Deus Ex Machina
“I have to take you home Virginia.”
“But I don’t want to go home.”
“I’m sure you don’t.”
“Can you make me go home?” Virginia asked, idly pushing a hash brown into a pool of ketchup.
We were eating bacon and eggs inside a coffee shop across from the Port Authority Terminal. Virginia was a sixteen year old runaway from Los Angeles. Her father was a wealthy somebody in Los Angeles who wanted her found. His lawyer hired the biggest organization on the West Coast to do the finding. When the girl’s trail pointed to New York the organization called me, a retired NYPD detective operating a two person outfit specializing in runaways. I found Virginia, as I knew I would, soliciting tricks outside the restrooms near the Greyhound gate. I approached her, negotiated the fee, and suggested we grab a bite before consummating the transaction. The girl was hungry and agreed. The pimp followed us as pimps do and grabbed a seat three booths away. The pimp didn’t worry me. After the waitress brought our food I told Virginia who I was and what was going to happen. She didn’t seem surprised.
“My dad’s an asshole,” Virginia said. “He thinks spending money on someone to find me is like finding me himself.”
“It’s better than no one finding you.”
“He thinks money’s the answer to everything.”
“It’s an answer for some people,” I said, stirring sugar into my coffee.
“How much is he paying you?”
“I’m got hired by an agency in L.A. They’re paying me. I don’t know what your father’s paying them.”
“It’s a lot. Trust me.”
We were silent for a few minutes. I sipped coffee out of a thick porcelain cup. Virginia pushed a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes and ate some hash browns. My client’s daughter was cute, possessing a lush body that had probably been betraying her childhood since she was thirteen. Across the way the pimp glowered at me. I smiled at him. I wasn’t worried about the pimp.
“You have kids?” Virginia asked suddenly.
“Why not?” Virginia said. “You look like you’d be good with kids.”
“How can you tell that?”
“I can tell things about men.”
“I don’t have kids Virginia.”
“Not in the cards,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders.
“Why not?” Virginia said.
I shrugged again.
Virginia looked me over. “You are kind of cute,” she said. “For an old guy.”
“How old are you?”
“I fuck a lot of the men your age,” Virginia said, her voice coarsening. “Losers mostly. Can’t get it up unless I call them Daddy and let them spank my ass.”
The thought of Virginia being spanked by a sweaty man in some dirty bathroom stall caused a bolus of anger to materialize in the pit of my stomach. Since I knew the emotion wouldn’t do me any good I just let it sit there.
“Not all men my age are jerks,” I said. “Maybe you’ll get a chance to find that out one day.”
“I bet you can be a jerk.”
“My girlfriend would probably agree with you.”
“Your girlfriend, is she pretty?”
“I bet I could do stuff to you in bed that she’s never dreamed of,” Virginia said grinning, her eyes evincing a sensuality that belonged in a much older woman.
I didn’t want to insult the girl by telling her she’d be wrong. “You enjoy your work?” I asked instead,
“It’s OK,” Virginia said. “I always liked sex. Now I get money for it.”
“Follow your bliss I guess.”
“You might as well get paid doing what you like.”
“So you think it’s OK for me to be a whore?”
“No,” I said. “But if someone wants to make that choice they have every right to make it.”
“So why are you going to take me away from it?”
“Because you’re too young to decide what you want for yourself.”
“Now you sound like my father.”
“Probably,” I said. “But one day you might miss not having a father.”
We were quiet some more. The waitress refilled my coffee. I asked for the check.
“So what now?” Virginia asked.
“We’ll go back to my office first,” I said, “I’ll make a few calls and then we’ll head to the airport. If we’re lucky we can make the afternoon non-stop to L.A..”
“How do I know you’re not going to get all freaky on me?”
“My partner will come with us.”
“How do I know you’re partner’s not a freak?”
Suddenly the pimp was sitting next to me, his left hand pressing the point of a switchblade against my rib cage.
“Times up smiley,” he hissed. Then turning to Virginia he said, “Wait for me outside.”
“OK Leon.” Virginia replied obediently, starting to get up.
“What you doin just talking to my girl?” the pimp said, “You trying to save her or something?”
“Something like that.”
“You’re too late brother.”
Virginia was half out of her seat, trembling and pale.
“Sit down Virginia,” I said. “Leon’s about to experience a bit of Deus Ex Machina.”
“Deus ex what motherfucker?” the pimp sputtered.
“Deus Ex Machina,” a female voice from the booth behind us said. “Drop the knife, now.”
Even though I couldn’t see behind me, I knew Leon was feeling the cold steel of a Glock 19 pressing up against back of his skull. The sound of his knife clattering to the floor went unnoticed in the noisy coffee shop. Like I said, I wasn’t worried about the pimp.
“Thanks babe,” I said.
“You’re welcome darling,” the voice behind me said.
The body belonging to the voice stepped into view. A forty year old redhead with a lithe and powerful physique, the emerald navel ring in the middle of her well toned abdomen sparkled in the coffee shop’s fluorescent light. Matching green lace peeked out above the waistline of her hip hugging jeans. Holding the Glock hard against her side, the muzzle stared out at Leon like the dark implacable eye of fate.
“Deus Ex Machina is kind of like when someone saves your ass at the last minute Leon,” I explained.
“Un-uh,” Leon replied, never taking his eyes of the redhead’s gun.
“Now, unless you have any objections, you’re going to leave.”
“Get out Leon.”
Leon slid silently out of the booth and beat it onto Eighth Ave. I knew he had other girls in his stable. He’d probably slap one of them around because a woman got the drop on him. That didn’t bother me too much. I wasn’t being paid to worry about them.
The redhead slipped the gun into the pocket of her short leather coat and sat down next to Virginia.
“Virginia,” I said. “This is Rachel, my partner. Rachel, this is Virginia.”
“Nice to meet you Virginia,” Rachel said, her green eyes swapping out a killer instinct for a maternal one.
Virginia stared at Rachel wide eyed. Most people did. I was used to it.
“This is you partner?” she asked me.
“And my girlfriend.”
“Wow. She is pretty.”
“You hungry babe?” I asked the other half of my two person outfit.
“Yeah,” Rachel said. “What’s good here?”
“The bacon and eggs here aren’t bad.”
“Food like that’s why you have a gut darling,” Rachel said. “Maybe I’ll have an egg white omelet.”
I made a face. “Those things are a travesty.”
“Is your boyfriend a jerk?” Virginia asked suddenly.
Rachel turned and looked at girl carefully. After a moment she said. “Nathaniel’s actually the most decent man I’ve ever met.”
Virginia burst into tears. Rachel put her arm around her and made mothering noises. I looked out the window and watched the buses spiraling up the elevated concrete and steel ramp into the Port Authority. A dozen girls like Virginia would probably get off the buses today. It didn’t matter. I got the one I was looking for.
Obviously fiction. but I can’t write about waiting tables forever………