KUMIR, Chapter 16: Meet me at St. Antoine’s…

Michael sitting in the common hall with the crumpled figure of Tony mercifully unconscious on the table in front of him. The Australian’s face was an unrecognizeable ruin of flesh, and Michael looked down at him dispassionately as he waited for Jane. Other IncuBikers lounged about the room doing various makework, but they all gave off a tension as they waited for their leader to tell them their next move.

Jane was still fastening a buckle on her chaps as she approached him. Michael looked up, his expression unchanged as his eyes focused intently on her. “I learned some…interesting things from our friend here. So interesting, in fact, that I think I might just trade him back to Kitten. Assuming that withered cunt has anything worth trading for his sorry ass.”

He pushed at Tony’s shoulder, one of the few places not smeared with blood. The beaten man let out a semi-conscious moan. Michael nodded at Jane. “Seeing as you have had a prior and, shall we say, special relationship with them, I believe you would be the perfect person to go over and – ” he gave an ugly smile to Tony’s body, ” – negotiate.” His voice sharpened. “You know what I’m want from her, right?”

Jane nodded slowly. “Basically, you want them gone.” She paused, head tilted. “I’m guessing you want the hired help to stay?”

Michael laughed harshly. “Their stable? Sure, whatever’s left of the whores after six months locked in there with each other, nothing but cam work. That will be entertaining.” His eyes remained darkly locked on Jane as he chuckled. “I’ll put them into a zombie sex flick or something.” He shifted his gaze down again at Tony, voice softer as if he were speaking to himself. “Still can’t figure out why he held out so goddamn long.”

Jane tsked in surprise. “What do you mean held out? He cracked faster than Theo could say ‘I wanna cum on your tits.’ I’m not sayin’ your boys ain’t all that, of course, but, well…” She looked over at BeeCee, who was alternately shoving billiard balls around a pool table and glaring in her direction. “Then again, your boys ain’t all that.”

Michael looked back up at her, eyes narrowed suspiciously. “No, it’s just that the Incubikers and T.S. Enterprises were in detente for a long time. I actually thought of him as quite the worthy opponent.” He shook his head. “I’m almost sorry that he had to lose so spectacularly.”

Jane tried to keep her face impassive at the impossible site of the amoral leader expressing empathy. Michael’s eyes had a far-off look now, speculating. “Now, in so short a time, he’s losing everything…and I still don’t quite understand what kept him going so long.”

Jane shrugged, turning to go. She froze as she felt Michael’s hand grasp her shoulder, leather creaking under his grip. She hadn’t even heard him get up. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that it all changed when you got here, Jane.” He leaned down and hissed in her ear. “You bring chaos, bitch, but I ride chaos like it’s a Russian whore. You’d best not forget it.”

Jane didn’t turn anything but her head, looking up into his dark eyes. “I know that, Mr. Doukas. You are the most dangerous man here, and I suspect a few other places as well. That’s why I’m working for you, and not for that.” She dipped her chin slightly, indicating Tony’s bloody form. The Australian was starting to move, slowly coming back to a painful consciousness.

Satisfied, Michael nodded and released her jacket. As she strode towards the exit he called out, “Hey, Jane! Aren’t you going to ask for another $1500? Surely you’re not going to do this for free?”

Jane reached the door and paused, flashing a smile back at the gray-haired man. “I’m feeling especially generous tonight, Mr. Doukas.” She gave a wicked smile. “You have your brother to thank for that.” The door swung shut behind her.

Making her way across the street, she skirted the goopy mess of flame retardant mixed with the grease that was all that remained of the Jason’s diversion. Most of the firefighters were gone save for one small truck. The Barista stood in front of the glass doors of the Hellas Café arguing with a firefighter holding a clipboard aggressively in her hands. Jason caught Jane with an inquisitive as she walked towards the T.S. stronghold. She gave him a confident smile and circled her finger and thumb in an “OK” sign. He responded with an eye roll, still loudly declaiming his innocence to the fire inspector. Jane continued towards the dark slab of a door.

It opened as she approached, revealing the same man who’d escorted her before. She gave him a friendly smile. “Schmuckballs! So glad to see you. I was worried you might have gotten hit along with your boss. It’s always nice to see a familiar face.” As she walked past him she saw the clear red outline of a hand blooming on his cheek. Tsking, she said “Oh, dear. Mama Kitty wasn’t too happy with you for losing her husband, was she? Don’t worry, little brother, Big Sis is here to make it all right again.”

She patted his shoulder consolingly and was was rewarded with a dirty look as he motioned her up the stairs towards Kitten’s bedroom. This time there were no camgirls or boys peeking over the third floor railing, and the entire building had the ambience of a mausoleum. As they approached the bedroom door, Jane heard some snippets of a phone conversation. “Yes, padre…more than valu…much stronger. He will…ess you, too, Padre.”

As Jane walked in with a soft knock on the door, Kitten looked up. Her face was composed, but with dry streaks of tears running down through the makeup on her cheeks. She put down her cel phone quickly, and took a breath, as if to gather herself. Jane decided to take a chance and spoke first. “Getting some spiritual guidance?” she ventured, gesturing towards the phone.

Kitten glared at Jane. “Padre Innocente has been a great comfort to me and many of our girls during the past six months. He’s come here to minister to them many times.”

I bet he did, Jane thought, and must have let some of the sentiment leak to her face, because Kitten raised her voice.

