“You’d be a prettier girl if you didn’t drink,” he whispered in my ear before licking it, which was, in his perverse way, an act of proving that he owned me. “Your body’s breaking down. And he’s getting on my ass about it.”
He was talking about my pimp. I didn't want to think about him.
Garrett gives all the good girls away eventually, but I was special. He still kept me around; he checked up on me. Gave me a little extra for my time. A little money, drugs, a night on the town. He made me feel alive again.
“I still have loyal customers, don’t I?”
His hands trailed up my thigh and I didn’t want to be sober for this. The first time, it’s good. Hell, even the tenth time feels good. But over and over again, he learns the spots that make you beg for more but also the spots that make you want to cower away. He was good at that, finding what made you vulnerable.
“Anyone would be a fool not to want you, sweetheart. But you aren’t getting any younger. And you know what’s happening to girls who meet that age…”
They disappear. I swallowed what he was alluding to and pretended hard that I hadn’t heard. The house I was living in always had girls coming in and out. Some of them had been there even before me, some only last a week. It’s normal and yet not. I can learn the girls' names and think of them dearly and when they’re gone I forget. No one asks questions, no one wants to know the truth.
“I can be more,” I told him honestly and thought back to the times he’d take me on his outings. The times we’d steal or sell or make thousands of dollars a night. “I can help you.”
He laughed maliciously and bit into my neck, drawing blood. “Honey, you’re just a whore I found living on the street.”
The words tore me up and chewed me back out. Before I gave him the chance to say no, I picked up the syringe to shoot up. At least for a few hours, I could fly.
Guys like Doc Holliday wanted one thing: control. Bartenders could sniff out recovering alcoholics and knew exactly how to get under the skin. Not all bartenders are douches and would push a relapse for money, but Doc certainly was.
The bar was spinning but my head was on straight. I knew he enjoyed the mess I was making. And I knew what result he was hoping for.
“Closing time is in a few, darlin’,” He reminded me as he poured another drink that I downed faster than the time it was on the table. “I live in the apartment above and could be in need of some… company. If you’re interested.”
Maybe I would be. But he reminded me of all the shitty guys that made me into a lowlife and I wanted nothing more than to shove his offer in his face. And I thought about Haught and how simple things were with her. She was curious about me, that was obvious, but she didn’t invade my privacy. She was smart and careful. I may have not been the girl she wanted, but being with me was better than being alone. Haught was safe and… there wasn’t too much safety in my life.
“Maybe some other time,” I said slowly and placed dollar bills on the table, not sure if they were the right ones. “I’ll see you, Holliday.”
I got up and the room spun around, but I kept walking. There was no way that I could go back to the motel like this, but I knew I had to work off the alcohol. Sex always did the trick.
Haught opened the door in her pajamas like the last thing she expected was my company. Sober me would have left, but her “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” shirt reminded me of someone else. Her. And drunk me couldn’t tell the difference between them.
I interrupted her with a kiss, pulling her body close up to mine. She didn’t taste like her, but I could keep on imagining. Sober me would have hurt at the memories. Drunk me wanted to relive them.
I kicked the door with my foot, slamming it shut. Pushing her body to the wall, my fingers tangled in her hair that was no longer red to me. All I saw was blonde.
A flutter of laughter spilled from her lips as I continued to explore her skin; there was always something new to find. She had tattoos all over her back and abdomen, easily covered up by a shirt so her bosses would never see. The tattoos had meaning, told stories. When I first met her I thought she was straight-laced and constantly professional. Learning her secrets was like diving into her soul. It was extraordinary.
I kissed the tattoo of an ocean wave and listened to her calming voice as she explained her trips to the sea when she was a kid and felt fearless.
“You would have liked me then, Wolf,” She joked and rolled over so that she was facing me. “I was a lot less of a rule follower.”
She traced her fingers along my side, from breast to ass, causing shivers to run down my spine.
“Dolls would be disappointed.”
She snorted and rolled off the bed, her blonde hair matted slightly, proof to the amazing night that we had.
“Indeed, mood killer.”
I felt a smile from my lips as she danced her way to the shower. Her body looked so delicate, but she had muscle and strength covering those bones. Her skin was thick and oh so kissable. I couldn’t resist. I got up and followed her to the shower.
