“Where have you been James?” the tallest of the whoremasters grabbed his arm and slammed him up against the wall. James tried to shrug him off only to find a hand tightening around his throat, restricting his air supply. The master leaned his face into the blonds, his brown eyes flashing dangerously. “I asked where you were!”
James tried to swallow and maintain an image of calmness. “I went for a drive, I felt sick. I needed to get away from here. Just for a few hours.”
The second master, a short man with glasses and slightly thinning hair joined in the questioning. “Why didn’t you ask permission to go out, you know no one has Saturday nights off?”
“I worked most of the night. I was upset; I just needed to get some air. I never meant to be gone so long.” The hand loosened and James took a deep breath in.
“You will stand before the owners tomorrow morning. They will decide what punishment will be imposed.”
James began to sweat, punishment? “You don’t own me. I’m free to come and go as I please.”
The two whoremasters laughed and the taller of the two slapped James’ face playfully. “You just keep telling yourself that Sugar,” the master said taking the piss out of the southern prostitute’s accent. “Read your contract cupcake, you might learn something.” James scrambled with his door handle half falling into his room and kicking the door shut behind him. None of the apartments were lockable so he slid his chest of drawers over the doorway and sat on the floor, his heart racing. Once he had calmed down he rummaged through the briefcase that he had hidden under his bed. He pulled out his contract and began to read. Gasping in shock at what he found in the small print. He leaned back against the wall, his eyes closed and the contract screwed in his hands. He could be punished for not working on a Saturday night without gaining permission first. The contract didn’t say what that punishment would be. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and called up Justin’s number. No, he had already asked too much of the young man. Cancelling the call he switched the handset to silent and dropped it into his briefcase along with the crumpled up contract. He would just have to accept what he was sentenced to, after all if JC could take what was dished out to him week after week then he could handle it too.
A sharp rapping on his door woke him the next morning. “James get your lily white ass downstairs. The owners are waiting for you.”
“I’ll be right down.” He went into his bathroom and splashed water over his face, staring at himself in the mirror as he drew the towel over his skin, drying it.
“Move your ass whore or we will kick down this fucking door.”
James pushed back the chest and opened the door. “I said I was coming.”
It was the tall whoremaster from the night before that was waiting for him. He grabbed James’ upper arm and tugged him to the elevator. The prostitute winced as the master’s fingers dug painfully into his flesh but didn’t fight back.
He was walked into the bar and pushed before one of the tables that had two men and a woman sitting behind it. Standing straight and proud he regarded the people that were standing in judgement of him. He couldn’t remember ever seeing them before. The first of the three was in his mid thirties, short dark hair that laid flat to his head. The second was a man in his fifties, maybe early sixties with thick grey hair that grew down to the back of his neck and was blow dried back. The third owner was a woman also in her thirties, her thick chestnut hair twisted and clipped into place. It was her that spoke first.
“I think James can manage to stand up without your help Marcus.”
The tall whoremaster let go of James’ arm and the blond prostitute rubbed at his sore skin absentmindedly as he waited to be sentenced. The woman smiled kindly. “My name is Carol Babcock. This gentleman,” she pointed to the grey-haired man, “is Brian Taylor and the gentleman on the end is Gabriel Young. We are the joint owners of Utopia. Now I’m sure you know why you have been brought before us so we will cut to the chase. As one of our working boys you agreed to work on a Friday and Saturday night. Last night you failed to do that. Do you deny that you failed to work?”
James shuffled uncomfortably before the panel. “No ma’am.”
“We are not heartless James, if you had gone to one of the masters and told them that you was unwell you would have been issued with a pass,” Gabriel said. As with Carol his voice was laced with kindness.
“I didn’t realise I had to ask permission to leave. It was after 11 when I went out. I did work until then.”
“The fact that you had worked earlier in the evening leads us to believe that you hadn’t planned to cut out and makes us more able to be lenient towards you. Would you care to tell us why you felt the need to go out without permission?” Carol rested her clasped hands on the tabletop.
James chewed his lip, his eyes down caste. “I was upset ma’am. I had to attend Mr. Johnson.”
“Mr. Johnson?” the three owners looked at each other in confusion.
“Mr. Johnson is JC’s benefactor,” Marcus said, volunteering the information that was causing the confusion.
“You are not new to this business James. You have been working in Utopia for four years now. Why would this man upset you so much? Your contract says that you will do what ever you were asked to. You were given a list before your contract was written. I have a copy of your wills and won’ts. What I want, before we decide on your punishment is to know what he asked you to do that upset you so much?”
The prostitute wiped a tear away that was seeping from his eye.
“We are waiting James” Brian spoke for the first time during the interview. He was a lot more abrupt than the other two had been and his eyes flashed with contempt for the frightened young man standing before him.
“Mr. Johnson made me whip his … he made me whip JC. It upset me; I didn’t want to do it. I don’t like hurting people.” He looked up to see Carol pointing out something in his contract to the other two. “I’m really sorry that I broke the rules. I didn’t know. I should have, but I didn’t. It won’t happen again.” James lowered his head and held his hands behind his back, waiting to find out what would happen to him.
