“Biker Gurls Rule!!”
The place was packed with women dressed in leather and denim, studded arm bands and cabalistic jewelry; women with barbaric piercings and tattoos; women with spiked hair dyed unnatural colors, crew cut women, and women shorn. They shouted endearments, bellowed laughter, and snarled challenges. They leaned together to whisper obscenities while they danced. They groped each other in dim corners. Corrie stood in the doorway wearing a pastel pantsuit and clutching her purse like a missionary amid savages.
A Eurasian girl sat alone in a booth watching Corrie with wry amusement. She raised a beer bottle in greeting and crooked a talon. Corrie looked left and right to be sure that the summons was not for someone else. The girl frowned with irritation, snapped her fingers and beckoned more urgently.
As Corrie made her way hesitantly across the floor, the band finished its set. A smatter of catcalls and shrill whistles applauded them. In the moment of relative quiet that followed, Corrie stopped in front of the booth and just stood there while the two women sized each other up.
The Eurasian was petite and fine featured. Her mass of black hair had been braided into a thick rope that draped over the collar of her biker jacket, which had been unzipped just enough to reveal a bit of bare golden cleavage. Impudence and cunning glittered in her dark almond eyes.
“Are you the one who called me?” asked Corrie.
How will I know you? Corrie had asked the voice on the phone.
The woman had laughed at that.
Don’t worry. I will know you.
“Have a seat,” said the girl in leather. “Take a load off.”
Corrie thought of refusing, or at least demanding an answer to her question first, but irritating this woman might be a bad negotiating tactic at best, and physically hazardous at worst.
She sat down. “I think that you have something that belongs to me.”
The girl nodded, looking almost regretful, and took a long pull on her bottle. “Yeah, I do. Want a brewski?”
Corrie was confused by this girl’s behavior. She had come prepared for some sort of ugly confrontation, and was ready to trade threat for threat, or failing at that, to surrender as little of her cash and self respect as possible. This felt more like some twisted version of a social encounter, or (she glanced quickly around at the roiling mass of women and shivered) a bad blind date.
“I’m afraid that blackmailing me isn’t likely to profit you anything,” Corrie said. “I’m not a wealthy woman.”
The Eurasian grinned. “I know all about that. I read the book on you, remember?”
Corrie sat up a little straighter. She had allowed herself to forget. If she had read everything that was in the diary, this woman knew more about Corrie than anyone else ever had, even Mr. Baron. It made her dangerous in many ways.
Yet there was nothing in the girl’s manner that suggested an evil intent. She didn’t even raise an ironic eyebrow to drive her point home. Instead she grabbed a passing barmaid by the sleeve and ordered two more beers.
“Then what do you want from me?” Corrie asked when the waitress was out of earshot.
The Eurasian leaned back in her chair with her hands folded behind her neck and shook her head sadly. “You’re doing this all wrong, sweetbuns.”
She lunged forward suddenly, bringing the front legs of her chair back down with a bang and thrust out her hand so quickly that Corrie flinched.
“Hi!” she chirped in a hearty falsetto, “I’m Corrie Albertson. And your name is...?” Her smile was comically broad and counterfeit, the diction and cadence of her speech was a perfect imitation of Corrie’s, but the mimicry had an ironic, insincere tenor.
Is she mocking me?
Corrie blushed, realizing that her attention had been focused on securing her property and not on charming the woman who had taken it. She had deliberately startled Corrie to pay her back for being so rude. Corrie reminded herself to be more diplomatic, and summoned a laugh. Then she cut the laugh short when she realized that she was demonstrating the same false amiability that the biker had just parodied.
She just met me and has already taken my measure.
How did she appear in the regard of an outlaw biker? The very habits that gave Corrie respectability in the straight world made her a figure of contempt and derision in this woman’s eyes. Worse than that, she had to know that it was all a lie, that no amount of good grooming or correct conduct could disguise Corrie or erase the terrible choices she had made. The truth was written in her diary.
“I’m sorry. I forgot to ask what was your name?” Even as she asked, she realized that a blackmailer wasn’t likely to want herself known. Yet the woman answered without any hesitation.
