Trip on This: Chapter Nine (Part One)

Chapter Nine (Part One)

I am still simmering and don’t want to even be in the same room as Greeley, let alone brainstorm with him.  Who the hell died and made him god?  How dare he intimate that I have done something to bring this upon myself.  That’s like telling a rape victim that she shouldn’t have worn that outfit or shouldn’t have been walking in that area at that particular time when the bottom line is, she shouldn’t have been raped.  I was simply trying to do my job.  Period.  What this asshole doesn’t understand is that I don’t have the same options that he has, and now that I’ve finally found something I’m good at—that doesn’t include me spreading my legs for hours on end—I’m not going to let some assholes stop me from doing it.  I will never be the president of the United States or CEO of a fucking corporation or even an executive secretary for the CEO of a fucking corporation.  I have neither the education nor the skills for such lofty jobs.  What I’m good at is repossessing possessions that shouldn’t have fallen into the wrong hands in the first place.  It’s ironic that it’s my skills as a repo man that have gotten me into this mess, but perhaps it will be the same talents that help me get out of it as well.

“We need a plan,” Vandalia says, snuggling next to Greeley.  She is idly stroking his leg which causes him to look at her as if to jump her bones right there in front of Mowgli and me.  “I’m worried about what Blanche told the assholes before they killed her.  I mean, if she told her coworker about meeting with you, then maybe she told them where you guys met.  And the coworker described us, too!”  Her eyes open wide.  “Are we going to have to go around in disguises, too?”

“No one can tell it’s you guys from Melody’s description,” I reply.  “I think she did that on purpose, by the way.  Only wants to fuck me up, not you guys.”

“I don’t know,” Vandalia says.  “It would make more sense to describe us completely to get closer to you.  I think she only really paid attention to you.”

“Shit, this is getting too complicated,” Mowgli mutters, rubbing his forehead.  He doesn’t look as fresh as he normally does, which is understandable under the circumstances.  “Why can’t we find them?”

“I wonder,” Greeley says slowly.

“What do you wonder?”  I ask sharply.  I haven’t forgiven him yet, but this isn’t the time for retribution.

“What if Andretti isn’t his real name, either?  I think we need to concentrate on O’Reilly.”

“I wonder if there’s any way of getting close to the mayor,” Vandalia adds.  “Maybe volunteering or something?  I really think he’s the key to this whole thing.  Even if he’s not the one handing out the orders, he has to be aware of what’s going on.”

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Trip on This: Chapter Eight (Part Three)

Chapter Eight (Part Three)

“Shit,” I yawn as I wake up.  I had a disturbing dream that I can’t remember upon waking which has kept me from sleeping soundly.  This is so unlike me that I’m not sure what to do about it.  Realizing that there is nothing I can do about it, I drag myself out of bed, disgruntled.  I take a quick shower and dress in a flattering emerald-green top and slacks.  I can’t believe it’s only Friday, four days after my personal hell started.

“Morning, Sunshine,” Vandalia says grimly tossing the paper on the table in front of me.  The appetizing aroma of bacon and eggs is in the air causing me to salivate.

“Mowgli make it home okay?”  I had gone to bed before Mowgli left, so I wasn’t sure how late he stayed.  Or what the two of them did after I went to bed.  By the looks they were sending each other, I have a hunch that they are more than just friends.  Which leads me back to my question of what gender is Vandalia.  I shrug as I pour myself a glass of orange juice.  It’s really none of my business, and I don’t particularly care as I’m not attracted to her.  It would interest me to know if she and Mowgli are lovers or have ever been, but it is purely personal curiosity to which I don’t often give in.

“Mowgli’s still here,” Vandalia says, her tone still hard.  “He’s taking the day off.”

“Why?”  I look at her levelly, not understanding the emotion emanating from her.  She seems pissed, though not necessarily at me.

“Read the paper.”  Vandalia turns back to the stove to look after her cooking.  “He was going to go in later, but we need to call a war council.”  I pick up the paper and scan the headlines.

“Lady in White Found Slain Behind Famous Strip Club!”  I shut my eyes, knowing what is to follow.  Jesus, those assholes must have a personal hotline to the press the way they control the flow of information.  I’m sure when I open my eyes and read the article, Blanche’s name will jump right out at me.  I knew I should have gone back to the club last night; I just knew it.

“Read it!”  Vandalia barks, forcing me to open my eyes.  She is glowering at me—an irate hausfrau wrapped in a bright red muumuu.

