaiian-shirted holidaymakers, Stag parties and weirdos. It didn't matter to Andrew as long as the girl's pulled and the men paid.
"Be nice to them," he barks. "Get close, let them feel your clit and they'll stuff hundreds down that g-string."

She'd cried the first time, and he hit her. His hand burning around the thinness of her upper arm. "No time for cry babies. You owe me bitch. Until you've paid me, you're mine. Now go. If you won't fuck 'em, you tease 'em. Make the miserable fat men happy. You got it Chica?"

She'd nodded terrified, still looking to release herself from his clutches. He was right, the more they touched, the more she earned although little of it ended up in her own purse.


***

Her bag's packed, waiting for the first opportunity. Until then she has to tolerate their beer breath and groping hands. At least he hasn't made her sleep with any of them, yet. Still the violation of their hands is enough to make her feel dirty and desperate. Especially him, the one in the corner all pimped up with an erection forming a bulge in the left leg of his expensive suit.  He curls his finger and beckons her. Andrew's watching like a hawk, and nods at her to go forward. She gyrates and sashays, bends forward and he puts hundred dollar bills down the front of her g-string and licks her nipples as his hands grope. She loved it when Drew touched her but now, it's like some alien slime ball tainting her perfect skin with saliva. The punter's dirty hand between her legs, he grabs the straps of her g-string and tries to remove it before she slaps him hard and runs into the dressing room.

Andrew's in tow. The little bitch has just insulted his best customer. 

"Fuck you Marique, he's worth a friggin' fortune. Get your ass out there and give him what he wants."

She's still beautiful in her anger, "Fuck you Andrew. I am not a whore. I dance, I strip, I let them touch me where only you had touched me! I'm not fucking them...not now, not ever, ever!"
She's rummaging in her rucksack when he grabs her. She pulls away as he snatches at the silver necklace around her throat, snapping the delicate clasp. His fist doesn't connect as planned with her lower back. His usual way of intimidating his girls, until they bend over in pain after the crippling blow to their kidneys. In her hand something with a pearl handle gleams, then flashes and cracks. He feels the burn in his thigh and another in his solar plexus and is propelled backwards against one of the mirrors. It smashes around him and he's rendered unconscious amid shards of broken glass. Millions of tiny ugly reflections stare back at her as she panics and takes her chances.

She hurls on the coat hanging on the back of the door, not knowing or caring to whom it belongs. She grabs the rucksack and flees through the dressing room door into the alley. She runs. She doesn't know where or how, but she runs like crazy until hands grasp another pole, this time, one stabilising her terrified form as she fumbles in her bag for her bus fare.


Muse 1 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow

Finding Her (Muse 7:"Drunk on Love, Thirsting for Sex, Tasting of Lust"

Continued from Muse 6

He's got a head like a hole and swears off the booze as he lies beneath the grey quilt, rain pelting at his bedroom window. He's aware of a morning erection and nobody to share it with. God he feels horny, and thoughts of a tanned Marique enter his head. Before he can reason, his hand is at play, her lips pressed against his and her warm body gliding over his skin. He needs to pee but the sexual pleasure is too much. He waits until the deed is done. Feeling foolish and reaching for the tissues he tries to talk some sense into himself, but his heart races and his blood courses, when he thinks of her. 

He's no stranger to a random crush. His last girlfriend left him because of his romantic possessiveness, love sick poems and clinging behaviour. She also hated how he knew where she was, what she was thinking. She had no thoughts for herself, time to herself. He misses her even though the relationship ended badly. She was attractive but had a temper like a banshee. Marique wasn't like that, he was sure. She was placid, pliant, romantic. 

He shakes the vision from his head and showers, before reluctantly changing cum-stained sheets. He begins rummaging once more amid the clothes, rolled in tight rubber bands and releases a couple of T Shirts from their bindings. One, bearing a small graphic of the Eiffel Tower, the other bearing the words "Same, Same but Different", the kind bought in Thailand or Indonesia. There's no buzz of travel about them but a feint trace of perfume blended with the slight taint of dampness. They haven't been worn in a while and they're certainly foreign rip-offs. He closes his eyes and imagines her pulling the soft cotton fabric over perfect breasts. Another emerging erection is soon quelled by a disturbing vision.

