red lincoln – part two

1 Nov

Dasha Walked Out of the Desert

Dasha walked out of the desert carrying a 1930s tweed suitcase and a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun. It took awhile to find that out.

I saw her in the distance, a small dot bouncing through waves of heat rising from the desert floor. Vultures circled over head. Random dogs passed through my line of site. Trucks and cars buzzed down the highway at random intervals. A woman in her mid-50s, just over 5 foot, just over 200 pounds, wearing a pink and yellow day dress and blue slippers, yelled at her husband as she stood by the passenger door of a late model Pontiac at the Shell Gas Station located five hundred yards south of Lolita’s. The man, just as short, just as fat, balding, black slacks, button-up short sleeve, thick glass, yelled back. Their exchange of curses increased in volume and in vulgarity until the woman flung herself over the front hood of the car, nearly landing on the man. She gripped him by the throat and threw him to the ground, her arms flailing as she beat the absolute shit out of him. I looked back toward the woman in the desert, with the suitcase and the shotgun, and stared, crunked out of my mind on high grade speed, tongue working my mouth, fingers twitched and my focus absolute.

“Hey man. What’s up?” A short sub-human with a flat face, simple eyes and long wannabe rocker hair slaps a pair of crumpled twenties into my fist, snapping me from reverie.

“Eh, nothing. Welcome to Lolita’s.”

A sure sign that opening hour had arrived. The scumbags always show up first. Lolita’s doesn’t generally catch much play prior to sunset but word of new bait must have made its way around the pulsing subculture of strip club arcania. Lupita maintained a pretty robust webpage, complete with video, general store and blog, which she updated daily. She took pride in the fact that she never once placed an ad to promote the club and that her inbound marketing plan proved so wrote a how-to book that became a best seller. An hour before showing up to work I had checked the site, out of habit and curiosity. Lupita had posted a note about a new girl but no picture. Just shadowy image of a tall skinny girl with big tits and a tight ass. A mystery girl, you might say. Of course mysteries don’t play out that well at strip clubs. Guys just want the same thing with different hair color. Big tits, tight ass. I should amend that to suggest, guys that go to strip clubs such as Lolita’s House of Grind want the same thing. Big tits, tight ass. Sure a few go different directions with their freakshow fetishes, but Lolita’s plays to a fairly straight and narrow crowd of perverts. Other than Fat Nancy and her cadre of chubby chasers, the club kept it simple. Big tits, tight ass. We have two beautiful dancers, six pretty to semi-pretty and 19 plain to keep em on a meat hook, but no one really kept score. Big tits, tight ass. A few of the pretty to semi pretty girls went the extra mile turning tricks out the back door and at Mable’s Easy Inn Motor Lodge across the street. The meat hooks worked the glory holes in the backroom and the true beautiful girls worked Friday and Saturday nights only. You do what you do to pay the bills.

“Thanks bro.” The second scumbag had that weird doper/surf boy head bob thing. Hey dude! Let’s party! He wore a black hoodie, black jeans and black Van’s skater shoes.

“Get the fuck inside, dick weed.”

The Dynamic Duo shuffled through the door as I folded the twenties onto a wad I keep in my front pocket. Surfer Dude watched me, averted his eyes when mine meet his. He tapped his buddy and they both looked back but my fuck you smile gave them a little lift to their step. I spotted a vulture spinning lazily in a high thermal, his eyes keener than mine, even at altitude.

“Yeah?” I muttered.

“Yeah, dumbfuck. Something’s going on.” The vulture said as his eyes darted rapidly from one object of inquiry to the next. “Doesn’t it seem odd that two random lowlifes show up at opening?”

“Not really.”

“Try to focus will you?” The vulture swooped down and landed on the roof of the building, twenty feet from where I stood. “Look around the parking lot.”

I did as requested, glancing around the dirt parking lot looking for a vehicle I did not recognize. All three cars were familiar to me: Dennis owned the dark red 1963 Chevy S-10 Short bed pick-up, his friend (whose name I could never recall) drove a gray on white 1953 Chevy Bel-Air Two Door convertible and Lupita had the all-black 2010 Dodge Challenger.

“So?” I said.

“Really?” Vulture danced back and forth on a thin rail. “Look again.”

“Look again? Fuck that. I’m taking advice from some fucking bird.”

“A bird that talks?”

“Yeah, a bird that…what?”

