Here’s a good one,
Did you hear about my friend
He’s embarrassed to be seen now
Because we all know his sins
If I had the chance love
You know, I would not hesitate
To tell you all the things I never said before
Don’t tell me it’s too late
Cause I’ve relied on my illusions
To keep me warm at night
But I denied in my capacity to love
I am willing, to give up this fight
Oh, I am willing to give up this fight
Dirty Little Secrets – Sarah MacLachlan
Sunday June 12
The upstairs studio has become the war room. We have printed out all the evidence, every photograph, every report, every news item that has been forwarded to my father. This includes all the photos from TJ’s SD-card and the background research that I have managed to gather so far. There are documents and photos stuck on to windows with tape and pinned to every available surface. I keep adding post-it notes and labels to everything as we talk, trying to find patterns and connections. We scribble endless notes onto the whiteboard. Everything is both meaningless and totally relevant.
Carrick drops in after dinner and we start again as we talk him through all the evidence. Jack has some connection with Elena which may or may not be simply about the club. Certainly Club Orpheus is a connection between Jack, Elena, Elliot, Linc and Christian although Elliot is fairly certain that Christian hasn’t been there for the last two years. Dad has confirmed the member lists which show Elena and Linc have been active members at the club, they both are still involved but we can’t ascertain to what extent or how often. Jack hired TJ and Danny through Elena which may mean that he really did just want twins or that he was targeting someone who could get close to Elliot. The photos date back many years from public records but the recent ones have been taken in public spaces for the most part, in the past few weeks. Elliot at various building sites, studying plans with that bitch Gia, then the photos at the Heathman, outside my apartment, in Barbados and Haiti. It seems that TJ hasn’t taken all of these and there is a good chance that Danny was involved in taking those prior to us going to Barbados. There are also photos of Grey properties, Bellevue, Grey House, Escala, Richmond, Elliot’s site offices and photos of many of Christian’s staff including Jason and Luke.
“I just wish we knew more about this prick than his first name.” Elliot’s frustration is palpable and I find myself wrapping an arm around him trying to keep him calm. Carrick smiles at us fondly as I try to placate my man. Once more, we have discovered that we work together seamlessly as a team, talking through every insane idea, allowing space for each person to think and process and come up with another question or line of inquiry. For someone who is so physically distracting and often over the top funny, I find him easy to be around and incredible switched on. More importantly, when he is with me it is like he is himself. Not the image that the world has of him.
“We’ll work it out, babe. OK, let’s start again. Jack hires TJ and Danny through Elena. They are required to service a couple at the club. The couple includes Jack and a woman named Elizabeth who may or may not be his wife. Two other men were involved but we don’t know anything about them. We think that Linc may be connected as well as or instead of Elena, since he has motive, but that really is only speculation. However, Elena may have simply been used for the hiring by any other club member.” I don’t believe for a moment that she isn’t tit deep in this whole mess. If evil had a name it would be Elena Sodding Lincoln. However, I am also aware, that as yet, Elliot hasn’t come clean with me about either of the Lincolns. He has a history with them and for us to really work out where we are blurring the boundaries on this investigation he is going to have to lay it all out. When he is ready. I just hope he is ready soon because we seem to be running out of time.
“I can’t imagine her being involved in any of this. She has been such a good friend to your mother over the years. She wouldn’t do anything to betray her.” Carrick speaks while looking at the photograph of he and Elena leaving the hospital a few years back. “She was so badly beaten in this attack, I can’t imagine that she would want any connection with Linc.”
Elliot’s eyes focus on mine. He has made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t like Elena but he has never explained why. I can see that he is not prepared to have this discussion in front of Carrick so I let it drop. You are going to tell me and soon.
“I think we are going to have to get into Orpheus and nose around.” I keep my voice level, trying not to incite the predictable riot that will come from Elliot if he thinks I am going to be involved in this. Don’t you get all overprotective on me now Grey. We still have a long way to go.
“Kate, I can see a certain amount of sense in what you are saying but if you undertake any sort of search without a warrant then you are putting us all in a difficult situation.” Carrick is frowning at another photo, this one is an old one of Carrick and Grace with baby Mia standing outside the hospital. Two little boys are with them. A blonde smiling open-faced Elliot and a much smaller copper-haired and sullen Christian. How these older photos have got into the hands of this Jack is anyone’s guess. I wonder who took this particular photo.
“Mr Grey, I understand what you are saying and there are certain lines that I won’t cross. My internship would be on the line if I did. I think we can still go on an information gathering mission without crossing those boundaries. However, if you think that this might be putting you in a particularly awkward position then we would take your advice. We don’t want this to compromise you or Mrs Grey in any way.” I really mean this. They are my family now, I don’t want to do anything to hurt any of them.
