Gone for Good Page 22

“I had a good rap,” Castman said. “First off, I’m a white guy. The Midwest meat. It’s almost all white breast. They’re afraid of the strutting brothers. But me, I was different. I’d wear a nice business suit. I’d carry a briefcase. I’d be a little more patient. So anyway, that day I was waiting by Gate 127. It was a favorite of mine. Got a good view of maybe six different arrivals. Sheila came off the bus and man, she was smoking hot. Maybe sixteen years old and prime-time. A virgin too, though I couldn’t tell that right off. I’d learn all about that later.”

I felt my muscles tighten. Squares slowly slid his body between the bed and me.

“So I started sweet-talking her. Sling her my best bits, you know?”

We knew.

“So I give her the line about making her a big-time model. But smooth. Not like the other assholes. I’m like silk. But Sheila, she was smarter than most. Cautious. I could tell she wasn’t buying it all the way, but that was okay. See, I don’t press. I act legit. End of the day, they want to believe, right? They all hear stories about some supermodel being discovered at the Dairy Queen or some such shit, and hey, that’s why they come in the first place.”

The machine stopped beeping. I heard it gurgle. Then it started beeping again.

“So Sheila sort of crosses her arms, right. She tells me straight up that she never parties or any of that. I tell her hey, no problem, I’m not into that either. I’m a businessman, I say. A professional photographer and talent scout. We’ll take some pictures. That’s all. Get a portfolio going. Straight up—no partying, no drugs, no nudity, nothing she isn’t totally comfortable with. And I’m a pretty good photographer, you know. I got an eye for it. See these walls? These shots of Tanya—I took them.”

I looked at the photographs of the once-beautiful Tanya, and the chill struck me deep in my heart. When I looked back at the bed, Castman was staring at me.

“You,” he said.

“What about me?”

“Sheila.” He smiled. “She means something to you, am I right?”

I didn’t reply.

“You love her.”

He stretched out the word love. Mocking me. I kept still.

“Hey, I don’t blame you, man. That was some quality tang. And, man, she could suck the—”

I started toward him. Castman laughed. Squares stepped in the way. He looked me straight in the eye and shook his head. I backed off. He was right.

Castman stopped laughing, but his eyes stayed on me. “You want to know how I turned your girl out, lover boy?”

I said nothing.

“Same way as I did Tanya out there. See, I went for the prime cuts, the ones the brothers couldn’t get their hooks into. A high-end operation. So I gave Sheila the rap, and eventually I got her into my studio for a shoot. That was it. All I need to do. Put a fork in her, she’s done.”

“How?” I asked.

“You really want to hear this?”


Castman closed his eyes, the smile still there, savoring the memory. “I took a bunch of photos of her. All nice and legit. And when we were done, I put a knife to her throat. Then I cuffed her to a bed in a room that was”—he chuckled, let his eyes open and roll—“corked. I drugged her up. I filmed her when she was half out of it, made it all look very consensual. That, by the way, was how your Sheila lost her virginity. On video. With yours truly. Magical, am I right?”

The rage flared again, started boiling over, consuming me. I didn’t know how much longer I could keep from wringing his neck. But that, I reminded myself, was what he wanted.

“Where was I? Oh, right, I cuffed her and shot her up for maybe a week. Prime stuff too. Expensive. But hey, it’s a business expense. All businesses got their training regimens, right? Eventually Sheila got hooked, and let me tell you, you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. By the time I uncuffed her, that girl would lick out my toe jam for a hit, you know what I mean?”

He stopped as though waiting for applause. It felt as if something were shredding my insides.

Squares kept his voice flat. “So after this, you put her on the street?”

“Yup. Taught her some tricks too. How to get a guy off fast. How to take on more than one guy at a time. All that, I was her teacher.”

I thought that I might throw up.

“Go on,” Squares said.

“No,” he said. “Not until—”

“Then we’ll bid you good-bye.”

“Tanya,” he said.

“What about her?”

Castman licked his lips. “Can you give me some water?”

“No. What about Tanya?”

“The bitch keeps me here, man. It ain’t right. Yeah, I hurt her. But I had my reason. She wanted to leave, marry this john from Garden City. She thought they were in love. I mean, come on, this look like Pretty Woman to you? She was going to take some of my best girls with her. They could live out in Garden City with her and this john, get cleaned up, some such shit. I couldn’t stand for that.”

“So,” Squares said, “you taught her a lesson.”

“Yeah, sure. It’s how it is.”

“You messed up her face with a razor.”

“Not just her face—guy might be into putting a bag over the head, you know what I mean? But yeah, you get the gist. It was a lesson to the other girls too. But see—and here’s the funny part—her boyfriend, the john, he didn’t know what I’d done. So he comes down from his big house in Garden City, all set up to rescue Tanya, right? The dumbass has a twenty-two. I laugh at him. And he shoots me. This dipwad accountant from Garden City. He shoots me under the armpit with a twenty-two and bam, the bullet goes into my spine. I’m left like this. You believe that? And then, oh, this is precious, after he shoots me, Mr. Garden City sees what I did to Tanya and you know what he does, this great love of hers?”

He waited. We figured it was rhetorical and kept still.

“He freaks out and dumps her. Get it? He sees my handiwork on Tanya, and he just runs out on her. Her great love. Wants nothing to do with her. They never see each other again.”

Castman started laughing again. I tried to stay still and breathe.

“So I’m in the hospital,” he continued, “totally out of it. Tanya’s got nothing. So she signs me out. She brings me here. And now she takes care of me. You understand what I’m saying? She’s prolonging my life. I refuse to eat, she sticks a tube down my throat. Look, I’ll tell you what you want to know. But you got to do something for me.”

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