I, Porn Star (I #1)(9)

By: Zara Cox


I have no clue what goes on above street level. I haven’t gone anywhere near the Internet since I hightailed it from Fresno. The one and only time I attempted to use my phone, Clayton found me within the hour. I ditched that phone at a rest stop in Iowa, stuck to hitchhikes all the way to New York, and bullshitted my way to a burner phone.

Whatever high-flying business happens up in the glass and steel tower is none of my concern. All I care about is that this job pays in cash, and that, as long as I keep my head down, no one notices me.

I hurry past the entrance of the building to the side street door that leads down into the cavernous basement. I enter the security code, walk through a large industrial kitchen, then down another set of stairs to the sub-sub-basement level. I shove the heavy double doors open, and a wall of steam and the sound of clanging plates greet me. A smaller side door leads me to the rec and locker room, where I quickly change out of my jeans and T-shirt into my work gear.

The white shirt and matching pants hang loose on me, the result of one too many missed meals. I secure the pants with the cheap rope belt I brought and make sure my hair is tucked under the black hairnet before I head back out.

“Hey, sweet thing. You’re early,” a voice greets me over the rattle and shake of rows of machines churning out glasses and plates.

I slow my stride and nod at Miguel, but I don’t stop as I pass his station. I’ve noticed his eyes on my boobs and ass more times than I’m comfortable with. So far my mild fuck off vibe is working. I’m not sure how long it’ll last though. Experience has taught me that a half-decent set of tits and ass blinds most men to just about everything else.

“Yeah,” I respond. “I lucked out with the subway.” I reach my station and activate the machine. Seconds later, the first stack of clean, steaming plates arrives in front of me.

“That’s great. So…uh, where is it you said you commute from again?” He raises his voice to be heard above the sound of the plates I’m stacking on the tallboy trolley.

I turn and spear him with a cold look. “I didn’t say.”

He looks taken aback for an instant. Then he grins. “Come on, muchacha. I’m just trying to get to know you. No need to be so prickly.”

I turn away without answering. He gets the hint because he doesn’t engage me again for the rest of the morning.

An hour before the lunchtime rush is when hundreds of dirty plates are sent down. I found out through a talkative Miguel that not only are Blackwood Tower employees given three squares daily free of charge, the top executives are also given brunch, hence the late morning madness. The only sliver of a lull comes after lunch, but we’re allowed to take fifteen-minute breaks twice a day besides our lunch break.

During the first break, I pour myself a cup of cheap, but free, coffee from the rec room, grab the burner phone from my locker and head upstairs. Outside, I head deeper into the side street and make sure I’m alone before I turn on the phone.

My heart hammers and my palms grow clammy as I wait for the blue wheel to stop spinning. My rational brain tells me it’s a burner and Clayton will have no way to trace it unless I do something stupid, like call someone back at The Villa. I don’t intend to. For one thing, nothing and no one back there triggers anything near nostalgia, although every now and then I suffer a twinge of guilt for what I did.

All the same I’m nearly dizzy with fear as I check for missed calls.

Nothing.

My heart drops, thankfully along with a large dose of terror once the phone is powered down. But in its place, anxiety rises.

It’s Thursday. The stranger with the mechanical voice said he’d be in touch within the week. Did that mean in the next seven days or within this week, i.e. before Friday? I stare into the middle distance and mull the words over. The longer I think about what happened in that room, the more surreal it feels.

The stunning, but starkly minimalist apartment. The light grey walls with the uncomfortably, artsy chair. The mirror. The futuristic looking camera.

His robotic, hypnotic voice.

Had that all really happened?

“Elly.”

My mind frees itself from the lingering fear. I conclude that I must have fallen into some Kubrick-style, hunger-induced delirium and fantasized the whole thing.

“Elly?”

Which means, my life is still set on a countdown clock, which spans days, possibly a week or two, tops. Because Clayton will find me. And when he does, he’ll kill me. It might be slow or it might be fast. But death will be the ultimate penalty.

“Hey, Elly!”

It takes a nano-second for the name to register as mine. Snapping fingers emphasize the call and I turn to find Miguel hovering five feet from me. A cigarette dangles from his fingers as he stares at me funny.

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