Friday, April 3, 2009

Chapter 27: Meeting the Enemy

 Cpl Maseka and his cronies had no trouble engaging dancers for their table. I thought quietly to myself that this duty was no hardship for them, the bill was being paid by me after all. I did notice that while they had dancers busy almost every second song, they were taking care to have at least one of their number watching all the time, while the other three paid attention to the dancer. I was satisfied that they would notice if anything went wrong.

Dimitri and his companion didn’t stop talking the whole time that I watched them, although the dynamic changed after a while, and it looked as if it was now Dimitri who was issuing orders or instructions, and the other man who was simply listening to what he was being told.

The waitress came around again and offered me a refill on my drink. When I refused, she lent close to me and whispered in my ear, “Is there a specific dancer that you would like to talk to?” I realised that not engaging a dancer might draw attention that I didn’t want, so I told her that I was interested in talking to Bettina. She seemed unsurprised by this, nodded and left. A few minutes later Bettina walked up to my table. She stretched out her hand, and I shook it without thinking.

“Can I sit here?” Bettina asked.

“Sure. That was a great dance.” I told her.

“Thank you. I try my hardest. I noticed you weren’t that interested I what I had to show?”

“Oh, I was interested all right. I am just not really comfortable in places like this,” I laughed.

“What is your name?”

“Rupert. I guess your stage name is Bettina?”

“Yes. It’s also my real name,” she said with an amused smile on her face. “Why aren’t you comfortable here?”

“I suppose I value my own privacy too much, and it seems like an invasion of yours to have hordes of men staring at you. I can’t help projecting my own feelings sometimes.”

“Oh, I have no problems with it. I work damn hard to keep my body looking like this, so I take pride in displaying it.”

“Well that’s good to know. It makes me feel a little better. Do all the dancers feel the same way you do?”

“Some of them,” she answered with a slight grimace.

“Oh,” I prompted gently, “what about those that don’t?”

Bettina gave me an evaluating look, then looked over her shoulder before turning back to me. “You aren’t a cop, I can always tell, but you are looking for something. What is it?”

“Why do you think that?”

“You don’t feel right. Your attention is in all the wrong places. Are you some sort of cop?”

“No. I am a soldier some of the time.”

“Mmm that does help to explain it. You aren’t here for the girls though?”

“You’re very perceptive. Can you keep a secret?”

“You need to get me to dance for you or something or else I will have to move on.”

“Ok, that shouldn’t be any hardship,” I said with a smile. “How about a table dance?”

“It might be better to have a ‘private’ lap dance. That way we can close the curtain.”

“Cool. Do I need to pay you first or something?”

“No. Just wait.” Bettina stood up and I saw her catching the eye of one of the bouncers. He nodded to her and she reached up and pulled the curtain closed. “Ok, that should do it. What is the secret?” As she said this, she started to do a strip-tease.

“You don’t need to actually strip,” I told her.

“Yes I do. I am working after all, and if anyone checks I need to be doing my job.”

“Before I tell you the secret, could I ask you about the conditions here?”

“What do you mean?” Bettina asked as she removed her green bra.

“I know this is a strip-club, but I have heard rumours that things have changed since the change in management. Is that true?”

“Yes. Sit back on the bench.” I leant back and watched as Bettina removed her panties and climbed up onto the bench. When her knees where on either side of my legs, she leaned forward so that her mouth was right next to my ear. “A few months back a bunch of foreigners took the place over. Since then they have employed a few girls from overseas, mostly Russian and Ukrainian. The VIP room has been turned into a brothel.”

“Is it only the foreign girls who work there?”

“No. They have been putting pressure on all of us to work there. I make enough so that I have been able to hold them off, but some of the other girls have started to go back there.”

“What are the foreign girls like? Are they happy with their work?”

“That’s the problem. They don’t say much about it, but I get the feeling from what they don’t say that they don’t have much choice.”

“They’re force?”