The story is sensational, though maybe not by San Francisco’s jaded standard.  An ‘anonymous tipster’ had called the police in the wee hours of this morning after hearing noises in the same apartment building where Sylvian was killed.  The cops burst into the apartment and found—surprise, surprise—Blanche White dead on her living room floor.  Quite a coincidence that she lived in the same building in which Sylvian was found.  The police revealed that the place was in shambles and it would take them some time to discern what—if anything—had been stolen.  It is clear that Blanche White, nee Bertha Dubrowski—no wonder she changed her name—has been murdered by a single gunshot to the heart.  In case anyone’s wondering if it’s suicide, she was hog-tied at the time of her demise.  Not too easy to shoot yourself in the heart with your hands tied behind your back.  As with Sylvian and Sato, there is no evidence of sexual intercourse, but Blanche had been severely beaten and tortured before she was killed.  The cops say they have irrefutable evidence that Blanche White’s death ties in with Angelica Sylvian’s and Evelyn Sato’s, which means that folks, we have a serial killer on our hands, and it’s a female.  As I read, I’m getting more and more pissed off.  What’s clear to me is that I am an easy scapegoat for these fuckers to pin a whole plethora of murders on.  I curse DiCalvo for walking into my life, and I know that he is going to fucking pay one way or another.

‘Colleagues who talked to Ms. Dubrowski before work say she seemed nervous and upset,’ Detective Beauregard says, his face serious.  I stare at the picture of the handsome detective—six-two, dark wavy hair, blue eyes—committing his face to memory.  Another asshole to add to my list of fuckers who are out to get me.  Either this man is in the pocket of DiCalvo, or he’s being played like a mandolin.  Either way, he’s now my enemy.  I also wonder why the chief of police didn’t comment himself as is usual in a case like this.  Is it because he wants to keep his hands clean or because Beauregard has convinced him to stay out of it?  Either way, I need to find out more about the chief, too.  I need to know exactly who in the police department has it in for me.

‘She mentioned meeting with an Asian woman before coming to work,’ Melody Anderson is quoted as saying.  ‘There was an Asian woman in the audience the night before Blanche was killed.  She seemed awfully interested in Blanche.  Fixated, you know.’  I am stony-faced as I read the quotes from little Melody.  She, too, is thrust onto my list.  Melody goes on to say the Asian woman doesn’t fit the description of the suspect, but she was wearing a lot of makeup and seemed to have cut her hair short.  She goes on to describe Mowgli, Greeley, and Vandalia whom the police call ‘possible accomplices’.  Her descriptions are vague, however, and would fit half of the San Francisco population.

By the time I’m finished reading the article, I am speechless with rage.  How dare these pricks do this to me?  Not only do they kill without compunction, they don’t give a damn that they’re sending me to the chair.  Whatever body count they end up with, they best add one more if I’m caught, tried, and electrocuted for crimes I never committed.  Why the fuck me?  How did they happen to chose me?  It can’t just be because I’m Asian and because O’Reilly has a fetish for Asian women—that’s too flimsy.  When I cool down, I can see that if my being Asian is a primary concern, then it had to be me.  Let’s face it—there aren’t many female Asian repo men running around.  In fact, I can’t think of another one besides me.

“Fuckers,” I say, not realizing I’ve said it out loud.  I stop reading halfway through the article because I can’t stomach finishing it.

“We need to powwow,” Vandalia says, sliding a plate full of food in front of me.  Normally, I don’t eat breakfast, but I make an exception this time.  I’m so angry, I need something to fuel that anger.  My therapist used to tell me that I had to let go of my anger which is one reason I think therapy is a crock of shit.  Anger is a useful tool, and it’s much better than fear.  Continue Reading

Trip on This: Chapter Eight (Part Two)

Chapter Eight (Part Two)

Trip doesn’t like Blanche any better than she had the first time she laid eyes on the whore.  Blanche isn’t nearly as beautiful up close as she appears on stage because her pores are bigger, her lips are slightly too narrow, her nose a hair too long, and her eyes too close together.  Still, she struts into the place like she owns it, her ass swaying solely for Mowgli’s benefit.  She’s dressed in white jeans which are three sizes too small for her, a white tank top, and white stiletto heels.  Nothing is tackier than high heels and jeans, but somehow, Blanche carries it off.  She’s wearing enough makeup to feel right at home up on stage, and her eyes are a perfect blank.  Either she’s on something, or she’s very well trained not to give herself away.  She holds her head high, staring coldly at Trip before resting her eyes on Mowgli.  She favors him with a wide smile which shows more gum than teeth, but the smile never touches her eyes.

“Well, what can I do for you?”  Her eyes flick to Trip and back to Mowgli.  “I don’t do girls, though she can watch if she wants, I guess.”  Her tone is doubtful, but gains confidence as she flops on the couch.  “Two hundred an hour, no kinky stuff.  That’s extra.”  The straps of her tank top slide down her arms before either Mowgli or Trip can get a word in edgewise.  They both watch in amusement as Blanche wriggles her boobs for their benefit.  Obviously, Mowgli isn’t affected by the show but appreciates the effort whereas Trip doesn’t care for such artifice, her own current look notwithstanding.  “Well?”  Blanche says impatiently.  A flicker of uncertainty crosses her face as Mowgli makes no move towards her.  She flushes and pulls up the straps of her top, crossing her arms in front of her chest.  “Well?”  Her tone is belligerent to cover up her embarrassment.

