When I came too it was late. All the square stiffs were long at their square stiff trades. The big bright Sun had been conning them into it for half the day. On the nightstand with the roaches there stood gleaming the bellhop's bell from downstairs. I never noticed it before. I made the big mistake of giving it a hearty punch. It let out a resounding ding, like it was a healthy bellhop bell with fine lungs. The whole god damned house came rushing through the door and crashing on my head. I fell ass-backwards back in bed.
Pepper ran it down for me. The place she had set June down was to be for six hundred her end, from nine to three in the AM. June held-up those suckers alright. When Pepper picked her up, towards four, she had eleven bills, plus a whole pile-up of saws and fins. It came to almost two grand. In just one night, a single whore working out. When they say a bitch or other got a mint between her legs, it's June they're talking about. With those big eyes of hers she could turn snot into spun silver. She did, too, just by sitting on it.
The way it played out, after they pawed and sniffed her neat ass a little at first they sat her down to play with them. She'd ante up just her tiddies for her share of the whole pot. The winner'd stick her like he wanted to. If she won, though, then she kept it. She won more than half the pots, and Pepper said they told her that when she'd lost, she'd make like she just wanted that sweet joker's prick in her and lost on purpose just for that. It drove them wild to hear that kinda talk. She said the crazy Junebug'd crawl on the table and stick her tits into the pot for real, then pocket whatever stuck to her hide. Or she'd crawl over and stuff her pussy in the Ace-high joker's face to get him to fold for her pair of kings she held in her blind. She spent more time crawling around on the table than she did sitting down. She did them all the ways there are and some more she came up with, Pepper said those jokers were so happy to file out of there trimmed it was like they saw the Statue of Liberty through the fog that night the first time in their lives. Once when one said that's cheating she cut him off that "It ain't cheatin' unless it's with your wife". It almost made me sorry I missed out.
While Pepper told her story June snuck into bed, nuzzling with me. I had my arm around her back. The other whores sat their asses down around the side. I said "Bitches, this is a sweet set-up going here, and it'll only get sweeter. We just have to let it. Ain't no bitch here get her dumb ass in the way, you hear ?" They murmured and nodded. "There's things to run down. First off, we got to keep book. It can't be written down. Gotta be kept in the brain." Pepper was all smiles and confidence. "I can keep book, Daddy." I waved at her. "No, you do too much. Phyllis." She came right back "Yes Daddy ?" I squinted at her "You fuck it up it'll be your hide. You got that, bitch ?" She nodded. "We do the first rundown together now, then you do it on your own from now on, and if I find there's missing cash or anything God help you. You got that ?" She nodded more. I said "What we got ?" Pepper raced, "There's fifty from Frank, there's four-eighty-five off the street, twenty-eight from the club, nineteen-fifty from June's school night, and what you got from her." Phyllis said "Mama, call me Phyllis the fool, or anything you like to." Pepper's eyes slitted some. "He said you're Crystal." Phyllis nodded. "Well, are you ?" She came back carefully "I'm whatever Daddy says, but before he said it that night I'd never heard it before." Pepper turned her grassy-green burning peepers to me "Because of Frank ?" I nodded. Pepper turned back, "Phyllis, you don't call me Mama. I ain't your Mama, sugar." The runt was getting rustled. She nodded "Yes Ma'am." I looked at her. She closed her eyes, figuring in her head. Then her eyes popped open "Almost five thousand in the street ? That right ?" I shook my head "Hundred." She nodded, then came back "Ten thousand, two hundred thirty-five in." I looked her, then at Pepper. Pepper shook her head. "Fifty grand from Frank." She said. The runt's peepers were wide enough. "Fifty-five-two-thirty-five, then." she said. "You should know, bitch. You counted it." She nodded. "Then twenty-one hundred for stuff, a hundred the booze, four hundred twenty on the joint I'm going to lay on that sucker right now and whatever you bitches been blowing out on coffees and sandwiches, twelve-fifteen grand or so. Scratch that, the booze ain't even in this week, that was before." Phyllis nodded, "Two-fifty-two. Leaves fifty-three sorry fifty-two-seven and change." June clapped her hands. "We gonna be rich, Daddy ?" I nodded. Too rich for sense, if anything.
