The Baby Trade part 1 (A Summer Black serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen
I’d never seen her before but I made her the second she stepped into the diner. She was a streetwalker, just like I used to be, years ago.
She wore stiletto heels, faded jeans and too much make-up. Her hair had been colored red but there were still some remnants from the previous color she’d been coloring it, a pornstar-shade of blonde. She’d tried to dress down for the occasion, but her entire gait and her prowling eyes gave her away. This was a woman who constantly used her manner to entice men into sex but was also wary of her surroundings because someone out there always might be more interested in slapping the cuffs on her than getting a blowjob.
Before I got clean, before my time with the Army and before waitressing right here in Lowinski’s diner I used to act just like that.
She sat down in a booth. I walked over and said hello.
“What can I get you?”
She peered at the label above my right breast. She made out the name. “Summer?”
“Have we met?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No, no we haven’t. But I’ve heard of you. I’ve heard you sometimes help out working girls like me when we’re in trouble.””
She was right. After my return from Iraq old friends sometimes asked me to help them when their pimps got a bit too violent, when they owed a dealer more money than they had or sometimes when they just needed some minor medical help. I was loyal to my friends, even though I quit living their destructive lifestyle. Word got around and sometimes I was asked to fix things for a friend of a friend. These ladies needed help sometimes. They couldn’t run to the cops and had little to no family. I’d learned some handy skills in the Army and had lead the same tough life they had. I was glad I could be useful to them sometimes.
“I can’t talk to you now. In half an hour I get my lunch break. I can talk to you then. I’ll get you some pancakes in the meantime. Don’t worry about the bill, I’ve got it covered for you.”
“Thanks. Thanks a lot,” she said. “I’m Tina.”
I gave her a nod. “Nice to meet you, Tina.”
I headed back to the kitchen to order the food. The cook, Vincenzo, an Italian guy with a head as bald and smooth as an eight ball and a paunch that showed he appreciated his own cooking told me the pancakes were coming up, even though he felt about that his culinary skills had to be wasted on such a simple dish once again.
“I’m sorry, you’re just not working at a five-star place,” I told him.
“You got that right. I’m not paid like I am neither.”
“I know what you mean,” I told him and left the kitchen.
Michael Lowinski was behind the cash-register. Michael is the owner of the diner, a guy at the south end of sixty with a white handlebar moustache and arms full of tattoos he looks like an old guy you don’t want to mess with.
“Saw you talking to that lady,” he said. “Do you know her?”
“No, I was just being friendly.”
“Right. I’ve seen girls like her before. She’s a hooker, Summer. I’m pretty sure of it.”
Who the fuck was he supposed to be? Sherlock Holmes? How did he figure it out? Or was it just more obvious than I thought, even to someone that hadn’t been in the life.
“You’re kidding me.” Lowinski was unaware of my past and I wanted to keep it that way for now.
“I’ve been around, Summer. I know what a hooker looks like. She might have traded in her fuck me-skirt for jeans, but she can’t hide the attitude. Matter of fact, seems this place is getting to be a favorite hangout for streetwalkers these days. More and more of them seem to pop up in here.”
“Is that right?” I tried to play little Miss Innocence.
“Assamatterafact, they’ve been coming in here ever since you started to work here. You seem to be always giving them a little extra of your time too.” He gave me an inquisitive stare. The kind of stare the cops used to give me.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Mike.” I grabbed the coffeepot. “I think someone needs to have their coffee topped up a bit.”
Lowinski put a hand on my shoulder. “You ever want to tell me something, don’t hesitate to.”
That made me uncomfortable. Michael was a good guy. I hated lying to him. “Sure, I won’t.”
I walked over to an older couple that was having waffles and poured them some more coffee. They told me they appreciated it.
I walked past the booth where Tina was sitting. I eyed Lowinski. He was watching me. Dammit. This was crazy. I was starting to feel like a superhero guarding a secret identity or something.
I brought Tina some coffee and told her softly, “I won’t be able to talk to you right now. Meet me after work at my car. It’s parked in the back, a black Mini Cooper.”
“Good, the pancakes are still coming up, though,” I told her and walked off again.
I wondered what she needed me to do. This whole thing with Lowinski made me worry about what I’d been doing for the working girls. This way I was never going to really get out of that life. How far was I removed from going back into that lifestyle, back to the drugs, the fast money? Shouldn’t I cut my ties to my past more permanently if I wanted to really lead a new life?
“Hey, Summer! Stop daydreaming! There’s a guy at table five waiting for you to take his order,” Lowinski told me.
I told him I was sorry and headed over to the table.
TO BE CONTINUED