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She thought perhaps that he’d let it go… eventually. Unfortunately he had worked up a considerable grudge. How could she just cast him aside like that? After all he’d meant to her! After the way he’d taken care of her! Hadn’t he been gentle? And kind? And patient? Well he’d make her pay. Yeah. He was going to show up on her job and let her employers know what kind of lowlife they had representing their company.
Fortunately she knew some people that would do anything for a six-pack and a tank of gas.
They let him keep his teeth.
children. It’s their voices mostly. The pitch sets his teeth on edge. And they’re
self absorbed and at the same time needy.
So what was he doing about to become a father?
Well to back up a bit, getting married in the first place had been the first shocker – several of his friends had secretly agreed that he was gay – and now
All of his plans for his novel are going up in smoke. Well fortunately for Jeffery his wife will lose this child (a girl) mid-term and leave him soon after.
His novel will tank.
Old man Stratham was having trouble with his catheter again. Molly kept telling Admin about it but no one responded. Thank God she had opted out of Final Life Geriatrics before the Compulsory Law kicked in. She had her Kervorkian kit already purchased and a trusted agent for her cremains in place. No Dream Box for her. Sure the rest homes of the previous century were drab and lonely places to go die. But was it better to be linked to a virtual fairyland while having cell tissue harvested? Molly wondered of Stratham was reliving playing little league baseball again.
Bernice loved being in love. The heady joy, the silly thrill. Didn’t matter if the object of her desire was the theoretical spawn of Torquemada and Typhoid Mary; all that mattered was that she was “in love.” Bernice was “comfortably wealthy” which made her the target of many the ambitious lothario. Not that there was much wooing required, as Bernice fell early and hard. Oddly enough, none of them remained around long. Not that Bernice minded. Love never ran out. The thing is, none these men were ever heard from again. And Bernice had several large freezers in her basement...
Amos wasn’t sure what his next move would be since returning from overseas, but it wasn’t to take the money being offered by the clean cut young white boy sitting at his mother’s kitchen table. This kid, and the people he represented, had been hounding Amos ever since he’d finished rehab. Amos wasn’t sure what Partisan Politics was, but he knew a hustle when he saw it. Besides, what had happened to him wasn’t a
; what happened to Curtis Mayfield was a tragedy. Amos had gotten away with rape prior to, and after, entering the service. Amos
For exactly seven days George believed Olive would return. On the eighth he turned to more pressing matters. He was on a deadline and he had to deliver this time as his landlord was running out of patience. For her part, Olive had forgotten that George even existed, such was the nature of her head injury. It bothered her for a while that she was carrying around such a large sum of money. This too soon faded and joined the legion of vague annoyances that danced around her like smoke. A drifter found her cashier’s check on a park bench.
Clayton panicked the night he realized that he would be found out by the law. To add to his woes he hadn’t paid his protection fees to the local enforcer, which meant that he’d soon have visitors. Clayton was in a bit of bind. Vivian, his downstairs neighbor, had a dilemma of her own to contend with, her mother had died in her sleep and for some odd reason, Vivian had let her lay for 5 days. In exchange for disposing of the body Vivian paid Clayton’s debt. Clayton fled town just ahead of the law. Vivian followed after him.
Vivian found Clayton in East St. Louis, in a town and a neighborhood she’d have normally avoided. A town frayed at the edges, a town that – in Vivian’s estimation – didn’t work anymore. The idea of the social contract for East St. Louis had obviously failed. Nevertheless she followed Clayton there to … to … do what actually? She really hadn’t a clue. He’d done as he’d contracted, fulfilling any obligation he had to her. It was guilt really. Guilt at what she’d done to her mother. And Clayton was her only witness. She had to be sure he wouldn’t tell.
Clayton had never really disposed of a body before. Oh he’d been the driver on a few deliveries here and there but he’d never had to touch one of the bodies. The old woman’s skin was surprisingly cold. Her dead weight had been difficult to handle. And naturally after five days in bed, she’d begun to rot. When “The Spinster” had come upstairs with her offer, Clayton had jumped at the chance. He didn’t know why The Spinster had neglected her mother’s body for so long and he really didn’t care. All he cared about was getting out of debt.
