Chapter Five (Part Three)
After working out, Trip is no more settled than she had been beforehand, so she decides to pay her old friends a visit. She showers and changes into black jeans and a black long-sleeved t-shirt before covering that with her black trench coat. It’s her work outfit, and that’s what she’s doing tonight—working. She stops at her bank and withdraws five hundred dollars, tucking it into her pocket. If she needs more, the girls know she’s good for it. She has to be if she wants them to continue talking to her. She has her Bowie knife with her, which she carefully straps to her calf and pulls her jeans’ leg down over it. It’s a beaut with a six-inch blade—a girl’s best friend. Trip knows better than to go to the ‘Loin without protection, though truth to be told, she rarely goes anywhere without her knife.
“Looks who’s here, girls,” a skinny white skank named Snow sneers as she scratches her arm listlessly. “It’s Suzie Wong herself.” Trip hates being reminded of her working days, but lets it slide this once.
“Shut the fuck up, Snow,” Mona Lisa, the one who used to talk about the Louvre, snarls. “You just mad because Trip made something of herself.” She’s white trash, too, but better-looking than Sugar with her white-blond hair done in a retro-eighties style and lime-green micro-mini-skirt. Her makeup is a riot of colors that no sane person would dare attempt. Pink and green eye shadow, silver lipstick, black nail polish. Trip wonders how much Mona Lisa Lisa is raking in these days. She’s had better days, and she looks ridden hard and put away harder. Despite it all, though, she still sticks up for Trip. It’s one of her better qualities—her fierce loyalty.
“You better step,” Snow says, flipping her hand at Mona Lisa. The other hookers are pretending not to notice the altercation as they scan the streets for possible johns. “I’m tired of you flapping your big-ass mouth at me like you was somebody.” Snow’s eyes are ugly as she juts out her hip.
“Listen up, bitch,” Mona Lisa hisses, stepping closer.
“Hey, Mona Lisa, let it go.” Trip reluctantly gets between the two women. She knows fighting is part of the life, but she needs information and she doesn’t want to have to scrape Mona Lisa off the street to get it. Mona Lisa can hold her own, but Snow didn’t get her name because she likes to ski, and like many cokeheads, Snow doesn’t feel the pain until after her high wears off. Since that’s never for her, Trip prefers to keep Mona Lisa separated from Snow.
“Trip, you’re getting soft. You know how it is on the fucking streets.” Mona Lisa is not backing down, and neither is Snow.
“Do it later, then. I have to talk to you. All the girls.” Trip stares hard at Mona Lisa, then Snow. “I need some information, and I need it fast. I need to know if there’s any word on the street on someone talking about me.”
“Yeah, they be saying they miss that ass,” a girl calls out. The other girls whoop it up.
“Then they get a piece of this,” a tiny, Asian girl slaps her nonexistent butt. “They forget all about you.”
“Have you seen this girl?” Trip pulls out a picture of Sylvian at which few of the girls even bother looking.
“Hey, it’s Angel!” Mona Lisa says, blanching. She grabs the picture and shoves it in her coat pocket before anyone else can get a good look. “Come on.” She grabs Trip and drags her to the Phoenix Hotel. “We have to talk in private. Can you front for a room?” Trip nods. It’s the least she can do since Mona Lisa won’t be working while she’s talking to Trip. The room is $79, and Trip hands over two fifties and her credit card number to Candace, the smiling woman behind the counter. To her credit, Candace doesn’t even smirk as she hands back $21.
“Have a nice stay,” Candace calls out as Mona Lisa hustles Trip to their designated room.
“Tell me,” Trip says the minute they step into the room.
“I gotta drink something to talk about this shit,” Mona Lisa announces. “Mind?” It’s not really a question, and Trip doesn’t bother answering. She sits on a chair and waits for Mona Lisa to situate herself. When Mona Lisa is well-oiled, she plops on the bed, spreading her legs. It’s an unconscious decision, but it makes her look cheap. “Trip, they been talking about you.” She has one of those miniature bottles of alcohol in her hand, and she gulps it down in one swallow. “They saying you heading for a fall. ‘Course, the girls are jealous because you’ve got it good now.” Her eyes stare at Trip. “That Cocoa did right by you, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did.” Trip doesn’t feel guilty for getting out of the life nor for her new profession. She works hard, pays her taxes like a good American—consultant work, only skims off twenty percent—and owes nobody except Cocoa anything. And Mowgli. She can never repay what she owes him.