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.
“What can I get you folks?” Melody, our server, has perky tits with pink-tipped nipples. She has a corn-fed look that suggests a Midwest upbringing. Her blond hair and blue eyes are indicative of that geographical location as well. She has a pierced navel, but no other markings. Her smile is forced, but only noticeable if you look closely.
“Nothing for me,” I say absentmindedly, scanning the room around me. Melody heaves a sigh to be heard around the room.
“You must be new here. There is a three-drink minimum, so what will you be having?” Her tone is still light, but there is an edge to it.
“Rum and coke,” I say quickly to make amends. Inwardly, I’m cursing myself. I know better; I truly do. The others place their orders, and Melody swishes away. Greeley openly ogles her ass as it sways away from us. When she returns with the drinks, he tucks a healthy tip into her shorts.
“Thank you,” she dimples, patting his lingering hand. “I’ll start a tab for you folks.” That is another way they get you—you never see what you’re paying until the end of the evening. By then, they’re hoping you’re too drunk to notice that they’ve padded the bill.
“Can you at least look like you’re interested?” I whisper under my breath to Mowgli who is glancing around him in complete boredom. He flashes me a look of long-suffering, but obeys my request. He pastes his eyes to the woman gyrating on stage to Prince’s ‘Darling Nicky’. She is dressed in a purple thong, purple heels, and has purple tassels hanging from her nipples. Purple glitter is sprinkles liberally over her body. She is pumping and pulsating her body for all she’s worth, but it’s about as erotic as having a root canal. She methodically spreads her pussy lips with her fingers, then lifts her left leg high over her head. The guys crowding the stage are waving money in the air, and not one-dollar bills. This joint is classier than most in the Tenderloin, but still is a far cry from a gentlemen’s club. Greeley is watching with considerable interest while any emotion on Mowgli’s face is feigned. As for Vandalia, she is watching the crowd more intently than the woman on stage.
“What else can I get you?” Melody reappears the second our drinks are gone. I have to give her credit for being quick on the draw.
“I heard tell of a girl called Angel that I just had to see if I was ever in town,” I drawl, fluttering my eyelashes. “Is she dancing tonight?” Melody’s face drains of color at the mention of the murdered dancer. Even her smile falters for a second before she fixes it in place.
“Angel is on vacation,” Melody says with false gaiety. “There are plenty of other girls, though, who are even better.”
“Do you dance?” Greeley asks, giving Melody a little love tap on the ass. He follows up that gesture with stuffing another bill in her shorts.
“No, I’m too new. You have to be here at least six months before you can dance,” Melody replies readily, regaining her equilibrium. “I can’t wait for my big chance!” Her bubbly tone isn’t matched with any enthusiasm in her eyes, but I forgive her because I know how difficult it is to make your eyes appear engaged when you’re having an out-of-the-body experience. Some johns used to get pissed because I’d flick my eyes away for a minute instead of continuously gazing rapturously into their eyes. They pay for a privilege of illusion and aren’t too pleased to have that illusion shattered.
“I bet you’ll be tons better than that girl,” Greeley says adamantly. “You have a nicer body.” His tone is respectful, not lascivious, and Melody responds favorably to him.
“She’s had real dance lessons, though, unlike me.” She has her tray resting lightly on one thigh with Greeley’s hand stroking the other.
“Waitress! Over here!” A frat boy at the next table snaps his fingers as if he’s calling a dog.
“I hate when they do that,” Melody grumbles, but obediently trots over to the next table where the snapper places an order while feeling up her ass. He squeezes a cheek as his four buddies pretend to ponder what they want to drink. As I watch, the frat boy’s meaty hand slips between her legs and rests there. His friends finally order their drinks and Melody wriggles away.
“Poor girl,” Vandalia sighs. “This place is going to eat her up; she’s too nice for this kind of work.”
“She shouldn’t have to work in a place like this,” Greeley says heatedly. “With assholes like that!” He inclines his head at the frat boys who happen to overhear him.
“What’s your problem, dickwad?” Frat boy number one, who looks like a drunk Nic Cage, growls, turning to stare at Greeley. “You think you own that piece of pussy? You already got one.” This said with a smirk slated at Vandalia.
“You shut your filthy mouth,” Greeley snarls, his hands clenching into fists. “Didn’t your mama ever teach you manners?”