Pepper was looking at me. I could feel her working herself up to speak. I gave her the time of day. Eventually she said "Daddy, you in the mood for me to lay a crazy trip on you ?" I nodded her go ahead. "Daddy... I've been working since I was a little girl. As young as that hot fresh bitch you've got in your mitt, or maybe a year younger." I patted June's butt. "She's turned fifteen." Pepper went on "A year younger then. I humped my ass off under the stomp of six different pimps, I've seen a hundred stables, it's been twenty-five years minus a fin bit at the end. I've lived my life out on the street. I seen all there's to see twice over, but in all that time there's one thing I ain't ever seen. You gonna give your whores a wage, Daddy ?" I scratched my head "Say what ?!" She speed-rapped "Now don't get angry with me Daddy. You give each whore whatever it is, a fin, a saw. Her kitty for the day. If it's but a single solitary buck, she buys herself a cup of coffee she knows where she's at. She sits in the greasy spoon looking at all the other whores, that wild look in their eye she knows from herself well. They don't know it's alright. She does. Daddy, the best spent buck's the one that lets your bitches be alright."
I said to her "You know what, you worthles old whore ? You're lucky I'm not a real pimp. You're lucky I don't know what's what. You can do anything you want to me with that fast jib of yours. Play me for a fool any way you like." Pepper was quiet, watching me. June crumpled up in bed like the tornado's about to hit. Chris was wild eyed. I walked to the dresser, grabbed a fistful of June's take last night. "Here, a saw a cunt. Line 'em up." They giggled and fumbled about, but in two minutes there were four sawbucks held by the cheeks in four whore butts, lined on my floor. I said "From now on, when we do the wake-up each morning, each whore gets a sawbuck. That way you don't starve if I don't feed you myself. Spend it on whatever you want, and if you miss out one day because you're working, you'll get it the next morning anyhow."
Chris shook her head. "I ain't ever seen nothing like this". Phyllis begged me with her peepers. I nodded her go ahead. "Daddy, what happens if a whore saves her bucks ?" I shrugged. "Are you gonna roll her for her savings ?" I laughed. "Sure, if I feel like it. What kind of purple-gutted sneaky whore doesn't want to give her Daddy all her money ?" She reached behind, grabbed to her sawbuck and held it to me. Then they all did. I said "Naw, bitches, keep 'em. I don't want it back. Make it so I never do, you know ?" Phyllis said "But Daddy... what if a whore holds out on you ? And claims it's savings ?" I shook my head. "Listen, bitch. I don't want you out there humping because you're affraid of a stomping. Any bitch that can't take a beating in the first place's not cut out to be a whore. She's not worth cutting into one, anyhow, not more than straw mat's worth cutting into fine vines. I ain't here tryna turn out silk out of farm-pig niggers. You go out there and you hump because you're good at it, and because no working stiff can all day long and all week long match what you take. You out there make me proud, and make yourself proud while at it. You tell your little girl, that has one, 'You be a whore baby, not a priss. Mama made a million dollars in her time and soon's your turn.' I ain't want my ass kissed by no rusty bitch that it ain't make her proud to kiss my ass. You got that ?" They murmured and then they jumped me. It was a pile-up, and then the bed fell down.
I yelled out "God damn!" and they were all on their feet lined up again. The bed was done in, though, the legs at the foot had broken through, and from the fall under weight it broke more places. I said "This joint sure is rusted up" and they all said "Mmmhmmmmm". I said "Chris, you go work the street, get that soft ass of yours back in shape. Pepper will run you down on the layout." She nodded. "Pepper, you set June down somewhere good, and then you work me out a vine connection and a fixing connection." She didn't get it. "What do you mean fixing, Daddy ?" I said "We gotta fix this place up. There's need for furniture, drapes, many things. You find me good prices for flash, you got it ?" She got it now alright. "Phyllis, you go back to school." She froze. Her lip started trembling. "Daddy, please. Don't cut me loose. Daddy, I beg you" she fell to her knees, batting her forehead against the floor and weeping "Daddy! Daddy!" over and over again. The other bitches had their peepers trained on me. Chris had her arms in her hands, digging her nails into the soft flesh opposite her tits. "Get up, you dumb broad. I ain't cutting you anything. You go talk to all the nappy headed hos you can find, bring them back here, smoke them out on pot. By nightfall I want this house full of college coent, you got that ?" She was trembling like she was in shock. She nodded like electrocuted, with her teeth clenched white. "And don't bring crap, either. I don't want to have to throw out more than half when I sort through 'em." After that they all split, leaving just June to follow me around.