Vivian wondered to herself what Clayton saw in “these people.” They were wasters, all of them. Sitting around on their fat butts, leeching off each other. And they drank all the time! She couldn’t figure out how they kept so much alcohol about; they never had 2 dollars between any 4 of them. Clayton was bankrolling them now, with the money he had left after his debt payoff and travel expenses. Vivian wondered what his plans were, if he even had any plans. She didn’t want to be around these people any longer but she couldn’t afford to leave, yet.
Clayton began to wonder if Vivian maybe had a “thing” for him. She was obviously out of place with his old crowd. But she kept hanging around. Even stayed at some fleabag hotel, coming around the house most every day, buying him meals, chatting him up. She seemed fascinated with tales of his days in “the life.” He’d been a low level operator for sure, but it didn’t stop him from “sexing up” his stories a bit to look good. And then suddenly Clayton realized why “The Spinster” was really hanging about. She didn’t know where he’d stashed the body.
Vivian had a real problem. Not wanting to know what Clayton did with her mother’s body now left her at a disadvantage. She couldn’t really move on before she knew now could she? And the irony was not lost on her that had she just called for EMS when she discovered her mother’s corpse, she wouldn’t be in this bind. But it was the first moment in her life that she’d made a choice on her own. The first time she’d ever been free. So she left the body alone for 5 days, and went to the movies. Five matinees.
The Spinster was starting to make Clayton nervous. He’d done her a good turn and she’d paid him for it. There was no way he was going to let her peep his hold card and he wasn’t about to get in deep with her. Complicating matters, his crew had gotten used to begging money off of her. Clayton wasn’t sure, but it even appeared as if The Spinster was beginning to enjoy the attention. This was not good. There would be trouble eventually. And trouble was not what Clayton needed right now. There was still the law to account for.
Vivian wasn’t sure how the shape of it would be but she had decided to make Clayton’s crew like her best. She had a vague notion of “leverage” which she developed by buying them liquor and food. Simple really. Like plying children with sweets. These men and women were rather like children, eager for more of what made them feel good. And she could supply it in bigger quantities, at better quality and variety, and for much longer than Clayton could. She knew that Clayton had to contend with maintaining his reserves. He needed emergency “get out of town” money.
Clayton was hearing things now. The Chicago PD knew that he was from East St. Louis. They’d be after him soon. Thankfully – as far as he could tell anyway – they were more concerned with his “other matter” and not the job he’d done for The Spinster. Getting out of town was no problem. He’d even picked his next destination, Arkansas. Ditching The Spinster was another matter entirely. Killing her was not an option – yet. Vivian needed to see his crew for the depraved human beings Clayton knew them to be. Clayton would sponsor a trip to The Bottoms Up Club.
Vivian had her own pipeline to the happenings back home in Chicago. Mother had few friends, fewer acquaintances. Vivian knew practically no one. Not that it bothered her. Taking care of Mother had been her only real focus since Daddy died decades back. So it took a while for Vivian and Mother’s absence to be noticed. But word was finally getting around. The police had not yet been notified, but it was only matter of time. Vivian took Clayton’s building recalcitrance in stride; a cakewalk compared to Mother’s caustic moods. Besides his friends were slowly turning. She was actually winning!
The Bottoms Up Strip Club was located on Jefferson Street in Lovejoy, Illinois – though everybody said it was in Brooklyn. Clayton knew it well. Bottoms Up – like many of its contemporaries, The Pink Slip, Mustang Sally’s – propped up the local economy. Not much else did. Not much else around. The dancers at Bottoms Up gave a no frills show at a no frills price. No fancy stage lights or rock star production values, just the old bump and grind to the rawest, loudest music possible. Clayton meant to introduce The Spinster to this tableau on Saturday night, the club’s biggest.
The night Clayton and his Crew (plus The Spinster) rolled into The Bottoms Up Club, Precious found herself in a quandary – of sorts. She had to decide whether to stay with the show she’d been doing or move on up to more “intimate” fair. Precious had only planned to dance for a little while to pay off some bills. Three months had turned into six and now she wasn’t getting the good tips any longer. The novelty of her being new had worn off and now she would have to “up her game.” She would have to give “private dances.”
Clayton was feeling pretty good about himself. His plan was bulletproof. Letting The Spinster see his Crew in their natural element would surely run her off. For her part Vivian determinedly hung in there, despite vile lyrics played at an ungodly volume, despite the seedy (and assuredly dangerous) goings on. She would remain calm and see this through. Using her credit card, she opened a tab to keep the Crew happy. She avoided eye contact and nursed her glass of wine (cheap and syrupy as it was). Precious noticed right off that Clayton and his Idiots had a new patron.