“I was Miko, but now my friends call me Hung Low.” She was still holding out her hand.
Corrie took it warily and briefly. “Miko, I would very much like to have my diary back.”
Miko laughed. “That goes without saying, but the real question is how far you are willing to go to get it?”
The waitress showed up and set the beers on the table. Miko held Corrie’s eyes, grinning, while she held up a bouquet of money to pay for the drinks. Corrie made a mental note of that. An experienced blackmailer would have made Corrie buy, if only to establish psychological control of the intended victim. Miko had other motives. This wasn’t about money.
Corrie bristled. “I suppose you want the same thing that he did.” She waved vaguely across the table top, as though the absent diary were sitting beside them. In a sense, it was.
The beer was frosty. Corrie held Miko’s eyes warily as she took a long pull on the bottle, wondering if it had been a mistake to even plant the seed of suggestion, wondering whether sobriety would be an asset or a liability if Miko read her careless remark as a proposition and started acting on that assumption. Corrie had already given herself respect away to Mr. Baron. Having sex with another woman was just one more rung on the long ladder leading down. She wondered if Miko liked to play the same kind of cruel games that he enjoyed, or if she practiced even more perverse diversions. Seriously considering the possibilities made Corrie tremble slightly, even as it made her damp.
Could I? With another woman? With her?
“What fun would that be?” snorted Miko. “I can get all the wet pussy I want already. There isn’t any challenge in that.”
Her eyes smoldered briefly as they flickered over the front of Corrie’s blazer. “I wouldn’t kick you out of my bed though.”
“Then what?” Corrie could feel her control slipping. Talk about inscrutable! “I need that book!”
“What do you need your fucking book for?” Miko’s query was no mere bully’s taunt. It seemed an earnest question. “Maybe what you really need is to throw the fucking thing away.”
Corrie was abruptly aware that someone was standing behind her. She could actually feel a pair of eyes intent on her back, and knew a moment of alarm, suspecting that the stolen diary had been merely bait to bring her into this place. Perhaps Mr. Baron had decided that she had become a liability or threat and had hired professional killers to dispose of his problem. As legal evidence, the diary was as dangerous to him as it was to Corrie. Was this woman simply toying with her before the hammer fell?
“Are we fishing new waters these days, Hung?” asked a woman’s voice. It was a cultured voice, speaking with the trace of an accent that Corrie could not identify. She sounded amused.
Corrie turned and looked at the source.
The woman was tall, with the languid unconscious grace of a dancer and the fine features of a born aristocrat. Her hair had been bleached white and cut very short. She wore black leather head to toe, not the cowhide armor of a biker, but a supple cat suit that displayed her lean form to advantage. Her riding boots were high at the heel and pointed at the toe. Her belt was a length of heavy chromed chain. The buckle was a silver skull.
Corrie twisted around in her seat to look from the newcomer to Miko as she tried to read this new situation. Was this woman a jealous lover? Miko did look a bit uncomfortable. Corrie realized that this development might somehow be turned to her advantage.
“I was just taking care of some business, Sophie.” Miko said with a studied casualness that wasn’t lost on Corrie.
“I think that there is a misunderstanding. I didn’t come in here looking for a hook up.” Corrie was facing Sophie now, recognizing that the center of power had shifted in this room. The arrival of this newcomer had just transformed the cocky little biker chick into a guilty child.
“Even if I were, Miko just isn’t my type.”
Corrie had surprised herself by jumping into the middle of this conversation and confronting Sophie directly, but she felt that there was nothing to be gained by holding back
“She just has something that belongs to me, and I was asking her to return it.”
A beat of silence followed, while Corrie swallowed her heart back down and wondered how much trouble she had just gotten herself into. Sophie’s brow knit with anger, but it was not aimed at Corrie.
“Hung! You haven’t been burgling again have you? I keep telling you that you’re going to get yourself into real trouble one of these days!”
Miko looked a bit sheepish. “Nobody’s getting hurt here.”
© Sergey Ryzhov - Fotolia.com