“Mandy, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, we all do, but you can’t do this,” Russ said. “You’re going to hurt yourself, and none of us want that.”
“I was able to remember something today. The news that was on the television on my, erm, my blackout at the clubhouse today,” Mandy said. “They were reporting on the stockyards, like the places where fishing boats and sea ports or whatever come in.”
“What about it?” Richard asked.
“The men, they use those kind of ports to transport girls. The crates are quite deep, and they can hide them behind stock. Drug them up, and some girls are out for like forty-eight hours. It’s how they’re doing it. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. If some of the girls cause trouble, they’re killed, and another woman is ordered.”
Mandy left the room, each of them watching the door.
“You’ve been trying to get her to remember?” Jackson asked. “That’s fucking dangerous.”
“These women, they’ve been discovered where exactly?” Lewis picked up the file and started to flick through it.
“A couple have been found washed up on shores. Others have been seen floating in canals, and there was even one found down by a lake by a kid of five in a theme park,” Russ said.
Lewis frowned. “There’s something about this that doesn’t add up. No one kills off their stock without a reason. Even women are considered stock.”
Richard watched as he moved toward his desk, pulling out a large map. They all stayed out of his way as he started to put little crosses on the map, looking over the file, and then putting the dots on the map.
Even as he saw what was happening, Richard started to get chills.
When Lewis drew a circle, all the men looked at each other.
“They know who we are,” Lewis said.
The circle on the map was drawn with a radius that included all of their main company buildings.
Could it be a coincidence? Richard doubted it.
For the next couple of weeks, Temperance divided her time between the two men. On the first Sunday after their nightclub date, they all went out to dinner as a small group, Jay and Richard getting along as if they’d been friends longer than a couple of days. She liked to see them together, having fun. They were both charming. At the end of the evening, they went to Richard’s place that had four bedrooms, one for each of them, and a spare. She slept in a room that wasn’t her own, all the time aware of the two men who wanted her.
The following week, she worked closely with Richard on several of his accounts, and Jay joined them for lunch, or they all went out. Her nights were spent with Jay. They stayed in watching movies, neither of them saying anything about the obvious sexual tension. Wednesday was their sharing day, and that meant they stayed at Richard’s apartment as his place was big enough to accommodate them all. Then she had Thursday and Friday with Richard, and they worked ‘til late, shared dinner, and she slept once again in the spare bedroom. She did enjoy the time, and it was nice to actually be having fun.
With Richard, she did notice that he was a little distant. Something was clearly bothering him.
Late one Sunday night on the third week, she saw him standing at the window. Jay was still in bed, and Richard was staring out over the city.
“Are you okay?” she asked, folding her arms.
“What are you doing up?” He turned toward her.
“You’re looking at that city as if it’s going to bite you at any moment.”
She saw the ink on his back. The same symbol had been on his leather jacket, and she imagined it was his club emblem.
“Does this have to do with your club?”
Richard looked at her.
“We both know you’ve been distracted,” Jay said, coming out of his bedroom, rubbing the back of his head as he did.
“I want you both to move in here, and I want to hire you both a bodyguard.”
Temperance gasped, staring at her boss, the man who was becoming more than just the guy she worked for.
“What?” she asked, not sure if she had actually heard him correctly.
“It’s not safe out there for either of you. Please, let me do this.”
She shook her head.
“What the hell is going on?” Jay asked.
“There’s a possible threat to the club. It’s not something we know for certain, but it’s enough of a problem that I want you both to have some form of protection. Please, for me.” He cupped her cheeks. “I don’t want anything to happen to you, to either of you.”
She saw the fear in his eyes, and knew he wasn’t kidding. This was real, and he believed the threat was out there.