The three owners conferred between themselves in low whispered terms. After about five minutes they came to an agreement. Carol again acted as spokeswoman. “We have listened to your reasons for failing to fulfil your contract, and although we sympathise we cannot say that you were justified in walking out. You will be fined three weeks earnings, during that time you will not be allowed to leave Utopia at all.”
“In addition your nights off will be cancelled,” Brian added.
“This time you have been treated with leniency, don’t let it happen again.”
James let out the breath he had been holding. “Thank you. He started to leave.”
The blond prostitute paused and turned to face the panel once more. “Yes sir?”
Gabriel’s eyes drank in the prostitute’s physique. “Wait for me in the lobby.”
James nodded, “Yes sir.” he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Carol leaned back in her seat. “I think he thought he was going to be physically punished.”
“Well if he was made to physically punish one of his fellow whores you can understand his fear,” Gabriel said as he gathered up his papers and put them back in his case. “We’ll I’m going upstairs to get my first freebie from our pretty little boy.”
Brian grunted. “You’re really going to screw that dirty little whore?”
Carol laughed and Gabriel glared at the older man. “Those dirty whores pay for your luxury home and your privileged life style so don’t you forget it.”
“Besides,” Carol added, “all of our working boys have regular health checks and are provided with condoms. You know that. Now if that’s all, I have an appointment in the city.” she hugged the two men and left.
Brian glared once more at Gabriel before picking up his case and walking out without a word. The younger man chuckled and pressed his briefcase into Marcus’ hands. “Look after that, I’ll be a couple of hours at least.”
Chris sat behind his desk, fingers stroking the smooth hardwood. Piles of files sat to his right and his computer sat to his left. His intercom buzzed.
“Mr. Kirkpatrick there are two gentlemen to see you, Justin and Joseph.”
“Send them right in please.” Chris came out from behind his desk and greeted his friends at the door.
“Dude! This is great.” Joey strode straight over to the window and craned his head to see the street twenty storeys below.
“Congratulations Chris, I’m made up for you man.”
Chris bobbed up and down excitedly, “you have no idea man, this job is so cool. I got Internet, my own phone and a games consul, wanna play Pac Man?”
“So this is what lawyers do with the obscene amounts of money you charge.” Justin laughed, as Chris demonstrated his swivel chair to them.
“Nah I got an easy week to break me in. I got a pile of stuff starting a week on Monday.”
Justin sat on the side of Chris’ desk. “Well as you got some time anyway will you help us find some stuff out?”
Chris stopped spinning “what kinda stuff, and is it legal cus you know I got this whole respectable thing going on here right now?”
Joey chuckled from where he stood at the widow. “So you won’t be coming to Utopia with us this weekend then?”
Chris grunted indignantly, “not that respectable.”
“A friend of a friend is being held hostage by a guy. This guy paid someone to go to jail in this other guys place. Now he’s being forced to pay back the debt in bondage.”
“You’re talking about that tom you were so taken with at Utopia.” Chris booted up his pc and started tapping away at the keys.
“Do you have to call him that? What does that mean anyway? Are you insinuating he’s a tom cat or what?” Justin slumped down in a chair that was obviously meant for clients.
“A tom is British slang for a prostitute.” Justin raised an eyebrow. “What you think I’m making it up? Just watch an episode of that British cop program, The Bill, you’ll see I’m not lying.”
“Where the hell did you see a Brit cop show?”
“Internet gives you more than information you know Jup.” Chris found what he was looking for on the pc. “When did this guy get sentenced and where and for how long?” Joey and Justin looked at each other. “Oh come on guys at least give me something to work with. I know I’m good but even I have to have a starting point.”
“Lance said that JC had been in Utopia for about a year.” Joey joined his two friends at the computer consul.
“Well that gives us approximately when. Now we need for how long.”
“Five years, that’s what Johnson is demanding for payment,” Justin said remembering what Lance had told them.
“Cross reference the sentence and when the offence occurred. Do you know what state?” “Here I think.”
“Ooookay.” Chris squinted at the screen, chewing his bottom lip. “What was it for?” he looked up expectantly; pushing his glasses back up his nose.
Joey looked at Justin, “well tell him.”
“I can’t, I don’t know.” Justin got his cell phone out and sent a text message. Almost immediately he got one back.
“K, three matches. Fabio Dyson, assault and battery. Oh right that was on his girlfriend.” Chris read off the information that had flashed up in front of him. “Philip Mason, aggravated assault, received five years. “Henry Goldham, again assault five years.” Chris tapped frantically on his keyboard. Goldham claimed that his victim tried to rape him and he is out, he won his appeal. Mason is still inside, let me just find the details of his case.” again Chris banged away at his keyboard. “Here we go. Beat up some guy in a bar that was coming on to his girlfriend.”
Justin scrutinised the information he had in front of him. “Can you find an address on Goldham?”
Chris rolled his eyes. “2626 Sycamore Street, Jackson.”
“Fancy a road trip?” Justin waited patiently for his two friends to make up their minds”
“I’m working all afternoon, but if you can wait till five, then what the hell.” Chris printed off directions to Goldham’s apartment.
“Count me in.”
Justin grinned, “me and Joe will pick you up at five then.”