June was asleep when we snuck in. Whores sleep till noon, it's not that they want to, it's that they have to. Just like everything else they do. Before leaving her Heights pad, I had Pepper decked to the nines. She had a huge hat on, the kind queens and real bonny-fiddy princesses went with, back in those days. She wore a dress, not revealing like for a whore. Revealing like for a politician's wife or something. She looked just like one of those socialites they have, and then she had her white fox fur on top. Her whole outfit was white, from the baby seal leather heels to the huge pearls around her neck. She looked like a walking, talking bank robbery. On the dresser lay a large pile of damp bills. Lots of fifties, and even a coupla Cs in there. That was some respectable scratch. I winked her at it, and she went "Hm..." from the corner of her eye. Then I bellowed "Hey, June!"
The poor darling started in bed, like she dreamed she was being roused up by demons or something. In a way I guess she was. Then she was all smiles. "Good morning, Daddy. I'm so happy to see you!" Then her eyes opened large enough to take in Pepper, too, and her ticker stopped. She wasn't breathing, she just looked at me, her eyes well open now enough to drive the Moon through them.
"Honey, I want you to meet Pepper!" June didn't say anything. I carried on, my mock enthusiasm uncracked. "She's my fiance! We're going to be married soon!" Pepper took her cue. She walked slowly the coupla steps to the bed, then reached our her hand, stiffly, like one of those upper class girls would do. "Nice to meet you, June." June's throat was all knots. She swallowed hard a couple of times, mostly tears and snot, and then she finally managed to babble "But... but why ?"
I looked at her like she just asked the strangest thing, like why do they drive cars on the road instead of up a wall. "What do you mean why ?! It's obvious enough, isn't it ? She's so much better than you, June. I mean, face facts baby. You're just a little girl. Pepper's a real woman. She's rich and pretty and I love her so much!" June was crying now in earnest, her eyes wide open, her bare chest unmoving. Looking straight into my eye, tears rolling down her cheek one after another. "But you can still come to the wedding" I said, appeasingly. "I know you don't have anything to wear, but Pepper will let you wear some of her older clothes she doesn't wear anymore." I said, like I had found the holy grail. I mean, what problems could be left in the world anymore, right. Pepper was gonna let her wear some hand-me-downs from the bottom of her closet, what more could you ask for. June crumpled in bed, crying in a howling frenzy, each word I spoke like a flaming dagger piercing her breast. Now and again she'd look up, take me in for a brief calm moment, then go right back to her ball of teary despair. What a heel I must've seemed to her! During one of those interludes she even managed, through all the tears and snot, to let me know she had made twenty-eight hundred since I told her. Pepper was tearing up. I slapped her ass, like "Hey, what the fuck are you doing, bitch ?"
That cut it for her. She sat down on the bed, next to June, putting her arm around her. The poor girl struggled free the first two or three times, but eventually just went straight for bawling her eyes out on Pepper's tit, right through the fifteen hundred dollar dress. Tears will cut through any money, you know ? She was petting her hair down and whispering to her, "I'm sorry, baby... He told me he wants me to come here... so you humiliate me and push me around... I had no idea... He set me up too." and all the while all I could think of was "Twenty-eight hundred ? Really ? Again ?!" Eventually Pepper hit the jackpot. "There's no wedding. He made it all up." At that June finally looked up at her, straight at her like she was sucking her in through the eyes. "There... there isn't ?"
"No, baby. There's no wedding. He just made it all up. Sometime between the car and the hallway I think he just made it all up." She wasn't wrong, either. June's eyes were clearing up, like she was starting to see the clear skies beyond a great joke. The greatest joke of them all : hope. "Who are you then ?" she managed eventually, through the sobs. "I'm just another whore, baby. Just like you." June finally gathered enough gumption to face me again. "Is that true ?" she asked me, mouthing the words one by one like they were precious songbird eggs, all fragile and delicate, and the fate of the whole world depended on their staying in one piece.
