“So it’s totally cool that we left a dead body in that storage unit?” Donovan McNabb asked Peter. We back in the Vandura en route to Riverside. Peter sat silently in the backseat. He was still pissed at me for killing his favorite porno director.
“Yup,” Peter replied to Donovan. “There’s a dead body in every storage unit in El Segundo anyway.”
“Do you know the strip clubs in Riverside?” I asked Peter. “Would you happen to know which one Layla Huffington might be at?”
“She’s at the Glory Hole,” he said while thumbing through the latest issue of Fine Gardening.
“How would you know that?”
“You mind your own goddamn business, Jack Hardcock!”
We rolled up to the Glory Hole an hour later. Donovan was adamant that he go inside first. “I really need the closure,” he said.
“No,” I replied as I reloaded the .38. “This is about me. I’ll go inside and scope the place out.”
I put the fake mustache back on and wondered inside. “That will be a $20 cover charge,” the bouncer said to me.
“That’s outrageous,” I replied, “it’s 1:30 PM!”
“Those are the rules.” So I shelled out the 20 bucks and went to the bar area. Strippers were everywhere but I was the only patron. “What can I get you, honey?” the bartender asked me. She was a mature woman, 65 to 70. All she was wearing was a tiny purple thong.
“Bourbon please,” I said.
“All we have is Tennessee Whiskey.”
“Just Evan Williams, green label.”
“That’ll do. I’m here to hate myself anyway.”
She poured the stiff drink and I scanned the club. There was no sign of Layla Huffington anywhere. So I summoned the bartender back.
“Excuse me, but does Layla Huffington work today?” I asked. The bartender leaned forward and her boob rested gently on my forearm. “Sweetheart, Layla ain’t a stripper no more,” she said.
I lowered my head, fearing my search had come to a dead end.
“She does peep shows in the back,” the bartender continued. “Go on. Pay her a visit.”
I nodded and picked up my whiskey. A puny bald man greeted me in the back. “Sir, just step into one of the rooms, drop a quarter into the slot, and the curtains will open,” he informed me. “The performer will do whatever you ask of her for five minutes before the curtains close. At that time, you will have to insert another quarter if you want the show to continue. You will be able to see her, but she won’t see you. If you make a mess, clean it up. Enjoy the show.”
I walked into a pitch black room and dug into my pocket. I only had one quarter. I dropped it into the coin slot and the curtains swung open. The room brightened up and in front of me, on the other side of the glass, was a scantily clad Layla Huffington.
I quickly turned my head. My back was facing the glass.
“Hello?” Layla asked, “is anyone there?”
I was too terrified to speak.
Then I could hear her knocking on the glass. “You have me for five minutes,” she said, “is there anything you want to see?”
“Uhh,” I stuttered, “my apologies. It’s been so long since I’ve laid eyes on a woman.”
“You have nothing to fear mister,” I heard her say, “I do this all of the time.”
“I suppose you do,” I said.
“So?” Layla asked after a long pause. “What do you want me to do?”
I backed up and leaned against the glass, still not facing her. I couldn’t find the words. “I just want to hear your voice,” I finally said.
“My voice? What do you want me to say?”
“Who are you? Where do you come from?”
“Umm, well,” I heard her chuckle, “no one’s ever asked me that before.”
I didn’t reply.
“I grew up on a farm in Iowa,” she explained in a soft voice. I could feel her standing near the glass. “I dreamt about being somewhere, anywhere but where I was. One day, I left for the big city, expecting big things. But big things never came. I realized that I’m just a small town girl, meant for a small world. And now I’m here. It’s a tale as old as time.”
My left hand reached across my body and I placed it against the glass. I could see Layla out of the corner of my eye, but I still couldn’t face her.
“Do…” I started to say. “Did you ever love someone?”
There was a long, awkward silence. “I…I…,” she stuttered.
Then the curtains shuttered and the room returned to black.
TO BE CONTINUED…