|Mon, 21 Aug 2000
[Draco] Night Creatures (PG-13)
DISCLAIMER: Draco belongs to KJ, long may she reign as the Corner's Queen. I'm just playing in her yard. The other characters who appear in this story belong to me, as does the story itself. DC owns... something, and I'm not making any money off it.
NOTe: This is vaguely set after No Man's Land (prod KJ and Mel along for that, it looks like a doozy in this universe), and has a refence to my earlier story, 'When I Grow Up'. It's definitely not in the same vein as that one, though.
WARNING: Bad language and adult themes.
It was a normal night in the corner. The lack of light hid none of the dirt and disrepair, nor the fact that most of the law-abiding citizens had long since retired to the relative safety of their homes. The streets were abandoned to the dangerous dance of pusher and user, hooker and pimp, mugger and luckless bastard. The rooftops were left to sleeping birds and one hunting dragon.
Draco crouched on the corner of his roof, perfectly still except for the occasional stirrings of his cape in the faint breeze. He'd tracked his target this far and then lost him two nights earlier, and was starting to suspect that there was more going on than he'd thought. The decrepit old building at the end of the block was a little small to be a warehouse but still gave an impression of looming. Well, it looked normal to him but the small group of prostitutes below him cast regular cautious looks at it, although they tried to do it secretly. Jason had realised that they were usually effective criminal litmus paper before Draco had come along, however, and was used to watching for those signs.
One of them looked familiar, and he watched her suspiciously for a moment until she turned and he managed to place her face. Then he restrained a frustrated sigh. He didn't remember her from a previous foray as Draco, she was the one he'd approached as Jason to ask about Titan uniforms.
She looked a little different from what he remembered - more prosperous but also more wary. So, the area she was now working had better prospects but was more dangerous? Why? And had she been here the night the man he'd been tracking had disappeared from a featureless alleyway? The Corner's working girls seemed to know more about Draco than anyone else, because there was very little they didn't see. And if they saw him...
When the young woman with the Titan costume slid into the alley behind her and fumbled for the side door of the dirty building she worked from, she was too intent on the call of nature that needed answering to notice the brief flit of dark green heading towards her.
She was also too clever to scream when she did see him, although she pressed her back against the door and scrabbled for the handle. "What do you want?"
The alley was dark, the single streetlight having died a violent death long before, but they were both used to that. Draco saw a hard-eyed young blonde in a tight black dress that showed off the goosebumps on her breasts and legs, she saw a figure out of urban legend who was much larger and stronger than she was. Given the difference, he had to admire her guts. "Just answers to a few questions. It won't take long."
"I didn't do anything, you've got the wrong girl."
"No, I don't think so." He cocked his head to one side and took another step forwards. He wanted to keep her intimidated, but not utterly terrified. "What's in the building on the corner?"
Her eyes widened and she looked around, suddenly afraid. Seeing no one, she hissed at him almost angrily. "Do I really look that stupid? Get out of here and find some other sucker."
"Now I'm _really_ interested. I don't suppose it had anything to do with the way a nasty piece of work named Jim Hallerson disappeared the day before yesterday?"
She looked around again, shaking. "Look, I'd like to help you. But I can't, so would you get lost before you get me killed?!"
"Then help me in a way that _won't_ get you killed."
She looked around again. "Look, if I disappear for a while with no reason someone's gonna notice and ask questions, okay?" Suddenly a though seemed to strike her and her hand tightened convulsively around the handle that she still hadn't turned. "If... if you pay me, I'll do it. If I can give him the money, they won't know." She looked away again, towards the building that lurked, even though she couldn't really see it from where she stood. He could read the fear and hopeless entrapment in her eyes as she shivered from more than cold.
"I don't buy information."
"You don't buy information, or you don't buy from women like me?"
She smiled insincerely. "Then go to hell." And she turned to walk back out of the alley.
Draco deliberately blocked her path and took a deep breath, prepared to drop the Scary Voice even lower, but before he could say a word she beat him to it.
"I'll scream." The warning was sincere. They looked at each other for a moment before she went on. "I made my offer, and that's all your going to get. I don't care how much better than me you think you are." She drew herself up a little, battered pride overcoming fear. "And if you don't take it... well, that's your problem, isn't it?"
Inside Draco, Jason paused. Did he really think that he was better than she was? Rather humblingly, the answer was 'yes'. He managed to make a living by respectable means, then put on his Draco-suit and went out to make his little part of the world a bit safer. She worked a selfish, dangerous profession that _everyone_ looked down on. Except that he should know better. "If you lie to me..." Draco warned half-heartedly.
She snorted. "Why the hell should I bother? I don't owe anyone enough to lie for 'em, and I don't know that you're worth the effort, right?" She turned back to the door and opened it, peeking inside before waving a 'follow' signal. "Come on, then."
Draco slid inside like a drop of green ink as a faint voice in the back of his brain gleefully told him exactly how Batman would raise that vocal eyebrow if he ever heard about it.
The room was small, but tidy and... well, cozy. Even if he didn't really want to know what one or two things were for. An unusually placed mirror caught him by surprise, and he restrained a wince. Dark green showed up extremely well against light blue. He felt exposed. "The building on the corner."
"In your case, I'd like to see the colour of your money first." She raised her chin defiantly. "No offence, but you learn not to trust men who look down on you pretty quickly."
