Eddie could feel the whole elevator car move as it screeched to a halt at the third level of the subbasement. He had to force the doors open door here, as opposed to the more maintained elevator doors in the office. There was no working floor indicator in the elevator, but he knew exactly where he was. As he stepped out of the elevator, he could hear the loud moans of men through the thin metal walls.
Along the hallway were drapes of red and purple velvet and blue Christmas lights lighting up the ceiling. It was decorated in an unusual way, but Eddie figured that was the point. As he walked down the hall, he read the different names spray-painted on the unit doors. There was Avarice, Malevolence, Echo and quite a few others.
Eddie stopped at a desk that was set up at the end of the main hall. Lit up in purple light was a PB in unique font. One woman sat at the desk dressed in black under a black leather jacket and a tight dog collar around her neck. She turned at smiled at Eddie.
“Hello and welcome to Pandora’s Box.” She said. “I am Lady Strife. Is this your first time?” Eddie smiled and nodded. “Wonderful. We have a few options for you to go over.”
“Such as?” Eddie asked, genuinely curious.
Lady Strife smiled. “Well, we offer memberships and repeat discounts. You can also book with one Mistress or sample all that we have to offer.” She gave him a look that Eddie thought was flirtatious, but remembered that it was her job to try to be. “May I see the card you used to come inside?”
Eddie handed her the card after taking it out of his pocket. “Pandora’s Box came highly recommended by one of my teachers.” Eddie smiled.
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I wouldn’t know what our clients do. We maintain a strict level of confidentiality.” Lady Strife answered. She placed the card on the nearby desk. She grabbed another from a stack she kept next to a card reader on her desk. “I will need your name.” She said with a smile.
“Edison Nash.” Eddie answered, using the same name he gave Johnny K. If everything Eddie read on GreenLight was true, then the girls who work here would recognize the name Nygma.
Eddie watched Lady Strife swipe a fresh card through the reader and started typing. “Were you interested in repeated discounts, or in full time membership to Pandora’s Box?”
“What’s the difference?” Eddie asked.
“Repeated discounts do not meet the same benefits as membership.” Lady Strife answered. “Membership can be Mistress-exclusive, along with priority appointments and other deals when they come up down the line.” She smiled. “Repeated discount means you, as a repeat customer, save a percentage off each visit, which is also available to Members.” She handed him a purple card. “Whichever you decide, you will need this card to get inside.”
“Thank you.” Eddie answered.
“Would you like to spend some time in the lounge and think about it? We have a fully stocked bar at your disposal.” Strife offered.
“I think I just might.” Eddie answered.
“It’s just down this way.” Strife answered, showing him the way.
Eddie walked down the hall, passing closed unit after unit, some filled with the muffled sounds of heavy metal or hard rock and moaning. Eddie ran his fingers across his forehead, trying to keep himself composed.
Why are we just waiting? Get the membership and find out who the source is! Eddie’s internal voice shouted at him.
Eddie sighed as he entered the lounge. It was one of the larger units on the floor, modified with a counter and shelves stocked with bottles among bottles of hard liquor and a few cases of bottled beer chilling in ice. Eddie took a seat in a chaise lounge chair, rubbing his hands together before interlocking his fingers, waiting.
“Hi, I’m Diedre.” A woman said as she approached Eddie. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“I’m good, thank you.” Eddie answered the bartender.
Diedre went to walk away, but she stopped and turned back to Eddie. “You all right? You look like you’re trying to choose between the red pill and the blue pill.”
“Hm? Oh, no. My first time.” Eddie chuckled. “I was just offered the whole ‘membership vs. repeat customer’ hard sell.”
Diedre smiled, nodding. “Yeah, Strife is good with that.”
“How come you don’t have a…code name, I guess?” Eddie asked.
“I’m just a bartender and server. My job description doesn’t cover what all the other girls do.” Diedre answered. Eddie nodded. “If you want my advice…if this is the sort of thing you’re into…go with the membership and just pick one Mistress to work with.”
Eddie nodded again. “Anyone in particular you would recommend?”
Diedre smiled. “Mistress Echo. She’s in the top ten, but doesn’t get the credit she deserves. The more clients she has, the better.”
“She a friend of yours?” Eddie asked.
Diedre smiled again. “Something like that.” She walked away from Eddie.
Ooh, got a love angle in this story. Eddie’s internal voice said.
Eddie groaned and got up, shaking off the thoughts in his head. He found Lady Strife at her desk. “I’ve made my choice.”
She smiled. “And?”
“I would like a full membership, with an exclusive Mistress deal.” Eddie answered.
Lady Strife nodded. “All right.” She opened a drawer in her desk and took out a book. “You can take a look through this—”
“I was given Mistress…Echo as a recommendation.” Eddie answered.
“I see you’ve been talking to Diedre.” Lady Strife answered. “Okay. She will be available in about ten minutes with her current client.” She pointed back to the lounge. “You’re welcome to wait.”
“Thanks.” Eddie answered.
Eddie sat at the bar, staring at a glass of liquor he barely sipped. He heard the sound of a throat clearing and turned around to see Lady Strife under the doorway. “Mistress Echo is ready for you now.” She said with a smile.
Eddie sighed and turned to Diedre who was polishing a few glasses. “Wish me luck.” He got up from his bar stool and followed Lady Strife down the hall to a unit marked ECHO on the metal door.
