When the door opened she jumped to her feet. "Daddy! Daddy! I'm so happy to see you!" I gave her a cold stare. "O yea ? And why's that, bitch ?" She mellowed out and went on her knees. She mumbled "I don't know, Daddy. I'm just happy, that's all." I went around her and sat my ass down on the bed. She turned and crawled towards me. She started taking my shoes off. "How do you like this dump ?" She lifted her eyes to me, then back down all bashful. "Oh, I like it Daddy. You're here. But..." I frowned at her. She glanced long enough to see it. "But what, bitch ?" She was playing with my shoelaces like a primary school priss caught without her homework. Eventually she mouthed off, "All my things are in the car. What should I do with them ?" I put my foot on her face. "That's easy, Phyl. You take them all next door. Here's the key." and I threw it in her hair. She reached for it with her hand, but didn't move her head any. On the way over I had seen in a window all sorts and manner of candy. I bought some of them, chocolates and things. Now here I was, tempting her with a delicious dollop. She took it in the mouth from my hand, then went back to my socks. She took in a deep breath. "Them socks stink, bitch ?" I prodded her. "Kinda" she giggled. "So why don't you wash 'em ?" She peeled them off, jumped to her feet, then turned to me. "The sink's over there", I pointed. "Yeah, but... should I do the socks first or the car first, Daddy ?" I pushed my pants down. "Do the socks first. Ain't yo Mama taught you no thing ?"
I was in the shower while she bawled over my dirty socks in the sink. She was quiet enough about it, just her shoulders shuddering now and again. I think they wash better in salty tears. Maybe they don't, I don't know. I still like mine done that way best. When I was getting out there came a rap on the door. It was none other than June, and you'll never guess what she said. It went like this : "Daddy! Daddy! I'm so happy to see you!" I said to her, "I'm happy to see you too, baby." She closed the door and spun herself around me. Looking at me all serious she said, "Daddy, Pepper wants you right away. Her old man's there, you're going to sit down and talk it through." I took a step back, right into the door. The idea kinda gave me the chills. What kind of set-up is this, anyways. "How did it look, baby ? What's he like ? Did you trick with him ?" She smiled slyly right back at me. "Oh, he's nice. Kinda old, like a teacher or something." Then she giggled. "He's not... you know. He likes for me to kiss it a lot." I scratched my head. "So he wasn't angry or anything ?" She shook her head. "No, no. It's like a business thing."
I sat myself down on the bed. She came to me, which is when she laid eyes on the other one. She looked back and forth until she got herself to ask, "Daddy, who's in the bathroom ?"
"Oh," I said, "don't mind her. That's my cousin."
"But why is she in the bathroom ?"
"She had a big argument at home. Big argument with her folks. She needed a place to stay. You know, until things cool down. Since you weren't here..."
June paddled all the way to the runt, but carefully, like the first Indians went to check out the first Spanish no doubt. Like how dogs meet, though she didn't sniff her ass. Instead she said "Hi! I'm June." The runt shot back "Hi June. Nice to meet you. I'm his cousin." June looked at her unconvinced. She came back to me. "Why is she naked ?"
"Oh, that's the rule around here. Girls gotta be naked. Why are you dressed ?"
She eased herself out of her maid's uniform, slowly. She had a headful of thoughts. Eventually she broke out, "Daddy... is she a whore ?"
I chuckled. "Naw, baby. She ain't no whore. Just a fake ass professor from them University is all."
That was just about all the runt was going to take. She whined like she was about to cry. "Don't say that, Daddy. Please don't."
I was out and out laughing by then. I said "She's a whore just like you, baby. She loves me and she'll love you too. Now go over there and kiss your whore sister's cat."
June went back towards the bathroom sink. She'd never done anything like it before in her life ; but Phyllis eased her into it and helped her along. She's a professoral teacher and all after all. I shot at her "You a jasper to boot ?" She asked me what's that. "One of them lazy beans" I said, and it sparked it for her. She didn't say anything. I figure she was a virgin one of them, she'd never had the chance to do anything about it before is all.
