The Blue Room Vol. 2: The Blue Room Series (2 page)

BOOK: The Blue Room Vol. 2: The Blue Room Series
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But he loved her, I think, for just a second.

            Then
I remember: love doesn't mean anything in this world.

            Brandi
nods. “We need to figure out the truth,” she said. “Before somebody else
figures out a convenient lie.”

            But
the question remains.

            If
they didn't kill Roz – who did?

 

Chapter 2

 

 

           
A
s I sit alone in my luxurious suite at the
Blue Towers, I'm more desperate than ever to find out the answers. This room,
which was so stunning, so beautiful when I first moved in, now feels like a
prison. Every painting on the walls, every sculpture in the corner, every
elaborate “amenity” feels poisoned to me by what I know.

            And
what do I know? I'm not even sure what to think now. I don't
know
anything,
after all. All I have to go on are rumors, whispers, terrors. All I have to go
on is the fact that Roz was left-handed, that the gun was in her right hand,
that Brandi and Scarlett and Julie are all sure, so sure, that Mr. X. loved Roz
too much to ever jilt her.

            But
that's all I know about her, about him. I don't know anything, really. Secrets,
lies, falsehoods. That's all this place is, I think. A place of lies. A place
of beauty for sale, of illusions broken and maintained, of appearances to keep
up in the name of discretion. Of Roz, lying there, dead on the floor, and
nobody calling the police, everyone protecting the identity of the mysterious
Mr. X. Everyone protecting the living man who wasn't there for the dead girl
who loved him. The thought of it all makes me sick to my stomach.

            I
have half a mind to wonder if it wasn't Mr. X. who killed Roz all along. Sure,
they all said that he loved her. But if he's the same Mr. X. that Rita
mentioned only a short time ago, he's hardly the most loyal or most faithful of
men. Not exactly the man to be trusted with the heart of a good woman – or an
woman at all, for that matter.

            I
go over the suspects in my head for the murder.

            There's
Mr. X. – X marks the spot, I think – about whom I know exactly three things.
Rita loved him. Roz loved him. Maybe he loved Roz. Maybe someone killed Roz to
get to Mr. X – that's Brandi's theory, anyway. Used her to send him a message.
A business deal gone wrong, maybe, or something else connected with the shady
dealings of the rich and powerful. But two dead or missing girls associated
with the same man? The only unifying factor in their story is X.

            Sure,
Brandi swears that he loved her. But I know what love can be like. The sick,
possessive, blinding sort of love men use to control women. That's nothing any
sane girl would want, no matter how much she loved him back. That's the kind of
love that demands more than mere reciprocation. That's the kind of love that
demands your total freedom. That asks you for yourself. That can get you
killed. Love alone is no reason to rule out Mr. X., I decide.

            It
could be one of the others: Brandi, Julie, or Scarlett. Maybe one of them did
kill her out of jealousy over her set-up with Mr. X. But it seems unlikely.
After all, they
wanted
me to think it wasn't suicide. They wanted me to
think it was murder. And they knew better than to leave the gun in Roz's right
hand. If any one of them had killed her, they were doing a piss-poor job of
covering it up. Plus, Brandi and the others seemed trustworthy – albeit in
their own prickly way. They might be a little snarky, even a little mean, but
they weren't killers. And they all genuinely seemed to like Roz – in spite of
their jealousy. Who couldn't like Roz? I thought bitterly. She was the
sweetest, the nicest-seeming, the most generous girl I'd met here so far.

            So
I guess it wasn't too much of a surprise that she ended up dead. That seemed to
be the way of things in the Blues universe.

            Then
there was
my
mysterious patron – the sicko with the intense, degrading
fantasies. I didn't know his alphabet yet – but I assumed it wasn't Mr. X., who
was otherwise busy with Roz. He'd been a suspect earlier on, but I felt I could
safely rule him out of involvement with either Rita or Roz.

            And
then there is Terrence. Sure, he was with me when the gunshots happened, so he
couldn't have shot Roz himself, but something about the cold, callous way he
handled finding her body made my spine tingle. No, I decide – Terrence
certainly wasn't trustworthy. There's a chance he could have been behind one –
or both – murders. After all, corruption runs deep at the Blue Room, and
Terrence is in charge of it now. Which means he knows how deep the corruption
really goes. The buck stops with him – and with his beautiful blue eyes...

            I
shake my head.

            There's
too many suspects, I think. Too many sick, twisted people in the world of the
Blue Room. But which one of them is the killer?

            I
know what I have to do, if I want to get any closer to solving this mystery.
I'm going to have to stay away from Terrence Blue, if I want to keep my heart
and my virginity intact. And I'm going to have to get my hands on the
mysterious Mr. X.

