Highway 99 turned into International Boulevard and connected Seattle and SeaTac. It was close to where Mark lived in Burien. He made his way out of the city as he remembered the girls telling him that there were roads off International Boulevard where he could possibly find women but he had no idea which roads they were referring to. He didn’t really know where to even start looking.
He pulled over onto the side of the road and pulled his phone out. He texted his friend Mitch again:
Hey man, do you know where hookers are off International Boulevard? You mentioned you found the one for my birthday off Highway 99.
He just sat there and waited for a little while looking at his social media.It didn’t take long for Mitch to reply:
Dude, what’s going on with you and the hooker? Why are you still worried about that?
Running his fingers over the phone, Mark replied quickly:
I’m still trying to find her. Do you know if there are hookers off International Boulevard or not?
Instead of still giving Mark a hard time Mitch actually replied with a few street names both off Highway 99 and International Boulevard and suggested that Mark try those. Mark thanked him and started his car again heading to the first destination Mitch had mentioned.
It was another industrial area, no regular homes but only business buildings, either closed for the night or maybe some nightshifts going on with the lights on. Mark slowly drove into one of the roads but instead of prostitutes he only found homeless people living in their tents and sitting around a make shift heat source.
He felt tense driving through the dark streets with his nice car. He had his gun in his glove box and debated getting it out so he would actually have it right there in case he needed it. The homeless looked up from warming their hands around the fire pit but didn’t seem too interested in Mark driving through.
Mark kept glancing out his windows, making sure no one was approaching his car and looking for any signs of prostitution but he didn’t see any hookers or women that could be hookers. Instead the women he saw there were homeless, unhealthy looking, and most likely drug users.
He felt frustrated as there seemingly was no prostitution around this area and he edged his way out of the block and headed for another street Mitch had mentioned.
It was different then because as soon as he turned the corner into the dark alley, he saw women stand alongside the buildings, somewhat shielded from view and the weather.
Mark debated if he should ask them about Chiara or if he should just drive on and look if he could actually spot her among any of these women.
The alley was dark and only weak lamps on some of the industrial buildings shone a hazy light down onto the shadows of girls lurking on the side of the buildings. Only cautiously they stepped out and strutted their stuff calling out to Mark, offering their services of a variety of sexual favors for money.
It was almost at the end of the road when he neared another shadow and since this seemed to be the last of the girls, he rolled down his window half way and slowly edged his Challenger forward approaching the shadow waiting for him.
When she hesitantly stepped out Mark felt his heart skip some beats as he recognized Chiara right away. Her hair was still the same red color as the night he had met her at the bar almost a week earlier.
She was still a few steps ahead of his car as he drove slowly and he saw her silhouette step out of the shadows more. She was wearing a very short skirt and very high heeled boots.
Now he heard her soft voice, “Hey baby!”He pulled up closer and she stepped out more.
Mark was nervous at how she would react and he slowly pulled up, “Hey.”
Chiara was now almost next to his car, “What can I help you with tonight, baby?”
As she walked closer Mark debated what to say as he didn’t want to scare her.
He stopped his car and Chiara took a few more careful steps in her heels and came up next to the window.Since it was dark she didn’t recognize Mark right away and only when she bent down and he leaned out some she realized who he was and her face changed into a serious but surprised expression.
Mark had to say something, “Chiara?”
She stood up again, stepped away from the car, and nervously looked around herself.
“Chiara, do you remember me?”
She only nodded without words and Mark explained, “I’ve been trying to find you. I wanted to apologize and give you the money back.”
He reached for the money and she said softly, “Mark, you need to get out of here. I don’t want the money. I didn’t do anything to earn it.”
Mark handed her the money out the window and she looked around anxiously.
“Please take the money Chiara. I saw how you got slapped by an asshole in the parking lot at the bar and I know it’s because you didn’t have any money from the job that was supposed to be me. I’m really sorry about that night.”Her voice was nervous and trembling, “Please leave before they realize.”
“Before who realizes what?”Chiara hushed, “Before he realizes who you are and why you are here. They come through here random.”
Mark pushed the money out toward her, “Just take the money Chiara. Please!”
Chiara stepped back and ordered in a hush, “Leave! You need to get out of here now! Please!”
“Please take it. I’m really sorry about that night. My friends thought they did something good for me but I just couldn’t…I couldn’t go through with it and it’s not right you gave me the money back. It’s your money.”
Now Chiara walked away on shaky legs in her very high heels.Mark put the Challenger in gear and slowly followed her, “Chiara, please don’t walk away. Just take the money and I’m gone. It’s your money.”
Chiara walked faster, her heels clicking on the street and she hushed, “It’s not my money. It’s his.”
Mark realized that she was distressed and all the sudden in front of him he saw a car come down the opposite way of the alley blocking his exit. The car stopped in front of Mark’s Challenger and he saw three male figures step out.