"Yes, it's true." I shot back. "There's no wedding. I brought this backstabby bitch here for you to have your way with her bony, used-up ass." Pepper shuddered, and then turned to June "You see how he treats a woman ? You'd better stay away from him, if you know what's good for you." June reached out and clasped her hands around my back, her face pushed against my rod. Her head was turned to the side, facing Pepper, and she mouthed "I know I should."
Then we fucked all together. Though the girls were no jaspers, they hugged while I went from one to the other and back again. They didn't kiss or anything, like the Tuskegee coeds used to, they just looked into each others eyes while my rod went between them, from flower to flower and back again. Then we gave June her moment.
Pepper was blown away the poor girl peeled a wad of almost three grand offa a hundred and more different suckers, working the street. She only had a week to do it, too, I last saw her Wednesday night and now was Friday morning, the next Friday over. June was clearly scoring some massive points in her book, more than four hundred bucks a day, each day, for a week straight, from a young whore runaway from school, with no experience and all by herself. To her it was like flying around the world on your own farts. She wouldn't have believed if she didn't see it, and even then she looked straight in my eye at one point and shot point blank "Is this another set-up ?" But no, it wasn't. She could tell, June had that openness about her where it wasn't so much that you could read her mind on her face like an open book. It was more that she bludgeoned you with her thoughts. There was no missing what's going on in there and no possiblity of faking it, either. At least, we didn't think so, then.
Then we went through the set-up to jiggle Pepper free. Her old man was coming back that Friday evening. To be honest I was afraid of the whole idea. June's dad was one thing, but if that fence of Pepper's came looking for me I'd be just like a frog jumped in a hound's wide open maw. I really didn't want any part of it, but what could I say ? Pepper pushed for it, hard. Her plan was to take June in for when he's back, and make like she's her maid. Then, to give her up for him. Then later work it in, that she wants to go back, and June's pimp's just this harmless kid looking to grow up, and that he'd have free reign with all the girls, of course. Not just her, or just them two, but all of them. Who wouldn't want his pick of a stable in trade for a bony-ass, used up whore ? She was needling me, but I didn't say anything. I asked June if she's up for doing a different stretch. She told me "Daddy, I've done more this crazy week than in my whole life, ten times over. My little kitty stays sore and swollen like you saw it. Friday morning when I soaked in the tub it still went back down, but not since then. What do you think ?" I just looked at her. She cooed back, "Do you like your little whore with her little kitty swollen and sore, Daddy ? Should I just stay on the street and work it raw for you ?" Pepper rolled her eyes, but now it was my turn. "See, bitch, this is what a real whore's like. None of your East Coast fake whoring like you do." June looked up at me surprised, Pepper just let out this "Uuuuuhhh" like she's been served and she knew it. Looking straight at me she intoned, in her sing-songy voice, "Oh June Ma'am, may I kiss your sore whore pussy please ?" June just looked at me bewildered. "On your back, bitch!" I barked at her. "Spread 'em." I said, just like a copper making a cop. I grabbed her ankles as I was shoving my pulsing prick into Pepper's ass, and strangled her with June's thighs while pounding her wildly. That was the best fuck I ever had, fucking two whores I didn't at all deserve right into each other for the first time. There's nothing like it, and there's nothing else.
Then they took off in Pepper's Caddy, and I lay down on the bed just for a moment. I felt tired. The next thing I knew it was noon again. I slept all through like a sack of potatoes, from early in the afternoon until noon the next day. Twenty hours almost, truth be told I hadn't had that much sleep the past week I had spent with Pepper. When I looked into the mirror, a death's head stared right back at me. That vampire bitch was sucking my life's blood away ; though in fairness I also knew well enough that crystal cocaine isn't exactly a health tonic. I never looked into a mirror for a long while, I didn't even remember the last time I did it. It seemed like I never have the time for it when there's pussy around. But once I was left by myself, there it was, and I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit. I made two big decisions that mildewy mid-Saturday. One was to look into a mirror now and again no matter what. It's not about the broads, it can't be always about them. The other was even bigger. I figured I had to choose between Pepper and girl, and when it came right down to it I found out soon enough only one of those I could do without.