I stood frozen in place, situation dialing into my head. A black Chevy Nova sat on the far side of the gas station, past an ambulance taking a severely beaten old man to the hospital. Unless the paramedics could handle the old man had slim chance of survival. The nearest hospital sat in Indio, forty plus minutes north. That paramedics made it so quickly did not surprise me. Both of them were long time patrons of Lolita’s and when you get paid by how many bodies you haul each night, Lolita’s makes an excellent strategy. The driver of the Nova appeared to be the third scumbag. A driver, a chase man, the getaway car.

Something more than speed twitched in the gray matter of my skull. I tried to calm my tweaker tongue but couldn’t, it raged against my teeth full bore and without repent. A neuron snapped at the base of my neck and I followed my instinct and the advice of a wayward vulture.

Lupita keeps the club a steady 68 degrees to keep the dancers cool and nipples hard. For business, she said. Not that I minded. But rushing into the club at that moment the cold air slapped my face hard and slowed me down. My vision fucked temporarily, going from bright light to dim. The scumbags separated. One stood in front of the cash register, Surfer Dude near me and the door. I caught the glint of a chrome .38 palmed in his right hand.

Robbery.

“Ah monkey nuts,” I muttered.

When the front door slapped shut Surfer Dude spun toward me. With zero hesitation I jabbed my index and middle finger into his esophagus, dropping him to the floor in a crumple of discarded laundry. The other man, the one I didn’t have a snappy nickname for, turned, gun in hand, sweat spinning down his face.

“Enough of that motherfucker.” He said.

“Enough of what?”

“Just fucking stay there.”

I took a step.

“You mean here or over here.” I took another step. “Maybe here? I am confused. You know? Drugs and shit. Not the same as I used to be but man back in the day I could fucking work through any request. Without question, you know? Just tell me once and I could get it. It was like, Jack Henry do this and I did it.” I took another step.

“Look you tweaker fuck, just mellow and stand fucking still.”

“Shit I couldn’t stand still if I wanted to. I remember in elementary school having to sit in that fucking chair all day. You know? Just sit still? Fuck that, ya know? Sitting still? Seriously.”

“Serious shut your goddamned mouth or I will shoot your face off.”

“Did you see that movie, Face/Off? Travolta and that other dude. What was that other dude’s name? Walter do you know?”

“Nick Cage.” Old Walter pressed a Glock 9mm into the Man Without A Nickname’s ear hole. He didn’t back down.

“Really Walter? I’m not sure.” I took another step but the Man Without A Nickname did not back down.

“I think Walter’s right.” Lupita approached from the opposite side of Walter and pressed her own custom pink Glock 9mm into M.W.A.N.’s other ear hole.

“Okay. Okay.” He let Lupita pull the gun from his hand. “You are fuckin’ nuts, dude. I tellin’ you.”

“You’re tellin’ me?” I took the last three steps and punched the Man Without A Seriously Clever Nickname directly in his left ear with my right fist and followed with my left to his diaphragm. “Don’t call me a tweaker you cunt.” I kicked him in the ribs just to hear them snap.

“You are a tweaker, Jack.” Lupita said, a broad smile on her face.

“No, I’m not.” I turned away, heading for the door. Surfer Dude tried to stand but a boot to his ribs slowed him down.

Lupita made a phone call and ten minutes later a couple of her “uncles” showed up. Each nodded to me. We were “aware” of each other but not by name. Both men were covered with prison tattoos and scars. Hector and Alan, as I recall. They scooped up both of the perpetrators, dragged them out the front door and stuffed them into the truck of a 1964 Chevy Impala. Lupita and I waved as they drove off.

“Out to the ant hill?” I said as I lit a cigarette.

“Probably”

Hector and Alan were big fans of sadistic torture and had heard about Cherokee Indians burying their enemies in ant hills. I always wondered how one could bury another person in an ant hill without getting attacked by the same ants.

“Honey.” Hector grunted at me once.

“Honey?”

“Yeah. You don’t actually bury them in the anthill. You bury them nearby and cover them with honey. Doesn’t take long.”

“Does it kill ’em?”

“The ants? Nah, they love honey.”

“No, Hector. Focus. You know you really need to slow down on the PCP.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“I don’t do that shit.”