“Pretty much. You will still see them out on the floor, but mostly they don’t dance on the ramp. They aren’t really dancers. Some of them spend all their time in the VIP room, and they can’t work the floor.”

“Why not?”

“Too many bruises.”

“Is someone hurting them?”

“Take a look at my left breast.”

Bettina pulled back a bit and her breasts were level with my face. From this close, I could see that they had a coating of makeup on them. When I concentrated on her left breast, I could see that the make-up was concealing a faded bruise.

“What happened to your breast?”

“A few days back the one guy out there … did you see the short one at the table near the door?” I nodded. “His name’s Dimitri. Anyway, he arrived and he kinda took over. The guy he’s talking to is the manager, but Dimitri has been telling him what to do ever since he arrived. Anyway, he called all the girls in, one by one, for an interview. When he saw me, he asked me why I wasn’t working the VIP room. When I told him that I was a stripper and not a prostitute, he reached out and grabbed me by the breast and started twisting. It was very strange, he didn’t ask me anything or tell me to do anything, he just twisted. I cried out and then he seemed to get excited. The more I cried, the more excited he got. I dropped down to my knees trying to get away from him and he let me go. I think he was going to do something else to me, but his phone rang and he chased me out.”

“Why are you still here then?”

“I’ve been waiting for the end of the month so that I can get paid. It’s only another three days. Once I have my money, I’m out of here.”

“Has he bothered you again since then?”

“Not me specifically. I think he’s been too busy. He scares me. I saw him looking at me a little earlier and I had almost decided that I was going to leave tonight. Screw the money. He’s crazy.”

“I think more than you know.”

“He’s why you’re here,” Bettina said in a sudden flash of insight. “I heard one of the bouncers talking. He said that they were trying to find some guy. You’re that guy, aren’t you?”

Just then the curtain twitched open and a bouncer stuck his head in. “Another song Bettina?” he asked.

“Yes, maybe even two more,” she told him.

He disappeared again, pulling the curtain closed again.

“See,” Bettina said, “I told you we had to do this properly.”

“Properly is not the word. You know that even with what we have been discussing, I have been excited by you.”

“Of course I know. I wouldn’t be any good at my job if I didn’t pay attention to those big details, now would I?”

I decided to answer her earlier question. “I am just here to find out a little about Dimitri and his crew. Do you know more about him?”

“Actually, there is one of the Russian girls that you should ask. I only know what I have been able to see.”

“Which one? Could you point her out to me?”

“No. She is sitting in the change-room. Dimitri decided to teach her an object lesson a little earlier. That’s what convinced me he’s crazy. Really crazy.”

“What object lesson?”

“He said that we were all sluts. His sluts, and we would do whatever he told us to do. He grabbed Katerina and bent her over the table, then he raped her in her arse.”

“Shit. In front of you?”

“In front of all of us. That was just a little while before I came out to dance. It was the final straw for me. She is sitting in there now, bleeding. He told me that I could take her to the hospital later.”

“Why would he let you do that?”

“She doesn’t speak much English. I’m supposed to go so that I can tell the doctors what they need to know.”

“Isn’t he worried that you’ll give him away?”

“No. He said he would send one of his goons along who would hurt me badly if I did.”

“Ok. I tell you what, how would you feel about me taking you out of this situation.”

“What do you mean?”

“I already have a bit of a ‘dispute’ with the man. I was thinking that if I got you and Katerina away from the ‘goon’, that you could help me find out what I need to know.

“I don’t know if I can trust you completely. How do I know that you aren’t some kind of weirdo?”

“You don’t. What I will do is make up the money you are missing by leaving here, and promise that I will do my best to look after the two of you.”

“Three actually.”


“I have a young daughter. She’s seven. She’s actually the real reason I didn’t leave immediately. Dimitri said that he would hold her hostage for my obedience.”

“Shit. Ok, know this. You and your daughter will be safe with me.”

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