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He didn't like touching her, but sometimes he couldn't help himself. He would start out with both hands clamped to the bottom of his seat. He would keep them there as long as he could, until both arms shook with the effort of his resistance. When he could fight it no more, one hand would slide over and entangle itself in her long, silky hair. Then the other, and, before he knew it, he was guiding her with both hands through the rough rhythm his body craved. Not that she needed much guidance. For someone so young, she was preternaturally gifted at reading a man's desires and anticipating his needs.
After he finished, he would leave the chair and turn his back on her.
"Go wait for me out front," he would say. "I'll be right there."
He would listen for the door to close before buckling his belt and zipping his fly. He would stand in front of the small mirror on the wall, smooth the hair on both sides, and wait until his breathing had slowed and his face had returned to its normal pinkish tint.
When he was ready, he would walk through the door and down the aisle, use his key to open the door, and take his place in the small, cramped booth. He would slide back the screen that separated the two of them and wait for her to begin.
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned..."
Sometimes the sound of her voice would excite him again and distract him as he tried to listen to her recite her transgressions. She would talk about how she had cheated at school or said a mean thing about a friend behind her back. Sometimes she lied to her parents. Inevitably, there would be the pause. He would have to urge her gently to continue. She would tell himthat she had been unclean. He would listen, he would assign her penance, he would say the prayers of absolution, and, with God working through him, he would bless her and forgive her her sins.
He would always leave her with the same thought. If she ever told anyone what he had made her do, she would go straight to hell.
Copyright © 2004 by Lynne Heitman
She looked right at me. I was sure of it. First her head whipped around. Her hair, blond and loose and foamy as the head on a latte, swept across her bare back. I was freezing and miserable in my rental car. Had been for almost two hours. How could she be standing on the sidewalk looking so comfortable and so damned elegant in a strapless silk cocktail dress? But then, that's how hookers are paid to look. Her shoulders turned next. They were battleship-wide, which they had to be to support the extravagant forward weight of what she carried out front. Her hips swung around, and finally the Jimmy Choo cha-cha heels upon which the whole package balanced. Perfect.
I hit the button and let the camera run. It clicked and whirred for four or five exposures as I studied her face through the zoom lens. It was disconcerting, the way she stared in my direction, the way she bore down with an intensity so ferocious I was sure her eyes could see through the night, through the wrong end of the lens, and into mine.
But she couldn't see me. I had chosen my parking space carefully across the street, half a block down, parallel parked in a line of cars away from any streetlights.
As Angel stood and glared, the limo driver loitered respectfully to the side, holding the back door open for her. Eventually, the second subject, Sally, came swiveling out the door of the hotel and down the driveway. She put a hand on Angel's shoulder, and they exchanged words. Sally apparently did not have her friend's wary nature. She slipped right into the back of the limo, pausing long enough to extract a cigarette from her bag, which the diffident driver lit for her.
Without ever looking completely satisfied, Angel folded herself into the backseat, and I pulled the camera back inside the car, careful not to bump the horn. I wasn't accustomed to the heavy weight and wide turning radius of the long lens. But I had to use it because, so far, I'd never been able to get close enough to capture anything useful without it.
I waited until the limo was off the hotel drive and on the street in front of me before clicking off a few shots of the license plate. The driver accommodated me nicely by slowing almost to a crawl. When his brake lights engaged, the camera was still in position in front of my face, which was why it took me longer than it should have to realize he was moving backward. Roaring backward. Motor-gunning, rubber-burning backward up the quiet street and toward me.
I dumped the camera on the seat and fumbled for the keys in the ignition. But the second I touched them, I knew, even if the driver didn't block me in with his limo boat, there was no way I was getting that car out of that space in time to get away.
I grabbed my gear bag from the floor and threw it over the camera. I hooked my finger into the door latch and was about to pop it open when I remembered. Dome light. It would flash on when I opened the door, lighting me up like a beacon. I prayed for the switch to be in the vicinity of the light itself. I reached up. Prayer answered, but with a nasty twist. The switch had three settings. One would turn the light off completely. The other would turn it on. Which one? Which position?
No time left.
I braced myself and flicked the switch all the way over. Still dark. No light, either, when I opened the door and slithered through. I went out headfirst, activating the power locks on my way by. I landed on the curb just as the limo screeched up. I leaned against my door, barely able to hear anything over the sound of my heart whomping in my ears. I waited for the driver to step out and slam his door shut. When he did, I pushed on mine until it latched and locked.
Who knew a Lincoln would be built so low to the ground? The space between the curb and the car's undercarriage was almost too narrow for me, and I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't built like Angel. I flattened out on my back and wriggled through. Barely. The driver was rounding the back of the car when I pulled the last appendage under the chassis.
The lower half of his legs and his shoes were all I could see, but that was plenty. From across the street, he had looked like an usher at a mob funeral. He paused on each side of the car, probably to peer through the windows. I lay there, sniffing the vehicle's greasy underbelly and inhaling the limo's carbon monoxide. My head was swimming from the toxic mix as he loitered on the side where I'd hidden the camera.
When he finally moved on, it wasn't to the limo. He went to the car parked in front of mine and did the same casual, half-assed inspection, and I got the distinct feeling the impromptu search had been Angel's idea and not his. Lucky me. If the driver had been slightly more invested, or perhaps a tad more limber, I might have found myself staring into his big, fleshy face instead of his muscular calves.
I stayed in my grimy pit until I heard the limo pulling out. I waited until I was sure it was gone. Then I had to stay down another few moments, long enough to fire up my circulatory system. I crawled out on the street side, which had more clearance. Smelling like oil and smeared with a thick layer of grit, I staggered to my feet and leaned against the car.
With my hands on my knees, I enjoyed a few deep breaths of nontoxic air and thought about Angel. I kept seeing her face, and her eyes, and the way she had fixed on my position and stared for no reason I could think of, except that she had a sixth sense, the one coyotes use to survive a hard life on the high plains. Or the one a leopard uses to stalk, attack, and tear the hide from its prey before the unlucky victim ever senses mortal danger. Angel was a pro. From everything I'd heard, she'd been at this game a long time. If I wanted to catch her, I'd have to quit acting as if this were my first case.
Even though it was.
Copyright © 2004 by Lynne Heitman