Perseverance. Diligence. Irene gave fate’s hand thanks paid out with dividends. Tracking Alan might have proven impossible if not for his stupid catchphrase. Everything with this fella was ‘easy peasy’ or ‘hunky dory’. She never thought to find him under a red neon sign. Irene stood under the flashing scarlet letters of Easy-Peasy Motors.
Always messing with junkers was Alan, her assumption he’d gone on to become a mechanic somewhat accurate. Rumours of his moving south and selling secondhand cars had come to fruition. Maybe not entrepreneurial, but the vehicles on the lot were decent and higher priced than expected.
“I would rather deal with the owner,” she told the salesman who pounced on her. As his eyes flashed in apparent surprise, heat rose to her face. Whatever he imagined was fine as long as he fetched the man in question.
“What can I do you for?”
A repeat of the phrase Alan had spoken in another life. Now, she needed to keep from shuddering at the first words out of his mouth, pretend not to know him, to tolerate a hand on her lower back as he guided her car to car, hot breath scorching her ear as he leaned closer.
After viewing six vehicles, she said, “I’m still not sure. I understand little about motors.”
“Is that why you wanted the expert?”
“Of course.” She threw in a demure smile. “What other reason?”
His grin threatened to split her heart open. Alan always brightened the same way whenever a good-looking girl walked by in high school. Never for her, though…until he had, and she a fool for a few minutes wanted to believe him.
“We’re busy,” he told her. “Why don’t you come back after we close at six?”
Six. The word sounded like sex. Six of them, one of her. A sextet.
Six o’clock came and went. Irene returned, memories the incentive. In his gaze, his expression, she searched for but saw no recognition. Not that she expected him to recollect the incident; even less likely recall a tormented girl, and six years gone by and with time sixty pounds or so. The girl had changed into a woman; one he truly wanted now.
“Roomy seat in back, this one,” he said with a wink. “More room in my office.”
The stink of his aftershave made sick rise into her mouth bringing up an acidic flashback, the last time alone with him…
Recollection caused her to sway. Last time…not alone, his friends waiting in ambush, listening while he coaxed her.
“You okay?” Despite sounding concerned, his demeanour remained lecherous. “We should get you inside, get you a drink of water.”
The car took up the whole of Irene’s vision as a fellow conspirator. “I…” She struggled to get the words out, but the car, the spot…the perfect position for them not to be seen from the street, a moment impossible to let pass.
“I just need to look under the hood.” She repeated the last thing he had said to her even as the boy lifted her skirt, and then…six of them, laughing, spitting, holding her imprisoned, tearing off her knickers. Six boys seeming to mean to have their way with her — to use one of her mother’s more delicate expressions. The humiliation prolonged the fear; no longer the simple embarrassment of six males stealing her underwear. With time her feelings blossomed, ripened…fell to burst open like decaying fruit spreading pestilence.
When he lifted the bonnet she stretched over, smiling. The stench of oil and petrol made things clearer. With an amused, puzzled expression, Alan bent toward her. He angled in for a kiss, but Irene moved faster, stood and brought the hood down on his head. Both bounced, and Alan performed an odd flop, collapsing to the ground.
No shouts. No one heading in their direction. The only problem now was whether he was dead. She didn’t want to kill him…yet. Another five men needed to be found and Alan ‘sack of excrement’ might know their whereabouts.