***

She's aware that the club is less than savoury. The girls she sees during the day, well-dressed and beautiful but at night they shed their clothes for an audience of hombres. She turns a blind eye, since he's given her a room above "Club Oro", with her own bath and bed, as he has done for several others. She peers through her window late at night and sees some of the girls wonder home with their boyfriends. She knows what they do for a living, at least they have a choice. Unlike the women dragged by their hair, their husbands bleeding in the gutter back home. She does not judge, because Andrew isn't like that. He's just a business man. Her mentor and her friend. She trusts him.

He's a true gentleman to Marique and restoring her faith in men, who she once thought so rough and cruel. He's gentle and holds her hand,won't allow her on the 'floor', other than to clear tables.

"You're my bud, my blossom and not for the opening," he'd cooed in her ear. "You're not like these girls, all you have to do is clean up when we close and you can stay here as long as you like." 

He knows she's a virgin, an innocent and never 'pushes' her. She waits tables although she's barely old enough to do, so but she looks more mature in a little black dress with a little silver embellishment, sparkling and shimmering from within and without. Lips reddened and hair festooned across her tantalising shoulders.

He takes her shopping to the markets and buys her clothes.  She eyes the fake T shirts bought by tourists.

"I wish I could go to Paris and London....or Bangkok or Bali....."  The longing in her eyes betraying her need to embrace the exotic.

He takes half a dozen of the copied T's and barters them down to a drop-dead price.

"Here, perhaps the closest you'll get for now, but better than nothing."

She throws her arms around him and kisses him and thanks him as he rummages through a pile of 'pre-loved' Levis and holds  them to her waist. She's never known a more attentive man.

 "These should fit...and you need something more exotic for the club. We'll have to go shopping somewhere a little more burlesque for that. Tomorrow perhaps."


She's still getting a grip on the gringo tongue but knows he's helping her and she loves him for it.  When he buys her a silver pendant with her zodiac sign, dangling from a delicate chain, she's overwhelmed and throws her arms around his neck once again. It could have been a wedding band and she wouldn't have been more thrilled.

The first time he makes a romantic overture, the sun is close to rising. The bar closed and tables cleared, the normally incessant traffic outside silent.  She sits in one of the booths, with her back against the wall, sipping lemonade. She's kicked off her shoes providing relief to aching feet.  Her long brown legs outstretched on the garish red leather, she flexes her toes and winces as they cramp. Andrew  walks over and slides beneath them, propping her calves on his lap. 

“You did well this week my Angel. For your first job, you’ve really settled in, I’m proud of you.” 

She lowers her face in a shy, appreciative gesture before passing him a seductive Latin grin and biting her bottom lip.  His firm grip on her toes and the balls of her feet eliciting a moan as his fingers massage and soothe. She imagines what it would be like to moan, really moan in that moment with a man - a loving man. That would be so romantic, especially if it were this man.

Her mother had told her of the love she had for a man who made her moan. She wanted to feel like that, and with every waking moment. Andrew was becoming more than a crush. She loved watching him work, move, play. She loved the feel of his hands on her feet, then sliding slowly along her shins, curling round her calves and back down to her ankles. She's even pleased as an errant palm massages the inside of her thigh then teasingly withdraws.  When he finishes, he takes her hand and pulls her gently forward.

"Come to bed with me." It's a statement, not a question.

She's embarrassed. She's a virgin and afraid he'll find her a disappointment.

"C'mon, don't be shy. I'll be gentle.Come to bed.” 

He knows she's never been with a man.  He can smell a virgin. And she's one pure and simple.

She pulls hesitantly against his hand, but he’s persistent. Besides, beneath it all, she's wet and willing. Curious and intrigued and of all the men she wants to be her first, he is it. 