Precious and Clayton grew up on the same block. Precious recalled that he hadn’t been much for brains, though he’d always been kind, and rather shy, following behind his 3 older brothers. Like the rest of them he’d made fun of her buck-teeth and big feet. Like the rest of them he’d tried to get next to her when she grew into them and filled out. She made them all suffer. He’d moved to Chicago eight years ago and Precious forgot about him. Now here he was all loud and brash with his Crew and this strange, mousy little woman.
The Crew was in rare form, reaching levels of debauchery that Clayton had never before witnessed. And The Spinster was financing it all. She had to be horrified, sitting there, trying to sink in to the floor. Clayton was pleased. He’d be free soon. Able to move on with his life. Precious was sure that Vivian was the perfect candidate for her inaugural private dance. Precious was a good judge of people and this woman would be no trouble when the lights went down. In fact she doubted if the woman would even touch her. Precious approached the table boldly.
Fixing her eyes directly on Vivian, Precious asked, “Do you want to go somewhere private?”
The Crew let out a collective “Ooooohhhh!”
Precious ignored them. And Vivian, mortified, pretended not to hear.
Precious leaned over the table and – to the delight of Clayton and his crew – nearly out of her costume, such as it was.
“I’m talking to you. Would you like some privacy?”
Vivian wanted more than privacy. She wanted to die. But if this barely dressed young woman was really offering a moment’s respite, she’d take it.
The lust tinged envy that followed her departure was palpable.
The Bottoms Up Club private dance was negotiated in complete darkness. Customers were led down a dark corridor, called The Tunnel, at the back of the club. The deeper you went into the tunnel, the darker it got, until at the end, you were in complete darkness. The kind of darkness where you could not see your own hand in front of your face. Add 4 or 5 switchbacks along the way you were completed disoriented at the end of the journey. Strangely this promoted a sense of freedom that allowed for an “anything goes” atmosphere. Vivian was utterly terrified.
This was not at all what she had in mind when Precious mentioned “privacy.” This was complete isolation. She could hear that awful clangor that passed for music behind her. But she felt utterly cut off. The only apparent evidence available that she was not alone was Precious’ fingers around her wrist. Vivian would have run but she had no idea where the walls were and they had changed direction so many times she wasn’t sure where to run to. How was Precious navigating this maze? Vivian had no idea. Without warning Precious led her to a chair. Vivian sat.
“Do you like Precious?”
“You like Precious don’t you?”
“Please… ah… get off… ah…get off… my lap.”
“Precious is getting acquainted. Don’t you want to get acquainted?”
“Get …get off my lap… it’s too dark… I can’t see… please, please, get off my lap. I don’t want … you… ah….you’re
“You want Precious to leave?”
“No!… no, uhm, …ah.. don’t leave me here. Please don’t leave me here.”
“You’re afraid of Precious?”
“I’m … I’m just afraid… of this place.”
“Then why did you come in here?”
“I came with Clayton and his friends.”
“Precious and I had a nice long chat…
Clayton was in trouble and he knew it. Murder was looking like more of a viable option, but only as a last resort. Better to wait and see where The Spinster was going with this.
“She told me about how you got that nickname….
. She told me a lot of things.”
“Well, Beulah was never known for keeping secrets. Is there a point to all this? Otherwise Beulah – I mean,
– can give me a lap dance. That
“We have a proposition.”
The problem was simple: Neither party trusted the other. Vivian was afraid that Clayton would reveal that she had paid him to dispose of her mother’s body. Clayton feared that once Vivian knew the location of her mother’s body she would either crack and reveal his involvement, or worse, somehow implicate him in the old woman’s death.
What to do?
Precious had a rather elegant solution: Have a third party dispose of the body in a manner that neither Clayton nor Vivian had any knowledge of.
Precious volunteered for the job. But it meant Clayton would have to tell her.
Ultimately Clayton bought Precious’ plan, comforted that now she was also implicated. Precious persuaded another man to help her with the body’s second disposal. Precious could get men to do anything she wanted.
Clayton was caught in Arkansas on “the other matter”. He’s doing federal time.
Without her mother telling her what to do, Vivian followed a trail of bad decisions into a meth habit. She’s out there somewhere.
Precious took part of Vivian’s largess and paid her debts, with enough left over to open a nail shop. She is thrilled to have never had to do a “private dance.”
The Tip Jar