One of them walked right up to Chiara while the other two stayed by their vehicle and at the same time blocking Mark from driving any further.Mark felt his hands tremble now and he got nervous at the developing situation.
He saw as the guy grabbed Chiara on the arm and he heard his voice, “What the hell is going on here?”
Chiara didn’t say anything and the guy looked toward Mark’s car. Mark recognized the same guy that had slapped Chiara that night in the parking lot at the bar.Now the guy roughly pulled Chiara on her arm over with him toward Mark’s car and came up right next to the driver’s side window.
Mark felt his heart beat in his neck and seeing the way he grabbed Chiara made him angry.
The guy looked into the car, “So, whatever is going on here…I’m very sorry she’s being a complicated bitch. Did you request any services?”
Mark didn’t know what to say and do. The odor of cigarette smoke and alcohol surrounding the guy drifted into his car.
He debated telling the truth or lying but either way he realized Chiara was in trouble.
He took the money from his lap and handed it to her pimp, trying to sound firm, “I just wanted to pay her for services she provided earlier this evening. I forgot to give it to her then.”
The pimp ripped the money from Mark’s hands and turned to Chiara, shaking her slightly, “What the fuck? Did you forget to get your money from this gentleman earlier?”
Chiara didn’t say anything and Mark realized how with his words Chiara may have gotten in even more trouble.Her pimp roughly pulled on her arm again, repeating sternly, “Did you forget your money from this customer, bitch?”
Mark tried to save the moment explaining as calm as he could manage, “It was only my fault, not hers. I forgot to give it to her but here it is and we’re all good man. She did a great job.”
Now her pimp shoved Chiara and she stumbled over her heels and Mark felt his body tense up at seeing her fall. He knew he didn’t stand a chance against three men. If the guy would only realize that there was a wheelchair on Mark’s passenger side and he was trying to defend Chiara he could get himself in a lot of trouble.
Mark tried to sound cool, “It’s all right man. She did really well. She made me feel good. Just wanted to make sure she got her money. No reason to be angry with her. It’s all good.”Chiara was scrambling to her feet and her pimp shot Mark another look, “Yeah, yeah…all good. She just needs to be responsible. She has been distracted lately.”
Mark nodded and glanced at Chiara with his heart racing in his chest. He hated that he couldn’t do anything for her. He glanced at his glove box and debated again pulling his gun out just to have it close to him.
The pimp grabbed Chiara on her arm again just as she scrambled to her feet, “Get your skinny ass up and pull yourself together. Fix your outfit and your face. You look like shit right now.”
He then turned to Mark, “So if you’re not in need of anything else I guess you’re done here then.”
It sounded more like an order than a request or statement so Mark just nodded, “Yeah, I’m done.”
As her pimp shoved Chiara again, he yelled at her, “You get your ass back to work then and next time you get your money BEFORE you get fucked.”
Mark felt a sting in his heart again and he felt rage build up inside of him. It was the rage of wanting to jump her pimp, beating the living daylights out of him, or even shooting the guy.Her pimp turned to him once more, “Thanks for paying up man.”
It was the sign for Mark to get out of there and he put his Challenger in gear and he glanced at Chiara who was walking away. She turned and looked over at him from behind the curtain that was her hair. Mark was sure he saw her desperate eyes were filled with tears. He slowly moved his car forward, waiting for the two other guys to move their car and letting him drive off.
He could barely contain his anger and he accelerated the gas with the hand controls of his car and sped off. He hated everything he had witnessed, the way the pimp had treated Chiara, the way he had talked to her, the way she seemed scared and the way he, himself couldn’t do anything for her.
A few blocks from the area he pulled into an empty parking lot and turned his car off, then pounded the steering wheel and mumbled to himself, “Fucking shit…”He took some quick breaths, cursing again, “Fuck…”
He punched the steering wheel a few more times and then he screamed the anger out of his system. There was no way he could leave her back there with those guys. His mind was racing and he was frantically plotting and thinking about what to do.
He sat in his car for at least thirty minutes just trying to calm himself down and letting his anger subside.Eventually he turned on his car and he drove off toward the street again where he had found Chiara.
He didn’t care anymore, he was going to get her out of there and he would have to do it quick. He pulled into the alley once again and saw the girls standing on the side as he was driving along looking for Chiara again.
Earlier he had found her toward the end of the alley and he made his way through there again, looking out his windows and once he neared the end of the road, he was sure to find her there but as he reached the end of the street, he hadn’t spotted her. There were other girls but Chiara was gone.
He backed up and rolled his window down as a girl walked up to him, “Hey there, didn’t I see you in here earlier? I remember this hot rod.”
Mark leaned out some, “Yes, I was in here earlier. I’m looking for Chiara.”
“I can do whatever she can do for you.”