While I was having a bite of breakfast mid-day I saw Weeping Shorty, a gorilla pimp about fifty-five. I knew him from Jimmy's joint. He looked horrible last time I set eyes on him, and now barely a few weeks later he looked plum like a breathing corpse. Hoss was his Boss. He had chipped around, and gotten hooked. There's worse things to do to yourself than a line of girl now and again, I thought to myself. At least that doesn't get you hooked. That's the trouble with girl, it's always there, whispering. You ain't hooked, but you ain't much thinking of anything else, neither. I reasoned with myself, I said in my mind "Look boy, he's fifty and you're not. You can take a beating where he can't doesn't mean you have to." I was right, too. I knew I was.
Weeping was as bubbly as his palor left him room for. He smiled even, after a fashion, stretching that crinkly drumhide wrapped around his skull to the breaking point. He looked at me and made that clacking sound against the roof of his mouth with his tongue. You know, that mischievous, weirdly joyful sound that a deranged kid makes the instant before he rams a hat pin into your ear drum. Then he said, "Well kiss my dead mammy's ass, if it ain't Macking Youngblood. The whore's pet and the pimp's fret." The used-up junkie bastard was jeffing on me! He was lashing me with contempt and scorn. I loved it. Somehow the Mayor walking in and shaking my hand for being the smartest young entrepreneur in the whole of Chi wouldn't have tickled me any better than this long-gone corpse impersonating a stuffed pheasant jibing me for not knowing the game. Then he went on, even louder, somehow : "I hear you're gonna turn Jimmy's into the classiest mack joint this side the river Nile, ain't that right now, youngster ?" then he broke down in a rotten cough, bringing blood bubbling into his spit. I went right back at him "Why, you got some girls ready to leave off the walk and do some lying down for a change ?" He gave me a furtive glance, then whispered "Listen, Mack, I'm the best pimp in town. You know I am. Now let me pull your coat, and give you a plan for putting a ring in that whore Pepper's nose."
I looked at him. He looked back at me, intently. Suddenly he wasn't so beat down no mo'. Suddenly he looked just like a grass in the snake, angling for a birdy. Maybe I was the birdy, and maybe I wasn't. Maybe he was half-gone, and maybe I wasn't the first to think of covering your pull. I didn't let anything past. I was just listening. He said "Come on and we'll rap" but I said to him "Shorty, listen, let's finish our food first. I'm too young to go hungry, you know ?" I let him watch me swallow that huge Alabama steak breakfast, bit by bit. I didn't say anything. I didn't let on anything. He took it like a champ. The game's a million questions, and after you figure those out then the answers come, slowly, from heart breaking trial and mostly error. Some try and get ahead by ass kissing the few old pimps who had solved the riddle, who pimped by the book. I sucked an old whore's ass clean, and it put me ahead of them, that's for damn sure ; but the cleverest pimp could give a thousand years and never come close to all the answers. Weeping Shorty was an old man. He was long past the questions, he even worked out a few answers for himself. He maybe knew a thousand times more than I did. I wan't about to not listen, anyhow. But there's table stakes, like in everything, and that morning, at that table, them stakes was one hell of a juicy steak. Them's the breaks.
Eventually he pulled me with a jerk of his head. I followed him to a big shabby Buick. It was parked at an intersection in the cheap-trick district, a few blocks south from the diner. When we got inside the Buick I understood why he had parked it there. He could watch and keep tabs on his stable of scrawny, junkie whores working the four corners of the intersection. He sat under the wheel not saying anything, his eyes straight ahead. I thought of the small pile of cocaine wrapped in tinfoil, stuck in my instep. That was all that remained of a flourbag's worth we must've gone through, between me and her, during our little festival. Before we left she wrapped it up for me and stuffed it in my shoe. "Just in case" she said, "And don't go try and cop for yourself. I don't want you no jailhouse bull's bitch, alright puppy ?"
I fished the package out and held it in my hand. I figured he's the best hole to dump it into. Sure better than any hole of mine, anyhow. Besides, we had already tried all of mine. He looked like he hadn't seen some half-decent girl in a good half-decade. Maybe it turns his life around. I turned to him and said, "Weeping, do you want a light snort of girl?" He stiffened like a butcher knife had been run into his back. He looked at the wad of tinfoil in my palm. He snatched it and in the same motion hurled it through the window on his side. His top was blown. He shouted, "Nigger, ain't you got no sense? You trying to blow my wheels?"