I got the keys out and went through every room. The layout of the place had a stairwell going through sorta off to the side. On bottom floor there was the entrance hallway and Herb's desk to the right hand then a storage room, and on the left four rooms, two either side. On the first floor there were four rooms to the left and a pair to the right. On the top floor the same. It made for sixteen total, but the left hand top floor had a door in between them, so they could open up into a sort of apartment. We opened one up and sat around cooing a little, until Pepper came by looking for June. I slapped her ass and off she went, that old dress on her that I had copped with the runt's glove run threadbare on her ass. Musta been all the slapping she got on it, I guess.
I went out for a walk. The strings of cooking aromas pulled me into the Busy Bee Cafe. Across my flapjacks there was a face all dipped in spackle, with a newspaper twisted like a coif on a head of curls. "What's up, mack ?" I nodded at him. He nodded back at me over his beans. I said "Jack, I see you working. Got time to do a little job for me ?" He looked for the waitress. "Kediqee ? Kediqee ?" like he was some kinda injun. She warbled at him. He said to me "I... take... boss..." like it pained him to speak. Then he gestured with the fork in his fist and then with his two fingers like a walk. I finished my flapjacks, left a bone on the counter and we took off. I followed him through a maze of narrow tunnels like I was going to school for mole. The boss he took me to was an Irish guy looked just like a potato with feet. "What's up ?" I scratched my head. "Mack, I need some work done. Some windows bricked in. You got a man ?" He laughed, "sure" and then he whistled. A kid showed up out of nowhere. I took him over to the top floor and showed him what I want. He looked in and out, then took a string out of his pocket and made some marks on it. We walked back to the potato boss. He asked me what I want done with the windows they take out ? I told him I don't care, they can keep 'em. He asked me if I want it quick and cheap or done good. I said if I wanted a nigger rig I'd have rigged it myself. He laughed like a talking horse told him a jokes. He said "Mister, we have to break down the collar and get to the old brick. Then there's the brick layin' and then the spackle over. I'll do it for fifty today, if you don't want the outside spackled. If you do, it can't be done today. We have to put scaffolding in for a job like that." I figured that's a lock on the left hand set then, them windows don't show from the street. I handed the fifty over and left with three guys after me, one carrying buckets of their building snot, the other two a large pile of bricks in a craddle on their backs. Hank's eyebrows arched when he saw them going in after me, but I waved at him and that turned out to be good enough.
Before the jokers split I had them bring down the wall between the two rooms up top, too. I thought they'd bitch and moan and hit me up for more slats, but they didn't care any. One just knocked it with his fingers, then they put a hammer on it and in ten minutes it was down to dust. I said "Walls sure ain't what they seem, huh mack." They shook their heads "That was just a separator. They're never made too strong, in case the owner wants a door put in or something. You'd best be done having ideas though, because the rest of them around here are double brick. You're never getting through that without a wrecking ball." They filed out of there, two windows and a door on their back. Huey's eyebrows arched even more seeing them walk out like that. I sat down with him. I said, "Listen Hugh, I'm gonna be making some changes around here." His eyes darted all around. "What'll the owner say ? I could lose my job." I patted his shoulderpad down, "That's just what I mean. You just lost your job, mack. It's gone." I whistled just like the potato had. "Good riddance, twenty-two fifty a week that you made from it. But you've been born under a lucky star, making you a lucky sunovabitch. I'm here to give you a new job instead! You know what it is ?" He shook his head. "It's not getting in the way, just like until now. There's gonna be some girls showing up later, too." He said "Boss, I ain't got no beef with that or anything. But think about it, if the owner comes by and kicks you out, I'm out a hundred a week even if I get to keep this job. I don't want that." I said to him, "I ain't getting kicked out, of here or anywhere, you can bank on that. So don't you worry on it sweetie, and keep up the good work." He looked at me as hard as he could. "Well, he's due, anyway. Usually shows up about once a month, goes through the books and things like that. There ain't no way in hell he don't notice what's going on this time around." I patted his back, "Don't you worry yourself, Harvey. It'll play out alright".