            The
latter part is no easier than the former. All the girls want Mr. X. as their
next assignment. He's loaded, from what I gather, handsome, good in bed, a
long-term prospect, looking for a courtesan, not a one-night gig. Sure, he
might be a cold-blooded murderer, but that doesn't seem to bother the girls I
eavesdrop on in the cafeteria too much. Mr. X. is the only thing on their minds
and on their lips. Terrence and his affairs are a forgotten memory.

            “I
heard he's
heartbroken
,” said one girl, who couldn't possibly have heard
anything at all. “I heard he cried all night when he heard Roz killed herself.
I heard he's never going to come back to the Blue Room again – that nobody
could take Roz's place.”

            “I
heard he had already picked out the engagement ring,” said another.

            “So
why'd she kill herself?” another girl pointed out.

            She
shrugged. “Maybe she had a secret in her past. Maybe she was pregnant by a
different client. Maybe she had a disease.”

            “How
would she get a disease, stupid? They test all our clients beforehand.”

            “Maybe
she slept with someone who wasn't a client.”

            “Why
would she do that? She loved Mr. X!”

            Her
companion shrugged. “Roz is a mystery,” she said, throwing up her hands.

            The
question of who Mr. X's new pick would be, occupied the girls of the Blue Room
for the rest of the afternoon. Before dinner, however, it was Ben who found me
in the hallway.

            “Psst...”
He beckoned me into the corridor. “Staci. I heard the real news.”

            “What
is it?”

            “They
told Mr. X.,” he said. “About Roz. He's heartbroken.”

            “Apparently,”
I say.

            “Apparently
he really loved her.” He sighs. “He says he's done with the Blue Room.”

            My
heart skips a beat. If Mr. X. is done with the Blue Room, there goes my chance
at ever learning what happened to Rita – or to Roz.

            “There's
got to be something we can do to convince him,” I say.

            He
shrugs. “I overheard Terrence talking on his cell phone. He tried everything.”

            Somehow
I don't believe him. Terrence might have money, but I have one thing he doesn't
have.  Desperation. This is my last chance to learn the truth  now that Rita's
dead, and I'm not about to let it slip away.

            “Wait
right here,” I say.

            I
march straight to Mrs. Walters' office and demand to see her immediately. Her
secretary looks flustered, confused, but I keep insisting until finally she
gives up and lets me in.

            “Miss
Atussi?” Mrs. Walters looks up coolly when I arrive. “What a surprise!” Her
voice is faint. “What can I do for you, Miss Atussi?”

            “I
want Mr. X.,” I say. I keep my voice calm, businesslike.

            Mrs.
Walters looks bemused. “So does every girl here,” she says. “I'm afraid Mr. X.
is grieving, and is indisposed to visit us all at the moment.”

            “I've
got something they haven't got,” I say. It's my trump card, and it makes me
sick to use it, but right now I haven't got a choice.

            “What's
that, dear?”

            “I'm
a virgin.”

            Technically,
anyway, but men like Mr. X. are probably big on technicality. Men like that
just want the idea of a woman, all innocent and sweet, to deflower.

            If
he thinks I'm innocent and sweet, boy, he's got another thing coming.

            Mrs.
Walters looks amused. “A few days ago you were fretting about losing your
virtue – now you're barging into my office demanding to sell your virginity to
a man you've never met.” Her eyebrows arch. “My, how you've grown.”

            “Not
sell.” I keep my eyes steely upon her. I have a plan, and I'm going to put in
into action.

            “No?”

            “Give.”

            She
looks at me in surprise. “In market terms – your virginity can probably net you
at least twenty thousand dollars more than a single...
evening
.”

            “I
know.”

            “There
are other patrons,” she says, “patrons richer still than Mr. X., who can offer
you even more than that. Granted, their tastes are a bit more...extreme...”

            “I
don't care,” I say. This has to work – this
has to
– or all I've been
through now will be in vain. “Call him up. Tell him you're sending him a
virgin, on the house, to help make up for the damage of what he's been
through.”

           
If
he really loved Roz and Rita the way he said he did – not all the virgins in
the world would be enough to tempt him.

           
“That's
unprecedented, Miss Atussi. May I ask why the insistence?”

            “It's
an investment,” I say. “I hear a girl can go a long way with Mr. X. If I'm
going to get into this business, I'm going to do it right. After all, I didn't
say I wouldn't charge in the future...”

            Now
Mrs. Walters smiles.

            “You
are
a businesswoman,” she says. “If you don't mind stepping outside –
I'll telephone him and relay your...offer.”

