"Where'd you stash her ?!" He was sweating through his lip like maybe he stashed her himself. "Stashed who ?" I went, cool as a cucumber. "Come clean, buster. You know what you done." I looked up at him as innocent as a baby kitten after it took a shit in the sugar bowl. "What's going on sir !?" He lost it. "We got you on kidnapping, carnal knowledge, abuse, assault, attempted murder, the Mann act... boy they gonna throw the book at you. You ain't ever coming out less you come clean now." I looked at him like he was trying to smoke with his ear. "I wasn't even jaywalking."
They were getting nowhere fast with me, and to their credit it only took them three or four hours to wise up to it. They dumped me in the slammer. There was nobody in there, somehow. I don't know, it must've been the deluxe special slammer for foreign dignitaries and special guests. I slept on the tight army cot, a definite step down from June's tits, and in the morning they took me before the judge. That must've been a sight : a minor, without priors, brought up under charges of everything but fucking the Statue of Liberty off its socket. Sitting on the bench was this stern face, with a voice like the burning bush. An old whitey looking just like a hawk. Crooked nose, those piss-blue eyes like on blind people, the works. It was like in a picture book. "How do you plea ?"
I looked at him, scratched my head, went like I'm about to spit on the ground then said "Your Honor... I don't even know what the charges are." He made a gesture and the bailiff read me the charges. It was like the riot act. After drinking a galon and three pints of water in quarter ounce sips he was finally done, half hour later, and we circled back to the big question. Everyone had fallen alseep, it was like trying to read the phone book at a retirement home. The judge hit me up again. I said "Your honor, I'm just as much a citizen as the next working stiff. I've as much a right to walk down the street as anyone, which is all I was doing. I wasn't even drunk. I had my hands in my pocket and my mind on my business. I don't know what all the fuss is about."
The judge looked at me with those piercing eyes, then looked in the sheets before him, turned something over, looked up at me again. He scoffed once and said "Mr... Beck. What business is that ?"
"I dropped out of Tuskegee and now I work as a janitor, sir."
"You should have stayed in school."
"Well, why didn't you ?"
"Not cut out for it, sir."
"You don't say..."
He leafed through the thin paperwork before him some morei, then gave the "come here, bitch" finger to the assistant D.A. Just like a punter in a classy joint calling a cocksucker over. They whispered a while, then the judge went "Eh get the hell outta here" kinda quiet and shook his hand at him. Then he yelled out "Case dismissed" and banged his toy hammer on the little anvil they have. I was just standing there, looking at him. He looked at me, said something gruffly under his breath I didn't catch on to, then asked me if I ever tried out law ? I said no sir, and he said I should come by his office one of these days. I said yes sir and they carted me away ; though I had no intention of ever taking him up on it. I wanted to be a lip about as much as I wanted to be a clutch on a truck. It's a good profession, ain't it ? Pays well, there's grease...
Instead, I went all over looking for the rollers that had hit me. Eventually I found them sitting in their car, in the shade, under a tree. I went right up to them, dropped a grand on the sidewalk and then banged on the passenger window. The guy rolled it down and looked at me like I was a spook.
"Officer, I believe you dropped this." I said to him, pointing down. He looked at me like he was a French cop in some French town looking for a French whore to stick his prick into. No idea what language am I speaking. I picked it up for him and handed it over. He opened it, looking at me the whole time, but showing the bills to his driver. "Oh look at that, Harry. We dropped this, he says." His partner looked at the wad, looked at me, back at the wad, back at me. It just didn't gel in their heads. "How come we dropped that, boy ?"
"You know what you did. You took fifty from a two-bit canary with a sax up his ass to roll me like I was some punk nigger kid."
I looked at him, and shook my head. "It ain't worth it. It just ain't worth it."
"So whadda ya got ?"
"I got a hundred a block. And I want the whole precinct."
"A hundred a... a what, month ?"
"A hundred a week."
"Kid, you ain't not got any idea what you're talking about."
"The whole precinct."
"How many blocks is that ?"
"Seventy-six. From the twenty second to the thirty first, half way each side at the end, and then east and west along Apple. You know what it is."
"How the hell does he know that ?"
"Kid musta read some book somewhere."
"That musta been some book..."
"Mine's been reading books for six years, he ain't found no seven grand in there yet. Cost me almost that much though."
"You gonna pop seven-eight grand a week in, week out, how many girls you got stashed away ?"
"I bet you this kid got every nigger fugitive since the days of Breeches Stoves stashed away somewheres in the flop houses. I bet you he's got a boat fresh from Africa up on lake Eire."
