Call me Ishmael.
No, I ain't after no damn white whale. My parents just had literary pretensions and a warped sense of humor.
What I was hunting after last night though, was feminine companionship for the evening.
A month of no nookie and I was horny as hell and determined to get laid even if I had to pay for it.
I knew that with the temperature down around zero, the neighborhood bar would be packed with shivering hookers and just a few hard-core drinkers.
I took my time looking around, letting my eyes adjust to the dim light of the bar.
Girls of all shapes and sizes to choose from, ranging from fugly to just passable.
A smorgasbord of rent-a-twat just trying to keep warm.
A hooker faced with a night of freezing her ass off on a corner is likely to be less picky about her tricks.
As homely as I am, this can make all the difference between getting laid and another night of jacking off.
I made my way to the bar and ordered a beer, then looked around for an empty table.
No such luck tonight.
I eased over by the jukebox, nodding a greeting to those working girls that I knew.
Something caught my eye and I turned my head toward the back of the bar.
There was a girl sitting alone at a table. Her arms crossed over her belly and her head bowed.
She was dressed far too thinly for the cold outside, and was shivering as if she had just come indoors.
I saw the bartender talking to one of the waitresses and nodding toward the lone girl. I looked at her again and saw that she didn't have a drink in front of her.
Sure enough, as I moved closer, I heard the waitress talking to her. "You either have to buy a drink or leave. This ain't a charity honey."
The girl sighed and started to stand up.
I saw a golden opportunity and stepped forward. "Sorry I'm late," I said to the girl.
I turned to the waitress and said, "Please bring us some coffee and whatever sandwiches you have back there."
The waitress looked at me for a long moment, then nodded and went back to the bar.
I sat down across from the girl and smiled. "I usually don't interrupt like that, but you looked like you needed a friend."
She looked up at me. "Thank you," she said tiredly. "I really didn't want to go back out there."
"No problem," I replied. "Some hot coffee and something to eat will help warm you up."
She cocked her head to the side and looked me over. "Why me and not one of the other girls here?"
I shrugged. "I dunno," I said. "You just looked tired and cold and I thought that you could use a little help."
She gave me a wan smile. "Do you have a name? Or should I just call you Friend?"
I chuckled. 'My name is Ishmael."
She raised an eyebrow, "I see your folks read Melville."
That earned her points with me. Few people caught the reference to the book these days, and those who did usually had a witty comment or two about Ahab and the whale.
"They did and enjoyed it a bit too much," I said with a grimace. "The next Moby Dick joke I hear, I'm going to harpoon something."
She giggled and her eyes danced. "Well Ishmael, what brings you to O'Bannion's tonight?"
"I was looking for a girl for the night." I said. "I get tired of sleeping alone all the time."
I have no idea why I said all that.
The waitress arrived with the coffee and sandwiches. I paid her and tipped her well.
After the waitress was gone, I watched the girl eat daintily but ravenously, as if she hadn't eaten in a long time.
"You really don't look like you belong here with the others." I said suddenly.
And it was true that she didn't look like the usual street girl.
Her brown hair was relatively long and well cared for, if a bit mussed at the moment. Her skin was clear and showed only a hint of tan. And her green eyes were clear and free of the dulling that habitual drug use inevitably causes.
"I am new to the life," she said. "And I don't seem to be very good at it."
"Trouble with the other girls?" I asked.
She shook her head. "The other girls have mostly been OK as long as I stay off their corners. But the only time I made any money some man came up and said I belonged to him now and took it all from me."
That sounded like Rodney, a small time pimp who preyed only on the young and the seemingly helpless.
"He won't bother you again tonight." I promised. "And I'll spread the word that he's bugging you and someone will warn him off."
"Who are you? Some sort of pimp godfather?" she asked trying for a smile, but the nervousness was once again in her eyes.
I laughed. "No, I am just a guy that has a few friends who owe him some favors."
"So what do you do for a living then?" she asked.
"I work as an electrician down at the docks. And in my spare time I am a writer." I said.
She quirked an eyebrow, "And just what is it that you write?"
"Fantasy adventure mostly," I shrugged. "I have written a few articles for the papers and for magazines, but not enough to call myself a pro."