“I appreciate that and perhaps it would be best if I did back off and left you to it. If you need to get bailed out of something then you are going to need me to be at the top of my game and that means squeaky clean. Son, can you handle this?” Wow, that’s an about face. I wonder if that photo has anything to do with it.
“Yeah, Dad, Kate has already put so much of this together already. We will call if we need you.” Reluctantly, Carrick leaves us alone with the evidence. Jen and Karen have gone back to Jen’s mom’s house leaving us alone for the first time since we got back from Barbados. While I welcome this I have become used to having a house full of people. Perhaps we won’t stop at Junior. My eye catches the photo of Elena in full dominatrix mode about to whip what I hope is a willing submissive. The look on her face is vicious, like she is getting revenge.
“Why do you hate Elena so much?” There is a moment when he seems to be thinking about evading this discussion but then he nods his head.
“Can we go downstairs? I think I need a drink to talk about this.” Shit!
“Sure, I could do with a cup of tea.” We take the elevator down to the ground level and walk hand in hand through to the kitchen. I perch myself up on a stool and he is almost through making my tea before he speaks.
“Elena and Mom have been friends ever since I can remember. She was always nice, fun. Didn’t have kids of her own but seemed to like us enough to want to hang around our family. When I was in my last years of high school and failing she offered me a job cleaning up her yard. The first year or so was great. It was good money and she was a real nice lady. She would always give me a snack when I was finished. One day I went inside her house to get a cold drink and she was sitting at the kitchen bench in tears. She had a black eye and she looked like she hadn’t slept all night. I was 16 years old and out of my depth. In the end all I could do was sit with her and hold her hand while she cried.
After a while she calmed down and I made some tea. While I was getting it ready, standing at the bench she walked up behind me and wrapped her arms around my waist. She put her head on my shoulder and I guess she was just wanting some comfort, some contact. It felt kind of nice and I was just a horny teenager you know? Next thing I know she is kissing me and touching me, I really thought she needed it so I went with it.”
“Shit, Elliot you were sixteen. How old was she?” Mrs Robinson much?
“I would guess that she was in her late twenties. I don’t really know.”
“Did you sleep with her?” He looks contrite. I’ll take that as a big fucking YES!
“I thought it was great. An older woman and she wanted me. Big fucking ego boost, you know? But then she decided she wanted more.” He can’t even look me in the eye right now.
“Explain ‘more’, what does that mean?” I am trying to keep my voice calm and gentle but I feel like a seek and destroy missile. If she ever gets in my path again I will take her out.
“She had equipment. Like the playroom only it was in her bedroom. I am guessing that she and Linc played around a fair bit. Anyway, she wanted to cuff me and beat me. I thought she was a sicko so I ended it.” Relief floods through my body. Sensible Elliot.
“So you hate her for asking you to do that.”
“No, I didn’t really think much of it. I stopped working for her because it felt too awkward to do anything else but we never mentioned it again. Then about 8 months later she hired Christian.” He gives me a rather pointed stare. 2+2=50! Shit!
“So Christian did go along with it.”
“Yeah, the difference was that while I was barely legal when we started, Christian had just turned 15.” Fuck!
“How long did this go on for?” Elliot turns back to the drinks cabinet and pours himself another shot, downing it in one mouthful as I sit staring at his back and waiting. “Elliot, how long?”
“Six years.” Jesus H Christ. “And all this time he was her submissive?”
Elliot shrugs. “I guess so. I never asked and he didn’t tell.”
“Why didn’t you put a stop to it at the beginning?”
“You don’t understand. Christian was really aggressive as a kid. Scary as all hell. Once adolescence kicked in his anger and aggression went into overdrive. He was kicked out three schools for fighting. I guess he was already fucked up but the hormones took him to a whole new level of psycho. We were not only scared for him but scared of him. Then Elena comes along and his personality went through a 180. He seemed to gain control. Mom and Dad had no idea, they thought it was the therapy – the therapists were dumb pricks. They never got through to him but for some reason she did. I was grateful to Elena for giving me my brother back. Plus, I was already a failure in their eyes. While Christian was succeeding academically but getting suspended or expelled, I just tuned out and stopped turning up. My affair with Elena would have been a nail in the coffin. I’m pretty sure Dad would have kicked me out.”
My mouth forms a large oh! “And if you told your Mom about Christian you would have also had to tell her about you and Elena.”
“So how long did it take for you to start hating her, Elena?”