"That right boy ?"
I took a deep breath. "Just the one." I said, carefully.
"You've got a lot of heart, kid."
"More than any nigger I ever saw, that's for damn sure."
"You know it. He's got one fifteen year old runaway stashed somewhere and a grand in cash. I bet you if we roll him up we don't find another twenty dollars on him."
"I bet you if we do he's never telling us where the hideout is, so we'll never know. Ain't that right, boy ?"
"There's no hideout, sir."
"Could have the crown jewels in there for all anyone knows."
"It's probably a rat trap somewhere, last place anyone'd think to look."
"Ain't that right ?"
"I don't know, honest I don't."
"Here's the low down kiddo. The precinct's not mine to talk on. You wanna buy that, you talk to the cap'n. If you ever manage to get within earshot, that is. But I'll do this much for you : if anyone gives you the roust you tell them to talk to Sgt. Delaney. That'll be good enough."
"I guess it'll have to be." I said, with a sigh.
"One time payment. Now stay outta trouble, you hear ?"
Any other time I'd have mourned the loss of all that scratch. Any other time but this. June was worth a grand like a whale's worth a penny. I knew no better use for it, and besies I could probably make it back just selling her nail clippings, if I ever found anyone clued in enough to know what they're worth. I beelined for her hideout.
"Honey, I'm dead." Her eyes grew big in horror. She didn't ask the question, she just hurled it at me silently, with her eyes. "That was your old man. He wants me dead. He's bribed a lot of cops to get me out of the picture one way or another." She broke down in a small fit, rolling face down on the bed and beating the dust out of the old matress with her angly little fists. Eventually she settled enough to howl through the tears "I'll kill myself. I'll go tell him right now!" What a stupid fucking idea. That's the problem with broads, if left to their own judgement they'll send everything to hell in a handbasket with the best of intentions from the purest of hearts.
"Nothing like that now, baby. They say I've kidnapped you. Are you kidnapped ?" she looked back at me all flame in her eyes. "No!" she yelled out. "If he lays eyes on you, guess what ? You will be kidnapped, and they'll stop saying it. What do you want, them to say while you aren't, or them to not say while you are ?" That seemed to calm her, but then she remembered what I said. She didn't say anything, but I could tell from her eyes. I went on "I had to bribe the cops myself, baby. I promised seventy-six hundred a week, to operate. They took it. The fix is in. Come Monday morning, I'll be floating up lake Michigan, cuz I ain't got seven grand to make that pay off."
"Ooh." she said. That's all, just like the other one. How do they know to do that ? It's the problem with broads. Left to their own they'll know exactly the right thing to say to drive you out of your mind, every time. She looked down. She wrung her wrists and looked back at me. "How much can a whore make, Daddy ?"
"Not that much, baby. Not that much." I knew what she was going to say before she said it. "How do you know ?" I didn't say anything for a while. I just looked at her. "Baby..." I said, but she cut me off. "Let me try. I want to try to save your life. What have you got to lose ?" I kissed her whore mouth. I whispered in her ear "You, for one thing." She giggled and turned to me, smiling like a little girl. "Oh don't worry about me, Daddy. I'll be fine. Honest I will."
I climbed the stairs down to the desk three at the time. The same guy was there like every night, I never saw another employee. He still remembered me as that broke ass kid who begged and cajoled a discount on a discount off of him. When I opened my mouth, the last thing he expected to come out of it was "How'd you like to make a hundred dollars ?" Still reeling he snickered, then asked who he has to kill. "Nothing like that. All you have to do is kick out all these low-lifes. Then you book the whole house down, all sixteen luxurious apartments, at twenty each a week. That's three twenty, and there's a hundred in it for you." His eyes grew very large. "That's a hundred a week ?" he asked me. "Right on, buddy, a hundred a week straight in your pocket." His eyes thinned out. "Let me see the money." I counted four hundred fifty in fifties on his desk, but when he reached for it I snapped it away. "Seeing it is one thing. You get me the keys, you can have it." He fell back in his chair with a whoosh, then after a moment came back with "You're the boss, Jack. I'll need a coupla days." I reached over and flicked some invisible spec off his lapel. "You've got plenty of time, friend. I don't need them before next Monday." He frowned and took on a pained expression, like his teeth suddenly found cold lemon. "That's pretty tight."