She grinned and pulled me close, letting the showerhead spray on both of us at once. I wondered if this was what it was like to feel bliss.
Haught pushed me away, suddenly and forcefully. I wiped my lips and stared, wondering what the hell could have been wrong.
“Earp, you’re drunk,” Haught said carefully, though in my head her words came in and out and I felt like collapsing.
“I’m fine,” I lied and tried to reach for her as she backed away, causing me to stumble.
“You’re not. You’re drunk and you’re a recovering alcoholic. And you had a bad day. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
I looked at her carefully and asked, “Is this because of the girl you actually like?”
She didn’t deny it outright. “Partially. But it’s mostly because you’re not okay. And Earp, you said… you said someone else’s name.”
“Don’t!” I shouted angrily, causing her to flinch back nervously. I gulped, sobering up slightly. “Don’t ever say that name, Haught. I’ll go. Just don’t ever say that name again.”
Her face fell and it was soon filled with worry. She felt guilty. “Don’t go. I can take care of you—”
“No,” I interrupted with the shake of my head. I didn’t want her pity. And I certainly didn’t want her to take care of me. “I should go. Bye, Haught.”
I didn’t let her get in another word before I left.
Part of me wanted to go back to Doc, to get some of this frustration and emotion out of me so that I didn’t feel like I was exploding. But it would be too much. Everything felt like too much. I could hear her voice in my head and feel her hands on my body. And sex would only make it worse. I just wanted out. I wanted to escape. I wanted to forget.
I didn’t know where to go. I considered buying more alcohol so at the very least I could pass out, but that wouldn’t help me tomorrow. I considered getting on the next bus out of town but I couldn’t. Not when there were killers on the prowl. There was no else to turn to, nowhere to run and hide. I had to face the music, as they say, and go back to the motel.
Dolls was waiting up for me, and honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed any differently. He noticed right away that I was drunk, and it could have been a million things that tipped him off. My smell, my instability, or even the look in my eyes. I was drunk and something was very wrong.
I expected outrage, even if Jeremy was asleep in bed. I expected him to scream and yell and tell me that I shouldn’t have my job, that I was irresponsible and stupid. I expected punishment and felt like I deserved it.
He got up from the small table in the corner and approached me slowly as he asked, “What happened?”
His tone was cold and harsh, but not loud and angry like I had expected. I wanted loud and angry. I wanted to be yelled at.
“I took the edge off.”
“You did a little more than that,” he huffed and folded his arms stiffly. “I mean, look at you, Earp? You’re practically shaking.”
I rolled my eyes and muttered, “I was shaking before I had a drink.”
Dolls tilted his head as if he didn’t understand, which was utterly frustrating. I didn’t know what I wanted him to know. What was worse, him thinking I was irresponsible or him realizing I’m falling apart and the drinks were only to fade the pain?
“Maybe you should try the medication that Dr. Ly—“
“He was a quack!” I argued and shook my head profusely. “He couldn’t make up his mind! In his perspective, I’m either a paranoid schizophrenic or suffer from a bipolar disorder. Which, news flash, are nothing alike!”
My burst of a rant sent me a little over the edge. I raced to the toilet and threw up whatever was inside my body. I hated it. I hated all of this.
I jumped at the feeling of Dolls’ hand on my back and I slowly relaxed. He, Agent Xavier Dolls, was trying to help me feel better. I almost couldn’t believe it was happening.
“I didn’t mean to upset you, Earp. I know you aren’t crazy. Believe it or not, Lucado doesn’t think you’re crazy either. She just sends you to the therapist to piss you off. I was talking about the anti-depressants.”
I wiped my mouth and turned to look at him. He was truly, honestly concerned. And it baffled me. I was his partner, sure. But I was his reluctant partner. He wanted me gone from the second I joined BBD. He barely even tolerated me now.
“I’m not… I’m not depressed.”
He pushed my hair behind my ear and said quietly, “It’s okay if you are. You’re my partner, Wynonna. All I want is for you to be okay.”
I felt the tears rush to my eyes. My first instinct was to push him away and make some excuse while being rude. But he seemed genuine and I really really didn’t want to hurt him. Not right now. Not when I didn’t have the energy to even stand up.
“I’m trying so hard to be okay,” I confessed before I could stop myself. “I want to be okay so bad. But this town… the people… this place is killing me.”