“You leave my mother out of this, asshole,” frat boy says, standing up suddenly. “Show some fucking respect!”
“Teach the asswipe a lesson, Bledsoe,” frat boy number two, a football player who’s gone to seed, slurs as he downs his beer. “Motherfucker can’t talk about your mother that way. She’s a nice old broad.”
“You want a piece of me, jerkoff?” Bledsoe asks belligerently, making that universal—male—‘let’s go’ gesture.
“Let it go, cowboy,” I say in a low voice. This is not the kind of attention I want drawn to us. “Sit your ass down and ignore the Neanderthal.”
“Did that Chink bitch just call me an ape?” Bledsoe asks his buddies, puffing out his chest. He turns to Greeley and says, “Shit, you can’t even keep your bitches in line.”
“I think you need to back off,” Mowgli says, zapping Bledsoe with his most intimidating glare. Mowgli pissed is not someone to mess with, but Bledsoe is too far gone—and too prideful—to do the sensible thing.
“Is there a problem here?” An immense guy with a shaved head, goatee, bulging muscles and tattoos galore appears out of the blue. He is between our table and the frat boys’ table, flexing for all he’s worth. “If you boys can’t settle down, you’ll have to take it outside and off the grounds.”
“Knock it off,” I hiss at the guys. I don’t want us to get kicked out before I worm information out of Melody.
“Sorry,” Mowgli says, flashing a smile. “We got it under control.” Bledsoe obviously doesn’t want to get kicked out, either, and sits his ass back down.
“Punk,” Bledsoe mutters under his breath.
“Let it go, boys,” I say, glaring at both Mowgli and Greeley. After a moment where things could have gone either way, the boys settle down. ‘Let Me Blow Your Mind’ by Eve with help from Gwen Stefani blares over the sound system, and the crowd moves forward in anticipation. I notice that everyone is watching, which means this must be one special girl. Fog machines belch out clouds of smoke and in the midst of it, a golden girl swathed in white floats onto stage. She has eyes so blue, they’re violet, and flaxen hair down to her ass. She is tall—at least five-ten, over six feet in the stilettos she’s wearing. Gold, to match her hair. She shimmies out of the white sheer robe she’s wearing to display a body so close to perfection, it’s as if God himself made the prototype for the quintessential female. Aphrodite would have been jealous of this body. Slender waist, full, non-enhanced generous breasts, gently rounded hips—she’s a true blond.
“Ready for another round?” Melody shows up, her smile a bit more genuine.
“Who is that girl?” I ask, lazily pointing at the stage. “She’s quite good.”
“Oh, that’s Blanche,” Melody says eagerly, looking at the dancer with envy. “Isn’t she gorgeous? She’s the best dancer we have. She always does at least two sets a night. What I wouldn’t give to look like her.” Melody sighs, causing her breasts to jiggle—a gesture appreciated by Greeley.
“I thought Angel was your best dancer,” I husk, watching Melody’s face for a reaction; it doesn’t take an eagle eye to note the flinch.
“Um, no, I told you there are others who are better, and Blanche is one of them. She’s the best. Isn’t she gorgeous?” It’s clear that Melody doesn’t want to talk about Angel, which makes me want to push the subject.
“I surely had my heart set on seeing Miss Angel,” I sigh, looking forlorn. “Why, when I knew I was coming to visit Cesar, I said to myself, ‘Sherrilee, it’s about time you went to the famed club, The Roman Empire, and see that Angel dancer everyone’s talking about’, so here I am. When will Miss Angel be dancing, Melody? Can you at least tell me that?”
“Um, I’m not sure,” Melody stutters. She is unused to lying, and it’s plain that she’s uncomfortable being forced to do so. “Really, we have lots of better girls than Angel. Blanche, is tons better.” Behind her, the divine Blanche is undulating around a pole, her long legs wrapped around it. Taking pity on Melody, we allow her to take our order and leave.
“Blanche,” I murmur, my mind whirring.
“The fabulous Ms. Dubois, I presume,” Mowgli murmurs back.
“Blanche White. Talk about redundant,” I sigh. “When she walks the floor, talk to her. I’m betting she doesn’t do girls.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Greeley asks brightly, his eyes glued to the stage. Blanche is doing an extended set, and the place is filling up. Vandalia squeezes his thigh which causes him to stiffen noticeably. Damn. We should have taken two cars. The way those two are going, they won’t last another hour.
