A short story by LR Forgues
…the deep, pulsing beat her guide through her slinky journey across the wide expanse of raised circular stage…
…the gleaming brass pole…the center of her sensual orbit.
A slick sheen of sweat glistens over her tightly-toned body, in no way a turnoff to those who watch enraptured. The soft lights above and below shift and pivot; throwing blues…and reds…and yellows over the performance. Her dark mane of long brown hair sways to the beat, framing her beautiful, doll-like visage as she sways and writhes serpent-like through her routine; more felt than remembered. Her eyes…those mesmerizing crystalline blue eyes that her father (and so many others) had adored…before a powerful heart attack prematurely claimed his life, flicker over the shadowy upturned faces, just beyond the stage’s edge.
Needy boys, fortified by pay-cheques and libations. Occasionally a woman or two, dykes or girlfriends, there to watch that which they secretly wanted…or wanted to be.
It didn’t matter.
It was all…audience.
She spins, dropping cat-like to the stage; prowling. Their fetid breath reaches her now; a warm, sickening mix of alcohol and cigarettes. Sometimes weed. Sometimes vomit. She masks her revulsion with a coy smile half hidden behind her dark shroud of hair. The progressive thud of the DJs dark trance set fades expertly into a tribal cadence, heavy on the bass. The mix is smooth. She throws a glance back. The concentration on his features is impressive; under-lit in the sickly green hue of the cramped DJ booth. He never seems to catch her moves, so intent is he on the black acetate slapped on the old school Technic 12’s before him, mentally reliving his glory days spinning wax in big-money clubs and raves all over the place. This was only club in the city that still rocks the decks, the retro novelty lost on the rough patrons who only want cold, cheap beer and the sight of tantalizingly exposed female skin.
The beat continues to progress as the new track thuds into existence. A shrill whistle of male appreciation echoes out of the darkness around the stage at her. Instinct kicks in…she suggestively grinds her shapely pelvis against an imaginary male crotch, her gorgeous thong’d backside an erotic show onto itself.
She continues her prowl…
The throbbing bass pounds…thickens. Centre stage, she rears up in an Oscar-worthy mimicry of profound sexual release, gracefully arching her tanned back…running her smooth hands down over her black leather top…along her toned, sinuous belly…sliding down over her skin toward…!
Ever the tease, she yanks away as though burned…sensually so…running her fingers back up her body to the chrome-studded top. She scans the murky, male shapes before her as her practiced hands find the clasps. The anticipation is palpable, the collective lust heavy in the thick, warm air. Slurred words of sleazy encouragement reach out to her as the pounding music hits a sharp crescendo.
The clasp separates and in one, sexy move…she shrugs her top off. There is an audible pause as the leather garment falls to the stage top. The stage lights fall across her, painting the smooth hills and valleys of her sweat-slickened torso in soft warm hues.
The crowd loses its collective mind.
The explosion of wild applause, shrill whistling and lewd shouts washes over her like an unclean wave. In reward, she playfully thumbs a pert nipple to rigid attention as she blows a quick kiss…
…to no one in particular.
A papery flutter of blue settles before her knees, it’s former owner unseen in the maelstrom of attention. The crumpled $5 bill quickly finds a secure home in the tight black thong, held fast at her shapely hip by the spaghetti strapping of the barely-there leather bottoms. Her skin warms with shallow pride at the flood of appreciation.
It’s this adulation that keeps her living the life.
Sure, the money’s good, but this…!
Inwardly she beams, quickly rising to her feet, the stiletto heels of her high black boots no hindrance to her grace as she presses her strong back to the waiting brass pole behind. The cool metal against her spine is a pleasant contrast to the heat pouring from her skin. Seemingly seduced by gravity, she slowly slides down the pole’s phallic length, tantalizingly separating her knees a moment before bringing them quickly back together; a pantomime of modesty in a place that is anything but.
It’s then the sound reaches her…
Sharp and mean.
Oh god! Could it be…?
For a terrible split second, she’s shoved back into that cramped toilet stall in the dingy MEN’s bathroom at the back of the bar. His rough, calloused hands are on her again, digging cruelly into the pale skin of her arms; stinking of old oil and stale cigarette. The grinning Death’s Head tattoo standing out on the hairy forearm, old and faded, seeming to mock her protests. His hot, beer-tinged breath as he snarls quietly into her ear; impatiently demanding all manner of carnal debauchery…acts even the luckiest man in her life wouldn’t get…if there was one.