That's when Pepper came in. She had been all over the pawnbroker district. Made a few new acquaintances and rekindled some old. Three of them added up to the sixty slats in her hand. She said "Daddy, I said you want fair price for things. I won't give it away and they don't have to give anything away. There's so many things I set aside for you to see." Then, like one of them Indian nabobs, all day long until nightfall I walked by chairs, armchairs and beds, and bolts of cloth, candelabra, bowls and pitchers and every kind of knick-knack in creation, Pepper at my side ever ready to whisper in my ear. All day for the week after that it was nothing but shop boys carrying packages to the Blue Heaven, three and five teams of them even in there at the same time. The bite for it came when all told just a few slats under eight grand. To look at the place though, you could have sworn it cost a hundred thousand. It would have, too, if all the stuff were new and none of it was stolen. As it was, every fence tight with Pepper dumped on me everything too hot to handle in the open. I thought my daddy's kind never dies, who knows how many of Mama worked on his ilk each day ? The Blue Haven looked like the handiwork of at least half dozen of 'em, that's for damn sure. My pad was looking more and more like I'd seen with Glass Top, except I didn't bunk with anyone in the apartment next door down the floor. I had the whole thing to myself. Also mine had a good touch of overstuffed horse hair and shiny brass instead of his funky thick carpets and strange black clay standing statues, but at least my bitches wore no skirts. I didn't think nothing of it : why trouble yourself with swank no one's ever seen and then have to wait for bitches to wake up to it, like him ? Better buy the swank they're woken up to already from their Moma's house on the cheap and not wait anything at all. One thing he had right though. There sure was no sunshine or moonshine coming in through anywhere up in my bedroom. Brick's better than double thick for that kind of job, ain't no burglar ever made it in there in one piece, through three floors full of Miss Peaches on two legs. I didn't want no ocelot for myself. They don't smell so hot.
All that whole week while the chaos went on the runt kept bringing bitches in. While they set everything down and done the place over I musta seen six dozen college broads between me and Pepper, though often we did it together. By when the dust settled down, the house was stuffed. On the upstairs was my bedroom on the side, and the girls bunked all together opposite : Pepper with June, Phyllis with Chris. Then on the other side of the stairs we had the counting room on my side, and a storage room on the other. It was getting so all the stuff didn't fit the old closet all that well, and besides I wanted some real doors put in, and strong bars on the windows too. I had a huge safe lifted up to my room on a crane. The craning cost me more than the strongbox, I got it for that cheap. Then dragging it through from the closest window, now that was a show, six boys laboured most of a day to inch it through, it was so heavy I thought it might cut the floor right through. It was an old piece, meaning a sharp with the right tools could cut through it in half an hour tops. I wasn't worried about that. As long as nobody could up and run off with it, I wasn't worried any. Not like it was next to the window, anyway.
The second floor was where the best girls worked their asses off. There was some coming and going, but for a long time the runt had little trouble keeping six to eight to the floor just from her old alma matter. It was soft enough, all of those bitches dreaming themselves singers and dancers and actresses. A buncha circus freaks. They went through a can of reefer a day between the lot of them, but square white tricks were sure glad to freak off with them. They still got their saw regular, though they almost never saw the light of day enough to spend it. It had to be in credit, because by the time noon rolled around and they'd start opening their eyes the first round of suckers was already batting down the door. It went on until three, four in the morning even. It's not good business to kick a joker out of doors holding his prick, especially if he paid good money to get it dipped and it's still wet. While one'd be in the tub soaking herself the other'd be on her back in bed turning a trick. Some of the jokers wanted privacy, but most liked the company and the girls threw each other freebies all the time. Between the six doors and the even whole dozen whores working behind them some weeks, the second floor cleared six-seven grand each day. I don't remember it was ever so low as five, not one week out of a whole year. The sucker's end went for 25 slats to the half hour at first, more than anyone else by a damn sight. A few weeks later it went up to 30, because of the demand.