He wiped my tears away and sighed. “I know. If they didn’t need our help, I’d leave, Lucado be damned. But we need to solve this case. If we didn’t, it would eat us alive.”
He was right. Neither of us could walk away at this point with a clean conscience.
“I’m so tired ,” I admitted and buried my head into his shoulder, wondering what it would feel like.
And then he did something even more unexpected. He picked me up and carried me to the empty bed. He pulled the sheets over my body and placed a bottle of water next to me silently. It was so startling, so un-Dolls-like that I didn’t know what to do exactly.
“Is there anything else you need?” He asked gently and continued staring at me with concern.
I shook my head and watched as he slid into his bed. His dark eyes found mine and I felt slightly transfixed. What the hell was wrong with him ? I didn’t understand why he was being so understanding and kind.
Dolls was always a mystery, but weren’t people supposed to make more sense once you got to know them?
The hangover was awful but not as bad as it could have been. It was certainly something I didn’t miss about being an alcoholic, though I could easily work through it and push past the throbbing nature of my head.
Dolls didn’t tell Jeremy about my problems last night and from what I could tell, Haught hadn’t told anyone either. This time, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I tried to fuck Haught when I was drunk and reliving memories and then I disclosed that I was having issues with my partner. Not a great night for me.
Haught was avoiding me... again. She wasn’t angry, but she seemed somewhat worried and on edge like she was concerned that she had hurt my feelings. Which, wasn’t the case at all. She was just too good of a person to realize that.
Waverly was her bubbly self, which was odd to me since she and Champ had just broken up. I wondered what Haught must have said last night to cheer her up. I figured the redhead would be good at something like that. It made sense to me that they had connected so easily.
“Woah, so, this guy is a judge?” Jeremy asked as Haught read out the file that she had on him. “That’s sick. He’s supposed to be putting away killers, not being one.”
“He might not be a part of the group,” Dolls pointed out with a sigh. “The list Edwin Earp had, there were too many people on the list for it to be a hundred percent accurate. He might have just helped the organization. Or he could have been wrong altogether. We can’t assume anything. Earp, Haught, it’s just going to be us that interview him. I don’t want to seem like we are bombarding him. Younger Earp, Chetri, look deeper at Edwin’s journal. See if he has any explanation to how he found out in the first place.”
Waverly and Jeremy looked slightly disappointed, but they didn’t disagree with him. Neither of them were trained in the field and Dolls didn’t want to take any chances. He was careful, and now that we were drawing in on suspects, he knew how imperative it was to get everything right. Spooking this guy was the worst thing we could do.
The judge’s house was almost as big as the Gardner mansion, but not quite. Something was unsettling about the house. I almost expected ghosts flowing in and out of the windows as we rang the doorbell.
The door opened and I felt the breath escape my mouth. It hadn’t dawned on me how this guy must have been. He was in a wheelchair and looked like he was having trouble breathing. His skin almost yellowed with age and I felt incredibly uncomfortable and out of place. Old people made me feel on edge.
His wrinkled face looked upward at me and Haught and he said, “Pretty girls have come to visit. Why do I have such the pleasure of having your presence?”
Dolls showed him his badge and said, “We’re a part of the task force in charge of finding the person or persons involved with the killed girls in this town.”
The judge looked at the badge and then looked at Dolls. “Black Badge, huh? I thought Richard was lyin’ when he said you lot were looking in on it. Well, alright, then. I see you need an old judge’s help. Come inside, will you?”
I wasn’t scared of many things, but coming into his house made me feel uneasy. Like I could imagine something horrible happening if I went inside. But Dolls and Haught entered without any problem and I followed behind them not wanting to draw attention to myself.
His house was covered with taxidermy and guns. Pleasant. Definitely helped the nerves. While it wasn’t uncommon in Purgatory, I couldn’t help but think about the implications of animal cruelty and hunting.
He offered us drinks in his office and seemed surprised when I refused. Even if I wasn’t interested in drinking after last night, there was no way I’d accept any drink from this man, even if I was dying of thirst.
“Judge Cryderman, did you know a man named Edwin Earp when you were younger? He would have been a cop, so you might have worked with him.”
Dolls, always calm and professional, even in front of a possible serial killer. I didn’t think I could have the same restraint.
