by Gianvito Pipitone
The Baby Luna was located north of the city, in a very isolated area, along the highway leading to the industrial area. A squalid sign with colored neon showed an explicit figure in décolleté that, at irregular intervals, was stripping. Until it showed the nipples that at the end of the loop exploded in a series of confetti. Or who knows what. As planned, Cedric and Nerval, headed towards the mighty wall of bouncers who, in spite of the cold, were showing off their impressive tribal tattoos from the bomber's half sleeves. Although the couple was provided with the necessary registration for access, the four boys seemed looking forward to encircle Mme Nerval who, from script or not, seemed flattered by those morbid attentions. Meanwhile Cedric, sensing a high level of testosterone in the air, not without some difficulty, finally managed to break away from the asphyxiating pressing of the energumens. Not far away Dutroux, once the fire door had swallowed them, gave gas to his SUV going to lurk nearby, waiting for arrangements and further events.
At check, a matron with a bovine gaze, seemed to chew like a rough camel, showing off a décolleté as deep as a blind well.
- Is it the first time?
He asked in a contemptuous tone, eyeing them from top to bottom.
The two said in unison. And Cedric seemed to betray some nervousness and annoyance for all that ridiculous staging.
- You're not from around here...
The camel woman seemed to emphasize, looking at them sideways...
- Are you from Paris?
- On holiday ?
Cedric said, emphasizing with his tone all his impatience.
- You know the rules right?
The two answered in unison, whatever that meant.
It did not escape the conductor that a slight embarrassment was on air between them. She had to be used to something else given the peculiarity of that place: a local swingers had to always make that alienating effect for a couple of neophytes.
- It's the first time then...
The lady now looked at them almost with compassion, if not, with barely concealed contempt.
Done with the bureaucracy, the two signed a sort of consensus without understanding what it was, and finally the ticket agent demanded that they leave a document in custody. Cedric was very upset by this request and tried to protest. But the woman was intransigent: no documents, no entrance. In the end, he had to give in by handing over a certain Martin Brudel passport, one of several false documents that he kept in his bag ready for need.
As in all self-respecting places, the open bar was placed in the center of the track and only in that short radius all around, you could enjoy just enough lighting. While the dance floor and the rest of the lounges or loggias winding around, remained in dim light. The lighting, poor and vulgar, consisted of a series of low lanterns that gradually changed color from yellow to blue, passing through all shades of red and purple. Fortunately, to facilitate movement, a series of step markers unfolded on the floor, like the luminous paths of an airstrip. Here and there between a loggia and the other some glimpse of light, duly indicated and carefully avoided by customers. In short, the darkness was so thick that, at the end of the evening, Cedric no longer counted the bruises caused by the treacherous corners of the glass tables scattered anywhere and when they were least expected. The loggias were then invaded by the smoke of tobacco cigarettes: evidently the ventilation system was not working if at some point Cedric had almost a sort of lack of intoxication.
Unlike normal premises where there is no privacy because everything must be visible and tailored to the investment of the participant, here privacy reigned supreme. Cedric noticed that no one had a phone in their hands, selfies looked like bandits, and everywhere you turned you could find the sign in plain sight sponsoring "Peace and Love" inside a large rainbow. Every now and then in the middle of so much darkness you could see an armchair on which a couple was crouched and then a pouf, some swings and always lurking those damn edges of the glass tables. For a moment Cedric felt like he was on the set of a movie. A red light movie where it seemed that sooner or later something had to happen. Only, nothing happened. Not even around the bar where everyone's hopes seemed to thicken. And where everyone was gathering, worrying about socializing behind an inevitable glass of wine that, cyclically, filled and emptied.
In short, for about an hour they had been wandering around scouring the room, dodging now that couple now the other, without receiving any message of recognition. Midnight had just struck and Cedric was beginning to fear that he would not be able to handle his cool. Witnessing the wild copulation, feeling the excitement of two hot bodies a stone's throw from him, was a feeling he could not yet imagine. He who, on sex, was very discreet as well as methodical and would never allow anyone to share their intimacy. Judging by the incessant comings and goings from the toilet area, however, it seemed that the game had already begun. Clean and immaculate, equipped with every comfort and with biological condoms scattered everywhere. So he found the toilets. And there he had the first visible demonstration of the particular cut of the room, seeing two amazons in the act of wanting to share the joy for the benefit of a lucky knight.
Perhaps his Annette would not have been happy to know that he had been in a swingers' club. But his work took him from the darkest crypts to the most squalid slums and places like these. Where couples deliberately enjoy watching their own partner being bang. An obvious disease of the times. But not the only one or even the worst, Cedric thought.