“You’ve misunderstood, Ms. White,” Trip drawls, her eyes watching Blanche carefully.  “We are not in need of your…services, though we will surely pay you for your most valuable time.”  Even with the saccharine Trip ladles on her words, Blanche is quick to catch the undercurrent and flushes.

“I don’t have to take this,” she says angrily, standing up in a huff.

“Lucien Andretti,” Trip says softly.  Blanche turns as white as her name as the forbidden name is uttered.  She sways in place as her knees buckle, but she doesn’t leave.  “Caleb O’Reilly,” Trip adds, the magnolia gone from her tone.  She isn’t playing, and she wants to make sure that Blanche realizes it.  “Angelica Sylvian.”  Blanche is trembling as she listens to the names so Mowgli escorts her back to the couch where she sits down again.  Trip remains standing so she can retain the psychological advantage.

“What do you want from me?”  Blanche whispers, all traces of arrogance gone.  “I don’t have any money to pay you.”

“I don’t want your money,” Trip hisses, still using the Southern accent.  “We just need to have a little heart-to-heart you and me.  Girl talk.”  She looks at Mowgli, but he shakes his head.  As much as he loves Trip, he knows her too well to leave her alone with Blanche.

“What’s there to talk about?”  Blanche still hasn’t looked Trip in the eye, but steals a glance at Mowgli who smiles reassuringly at her.  She seems emboldened by it and straightens her spine.

“I’m going to be frank with you, Blanche,” Trip says, her tone cold.  “I know Angel is dead.  I know Andretti did it.  I know O’Reilly knows about it and is abetting, even if it’s after the fact.  What I don’t know is where you fit in.”  She stops, allowing Blanche the opportunity to talk.  Blanche, however, chooses to exercise her God-given right to remain silent.  Unfortunately for her, this is not a court of law, and Trip is no judge.  “Answer me!”  Trip’s voice lashes out, causing Blanche to flinch.

“I’m not supposed to talk about it,” Blanche says in a little girl’s voice, keeping her eyes fastened to Mowgli’s comforting face.  He sits next to her and pats her knee in an avuncular fashion.  She leans into his touch which causes him to quickly pull his hand away.  Even in her fear, she can’t help but sexualize her interactions with Mowgli.

“Tough.”  Trip’s voice is uncompromising.  “Another girl died, Blanche.  Evelyn Sato.  Ever heard of her?”  Blanche silently shakes her head, but her face grows even whiter.  “She died because she knew something about Caleb O’Reilly.  Murdered, though they tried to make it look like suicide.  She told me some things, but held back.  She would have told me eventually, but now it’s too late for her.”  Trip pauses, letting the implication dangle.

“What did she know?”  Blanche asks, nervously clutching her hands together.

“Would you like something to drink?”  Mowgli breaks in, earning a scowl from Trip.  She hates having her flow interrupted, but Mowgli is concerned about Blanche’s pallor and doesn’t want her fainting on them.

“Yes, please,” Blanche answers, trying to smile.  “Gin and tonic if you have it.  I wouldn’t mind some food, either.”  Trip refrains from rolling her eyes, but how like a whore to take what she can get even before it’s offered to her.

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Trip on This: Chapter Eight (Part Two)

Chapter Eight (Part Two)

“I feel pretty, oh so pretty,” Vandalia is singing as I enter the apartment.  “Why, hello, Trip!  Isn’t this a glorious day?”  She smiles at me in the manner of one who’s just been thoroughly fucked.  “Who would have thought young Greeley would have had it in him?”  She giggles as she waltzes around the kitchen.  “By the way, nice disguise.”  I have shed the wig, but I still look drab in my ‘I’m trying to blend in’ ensemble.  “That’s my wig, isn’t it?”  Vandalia asks, spotting it in my hand.  “Oh well.  It didn’t suit me, anyway.”  I hate talking to people in lust.  They think everything they do, say, and feel is so profound when it’s simply inane.  Without fail, sex brings out the stupid in people—that’s why I tend to stay away from it except as a strict physical release.  Who needs the complicated shit that accompanies romance?

“Got anything to eat?”  I ask, opening the fridge.

“Yes, and thanks for asking how my night was,” Vandalia says waspishly, but quickly regains her sunny mood.  “Can you believe we did it four times in five hours last night?  I feel as if a train has plowed its way through my thighs.”  She giggles again as she continues to hum and sidestep around the kitchen.  “Girl, there’s nothing like a good loving to cure what ails you.”  She flicks her eyes up and down me.  “You look as if you could use a good fuck.”