She looked down at her hands and fidgeted for a moment. Then she took a deep breath and looked up at my face again.
"Listen," she said. "How about we make a deal for a place for me to sleep tonight?"
Someday I was gonna kick myself for this.
"Ok, let me make you a counter offer," I said.
She looked down at the table with her eyes squeezed shut.
"You might want to listen to what I have to say before getting all upset," I chided gently.
She opened her eyes but kept her head down.
"The deal is this. I am tired of my own cooking. You cook supper for me at my place, and you can have the Murphy bed in the living room. No strings attached." I continued.
Her head came up and she blinked away tears. "You just want me to cook for you?"
As if she couldn't quite believe her ears.
I nodded. "Just cook supper and you have a place to sleep warm and safe."
"What?" I asked, momentarily confused.
"My name is Amanda," she repeated.
I stood and bowed to her. "Pleased to meet you Amanda."
Her smile reached her eyes this time and she stood up and made a small curtsy.
She didn't have a warm coat, so I slipped my heavy jacket over her shoulders and she grasped the lapels to snug it around her.
I could take the cold for the few blocks to my apartment.
The walk seemed to take no time at all despite the driving snow as Amanda kept up a stream of cheery chatter.
When we reached my apartment building, I held the door for her and bowed her inside.
We went up the narrow stairs to my floor, then down the hallway to my apartment.
Once inside she looked around approvingly.
I kept my place neat as a pin, a holdover from my days in the navy.
"The kitchen is over this way," I said.
She followed me to the small kitchen.
I love to cook, and it shows in my waistlines stubborn refusal to shrink.
"Make yourself at home and cook whatever you like." I said.
Amanda gave me a bright smile and started to explore the cupboards.
I went back into the living room and logged onto my computer.
Nothing interesting in my e-mail, so I logged back off and decided to shower before supper.
Normally I would never have considered leaving a hooker alone in my apartment, but somehow it never crossed my mind with Amanda.
I was just finishing getting dressed again after the shower when I heard Amanda's voice calling. "Supper's ready!"
I emerged from the bedroom to find the table set and heavenly aromas arising from the various pots and pans on the stove.
"You are a great cook!" I exclaimed as I tasted the various dishes that Amanda had prepared. "For cooking like this, you can stay as long as you like."
Amanda blushed, but she looked pleased.
The rest of the meal went pleasantly. Amanda was full of questions about my Navy days and my current work.
She told me little about her past directly, however I gathered from what she skirted around that she had been married at one time and that it had not ended well at all.
The anecdotes she shared as we cleared the table and washed the dishes told of a happier time when she worked at some department store as a clerk.
I was careful not to pry too deeply. She would share more when she was ready.
After the dishes were done we sat on the couch and talked until the wee hours of the morning.
By the time we noticed the hour, it was time for me to go to work.
"Get some sleep," I told her as I hurried to get ready. "If you're still here when I get home, I'll make us dinner tonight."
Amanda surprised me by going on tiptoe and giving me a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you," was all she said.
Work that day was demanding, but time just flew by.
My crew boss told me that he hadn't seen me work that hard in a long time.
"Must be getting old," I quipped, "I'm losing my touch at goldbricking."
He laughed and waved me on out the door.
I came home to find the apartment empty.
I checked around carefully but nothing seemed to be missing.
Oh well. At least I'd had the most pleasant evening in years.
I had just logged onto the internet when someone knocked on my door.
When I opened the door, Amanda stood there with her arms full of sacks of groceries.
"Sorry I'm running late," she said. "But that pimp was following me again and I didn't want to lead him back here."
I took some of the bags from her and carried them to the kitchen.
I didn't ask where she had gotten the money for the groceries. I didn't want my suspicions confirmed.
Amanda went in to shower while I made supper. A simple casserole with fresh biscuits.
I could hear her singing as I cooked, and the sound was somehow comforting.
Amanda came out wearing one of my bathrobes and a pair of my socks.
I held her chair for her as she sat down at the table, then I brought the casserole and the biscuits out of the oven.
She ate with good appetite and was full of chatter as always.
After the meal I put the leftovers in the fridge and she helped with the dishes.
There was a movie on that I enjoyed, and we sat on the couch to watch it together.