“Nothing, Greeley. You keep on enjoying the show.” Mowgli delicately sniggers as he and I exchange knowing glances. “First time in a strip club, old boy?”
“Oh, yes,” Greeley breathes, his eyes darting around. He’s like the kid in the proverbial candy store, both hands ready to grab whatever comes his way. Vandalia is watching him with the indulgent air of a doting mother. When Blanche’s set is over, she leaves the stage to thunderous applause, her g-string stuffed with money. In minutes, she’s replaced with a languid black woman who goes by the inventive name, Ebony. She is dancing to ‘Brown Sugar’ by D’Angelo, and she is pretty good. It tickles my funny bone to have her following Blanche, but I seem to be the only one in on the joke.
Two minutes into Ebony’s set, Blanche appears on the floor and starts making the rounds. She is wearing all white, which seems to be her trademark. Over her thong and bustier, she is wearing a sheer white wrap. On top of that, she has a white feather boa wrapped around her neck and four-inch white stiletto heels on her feet. Privately, I think she’s overworking the ‘white’ angle, but I can appreciate her gimmick. When I was in the business, I played up the china doll/dragon lady image, depending on my mood. The johns ate it up—their very own geisha girl on the one hand, a dominatrix cracking the whip on the other. Either role played right into their deepest fantasies, and they paid extra money to secure my ass. The rare nights when I worked as just a regular hooker, I didn’t make nearly as much money. My pride wouldn’t let me do the stereotype thing for the longest time, but when I saw that I could triple my money just by adopting a persona, I shed my pride pretty quickly.
In time, I became contemptuous of the johns for allowing their fascination with the stereotype to dominate their common sense. In other words, if they wanted to pay me for the privilege of being something I’m not, then who was I to deny them said privilege? I’d wear a kimono, wind my hair up in a demure bun, speak in pigeon English. Drove them wild, every single one of them. They loved being able to take down my hair and unleashing the tiger within. Every one of them thought he was so damn special for having the privilege of showing me the ropes. That was the hardest part of role-playing for me—pretending that any of them had a damn thing to teach me. In the last few months before I got out of the life, I had a difficult time concealing my disdain for them, but the ones who preferred the dragon lady thought it was just part of the act. Needless to say, I haven’t had a very good impression of men since my foray on the streets. Much easier to fuck ‘em and leave ‘em than to live with them. That’s my motto, anyway.
“Hey, boys and girls.” Blanche is at our table, her voice pleasantly pitched. She has no noticeable accent nor speech impediments to deter from her beauty. “Are you enjoying the show?”
“Very much,” Greeley says enthusiastically, bobbing his head up and down.
“Want to buy me some champagne? Perhaps go into the back area?” Blanche leans forward so her impressive bosom is directly in Greeley’s line of vision. Vandalia does not look thrilled, so I kick Mowgli under the table.
“Why don’t you go, lover?” I say huskily. “You know how much it’d turn me on.”
“Let’s go,” Mowgli says gamely, his face taking on an approximation of lust. “You are sure one beautiful gal.” He stands up and holds out his arm.
“Why thank you, kind sir,” Blanche says demurely, batting her eyelashes. “You certainly know how to treat a lady.”
“Blanche. Your last name wouldn’t happen to be White, would it?” Mowgli asks as he’s escorting Blanche to the back of the room. “My name’s Cesar, by the way.”
“Like the Roman?” Blanche purrs, twitching her ass as she walks.
“Like Cesar Chavez, Ms. White.”
“You are so clever, Mr. Chavez.”
“Why didn’t you let me go?” Greeley asks, pouting.
“Because you’re enjoying yourself just a bit too much,” I say coolly. “Have a sip of your drink to cool down.”
“Try to remember you’re with a date,” Vandalia reproves Greeley, her tone level.
“Aw, Vandalia, you know I think you’re the greatest,” Greeley replies earnestly. “But you can’t expect me not to get excited when I look around.” Just then, Ebony spreads her legs and slips her fingers into her pussy. She’s licking her lips at the same time, her other hand pinching her nipple. Greeley can’t restrain a groan from escaping his mouth. “God, she’s so hot,” he moans, his cock as stiff as a board. “I’m going to explode.”
“Oh, don’t do that, honey,” Vandalia coos, her good humor restored. “I want to put that thing to good use later on.”