“Okay. Like this. Pendajo. You bury the fucker here, the ant hill is here.” Hector pointed from one imaginary spot on the floor to another. “You cover the fucker in honey. The ants that are over there, now come over here. Get it?”

“I’m sorry. Could you start over? I was thinking about pouring honey on Lupita’s tits and moving from one, over there, to another, over here.”

Hector paused a moment, seemingly angry, then nodded in agreement. We toasted ant hills and Lupita’s tits with a nice smooth silver tequila.

“What about the driver?”

Lupita stared up at me: “Driver?”

“Yeah, over there. The scumbag in the trick Nova twitching in the front seat.” I glanced over and waved. The scumbag put the car in gear and raced away.

“I’m not worried. Not with you around shaky Jake.”

“Shaky Jake?”

Lupita glanced at my hands which shook like a precursor to Parkinson’s.

“Good shit, I guess.”

“Well don’t fucking blow it at the door, okay?” Lupita reached out and embraced me, kissed me hard on the lips. “Wish that dick worked.”

“Me too. But you have you bull dyke lover.”

” Vete al carajo! Pendajo!”

Lupita wandered away, muttering various Spanish profanities in my direction.

Two hundred yards out I can make her shape. Extremely tall, not quite freak show tall but close, maybe 6 foot. Blue jeans over long legs, tennis shoes over small feet; she wore a wife beater tee-shirt covered in blood. She walks like a New York City runway model, crosses two hundred yards in the time it takes me smoke one more cigarette. A foot from me face she pulled to a stop, stares me in the eye. Her breath stinks, a mix of mint and rotting food, but there would be no debate about her beauty. Big tits, tight ass. Her arms are thin, delicate, the right one covered with a sleeve of colorful tattoos, angels and anarchists, poets and priests. She sways gently, as if she might be blown away from the afternoon breeze that builds in the Mojave and moves hard into night. Haunted green eyes are buried under auburn bangs. A variety of piercings cover her skull: nose, lip, ears, eyebrow, tongue. Her teeth are bleached, the uppers corrected, but jagged edges on the lower tell a story. Big tits, tight ass. She bummed a smoke and I lit it. We didn’t speak. Time kept going, patrons kept arriving, paying, going inside. I could not look away from her, despite the breath and stink from lack of bathing. Her fingernails were chipped, polish flaked. Scratches covered her hands. Rips in her jeans, one shoe had no lace; a story began to build.

I took a step back.

“So, out for a walk?” I crushed my cigarette with my boot, slumped back against the wall. Another patron, another twenty.

“Maybe. A little bit. It seemed like a good day. To get out.” An Ukrainian accept gave her more than the Central European look. I recognized it immediately. Smiled. Lit another cigarette. Offered her another and lit it. From ages 10 through 16 I spent summers with an Ukrainian farmer, Mikhail Pugach, and his family: six daughters, one son, wife, a variety of goats, some sheep and a cat named Josef. I enjoyed it. Waking before dawn, feeding animals, milking cows, and such. Breakfast, more chores, work the fields. Monday through Saturday and half day on Sunday. My father got me into a test program between the former Soviet Union and the US. How? I never knew and never asked. Despite early protests my sense of adventure took over the moment the plane left the ground. How many 10 year olds fly to the Ukraine under the escort of the CIA? I would have returned for my 17th summer but the Russian government would not issue me a visa. I later found out that Mikhail’s 18 year old daughter, Misha, with whom I had spent most nights of my 16th summer fucking, became pregnant. To my surprise my name never came up. Obviously she kept her mouth shut, or her government kept it shut. The publicity of an American exchange student impregnating a fine, upstanding, moral Communist Ukrainian would not play well. Just before my first Christmas a divorced man I received a package from the newly free and independent country of Ukraine, filled with pictures, unsent letters and notes from Misha. And my 26 year old daughter, Ekaterina. Both mother and daughter were doing quite well. Misha had married a farmer, Alek Sokur, and they raised the baby together. The next Spring I traveled to Ukraine and spent a month with Misha and Ekaterina. Poor Alek had died in a terrible farmer incident involving a pitchfork and a length of rope. That’s all they told me and I didn’t ask. ‘Rina, as they called her, had grown into a fantastic young woman, as beautiful as her mother and brilliant, like her father, well, maybe her adopted father. She went to University and received a Ph’D in Cultural Studies, but never married. A few days after arrival Misha took me back to her bed and nearly convinced me to stay, but the local authorities got wind that “the exchange student” had returned. They cancelled my visitor’s visa and I returned alone to the desert. That Fall Misha and Ekaterina came to the desert, spending several weeks with me in my apartment over the bar. I convinced them to stay in the United States but this time the US Government took issue with Misha. Several letters and a flimsy birth certificate convinced Immigration to allow ‘Rina citizenship by birthright, but Misha still got the boot. Apparently certain members of her extended family were considered “undesirable” and came up on a dated terrorist list. Misha reluctantly returned to Ukraine but with a plan in place. Lupita made arrangements for members of her Mexican family to smuggle Misha over the border from Mexico. Toad Suck lay just 60 miles North from Mexicali. Lupita gave me the news that Misha didn’t make it. A Republican Minuteman in Arizona shot her dead. ‘Rina lasted another week or two with me before disappearing to New York City, where she found work at the New School teaching. Every Friday morning we talk on the phone. We trade email on Facebook. She has a husband and a daughter. I became a grandfather at 45.