Wordlessly, he pulled out a reasonable amount of money and put it on that oh-so-convenient dresser. She counted it with a glance, then coughed delicately.
"With all due respect, my risking my like is worth a tiny bit more than a quick fuck. For a start, I actually have to stay awake."
He added a bit more, then repeated his question. "The building. Why are you afraid of it?"
"Not the building, the people inside it." She took a deep breath. "That's why we're here. This isn't exactly a busy street, especially at this time of night."
He nodded. That had seemed rather strange. And the number of prostitutes spoke for a reasonably large number of men to make it worth their time, especially if they were afraid. So, it was almost certainly worth his money to find out exactly what was going on...
"The money's good, okay? And that's what we're here for. That's all we're here for, we're not a part of it. We're not even supposed to know what's going on, but you can't help noticing things. Some guys... talk too much." A faint look of contempt crossed her face. "Like you're not even a person, how could you possibly repeat anything... but they talk. There's a lot of them, I don't know how many all together. Usually at least twenty here, but they change. They've got several places in the Corner, maybe some out in Gotham. I don't know exactly where. Anyway, Jim Hallerson just kind of hung around. They pushed him around a bit, he wasn't really a part of the group. They sent him on errands, little stuff. He felt like that made him important, used to come and boast."
"They call themselves werewolves. More like dogs if you ask me. But they're not like a normal gang, they've got something bigger going." Absently she dragged the blanket off the bed and draped it over herself. "After the... after, they suddenly moved in. At first nobody really took them seriously, gangs come and go. Especially now. But they always seem to have a lot of money. They spread some of that to Larry, he tells us all 'go here, and don't move'. We get paid more, so we don't argue. But that does't stop you wondering where the money's coming from, does it? I mean, who in the Corner has that kind of money and spends it here? And then you have to ask yourself why they needed us moved? It's not like it's a long walk, and it's more... they get more variety, we get more opportunities, right?"
"They're guarding something, and don't want their boys straying."
She nodded. "I don't know what it is and I don't want to. But the weird thing is... lots of stuff comes out, but you never see anything go in."
"How big?" She frowned, and he tried again. "What do they take it away in?"
"Vans, little trucks. Nothing that people're gonna look at. There's a loading bay over the back."
"He went in and never came out. See there's another door on the side, but it's disguised as a dumpster. Some of the girls... you probably don't want to know about that. I know I didn't. Anyway, I think he tried to screw 'em somehow, he was looking really pleased with himself just before he went." Again the contempt, and she pulled the blanket tighter. "People who try that you don't see again."
"Then why are you doing it?"
"You're paying me. I'm only in it for the money, I don't owe them shit." As if to demonstrate her point she picked up the notes their conversation was worth and tucked then into a neat bundle. "They aren't paying me to keep my mouth shut, but you're paying me to open it- um, talk." She restrained a grin. "The other thing's extra."
"I have another question."
"That's about all I know."
"Why is it worth risking your life for sixty dollars?"
She brushed the edge of the notes against her cheek almost affectionately. "You may have noticed that there isn't much I won't do for money."
"The same reason as everyone else! I'm not going to stay in this shithole for the rest of my life. When I've got enough money, I'm getting out. And I'm NEVER coming back." She smiled. "You see, I've got a plan. I don't need drugs to get me though, 'cause I know why I'm doing it. It's just another sweaty, groping step towards _somewhere else_. So I keep my money instead of putting it right back where it came from. And I save it in a nice, safe place where none of them are ever going to get it." A touch of conspiratorial humour slid into her expression. "Every Tuesday morning I walk my cute little arse over the tracks and put it all in the bank."
He found himself smiling at that. "Smart move."
"I think so." She looked up at him assessingly, and Draco noted the intelligence behind the hardness of her eyes. This one was a survivor, with a little luck she might really make it out. "But this was... nicer than that. If you need something like that again, ask me. I might be able to help you."
Without accepting or rejecting the offer, Draco filed the option away. Just in case. "What's your name?"
"Jasmine." She looked down at the clock. "You should go."
Draco nodded and let her go to the door first. Better that she... Jasmine closed the door again hurriedly and froze. Following that cue Draco stiffened and didn't move from the rather odd position as he listened. Jasmine had backed up a step, her left side was pressed against his chest and he could feel her shaking in fear.
Wood creaked, footsteps sounded up the hall. A playful giggle and an obscene, rough-voiced suggestion passed them by, and a door closed. A breath exploded out of Jasmine and she sagged a little. "Just Tiff. Thank God."
Draco held her elbow, half afraid she'd fall down. He didn't expect her to jerk away quite so violently. "Hey!" A whisper, but an angry one. "All you bought was information."
Draco blinked, offended. "I'm not interested in anything else. You were going to fall over."
She looked somewhat mollified. "No I wasn't, it's just the shoes." A pause. "Sorry. I get used to... well, you know what it's like."
She grinned suddenly. "Are you sure? That's a _very_ tight costume." Jasmine giggled quietly at the scowl and opened the door again, tiptoeing towards the back stairs. Draco followed her like a larger shadow, and they slipped back out into the night.
They started going their seperate ways, then Jasmine paused. "Draco?"
"My real name's Emma."
He looked down at her unreadable expression for a moment. "I think I like your real name better."
"So do I." She turned back again and closed the door behind her.