The bottom floor was bunks, for the girls working in the street. Four rooms, four girls to the room, though sometimes Pepper had even two dozen crammed up in there. They bunked and shared beds, and toughened up those thighs. Most girls worked up a lather worth fifty at the least each day, though most of the time they went closer to the bill. The whole bottom often crossed into another two grand a day, though more often than not it was fifteen to eighteen or so. It doesn't sound like much, but even so it took a lot to qualify for that bottom floor. It wasn't anything like a bum's crash, most girls working on the street dreamed of making the Heaven bottom floor one day. Not all those bitches counted for full whores enough to get a saw, either, but many times the true blood whores upstairs let them have a buck or two of their own or more often sent down their half eaten special order lunches and dinners.
The swankiest restaurants in town lived off the special orders and takeout at the Heaven, because besides the fucking going on there wasn't anything a joker couldn't get extra. He wanted liquor we had it. He wanted gangster or girl he had but ask his bed partner. He wanted food she'd order for him, the phone downstairs got so busy we had to get another line put in. All this added up to a decent bite too, because a plate of fancy steak or sauced fish or what it was that sold in the restaurant hall for seven or ten we had for five, or eight, and it ran the sucker fifteen or a double saw to eat off of the butt of some whore while another ate his bait. The girl came in at eight to nine hundred a piece and went out six and seven to the cap, meaning as high as three grand. The girls didn't stash slats so much, but gangster was the bomb, they all had cans stashed everywhere, under the beds, inside their closets, in pockets, up their butts no doubt. If a trick wanted a smoke they'd charge everything they smoked themselves to him, and then on top of that they peeled everything they could offa the runt. Those bitches were crazy for the stuff. I think most days we still managed to sell more reefer than they smoked, though. To make a long story short, the day when the Blue Haven didn't clear ten grand wasn't to be found in the book, and often enough it went well over that.
Of course, I didn't know any of that early on, before the joint was sorted out, the first night the runt had some of them Tuskegee bitches over smoking up a room. That's when the heat came in. I was downstairs chatting with Hrupert. I'd never seen the pig before in my life, but he walked right up to me like he knew me all his life. He said "You're wanted at State and Madison, Icebeck. The Harp. Go through the back." Then he turned around and left.
I flagged a cab. The Harp was the warm beating heart of the nigger hatin' back in those days, but I made like I'm with deliveries and went through the kitchen. A sharpie waiter grabbed on me and hussled me down some stairs, where they kept the potato sacks. I wondered if he wants to show me some waitress on her back. Maybe it was a pick-up job, the whiteys figured I'm like a kinda exterminator, but for pickaninny varmints instead of plain black rats.
He knocked on a wall between two shelves. It was too dark to see the door, but it didn't need to see itself to know it's a door. It opened alright, as silent as the grave. I think they kept that bitch well oiled, anyhow. There I was, with a half dozen white jokers looking tough. Cap'n Mahoney and Frank Ibbetts among them I already knew, the rest I didn't. A joker sitting like he owned the joint saw me and went straight for the thrill : "You the crazy coon they been talking about ?" I nodded. "Guess I must be, sir. Though I don't seem crazy to myself none." They laughed. "Well, that's the sign" muttered out one of 'em. He let me have it point blank. "We talked it through. We'll let you go at it. The rent is seven a week. You mind the ice you're walking on yourself, you got that ? If you make your colored ass worth more dead than alive you'll be dead, not alive. You catch my drift ?" I said "Yes sir." The cap'n said "I'll send a boy over to collect tomorrow." I said "What's he to do tomorrow, cap'n ? I ain't even started operatin' yet." The boss guy looked at Frank, then back at me. "You don't say." I shrugged "I guess you dun best shoot me now, then. I ain't got what I ain't got, unless some hen's found to lay advance eggs. I ain't found it yet."