She allows herself to be led. Her heart is beating as the warmth between her legs escalates. He puts his arm around her and guides her forward. Once through the gaudy beaded partition, her eyes are widened by a boudoir of colour. A shimmering palace of maroon and cerise, punctuated with stripes of gold. An organza curtain becomes a faux mosquito net at the head of the bed as he pushes her gently onto her back and slides his hands upward to remove the little black dress, before unclasping her bra. Fingers gliding so deliciously over her tired form, arousing feelings within that she's only ever dreamed about.  She’s putty, as his hands slide along her belly, thumbs massaging her nipples followed by tongue and the gentle suck of a lover's kiss. Then down, thumbs again against her groin removing lace then gliding down the softness of the inside of her legs.  Hands followed by his mouth. She’s afraid of his tongue down there. It doesn’t seem natural but it feels wonderful and he’s enjoying every mouthful as her hands brush back his hair.  He raises his head and removes his own clothes. She’s shocked that she should like to look at him with such scrutiny, but she does. He glides his tongue once more from the softness of her belly to her throat, as she throws her head back and gives way to her teacher.  She, the receptive nubile - he, erect and wanting. Her body writhes and within moments his fingers explore to ensure she’s wet enough to enter.

Their copulation’s brief and apart from an initial pang, he treats her gently. His warmth entering her before she climaxes, he uses fingers to finish her orgasm with agile fingers, making her scream with delight. So this is what it feels like to be with the man you love. To consummate and conceive. She's absorbed with the selfishness of it, and overwhelmed with the passion of it. She’s fallen in love. This to her, is the confirmation, validation of their relationship. To him, it's a fine fuck inside a tight pussy and the beginning of her education.  
He is keen on virgins. They’re clean. Receptive and teachable.  It’s not defiling as much as conquering. When it comes to 'training' his girls, he wants to be the first. The tutor and the master. This week, she’s enjoyed penetration, within a month, she’ll know it all. Only then will she be ready, only then will she understand his deception. 

***

He comes to her often in her little room above the club. He shares her bed, her body. Tenderly at first as they move from conventional lovemaking to something less toward. He' sharing her bed but his gentleness is ebbing. He’s teaching her things that she feels  uncomfortable with. Some of his demands are awkward, but she loves and trusts him and wants to make him happy.  At first, putting his penis in her mouth seemed disgusting, and all she could remember was the flash of genitalia from Lopez' attack. But she loved Andrew and he loved her mouth around his cock. At least he seemed to, by the way he moved; slowly, back and forth, his fingers in her hair, gently pushing  her mouth further and further until she gagged. She took it on board, "This is what men like" - "This is  what women do" she thought.

He showed her how to put her hand around the shaft, how to slide her tongue from base to tip and around in circular sweeps. How to place hands and probing fingers in places she wouldn’t believe, and her tongue in those places once forbidden.  Some positions were solely to ‘feel’, others perfect to ‘look’.  Sitting on him, her back to his chest, his hand massaging her, or him on top, moving like a wave above her - every position had its pleasure, some their raw discomfort and abject pain. Some just gratuitous, others contorted. His aggression becoming more frequent, his demands becoming more perverted. The more sex she had, the more she became used to it.  The more she objected, the more he asked of her. The less she wanted to oblige.

He introduced her to erotic toys, the pleasure they gave underwhelmed by the pain they caused. 

"I don't want to do this any more, " she'd objected. 

"But I love you..." he'd replied and embraced her softly until she forgave the intrusion into every orifice.  Her ignorance believing that this is how it should be. A woman should please her man.

"I want you to do more for me," he'd said after their latest bout of sexual athleticism.

"You have a beautiful body, you could dance on the floor. Better still, I have a friend. He needs a favour. I want you to show him what you can do. He'll be grateful and I'll pay you. You can pay me back for the flat and the furniture. You don't need to wait tables any more."

It takes a while for his hint of prostitution to sink in. She jumps in horror.

"You want me to be like them? The other girls? You want me to take my clothes off in front of men?"

"Oh baby, I want you to do more than that, but we'll start with the dancing." 

She's already left the bed, embarrassed, she covers herself with a cerise satin sheet, the tears beginning to well. 

"I won't, I won't do it!"

He's already pulled on his jeans "Go shower, I'm going to introduce you to someone. You owe me Marique. It's time to pay. I have your money, your passport...you'll do as you're told."

