Disclaimer: see first chapter.
Author's note: Where to start? I still get reviews and people keep reading this story, so I feel obligated to continue. It's challenging to say the least, but I'll do my best to honour your loyalty. This chapter is shorter than previous ones, I think (didn't really check the pages), but it felt like the right place to end it.
I still haven't finished the whole story, but I've put this chapter up nonetheless. I hope life will give the time (!) and imagination to keep going. Please read, review and accepts my apology for not updating sooner.
Extra note: I've seen the second season of The Listener and quite enjoyed it, to be honest. Especially the last few episodes where Toby is struggling with the whole thing. ;-) I have to say thought that, obviously, my own story does not fit with the timeline of the second season since I started writing it only after the first season. Hope you don't mind...
Charlie felt uneasy as the guy in front of her was checking her out. And he wasn't trying to hide it either, looking at her breasts and legs, nodding approvingly. She had entered the bar about half an hour ago, simply asking if there was a job opening. Apparently they were always looking for 'interesting people', as the barman had put it, so here she was: standing in front of this stranger, trying to pass her 'job interview'.
"And you can start right away?"
Charlie nodded. "I need some cash so the sooner the better."
"Mmm, any experience?"
"Sure," the cop answered. "Been a waitress for years back in Otawa."
"You lived in Otawa?"
"Born and raised. But I needed a change." Charlie shrugged, working on her fake background story. "You know, wrong guy, wrong friends. I need a new start, so moving away seemed like the next best thing."
Becker had suggested that she made it sound as if she had no friends in the city whatsoever and apparently that was the right move. The guy started smiling. "New start, you say? Well, I'm sure you'll find plenty of nice friends over here. Don't you worry."
The detective gave him a big smile and shook her hair back over her shoulders in what she hoped was a sexy way. "Just what I need; I can use some good mates. Does this mean I've got the job?"
"Just have to check and ask Nick, but you look like a girl who would fit right in. Just wait here for a moment."
He left and Charlie had a look around. The place was quiet, but that didn't surprise her at this time of day. Most of the activity would be happening at night and it was only midday. The bar was dark, not too big, some tables and chairs were put in random places. There were even a few old coaches in the far corner, where right now the only 2 customers were sitting in, drinking a beer.
A girl was sitting on the low table in front of them, her back towards Charlie. The cop noticed that the woman was hardly wearing any clothes. Shifting a bit uncomfortably Charlie realised that she hadn't thought about what 'working' in this place may actually meant. She had assumed that a waitress would be serving drinks, she even considered that maybe she would have to endure a bit more than the occasional dirty talk, but seeing this woman openly flirting with 2 drunks made her rethink her idea of going undercover.
There was, however, no time to leave, as the guy walked back in, telling her to follow him inside. Charlie knew that if she did, there was no way back. If she wanted out this was her chance. With one last glance at the corner she followed the guy through the door.
She was taken down a few halls before the guy showed her into one of the rooms at the right. It seemed to be a bureau of some sorts, with a desk in the middle and heaps of paper all over the place.
As she entered the room she heard another voice from behind. "This is the new one?" The question was directed at the guy who took her 'interview' and he nodded. A large man entered the room and smiled at her.
Charlie instinctively knew that somehow this man was the boss: authority came naturally to him. Her guard was up, feeling that as the man now standing in front of her may look as a nice guy, he most certainly wasn't. "My name is Charlie," she said, holding out her hand. "Thanks for giving me the job."
"Nice to meet you, Charlie. I am Nick and it's my pleasure to offer you the job." The words sounded friendly enough, but chills were running down the detective's back. "I heard you are looking for friends?"
"Well, yes," she answered. "Friends, money, a new start really." She gave a shy nod and dropped her eyes, playing the part of dumb bimbo. "When can I start?"
"Immediately, if you want. It's not busy right now, but things should pick up in the bar soon. I'll get one of the other girls to show you around, to give you a quick update on how things work around here. Let's call tonight a test: if you pass, you can come back tomorrow and we'll work out the details."
"Sounds fair to me."
Nick laughed. "I am a fair man. You be good to me and I'll be good for you. Don't worry: we're a big happy family in here and we take care of each other. Anyway, I'll introduce you to Manuela and she'll tell you what you need to know. She'll also give you your uniform."
Nick gave a sign to someone standing at the door. An average looking woman walked in, about 40 years old, Charlie guessed. Short dark hair, fairly skinny, but age was starting to show. She looked tired and her eyes held a bored expression.
"Manuela, this is Charlie, our newest waitress. You take care of her today, show her around. Ok?" Nick didn't wait for an answer, but gave both women another smile and left.