            The
waiting is excruciating. I tap my toes so often the secretary looks like she's
about to throw her desktop monitor at me. But at last Mrs. Walters opens the
door and greets me with an inscrutable smile.

            “It
looks like your proposal has made an impression on our Mr. X.,” she says. “He
has agreed to see you next Saturday night, the 19
th
. Eight o'clock.”
She arches her brow. “Mr. Blue will be away next weekend on business.”

            Immediately
I want to fall through the floor in shame. But I don't let her see.

            “Perfect,”
I say, as cool and collected as she is. “I'll put it in my calendar.”

 

Chapter 3

 

 

           
S
o much is rushing through my mind. I can't
even focus. I know that I've just set myself up for one of the biggest – no,
the
biggest – challenges of my life. What will happen next? I have no idea. All
I know is – the last two women who slept with Mr. X. ended up dead or
disappeared. And now I've just given up everything I have, including the shot
at a pretty bundle of cash, for a chance at being #3.
What are you thinking,
Staci?
My own voice, judgmental and disapproving, echoes through my brain.
What
are you setting yourself up for?
I could end up shot in an alley somewhere,
like Roz. Or I could end up like Rita: completely vanished, with no trace of me
anywhere in the world.

            And
still I want the gig. Still I'm willing to do it: if doing it is what it takes.
Right now, I can't think about my own life, my own safety, whether or not it'll
be my body some other girl finds in a hotel room someday next week. I can't
think about Terrence Blue and his beautiful, brilliant blue eyes and those
hands that make me scream in ecstasy, those hands that could have been
responsible for so many murders. I can't even think about Roz or Rita, really,
right now. What I want is something purer, something simpler, and something
more straightforward than a person or a place. What I want is the truth. The
truth, I feel, will set me free. If I could only know who killed Rita, who
killed Roz, whether it was the same person or somebody different, whether
Terrence Blue was responsible for both, my work here will be done. I'll stop
feeling this ache in my heart, this emptiness, this feeling that something is
missing. The truth, I tell myself, will fill that gap. It will make me whole
again.

            At
the same time, though, I can't help but regret the money I'm giving up. Virgins
fetch a high price on the open market – that much I know. I could have paid off
a heck of a lot of family bills with the money I'm giving up. But there's a part
of me that relishes that element of the truth. I'm not taking any money to have
sex with Mr. X. I'm not taking his dirty money. What I'm doing gets paid in
facts, and facts only.

            My
body is coiled tight from stress, from trauma, and from – I suspect – a certain
degree of sexual frustration. After all, I've gotten used to Terrence Blue's
touch, to the way he can make my back arch and my toes curl. Going cold turkey
is like quitting smack. My whole body's still craving him. It's a hunger I
cannot feed, an itch I cannot scratch.

            I
pick up the phone and briefly consider calling the Never Knights. After all,
Steve and Luc's cards still lie on my dressing table: the hope they offer
glimmering before me. How easy it would be, I think, to just dial, to record a
demo, to get into singing and get out of hooking – all before I'd even started.
It would be like none of this ever happened.

            But
something has happened. One person is definitely dead, a second almost
certainly. And there will be no rest for me, no peace, until I know.

            I
need to get out my tension somehow.

           
Head
to the gym,
I tell myself.
Sweat it out
. It'll have the added
benefit of ensuring I'm extra buff when it comes to impressing the mysterious
Mr. X. soon. I want a killer body – I'm hoping I don't mean in more ways than
one. So I change into my lycra yoga pants and a tight-fitting white top and tie
up my hair into a ponytail and head for the treadmill.

            When
I'm running, everything feels better, more intense. My sweat is pouring out of
me, staining my white top so that my bra is visible beneath its contours; I
can't even bring myself to care. All I want to do is
run –
run faster,
run harder, run with more conviction, as if somehow running on this treadmill
with enough effort will bring me where I want to go.

            I'm
in so much pain I don't even notice the numbers on the speedometer go up. I
tell myself that pain is normal, to be expected, that I'm casting out pain,
that I'm casting out darkness, that I'm casting out the worst parts of myself.
I want to cast something else out, too – the part of me I don't want to face.
The prostitute. The detective. The girl who can't stop thinking about what
Terrence Blue can do. I want to cast out all those selves and be
me
again.

            “Careful!”

            A
voice behind me makes me whirl around sharply so that I almost lose my balance.

            “What
do you want?” For a second I forget I'm supposed to be a Blue Girl – compliant,
fulfilling every fantasy. I'm just me – and I'm annoyed.

            “I
just wanted to make sure everything's OK,” the man says.

