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Suspense Crime Thriller

This story contains sensitive content

{content warning: sexual themes, language, mild gore}

The lounge is warm, air thick with liquor and sweat. Dim light illuminates the lingering customers, laughing and conversing pleasantly. It is around 5am and we are about to close in a couple of hours. With no other clients booked for the rest of the night, I begin gathering my things. Dried blood stains my white button down shirt and perfectly matches my maroon tie. It happened much earlier in the night, but management suggests we don’t change unless our next guests ask us to. I untuck my shirt and lift it to see thin cuts along my abdomen, not as bad as the blood would suggest. I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke. Sure enough, Mr. Marcellus slides in through the front door, meeting my gaze with a smirk. He is on the older side, hair grey and slick back but his face mostly free of wrinkles. He’s a snide little man, who chooses his words with the utmost caution. He never drinks, he’s never grabby, and he knows what he wants. And he has enough money to buy a small country. I catch a glimpse of his limo pulling away from the street, its wheels lurching on the muddy asphalt. It seems today he has given me a break and decided to switch hosts for the evening. I watch as he is led deeper into the lounge by Elosie, sporting a smile that never fails to brighten the entire room. She has no idea what she’s in for. 


I step outside the lounge just to be hit with frigid coldness. A slight breeze stirs my hair, I notice it is slightly snowing. I cover my nose with my hand and breathe into it, fighting the chill. It is still dark outside, by this time in summer light would’ve already started pooling into the sky. Shit it’s cold, I need to get inside. I stride across the sidewalk, careful to avoid frozen over puddles. A single street light reveals the corner ATM, small bugs swarming around the light. Today is Monday, the day I get paid. I wasn’t about to let the weather disturb my weekly routine. You see, at the Golden Souls Entertainment Club, you don’t exactly know how much you made for the week, as most of your salary comes from tips. So every Monday is like scratching a lottery ticket off for me. I quickly punch my pin into the machine and stare at the screen, watching the little loading symbol, antsy from the cold. 


Holy shit. 


Wow.


That’s a lot.


Fucking hell, who tipped so well?


I finish with the ATM and rush to my car, locking my doors before resting on the steering wheel. My mind searches my memories of the past week, for anything that stood out. Was I particularly good at being a footstool for Mr. Vargas? Did Mr. Dawson enjoy my dancing a little more than usual this time? No no, they wouldn’t do this, not just to come back a week later for the same thing. My clients have all kinds of bizarre demands, they start to blend together at some point. Then it hit me. Last Wednesday a woman came in with a masquerade mask and told us to call her Orchid. Miss Orchid said she was completely new to this whole thing but she had money she wanted to spend on something “different.” She also said she wanted someone experienced, someone who knows what they’re doing. I offered to be her host and she accepted, requesting a private room. Timid and soft spoken, she didn’t ask for much, just a fresh bowl of strawberries and to be read Shakespear by me. 


“You mean naked?” I had said, fully taken back by the innocence of her request.


“Oh no that won’t be necessary, thank you.” 


I assumed she was looking for love, someone to take care of her. She probably had a bastard of a husband, slimy and corrupt. Maybe he had even cheated on her. But she was in this now, with nowhere to go. She dare not sacrifice her filthy rich lifestyle where frankly anything was possible with enough cash. So, divorce being out of the question, she turns to Golden Souls like most do- seeking excitement in their bland and repetitive lives. It becomes an addiction, after you realize that you can get these people to do whatever you want. Of course, we as workers have a right to refuse anything, but most don’t. Most become numb to the sentiment, accepting the harsh reality that those with money are the ones in power and that working at Golden Souls was a very literal way of feeling that concept. Everyone has their own stories, their own lives, but one thing we all have in common is that we’re struggling financially, so why not abuse the system for a better life? The cost didn’t matter. And in Orchid’s case, the cost barely outweighed the benefit. I almost felt like I was stealing her money- if she truly was the one who tipped so much. Who else would it have been?


-


The next time I saw Orchid that Wednesday around 9pm. I started my shift cleaning the bar when she came in without an appointment, asking if I was free. I led her to that same private room, wondering if she would be brave enough to ask for more this time. She was wearing a silky green dress that clung to her body and illuminated her deep brown skin. With her was a considerably large purse, matching green and lined with scales. She was sporting the same black feathered mask and wore simple but sparkling jewelry. I quietly closed the door of the room and took a seat on the puffy soft sheets, trying to catch her eye. She silently sat next to me and to my surprise slipped off the mask to reveal the face of a young woman. 


“Michael, I have a question” Her voice was smooth and sweet, trickling with allure.


“Anything”


“What do you know about Jasper Gardiner”


What? I leaned back, staring at her for a couple of seconds. “I’m sorry miss, I’m not allowed to discuss other clients,” I shook my head, still recoiling from the question. 