The judge tapped his chin like he had to think hard about it before answering, “You know, son, I think I did. He was an intriguing fella. Always had a little conspiracy in his head. Very frustrating as a judge, you see. But a good man, nevertheless. Why do you ask?”
“You knew the mayor, too, didn’t you? Mayor Gardner?”
Cryderman looked between each of us and then grinned. “I only knew him only after his time in the office. I was the youngest judge in this town, you see. But they always accepted me as their own. Good man. He did a lot for this town.”
I felt my hands curl up into fists. The anger throbbed inside, wanting to lash out. I could feel it, from head to toe, I knew . He was a part of the damn thing. And he was just trying to play us with his phoney innocence.
“Did you know Jack, too, then? Jack Knives?” I asked him, holding myself back from lurching at him and wrapping my own two hands around his neck.
Something flashed in his eyes, something unrecognizable. Admiration, maybe. Possibly love for the sick monster. I just knew that it was something evil.
“Why, yes, my dear. As I said, I was very young to be a judge. Everyone knew my name and I knew theirs. May I ask why you are inquiring about my old friends who have so unfortunately passed away?”
Before I could say anything, Dolls told him, “We have reason to believe that the Mayor and Mr. Knives were a part of an organization that involved taking and murdering young women. When the Mayor was in the organization, it was called The Three. When you were in the organization, I believe it was called The Five. How did the teacher recruit you, Judge? Did he notice your record of letting rapists and sexual abusers walk free?”
Cryderman stared at Dolls for a few seconds and I wondered if he would flip out and start attacking. On instinct, I reached for my gun, brushing it slightly. But then the old creep began laughing and I felt myself grip the gun harder.
His eyes looked up and found mine. “I thought I recognized you, darlin’. Wynonna Earp. You look a little like good ole Eddy Earp. He was a little more righteous than you, though. I sent you to juvie how many times?”
I felt Haught reach out and touch my hand. She knew I was ready to pounce.
“Edwin knew you were a part of The Five, didn’t he?” Dolls asked, trying to get his attention off of me. “Are you still in the organization?”
Without keeping his eyes off of me, he answered, “They don’t let me around the girls anymore. The new boss, he’s a feisty one. Reminds me of Jack a little, but Jack had finesse. Every girl he took he had a purpose with. This new one… he just likes the kill. Torture doesn’t satisfy him. He doesn’t let me near em.”
“Who is he?” Haught asked him desperately.
Cryderman laughed again and said, “You really didn’t think I would just tell you, did you? I’m an old man who did good for this town. No one would prosecute me.”
“Maybe not,” I agreed with a shrug. “But I don’t think the town would be too happy to hear what you did to the town’s girls. You know the men in our town. They’re very protective of their girls. Law becomes arbitrary.”
Finally, the cowboy mentality of this town helped. His smile faltered and he moved a little, shaken.
“I’ll tell you his name, Wynonna, if you let me touch those pretty legs of yours.”
I wasn’t surprised. He was an evil, sadistic bastard. He wasn’t getting any action as an old man and wanted what he could get. And he knew how torturous it would be for me, the embarrassment of my agreement. He knew the touch would linger. But he also knew I was willing to do anything for a name. And I had done a lot worse to get less information.
“No, Wynonna,” Dolls commanded harshly, turning to me with darkened eyes. “Don’t you dare even think about it.”
Haught looked frightened and astounded. I wondered if this was one of the first sick puppies she had ever met.
But I ignored them both.
Cryderman was smiling when I approached him. I grabbed his hand and placed it on my thigh. I looked up at the ceiling as he explored it, feeling what he could over my ripped jeans. I turned everything off.
Any amount of time could have passed and I wouldn’t have any clue. I only snapped out of it when I felt someone physically pull me away.
“You’ve had enough,” Dolls roared and pushed me away from him as he grabbed Cryderman’s shirt. “Tell me his name.”
“You care about a whore like her,” He laughed as he gripped his pants. “Maybe you want some too. She’s very--”
Dolls punched him and blood went flying. I had never seen him so angry. I almost reached out for him, wanting to calm him down, but didn’t.
“His name, Cryderman. Or the town will know what kind of monster you really are.”
The judge spit out blood on the floor and said, “Mason. Mason Kohlhepp.”
Dolls pushed him away and walked out of the door. I turned to look at Haught, who still looked completely horrified, and grabbed her hand. We were getting out now.