” Куди ти йдеш? Забули чи що?” I smiled as she watched my lips in disbelief.

” Ви говорите українською? Звідки ви знаєте?”

“I lived there. In the Ukraine. Outside Kiev. Six summers. Six long fucking summers.” I lit another cigarette. “My name is Jack Henry.”

“I am Dasha Shevchenko.”

Dasha set down her suitcase to shake my hand but retained a solid grip on the shotgun.

“What’s with the gun?”

“Desert can be dangerous.” Dasha said. I imagined a story about her. Prostitute in Vegas, brought to the States by Russian Mafia. It’s an easy guess. More than a few Central European women end up sex slaves in the US, generally New York City but they’ve shown up in other places. Vegas made sense. Big tits, tight ass. Underweight, nearly anorexic, Dasha has implants, the kind that don’t make sense on frame such as hers. The Russians split the girls up in groups, based on appearance, along the lines of a strip club giving the better times to better looking woman. Where you work depends on the group. At the low end you might work the corner, turn tricks in a burned out building, or in a trailer out in the desert. Better looking girls, more compliant girls got better gigs. Dasha may have worked at the top end. Call girl. Two grand an hour. Maybe more. The Russians also turned the girls into junkies, plied them with shitty Mexican Black Tar Heroin. Girls on the street worked 12 to 16 hours, others a bit less. You might be thinking I am full of shit and that is certainly your right. You’d be wrong, but it is your right. In any town with a sizable population there is prostitution and always will be prostitution. You just don’t know where to look.

I do.

“You don’t need a canon like that for the desert.” I said.

“Depends on the desert.”

“That’d be a true statement, I think.”

Dasha scrutinized the building, the sign, me. It took a bit.

“What is this place?”

“Strip club, you know? Titty bar? Це місце, де дівчата танцюють топлес на гроші. Розумієте?”

“Yes, I understand.” Dasha brushed a stray strand of hair from her saddening eyes. “I am not here for work.” She paused. “Maybe work, yes?”

“Maybe. I’m ain’t the fuckin’ boss so it’s not my call, but I think you’d work out okay. It’s not really dancin’, ya know?”

“Yeah. I worked in Vegas at The Beach House for a few months.”
“Oh, okay. Beach House. Know it. Not a bad place. Ernie Miles still run it.”

Dasha’s face darkened at the mention of Ernie Miles. I nailed two guesses. She came in from Vegas and had an affiliation with the Russian Mob. Ernie Miles real name was Olek Stablinksi. Maybe I don’t have the last name right, but his friends, the other ones with thick Russian accents and listened to the Russian radio programs on Satellite Radio, called him that.

Lupita sometimes sent me on recruiting trips to Las Vegas to scout new talent and I made the mistake of walking into the Beach House with that intention. One of the girls snitched me out to Olek. Within a few minutes I got a solid lesson on Russian hospitality. A couple of shots of excellent Vodka, chit-chat with some of the boys, ten or so blows to the gut out back by a trash dumpster, and an invitation to never return. Of course, I thought myself a badass and immediately walked back in, showing a rare combination of audacity and stupidity. To my surprise, and Lupita’s when I retold her the story, Olek took a liking to me. We became friends. There are better moves one can make in life than becoming friends with the Russian Mobs Boss of Las Vegas.