            He
seems almost familiar, but I can't place him. He's very handsome –
devastatingly so – with a chiseled face and neatly cut dark hair that shows
off  his hazel golden eyes perfectly, eyes framed with long lashes that women
would kill to have. His sensual lips are the color of rosy pearl. He's the
handsomest man I've seen here – the Blues brothers excluded, and I give a
little gasp in spite of myself.

            “Why
wouldn't it be?”

            His
eyes flicker over to the treadmill dashboard.

            With
surprise I note that I've been working out for three hours. A red flashing
light is indicating something bad.

            “You're
pounding it pretty hard, there.”

            His
voice is friendly, non-threatening, barely even registering my outright
hostility. I soften up. At once I remember that real people stay in the Blue
Towers – not just hookers and patrons. Business travels. Captains of industry.
Real
people.
Not like me. I feel embarrassed for how angrily I reacted.

            “I'm
sorry,” I say. “I get kind of out of it when I work out.”

            He
hands me a fresh towel and a cone of water from the water machine.

            “Hey,
I get you,” he laughs. “When someone tries to disrupt me, I'm a regular lion. I
bite their heads off. I should have known better than to try and interfere with
someone else.”

            “It's
cool,” I say.

            “But
health and safety and all that,” he gives a little laugh. “I'm pretty sure you
need some water before you collapse on the treadmill.”

            “Let's
say I have a lot of tension to work out,” I say.

            He
laughs again, and I too can't help but smile. It's nice, I think – so nice – to
be talking to someone normal, someone from outside the Blue world. Just another
guest at a hotel. Who thinks I'm just another guest at a hotel. Someone
treating me like a person again, not just a slab of meat.

            “What's
on your mind?” he says.

            “Work
stuff.” It's all I can say, really.

            “Mergers
and acquisitions,” he asks, with a wink.

            Well,
merging is certainly part of it, isn't it? “I'm in the entertainment industry,”
I say.

            “Oh,”
he looks impressed. “Might I have seen you in anything recently?”

            I
flush, trying to come up with a good lie. At last, the truth seems easiest.
“You're not exactly an actor, are you?”

            “And
here I was hoping you thought I was a Hollywood heartthrob,” he grins.

            “Quick
tip,” I say. “When you're in LA – if you have to ask 'have I seen you in
anything,' the answer is usually no.”

            “I
find that surprising,” he says. “You've got presence.”

            “I'm
aspiring
,” I say. “You'll find a lot of us here in LA.”

            “I'm
afraid it's all pretty new to me,” he says. “I'm from New York. I'm in
finance.”

            “Huh,”
I tease him. “Own any companies I've heard of?”

            He
flushes slightly, and lets loose a boyish grin that brings out dimples so
charmingly sweet that I can’t help but smile back at him. His teeth are
Hollywood white. He could so easily be mistaken for a leading man actor or a
GQ
model.

            “If
you have to ask...”

            “So
you're an
aspiring
financier.”

            “Something
like that.”

            Somehow,
I doubt it. There's something about his easy charm, the way he takes my teasing
straight on the chin, which makes me think he owns at least one company I've
heard of, if not more.

            It's
nice to pretend, I think. I'm a failed actress, flirting with a finance guy in
a hotel gym. I'm an
aspiring
singer, on the verge of her big break,
flirting with just another guy she meets-cute in a typical place.

            “In
town for business or pleasure,” I ask him.

            “Why
can't it be both?” he winks at me. “That's the problem with our culture these
days. Business or pleasure. Some of us love our work. Don't you?”

            I'm
all smiles. “Oh, it's the best profession.” And the oldest one, but I don't
have to tell him that. “I love every minute of it.”

            “You
here long?”

            “Oh,
I live here..I mean, not
here
, here,” I lie. “I've just got the gym
membership. It's important to have a good membership – if you're auditioning
and things. Keeping in shape.”

            “Looks
like you're doing OK to me.”

            “Thanks
to the Blue Towers.”

            “Well,”
he says. “Will you be working out tomorrow?”

            “That
depends on how my quads feel,” I say.

            “For
my sake,” he says. “I hope they feel better very soon. Or at least before I fly
back to the city. It’ll be nice to have something to look forward to while
working out at the gym.”

            “I'll
be sure to let them know.”

            And
with that, I grab my gym bag and head out.

            I
sit for a while in my room after I shower, thinking about his smile, his easy
charm. His golden eyes, and how they were so clear, so bright, so honest. How
nice it would be, I think, to be with a man like that, to flirt, to laugh, to
joke, to never have to explain. A world I might have belonged to, once upon a
time. But with a heavy heart, it hits me: so violently I have to stop the tears
springing to my eyes.

            That's
not my world anymore. And to tell the truth, I don't know if it ever will be
again.

BOOK: The Blue Room Vol. 2: The Blue Room Series
5.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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