I said, "What did I do wrong? All I did was to offer the C just to be sociable. What's wrong with that ?" He said, "Sucker, first booty butt, you don't transport no hard in your stomp. Who taught you that ? Keep it in your mitt, sucker. That way you can down it fast to the turf. Second, you ain't no dealer. You ain't got no fix. You ain't got no business sitting dirty in my short. There's a law, sucker, that can confiscate a short with stuff in it. You know if the heat had hit on you you would unload in my short." He looked at me. I nodded, sheepish. He went on, roaring master of the whole field "Keep stuff off you. When you stop somewhere down it in the street until you ready to split. It's better to get beat for the stash than beat by the heat. Now can you take your head outta Pepper's ass long enough to make some scratch ?"
Oh how this junkie creep bugged me. I sat there beside him, trying to think of an angle that'd bleed whatever it was out of him quick, so I could get out of his face fast. He looked exactly like a withered baboon. His breath stunk like he had just eaten a bowl of grave maggots. I said, "Weeping, Pepper hasn't got my nose open for her. She's too jazzy and slick for me. Now you on the other hand, everybody knows that your game is mellow. I want you to pull my coat so I can pimp some scratch out of her."
The baboon liked that banana I threw him. He was ready to talk the pimp game. He said, "The suckers in Hell want ice water, too. Don't mean they'll get any. It's late for them. They ain't never gonna get to no ice water no mo. The way you start with a bitch is the way you end with a bitch. You can start pimping hard on a bitch and then sucker out and blow her, but ain't no way you can turn it around and pimp on Pepper after starting with her like a sucker. Forget her and get down on a fresh bitch." I said, "You mean there is no way to get any scratch out of her?" He said, "Now you see, I didn't say that. I said you couldn't pimp any scratch outta her. A foxy cold-blooded stud can always find an angle to cross a broad outta scratch." I said, "I'm not foxy, but I think I could be cold blooded enough to cross that slick bitch Pepper out of a bundle. Weeping, you're the only fox here. Please man, I'm begging you. Lay some game on me and put me to the test. I'll split any scratch I take off right down the middle with you."
The day had started out sunny, up until I ran into this shambling corpse. Then it turned, and by the time we were out of the diner it was almost ready to start dropping. While we rapped it went through a slight drizzle gaining strength all the while, and by now it was downright pouring. Weeping turned to run up the window on his side, then turned back to answer my proposition when there was a frantic rapping on his window. It was one of his whores. Through the closed window of the locked door she said loudly, "Daddy, open the door! My feet are soaked. Nothing is happening out here tonight, and besides I am hot as Hell. The vice is watching me. It's Costello. He told me to get off the street or he would bust me. Please open the door, Daddy."
Weeping was a cold gorilla all right. He sat there for a long moment. His monkey face was tight and hard. He casually opened the wind wing as the rain beat down on his whore. She stuck her nose through it. Without moving toward the wing, sitting erect in the car seat he hollered, "You bullshit bitch, make something happen. What you out there fo' ? You a whore, you suppose to be hot. Let Costello bust you. He can't make a beef stand up unless he ketches you with a trick. You dumb chickenhearted bitch, whatta you think I got this ass pocket full of fall scratch for ? Now get out there and work. You do your job, let Costello do his job. Don't you worry yo dumb ho ass over him. And don't worry yaself about the rain, neither. Walk between the rain drops. Bitch." He slammed the wing shut. Her face was wild and angry through the murky glass. Her dope-rotted teeth were ragged fangs in the dimness as she pressed her face close to the glass. She screamed, "You just lost a girl. You had four, now you got three. I'm cutting you loose, Shorty." Weeping let his window down and stuck his head out into the rain as she walked away. He was all gorilla now. He yelled out, "Bitch! I give you odds you won't split. As much of my dope you been shooting, I'm playing ketch up. You rank bitch, you know if you split I'll find you and stick my knife in your stinking asshole and gut you to your breast bone."