I gave him a look like he's thick maybe ? "Wednesday's almost out. That means Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, four days. Then it's this Monday. That's a whole week from next Monday. You've got eleven days. What the hell do you need, a quarter ?" He looked at me all confused. "Oh, you mean next Monday." I looked at him like he bummed one too many cigarettes. "Yes, I mean next Monday. That's why I said next Monday." With his hands dancing the appeasement dance he closed me out. "Okey dokey boss, you've got it." I dropped a twenty in front of him like it was a nickel and peeled out of there.
I went straight for Jimmy. I landed there just as he was closing shop. He was real excited to see me. We rapped a while about the whole thing, then I laid the June trip on him too. "Jimmy, man, I'm dead. If you don't turn the back rooms over there into trick rooms, I ain't ever gonna see the light of day come Monday." He looked at me from the side, dragged his reefer, held it, and then exhaled to the sound of "Who says I don't ?"
We talked it all through, excited like jays. I was a punk kid trying to bite more than he can chew, he was a washed up has-been trying to get back in the game. He got pretty worked up when I mentioned his jasper. It was plain as day he's got no cop on her at all, she's just got a meal ticket in him and that's all. I needled him with it too, "Well... ain't she got any friends ?" The poor guy, it really riled him, I could've bet dollars to dimes he's not ploughed into any of the pussy that girl brushed her teeth in, and won the bet, too. We left it that he'll handle the premises but I gotta find the girls. I had no intention of doing anything like it, and no need of him to do it with, anyhow. He didn't know it, but he was much more useful to me as a witness to my trying and not managing than anything else. Just in case some wiseguy came by asking questions. "I swear, the kid's got nothing, he couldn't even get a coupla whores together for my place when he had the chance." If June's ex-daddy was that tight with the cops, it stood to reason he might be just as tight with the other side, and I didn't need that kind of trouble. Not just yet, anyhow.
I went to bed in his cubby after cleaning his floors just like old time's sake, but thinking of June the whole time. I barely slept a wink because of her. In the morning I went in with breakfast. She was still sleeping, and boy was she happy to see her dead man. Afterwards, while eating our cold omelets I talked her down the whole trade. She's to go out, the cops won't bother her, get her johns and bring them back. The more she can go through the better it is. I told her to stay out of bars and stick to the streets. I told her to ask for as much as the sucker's worth, I said to her "Baby, you can always mark down. You can never mark up." Then I told her to make some friends, you never know when you need one. I kissed her sweetly and I told her I have to keep on the low-down, so they don't find me. It made no sense, what with the fix being in and everything, but she lapped it up like a fifteen year old kid in love over her ears. It made me so hot for her I tumbled her over and lay it into her like I was drilling oilpipe.
From there I made quick to Mama's parlour. She had no idea then, not anymore than I did, that she was about to set me up for life. Or maybe that's not right. She was there with one of her customers, who was getting her eyebrows arched. I walked through the pungent odors rising from the hot pressing combs pulling through the kinky hair of a couple customers, all the way to the back of the shop. There she was! Flashy as a Christmas tree, sitting before a mirror at a dressing table with her back to me. Mama stopped plucking at her brows as she introduced us, "Mrs. Ibbetts, this is my son Bobby."
Like a yellow cat hypnotizing a bird, she sat there motionless, her green eyes smoky, as she stared at me through the mirror. Then the velvet purring voice undulated toward me, she said, "Oh Bobby, I have heard so much about you. It's so exciting to meet you. But please call me Pepper. Everyone ever does."
I don't know what excited me more as I stood there. Was it the raw sensuality coming off of her in crushing waves ? Or maybe the blazing rocks on her tapered fingers, that I was sure hadn't come from Kresge'sii. I mumbled something, I don't even remember what it was. Something stupid anyways. Later I saw her slide into her sleek Caddie convertible, her white silk dress riding up exposing the satin sheen of her creamy yellow thighs. As she gunned away from the curb, she turned deliberately and gave me a full dose of those hot green eyes. She was signing the lease. I quizzed around and got the background on her. She was thirty-eight and she used to whore to the nines. She had worked the jazziest houses back East. Some wealthy white fence and part-time gambler tricked with her out there, then had enough of buying by the scoop and went and bought her outright. Her pimp was still working off the double-five bit he laid on him in parting. She was squared up now, and evidently ready for some action.
Three hours later there I was, ringing her doorbell in the plush Heights. I had a bundle of roses in my hand the size of a bale of hay. It was sixty-nine gorgeous buds, in an arangement with fresh ferns, you figure out what it set me back. The prettiest colors, too. There were those fabulous creamy-white ones with the red frosting on the edges ; then the plain pink ones, like tulips, and the crazy ones spotted red and butter-yellow in patterns. I bought out all the pink roses in South Water just about.