It had all started with an ill-advised drink and that stinging line of cocaine at a booth after a private dance. A high-tipping customer who felt that his thick wad of bills would grant him carte blanche with the stable of desirable females in the club’s employment. Later, as she’d been recovering from the dislocated jaw and black eye he’d left her with, she heard that the same son-of-a-bitch had pulled the same vile shit on some of the other girls. And not just here…in this bar. Word had come back about others…out there. Some had given in, muffling their own anguish as he’d had his brutal dirty way with them.
After the asshole doorman had sheepishly just shrugged and Management had pleaded an inability to intervene, she had made her way to the local police detachment. Their condescending round of questioning was no better, nearly giving way to her own arrest.
Even as an inner warning had sounded, she’d dutifully included the cocaine use in her complaint. She’d almost seen the eyes of the female officer taking the statement glaze over at that moment and she knew the cause was lost. She walked away with a warning and they chalked her ‘report’ up to a ‘trick gone wrong’…’sex trade road kill’. Once the dislocation had mended and the bruises faded away, she’d returned to the Box Cutter Club and Bar with a vengeance…fast becoming a customer favorite, throwing herself into the work to drown out the memory…nearly convincing herself that it was a one-time, unfortunate event, an ‘earning her spurs’ moment in this cruel and depraved industry.
Still…she’d taken steps…just in case. She was ready for it for next time…if there was one.
Her thoughts danced over the slight bulge against her inner right thigh, nestled behind the high black leather. The cackle had been low…so he can’t be far.
The next question would be – who would strike who, this time?
The beat slams in, jerking her effortlessly back to her routine. Her moves are like fluid, not betraying the icy steel slipping like a whisper into her adrenalized system. She rises with the bass-line to sashay about the stage, a lioness on the prowl, striding through sweeping colored beams of light like a Valkryie striding into battle. From behind the flow of long, dark hair, her eyes catch a glimpse of…something.
An undefined movement.
A frightening calm settles over her. Her trademark mane hides both her rigid determination and her now-targeting eyes from the attentive crowd. It’s her supple body they want anyway; any window into her personality shallowly over-looked in favor of the flesh. As the new mix fades in, her passage around the flashing stage is marked by her gunshot-like footsteps, as though she’s angrily marking the perimeter of her domain. The trek takes her back to the pole at center stage. Moving in, she deftly grabs the length of rounded brass, gracefully whirling around while lowering herself back to her knees.
That tall shadow.
Just beyond the lights.
Could it be?!
There’s the belligerent cock of the large head. Wide tradesman shoulders. The perched truckers cap. It HAS to be…him.
She feels light…airy. Off balance.
The pounding bass fades off into the far distance of her mind as a murky dimming creeps into her vision; focusing like a rifle-scope on…that shape. ‘His’ shape (it HAS to be!). The comforting weight in her boot calls again, the cold metal like the warning rattle of a threatened desert snake, waiting to strike…to taste warm blood. The ferocious image chills her sweat-slickened skin, yanking her rudely back into the ‘now’.
The new beat drops into a low, sinister breakdown sprinkled with 1950’s sci-fi movie samples. The hushed murmur of the captive audience floats to her through the colored beams of hot light. Somewhere an excited shout, fueled by cheap liquid courage, beckons to her…slurringly advocating further titillation…further sexual writhing. She complies, rising again into a rapid spin; smooth arms raised loosely from her side…partly for balance, partly for effect. Her near-black sweep of hair trails quickly after her. Without pause, she marches smartly out of the whirl…making for the stage’s opposite side. The drunken college boys seated there watch with barely-concealed awe as her captivating form approaches. A sharp whistle cuts past from the table of burly longshoremen behind. Like robots, the boys’ necks all crane up in unison as she takes up a dramatic position before them, noting the loose bills awaiting her arrival at the stage’s edge.
She launches into a particularly provocative routine that she saves for moments like this. As she slinks about before them, she incorporates the claiming of the bills into the movements, ignoring the age-old warnings of the filth of cash money.
Filthy place…filthy profession…filthy cash.
Money and filth, on many a level, go merrily hand in hand.
Regardless…it pays the bills. As she maneuvers to reward them with an unrestricted display of taut, thong’d cheek, movement again catches her eye from across the expanse of stage. Her heart feels cold in her chest, thumping heavily.
Theshape is there. Just beyond the lights.
The shadow of a doubt is dim in her mind, slipping quickly away. The silhouette stands poised behind the staring crowd on the ‘meat seats’; watching her every move…studying…calculating. She can almost feel a cruel gaze on her like the touch of unwanted fingers on her body.