I wondered if he had lost her. He read my mind. He said, "She ain't going nowhere, look at this." He turned his car engine on and started the windshield wiper so we could see the street. There she was back out there in the rain whistling and waving at the passing cars. He switched the engine off, and said "That bitch knows I ain't jiving. She'll make me some scratch this morning." I looked at her, and then I said "back last year I ran into a virgin girl so tough down there, I had to really stick a knife into her to get through." He looked at me, trying to figure where I'm coming from. Eventually he said "That happens now and then". Then he pulled himself together, and went back to present affairs. He said, "Now, Youngblood, about Pepper. You don't know anything about her. I like you, so my advice is the same I gave you at first. Forget her. Try in another spot."
What he said about my not knowing her made me curious. I said, "Look Weeping, I know you like me, and if you do, run Pepper down for me." It's the thing with small timers, like a curse on them, that always they think they know more than everyone else because they don't understand how it's less. Say a man is a biologist, he goes and studies blue whales fifty years, and then he writes a book, with all he found out about them in it. Some guy in a bar reads it. All he knows about blue whales is that they're blue. He's never as much as seen one, but I mean, come on, they're blue. He never finds anywhere in that first guy's book where he says that blue whales are blue, and he figures to himself "Well... if ever that young squirt comes by my hometown and buys me a beer, I'll pull his tails and clue him in : they're blue. Betcha he'll fall on his face, he didn't know that." Now of course the guy with the book has a chapter in there where he talks about something like it. But he's not going to say exactly "they're blue", because maybe there isn't even such a thing as blue in the first place. He doesn't say it in those words, and the guy in the bar doesn't know how to go from some words to some other words, so he just thinks he's the one that invented, the color blue, and the one line, three word book on blue whales : "they're blue!"
"Did you know that peckerwood of Pepper's is the bankroll behind the biggest policy wheel in town?" he asked me, as serious as you like. I said, "No ?!" all surprised, as if I were. Then in the pause I went "but if the old man is flush isn't that good? Why give Pepper up because she's in shape. If you gave me an angle I could get some of that policy scratch." He went on, as he had more of his informative gems of wisdom in his belt. "Look Blood, brace yourself. Here comes the rest of the rundown. Pepper is a rotten freak broad. You ain't the only stud she freaks off with. I could name a half dozen who ride her. The dangerous one is Dalanski, the detective. He is in a bad way over Pepper. If he ever found out you were freaking off with her, Blood, shame on your ass." I was shaken and appaled by the rundown, truly I was. I thought to myself, "Yeah, and I bet she goes over to rub Dalanski's wife's feet every other weekend, too. She probably babysits and everything, when they throw a party it's Pepper the house maid no doubt." Instead of anything like that I said "Oh, no. Weeping, man, thanks for cluing me in. A broad with a lot of scratch and that knows Detective Dalanski himself, what could I have been thinking mixing up with her." He didn't wise up to the joke any. I carried on, "I see you're right, and I'd better split with her while I still can. Are you sure there are that many studs laying her?"
He said, "Maybe more." I grimaced like it really hurt me that June fucked half the town until she walked like the cowboys. I mumbled, "Thanks for the advice, and the run down, Weeping." I was about to get out of the Buick and look for a flea exterminator. He got excited. At first I thought because one of his rickets illustrations finally hitched a ride in some beat up pick-up. It wasn't that, though it was the first time in a good half hour I saw that miracle take place. He told me, "Blood, put a smile on your face. Old Shorty's got good news for you. How would you like a half a G in your slide?" I said, "All right, give me the poison and take me to the baby." He said, "I ain't shucking. It's cream-puff work. In fact, Tender Dick, it's what you like to do best. Want the run down?" I looked at him up and down, then said "If you are going to tell me some broad is going to lay out fivehundred frog skins to get her rocks off, lay it on me. For that kinda scratch I'd lay the more or less recently departed." He snickered, an evil wheeze quickly turned to a cough. Eventually he settled down enough to say, "Pepper is the broad. All you have to do is take her to bed and go through a full circus with her, that's all. Are you game?" I nodded. "I'm game, if I get a rake off from the bleacher seats, and you tell me who wants the show on."
