It was late afternoon, and a lot of Lucy's girls were now awake and getting breakfast in preparation for the evening shift.
In the office, the subject of conversation between Lucy and the two sheepish looking men standing by the door was Hyle Troy.
These two, after checking on their buddy in the emergency clinic, had overheard Hyle talking to the auctioneer and had taken it upon themselves to 'warn her off'.
It had not gone well but the men were wise enough to report their actions back to the boss.
Now Lucy had to make a decision. Before the events of today, there had been a kind of truce between Lucy and the mayor of Hope. Now Mayor Troy was in Flag and asking questions.
Any kind of truce was now in tatters, that much was obvious. Lucy very, very much wanted Hyle Troy dead, she had done for a long time.
What had stayed her hand was the fact that Troy was protected in Hope by her own people... and in Flag Lucy knew she would also have Spivey on her case if she did anything to her there.
And on top of all that was Reavy. The mercenary was a loose cannon that she didn't want aimed her way.
But now. Now the deck had been shuffled by the arrival of Brown, and a new hand had been dealt. The truce was gone. Spivey was in hiding and under attack.
And Reavy was out of town making some other poor soul's life a goddam misery. Right now, then, the cards were in Lucy's favour.
And, if the obstacle of Mayor Troy could be removed, then she wouldn't even need Bitch Brown and her highfalutin plans and fancy talk.
Meanwhile, 'Bitch Brown' was reviewing the tape she and the two guards had produced. It was a shame it wasn't video; she would have loved to show off her own skills with a scalpel.
But this was for broadcast by radio so the delicate peeling back of strips of skin would be wasted.
Oh well, the punches, the slaps and the corresponding noises the girl made certainly communicated the fact that she wasn't having a good time. It would do.
The tape, addressed to Joe Spivey,
was transmitted on the four o'clock news report and every half hour afterwards until three of Joe's men turned up at the radio station's door and put an end to it.
Joe contacted Hyle.
"You were supposed to keep her safe!"
"Don't you fucking shout at me like that Mister fucking Joe Spivey!" Hyle shouted down the line. Joe, still angry, shouted back.
"I wasn't shouting!"
Hyle heard Kirsten's voice in the background. 'Stop shouting at her, Joe.' Hyle went on.
"I had her under armed guard, and she was on her way to Haven when they got her so don't stand there accusing me of not doing anything! Two of the Lightbearer guards got killed in the attack."
"OK, then. Fine. But she still got taken." Joe's voice was quieter, but the stress showed through. Hyle still had not reined in her own anger.
"Anyway, where the hell have you been hmm?
While you have been hiding away, I've had two guys try to kill me and I have had to torture one of damned Aunt Lucy's thugs who was directly involved with Tuki's abduction."
"And don't forget this is MY daughter we are talking about, not some damned overhead you once tried to sell off to the highest bidder so DO NOT preach to me about not caring for her."
"... I only 'sold' her to you....! OK, I'm sorry." Joe took a deep breath. "So, what do we do now?"
Hyle paused, then asked "What have you heard. Anything?"
Joe thought for a minute, deciding it would be better to give an abridged version of what he knew from the radio message.
"We got proof that Tuki is alive, and that Miss Brown has her." Joe gave that much away but left out the part about the beatings. He heard Hyle sigh.
Joe went on. "From what you say, it's clear Brown, and Aunt Lucy are in cahoots an' I'll lay a pound to a pinch of shit Lucy wants your arse six feet under. What are you going to do?"
Hyle didn't hesitate in her reply. "Check out Diamond Lil's. It's the only lead I have."
"Are you deaf? I just reminded you that Lucy wants you dead. Has done for a long time."
"It's the only lead I have," Hyle repeated and heard Joe's nostrils flare.
"Keep in touch. Be careful."
Realising that by driving her pink car around Flagstaff she may as well erect a neon sign saying 'Here is Hyle!' Hyle drove to the garage and changed her vehicle for her old Tonneau.
It was still brightly painted but the advantage was that Hyle had not used it for a good long time, and only those with very keen memories would recall it, hopefully.
The evening was well advanced as Hyle parked the car along the street from Diamond Lil's.
Close enough to see what was going on outside the joint but not so close as to draw the attention of Lucy's henchmen, bouncers,
or even the growing number of minimally clad young girls that were being pushed out into the street to attract business.
As she kept watch on the comings and goings. Hyle realised her knuckles had gone white gripping the steering wheel.
OK, prostitution is supposedly the oldest profession, and Hyle was certainly no prude.
But there were no 'happy hookers' here. This was exploitation. From time to time, a girl would be given a slap by a bouncer if she didn't parade herself up and down.
And they all looked so young, some too young it seemed.
At one point, she did see Aunt Lucy. When she appeared, the girls definitely seemed more focused on the task in hand, probably out of fear.
Hyle was startled from her thought by a light tap on the passenger side window and noticed a smiling man peering in. He waved, but Hyle did not recognise him.
He was smiling so she smiled back and wound the window down.
"Hello." he beamed, Hyle noticed that he, in fact, was rather well dressed. "Are you working?" He asked.
At first, Hyle was confused, but then she remembered she still wore her 'civic' slap and the pink leather jacket. She realised what the man was asking.
"Maybe." She smiled. "But it depends a lot on whether or not you can afford me...."
The guy baulked as Hyle put a suitably exorbitant price on herself.
"... But you do get me all night." Hyle added and decorated her offer explaining one or two interesting items which could be on the menu. She smiled quietly as he considered her proposal.
Hyle nodded down the street. "There's always the cheap end of the market..."
He looked where Hyle was indicating "Oh yeah... drugged up kids who just lie there like grain sacks, I'm sick of that. That's why I took a chance to ask you. But..." He huffed and phewed.
"That's a lot of money."
Hyle pushed the door open "Jump in. We can talk about it. You can call me Morticia. Or 'Tish' and I will call you Gomez."
She smiled as 'Gomez' slid into the seat beside her.
"How come I haven't seen you around? Certainly have not seen you before in 'Lil's'." Gomez asked, still trying to justify the expense in his mind. It was a high price, but she did look amazing.
"Oh, I don't go in there. I freelance when my husband is away on business. What's it like in there?"
Gomez sighed. "Oh, you know, really sleazy. I should not use it but... needs and such..."
Hyle nodded, "Do go on.
" Outwardly sympathetic but inwardly her disgust of Aunt Lucy swelled as Gomez described overused girls who by the age of 24 were usually thrown out with the garbage if they lived that long.
However, there seemed a fairly regular supply 'fresh ones' who usually said they had come from the orphanage but were too old to stay there anymore so Aunt Lucy had taken them in.
"The fresh ones are usually out of their heads on Storm." He added, then took a deep breath. "OK, I'll take your deal." He looked at Hyle with a resigned but hopeful grin.
Hyle's sympathetic smile fell from her face and instead scowled scorn at him. 'Gomez' looked confused. "But..."
"Get the fuck out of my car and go and find something meaningful to do with your money instead of helping to destroy women's lives, huh?"
Crestfallen and utterly confused, nay embarrassed, 'Gomez' scuttled his way out of the car. Stepping back as this 'Tish' started the engine and roared off down the street.
Trying to gather his wits after the unexpected turn of events, he started walking towards Diamond Lil's for a drink and a little 'company'. But his steps slowed.
The ice blue scorn of that 'Tish's' eyes, and her tone, and her words... He felt queasy.
'Gomez' turned around and went home.
Hyle crossed town and booked herself into a relatively anonymous Motel. She was knackered. She was also angry and determined to torpedo Aunt Lucy's sleazy little Love Boat.
Before that, though, she had to find Tuki. Fast.