“Just swipe your card here.” She said. Eddie took out the new card she had given him earlier and swiped it through a card reader. The door began to rise up and Lady Strife put her hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “Enjoy.” She said before walking back down the hall.
Eddie looked to Strife before entering the unit. Inside, the walls were covered in black and red curtains with gold tassels and lights of various colors. Up against the back wall was a black chaise lounge upholstered in velvet. He stood there, motionless, hearing the door shut behind him.
“Hello, I am Mistress Echo and…” a voice said from the shadows. Her voice had trailed off into silence.
“And…and what?” Eddie answered. He watched as Mistress Echo stepped into the light from the corner of the unit, seeing a familiar face with light brown hair wrapped up in a long ponytail and blue eyes that used to be behind a pair of light blue glasses. “Nina?” Eddie asked, recognizing his ex-girlfriend’s roommate, Nina Damfino.
“Eddie?” Nina asked, shocked. “What are you doing here?!”
“Trying to feel better about Amara breaking up with me.” Eddie said, giving her a quarter-truth. “What are you doing here?”
“Making extra cash for tuition and books.” Nina answered. She ran to him, putting her hand on his chest. “Please. Amara doesn’t know I work here. Keep this to yourself.”
Eddie shook his head. “I, I won’t say anything. I doubt she would even believe me if I did.”
“Yeah, she was pretty upset with you after the Dean and his son got arrested.” Nina answered. “And after they made bail—”
“Wait, they made bail?” Eddie asked. She nodded.
Damn! How did we not hear about that?
“Uh, when?” Eddie asked.
“About three days ago. The university board withdrew Jim’s scholarship and Dean Hastings is up against the disciplinary committee.” Nina answered. She sat down on the lounge chair. “Right after the first hearing, Amara got some news.”
Eddie took a step forward. “What news?”
“She didn’t say.” Nina answered. “Only that she was leaving.”
All this was news to Eddie, but then he was not keeping tabs on Amara after learning about Pandora’s Box. “Did she leave yet?”
Nina nodded. “Yesterday.” She sighed. “It sucks. I really liked her.”
We gotta find out why! Find the nearest computer, Eddie! NOW!
Eddie sighed, nodding. “Okay. Thanks, Nina. I’ll look into it.” He turned to the door and swiped his card so that the door would open. “I’ll figure it out.” He walked out of the room and left Nina alone in her unit.
“What will he figure out?” she asked herself.
══ The Next Day ══
Eddie decided not to go to his afternoon class. Instead, he went to the computer lab and cooped himself up in the back corner where he liked to work during the day. He made sure no one was nearby to snoop and went to work, shoving a flash drive into the computer.
“This should get me back into the main campus servers.” Eddie muttered to himself as he typed. “From here, bypass the firewall and access student files…Amara Espinoza…” He read the computer screen and quoted what he read. “Tuition denied for semester?” He typed again. “Room and board withdrawn? No way Amara would have gotten expelled.” He continued to type. “Requested letter of recommendation for transfer to another school…credits transfer effective three days ago.” He leaned back in the chair. “Amara went to another school?” He typed more commands into the computer, reading.
It was an expulsion, but made to look like she transferred.
“Oh, for the love of God, shut up.” Eddie whispered to himself.
You’re not getting rid of me that easily, Eddie. Eddie ignored the voice and continued to type. Come on, Eddie. Do what we do best. Let me loose on the campus.
Eddie logged off the computer and typed in the command code to get into GreenLight. He clicked on the personal message icon and started typing.
You were right. Gotham U girls do work at Pandora’s Box. It was not that difficult to get in. Wanna tell me what you really do here on GreenLight?
He logged off GreenLight and exited the computer lab, heading outside to the lot and to his car. Eddie turned over the engine and sat in the driver’s seat, feeling the cool air from the fans blow in his face. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Get it together, Eddie.” His phone vibrated. He grabbed it, seeing a text message from his father. “Ugh, what does he want now?” He shifted into drive and left campus.
══ Back Home ══
Eddie walked through the front door, only to feel the meaty fingers of his father grab him by the shirt collar and throw him against the wall. “You sumbitch! I ask you to get me beer and you don’t do it?!”
“Dad, I’ve been at school this whole time!” Eddie answered. “I was gonna grab it later after class.”
“Don’t you lie to me, boy. I didn’t raise no liar!” his father answered, slurring his words. “You know what we do to liars in my family?” He asked as he grabbed an umbrella from the stand. Eddie said nothing. “Damn right, you stay silent boy.” He swung the umbrella at him. “Liars get punished. You tell the truth!”
“Dad!” Eddie shouted.
“Shut up and get me my damn beer!” Eddie’s father shouted. He went to swing the umbrella again, but Eddie caught the umbrella in his hand, staring down his father.
“Boy, you did not.” His father whispered. Eddie pushed the umbrella away and tried to run. He got into the living room before his father tackled him to the floor. “You will respect your father.” He said as he got up. “And you will not…” he grabbed one of the metal pokers they kept at the fireplace. “…lie to me.” He swung the poker down, repeatedly hitting Eddie’s feet and lower legs. Eddie whimpered and did his best not to cry, for it would only make things worse. His father tried to catch his breath and tossed the poker aside. “Once you’re able to walk…go get my damn beer.” He sighed and walked away, leaving Eddie writhing on the floor in pain.