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Chapter Four

The Sluts of Limehouse

It was another humid morning. A light fog lay over Plaistow as it did sometimes; it was just another one of London’s microclimates, with a mist that followed a hot sunny day.

I looked up through the wisps of grey, and could see blue skies faintly above me. I wondered how long the weather would last. I wondered if summer would go on forever this year.

I walked to the Docklands Light Railway station, and took a train to Limehouse. The shadows of fog had faded by the time I got off the train.

Limehouse police station was bustling, even in the early hours of the morning. I stood in line with the early drunks, the pushers and the shovers, desperate to contest their parking fines. The smell of urine was particularly strong.

This was about a thousand miles away from where I wanted to be. People snarled, they shouted at the copper behind the inch-thick Plexiglas barrier. Those who weren’t busy swearing at the policeman on duty, seemed intent on trying to outdo each other in the “who had been the most shit-upon,” stakes.

“They stole my car—I only had her a week,” one wailed.

“You’re lucky, mate,” bellowed another. “I barely got my car out of the showroom before someone slashed the tires, nicked the hubcaps and bent me aerial.” There was a round of painful hisses at that. No one wants their aerial bent.

My turn to be seen by the duty officer came up. I trod carefully around a pool of vomit, and went into the semi private cubicle. A bored-looking young man began scribbling on a sheet of paper.

“What can I do for you?” he asked without looking up.

“It’s my friend. I’m worried about her. She’s been missing for about a week.”

“How old?” he asked, reaching to the side to get a new form which he instantly began to complete.

“How old, what?”

“How old is your friend?”

I shrugged. I could only guess. “Early twenties, I think.”

“Any disabilities?”

“What?”

The policeman glanced up at me, a cross look on his face.

“No, I don’t think so.”

He looked back down at his form, passing a line through it.

“Little we can do then.”

“Her girlfriend went missing too,” I supplied, hoping something would make him pick up his pen once more, but instead of new interest, his face went hard.

“I’m not being funny,” he started, “But maybe they ran off together.”

“What?”

“You know,” he said with a sneer. “Some homosexuals experience quite a bit of…” he faltered for a moment. “A bit of grief,” he finished. “Maybe they were victims of homophobia.”

“And?”

“And I don’t know anything about that. So what I recommend is that you see our hate crime officer. She’s queer as a nine-bob note,” he said simply.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m not being funny, but she’s a confirmed Lesbian,” he said with certainty.

“Confirmed?” I asked. “Does that mean she’s Catholic too?”

“Interview room number three.” The policeman ignored my barb. “Ring the buzzer and she’ll let you in.” And with that, he got up and left. I clenched my fist beneath the table. If Yvonne had done a runner, I would beat the crap out of her for wasting my time and putting me through this garbage.

I walked down the narrow corridor to Interview Room three. Another female copper walked in my direction through the gloomy passageway—she seemed somewhat familiar. Our eyes met as she walked closer. I glanced at the tall Asian woman just as she looked at me. She averted her eyes at the same time I did—I recognized her as the woman in the bathhouse who I had seen with two dildos, holding them like they were pistols from the Wild West. I wasn’t going to push things. Still, I glanced at her as she stepped past me. I watched her hips wiggle as she moved; I’d seen her bare thighs peek from beneath her towel. I knew just how smooth she was beneath her stiff uniform. As my dear old Aunty Connie used to say, we are all black when the lights go out. Aunty Connie was silly as a loon.

I lifted my hand to the buzzer, but before I could press it, I felt a solid presence against my back. I froze as arms stretched out on either side of my face, trapping me against the door. Hot breath tickled the back of my neck. I suddenly found it hard to breathe.

“What are you doing here?” The Indian-accented voice made me sag a little with realization; this was the dildo-packing copper.

“I’m seeing the hate crime officer,” I squeaked.

“I can’t believe anyone would hate you,” she purred in my ear, grinding her crotch against my backside. “Have you been behaving yourself?”

I nodded. The copper suddenly stepped away. I stayed where I was, pressed up against the door.

“No loitering in the corridors,” she said in a more official voice. I wondered what had changed her mood, but as I did, two cleaners walked by, carrying mops and buckets. The copper strode away, hips swaying.

The hate officer was a tiny pale woman squirreled away in an equally small office. I wondered if they ever let her out of there. She looked as if she hadn’t seen the sun in a very long time.

“Yes, yes?” she peeped like a bird. I gave her all the details. “So this was a homophobic motivated crime?” she asked impatiently.

“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug.

“Where did your friend socialize?”

“The Locker Room. It’s a…”

“It’s a Lesbian bar. I know it.” She scribbled in her big notepad.

“And the Bathhouse…”

“Just off Bethnal Green Road? I know that too.” She sighed happily for a moment, her eyes going a little dreamy. Blimey, that place is amazing. I had some good times there.” Her smile widened even more. “There were these really fit women who used to give massages, but they weren’t your regular massages, if you catch my drift. I couldn’t walk straight for two days.”

“My friend,” I prompted.

“Oh, there’s little I can do about that. And if this Yvonne is the same one I think I know, then good luck with finding her.”

“What!” I screeched, pissed off.

“And forget it if she owes you any money,” the officer finished.

“My friend disappears, her girlfriend disappears, there’s some guy watching her apartment, and all you can say is good luck?” The blood had rushed to my cheeks.

“She probably owes him money too,” she said with a resigned shrug.

I stood, counted to five, because I knew I’d never make it to ten.

“So I’m on my own then?”

“Sorry, love. If you ever find yourself in the Locker Room on a Friday night, give us a shout, otherwise, good-bye.”

I slammed the door on the way out. I was mad as hell.

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