Again, her mind turns to her boot. A loud cat-call, from behind, slaps at her and she absently shimmies in dutiful response. A customer at the far edge, old enough to be her granddad, gulps back the dregs of his pint of warm, pale beer and then awkwardly stumbles into a hunched standing position…blowing her a revolting wet kiss from shriveled lips as he turns to gently push past…that shape. The space in the seating at the stage’s edge stands out like a missing tooth.
It’s not empty long.
He saunters arrogantly forward, sliding into the gap while pushing the discarded mug aside. The crooked truckers cap masks his features as he settles in, just as…
…snaps through her core like an electric shock. That chill washes over her again, fueling her purpose…her resolve. A young blond server, one of the new girls, approaches him, sliding forth a fresh pint of dark beer. He leans back, brandishing a thick wad of bills as he peels one off…slipping it onto the bright yellow tray she holds before her. She uncertainly moves to make change but stops as he says…something. Her fresh young face breaks into a bright grin that betrays her naiveté’ in response to his quiet words. The change is hers. She lightly brushes his shoulder, giggling as she moves off to new patrons. He turns back, raising the cold drink to his lips. Our dancer robotically moves to the music as she calculates…
His eyes, still hidden beneath the shadow of the worn cap, focus in on her again.
…slams over her again like an ocean wave in the night. She trembles inwardly. Her boot…the bulge…offers some comfort.
It MUST be him!
The monotonous pounding of the trance track thumps through her mind and, for an instant, she hates it. It seems to mock the frightened and angry thudding of her heart. A tear threatens to bloom into existence at the corner of one wide, blue eye…threatening to unmask her. She mentally wills it away, honing in on…
From this angle she can’t see the crude tattoo that she KNOWS is there, emblazoned on the meaty forearm out of sight beneath the edge of the raised stage. She blinks the remains of the traitorous tear away and in that instant of darkness…
…claws at her. Her mouth goes dry as the salted copper taste of the spilled blood is half remembered. The inebriated men around her hoot and whistle…pushing her on, prodding her forward. As she slowly crawls along in display of sensual submissiveness, she catches sight of the young server passing behind him again. His head cocks arrogantly to the side as he too seems to take in the sight of the passing girl.
Is that his sick plan? Is she next?!
His wide shoulders bounce as he quietly chortles at…something.
Then it happens…the catalyst.
The bill appears like magic from below the stage before him, raised up to eye level and used to sleazily beckon her forward.
It was a $20 that lured her into the booth last time.
It was a $20 that they’d both inhaled the stinging powder through.
It was a $20 that started the waking nightmare of that night so long ago.
A dull ache rises in her jaw as she remembers the quick fist…
…the cruel flash of the impact….
the cold hardness of the dirty tile that she came to weakly sprawl on…
…the dark blood that ran from her pale lips, smearing the pale tile beneath her cheek. The stinging tear creeping under the sputtering fluorescence of the bathroom, mingling with the crimson marring her beautiful features.
Not again, motherfucker.
It ends here.
Fixing her cold gaze on him, she moves in, a focus eerie in its precision. The prey seemingly falling for the bait…it’s that part she plays now as she closes in.
The boot…the bulge.
She can sense rather than see his nasty grin of triumph as he realizes that he has her now.
Cash to these whores is like flame to a moth…she can almost hear these cruel words slipping lazily through his diseased, booze-addled mind.
It MUST be him!!
Kneeling before him, running her hands seductively over her tight skin as he glares hungrily up at her, cruel features masked behind the rim of his pint. His features may be lost to her but her belief in his identity is absolute…her inner fury sweeping aside any reasonable doubt that may interfere with what she…must do….
Closing her eyes, she arches back, running her hands slowly down over her thighs and back behind her…out of sight. Down and back, sliding to the tops of her high leather boots. Two fingers dip in…finding it quickly. She tilts her head forward again, allowing her eyes to take in the sight before her as they open. The cap, the Kenworth logo faded and worn, hiding the piggish eyes from her scrutiny. The dark stubble of his rounded double chin, below sneering lips. The broad, brutish shoulders hunched forward as he leans in. The tiny rising bubbles in the pint held in his thick, calloused fingers.
The rumpled $20 between them…dancer and patron. Buyer and seller.
The thin strips of surgical tape silently gives way with a tiny tug. She slowly draws it out, the subtle movement blending with the routine.