An awkward silence fell before Manuela sighed. "Right, you come with me. This is Nick's bureau, as you may have guessed. You don't come in here unless you are told to do so. You already know where the bar is, that's were you'll start working. I'll introduce you to the other girls who work the bar with you tonight."
Once she started talking Manuela kept up an endless stream of explanation while she walked down the hall, Charlie on her heels. "Every night there are about 5 to 10 girls in the bar, depending on how many clients we get. There's Johnny, the bartender. A few guards, there's Andre. Once you get the hang of things in the bar, you'll get more responsibilities."
Charlie lost track of the conversation and took the liberty of looking around not paying any attention to Manuela's voice. So when the explanation ended, Charlie didn't notice immediately.
"Any more questions?"
The loud question startled Charlie. "No, it's clear and I'm sure I'll learn what's needed while on the job," she stumbled, her face turning a bit red. If she wanted to fit in here, she really should try to pay better attention to what the lady was saying.
Manuela eyed her disapprovingly before handing her a few clothes. "Try these and see if they fit. I'm pretty sure they will be your size."
Charlie took the two little pieces wearily. "That's it? I may as well go naked."
She had said it half jokingly, but Manuela didn't even smile. "Men pay more easily when they are distracted." Her voice sounded bitter and the detective took a better look at the other woman. Once again it struck her at how tired she looked. And right now there was also a sadness in her eyes, belying her earlier aloof posture.
"What do you mean?" The cop asked.
A few seconds passed before Manuela answered. "Just put on the clothes so I can show you the rest of the place." Gone was the sadness, once again replaced with the cool attitude. She turned around and fumbled with a few things in the corner to give the detective some privacy to change her clothes.
However Charlie had seen that there was more to this woman then she had first thought. If she wanted to find out more about this place, Manuela sure was the right person to talk to. The older woman must have been working here for a long time and had seen thing, perhaps too many things.
While trying to fit into the tiny hotpants and silly top, Charlie made a mental note to befriend this woman one way or another.
"And how is our guest feeling today?" Andre entered the small room where Toby had been brought to.
The paramedic had lost track of time quite some time ago and wasn't sure how long they had held him captive. It must have been towards two days now, so surely he'd be missed by now. Olivia and Oz would have raised the alarm and Charlie would be out there searching for him. That's what he held on to.
However, how on earth were they supposed to find him? He had run off to a place he'd never gone before where got himself drunk and slept with a hooker. There would be no witnesses whatsoever to his disappearance so why would Charlie suspect him to come here? No, the situation wasn't looking to bright at the moment.
After their last confrontation Nick and Andre had taken him to this tiny room. His hands were no longer cuffed, but that fact didn't help him in any way. The room had no windows and judging by the smell and the cold, it must be somewhere in the basement of the building. There they had left him to himself.
Twice they had given him some food and water, but only after they had been taunting him both mentally and physically. Fighting them at first, Toby realised very quickly that he hardly stood a chance. He decided then and there that he would spend all of his efforts into restoring his mental state instead of physically fighting back.
Toby sighed, closing his eyes. Until Nick had found out his secret, he had been certain he could get out of this place one way or another. He'd find a way to contact Charlie and save these girls, but ever since that fateful moment, Toby wasn't sure of anything. For the first time in a long time, the young man felt completely vulnerable, lost and scared to death.
"Hey," Andre yelled, giving Toby a good shove. He had come in some ten minutes earlier, chitchatting as if Toby were his best friend. "Are you even listening?"
Toby looked up, he had not even pretended to be interested in the guy. "Just get it over with. Do what you want, I'll never help you either way, so get on with it."
"Still fighting are you?" Andre seemed to think that was a funny thing. "Don't worry, you'll change your mind eventually. I'm here to take you to your first job. Get up." Andre gave him another shove.
Not up for another fight, Toby did as he was asked. His hands were once again bound behind his back before he was shoved out of the door. They took him up and down a few hallways. As he passed several people, none of them even gave him a second glance. Apparently they were used to seeing people being dragged around in bonds, not a very comforting thought.
All of a sudden a woman rounded a corner and bumped into their little group. Looking up Toby nearly jumped in surprise. How did she end up here? Did she somehow found out where he was?
The detective staring back at him looked equally as wide-eyed when she recognised him. Years of experience overrode Charlie's instincts to speak out to him. She hid her initial surprise, turned her eyes down, apologized for her clumsiness and kept walking, her mind swirling with questions. How did Toby managed to get himself into trouble again?
Their encounter didn't last more than a few seconds and the guys surrounding Toby hadn't even noticed the eye contact between them. However, Toby looked over his shoulder and felt a shimmer of hope returning. Maybe not all was lost after all.