His eyebrows jitterbugged. He was a slick joker, or at the least had been. He said, "No, I can't tell you who. Don't worry about the scratch, it's guaranteed. Are you in?" I said, "Yes, but I want to know more. Like, why?" The tale he told me went like this : A fast hustler from New York who specialized in pressure rackets saw a chance to trim Pepper's old man out of a bundle. The hustler knew that Pepper was a dog and a freak. He also knew that Pepper's old man was hung up on her. Even though he had met her in a whorehouse and squared her up, he was dangerously jealous of her and unpredictable if he caught her wrong. The hustler felt that Pepper would be in a sweet state for pressure if solid evidence could be gotten showing Pepper as the dog she was. The hustler was sure he could force her to help him in his scheme to trim the old man. He needed clear unfaked photographs. His plan would be simple. Once he got the club over Pepper's head, he would force her to sneak in phony "hit" slips against the policy wheel. The hustler had discovered that for Pepper, from her inside position close to the wheel, it would be very simple. The hustler would pay me five bills after I had brought Pepper to a prearranged set up.
I figured the angles in my head. The story sounded dumb enough to be true, even if it wasn't. The outfit didn't seem like much. It looked to me like should I agree and not go through, the most'll happen is that slick racket man from back East'll give Shorty here maybe the go-ahead and he'll do something truly horrible to me, like maybe puke in my lap. That'd be a grand in drycleanning easy. I went in all for it, and hoped Pepper gave me the sign and we rapped before these jokers did. Weeping told me the trap was set. I was to wait until Pepper itched enough to call me. I was not to call her. That set my mind at ease, anyhow. Whenever she called I was to tell her to meet me in the bathroom of an old, but still elegant hotel on the fringe of the arcade and shooting gallery section of town. Then I was to call him. I was to make sure that at least two hours passed between her call and when I went to the desk and asked for the key to apartment two-fourteen. My name would be Barksdale. I nodded and assured him of my undying gratitude for this gorgeous set-up of a five year old's design, then finally got out of that Buick coffin. The air outside smelled sweet and fresh, like I had been sniffing farts for the past hour.
I was going to drop by Mama's, before the geezer ambushed me in the greasy spoon. I headed that way now, except who do I run into, sitting on the sidewalk ? Old "Party Time" himself! While doing his year for our caper he copped a lonely-hearts broad through the mails. She went his train fare when he finished the bit, so he went to visit her, and they made a home! After five bits and not half a year square he was itching to get back on the street, his head as full as ever of crooked inspiration. I liked him fine, but I did not like him enough to join him in a hustle again. I wiggled out smoothly enough and we shook hands friends, but meeting him reminded me of Vera and that put me in a mellow mood worse than any Mississippi blues. I went back inside, and sat on the bed. I missed Pepper. I hadn't even touched June in a week. I missed them all. I sat on the bed and bawled like a child. Six or seven times I stood up, to go cop myself some girl or something, anything. Every time that mirror saved my life. There it was, right by the door, ready to look right back at me any time I felt like looking in. I tried to go to sleep but there was nothing doing, I just tossed and turned and worked myself up by degrees.
I thought I ain't ever gonna see, any of them, ever again. Pepper's just gonna take June to her old man, "Look Daddy, I copped us a new whore for the house." Why'd she ever come back from Pepper's pad to this rat trap ? She wouldn't. Why did I ? I did, though. But that's only because I'm a sucker ; women ain't never suckers like men get, isn't that right. I said to myself, "Well now, boy... you've blown yourself whoreless, and you're fresh outta girl". The thought of it drove me crazy ; but June's eyes and Pepper's smile came from nowhere and made me feel better, for a heartbeat. Then I was wild with crazy thoughts again, like with a rash, the more you scratch it the more it itches until you draw blood and it's still not done. I put my head under the faucet, but that still didn't help. I didn't know what to do, but it sure as hell didn't look good for me.