Downtown Ottawa at night was alive, an organism sustaining itself on the neon lights of store fronts and the sounds cars made as they barreled along the streets, tires screeching and exhausts fuming. It was late; not late enough that bars had closed their doors and turned off their signs, but late enough that the day crowd was gone, tucked into bed and waiting for their morning alarms to go off.
The man was not one of those people. He had made himself accustomed to the night life, to the difference in the mannerisms of the people that walked the streets, to the culture that came out of the woodwork when the sun went down. He liked it. It was tricky, and he liked a bit of a challenge. Always had. He nestled himself further into the leather seat of his car and made a turn into Bank Street.
Everything was different on Bank. It was sickeningly safe, a well-lit road with shop fronts everywhere, someone up all the time, someone always watching. It still attracted the dark side of the night life though; even from here the man could see the string of women lined up the road, dressed in skimpy outfits and hugging themselves, looking for warmth in the middle of November. It was unlikely to come. Not in Ottawa. The man inched down one of his tinted windows, peeking out into the cold night air, looking. Watching.
He was no stranger to these women. Most of them knew him, more or less, in some capacity. This was a place he frequented, pulling his Mercedes up to the curb, flashing a smile, unlocking the passenger door. He always planned first, looking for the right place to take them, the right spot where they wouldn't be interrupted. He hated being interrupted. The whole thing was an encumbrance as well: this meant they all knew him. This meant they all knew what he was like, what he wanted, who he was, which didn't always make it easy for him to convince them to slide in next to him and take off into the night. The disappointment worked both ways - he was getting sick of them.
He was almost at the end of the block, ready to turn around and find a different street, when he saw her. She was perched on a bench at the corner of Bank and Fifth, pulling uselessly at a jean jacket draped over her shoulders. Her legs bounced up and down, and he figured she was looking to get warmth and feeling back in them. Maybe she shouldn't have worn shorts like that. There was something about her face, though. He couldn't quite pinpoint what stuck out about it, but when her head lifted and she tucked curled hair behind her ear, their eyes met, and there was something there that made him a little unsure. He shrugged it off and pulled up to the curb.
She was standing at his window before he even had it down, leaning close to see and speak to him. The man flashed her a grin and ducked down to meet her eyes.
"Hey there, pretty lady," he said. "How you doing?"
She smiled at him, "Good."
"What's your name, baby?"
Another smile. She didn't say anything. Fine.
"You look cold. Why don't you get in so we can talk and you can warm up, huh?"
He could see the flicker of hesitance on her face. He reached out of his window and grabbed her wrist, none too gently. The muscles there tightened.
"Come on, baby. Get in."
When he let go of her hand, he watched as she walked around to the passenger side, opening the door tentatively. When she slid onto the seat, he could see that she was shivering - he couldn't tell if it was from the cold or from something else, and he didn't particularly care. He smiled at her.
"Let's go somewhere quiet, okay? It'll be nice."
She didn't object. He liked that.
They drove for a while in silence, the man watching her out of the corner of his eye, the girl looking between the windshield and the passenger side window, more interested in the scenery than him. He pulled into a back alley next to a closed Dairy Queen and turned the car off.
"Are you scared?" he asked her eventually, looking her in the eyes. She shook her head gently, and he thought for a minute that she was smiling. Maybe she was.
The man reached over and grabbed her, pulling her bodily into his lap, holding her hips tightly while she tried to fight him. She was so small. He grabbed her wrists and brought them in front of her. The bones there shifted sickeningly.
"Stop fighting," he hissed, twisting her arm. "Don't fight it."
It took her a few minutes to settle down, to stop squirming and to stop trying to get away. When she did, he let her wrists go.
"You should know better than to fight like that. You set yourself up for this, every single time you and your girls get out on that corner."
She didn't say anything. She just looked at him.
He looked down, raked his eyes up and down her body, taking in the curves and the smoothness of her skin. The worst part about whatever hit him was that he was conscious long enough to hear it make his skull crack.