She hummed and sucked in her breath before reaching over to place her purse on her lap and began searching inside of it.


“Special Agent Rosa Ford, please Mr. Sosa, tell me what you know about Jasper Gardiner” She extended a badge out for me to see with ‘FBI’ reading in big blue letters. Fear crept up my throat and I felt my heart drum in my ears. I hesitated before answering her and realized my body was stiff as a board. She wasn’t here for me, not like I did anything illegal. 


“Well Mr. Gardiner is one of our frequent guests… he comes in about every Saturday and Sunday. He’s usually here with what I would assume to be his friends- Mr. Haynes and Mrs. Parsons, you know the congresswoman. They’re into some pretty weird stuff like-”


“I don’t need to hear about that.” She waved her hand and I noticed she was jotting notes down on a notepad, “Have you overheard anything suspicious? Anything about sending or receiving money?” 


“Oh they usually don’t ask for me, you should be talking to Ingrid, she acts as a waiter for them…”


“Would it be possible for you to take over for her?”


“What? Why would I do that?”


“You see Mr. Sosa, We initially thought Mr. Gardiner was involved in some insider trading but now we think it’s much deeper, we’re talking drug and possibly human trafficking. We need someone to pick up his conversations, they could be key evidence in the case. Ingrid is a single mom with children to feed at home, we didn’t want to impose on her. But you, a psychology grad student, can do us a great service. All you would need to do is wear a wire and linger around them, nothing dangerous. And we could compensate you… greatly… for your-”


“No, no I’ll do it. For free. I want to help. Just, don’t pay me” I blurted out, briefly taken back by my impulse. This felt really shady, especially for legal law enforcement, but I’ve done shadier. Much shadier.


-


"Okay so the tap is on now, you don't have to do anything. It'll pick up anything you can hear with your own ears, so be aware of that."


Agent Ford and I stand close together in our cleaning supplies closet, she is messing with the wires and adjusting them so they don't show at all. She smells like vanilla and coconuts, maybe I'll ask her to get a drink with me after this is all done.


"Michael?"


"Yeah?"


"Why are you here? Smart guy like you- I could find a place for you in the bureau, if it's money you need."


"It's temporary. I graduate soon and I promise you I won't look back. Maybe I'll take you up on that job offer though."


She chuckled warmly, placing a thin device into my suit pocket. "I just don't know how you do it, how you let yourself be... well degraded like that. I hope I'm not offending you at all I'm just... astonished."


"Oh no, please, I get it. The way I look at it is that we're all workers of the Golden Soul. You ever read The Jungle?"


"Yeah, in high school."


"Well it's like that."


"Right, well, good luck out there. I'll see you soon"


-


I approached the table with Mr. Gardiner. He was on the larger side and wore a linen shirt that was slightly see-through. You’d think with near infinite money all these people would dress better. He had a big hearty laugh, the type that’s contagious, but every time I heard it my stomach lurched. His companions were the same, a short and energetic salesman and of course the aging, bitter, congresswoman. 


“Welcome back to Golden Souls! I’ll be your host for this evening, anything I can get for you all to start?” 


Mr. Gardiner’s face dropped and he stared at me with irritation, “Where’s Ingrid.” 


“She is out sick today” I told her I'll work in her place and give her the full compensation, who would say no? “I’ll be taking care of you all if that’s alright”


“Spin around for us, would you?” Mrs. Parsons said with a chuckle but the gentlemen were not amused. Mr. Gardiner tossed me a dismayed glance, “Fine, Veer, search him.”


 Two bodyguards were on me in an instant. Where the fuck did they come from? They shoved me to the wall and began feeling my suit with efficiency. My heart dropped. One felt my collar, fingertips brushing the wiretap underneath it. Our eyes met with mutual understanding. Out of breath, I let my head drop to the wall behind me as the bodyguards released me and took to Mr. Gardiner. One leaned over to whisper something in his ear.


-


“Was it worth it? Huh? Just to become another cog in their machine? Worthless. You’re Worthless!” Mr. Gardiner screamed, spit flying from his mouth. I was on the freezing asphalt of the parking lot, groaning and writhing with pain. I coughed up blood, fresh red on the melting and dirty piles of snow. My head was spinning and felt stomach acid crawling its way up my throat. “Just finish the job,” Mr. Gardiner departed into his cushy town car, the door slamming. Hands grabbed me by the collar and propped me up against the wall. Eyes closed, I felt the cold barrel pressed onto my temple.


 “Wait, please, you don’t have to do this”


“Sorry man,” a deep voice resonated in my chest, “You’re my next paycheck.”


August 12, 2022 20:18

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