I have gotten the hang of this thing. I have this hanging thing. It's plump, and it's full from the top to the bottom. It can't be squeezed by itself, nor can the owner touch it. I have it, but I only own one sixth of the whole. Torsion drives the property throttle, or I would only have one thirteenth. The Sunkist shares, with the navel in the center of the round top, tucked in on one side, moist, juicy, 'm proud to be a member of the solid equity. My piece is a corner of a tag from a bag of citrus. Everything else is just delectable.
"Fate chooses our relatives. We choose our friends." - Jacques Delillo
The audio tapes inside the two duffel bags spilled onto the coffee table and onto the floor. Hours after burying the enemy of salvalos beside the Piedraneles, Sr. Torres and Mr. Collins arrived in Odessa. The ruins of the exploded refinery always caught eyes, but the highway blended into the barren, dusty region with no accentuation at all. A thin film of oil on the surface of a puddle next to the gas pumps across the street at the service station reflected the spectrum like pituito-serous moisture under black light. Cold waves from a thirty-five year old Windsoar spread throughout the room with the assistance of a Honeybell. Trickles of sweat ran down the taut muscles and bones on their backs. The truck compressor deceased while neither thought of San Angelo.
In Austin, federal authorities scrambled to formulate a new battle plan. The two gentlemen originally charged with the investigation of Collin family finances summoned the district supervisor through ineptitude. Meridian professionalism of the oversight dropped anchor at a Bergstrom hangar, an unbreachable headquarters. There was no doubt back in Langley that the watchers had been watched.
During routine observation by local law enforcement, directly, empirically witnessed, large sums of money changed hands. Cars, flat screen televisions, computers, jewelry in obscene quantity, were all purchased by associates of the Collins family. Klaxons went up the ladder, although nothing incriminating ever passed the lips of the people involved, those on the edge of suspicion.
The movements of the police cars, the routine appearance of uniformed officers and plain clothed detectives could not escape the awareness of those under observation. In meetings beside large fountains the city cowboys met to talk it over. William Collins created the most humorous plan ever devised, at least to his awareness. He and his compadres knew what those of the law did not. The letter of the law had been broken, but the spirit of the law had not.
The actions of everyone involved, those in violation of the set forth papers and those upholding those words, telegraphed something more sinister to members of a much more wicked world. Wheels began to turn. The violent world went into motion over a perceived threat to their own profits, a very real possibility. Law enforcement was too busy looking at the least guilty of disturbing society to notice those most guilty of such a thing were silent as deadly vipers.
Numerous women disappeared from all public paper record coincidentally with the expenditures. No taxes were filed. No marriage papers could be found at the County Clerk of Court. And neither could the women. There were 11 well educated, socially connected, white Anglo Saxon protestants in their prime that went missing. Their friends and relatives went hysterical.
Monitoring of communications turned up squelch zones near local convenience stores and strip malls. Texas Rangers located two along Sixth Street. A radio frequency jammer in the 2300 Hz range turned up not far from the University of Texas campus itself. Conspiracy echoed to the heavens with the foul voice of the sinister, unheard on the edges of awareness yet spreading the stench of uncouth activities.
College co-eds caught wind of frightening rumors whispered in kitchens and home economics classes in high schools. Once they knew about it night life dropped off like a bomb hit. Bars and grills lost money hand over fist. The Collins syndicate, and that is what it was, just had their little piggies in the oldest occupation. What followed behind it turned normalcy upside down.
A wide thoroughfare descended from the Texas State Capitol dotted with motels showed the flawed and grungy world of the flesh trade. The men involved neither cared about legalities nor gave thought to consequences. Hurt and emotional turmoil simmered in the women involved. Diseases and abuse festered on the broken surfaces of that social scene. Many of the ladies managed glamorous, but nothing about it was beautiful. They rode physical highs for long ticks of the clock. Then most of them as a rule suffered through gruesome lows.
The Collins' holdings included two salvage yards, two automotive repair shops and the big warehouse close to the university. They were not part originally part of organized crime at an interstate level. In a vanity and pride driven effort to ascend from the rank of lower end landholders to the class of the big oil barons and the unshakable elite they began bending rules with small drug sales. That attracted a fringe element prone to vices. Getting a few women involved required no great expenditure of energy. The broken laws piled upon each other and the already questionable integrity of their family name became caked in filth. Not everyone associated with them were bad people, but the Collins left the world of honor for an image like that in a half shattered mirror caked with grime. Some of their girls lived a good life. Others of them were victims, plain and simple.