Once they were done I said "June baby, you go fetch the man downstairs and empty the yellow Ford parked on the curb. Me and her have to take a short ride, so you bring it all back inside now, you hear ? You put it all next door." She heard. Then I asked her if she's had any lunch. She said sure, they treated her real nice at Pepper's. They cooked it together. I turned to the runt. "How about you, bitch ?" She shook her pretty airbubble head. "No daddy. I ain't had a bite since you gave me breakfast this AM." I shrugged. "I guess you can starve just as well. Wouldn't hurt your fatass any, that's fo' sho'." June looked at me like what's the joke, but the runt bowed her head in shame. That's just how bitches are made, some things they always take to heart.
Once the short was cleared we took off, leaving June and Jack to haul all the shit inside. There was a damn lot of it, too! On the way over the runt was stiff, a million thoughts rushing through her head. Halfway there she warmed up enough to start the third degre. She asked me how many whores do I have again. I said now I've got three. "How come ?" she asked me, ignoring the road altogether. "Look where you're driving, bitch. What are you, psychic ? I thought this bitch and the one we're going to see now ran off together." That put her on the flat foot. "You mean, she came back ?" I nodded. "And the other one's got a pimp ?" I looked at her. "Babe, the other one's squared out, she has some rich white joker she squared out with. Now she wants back in." The runt was crying. Eventually she said "You know Daddy, that's the first time you called me babe or anything besides a bitch ?" I laught. She didn't even get it right, it wasn't the first time. Then her thoughts caught up with her. "How do you know it's not a set-up ?" she asked. I shook my head at her. "I don't. Pepper's previous pimp is still doing the bit this guy laid on him when he got Pepper away from him. For all I know all that's waiting there's ole Tommy." I could see it gave her cold chills. "Why are we going then ?" she asked, all bothered. I didn't say anything. She was working herself into a fever pitch "Want me to turn around ?" I shook my head at her, like what's wrong with her. I said "Drive, bitch. We're going to find out."
We found out alright. When Pepper opened the door she nearly fell on her ass. She whispered in my ear "You damned fool, what are you doing ?" I just slapped her ass a loud one and made for her livingroom. Her old man was there. I could tell he shat it when he saw me. So far so good, maybe it's really all about business. He said "Ah, you must be Bobby. I'm Frank." I went over to him and shook his hand. I said "Iceberg." I don't know why I said that. He said "Oh, of course. Iceberg." He poured me a drink. By this time Pepper and Phyllis caught up with us. I said "This is Crystal. She's new, I only started her whoring yesterday. That's how come she don't know she's supposed to be naked. Bitch!" The runt was out of her glove before the echo died out. I smiled widely at the guy. "Feel free to use her whichever way you want. That's what she's for."
Pepper's eyes were shooting daggers at me. Her old man looked at her and mumbled "Tough kid, huh." He turned to me and said "I understand you've already done Pepper that way ?" I looked at him and said "Mr. Ibbetts, I don't know what to say. I don't mean no offense." Pepper had enough of it by now. She waved her hands like "lay off you two!". She flopped her pretty titties out of her top, then said "I don't know what's gotten into him tonight. Every other time he's the other way like it's his religion, fifty bucks in his pocket he'll make like he's got nine cents. Now he's banging two dimes together trying to make them sound like the Bank of England." She turned to me. "Shut up, junior. Come put your face in my cat instead, like a good boy."
I said "Yes Mama" and walked over there. The runt's mouth was hanging open to about her knees. The guy wasn't that far behind. I gave Pepper a sweet kiss on her pretty bud. I missed her plenty. Then I said "Bitch, maybe you wanna hear me out first. I got some news." She looked at me. I spilled the beans on the whole Weeping cross, the whole thing as I had heard it. What I had to say sure put her old man in a spinning frenzy. He picked up the phone and dialed like his life depended on it. "Who's that ? Yeah, listen McKay, send some guys over. No. Yes. No, plainclothes. Three squads. Tell 'em to bring shotguns. I have no fucking idea. Yeah. I'll explain it to them once they're here. Step on it."