She answered the door wearing only a pair of white lace step-ins. My erection was hard and instant. She had a fabulous pad, all satin and light. The old man wouldn't be back for a week.
Truth be told I was closer to a hep punk than anything. I most definitely wasn't anywhere close her league, but one of my greatest assets has always been my open mind. That freak bitch cajoled out of me everything in the fuckbook, plus a few things I don't think were even listed. Of the two of us she'd have been the only one who'd know, anyway. Fucking with Pepper wasn't anything like the scared romps with the young girls I knew before. She wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as the great whores in my life ; but her snake-like calm, the way she rubbed without a care in the world, they drove me even wilder than the heat of the young vixens. What a thrill it must've been for a sly old dog like her, to turn out a tender fool like me. She was a hell of a teacher all right, and what a performer! In between our romps she explained all of burlesque to me ; and then she took me to see it, too. She got me to where I could judge the girls as well as any producer ever, and better even, because from her undulating belly I freely took a carnal knowledge like no other, as if putting me inside while they were all stuck on the outside of their whore.
My hair took on little by little the faint scent of her piss. She had been pimped hard ; she hated men. She made an exception for me, somehow, but even that exception had its moments where it wavered, where I could feel her hatred, burning through. I let it have its way, I let her do things to me I wouldn't have taken from anyone else. Far from uppity, it made her feel vulnerable, and left her wanting to open up to me. I'd turn the tables on her then, slow and by degrees. She told me to, the first time I tried it of my own. She said she'll take it, she'll take it from me, but I've to move it slowly, I have to drive it into her faintly, and show it to her as I do it so she knows there's no escape. She taught me about women, not by example like the jaspers at Tuskegee, but with clear explanation in plain sight. She explained rope and restraint, she explained cane and pain, she drew their square on the ground in her own blood for me, and made geometries of music with her screams braided in the harsh marks my learning left upon her butter skin. She let me look inside of her, and reach the little egg hiding from sight, she made me know every hole in her all the way and in everywhich way.
She taught me to snort girl. She snorted a lot herself. Whenever I came to her pad there would be thin sparkling rows of crystal cocaine on the glass top of the cocktail table. We would snort it through Bohemian crystal horns and then in the mirrored bedroom we made circus love until our nerve ends shrieked. Pepper and all that sugar'd have made a freak out of Peter the Rock ; and upon it we built our church.
I was green all right and twice as soft. She knew it, and she licked it off of me voluptuously, by slight degrees, like you savour a delicious meal that'll not come again in your life. Besides the sensuous succubus, Pepper was also a hardened ex-whore. She knew all the crosses. She had all the answers. She had lots of scratch, but she wasn't laying a red penny on me. One lazy Summer evening, as the the dazzling edge on our orgy was fading in me, I asked her straight up. "Mama... if you were to turn me out... how much'd my ass be worth ?" She smiled at me from under her half-closed eyes. "What are you doing, puppy dog ?"
"I want to flip you. I want to use the moves and techniques you taught me yourself, on you."
"Ooh." There it went again. I sighed deeply and went on. "I know all your buttons, unless you've hidden some. Did you hide some, bitch ?" I purred at her, all sugar and honey. She shook her head no. "What'll make you burn hotter for your little puppy, than knowing you've chained yourself away ?"
"Oh," she whispered, like a New Year's balloon breathing its last "Daddy... you've got yourself a whore."
"It'll cost you a lot to be my whore, babe." I grunted at her, getting on top of her, pinning her down.
"I know", she whispered, like in a trance. "Will you charge me a fortune, Daddy ? To whore for you ?"
"Naw" I sniggered, getting off of her, like it had all been a joke. "I wouldn't know how. I just love you too much."
"You'll make a lousy pimp" she sang, in even tones, regret welling in her chest. I had her number alright. She knew it, like I knew it, and she knew I knew it, too : for the past years living as a squared up whore she was bored stiff. She felt the end chipping away towards her, and her days getting sucked in a great big hollow vacuum, like water down a drain. She had never felt so alive as she did with me on top of her, copping her, making like I'm copping her. Everything about her came back to visit her like a big crushing wave. She hadn't lived a whore by accident, even if she was playing the square for convenience.