“What I could use is Andretti’s and O’Reilly’s nuts in a vise,” I growl, pulling a container of egg salad out of the refrigerator.  “Then I’ll work on getting laid.”  The bartender from Tosca’s flits through my mind, but I can’t remember his name.

“Girl, you know what they say,” Vandalia drawls, pointing at me.  “It’s gonna plumb dry up if you don’t use it.”  It’s irritating that Vandalia has seemed to appoint herself my big sister, but I am beholden to her because she’s letting me stay in her apartment, so I keep my mouth shut.

“I’m going to check the news,” I say abruptly, taking the egg salad sandwich I made into my bedroom.  I power up the computer and wait impatiently for my Yahoo! homepage to show its sweet face.  I zip over to the Chron’s webiste, and grit my teeth in anger.  The news I’ve expected to see is there billed as breaking news, and it’s worse than I thought.

“Cops Get A Break!”  The headline screams.  The story goes on to say that a witness has come forth with the information of seeing an Asian woman breaking into the building of one Angelica Sylvian the night she was murdered.  There is a fairly detailed description of me along with a police sketch that, amazingly, looks eerily similar to the real me.  ‘The police state that this woman, placed in her early twenties, is at the very least a witness and at the most, a suspect.  They would like to question her, so she should do her civic duty and turn herself in.’  I have to laugh at the last statement—why in hell would I voluntarily turn myself in knowing what I know?  The writer must be smoking crack to think that I’m going to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, this is the woman seen breaking into Angelica’s apartment.  How may I help you?’  Even if I don’t show up at the cop shop, they can trace where I’m calling from, and besides, my interactions with Andretti and O’Reilly have convinced me that they have connections in high places, most likely including the cops.  It’s a no-go on me turning myself in, thank you very much.  I check the Examiner as well, which carries the identical story, except, they emphasize even more strongly that I’m a suspect and not just a mere witness.  I curse under my breath, then stop.  Why now?  It’s Thursday, the third day after the murder.  What do the Handy Man and Silver Tongue have to gain by alerting the cops to my presence now?  Is it because they know I’m dogging their every move and are worried that I’m getting too close, or is it something else?  I know they set me up to take a fall for Angel, but what about Evelyn?  What is going down tonight, and am I going to be blamed for that as well?  I find the timing of this ‘news break’ odd, but I can’t figure out what the reason for it is.

“Vandalia?  Can I talk to you a minute?”  I walk out to the living room where Vandalia is watching the soaps.  Instead of sudsy activity, however, there is—you guessed it—breaking news.  She’s watching with rapt attention as the composite sketch of my face appears on the screen.

“That’s you,” she says needlessly, her mouth dropping open in awe.  “I mean, I knew you were in trouble because Roberto told me so, but I never expected…”  Her voice trails off just as my cell phone rings.  I find my bag in the kitchen and fish my phone out of it.  It’s Mowgli.

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Trip on This: Chapter Eight (Part One)

The morning comes too quickly for Trip’s taste.  She spent a good hour after returning from the Tenderloin watching infomercials to clear her mind.  She hates returning to her stamping grounds because it makes her feel as if she’s only one step away from where she’s trying so hard to leave.  This morning, her head is thumping with the dull regularity of a hangover—which is something she never has.  The again, she hardly ever drinks as much as she did the night before.  She lies in bed pondering her plan for the day.  She needs to talk to Blanche outside her natural habitat, but has a hunch that Blanche will not be as eager to talk to her.  Trip knows that Mowgli is right when he says Blanche will talk to him before talking to her, but Trip needs to be the one to talk to Ms. White.  She wants to do it as soon as possible, but reluctantly admits that it would be better to have Mowgli present when she does so.  It grates her ass to have to rely on someone else, but discretion is the better part of valor and all that.

O’Reilly needs to be talked to as well.  He definitely is in on the bigger picture, however reluctantly.  Trip knows that her ultimate goal is to get to Andretti, but she wants her ducks in a row before she tackles the big man herself.  She wants to make sure that there’s no way the man will slip through her fingers once she tracks him down.  She hauls herself out of bed and takes a shower.  She drinks some juice as she ponders what to do in the morning.  She doesn’t want to barge in on O’Reilly at his place of work, but she wants to make sure she nabs him.  Does that mean following him again?  She sighs at the thought of such tedium.  Today, she is aiming for blending in with her environment and pulls on a pair of jeans, a beige sweatshirt, and sneakers.  She flattens her hair so it hangs around her face in forlorn tufts.  She dabs on makeup to make her face look sallow and unattractive.  It’s not enough.  She goes into Vandalia’s room, and sure enough, there are wigs.  Trip thought she had seen them when she was in Vandalia’s room yesterday. She picks a blond wig cut in the pageboy style and pulls it firmly over her hair.  She nods in satisfaction at her image—nobody would look twice at her.  She slumps over slightly and shuffles her feet as she walks.  After stopping at an ATM to withdraw some cash, she is on her way.