"You figure that's a thing ?" Pepper was a little pale. Her old man was pissed off. "No it's not a god damned thing. It's the dumbest story I've ever heard. It makes no sense whichever way." Pepper shook her head. "So what then ? Hit the house ?" Her old man nodded. "They just want you out of here. Amateurs." Pepper turned to me "Come on, Daddy. We're getting out of here." Her old man cut her short. "Wait a minute." Then he turned to the runt. "Can you drive, gorgeous ?" She looked at me. I answered for her "Sure she can drive. She's got a short, too." He nodded. "Alright, you go with Pepper. Go to a phone booth, put the call in, then go to the hotel they want you at, put your time in, then have fun." He turned to the runt again. "You're driving me. I'll be between the seats so it looks like it's just you if anyone's looking." I thought that'll be a tight ride for him in her short, but what was I going to say. The runt looked at me. Pepper's old man snapped his fingers at her. "I'm your Daddy now, bitch." She wasn't paying any attention to him. I finally said "Alright Big Daddy, have it your way." I told the runt, "You do what he tells you to like I was telling you to. Don't embarass me, you hear ?" I turned back to him "I'll want her back, Frank." He nodded his head. "You'll get her back. What's the Big Daddy stuff ?" I stood six foot two, but I was as scrawny as a hound back then. He stood six feet or so, but he had a hundred pounds easy on me. I smiled sweetly and I said, "Well Frank... you're the biggest one here, aren't you.". Pepper dragged me by the hand out of there, her titties still flopping in the breeze. Before I knew it we were in the car, driving away. I sure hoped Phyllis was gonna do alright.
She did, too. There wasn't anything to it, she just drove him around and then back. We went to a drug store down the road. I called Weeping. He told me to maneuver Pepper's face toward the head of the bed as much as possible when we got into the act. We took a booth so I could watch the clock. At eleven twelve Mr. and Mrs. Barksdale picked up the key to their pad. It felt like walking on stage. The room looked like they had made it with Wyatt Earp in mind. Overstuffed horse-hair living room, gleaming brass bed, giant cherubs on the wall, Gideon Bible on the marble top bedroom table. There was a midget efficiency kitchen cubicle. We laughed at all the Milwaukee square couples come to Chicago for a luxury one-weekend honeymoon. Young square bitch demonstrating her pancakes to her enraptured captive audience. "Oh honey, I betcha nobody had pancakes this good". Nobody except for the next sucker, and the previous one.
High on the wall over the bed were the two gold colored cherubs. Their eyes were holes, their mouths popped wide holding the light fixtures. When we got into bed we got the show on the road, like playing an off-key brass band, all percussion. I was almost sure some steamed up joker in the adjoining room had his gizmo focused on the carnival through a drilled hole peeking from a cherub's empty eye socket. It made me kinda hot, but in a different way. Pepper wasn't much in the mood, I could tell, but she took her pounding like a champ regardless. We were all together again before midnight. Only difference, the pigs had a great cop in their craw : five people wanted in sixty states between them, plus a truck, tools, a whole pile-up. Turns out Frank was dead-right. Weeping's story was through and through bullshit. The whole thing was a burglary set-up, they were going to empty the house. He said the take'd have been maybe three maybe four hundred thousand that night. I had to sit down. "How much you say, Frank ?" It was his turn to chuckle. "Who do you think you're talking to, boy ? Some jealous geezer with an old whore in tow ? Don't believe everything you hear." Pepper was smiling her half-eyelid smile to the side. "Can you fix me up ?" came out of me like oil from a freshly dug well in rich Texas. He laughed. "Yes, I can fix you up. Can you stick to it ?" I nodded. "You're not some flash in the pan ? You've got talent, it's obvious, but it takes work to get anywhere. You gonna stick to it ?" I raised my right hand, like in a court of law. "I swear."
It was all gravy from there. His idea was to bankroll me, and split the whole thing halfway. I didn't go for that. Pepper said "I told you he's got scratch stashed." Frank chuckled. "How much you got, kid ?" I told him about five grand. He worked it out for me. The fix itself was going to run five a week. Less, he said, but it's better to figure it high and find yourself with spare cash than to figure it tight and then blow up. I'd need to get whores, I'd need muscle to keep the drunks and two bit gangsters in line. To make that kinda fix worth it, I'd need a certain size of operation, I'll be running on 20, 30 grand a week at a minimum in expenses. Yes the profit's gonna be three, four times that, if I know what I'm doing. But I don't know what I'm doing. I'm learning, or trying to. Yes Pepper's there, but she's never run an operation in her life. She's an artist in the sheets, he said, but she's not wise. She's not even smart. She'd like to be, sure. Maybe she'll get to be. But for now we're the blind leading the blind. Going at it with less than four-five week's capital's just wasting our time on skid row. That's at least fifty in cash and another hundred in the background. He had a point with all that. Then he said sure, I could get it together myself. Take me who knows, a coupla months maybe. If I'm lucky. If nobody croaks me by then, if I want to run the risk, I can cut him out of the deal. "So the question comes down to, Iceberg, who do you hate and how much do you hate 'em ?" he said. Because if I hate his guts enough to risk taking a bullet just to cut him out of some scratch he doesn't even need for anything, he's got no problem shaking my hand and wishing me a happy time of day.