Frank said "Let me talk to him" and dragged me out of there. Once we were back with the potato sacks he hissed "What the fuck are you doing ?! You crazy or something ?" I looked at him. "Well Frank, I didn't know you gave me that dough to just hand it over to them. I figured if you wanted to do that, you could've done it yourself, didn't need me for it. That right ?" He shrugged. "It ain't worth the hassle for a few grand. They're blockheads, they go by the book. It irks them to have a small thing out of whack. They'll straighten your fork and knife for you if you go out to eat with them. Forget the seven grand." We went back in. I said "I'm sorry I spoken out of line. Frank's gonna help me with a loan. It'll be the first week tomorrow." Then I said, "If he wants to come every morning after that it's fine by me. Might be easier that way to carry all that dough." They all laughed like it was the funniest thing they heard all day.
They took me up on it soon enough, too. Who else shows up the next day, around eleven or so, than Delaney ? He said he volunteered for it, "He knows that crazy coon Icebeck, he busted him the first time." so they let him do it. While he took a load off, one of the runt's new cunts wrapped between his legs to help along with the unloading, I dumped a pretty bundle on him. I think they were all thinking nothing but C bills, but that's not how a house works. Most of the money the girls take in is fins and saws. That's what I had for him : eleven bundles of fins, one bundle of saws for a grand and five more bundles of straight bones. I asked him if he wants to count them first. He said sure. I lifted the lid off of one of those silver trays and started pushing the slats his way. By the time I had him fenced in three bundles deep he started shaking his head and waving his hands. I looked straight at him and said look Delaney, what do you want me to do ? Go to the bank first ? Every day in and out, changing money ? I might as well put it in the newspaper if I do that. He saw it my way alright, but he sure wasn't prepared for the pile-up. He thought he'll just stuff it all in his pockets. That's the beef with government clerks, they think money's just like that, a number on a piece of paper, something come from the air, like a fart. They don't understand some whore's gotta shake a leg for every bone in every slat pile each time. None of it just comes in the door like it does for them. After that day, Delaney was there every morning around eleven, pocketed a bundle or two and went on his way. He didn't even bother the girls any most days, though I asked him every time.
One of the first girls Phyllis dragged in was a young whore that was a whiz in the street, and hip to boosting. She got along great with another one working the second floor, I don't remember her name but she did it for a long time. Before the month was out she had hipped the lot of them, they'd go downtown and come back with shopping bags loaded with fine dresses and underclothes for themselves and all the sisters. They filled the storage room with nothing but beautiful vines, and they wouldn't stop, either. It got so bad I had to hit Pepper's fences in the jew section almost each week with a new load just to try make some room. It was great for the girls though, because if they didn't feel like working one day they'd just beg for a downtown pass. I gave those out like candy, at first because the girls had a dozen dresses between the lot of them and no underwear. A raggedy whore's bad for business, and there's nothing that pleases a young whore as much as a fine vine on her back, or a closet full of them to choose from. But even once the Heaven was soaked through it stayed good business. They'd come back with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, which even figuring the fences rake still came out about even with what they made on their back.
The girls traded those back and forth, it was funny to listen to them rap sometimes. A pair of silk underwear that went for three dollars for the square kittens downtown went four or five to the buck inside the Heaven. A front-and-center display window dress that some wife saved thirty or fifty dollars for was good for maybe four slats among the whores. It was like communist paradise. Nowhere in America did the dollar go as far as inside the cold prison of vice sucking young women's life and hope away, as the preacher lot called it.
It made picking up fresh blood stupid easy, too. After the runt ran out of prospects, or rather after she was so well known they came breaking down her door, we started going for trips in the boonies around, looking for barefoot princesses in the hillsides. Most of those girls never saw a pair of ladies' shoes in their life, to say nothing of silk panties or anything. They jumped into the first pair we dangled before their wide open eyes no matter what gold chain they came strung with. And they were right to do it, too.