“I like you Jack Henry.” Olek said, his tongue fat from booze. He preferred Hawaiian shirts and shorts over suits, hence the Beach House’s theme. His boys wore matching outfits of dark blue button down shirts covered with yellow and red tropical birds. The cocktail waitresses wore grass skirts and coconut bras. The girls on stage came out nude and stayed nude. There was no strip, there was no tease. Olek also had an affinity for redheads. Ninety percent of the girls were redheads, natural redheads. Fire crotch. Red Lincoln.

“Thanks man.”

“You are brave and stupid. I like that. You come back after I tell you to never come back. I have twenty guys bigger than you. You could end up all alone in a hole in the desert, but you came back. Most of my guys are pussies. They wouldn’t come back. You are tough guy, yes?”

“Sure, Alek. I actually forgot my keys.”

Alek nearly pissed himself laughing. “Keys? His fucking keys?”

We were sitting in a VIP booth on the second floor of the Beach House. Olek, me and ten or so pretty redheads in grass skirts and coconut bras.

“Someone dance.” Olek said suddenly. “Mindy. You dance.”

All ten girls looked roughly the same but Mindy proved to be quite a beauty. She quickly stripped down to nothing, sat on my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck.

“Are you nice guy?”

“Я не хороший хлопець, але я б із задоволенням вашу кицьку.”

“Oh you fucker. You speak the peasant language.” Okek slapped his thigh, amused with himself. “How is it you know this?”

I told him the story.

“And Misha died? In desert?” Olek wiped a tear from his eye. I stood up. “Where are you going?”

“To fuck Mindy.” My tolerance for Vodka had never been good. One shot and hammered. Six and I tell no lies.

“Ah, excellent.” Olek stood and hugged me. “You have to ask Mindy for permission of course.”

“Так, звичайно. Я б із задоволенням.

“How did you work there without red hair?”

“Only the dancers were redheads. I worked elsewhere.”

“Backroom?”

“Yeah.”

“Gotcha.” I opened the door for a customer I knew, Reverand Roger Gotts. He wore dark glasses and a big hat. Every knew, no one cared. “Hello Padre.”

“Um, hiya, Jack.”

“He is priest?”

“Not quite a priest, more like a reverend. I think he’s married but he’s been fucking one of the girls for the last year or so.”

“I’m not prostitute.”

“Not anymore?”

Dasha darkened further, stared at her feet, then slowly looked back up. “Yeah.”

“Well let’s get you cleaned up then. There’s a shower in the back for the girls and no one will bug you. Most likely they will mistake you for the new girl that’s s’posed to start tonight. Stay here a sec.”

I went in and asked Old Walter to watch the door, explained the situation quickly. Dasha gave up the shotgun which I turn gave to Lupita to store behind the bar. Lupita didn’t say a word, just smiled. This was not the first time I brought something home that I found stranded and lost. First woman, maybe.

At the changing room I knocked a certain repetition that the girls inside would recognize as mine. I walked in and found three girls in different stages of undress.

“You must be the new girl.”

“No, Tammy. This is Dasha. She needs to borrow the shower, get cleaned up.”

“Ohhhhh. Well cool.”

Tammy worked the club on and off for a year. Thirty-one, spectacular body, sketchy face, wonderful personality, smiled brightly. I bent in and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“You’re so sweet Jack Henry.” Tammy looked toward Dasha. “Don’t let ‘im fool ya. He’s a fuckin’ prince. And not of darkness, but a real prince, ya know? A good guy.”

“Shut it, Tammy.” I muttered.

“You can still fuck ‘er Jack and not lose yer prince status.” Tammy whispered.
“I’m not fuckin’ her.”

“Not yet.”

Tammy led Dasha to the shower area and I left.

“Who’s the bitch, Jack?” Lupita asked.

“Jealous?”

“Yeah, maybe. She’s hot.”

“So where’s the new girl?”

“I dunno. Flaked. Maybe your new friend?”

“Maybe.”

Just as I put my hand on the front door it pulled open. Four big guys, my size and bigger brushed past me. The badges on their vests tagged them as Hell’s Angels but I didn’t recognize them.

“What’s up with them?” I said to Old Walter.

“No idea. Didn’t say a word.”

“Maybe they’re deaf/mute.”

“Yeah, okay. And maybe they’re trouble.”

“You think? No shit, Walt. No fucking shit.”

(c) jck hnry heavy industries 2009

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