But to where?  Does she really want to stalk O’Reilly again?  She wishes she could talk to Evelyn, but quickly dismisses that thought.  She doesn’t live in the past, and there’s no use regretting what she hadn’t done.  That’s a selfish luxury that she doesn’t have time to indulge in.  She parks her car across from O’Reilly’s office and waits.  As she thinks of what has happened, she grows angrier.  It’s bad enough that this Andretti killed Angel for his boss, whoever that may be, most likely because the girl was having an affair with him, but to kill Evelyn to stop her from divulging what she knew steps firmly across the line.  Trip has a hunch that Blanche will be added to that list if she doesn’t spill her guts.  Blanche probably thinks she’s safer not telling what she knows, but she’s wrong.  It’s up to Trip and Mowgli to convince Blanche to talk to them before O’Reilly and Andretti decide it’s easier to permanently shut Blanche up than it is to continually intimidate her into being quiet.

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Trip on This: Chapter Seven (Part Five)

Chapter Seven (Part Five)

“Hey, girls,” I say, pulling Mowgli’s blazer closer to my body.  It’s not

“What are you doing here,” Snow asks belligerently, sticking out her chin.  “Fucking bitch thinks she can just come here and get up in our grill.”  Some of the newer hookers look puzzled, but most of the older girls—the ones who didn’t like me because I was younger and prettier—are ready to back Snow up.  It’s clear that Snow is hopped up on something—probably meth—and spoiling for a fight.  “This ain’t your turf any more, China Doll, so beat it.”

“Where’s Mona Lisa?”  I ask, refusing to let Snow intimidate me.  I use to eat hos like her for lunch when I was hooking, and she knows it.

“That bitch is doing a trick,” Snow says, still not willing to back off.  I’m about to teach her a lesson when Mona Lisa comes sauntering down the street.

“Hey, girl,” Mona Lisa smiles, her eyes glassy.  “Who is this hunka hunka burnin’ love?”  She tilts her head to get a better look at Mowgli who is doing his best to blend with the scenery.  He isn’t succeeding, of course, as he’s big, gorgeous, and a male among whores.  “Hey, sugar, you like Elvis?”

“He’s the king, isn’t he?”  Mowgli answers easily.

“No, you’re the king,” Mona Lisa banters, licking her lips.  After the scum she deals with, Mona Lisa must look at Mowgli as a starving dog upon a steak.

“M.L., I need to talk to you again,” I say, cutting short the flirtation.  I don’t have time to deal with a strung-out whore’s ramblings.  “Same deal as before.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Mona Lisa says.  “Seems I should get more since it’s two-for-one this time.”  The other hookers snigger.

“You tell her, Mona,” a tiny black hooker cheers, raising her fist in the air.  “You ain’t nobody’s fool.”

“Let’s go, M.L.,” I say through gritted teeth.  I hate a whore who’s on something because she can turn mean on a dime.  I grab her by the arm and start herding her away.

“I can walk by myself,” Mona Lisa huffs, pulling away.  I sigh and rub my forehead as we make our way to the Phoenix again.  This is becoming a habit I don’t wish to endure for long.  I hate reminders of my past with a passion.  I used to get along with the girls even after I gave up the life, but I’m finding that I have less in common with them as time passes.  Mona Lisa is stumbling on her heels, and Mowgli gallantly offers his arm.

“Madame, may I?”  He bows theatrically, eliciting a giggle.

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Trip on This: Chapter Seven (Part Four)

Chapter Seven (Part Four)

“How much for your bitch?”  Frat boy number one suddenly appears, leering down at Trip, but talking to Mowgli.  “I ain’t never had yellow pussy before.”  His buddies are sniggering as they watch the show.  Trip narrows her eyes, but allows Mowgli to respond.

“You can’t afford her,” he says without missing a beat.  “She’s got more class in her little toe than you do in your whole body.”

“Shit, no pussy is that classy,” frat boy says contemptuously, digging his wallet out of his pocket.  He pulls out a wad of bills and fans them.  Glancing at Trip, he leans forward so his face is in her space.  “I hear that chinks have slanted pussies, just like their eyes.  Is that true?”  He doesn’t even see her fist before it connects with his eye.  “You fucking bitch!”  He roars, staggering back a few feet.  He quickly recovers and lunges at her again.  His coordination is off, and she moves to the side causing him to topple face first into the table.  Mowgli is up in a second and grabs him by his hair and jerks his head back.

