Post-coital Tristesse — Word Count: 34,880

She staggered down the street, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. She didn’t know how far Kelly’s was from the police station, or where she was exactly. Stopping in the middle of the street, she turned in a slow circle, surveying the area. She was somewhere on the outskirts of Sweet Valley, she realized now, taking in the low, long warehouses that dotted the landscape.

From inside one of them, she thought she heard sobbing and a voice calling for help, as well as a few loud banging sounds, but Enid had had enough drug-induced hallucinations to know never to trust her senses. She kept walking toward what she believed to be the center of town. As she approached a small cinderblock building with a sign that read “Unicorn Club,” Enid took note of the marquee out front.

“R U HORNY? WE R,” she read out loud. Then, underneath that, “2 FOR 1 DRINK SPECIALS, NOON TO 5 P.M. MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY.”

Enid couldn’t reach the door of the club fast enough. Just one drink — OK, two — and then I’ll look for Brandi and Nevaeh, she thought, making a bargain with herself. And by the looks of this place, I’ll probably be able to score some good smack as well.

Just inside the Unicorn Club, Enid paused to let her eyes adjust to the dim light. It seemed unusually crowded for the middle of the day, but Enid didn’t mind. As long as she could get a good stiff drink to clear her head, she’d be all set.

The bouncer, a big, burly man with a long beard, stopped Enid before she could go farther into the club. “Ten dollar cover,” he said, blocking her way.

“Ten dollar cover?” Enid repeated. “Look, man, I just want to get a drink.”

But the bouncer didn’t budge. “Ten dollar cover charge,” he said. “Or you can just take your business elsewhere.”

“Fine, then,” Enid retorted. “I’m not paying ten dollars just to get in so I can order a drink. Screw this. I’m off to Kelly’s.” She turned on her heel.

The bouncer laughed. “Suit yourself, lady,” he said. “But you won’t see naked women at Kelly’s.”

Enid paused. Without turning around, she said, “Naked women?”

“This is a strip club,” he answered. “The only one in town. Well, there was the back room at the Shady Lady, until it got shut down a few years ago when the feds raided it.”

Enid took a deep breath and dug into her pocket. Maybe I can scrape up ten bucks, she thought. I’m sure checking out a few lithe, naked bodies will help clear my head. And then I can have a little bit of a drink, and then I can get to looking for Brandi and Nevaeh. And if anyone in this town has some blow, it’s definitely a stripper.

Pulling out a wrinkled ten dollar bill, she walked back over to the bouncer and deposited it in his hand. “Welcome to the Unicorn Club,” he said, stepping aside to let Enid enter.

She looked around in amazement. This is way better than Kelly’s Bar, she thought, her mouth open in awe.

* * *

Lila crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. “Let’s go over this one more time,” she said to the bouncer. “You mean to tell me that the Unicorn Club isn’t wheelchair accessible?”

“That’s what I’m telling you,” he said.

“You do realize who you’re talking to, don’t you?” Lila asked. “I’m Lila Fucking Fowler, daughter of George Fowler. And this is Marshall Stanton the fourth and fifth.”

“Am I supposed to know who any of you are?” the bouncer said, crossing his own arms and shifting his weight.

“I assume you’ve heard of Fowler Enterprises,” Lila said haughtily.

“Not really,” the bouncer replied.

“Well, then,” Lila huffed, trying to regain her composure, “if you’re not going to install a ramp to make this place compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, then I expect you to carry Marshall into the club yourself.”

“Lady, I ain’t carrying nobody,” the bouncer said. “Do it yourself. Thirty bucks for the three of you.”

Lila narrowed her eyes and reached into her purse for the money. “Here,” she growled, shoving it into the bouncer’s outstretched hand. Bending down, she grabbed Marshall by the legs and pulled him out of the wheelchair. He hit the floor with a thud, and she struggled to drag him behind her, keeping her head held high. “Come on, Stan.”

Stan hobbled along behind them, giving the bouncer an apologetic look. Lila dropped Marshall’s feet and surveyed the inside of the club.

“Ugh, what a dive,” she said with a shudder. The threadbare carpet was pink with teal and bright blue geometric shapes on it, reminding Lila of something from the 1980s. There were also several stains she couldn’t identify and didn’t even want to think about. “Excuse me,” she said, grabbing the arm of a passing waitress, “where is your VIP area?”

The waitress shook Lila’s hand off her arm and pointed to a door in the far corner of the club.

“Thank you,” Lila said, leaning back down to pick up Marshall’s feet again. She dragged him behind her all the way to the VIP room — probably through one of those stains, Lila thought with disgust — and entered.

“Bruce?” she gasped. “Elizabeth? What are you doing here?”

* * *

“This is Amy Sutton, coming to you live from a press conference with Sweet Valley’s Mayor Santelli, where he is expected to give a statement concerning his missing daughter within the hour,” Amy said into her microphone. “Sweet Valley Action News will be breaking in to your local programming with updates and the full press conference as soon as it begins. Jeffrey ‘Who Cares?’ French, back to you.”

Amy let out a deep breath as the camera switched off and checked her watch. Let’s get this show on the road, mayor, she thought bitterly. I’ve got a shit ton of kids to get home to.

She studied her notes and the press release sent out by Mayor Santelli’s office earlier that morning. So Maria is missing, she thought, tapping her pen against her notepad. My money’s on her husband. It’s always the husband.

“Amy Sutton!”

Groaning, Amy turned around to see the last person she wanted to see — Caroline Pearce, Sweet Valley’s resident gossip and one of Mayor Santelli’s senior staffers. “Caroline!” she said, pretending to be delighted. I can’t believe the amount of ass I have to kiss around here just to do my freaking job, Amy thought.

“Oh my gosh, so I guess you heard all about Maria going missing, right?” Caroline said, her words coming at a rapid fire pace. She flipped a section of her bright red hair over her shoulder and continued talking. “I mean, sure you did, of course you did — you’ve got the press release. I’m so glad you’re here to cover this for the news. It’s so important to get the word out, you know? I hear the longer people go missing, the less chance you have of finding them alive. Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t say something like that, I’ll jinx everything, I just know it!”

“Yeah, wouldn’t want to do that,” Amy said, glancing down at her notes before looking up at Caroline with a piercing stare. “All right, come clean, Caroline. What do you know?”

Caroline looked around as if she were making sure they weren’t being watched, then lowered her voice to a whisper. “This information doesn’t go beyond you and me, all right?” she asked. “Do you promise?”

“We’re off the record,” Amy lied. “I promise.”

“The police are saying they think it’s connected to the whole Sweet Valley date rapist thing,” Caroline said in a hushed tone.

“So they think Bruce did it?” Amy said, furrowing her brow. “That’s not like him.”

“I agree, it doesn’t sound like him,” Caroline said. “But there’s hardly ever any crime in Sweet Valley, so the police just know he has something to do with it.”

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04 2011

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