It's then she realises he's slammed the door behind him and she hears the turning of a key. It never struck her until now that it's odd to have a bedroom with a lock on the outside. She's his prisoner and now, his slave. A gullible victim of his lust and soon to be a flesh offering to his 'friends'. Everything, including their latest 'moment', leaves a bad taste in her mouth and she wants to be sick. 

Thoughts of her mother and the compound in which she died begin to pervade. As she gazes through tears of disappointment through the barred bedroom window, watching the 'girls' heading home, it's clear - they too are victims, the laughing men once perceived as lovers, now gropers and lascivious patrons - and home is not a place they want to be.


She needs a way out.

Muse 1 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow

Finding Her (Muse 6 "Entropy Echoes, Alas")

Continued from Muse 5

The stress is getting to him. Rick's exhausted, holed up, and falling apart.  Living on Jack Daniels and toast for the past five days hasn't done him any good. It's not easy this psychic business. He's often asked "If you can see everything, how come you can't choose the lottery numbers or a winning horse?"

Fair question to most, but it's not like that. It's impressions, sensations, glimpses, echoes of their past and what they've done and felt. Nothing concrete, everything signposted and often deconstructed into chaotic vignettes. He can see Marique. He knows what she looks like but she's a broken down version of the truth. Elemental and pixellated. He stares at the melting ice cube in his JD...

"There you are elusive woman, melting yet solid. Drowning but filling the glass..."

It's his sixth today, and he's slurring his words; staggering between couch and fridge.

If he's really honest, he's falling in love with this feisty, yet naive young woman. He's fallen deeply in lust with her curves, her hair, her dark brown eyes. She's a good 15 years his junior but he can feel her strength, her integrity, her fear.  He can smell her sex, her skin, and it's been a long time between proverbial drinks for him. Of course he can see her move from chewing a sandal to kicking the dirt, fighting off a would-be aggressor and lately, he hasn't quite got a grasp on it, but she's dancing/playing/using her body in a way that's so vulnerable yet wildly scintillating, he wants to stop her freefall and watch her moves.  

This new man by her side, pushing his hand in her back, who is he? What does he want? Why is he a dark shadow in the corner of the room.  Rick's just about over it when he slides the backpack against the arm of the couch, allowing him to lay back and hopefully crash. It falls to the floor with his drunken jostling, its now familiar contents spilling underneath the coffee table. He focuses on the matching black lace bra and French knickers and imagines her undressing in front of him. How someone with such a rude pack and simple clothes has such luxurious lingerie has him curious. Instinct makes him hold each lacy piece to his nostrils, trying to breathe in her scent.  All he smells is the lingering of some forgotten fragrance, but it's late and he passes out. Not to sleep, but to dream of her. She's becoming less of a subject and more of a fantasy.

***

"What you got Morales?" Silverman's patience with traditional and psychic policing is losing ground. He feels like he's on a wild goose chase for a wild child, and his psychic's got nothing. Morales sits, his face says it all. 

"Nothin'.  Well nothing much. There was an incident in Miami but the trail's gone cold. Some dancer in a club down there shot the proprietor in the leg. A Colombian chick. Her 'associates' (and I use the term loosely) told Miami PD that she was there against her will and took off afterwards. She must have been in a hurry, she left her passport. Forged of course. Fucking Miami customs, they'll let anybody in. But the club owner? Known for 'importing' girls and putting them to work. "

"Our girl?" Silverman's interest mildy piqued, although cooperating with Miami PD is like pulling teeth and not something he wants to get involved with. 

"Who knows?  Timing seems kinda right but we need more from Thompson before we can say. Miami's a melting pot of Latinos. Could be anyone. One of the girls at the club said she'd been talking about moving west. It's a big fucking country sir and if someone wants to get lost, well Hell, they can get lost. If Thompson could give us a full name it might help. The passport said Marique Jimenez, probably not her real name."

"Marique?" Silverman becomes suddenly animated and alert. "That's her... shit Morales, that's her. The pack was found here. Some homeless dude had it in Va Nuys.  She's moved West alright."

Silverman fills Morales in on the conversation his old law school friend.  "Frankly, I wouldn't have tweaked if I hadn't had a call from an old associate.  Missing girl, member of the family. I just had this weird feeling that there might be a connection. There was a letter in the bag, very short, handwritten, no envelope...no name, just signed "Ammeh."

