Was getting out of the car a good decision? No, probably not her best one, but she needed answers. Sitting in her car isn’t going to fix help either. She grabbed her mace… just in case.
The interior was every bit the local greasy spoon of old. Countertops made of blue Formica, wrapped with the aluminum trim. Red and white plastic stools bolted to the white and black checkered floor. The red plastic booths lined the walls opposite the bar. A waitress greeted them when they walked in wearing a light pink dress with a white apron wrapped around her waist. The name tag on her right lapel said “Frankie.” She looked tired, but had a smile on her face.
She had the slightest accent that Laura couldn’t place.
Petrei started speaking in what Laura came to learn was German. Frankie’s face changed a little after that, her eyes darting from Laura back to the other woman. The tired smile became a little less friendly, but not outright hostile. She heard her grandfather’s name spoken before Frankie motioned toward the bar with her head.
“Miss A is in the back. Second door, not the first.”
Frankie promptly ignored them both to greet the people behind them.
Petrei beckoned her to follow as she moved through the swing door to the side of the bar, and then through another set of swing doors that must lead to the back of the diner.
Laura hesitated after she went through the swing door behind the counter. This seemed like a stupid idea that would end terribly, but she had to follow through on this.
Pushing through the swing door to the back, Laura stood in an industrial kitchen. A man with a beard, wearing a hairnet and black and white striped apron glanced at her briefly before returning to cooking what looked like corn beef hash.
“Second door on the right. Knock before you enter.”
Laura continued on, passing a door with the word closet stenciled on it. On the left was a red door that said office. She lifted a hand and rapped on door.
No one answered. She looked down the hallway and debated heading back out. Just as she turned to leave, the door swing in and she was pulled inside by her arm.
Petrei pushed her into a metal folding chair sat against the wall before crossing to sit behind a big desk.
“You must be hard of hearing. I told you to come in.”
That got Laura’s back up. “Forgive me for being hesitant to follow a person I don’t know. You could’ve led me back here and killed me.”
She scoffed. “I could’ve killed you last night while you slept or this morning before you left for the law office. You’re no good to me dead.”
Well, okay. That didn’t exactly make her feel safe and sound. Petrei’s grim expression said she wasn’t in the business of being gentle. Laura thought she was capable of killing her given the chance.
“Why am I here, exactly? I don’t know anything about what my grandfather may have done.”
The woman ignored her. She reached down to pull some books out and sat them on the desk.
“Your grandfather was an okay man. He did some good things, but he also did some bad things. This business? All his doing.”
“A diner?” Laura wasn’t aware of her granddaddy owning a diner, but it wasn’t exactly a bad thing. “What’s wrong with a diner?”
Petrei laughed that deep laugh of someone who had seen too much and was amused by very little. “This isn’t a diner. That out there? That’s a front. It’s what goes on back here that makes it a business.”
Laura recalled the name Der Schmetterling from her grandfather’s journal. She filled in the blanks and knew it was a whorehouse. Maybe not the one her grandfather went to in Germany, but an obvious offshoot.
“Why am I here exactly?”
“Because he owes money to the woman who originally owned this business and he never answered for the way he staffed the house. He has debts.”
Debts? That was easy to pay off. She sighed, already tired of where this conversation was headed. It was always about money.
“Well, you’ll have to wait until I can liquidate his assets. I don’t have enough money to pay anyone back.”
The woman stood and came around the desk. She pulled Laura to her feet and started removing her jacket.
“What are you doing?” She tried to bat away her hands before she started on her blouse buttons.
Uttering something in German, she continued undoing buttons. “I don’t think you are grasping how this works. In Der Schmetterling, until you can pay your debts in cash, you pay your debts with your ass.”
“Excuse me?” Laura fought to push her away, but this woman had obviously done this many times because she had her naked from the waist up in a flash.
“Are you stupid? Until I have the money to pay the new Madame, you’ll pay it to her on your back.” Her eyes were approving as she examined Laura’s breasts. “You’ll definitely do well with the boys. Maybe even a few of the female clients if we dress you right.”
“Like fuck I’ll do anything of the sort. I’m leaving right now.”
The woman produced a knife that she pressed to Laura’s throat.
“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation. I wasn’t giving you a choice. I was never giving you a choice. Now move.”
She marched Laura behind the desk and through a side door she hadn’t noticed before. They walked for a little ways before they turned down another hallway. When they reached the end, the woman produced a key and unlocked a door that opened into a bedroom.
They entered and the woman directed her to remove her trousers and panties. She collected both leaving Laura naked in the cool room.
“The first client will arrive in ten minutes, I suggest you make it a good experience for them or I may be forced to get the money out of you in other ways.”
She gave her one more once over.
“I don’t know why he kept you away from this place. You would’ve continued on the legacy just fine.”
The door shut with a quick click and was followed closely by the snick of the door locking from the outside.
Laura was in a predicament. She tried to ward of the shakes caused by fear, but it was tough. No amount of mace could save her from this situation.