“I don’t want any services, I just want to talk to her.”
“Well, sweetie, she’s with a customer, drove off about ten minutes ago.”“How long will she be?”
The girl had bleach blonde hair and her very large breasts were almost falling out of her skintight top, “Baby, it depends on what the job entitles. I don’t know how long she will be.”Mark didn’t want to give up yet, “Can I give you my number for her?”
Now the girl laughed, “What the hell sweetie? What do you want from her?”“I just need to talk to her, that’s all.”
The girl now changed her tone and hissed into the car, “Listen up, hot stuff…you’re treading on thin ice here. If you have some weird inclination that you can get her out of here or some shit like that, just know that you’re going to fail. Her man isn’t going to let her go and you’re going to die in the process.”
Mark had a piece of paper and pen and was jotting down his number, handing it to the girl, “I’m going to take that chance. Please give her my number.”
When she looked at the piece of paper she laughed.On it he had written with trembling fingers and in shaky letters “Mark, green Challenger, 253-876-1111, Call me please!”
The girl asked, “Who are you, Mark, green Challenger, what do you want from Chiara?”
“I just need to talk to her. Please give her this.”
She stuffed the paper in the small wristlet dangling on her hand and then supported herself with her hands on Mark’s window, “Okay, but again dear Mark…you’re going to fail. You’re living in a fantasy world baby. You’re not going to be the prince in a shiny Challenger for her. You won’t be able to safe her if that’s what you’re thinking. She’s a fucking hooker and she’s someone’s property.”Mark was tense, “Yeah well, just give her my number and we’ll see.”
With that she laughed and called after him as he drove off, “Good luck baby.”
Mark still felt anxious at the whole situation and he really would have liked to talk to Chiara again that same night but he didn’t want to cause any more suspicions with her pimp or anyone else for a matter of fact and so with a heavy heart he decided to just call it a night and drive home. At least now he knew where Chiara usually worked from.
Even though Mark couldn’t stop thinking about Chiara there was nothing he could have done to help her or make the situation less tense. Out of all the girls he had seen in his search effort she just still didn’t seem like she was one of them. When she had looked into his eyes, he had seen her pleading and he had seen the desperation at her situation. She shouldn’t be there and no one should treat her the way her pimp treated her.
He felt anger and frustration about his inability to do anything effective and his mind was racing with a plan to get her out of there somehow.
He parked his car under the carport and before he got out, he opened his glove box and pulled out his hand gun, a 9 mm Berretta. He held it in his hand and felt the weight of it for a moment, then stuck it into the waistband of his jeans and pulled his wheelchair frame across his lap and set it up next to the driver’s side. He pulled the first wheel over and attached it to the axle of his TiLite, then did the same with the other wheel. He threw the cushion on the seat and his wheelchair was now assembled and he transferred into it.
He felt shaky and slammed the car door shut, pushed the lock button on the key and wheeled away from his car and to the door of his apartment.
Ranger greeted him inside with loud meowing and Mark wheeled by him, closing the door behind him. Ranger then jumped up on his lap and right away purred. Mark didn’t move away from the door and just took a deep breath and let his fingers run through the cat’s shiny black fur. The purring calmed him down and let the feelings of frustration and rage subside somewhat, “Hey bud.”
Ranger stretched up and put his two front paws on Mark’s chest stretching his wet nose toward Mark’s nose and pushing his little cat nose against the human nose of his owner.Mark let his fingers run over Ranger’s back and sat there quietly just processing the encounter with Chiara.
With Ranger on his lap he wheeled into the kitchen and pulled the hand gun from his waist band dropping it on the counter along with his wallet from his back jeans pocket. Ranger jumped onto the counter and sniffed the gun for a second, then walked around the kitchen from one counter to the next.
Mark was exhausted, feeling the tension of the earlier encounters with Chiara, her pimp, and his puppets. He made sure Ranger had food and water and then headed straight for the bedroom. His anxiety had decreased some but he still felt tense.
In the bedroom Ranger eventually joined him and jumped up on the bed watching his owner take his shoes off. Mark felt jittery as he pulled his feet up onto his knees and took his first sneaker off, then the second one.
He wheeled into the bathroom and washed his hands and splashed water into his face, rubbing over it with his hands. Staring at the mirror image of his wet face he thought about Chiara and the whole situation. It was a serious yet attractive face of a man fighting his demons on a daily basis.
After catherization he wheeled into the bedroom and transferred over onto the bed. With Ranger by his side Mark got undressed and soon was leaning on his headboard looking at his phone, hoping just a tiny little bit that maybe there would be a message from Chiara. There was nothing and Mark didn’t even feel like looking at any of his social media sites or anything else but instead dropped the phone onto the bedside table and pushed himself down in his bed.