“It was years later when I was working at Sirens. We fought when she brought Christian into Orpheus. I had been working there for a year when he first came so I knew what Orpheus was. That first night I followed them down and snuck in to see what they were doing. It really sickened me. She had him on display and naked on a fucking collar and lead. In front of a room full of people, she flogged him and fucked him with a dildo. My fucking brother and she treated him worse than a dog.” Now I see the tears before he quickly wipes them away. “I can understand what TJ is going through you know? Only difference is Christian accepted it. Danny didn’t have a fucking choice. That didn’t stop me from trying to do then what I didn’t have the guts to do when I was 16. I tried to get him out of her clutches but I couldn’t let him know that I knew. He would have gone off, you know. I had lived through unpredictable Christian, the one who I thought might kill me in my sleep. I thought if I could convince Elena that this was wrong. That it was a betrayal of Mom. She just laughed. Told me I was naive and I didn’t understand their lifestyle. That Christian wanted his life like this, he needed it. I might have believed her except that when I had looked at his face during that whole fucking morbid scene, he was angry, angrier than I had ever seen him. And that fucking bitch was ignoring all the fucking signals. She’s not a dom, she’s just a sadist.”
“Elliot, I am so sorry.” No wonder he hates that bitch with a passion. Here I was thinking that she was just an evil nasty whore. This takes her to an all new low.
“Don’t be. I guess little brother had a plan. Less than a year later Elena lent him the money for his start up. I’m guessing it was substantial enough to make their little shows at Orpheus worth it.” He looks sick and suddenly I feel it. I race over to the sink and throw up. Elliot’s hands are holding my hair back as I heave. Gently he supports me until there is no more.
“I guess Junior didn’t like that story.” I smile meekly up at him.
“Probably something you ate.” He kisses me on the hair. “Baby, come on let’s go to bed. My angel needs her beauty sleep and junior needs to give his mother a break.”
Monday June 13
Elliot has to go to work this morning and I am going to spend the day doing more research plus I have a doctor’s appointment. I could imagine that his lovemaking would have been slow and gentle but it is difficult to get your sexy on when your head is down the toilet bowl. Instead I am doing laps of the pool while he makes breakfast because the thought of food makes my stomach churn. I arrive down the house end of the pool as he walks out with a tray of toast, fresh fruit and tea. Perfection. Strong arms wrap me in a towel and guide me to the table.
“Honey, I am sorry that I have to go today but I promise I will get back here as soon as I can.” Neither of us wants to be apart which feels like a combination of sweet and pathetic. At least I don’t start my internship until next week. Hopefully, I can get my body used to morning sickness which as per the warnings is actually all day sickness. I have an overwhelming urge to talk with my mother but Elliot and I want to keep it a secret for a little while longer.
“Elliot, I will be okay. I have enough to get on with upstairs. Will you be able to pick Ethan up from the airport later on today?” We had already arranged for Ethan to come back a day early so we could brief him before he moves into the apartment with Ana. Of course, things have changed a little with Leila being on the loose so the chances of Ana being allowed to go back to the apartment are pretty slim. Once more I wonder about why Christian is so overly protective, not that I mind him taking care of Ana but there has to be a motivation for him to be so anal.
“Yeah, he gets in at 3pm so I should have no problem getting to SeaTac from the site by then. We should be back here by at least 5pm. Don’t try cooking anything, we will pick up dinner on the way back.” I want to laugh. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than smelling food cooking and that would only be made twenty times worse by my complete lack of skill in the kitchen.
“No fear of that.”
He kisses me goodbye as he takes the tray back through the house and leaves. I head upstairs to shower and change before starting work on the evidence. I have been working on researching Elena and Linc for the past hour when I hear a car pull up in the drive. Looking out the window I see TJ and Stella walking up to the front door. Part of me is a little afraid to be having any sort of conversation without Elliot. However, the journalist in me welcomes the opportunity to do a little digging on my own. I go down to let them in with Zeus hot on my heels.
“Hi TJ, Stella. Elliot isn’t here but come on in.” I usher them out onto the deck hoping that the fresh air will keep the nausea at bay. ‘What can I do for you?”
“I…I want to apologize for the photographs.” TJ looks so disgusted with himself and my heart almost goes out to him. Almost.
“TJ, Elliot explained a lot of what you told him yesterday.” TJ looks like he’s about to choke. “We are not judging you TJ. What you have done violates our privacy but you had good reason to do it. I am more interested in what you can tell me about this Jack and his wife.”
I have my digital recorder in my pocket and a pad and pen in my hand. I will be ready to add whatever he can say to the database I am creating. TJ and Stella look at each other as if they are trying hard to decide what to say. I wait. Eventually TJ continues.