“Like I said, you can’t afford her,” he growls into frat boy’s ear before banging his head sharply on the table.  The boy lets out a groan, and Mowgli allows him to slither onto the floor.  Trip takes out a compact from her purse and powders her nose.  The buddies at the next table are suddenly engrossed in the girl on stage.  Mowgli catches Melody’s eyes, and she hurries over.

“What can I…”  Her voice trails off as she catches sight of the frat boy knocked out under the table.

“Get security to take out the trash,” Mowgli says coldly.  “If he wakes up before security gets here, I’m not responsible for what I’ll do to him.”  Melody rushes off, returning in minutes with a bouncer.  He’s so huge, he makes Mowgli look, well, normal.

“What’s the problem here,” the bouncer rumbles, crossing his tattooed arms in front of his chest.  “This boy been bothering you?”

“He propositioned my woman,” Mowgli explains.  “I took exception.”

“I would, too,” the bouncer nods his bovine head—his bald, bovine head.  “He’s out of here.”  Scooping up the frat boy as if he is a sack of potatoes, the bouncer throws frat boy over his shoulder and marches towards the door.  The other frat boys don’t even blink as their brethren is carted away.  So much for bros before hos.

“I’m so sorry that awful man bothered you,” Melody says, biting her lips.  “The management told me to comp you for the rest of the night.”

“That’s mighty nice of you, Melody,” Trip drawls, her lips curving into a smile.  “Make yourself one while you’re at it.  I swain, you’re as white as a sheet.  Are you OK, darling?”

“I hate that stuff,” Melody says venomously, but she’s careful to keep her voice low.  “All that macho crap.”  She shudders.  “I make sure Randy, that’s the bouncer, walks me to my car when I leave.”  She blushes as she realizes that she’s unloading onto customers.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be babbling like this.  I don’t know what’s the matter with me.  Ever since Angel…”

“How has Blanche seemed the last few days?”  Trip asks, sensing that there’s something on Melody’s mind.

“Real nervous.  Especially when that man bothered her after her set.”  Melody hesitates, then spills the rest of the story.  “He’s one of her regulars, and sometimes he comes with other guys.  Well, a couple days ago, he was talking to her, and he made her cry!  Right in front of the customers.  Mr. Peters didn’t like that at all.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same guy she was talking to on the phone tonight.”  She shuts up abruptly.  “Uh, I’ll bring you some champagne.”  She hurries away as if she’s afraid she’ll say other things that Blanche would not want known.

“Seems like both these girls know more than they’ve told us,” Mowgli says under his breath to Trip who is looking disgruntled.

“A hundred bucks sure don’t buy much these days,” Trip grumbles.  “That Melody is better at keeping secrets than I gave her credit for.”

“The hundred did its job,” Mowgli counters.  “She wouldn’t be talking to us now without it.  Blanche on the other hand, it’ll take more than a hundred to pry those lips loose.”

“I wonder.”  Trip looks at Mowgli speculatively.

“Oh, no, Del—Sherrilee.  Definitely not.  Don’t even think it.”  Mowgli knows Trip well, and he is repulsed at the idea of sleeping with Blanche.  “Not even for you would I cross the fence.”  He’s shaking his head adamantly in the way that means definitively no.

“I wonder if Greeley would do it,” Trip muses.

“Sherrilee!  No!  Vandalia would kill him.  Then you.”

“It’s for a good cause,” Trip says stubbornly.  “We need to know what Blanche knows.  She’s tied in with Andretti, which makes it likely that she knows more about Angel’s death than she’s telling.  Too bad Blanche doesn’t do females, or I’d do her myself.”

“Well, shit, Del,” Mowgli says, immediately correcting himself when Trip glares at him.  “Sherrilee.  There are ways to get information out of people without using sex.  I think she’s ready to talk to someone—she almost spilled her guts to me.”

“You’ll call her tomorrow,” Trip decides.  “Set up a meeting, and we’ll talk to her.”

“No offense, Sher, but I think I’ll get more out of her than you.”

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Trip on This: Chapter Seven (Part Three)

Chapter Seven (Part Three)

I’m bored.  Even though I like women, there is nothing sexy about Ebony’s movement.  I can tell by the glazed look in her eyes that she’s on something and feeling very little pain.  She’s moving her ass mechanically, the same way she’s probably moved it a hundred times before.  Whereas Blanche had seemed real and alive, Ebony is merely robotic.  There’s no denying her good looks, but there’s very little heart to go with the looks.  Not that I blame her for zoning out.  Ninety percent of the girls on the street were on something at any given time to get through the night.  Those who got a cut of their profits usually snorted that money right up their little noses.  I smoked cigarettes, but nothing more potent.  Well, ok, heroin every now and again, but not very often.  What money I made, I saved.  Even when I was working seven nights a week, I knew that I wasn’t going to be in that life forever, no fucking way.  Even if I had to kill someone to get out, I would.  I was going to get out, and I was going to stay out.  Well, I did.  And I have.  And I will.