He just laid there thinking about everything with Ranger curled up next to him.As much as Mark had tried to come to an acceptance of his situation for the past years, he still had many moments when he felt anger about it come up and try to take over his mind and body. It happened mostly at night when he lay in his bed and when his mind became idle and he had time to think about his life past and present.
Now he lay there and it happened again and he hated everything about it. In his healthy days he wouldn’t have even thought twice about beating up a guy like Chiara’s pimp. At the same time though he also would have never really met a hooker. He had had flings and relationships but nothing serious had ever come out of any of them. He was gone a lot during this active duty years and the time to actually invest in and form a serious relationship just had never happened to him. He had been with good women who had been willing to maybe give it a shot with him but he had always ended up dropping everything and had continued with his ways, mostly focusing on military deployments and the connections with his fellow soldiers and battle buddies.
He wasn’t a soldier anymore and he wasn’t active duty anymore, now he mostly just felt like a broken man who wasn’t good for anything anymore. The women who would have liked to be with him before all of it had happened were long gone and the fellow soldiers had moved on to different duty stations or had died in combat. There had been quite a few times when Mark had pondered ending his life because he felt like he didn’t have a purpose anymore.
He didn’t have any family around, his parents had both passed away already when he was a young man, he was estranged with his sister who lived on the other side of the country and only his friends in the area were his connections to the normal life.
Ranger purred next to Mark and he petted the cat just thinking. He glanced over at his TiLite wheelchair parked right next to the bed, he looked at the blanket over his legs, a blanket he couldn’t feel on his legs nor his lower body. On his bedside table set the array of medications he was on. He felt anxious and alone and it wasn’t a good combination. He leaned over to look through his medications and got out a sleeping pill, dropping it into his mouth and swallowing it with water.
Now he just laid there in the dark, waiting for sleep to take over his body and mind and forgetting about life for a few hours.
His night wasn’t going to be easy as he woke up around four in the morning, drenched in sweat and his whole body shaking. Ranger lay right next to his face now and licked his cheek as Mark tried to compose himself and shake the nightmare he had been reliving like on many other nights. All he remembered of the nightmare were visions of blood and body parts and even Chiara appearing in the dream.
He lay there just trying to relax into the reality of being in his bed and safe but his bed felt cool from moisture on the body parts he still had sensation.He pulled himself up onto his headboard and saw his legs twitching under the blanket. They had a life of their own when spasms were fighting with his brain which was trying to send signals that couldn’t get through anymore. He lifted his blanket and saw his skinny legs flop like fish out of water. He hated looking at his useless legs and when spasticity took over he hated it even more. He despised his legs and it felt to him like they were mocking him by being spastic.
He dropped the blanket again but he felt the moisture surrounding him and he knew he would have to change his sheets. The sleeping pill was still working in his system and he felt groggy and weak. He didn’t think he had enough strength to change his sheets now in the middle of the night but he also knew he couldn’t sleep in the moist bed.
He threw the blanket over to the side and his naked legs flopped around on the bed. He tried to hold them down somewhat but it didn’t stop the spasms. Weak and frustrated he pulled his wheelchair closer. Roughly he pushed his legs over the edge of the bed. His feet touched the floor, his legs were hopping up and down and falling uncoordinated from side to side. Mark mumbled to himself how annoyed he was and just as roughly grabbed his legs trying to get control of them somewhat. He transferred over into his wheelchair, pulled his naked feet up onto the foot rest, holding his legs down some for a moment to calm the spasms before he pushed the rims and rolled to the bathroom. His body felt cool now with the moisture of sweat.
In the bathroom his right foot jumped off the foot rest and he pulled it up again, cursing at it. He debated catherization but even for that he felt too tired and so he only grabbed a pair of incontinence briefs, tensely pushed his rims, and wheeled into his living room.
He was going to sleep on the couch. He parked his chair next to the couch and transferred over, then slipped the briefs on thinking about how he just didn’t care if he would pee into them. It was a hassle with his legs still trembling and falling around on the couch.Sitting hunched over Mark held his legs down and just watched and waited for a moment, still mumbling curse words over his lips.
Close to the couch he had another collection of medications and he pulled out his spasm medication, took a tablet to tame his legs and then pulled the soft warm blanket he usually kept on the couch over his body. Ranger had moved into the living room with him but instead of laying with Mark now, he had climbed onto the cat tree next to the window and got comfortable for the rest of the night.
And again, Mark lay and stared into the room, just a faint light shining in from outside and showing the outlines and shapes of the furniture in the room, the different colored lights from his TV and entertainment system like eyes blinking into the room. He still felt exhausted and tired from the sleep medication he had taken earlier that night and hoped that sleep would overcome him again once the spasms in his legs would let off some. He decided he really needed to go to the gym the next day and work out as he felt tense and frustrated, negativity trying to take over his mind. Pumping iron and working out would help him keep the demons in check and maybe find some peace of mind.