Francesca, Clementine, Ariel and Sharon earned more money than all of the other women combined, and there were never more than fifteen. The Collins' gang was not small, nor was it overly large. It operated very simply. Excepting Abby and Francesca all of the women liked drugs and sold their bodies to stay loaded. The cost of those ladies' practices exceeded the money they spent by far. Drug usage ravaged their bodies below the aesthetic surface. They drank whiskey and beer heavily, and that alone overtaxed their livers to the extreme. Marijuana usage diminished their motivation to improve their lives and hazed their ability to see what they were doing to themselves. After alcohol and marijuana consumption they used cocaine to overcome mental and physical fatigue. They could not keep going if they could not stay awake. After using cocaine the edge and paranoia became difficult to cope with, so they turned to benzos and downers. On mornings the hangovers and nausea pushed them to take pain medication to recover quickly and efficiently, which worked on the young women's internal organs like a vegetable juicer, squeezing out every drop of their normal vitality and replacing it with toxins. They became codependent on the entire spectrum of substances. Their natural glow grayed and the ugliness of the effects showed on their faces.
Their clientele returned fairly regularly. there weren't many new faces. The men were hygienic on the surface or got turned away, but there was always the risk of disease. William Collins was not a vicious pimp. He treated the women with respect and thought of himself as paternal. That didn't change the fact that money drove his actions. He internally denied his own greed and tragically flawed character. All of his noble justifications and rationalizations fell apart under close scrutiny.
None of these dirty things made a ripple in the culture of Austin, nor would they in many major cities of the world. The patterns of behavior followed well established precedents. Analysis could predict every move made by the men and women, and predicate prophetic knowledge through application of stacks of preexisting data. The habits and rituals of the addicted women and the money hoarding men would have easily allowed scientific observers to apply sets of ready made conclusions in every case. The boundaries of such guidelines crumbled when a set of circumstances beyond prediction, an unknown variable, entered the picture.
Francesca and Ariel reclined in the narrow end of luxury accrual. They both wore ear rings, one girl single pearls and the other tiny garnets with one gold rose petal on each. Hair the hue of lapis lazuli draped down over Francesca's shoulders. Ariel's light brown feathered bangs and trim rear framed her face exquisitely. They both saved what they earned by refusing to earn it with physical contact. They both tightened the fine designs of marriage to the platonic premarital core. They sang thoughtful soft songs and spoke in perfect English, a delight to behold and hear. Nothing about what they did was honorable, yet also it did not smell anything but attractive.
Francesca knew more about life than Ariel. She saved money to escape from the confines of a male dominated society. Her age in years hid miles of experience with the wrongs of the material world, the world controlled by the strong, the one beholden to the law of survival of the fittest. She craved a normal existence that did not include sexual harassment in the workplace, the insidious side of her current occupation. At least in the Collins workplace the fare was paid openly, rather than through sneakiness and good old boy winks. Francesca harbored a couple of grudges concerning her work history, none of which had anything to do with prostitution.
Ariel used her wiles and wits to look for a husband. As ridiculous as she knew it sounded, she had given up on traditional methods. The men she encountered in church wanted only a pliant, subservient vessel for their own greatness, or so she surmised with the most slanted of glittering generalities. She had met more wealthy and powerful men in six months working behind the scenes of the Capitol trip than she had in her entire life being a good girl. Not to mention, Ariel liked being a bad girl. She did nothing to pollute her awareness or her body, and she stuck to her budget in an exemplary fashion. She liked having sex, and she had been taught that it was bad. Having learned that it was bad, she enjoyed it all the more. What pleasure in getting caught for something not wrong? The twisted logic of tantalizing sensuousness contorted the guidelines of her common sense.
While those two women drove around in nice cars and stayed in refined surroundings, accumulating wealth from the wages of sin, the two major local newspapers quietly debunked the eleven disappearances. As is the way with incorrect news, rather than be addressed it was shuffled out of existence. Murders and rapes were not mentioned, as they never took place. The sinister vibe that chilled the air around family dinners lifted, but in its place the people found a voice to demand an end to the monetary lawlessness of the barely hidden red light district.