Morales is lost, "Ammeh? What the fuck is that?"

"Farsi for Aunty...not just any Aunt. It's you're father's sister....I know this particular Aunt. American born, living in Iran, her brother got some Colombian girl pregnant. The child's name....Marique. This girl had an Iranian father. It's got to be her. Get on it Morales. This is now personal."

***

Her passport holds, despite anxious moments and some suspicious stares. The customs officer looks Latino himself. Probably Cuban but she smiles and he visibly melts, and lets her through the gate. She's followed closely by Andrew Carter who's been her constant companion on the Sagittarius. He's tall, mature, sweet voiced and silver-tongued. He told her she was beautiful and that America was a land of promise. He'd stroked her hair and told her she's a stunner and would make an awesome model. His hands caressed her shoulders beneath cloudless nights. He'd even kissed her once or twice and left her wanting.

They've had time to talk. Plenty of time to talk. He's promised to help her settle. He's told her of a place he knows that's cheap and that he'll help her with furniture and clothes, and he's offered her a job. 

"Hey, you're young, attractive...you can wait tables yeh? Or dance Salsa perhaps?"

He didn't elucidate on the job and she's too star struck to ask. His eyes have her captivated, his hands filled with wonder about the potential of a relationship. Happy, filled with romantic love and joy in a country where everyone's free. Life is good and she's soaking it up.

She doesn't care. She has notes wrapped in rubber bands for emergencies, and a new life to begin. To top it all, he's charming, her saviour and nothing like that creep Lopez who's now looking at the world through an eye patch.  

This is her new start, her new man, her new life and the excitement overruns any fear or caution. Yes, for some naive reason, she trusts him. She shouldn't.

Muse 1 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow

Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding Her (Muse 5 A Misplaced Identity)

Continued from Muse 4

A tiny moleskin notebook is tucked tightly into one of the side pockets of the backpack. Rick's astounded. "Didn't Silverman even look for an address book?" 

It's alphabetised pages promising contacts, names and numbers. Yet as he flicks from A to S, there isn't a single entry. Each page blank and clean. Under 'S'  a name. "Fariq Said" Rick feels like he's now in familiar territory. Although he knows Fariq is dead, perhaps there's family, if not here in the US; maybe in Farique's home country.  As he strokes a finger beneath the handwritten name, he can smell coffee and freshly made bread, as his subconscious is taken to a land far away; to breakfast with a couple he's never met.

***

Women can do many things here despite having to obey Sharia law. Unlike their Saudi cousins, a Persian woman can drive, attain a university degree and hold pubic office. Unlike their Arab neighbours, Persian women don't cover their faces even though remaining covered everywhere else at least, in public, it is mandatory. One thing Persian women cannot do, is leave the country without their husband's permission. Tala Hosseini hopes that this will not present her with a problem. Her husband loves her, as did her brother.  A brother who loved her enough to divulge a secret. A tale of a beautiful Colombian and a child he'd never met. Unable to bear children herself, she longs to see the child she now calls niece. Although she has limited access, she's maintained contact with Candide. When the emails ceased, she worried for Marique - A teenager alone in a country less respectful of its women than even Iran. A child cosseted by guerrillas and naive about the world.  And now a young woman in the wilds of America, a landscape so alien to home. 

Tala is an educated woman, an intellectual. Well-read and wealthy beyond her years. Helped in no small way by a lucrative career, a successful marriage, and a family long-established in Tehran.

"Shahin?" She looks up from her newspaper and takes a sip from the tiny cup of strong coffee before biting into a piece of still warm Shirini Keshmeshi. She knows her husband will be slow to react.  "I worry about Marique. I haven't heard from her in so long. She's in America, she sounded unhappy, lonely. In her last letter, she sounded frightened. The longer I let time pass, the more I think about her, where she is, whether she's even alive."

Shahin is an understanding man and raises an eyebrow. He has an inkling towards what's coming next. "You know leaving the country will be difficult. You will have to return once you've found her?"