After a few minutes, Amanda curled her feet up under her and leaned against me. I put my arm around her shoulders as she rested her head on my shoulder.
When the movie was over, I pulled down the Murphy bed.
"Good night Amanda." I told her.
She gave me a sleepy smile and a hug.
I went into the bedroom and got undressed for bed.
I saw her clothes hung up neatly on the bathroom door and made a careful note of her sizes. Apparently these were all the clothes that she owned.
In the morning, Amanda was still sound asleep, so I made a quiet breakfast and headed off to work, leaving her a note saying that I would have a surprise for her when I got home.
At work I called my crew boss over for a private confab.
"Listen Vito, I need a favor." I told him when we were alone.
"Name it," he said.
"There is a guy named Rodney, a small time hustler and pimp who is bothering my girlfriend Amanda. Maybe you could have a few of your friends have a talk with him and let him know to leave her alone." I said.
Vito patted me on the shoulder. "No problem," he said with an evil grin. "I know a few guys who have been itching for an excuse to get their hands on Rodney for a while now."
"Thanks," I said. "I'll owe you a big one for this."
"Yes you will," Vito said with a wink.
After work I stopped by a clothing store on the way home and told the salesgirl what I wanted and gave her the sizes needed.
A half hour later I left the store with several complete outfits that should fit Amanda nicely.
The apartment door was open when I came down the hallway, and I heard muffled sobbing coming from inside.
I entered the apartment to find Amanda huddled on the sofa with her face buried in a towel.
I dropped my packages on the floor. "What happened?" I asked.
Amanda jumped when she heard my voice.
She pulled the towel from her face with trembling hands and I almost got sick on the floor.
She had been worked over by an expert. Her nose was broken and her cheek was split to the bone and bleeding freely. Her jaw was lopsided and her eyes were swollen almost shut.
"Goddamn." I heard myself say.
I grabbed the phone and dialed 911 and told them that I needed an ambulance fast.
When I hung up I sat next to her on the couch and gently turned her face toward me.
Amanda tried to say something, but I could see that her jaw was broken in more than one place.
I held the towel to her cheek and cursed the ambulance for being too slow.
When the paramedics showed up and took her to the hospital, I followed in a cab.
The doctor's report wasn't good.
In addition to the injuries that I had already seen, she had internal injuries and had been raped brutally.
I stayed there with her in her room after her surgery until she woke up.
She clutched my hand in a grip like a vise and didn't relax until I told her that I would stay there with her until she could go home.
At last she dropped into a drugged sleep.
I called Vito at home.
"Vito, I need you to come down to County General Hospital, room 212 as fast as you can."
"On my way," he said and hung up.
When Vito arrived, I showed him Amanda's visible injuries and told him about the rest.
"I want this Rodney and I want about 10 minutes with him in a room alone." I said.
I am not much of one for fighting, but this had me enraged beyond belief.
"Don't worry about work," Vito said. "You stay here and care for your lady friend. We'll find that rat bastard soon enough."
The cops showed up soon after Vito left, and I gave them all the info that I had, leaving out Rodney's name. Telling them only that a pimp had been harassing her, and that I suspected that he had been the attacker.
I offered to give them a DNA sample to prove that I hadn't been the one to rape her.
They sent for a lab tech to take the sample, and then said that they'd be in touch.
I stayed there in the hospital, sleeping in the chair next to her bed, leaving only one time to get some of the new clothes from the apartment.
Vito stopped by daily, mostly to report that Rodney had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.
I forced myself to be patient. Sooner or later the rat would crawl out of his hole.
Then it would be my turn.
On the 8th day, they released Amanda from the hospital. Vito came by and drove us back to my apartment. "My wife will come stay with her while you are at work," he told me. "She won't be alone."
Amanda couldn't talk with her mouth wired shut, but she could type, and we spent long hours side by side at the computer as she told me as much of what had happened as she could remember.
She had come home to the apartment with some special items she was planning to cook for us that night. Rodney was waiting in the apartment for her when she opened the door.
He had beaten her with some kind of club, then he had ripped her panties off and raped her, hitting her in the face and cursing her until she passed out.
She had come to only a few moments before I had come home.