The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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“Another one?” Sasha asked, twisting the cap off the brandy and raising her thin brows at Jase in question. He was sat at the bar in the club. Pink and purple lights sparkled off the glittering bar top and loud music played as the girls started their evening shift. There were currently booths full of businessmen hiding from their wives for an hour or two after their workweek.

“Double,” he replied. She free poured a generous amount of brandy, placing the bottle back on the shelf and using tongs to drop a single ice cube in the tumbler.

“Who are you waiting for?” She asked, picking his glass up and running a cloth underneath to wipe away the condensation.

“A customer.” As if on cue, the doors opened and in walked a vaguely familiar face. His forehead, extended due to balding, was shining with what Jase assumed was either grease or sweat.

“Peter,” Jase greeted, getting to his feet and shaking his hand. Madison’s boss smiled. He was visibly nervous which pleased Jase as he picked his glass up, washing down the bad taste that had risen the second Peter had walked through the doors.

It was one thing picking the girls up off the street and offering them a different version of a job they already worked. It was another paying £20,000 for someone to bring in a girl more than half your age because your “wife just isn’t doing it” for you anymore. But business was business, whilst in Peter’s presence Jase made sure to stray from the remnants his moral compass. Regardless of his disdain for the dishevelled, repugnant man.

“Jase, good to see you,” Peter said. The feeling couldn’t be further from mutual where Jase was concerned. He refrained from curling his lip and turned to Sasha.

“Another brandy, please,” he ordered, taking out his wallet and handing over a ten-pound note. Peter was still grinning. The stench of desperation and eagerness permeating the distance between them.

“She hasn’t been at work so I’m assuming you have her?” he said, swirling his drink once Sasha slid it to him.

“We’ll discuss this somewhere more private,” Jase replied. Peter quickly looked around, clearly uneasy at the thought of leaving the eyes of bystanders but not having the guts to speak out on it. He bobbed his head reluctantly, letting Jase lead them down a corridor and into one of the red-light rooms. These rooms were where all the shady stuff took place, the unlicensed ‘dancing’, drug deals and so on.

The men seated themselves in leather chairs opposite one another, placing the drinks on the small glass table between them. Jase allowed Peter to dwell in his jitteriness, letting the atmosphere rest heavily. Peter rubbed his shiny hands together, then on his trousers as he absorbed their surroundings. His right knee bobbed up and down frantically. Taking his time, Jase took his cigarettes out, slipping one straight from the box with his lips and extending them to Peter.

“Oh, I don’t smoke,” he said, waving them away. Jase shrugged, putting them in the inside pocket of his leather jacket. “So, when do I get to see her?” Peter broke the silence, his discomfort getting the better of him. Jase took a deep lungful from the cigarette, watching the oily pig sat in front of him through his lashes as he exhaled.

“You didn’t tell us she was seventeen,” He said finally. Peter frowned,

“Why does that matter?” he asked, taken back. Jase took another drag,

“We have rules, Peter. No one under eighteen in the house.” This was partially a lie. There wasn’t exactly a criterion they followed, more the fact that under eighteens weren’t seen as adults and therefore, were more likely to come up on the news when missing. It was a risk on their part, one they didn’t enjoy taking. Especially not for a measly twenty grand.

“So, what now? Are you going to let her go?” Jase shook his head, watching his cigarette burn.

“You’ve got two options, you can either wait until she’s eighteen or you can pay an additional ten bags, it’s entirely your call.” Peter’s jaw dropped open,

“This is absurd, I’ve already paid-!” Jase snapped his head up to look directly at him, causing him to stammer out the end of his sentence in an inaudible blubber, “This isn’t fair, I’ve already paid.”

Jase looked over the dumpling of a man. The shirt that had once been white was discoloured and stretched ambitiously over a gut that gave off way too much information about his diet. His face had no shape to it, jowls forming on the sides and a double chin mimicking his stomach folded between his head and neck. The thought of this man nearly suffocating Madison as he sweated and grunted on top of her was enough to make Jase’s insides tighten at the revolting imagery.

“You don’t have to pay again. You can just wait,” he said, shrugging as if he was completely indifferent to whatever option he chose.

“I sold my car to save up for that first payment,” Peter mumbled, more to himself than Jase who sat back, smoking and sipping his drink.

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