"I will but she deserves a good life. She didn't ask to be born. Fariq wasn't able to look after her. She has no family except us. We're wealthy, we can help. We can share his legacy. What do you think? Will you let me go?"

"What for? What will you do when you find her?"
"Give her her father's inheritance. His name. Tell her about him and how wonderful he was, how he loved her mother.  Let her know that she's not alone."

Shahin is reluctant but agrees. Even Sharia won't protect him from the persistence of a determined woman and one thing above all, marks Tala, she's irrepressible. That's what he loves about her.

"How will you find her?"

Tala speaks fluent English. Born in the US during a four year exchange where her father obtained his doctorate. She has dual citizenship and doesn't really need her husband's permission. As a young woman she'd returned to Iran after completing her own degree at UCLA. As a law student, she excelled, and now holds a professorial position in Tarbiat Modarres University. Leaving her homeland, even for a visit will be no problem. Finding her niece? A more challenging task.

"Er, I anticipated your allowing me to go....I have a friend. I met him while I was studying law. He's been around the traps, he knows people who could help.  Missing persons are his speciality, his expertise. I've already called him."

Shahin folds his newspaper. The silence between them deafening. She waiting for permission. He deliberating over such a reckless act. But he knows his wife and she'll go whether he permits it or not. 


"If you must." He stares intently at her, "You know it's a wild goose chase? You know you'll never find her?"


"Perhaps," she lowers her head in that demure way that drives him crazy and he gives in.


"Go...go to the land of the infidel. Just be careful."


Her delight causes her to leap forward and spill the coffee. As it's warmth penetrates her blouse she kisses the man she loves. The husband to whom she is devoted.  He would travel with her, but having never completed his National Service, he is not able to gain a passport.


"Thank you Shahin, you are a giant among men. I love you."

***

She begins rummaging through her top drawer, "I'm sure I put it here.." 

There's no sign of the familiar blue passport.  "Shahin? You seen my passport?" 

He hasn't, and inside he's rather glad that it's missing and this act of folly thwarted even before it began.  Her determination unperturbed she turns the house upside down looking for the misplaced identity.  As the frustration begins to percolate into anger, and even suspicion, Shahin proffers a quiet 'cough'. She turns to face him. The passport held high between his thumb and forefinger.

"I'm a lucky woman to have found such an understanding man."

She kisses him softly and holds him tight as the horn of a waiting taxi blares impatiently. She's excited and afraid. Checks her travel documents once more. Hotel in LA - check. Ticket - check. The last photograph she has of a young girl sitting on cool steps in a school uniform..

"I'll find her, I will!"  She kisses her passport and passes a parting smile to Shahin.

"A month. I'll be back in a month." She sweeps through the door, hijab intact, limbs covered with western clothes stashed in her wheelie case. He wishes he could go with her. He secretly fears she won't return.

***
She's unrecognisable when she lands. Dressed smartly in western clothes. A short sleeved top providing liberation in public, for one who's normally covered. Her hair pulled neatly up into a French roll and uncovered. Her knees beneath a shortend pencil skirt, seeing the bright Californian sun for the second time in 40 years. She resolves to hit the beach when this is all over, just once, to lie beneath the sun - bare-legged and bare-armed.

She pulls her cell phone from a stylish handbag and reconnects with someone she hasn't seen for a very long time. There's no time to waste. Her stay short and purpose clear, 

"Josh? Joshua Silverman?"

The portly cop smiles, "Tala...My God it's been years, how the hell are you."




Finding Her (Muse 4: "Sleep Deprived in Saggitarius")

Continued from Muse 3

There's a small candy striped change purse. Not a wallet but a fabric coin purse with a metal clasp. Rick unclasps the top and fondles the coins within. Not US Currency.  Pesos, Colombian pesos, and small blue motion sickness pills set in their foil packet, just two left.  He feels the rolling of the ocean, the smell of oil and engines as the bile rises to his throat. He's feeling seasick as the vision materialises.  