She’d seen the pearl-handled straight razor lying amongst a rag-tag collection of old barber’s tools in the front window of a pawn shop down the street from the police detachment, after her near disastrous report. She’d angrily wiped an errant stinging tear of frustration away with the back of her hand as the cold idea came to her. As an antique, it was a harmless curio. As her tool, it was a fearsome and cruel weapon, becoming of the scum that had hurt her…humiliated her. And the others. Citing the purchase as a birthday present for her father (long since dead), she’d paid the extra $5 to have the still-gleaming blade honed to a razor’s edge. She’d wielded the evil-looking instrument in her cramped apartment later that night; sweeping the blade back and forth before her…imagining him again. Only this time, the story came with a different ending.
This time, it wasn’t going to be her lying on the tile bleeding.
She drew the razor slowly out, masking its appearance with her hand and arm as she added a touch of extra writhing to her performance…a fitting distraction. She could tell by the slow bob of the cap that his hidden eyes were sweeping over her body, slowly up and down again. Her revulsion caught in her throat as a dirty ball of ice seemed to settle at her core. Her hands came together between her breasts in a mockery of prayer; the nasty tool hidden. The world freezes in her mind and she sees…herself…from afar, kneeling on the raised stage before this hunched monster that walks as a man, the cold metal of the hidden weapon ready to strike.
It’s then that he glances up at her over the half-empty pint clasped in his dirty hand. Her clear blue eyes meet his porcine muddy brown eyes and…he winks…obscenely.
The blade seems to flash open on its own from between her praying hands, sickeningly eager for violence and bloodshed.
From deep inside, her rational mind watches as her free hand lashes forward, slamming the thick arm down. The mug explodes on the counter-top before him in a quick geyser of glass and foam, splashing both of them. A drunken chuckle of surprise reaches her from the next customer over as she rears back, the exposed blade clasped in her clenched hand. He recoils away with a shout of anger and shock, looking up at her with a fearful grimace.
The blade sweeps through the charged air between them. Tears of fiery anguish blind her as she notes no impact, the razor’s edge meeting no resistance as it flashes through its quick arc.
Oh god…it missed!
She reverses the swing, deftly flipping the sharpened edge around. The muscles in her arm tense…
It hits then…a warm spatter across her exposed thighs. Her blade hand freezes, poised to strike as she glares down at him. Eyes bug out as a beer-soaked hand jerks up to the horrifying wound. Dark red sprays in a pulsing gout from beneath the frantically clutching fingers and he coughs out a desperate, choking gurgle.
The razor had found its mark, cutting swiftly and deeply.
He meets her eyes again. There’s no dirty wink this time, only a fearful pleading. Confusion. His mouth gapes like a fish out of water and a crimson drool leaks out, over his chin onto his torn and splattered jeans below. The hand not clutching at the sliced throat rises, the rough palm open to her…trying to ward off another attack…
She slashes again, knowing that this hand coming at her is attached to the awful Death’s Head tattoo that mocked her before. This time she feels the razor cut in, slicing straight to the bone below. With a wet shriek, he stumbles back, tripping in his wounded haste over his own stool. The thick, bloodied body tumbles, falling heavily away from the stage to crash down on the table behind, scattering the stunned patrons in a burst of splashing booze and breaking glass. A moment later, the table keels over, dropping the dying man grotesquely onto the floor.
It had happened so quickly.
She smoothly stands, watching as the life runs from the man who had victimized her and so many others like her; the smeared blade held rigidly at her side. Her knife arm is sprayed crimson to the elbow…but she doesn’t notice. She raises her free hand to sweep her hair from her wide fixed eyes, studying the beast she had felled. He lies face down in a mess of splashed beer and twinkling shards of glass, a dark pool forming beneath his limp head, looking black under the muted lights. One arm is tucked beneath him, still clutching weakly at the fatal slice while the other lies still at his side; the thick bare forearm facing her…mocking her. Even through the spilled blood, she can see that the skin is unmarked.
No Death’s Head.
Her pulse pounds in her ears, overshadowing all sound around her…even the hysterical scream of the young blonde server standing frozen nearby. The lights sway and pivot, sweeping over her as she stands watching…sprayed in the rough but innocent man’s blood, his life stolen from him by the dark and damaged fantasy of this avenging angel.
She doesn’t hear the needle skip roughly off the spinning record.
She doesn’t hear the panicked screams for help.
She doesn’t hear the shouts of the running doorman as he frantically approaches.
She hears only a vast blankness as her already damaged mind begins to collapse on itself. A single drop of deep red slips from the razor’s edge, falling through the colored lights with a faint gleam to settle soundlessly on the stage, at her booted feet.
Then…all hell breaks loose.