Vandalia and Greeley are groping each other under the table.  Either they think I can’t see them, or they don’t care that I can.  Greeley is close to coming, and it’s amusing to watch him try to keep it under control.  Hell, I’m tempted to give his cock a squeeze myself just to cause a little mischief.  I want to see the boy squirt all over himself just because.  Somehow, I don’t think Vandalia would appreciate it if I lend her a hand, though.  She might even kick me out of her apartment, and then I’d be shit out of luck.  I can’t go back to my apartment, and I don’t want to stay with Mowgli who is too easily identifiable as my friend.  I wonder when—if—there is going to be a connection made between an ‘unidentified Asian woman’ and the dead girl.  Angel.  And what’s up with the lying?  Why is Melody saying that Angel is on vacation, that she’ll be back?  Even if they don’t want it known that Angel is dead, why doesn’t Melody say she’s been fired or let go or that she left out of her own volition?  Speak of the devil, she’s returning with our drinks.

“Here you go,” she chirps, setting each drink carefully down on the table.

“Melody, you’re an attractive girl,” I say enticingly, crossing and recrossing my legs.

“Thank you,” Melody says automatically, flashing her dimples at me.

“Why don’t you sit a minute?”  I pat Mowgli’s empty seat, discreetly placing a twenty dollar bill on the table.

“Oh, I really shouldn’t,” Melody says, her eyes glued to the money.

“I’d really like you to,” I say, adding another twenty to the one already on the table.

“Just for a minute,” Melody agreed, sitting down.  The twenties disappear before her ass is even on the chair.

“How did you start working here?”  I ask curiously, inching closer to Melody.  I can see she’s uncomfortable with the attention, but I pay her no mind.  My goal is to make her think that I’m hitting on her so she won’t suspect deeper motives.  Vandalia and Greeley are openly making out which seems to add to Melody’s discomfort.

“Um, a friend of mine works here, too.  She told me about it.  Said I could make good money.  I want to go to State and study psychology.”  Melody has her arms crossed over her chest, but she drops them when she sees me staring.  She must have been told not to cover up her breasts which is a good policy if she wants to make money.

“How do you like it?”  I ask, letting my hand casually drop on her leg.  I idly trace a line up and down her thigh while appearing not to be looking at her.  She squirms minutely but remains still otherwise.  Someone has trained her well, though they should have told her not to give it away for so cheap.

“It’s ok.  It’s a lot harder work than I thought it would be.  But at least I’m not walking the streets.”  Melody pastes a smile on her lips as my hand inches further up her leg.  She has her legs slightly parted which is probably another dictum.

“Do the girls get along?”  I ask in my honeyed drawl, massaging her thigh firmly.  When she looks at me, I lick my lips—she quickly turns her head away.

“We’re one happy family,” Melody says brightly, pretending not to notice that my fingers are now at the edge of her shorts.

“Does Angel have any special friends?”  I ask, stroking Melody’s thigh in light, feathery strokes.  “I seem to remember being told that she and Blanche were really close.”  I can tell that Melody wants to close her legs, but she’s too well-trained to do so.

“Um, yes, they were pretty friendly,” Melody says, clutching the edge of her chair.  “They acted like sisters the way they were always giggling and gabbing.”

“Like sisters?  Not like lovers?  I’m just wondering if Blanche swings both ways.”  My hand is caressing her warm flesh at a greater frequency.  I teasingly stray further up her leg before returning to her thigh.  I don’t want to get her in trouble with the management which probably has a no-touch policy.  Of the merchandise, that is. Continue Reading

Trip on This: Chapter Seven (Part Two)

Chapter Seven (Part Two)

I’m not at all sure about this Greeley boy.  He’s nice enough, but he’s got a touch of the Midwest about him.  Stolid, trustworthy, not the quickest guy out of the blocks.  He’s also much too innocent for the kind of games I am being forced to play.  I don’t know where Vandalia found him, but he’s nothing at all what I imagined would attract a woman like Vandalia.  I have enough to think about without worrying about this guy having my back or calling me out by my real name.  I don’t like having to improvise, especially when there are players I don’t know.  Mowgli and I have been friends long enough that we groove well together, but this is a situation which might not be easily contained.  There are too many ways the whole thing could backfire and blow up in our faces, but I’m determined to learn more about Angelica and this mysterious other girl.  If that means doing a bit of improv, then that’s what I’m going to have to do.