In the meantime, he had the opportunity to study mme Nerval who, apart from the very short miniskirt, sported a sort of medallion showing off a huge golden cross. A kind of magnet attracting followers. In just over an hour, he noted, she had already been eyed by at least three couples who would have made a massacre of her, so insistently they were craving at her. Obviously the madame returned the winking looks with the interests and only the strict censorship of Cedric seemed to have prevented the action. It wasn't to fuck that they were there, Cedric reminded her, in a fit of nerves.
About one o'clock, when they had almost lost hope of this mysterious encounter, a tall, distinguished man with an angular face and a golden ring at his left ear, approached Madame Nerval. The woman seemed to have sunk into a sofa for more than half an hour, struggling with a long exchange of messages on her mobile phone. An attitude that had upset Cedric a lot, who from the chair in front of her, observed all her moves. The detective now thought that the choice to visit that swingers' club had proved to be a total defeat. Everything was falling apart in that investigation. The situation had gotten out of hand, he thought bitterly. And so he found himself reviewing the mistakes of those last twenty-four hours. He was annoyed when he thought back to transport: he was totally dependent on his clients for travel. Same thing for accommodation: he could not decide the hotel where to stay overnight and rest during downtime. Moreover: he had not been able to follow his instincts, nor had he had time to think about the concatenation of events, or to collect testimonies as he would have liked. But the thing that upset him most of all was that damn place in which he was. A place where, not only was there nothing to look for, but which could potentially represent a trap for himself and for Nerval. He tried to understand if there was a link between the threatening phone call he had received and the one Madame Nerval had received. And certainly there had to be a logical thread, a precise reason why they wanted mme Nerval to be there that night. And maybe his presence was preventing anything from happening? Nothing, nothing was clear.
The alcohol flowing through his body at that time of night put him in front of his two clients. What kind of people were Monsieur Dutroux and Madame Nerval really? What kind of world did they frequent? Why had Eric disappeared? An extortionate blackmail? What were these kidnappers asking for? Money? Unlikely. But if so, why involve a private detective? It would have been easier to pay the ransom and everything would have come to an end. And even if the request had been exorbitant, it would have made no sense to hire a private detective: to do what? to ask for a discount? Improbable.
Faced with that dangerous showdown, Cedric reproached that he had not studied the two clients enough. Knowing more about them would help him understand what direction his son would take. One thing was certain: the reason why they didn't involve the official police channel had nothing to do with Eric's history and his records with justice. That story was running out of steam from all sides. More likely they were covering up something: something about the couple or the son himself. Or all together.
The synapse was the right one when, between himself and the train of thoughts, a big man showed up in front of the lady. He was dressed in a refined way, not disdaining to appear over the top. She saw him sitting next to mme Nerval and turning to her confidently, as if he had known her before. The distance and the music did not allow Cedric to grasp the dialogue. After a while the man approached Nerval's ear and began to blow into it. She seemed flattered, as Cedric watched the scene furiously from her dim corner. To him, Nerval was acting like a slut in the grip of excitement. He felt indignant, disgusted and for a moment undecided whether to intervene and place a scene that would have definitively freed them from that farce. But out of pride, he resisted and when mme Nerval reached him to convince him to join the rest, the detective with a gesture of anger, drew back the arm on which the Nerval had leaned. Somewhat annoyed, she shouted out of her teeth:
- What the fuck are you doing now? Did you see that man approached me? Maybe he is our man, the one of the phone call.
- I doubt it's him.
Cedric replied, looking at her with hatred. But Nerval did not seem to miss a touch of jealousy in his beaviour.
- And what should I do now?
She confronted him with a hard face, more annoyed, as if the detective's edginess had all turned into a blow in an impediment to his happiness. The red LED intermittently illuminated his stupid face on which hovered suspended his impatient anger.
- Do what you want, if you take him to bed, us if that's what he wants! I doubt that there is anyone here tonight who can help us with our research.
The woman felt offended by those words, turned on her heels and decisively went to take back the hand of the man who was now waiting for her with a goblet in one hand and the cigar in the other, together with what seemed to be his elegant wife.
From a distance the man stared at Cedric, spreading his arms, in question. As if he wanted to ask him: well, what are you doing? Will you leave me alone with your woman now, without demanding the change? But Cedric pretended to ignore him, turning his contemptuous gaze away, barely suppressing a spit that would free him from the anger he felt boiling inside and upsetting him to madness.
Finally the trio disappeared behind the privè. And Cedric had no choice but to wreak havoc with alcohol for that evening. Perhaps, without admitting it too much even to himself, the thing that hurt him most was that he was not the object of the attentions of the provocative Mme Nerval. A delicate open question, the one between himself and his pride. An issue that would not be resolved even that evening.