Jodie shrugged one shoulder. “I was hungry.”
“What? It’s just a body.”
“You don’t really think that.”
“How is this different than people going to work for Visage?”
“Ladies,” Gabe said with a sigh.
“Don’t,” Reyna spat.
“Yeah, if she has something to say, then by all means,” Jodie said, waving her hand out to the side.
Reyna took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Getting angry at Jodie wouldn’t help anything. She was channeling all the shit that she’d gone through onto her closest friend. Someone she definitely did not want to lose.
“I’m sorry that you felt that you had to leave. We want you to come back,” Reyna said.
Gabe shot her an appreciative look. “To what’s left, that is.”
“What’s left?” Jodie asked. She dropped her arms to her sides and glanced between them. “What do you mean?”
“A lot has happened since you left,” Reyna said. “We’ll fill you in when we get you out of here.”
“Wait, I’m not leaving,” Jodie said. “You think I’m doing this for nothing? I have to find June.”
“And are you any closer to finding June than you were before?”
“Yes,” Jodie spat.
“She worked here?” Gabe asked.
Jodie nodded. “Two years ago. One of the girls said that she just stopped showing up. She’d been here for a long time. Kind of a mom of the group. But the owner says he knows more.”
“Let me guess,” Gabe said with a sigh. “He’ll tell you if you can afford it. Since you can’t afford it, you work for him until you can afford the information.”
Jodie ground her teeth together. “So what?”
“It’s called exploitation.” His hands curled into fists. “The owner saw a pretty girl down on her luck. He had an advantage over you and he used it. If he had his way, you’d never get out of here.”
“What a piece of shit,” Reyna muttered.
“I can take care of myself, thank you very much,” Jodie said. She looked furious that Gabe was suggesting she was being taken advantage of.
“Why don’t you point me in the direction of this owner and I’ll handle it,” Gabe suggested.
“I’m not letting you fight my battles for me,” Jodie said. “You should both leave so I don’t get in trouble.”
Reyna pinched the bridge of her nose. “This is a disaster.” She glanced at Jodie. “I know that you want to find your cousin. I want to find June too. But this isn’t the way to go about it. This is putting yourself in a bad situation for no reason except stubbornness. What happens if Visage finds out that you’re here? What happens if the owner finds out that they’re looking for you?”
Jodie deflated, her bravado diminishing. “I didn’t think about that.”
“This isn’t where you belong, Jodie. You’re not safe here.”
“Ugh,” she grumbled. “I thought I could do this on my own.”
Reyna took a step toward her and held her hand out. “Why should you have to when you have me?”
Jodie glanced between them before placing her hand in Reyna’s. “Y’all are really annoying. You know that, right?”
Gabe snorted. “Pretty much.”
Reyna tugged Jodie in for a hug. Having Jodie back felt like a win. And any win was something they needed at this point. With so much up in the air, they needed anything they could get. And Jodie could be an asset if she put her mind to it. Reyna just knew it.
When they separated, Jodie agreed to lead Gabe to the owner of the strip club. They left the private room and headed down a side hallway to an office at the back of the building. No sign announced the room, as if the owner was used to unwanted attention.
Jodie held her hand up and knocked on the door. “Ricky?” Jodie said, using a soft, submissive voice that Reyna hadn’t even believed Jodie was capable of. “It’s Jodie. I got some cash for you from my performance tonight.”
A series of locks released before the door cracked open. “Hurry up and get in here. I don’t have a lot of time.”
Jodie arched an eyebrow at Gabe and Reyna before walking into the office.
“Where’s my money?” Ricky demanded.
Gabe and Reyna followed behind Jodie. Ricky’s eyes widened in surprise then he dashed to his desk.
“Wouldn’t do that,” Gabe said, holding his gun leveled at Ricky’s chest.
Ricky stopped moving as if he were a mouse caught in a trap. “What the hell do you want? I’m running an honest business here.”
Reyna shut the door and bolted it back up. Jodie crossed her arms over her chest in disgust. “Psh, honest.”
“You work. You get paid,” he spat. “I don’t care if you’re a whore or a snitch. I’m still honest.”
“You’re exploiting her,” Gabe said. “Now divulge what you know about June Gardner or else things will be…less than pleasant for you.”
“I can have the cops here in seconds. I have the whole placed wired. They’ll know you were here.”