I use dinner to clear out my head and to practice my new persona.  I don’t want to walk into The Roman Empire cold.  Sure enough, Mowgli and Vandalia have little problem carrying on the charade, but Greeley slips once or twice, calling me Trip instead of Sherrilee.  I solve that problem by simply not answering him—it’s effective; it helps that Trip doesn’t sound like a name.  For this persona, I adapt an attitude of sensuality.  Sherrilee is a woman made for men and one who makes no bones about it.  Sex clings to her, and she’s not above using it to get whatever she wants.  She’s the antithesis of the me I am now, but an incarnation of the me I was a lifetime ago.  It’s disconcerting how easily I can slip into her skin until I disappear completely.  It’s as if the Trip I have worked so hard to become has never been, and will never be.  Mowgli squeezes my hand sympathetically, to keep me grounded.  For the evening, he is Cesar, my San Francisco lover who pines for me when I’m not here.  He adores me, desiring only to lavish me with love and gifts.  I, of course, prefer the latter to the former, and am toying with his fragile heart.  He is not the only man in my life, but I’m the only woman in his.  At least the last part is true.  Vandalia and Greeley get to be themselves because I don’t want to complicate matters too much.  There is no time to come up with much backstory, so I’m forced to stick as closely to the truth as possible.

I toy with my dinner, not really hungry.  We’re at a tacqueria in the Mission where we stick out like a sore thumb.  Guys are casting covetous glances at both Vandalia and me, while the boys are also getting their fair share of love-sick gazes as well.  We take our time eating because it wouldn’t do to arrive at the club before ten at the very earliest.  I force myself to eat a beef burrito with every evidence of enjoyment.  I don’t eat much before doing a job, but this time it’s important not to draw attention to myself which not eating would do.  I manage to pack away half the burrito before calling it quits.  Mowgli finishes a whole chicken burrito while Greeley and Vandalia each eat about two-thirds of their own, vegetarian and chicken respectively.  We take our leftovers to Vandalia’s car—she’s driving—and drive around the Mission a bit, rehearsing our roles.  When I’m confident Greeley isn’t going to fuck things up, I allow Vandalia to drive us to The Roman Empire.  We pay our twenty dollar cover and zip right in.  It’s half-full, but will most likely fill up later, even if it is a Wednesday.

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Trip on This: Chapter Seven (Part One)

Chapter Seven (Part One)

“We’re doing what?”  Mowgli stares at Trip, wondering if his ears are deceiving him.  This is not how he envisioned spending his night—talking to Trip about strip clubs in Vandalia’s living room.

“Going to The Roman Empire,” Trip says.  “Me, you, Vandalia and her consort.  I have to find out more about Angel and the other woman.”  Trip has told Mowgli everything she did that afternoon, but he still isn’t computing.  It’s difficult for him to switch from computer geek to party animal without some downtime in between.  Besides, he has yet to adapt to Trip’s come-hither look as he’s grown fond of her tomboyish, no-nonsense persona.  Seeing her tarted up reminds him of when he first met her, and he, like she, doesn’t care to remember those days.

Trip had raced home from Tosca’s impatient to look up information about Andretti, but to her dismay, there was nothing relevant on Ricardo Andretti.  There was one in Modesto, but he was ninety-five years old.  There was one in New Jersey, but that didn’t help her.  Then she thought of trying just Andretti, but that was hopeless.  She was incensed that her hot new information did little to propel her forward.  She wondered if Seamus had misheard, but there weren’t many names that sounded similar to Ricardo.  She would have to do further sleuthing on this point before she could do an efficient search.  After that, she had gone out and shopped until her credit card screamed from exhaustion, but it had been worth it.  She had spent almost five-hundred dollars on clothes, and there wasn’t a speck of black to be seen.  By the time she returned to Vandalia’s, Mowgli was already comfortably ensconced on the living room couch.

“The Roman Empire,” Mowgli repeats, as if he’s never heard the name before.  “You, Delilah Esther Wire want to go to a strip club.”  His voice couldn’t be more dubious if Trip had said she wanted to run with the bulls in Spain.

“I don’t want to go,” Trip replies tersely.  “Try to keep up here.  That’s where the dead girl worked.  There’s another girl who’s involved in the case who might work there as well.  Vandalia thought it’d be a good idea if I didn’t go alone.”

“Well, she’s right about that.”  Mowgli is frowning as he looks up at Trip from his place on the couch.  She’s still standing, unable to unwind.  “I don’t like what this case is doing to you.”

“Neither do I,” Trip shoots back.  “That’s why I have to find the motherfuckers.”

“Del, you sure you want to do this?  Maybe it’ll die out by itself.”

“Yes, I’m sure!”  Trip stares down at Mowgli, daring him to defy her.  “I got off the fucking streets and got a fucking life.  I damn well want to make sure I can keep living it.”  This has moved beyond a matter of pride for Trip—it’s becoming personal.  If she can’t find the motherfuckers and bring them to some kind of justice, she’ll be running around for the rest of her life looking over her shoulder and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Then I’m in,” Mowgli says simply.  Trip thumps him on the head in appreciation before sliding onto the couch next to him.  They are watching the Food Network when Vandalia comes home.

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