I turned to Pepper. "There's no way to say no to this man." She was all smiles. "What do you say, Mama ?" She nodded. "Do what he tells you, baby." I stuck out my hand. "Alright Frank, what Mama says Iceberg does. You've got yourself a deal like you say." Then he did the damndest thing. He reached behind one of the armchairs and pulled out a suitcase. He set it down on the table and opened it up. It was piled with dough. Now my mouth was hanging down by my knees. He smiled at me. "Fifty. You wanna count it ?" I shook my head. "Naw, man. Let that bitch over there count it. Who knows, maybe she gets the idea and it's an inspiration to her." Crystal shimmied over and got busy counting C notes. I told them the story of how I took her roll, and how I told her she can crash once she's matched it. Frank was laughing his ass off, but Pepper was just shaking her head. "So" I said, "From here I take this bitch out to the docks. Chain her to the pier, come back in a week, she if she's fifty full or still some short." Phyllis was counting the same stack over and over again ; but Frank found the story hysterical.
We were on our way out. I asked him if he wants either of the whores stay back with him tonight ? He picked the runt. I told her, stay back and live it up a little. And if Pepper's pad's in any shape other than how she left it when you're out, I'ma cut both your thumbs and your big toes off, and switch them around. Everyone took a moment of silence to chew through that one, and then we split.
On the way back I needled Pepper some. "I didn't know you weren't even smart, bitch." She called me a smart alleck and told me to kiss her black whore ass. I had her pull over and did just that. Man I had missed that sweet behind on her like nothing else.
June wasn't back yet. We got back into the car and cruised around looking for her. Eventually we spotted her getting out of a big white Packard, just like I had dreamed of. She looked smack drag like a good whore at two o'clock in the AM : mussed up and tired. She fumbled into the car, her eyes half-closed, like a robot. I said, "Well, how goes it baby?" She dug in her bosom and pulled out a damp wad of bills. I counted it while Pepper drove. It was a fin short of a C. June whined about it. "Sorry Daddy, it's been rough out tonight. Coupla jokers played me for the money. Another one pulled a knife on me. Lucky it was early on and I didn't have much. He hurt me, though." I petted her matted hair. "How did he hurt you, baby ?" She shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Can I stop now, Daddy? I'm tired and nasty, and my shoulder and ass ache. I would like a pastrami and coffee and a bath. Is it ok if I call it a night ?" I rubbed the wad in Pepper's face, right on her nose and all over her mouth. "Reminds you of anything ?" She shuddered. "Tomorrow you go out there with her. I want you on the street at noon, that clear ?" Pepper gave me a glance from the corner of her eye. "Yes, Daddy!" they both muttered. "You show her. Teach her everything." I looked at her. "It's a damn shame, a poor kid by hereself in the street like that. You wise her up, you hear ?" Pepper nodded. We stopped at an open-air kosher joint. June kept squirming on the hard wooden bench. Her butt must have been giving her fits. She was silent until she cut through that sandwich and coffee.
Then she said, "Daddy, what's it all for ?" She took a sheepish glance at me, then said "Please don't misunderstand me. I like doing it for you. Doing anything for you." I scratched my head. "Baby," I said, "You know how there's preachers, and they say what to do and not ?" She nodded, confused. "But then it's all bullshit, and not what anyone does, anyway ?" She was looking straight at me. "That's what it's for. Too much lying, too little livin'. Enough of that old bullshit." Pepper parked the car. We weren't anywhere near home yet. She just looked at me. Then she drove off.
Once back at the old place, June went for a soak. I sat and talked with Pepper. Then we all went to sleep in the small bed, squeezed like sardines. Neither of them wanted to go to another room and be comfortable by herself.