Her eyes under the half closed lids rose to meet mine, imploringly. "Please" she mouthed, inaudibly. "Please!" she whispered, like the wind. I said to her "Say please make me a real whore again, Daddy." she did it, immediately, like a gramophone. I looked at her, a slight smile on my lip, and I brought the clincher on her, like the sword of judgement. "Say please Daddy, please make me the crowiii in your crew, so all the other whores walk all over me and I have to kiss their sweaty asses." Her eyes grew the size of onions, and then she lost it! I thought she was going to kill me! "What other whores, you slimy bastard!" she yelled at me. It made me so happy to see her that angry. Furious. She was shooting daggers from those green eyes on her, now gone past smoldering into red hot volcano. I knew I had her. Right then and there I knew I had found her sensitive, delicate little nubbin hidden inside, and hitched my knot on it for good. Pepper's gonna be my whore, ten thousand pretty blond angels sung in my ears, deafening me. She's gonna be my whore. Definitely. She's gonna go for it, she's gonna do it. Hallelujah!
I told her all about June. How I met her, how I loved her, and how desperately I wanted to see Pepper under her, being dominated and pushed around by a little fifteen year old girl. She was stony silent for the longest time. Eventually I said "I told you it'll cost you a lot". She didn't say anything. She just nodded after a while, then opened her eyes. She looked at me, straight, for the first time since we met in Mama's shop. "Take me to her, then." she said, as plain as rain. What else could she have said, or done ? We had been playing this great game of chicken ever since she first laid eyes on me. "I bet you won't dare hit on me, you punk-ass kid." her eyes were saying to me, back in Mama's parlour, and then on that curb. Especially on that curb. "I bet you won't take your clothes off and show me what I'm missing out on" said those roses, and "I bet you won't come in and make me feel it" said those step-ins and that's all it was, all along and all the way through. Like two schoolboys running into each other one Summer vacation. "I bet you ain't got the guts" to this or that and then the other was the whole of our Law, sing-song and response all the way through.
The first thing I did, when she opened the door that first time, it wasn't what I wanted to do. I ached to push her in, fall on top of her, piledrive into her, just like you do, just like you'd think I do. That's not what I did, though. As she took the flowers from me and started to say something, I went down on my knees. Holding her taut ass in my hands, I kissed her mound. She moaned and tried to pull me in, but I kept pulling her out. Eventually we fell inside, her on her back and me on top of her. She had the greater pull. After that she scurried away. I didn't get up on my feet. Instead, I chased after her on all fours, barking like a dog. She stopped on the second stair, spreading her legs wide, daring me with her fingers. I ate her neatly trimmed bush like I hadn't seen one before. It was true, too. I had never seen a shaved kitty before in my life, I didn't even think it possible. I'd have never thought to come up with it on my own, hadn't I seen it on her first. I ate her out forever, without mercy, until it hurt her. She begged me to let her go. I didn't hear her. She tried to get away but was too exhausted from all the orgasm bucking. She couldn't push through wet paper. She cried in despair, but I didn't care. I didn't stop. Eventually she let go of her bladder, but that didn't stop me either. My erection was killing me the whole time, but I wouldn't put it in her, though she begged me to. Oh, how she begged me to. Her muscles were spasming every which way, criss-crossing her abandoned body. She thought she was going to die.
And then I stopped. Just like that, as she was breathing evenly, resigned. Raw. I told her I'll do anything she wants me to, what does she want me to ? She told me to call her Mama. I said Yes Mama. She told me to go put that ugly nigger dick of mine in ice. I went over to where she had a bar, flung out some bottle out of a bucket of ice. It went flying in a wide arc, crashing through some stuff, foaming up like it was trying to put out a fire. It didn't manage to. I stuffed my cock in the hole left behind. The ice felt like gorgeous hell. She said "You're a crazy kid, you know that ?" I said Yes Mama. She made me a drink. She kissed my frozen rod better. We just went at it like that, day in and day out. Like crazy people. How could she back down ? She had been through enough, she had eaten enough shit to not want to back down now, whatever the hell it was. In the end, our tug of war was resolved by the happy circumstance that I had more to ask of her than she had to ask of me, that's all.
That's all it ever is.———
- The judge is trying to rule on what he interpreted to be a motion of summary dismissal introduced by the defendant, because that's how justice worked in the time and place, the judge translated common speech "in the interest of justice", meaning to save everyone the trouble and expense of having a public defender appointed and a new date scheduled when the exact same motion'd be considered. [↩]
- This thing eventually became K-Mart sometime in the 70s. [↩]
- WW1 lingo, raw recruits fresh from back home. Soft, green, of little military value and correspondingly commanding no respect. Quite on the contrary... [↩]