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.
Trip would bet any amount of money that Blanche is also involved with Andretti’s boss—perhaps as a threesome. She wonders if either girl ever got it off with Andretti, then shudders at the thought. He is too representative of the assholes Trip was forced to fuck when she was hooking. Ordinary, everyday Joes who became monsters once the door was closed and the money was paid. They knew how to mark a girl in ways that couldn’t be detected by the human eye. Some didn’t care about discretion and marked the girls in a very public way. One in a million treated Trip with dignity and respect. One rare bird thanked Trip every time he came. Of course, he could only come if she beat his ass with a hairbrush while yanking on his cock with his tie wrapped around it, but she took her gratitude where she could get it in those days. Some johns would talk about taking her away from the life, and she even had her very own stalker until she fucked a cop enough to make him do something about the guy. The cop made the asshole disappear, and Trip never asked how.
Andretti would be the type to brag loudly about what a great fuck he was, how he made the whore beg for more. He would tell stories in the bar when he was shitfaced about how the whores paid him money to do them because his dick was so huge and satisfying when in reality, he couldn’t get it up, not even when the girl sucked on it for ten minutes straight and stuck her finger up his ass—an old hookers’ trick that produced quick results ninety-nine percent of the time. He’s the type who got off on being called names like cuntlicker and pansy-boy, all the while seething at his degradation. His shame would quickly transfer into rage—at himself and at the dumb cunt who made him do those evil, filthy things. He could never admit that he was at fault, so he’d take it out on the hooker, beating her ass until she couldn’t sit for days.
O’Reilly, on the other hand, would revel in being the dominant one—especially over his very own geisha girl. If possible, he would have her dressed in the kimono and all that bullshit. Lowered eyes, demure smile—as nonsexual and unthreatening as possible. He would be the superior one, showing her how masterful he was. That’s part of the reason he likes them young and dependent—they don’t have much to compare him with. In fact, Trip would wager that all of the Mrs. O’Reillys were virgins when they were broken in by Caleb, the stud. He struck her as the type who couldn’t truck with any spirit in his women—would see any sign of independent thought as a blow to his masculinity. Yes, his hooker would learn early to submit gracefully if she wanted to be paid top dollar and to not have the crap beaten out of her. Mona Lisa is many things, but submissive is not one of them. Plus, she never learned to keep her big mouth shut. No wonder O’Reilly cracked her hard when she wouldn’t shut the fuck up. Trip almost doesn’t blame him as she’s been tempted to smack the old ho across the face a few times herself.
Trip shakes her head to dismiss her musings. She’s not getting paid for her fucking brilliant insight—hell, she’s not getting paid at all so it’s best if she uses her brain as little as possible. Besides, she doesn’t want to think about either of those assholes in bed—it’s enough to make the flesh on her arms crawl. She’s amazed that she made it through her nights on the street without doing more drugs than she had. Then again, she doesn’t have an addictive personality which is why she can drink with impunity and is able to smoke once in a while without having a nicotine fit when she isn’t smoking. She thumps her fingers on her steering wheel, impatient for O’Reilly to be out and about. She curses herself for not thinking this through—she should have at least brought a book.
“Fucking useless waste of time,” she mutters under her breath just as the Irishman himself steps out of his office. She waffles as it appears he’s going to walk somewhere. She hops out of her car and follows him. He’s heading for Tosca, which makes her wonder if he’s meeting his buddy Andretti. Not this time. The delectable Ms. White is waiting for him, sipping a glass of white Chardonnay. She is wearing white, of course, but looks rougher in the day than she had last night. They move to the back to snag a corner table. Trip slides into the booth next to theirs, careful not to draw their attention. They are much too engaged in a heated discussion to even notice her. Fortunately, the bartender is not the same one as before, and this one has no interest in the dully-dressed Trip who orders a dirty martini. As she’s sipping it, she listens with all her might.
Blanche is scared, but also angry. She wants more money to keep her mouth shut; she doesn’t want to end up like Angel. She wants enough money to get away from San Francisco and live a comfortable life. Not the shit-hole existence that she’s living now, but a real life. She’s rattling off her demands a mile a minute, not allowing O’Reilly the time to respond. Her voice is rising in agitation as she continues to vent until it sputters to an end. A healthy moment of silence follows, then a resounding crack. Flesh had connected with flesh, and from the way Blanche gasps, she’s not the one doing the connecting. Trip wonders idly if the sound is loud enough to bring the bartender running, but apparently not. Most likely, O’Reilly’s reputation—not to mention money—is a convincing reason for the bartender to remain behind the bar, his eyes resolutely fastened on something only he can see.
After the crack, there is a sound suspicious like a sniffle, but no more words of outrage. When O’Reilly speaks, it’s in a soft and cultured voice. If one listens to the voice and doesn’t pay attention to the words, one can imagine a dulcet lecture on ancient Greek mythology or theology of some sort. So it would come as a shock to hear the words, ‘Nothing but a fucking whore’ fall from those very same lips. ‘Getting above your station’ is another phrase being bandied about along with ‘stupid cunt’ and ‘cock-sucking bitch’. Trip almost snorts at the contrast between his voice and his words, but she doesn’t want to give herself away. If O’Reilly had dared said those words to her, Trip would have cold-cocked him so fast, he wouldn’t have known what hit him. She would have knocked the arrogance out of him for good. Blanche on the other hand, whimpers as O’Reilly dresses her down, not improving Trip’s opinion of her. ‘Sorry,’ is heard more than once as O’Reilly continues in his measured tone to inform Blanche just how much lower than dirt scraped off the sole of his shoe she is.
“I’m just so frightened,” she mewls, having completely regressed into a seven-year old girl in the span of the last five minutes. “He’s crazy, Caleb. You know he is.”
“He’s not the only one, bitch,” O’Reilly growls before changing his tone. Now that he has her thoroughly cowed, he can afford to play Daddy Warbucks to her Little Orphan Annie. “Let me take care of it, baby,” he murmurs silkily, his tone indulgent. She is his kitten again, his good little girl. He certainly knows how to play mind games to perfection. “I’ll talk to Andretti, let him know that you’re still a team player.” A pause, the tone hardens. “You are a team player, aren’t you? I’m not going to lie to Andretti for you—you know that, don’t you?”
“I’m a team player, Caleb,” Blanche bleats, her tone high and anxious. “You tell Andretti that I’m still playing by his rules, OK?” A beat later, she slides out the booth and totters out of Tosca’s. Trip is tempted to follow her, but decides to leave her for later. O’Reilly is the dividends, man, because he’s the one with the balls. Trip hears him speaking on his telephone.
“Handy Man, it’s Silver Tongue.” Will boys never grow up and become men? Code names? What next, secret handshakes? Trip shakes her head as the bartender approaches her to ask if she’d like anything else to drink. She shakes her head no, quickly, hoping to disperse of him so she can eavesdrop again, but he’s a persistent bugger. He insists on telling her the specials of the day as slowly as humanly possible. By the time he’s through reciting, Trip is ready to strangle him. Reining in her temper, she orders a Bass just to get him off her ass. By the time he leaves, O’Reilly is at the tail end of his conversation.
“It has to be tonight, man, and you know it. Take care of it, Handy Man, or I’ll have to call the boss.” With that, O’Reilly clicks off his phone and leaves Tosca’s. Trip forgoes following him and waits for her Bass. She needs to do some more thinking.