The ladies in their mid twenties who went missing turned up, but they were found full of drugs and alcohol and the sorts of stories common to women who have lost everything. They were youthful spirits, with good families and bright futures. That their bright horizon had been endangered by the experience of such a stained and health deprived manner of existence shook their communities, and only quietly in the vicinities of those women. They all got arrested at a mansion in the hills, at a gala dedicated to unfettered sexuality and indulgence in substances. The gathering could not be called a casual soiree. It was a reemergence of the oldest and most deadly form of base worship, a Bachannalian celebration with no planned end. That state police managed to find it easily saved lives, for few of the people taken into custody could have been considered near death. All of them, however, had crossed over to the other side of something they could not understand.
The pupils of those in attendance would not contract for more than twenty-four hours. The pores of their skin were suffocated by cleansing sweat that never got washed away. Their noses were mildly bloody. None of those things mattered as much as the floor on which they were found. They all fornicated together, in every conceivable fashion. Between their bodies moved something that lived in the spaces between them, that shared nerve endings with them where there should have been only air. That thing that occupied all of the places at one time, that thing stole away with years of lives in brief periods of time. It brought shakes of horror to a few of them because of things they thought they saw in the darkness. None of it was beyond imagination, and all of them desperately needed to know it was over.
After the police arrived the real world returned. The eleven women who were found to have been missing from polite Austin society proved to be a small number of those in attendance. Many in the crowd came from other states. They all expressed relief at having been arrested. None of them were upset that the raid took place. Sunlight, food and baths and showers restored almost all of them to a state of nearly normal awareness.
The police and the families had only just begun to be outraged about the debauchery. Returning to normal thought about the state of affairs in their hometown would be a long time coming. More than a few of the parents were happy just to put the event behind them, but a couple of them knew that such an incident could only be part of a larger scheme. Detectives, by then at the federal level, had far more evidence of that than did those parents. Everyone arrested faced charges, even the prettiest and the most talented of the women from Hyde Park. Only three men were charged with involvement at a conspiritorial level. The real perpetrators were never there to begin with.
The toxic mix of drugs at that abandoned mansion included everything but steroids. The ringleaders didn't plan the event in order to make money. They did it to spread a chaotic worldview intended to harm the fabric of ordinary society in the United States. The party was a subtle act of social and religious terrorism. One of the older men arrested was from Rhode Island, and one of them from the Mission District in San Francisco. The third arrived in the states from Italy, but was later discovered to have spent in the Eastern Grecian Islands before making the trip. Tht came to light before the investigation really developed momentum, and was intended to be discovered.
Pastors, priests, padres and preachers talked about the deterioration of family values two days later. They spoke purposefully and with determination about restoring common vigilance to the family dinner table, about casting an eye into the darkness along the beaten trail, in case something unsavvy might be taking place there. The eleven women and numerous young men found themselves under constant indirect scrutiny, and almost as a group they made the decision to become proactive against substance abuse and sexual abstinence. They could all think about the one young lady who never got her thoughts back together following the party. She screamed every now and then. They could all think about how nearly everyone contracted at least mononucleosis at the event, and the most lascivious contracted gonorrhea, and even one case of syphillis. Each and every young man and woman was thankful nothing worse happened, that they walked away with only lingering feelings of uneasiness and possibly a need for antibiotics.
The bottom fell out of drug deals in the Austin area. Gang members packed up and moved on. The west side of the city changed. The central part of the town altered course. Nothing would be the way it was before. The girl in the psychiatric ward told a story about something that happened that night, and nobody with business or common sense wanted any part of it.
In the middle of that turmoil Ariel completed an extensive tape collection of conversations and client sessions she and Francesca had been keeping. On the tapes were a couple of State Senators, councilmen, the Mayor, a few business leaders, a pair of judges, an Evangelical pastor, a United States Senator from Utah and even a friend of the President of the United States. They had a plan to capitalize on the recordings without getting nasty and with nobody getting hurt. They wanted no part of any recurring blackmail scheme. They fancied a nearly legitimate turn of the tables that would allow them to walk away from the nasty trade forever. They went to the junior Collins, and he got to work setting it up. None of them had been cursed with a wealth of common sense.