In between my other work, I’m doing my yearly revision pass on Blood Trade. I talked the other day about how much I enjoyed writing these characters. As I was reading, I remembered how much I loved writing this passage.
Here in Chapter Six, we find our heroine, Private Investigator Xochitl McKenna hunting for a missing girl. Dirty Cop Lance Rizzello has, for reasons of his own, decided to help her by taking her to the number one pimp in town. Caution: Violence and Strong Language.
He stopped in front of a yellow adobe house. Xochitl couldn’t help but think how, except for color, it was virtually identical to the one where Lance had presumably killed some drug dealers. She reminded herself that she hadn’t actually seen him shoot anyone. Lance got out of the car and walked around to her side, looked at her and said, “Get out.” When they got to the front steps, they found an old woman sitting in a rocker just outside the front door. Xochitl almost didn’t notice the sawed-off shotgun she held. Lance opened the door and went inside, pulling the Goth detective along with him by the arm. They passed through the dining room into the living room. He pushed her into the middle of the room and then plopped himself down in a shabby rattan chair in the corner, resting his chin on his fist.
This was déjà vu all over again. It was like being back in Israel’s crèche. Six women reclined on torn pieces of furniture or on the floor. Of course none of them were sucking blood, but most of them looked stoned out of their minds. They either sneered at her or ignored her altogether.
“You’re that crazy inked-up puta!” a man shouted.
Xochitl turned to see a skinny Hispanic man with a shaved head walking into the room from a hallway. She recognized him immediately—Eskimo. He was the biggest of the big three. He ran whores all over Vegas. He walked past her.
“I knew you were fucked up after what you did to Slither,” he continued, “but you’ve got some seriously giant balls coming into my home, bringing the cops…”
“I kind of expected a nicer house,” she interrupted.
“You want your whores in the gutter,” said Lance from his seat, “you’ve got to stay in the gutter to keep them there.”
Eskimo’s head snapped around and his face went noticeably pale.
“Lance… Lance, I didn’t see you there.” He formed his mouth into a crooked smile. “Do you want something? How about some coke… a little fluff? Piece of ass?”
“Maybe a cool beverage,” replied the cop.
Eskimo backhanded the closest whore so hard that she flew halfway across the room. “Get him a fucking beer!” She scrambled to her feet and into the kitchen.
“So, Lance…” Eskimo stared expectantly at the seated man.
Lance pointed to Xochitl, and then took the beer from the returning girl’s hand. She took a new seat by his feet and held onto him around the knee. She had a blue snowflake tattooed on her neck. Eskimo looked back and forth between the cop and the private detective. He was clearly more at a loss as to what was going on than she was. Finally Xochitl pulled out the picture of Daphna Sachs and held it out.
“I’m trying to find this girl. I want to know if you… if any pimp in town has her.”
The pimp took the picture and looked hard at it.
“Never seen her before.” He looked at the cop. “I could find if she’s turned out… as a favor to you, Lance.”
Lance shook his head as he swigged the beer. Then he swallowed. “No. This has nothing to do with me. This is between you and her.”
Eskimo looked back at Xochitl. His eyes almost implored her to explain what was going on, and then they turned cold. He sneered.
“Yeah…fuck it… fuck it. I’ll find out for you. A’ight. You’ll owe me one, you crazy fucking bitch. I’ll find out about your girl. Give me a day.”
“My office is at…”
“I know where you are. Everybody knows the gun-crazy, tattooed puta.”
“It’s nice when you make new friends,” said Lance, getting to his feet and handing his unfinished beer to the girl at his feet. “Come on.”
He took Xochitl once more by the arm and led her to the front door.
“Hey Lance,” called Eskimo. “We’re a’ight?”
“We’re cool, Eskimo,” said Lance over his shoulder. “Just don’t forget to pay your taxes.”
In something of a daze after leaving the pimp’s house, Xochitl stared out the cruiser’s window as Lance drove toward Glitter Gulch. She knew what Lance was doing. She wished she didn’t. He was collecting protection money from the drug dealers and the pimps… probably from everyone in town. And he was working for the mob—for Tony the Pipe. She really wished she didn’t know that. What she did want to know was why he wanted her. She came back to reality as the car came to a stop, not in front of her office, but a mile away at the Pretty Good Place, pay-by-the-week hotel.
“Come on,” said Lance, getting out once again.
“I’ve got to get home,” said Xochitl.
“I don’t think so. I don’t think we should do anything anymore.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not after your precious body this time. We just need to talk. Come on.”
She followed him through the darkened lobby and up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Unlocking the door of room 211, Lance led her inside. The room was red—red walls, red curtains, and red comforter on the bed. It didn’t look any too clean. In addition to the bed, there was a small table with four chairs and a red loveseat.
“Why do you have a room here? Don’t you have a house with a wife in it?”
He turned around smiling, and then punched her in the solar plexus. She dropped to her knees and tried to suck in some air.
“Next time I tell you to come in, you won’t make me repeat it three fucking times!” he shouted, pacing around her like a tiger in a very small cage.