“Don’t you fucking disrespect a man of God, you filthy pagan slut!” Jane looked surprised at the epithet, and Kitten continued her tirade. “Don’t think I was that out of it, bitch, you aren’t that good at giving head. I saw that…that design on your back. We had a girl in here almost a year ago with the same thing. ‘Green Dude’ or some new-age shit like that, I don’t remember exactly, but we got rid of her fast, before Padre ever noticed –”

Jane’s eyebrow arched and Kitten cut herself off, suddenly aware of what that scenario implied. She stood, changing the subject. “So? You over here to gloat?” Some of rancor drained from her voice as she tried to ask the worst question in the world. “Is…is Tony…”

Jane held up a hand mercifully. “He’s alive, Kitten.” The older woman seemed to deflate a bit as her greatest worry left her. She suddenly looked small and old, lost in the long flowing evening gown. Jane continued quickly, not wanting Kitten to lose it entirely. “But he’s in bad shape! Gonna need a hospital – more than the clinic can do, I suspect.” She let a note of comfort belie her words. “Mr. Doukas sent me. I’m supposed to tell you to just leave, to come get Tony and just leave your front door open.”

Kitten looked at the floor, not responding for moment. Then she spoke without looking up. “You’re supposed to do that?”

“Yeah. Supposed to. I guess…” Jane paused, as if regretting the way things had turned out, giving Kitten time to remember her original deal. “I guess I thought I might get a better deal working in front of their cameras, or something.”

Jane reached out to touch Kitten’s shoulder and the woman’s head snapped up angrily. Her glare faded as she saw the worried look on Jane’s face. “Kitten, I should have listened to you. After hanging with them for a while…well, Theo has a nice cock, but as for the rest…I really don’t care for the way they do business over there.”

Jane looked over her shoulder at Schmuckballs for a moment communicating harmless intent as she reached slowly up to her shoulder pouch. She pulled a small USB key from the folds. “So I’m not exactly doing what I’m supposed to. Instead of demanding your surrender, I’m giving you something that I’m hoping gives you a little bit of leverage.” She made to hand it to Kitten, who reached out. Jane stopped before the memory stick touched the older woman’s fingers. She smiled softly. “Of course, it’ll cost you…”

Kitten’s glare returned, but it was tempered with a greedy hunger at the slight hope Jane offered. “Fifteen hundred, yes, I know,” Kitten snapped. “What the fuck is on it? How is it going to help Tony?”

Jane smiled. “It’s the footage from the truck. The footage Tony tried to get when the Incubikers grabbed him.” Kitten and her guard both opened their mouths in shocked O’s. Jane went on. “I had a hunch that there might be an automatic upload through the satellite nav, and so – ”

Schmuckballs recovered first. His mouth snapped shut and he laughed contemptuously. “You expect us to believe you hacked a satellite?”

Jane looked at him levelly. “No, fuckwad, I don’t expect you to do anything. ” She turned back to Kitten. “But I expect you to believe that there’s a hacker out there who happens to appreciate some of the little shows I put on just for him.”

Kitten nodded slowly, and held out a hand again for the memory stick. Jane hesitated a moment, as if still considering, and sighed and gave a little shrug as she placed it in the woman’s hand. “Fine. I trust you. But I’m not asking for $1500. You’re going to give me $3000, because after I don’t think there’s not going to be much money left for a girl like me, regardless of my talents.” She smiled sweetly at Schmuckballs as Kitten quickly plugged the stick into her laptop, pulling up the video file. It showed the dark-haired Russian sex worker descending the ladder directly into the waiting arms of Theo Dukas. While the video was grainy, his face and the others was unmistakably identifiable.

Kitten closed her laptop with a click and didn’t move for a moment. Then she said in an even tone, “Give her the $3000. Cash.” The guard left to get the money, and Kitten turned to Jane. “I don’t trust you. I don’t like you. I want you gone, and not just because you make me feel like a fat cow.” All traces of her cute persona were gone from her voice.

Kitten continued. “So you go back to your pet bikers and tell them we’ll do the exchange at St. Antoine’s. Padre Innocente will open it for us.” She pulled the USB stick out of the computer and held it tight in her fist. “Tell Michael that we’ll trade Tony for this footage. Make him believe there’s no copies, or at least that we’ll keep it from the police as long as things calm down.” Kitten took a deep breath, looking past Jane’s shoulder at some future only she could see. “As long as we go back to how things were.” Her voice stayed even, but there was a pleading earnestness to it as she looked back at Jane. “I just want to make porn, make money, and live with my husband. We don’t need to push the IncuBikers anywhere. We could just…” her voice trailed off.

“‘Get along?'” Jane suggested, and she couldn’t help a little sarcasm in her voice. “Babe, you know as well as I do our boys ain’t ever gonna ‘get along.'” She lifted a hand to pat Kitten’s shoulder in comfort, but thought better of it. Jane stepped back. “I’ll tell them. I’ll get them to St. Antoine’s. At the very least, you’ll see Tony. What you all do after that is up to you.”

She turned as Schmuckballs walked in with the money, and took it without counting. “Frankly, I’m beginning to think you’re all psycho.” Again tipping that imaginary hat, she smiled. “But it sure is a pleasure doin’ business with you, ma’am.”

Kitten didn’t look up as she left, just sat there looking at her clenched fist around the data stick. Thinking.

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