“Like I told Elliot, I never saw his face. What I can tell you is that he isn’t from the West Coast. Definitely a mid-west accent. Maybe Chicago? He’s about 5 ft 9 or 10 and kind of stocky but I wouldn’t have said muscular. Looks like he might have had a desk job, you know?” I am frantically taking notes.
“What about the wife? What was she like?” I know that he saw her. He screwed her for heaven’s sake. Surely he looked.
“Very attractive. Dark hair, nice figure, 5’8 maybe. He called her Liz but she wanted us to call her Elizabeth. Great tits.”
“Dunno, may be late twenties, early thirties. She was nice, even when she was cuffing us. She wouldn’t look when those bastards came in and attacked Danny.” TJ’s face twists at the memory and Stella holds his hand in support.
“Was there anything else that was said or done that really stuck in your memory?” He thinks about this for a while but then shakes his head.
“We have another reason for being here, Kate.” Stella’s voice is soft and quiet. Kind of soothing. I hadn’t noticed that about her. When I saw her in the bar she seemed so confident and sexy that I immediately wanted to hate her. Every time I have seen her since I can see another side. Less confident, much more reserved than I would have given her credit for.
“Stella thinks that he has been hanging around Sirens again.” This immediately grabs my attention.
“How do you know?”
“I have seen the guest book for Orpheus. Usually I work the Burlesque Club but then one of the girls got sick and I went downstairs to help out on reception. Everyone has to sign in to the guest book when they go into the club. They often sign with false names but it is still a requirement. TJ and I narrowed the names down for the night that Danny was … raped. Five people signed into the club that night. Elizabeth was the only woman beside Elena so her name is easy to spot. We figured it had to be either the name above or the name below hers. Both of those names have been absent from the club for six months. As of last week, they are both back.”
I whistle out a stream of air. Fuck, what timing. “Do you have photos of the book?” Stella nods and takes out her iphone. She has scanned in the relevant pages. This is unbelievable. “I need to get into the club.”
“What? No! Elliot would never allow that to happen. You know what happens there don’t you?” TJ actually sounds scared. Yes, I am fully aware of what happens there. But this is our best lead so far. If Jack is going to the club then we might be able to identify him. Of course, he will be able to identify us as well. God knows he has enough photos of us.
“Wait. There is a private burlesque show for Orpheus members on Thursday night. It is prior to the annual slave auction. That will be the best time for us to try to find him.” Stella looks at me. “TJ and Elliot could both work it as waiters.”
“Only if we disguise Elliot in some way. If Jack sees Elliot he will know something is up. And there is no way I am letting him go in without me.”
“That is more of a problem. Only boys are working the floor. The only girls are either on stage or they are part of the membership. That means they are part of the slave auction at the end of the night. I could put you in the show but you’ll have to come to the club during the day and prepare.”
“Great, when do we start.”
“Don’t you think we should run this by Elliot.”
I think about this for a moment. There is no way that Elliot is going to let me do this. However, if he is at work this week then he won’t know if I am going to the club during the day and rehearsing. Hell, I might not even be able to pull this off and then he will be on his own on Thursday night. I want a chance to see if I can fit in before he completely rules out my being involved.
“No, I will tell him but not until I have gone to the club with you today. Let’s go.”
The girls are welcoming, the club is seedy during the day, the dancing is challenging and the lights are hot. However, in spite of this and the bouts of nausea, I am coping with the burlesque routines. The first routine is a very straight forward dance and I still enough flexibility to be able to pull off the leg mounts and splits. The second routine involves chairs and having watched Elliot do his chair work I have a fairly good idea about how best to handle the equipment. The only problem I have is my balance seems to be off when stepping up and over the chair but I am pretty sure I can get it with practice. The most challenging routine involves the poles but it is also the most fun. Part of me wishes that I had done something like this sooner while another part is worried about doing this in front of an audience. The girls are very quick to share tips about how to handle patrons, keep the costumes on and the routines themselves. Stella works them really hard but she is a great teacher and I am picking everything up fast. After four hours we are ready to break for the day and I need to get home to meet Elliot and Ethan.
“Kate, I will have the costumes ready for you to work with tomorrow. Can you be here for a nine o’clock start? We will do the fittings and a private session and the girls will be in at 11am.”
I nod. “No problem.” And I hope that it won’t be. “Stella, thank you for doing this.”
“Kate, I owe these guys a lot. I would do anything for them and they all know it. Besides, I think you might have found your calling.” She gives me a large grin. Yes, I think I would enjoy this but I think I would prefer to do this as a private show for Elliot.
“Thanks, I’ll see you tomorrow.”