***

For Marique, leaving Colombia was easy. Deciding where to go much more difficult. Her options however aided by a keen eye and a daring plan. Despite his sexual cruelty, Xavier had high regard for her mother, allowing Marique access to sights rarely seen by those outside his inner circle. Including the location of his funds, the combination to his safe. As a creature of habit, Xavier's movements were predictable. Keeping clear of Lopez gaze somewhat harder. The prick had his remaining eye on her all the time. His hands pointing at her, two fingers forming the barrel of a fleshy gun which he delighted in cocking and emulating putting a bullet in her brain. Had he caught her stealing, she knew he'd kill her, probably rape her first. 

She’s already secreted enough to arrange for a forged passport and identity. Papers here are cheap and access to willing forgers free. Even her escape route has been carefully planned and although she hasn't booked passage, she knows of a ship leaving which will take her far away.  Monique has quickly learned that money buys anything, including an escape route.

The hardest thing of all, not telling her mother. Now drug addled and a shell of her former self, even Candide can't be trusted with the knowledge of her daughter's escape. It breaks Marique's heart to kiss her ailing mother goodnight, the emptiness in her eyes, the sadness in her once beaming smile. She will not see her again.

Now she’s powering through the jungle, a military rucksack on her shoulders and enough stolen cash for a new start tucked beneath her underwear and toothbrush.  A flicker of light appears against the black sea and sky at the very tip of the 10 0metre jetty, her ship has come in. The “Saggitarius” waits, engines muffled to idle as she bustles on board among a boatload of runaways and misfits. All searching for a new life in America. All travelling with dubious papers and passports. All having paid a small fortune for the privilege. 

The journey to Miami takes four days aboard the small steamer. She's nervous, afraid but strangely exhilarated once her seasickness wears off and the little blue pills work their magic. There's something liberating about lying on deck and searching the night sky for the constellation that bears the same name as her freedom ship. 

"Sagittarius!" He points skyward to the darkness littered with shimmer. "It's that one...the one that looks like a teapot," His voice alarming her into a sitting position.

"You startled me..." She moves to stand up.

"Please, don't move on my account. Beautiful night isn't it? Like you, soft and warm and dark." His voice is sultry and gentle with a slight Southern twang.

"I'm Andrew. You going to Miami or getting off in the Bahamas?"

She tells him she's is travelling to Florida. She wants to work, earn enough to set herself up, maybe travel a little. Find a new hope, a new life. He tells her he's a traveller himself on the last leg of a South American Adventure and heading 'home.'

"Where's home?" She asks. 

"For now, Miami. I have a club there, fun, dancing...do you dance?"

She finds the question a little odd but acquiesces, "I can Salsa does that count?"

"More than you know...you got work in the US?"

She hasn't. She'd planned on domestic labour or working in a factory if her papers stand the scrutiny of customs.

"Stick with me young Marique," he gives her a wink and fondles her hair, "I might be able to help you out."

*** 
Without her daughter, Candide has little to live for.  The slave of a power hungry and sexed up General, now ailing and aged, his Lieutenant is taking the reins. Lopez is the new powermonger and waiting for his General's demise. Candide's position of privilege waning, and her addiction burgeoning. She pines, doesn't eat. The lucrative returns from drugs and kidnapping now dominate the rebels' agenda, and largely replace any ideological motivations. She has access to cocaine which numbs her senses and makes her life bearable, while Xavier thrusts and grunts on top of her.  It's no surprise when she's found still and cold, congealed blood around her nose and mouth, the white powder which numbed her has now done so for the last time. Lopez is embittered, "And I never got to fuck the bitch or her daughter."
***

Rick's pulled out of his daze when his cell phone rings. 

Rick?” Silverman's voice, "How’s it going with the pack? Any insights?”

Well ‘Dorothy’ isn’t in Colombia any more!”

You know where she is?”

Rick isn’t ready to divulge, his affection for the girl on the run becoming less detached. Nor does he know the full story. “Yeah I know where she was, about 2 years ago….not quite where she is.”

Well I got heat burning me right now. I need to find this girl. Morales is drawing a blank other than she fled Colombia and disappeared into the jungle. Get on it.”

Rick hangs up the phone, grabs his mug of coffee and, still wrapped in the towel from his morning shower, stares at the backpack. 

“Time to roll….” He sips the joe and wonders if it’s a Colombian blend.