I slid out of the van into the cold dark night. My bravado had faded. I looked down at my high heeled boots and tugged on my ridiculously short skirt in an effort to cover up legs. Why didn’t I wear tight jeans? The effect would have been the same. Larry felt my hesitation. “Come on, you can do this. Too late to turn back now.”
“I know,” I replied, “I’m more worried about Jack than myself, I just feel awkward. I’m not used to dressing this way.”
Larry gave three sharp raps on the graffiti covered door. An eye appeared at the little peephole briefly, and then the door opened. A big guy let us in. He shook hands with Larry. It was one of those weird handshakes that I’m sure meant something. A secret handshake. A guy thing! “This your daughter Larry?”
Larry put his arm around me and said “Seriously, do you think I’d let my daughter go out dressed like this?”
I giggled and kissed his cheek.
“Didn’t think you had it in you old man, enjoy yourself.”
Larry took my hand and squeezed it as we walked a long a dimly lit passageway. Same process at the next door, three raps and then another guy let us in. No handshake this time. He brushed a little to close to me as I passed him by. I shivered! Not sure which made me more nervous, the implication or the cold metal that touched my thigh. I knew one thing for sure, I was going to stick to Larry like glue.
A poker table took up most of the small room. The game had not yet started, but a couple of men were already drinking, preparing for the game. On the far wall there was a small bar. A couple of girls in skirts shorter than mine sat there, well on their way to being drunk or stoned, or both. I didn’t blame them. I guessed what the night had in store for them.
Larry found a seat at the table. As he sat down he slapped me on the butt “Go get yourself a drink honey, I’m going to be busy for a while.” I wanted to slap his face, but it was all part of the act. I bent over and whispered in his ear suggestively “Don’t ever do that again.” No one heard but him, and he laughed and blew me a kiss.
I grabbed a beer from the ice box at the end of the bar and sat down with the two girls. They acknowledged me as I slid onto my stool, but didn’t show much interest in. Probably a good thing. Jack and two the nameless guys entered and took the last three seats at the table, making seven players.
“Okay guys, time to play poker.” This announcement was made by a wiry nerdy looking man who’d been sitting with his back to us when we entered. He looked like and accountant. Huge glasses, short black hair, plain pale face. “Keep the drinks flowing Petal.”
Right on cue the girl next to me slid off her bar stool and took an unopened bottle of whiskey to the table.
When she came back I leaned over to her and said “Hi Petal, I’m Sheila.”
She gave me a weak smile, nothing more.
The door behind me opened. I saw the reaction on Jack’s face and knew it must be Janie. He stood up quickly, almost tipping his chair.
Oh dear god please don’t give the game away.
Larry stood up too!
Shit, this isn’t good!
“You OK Pal?” the accountant asked?
You could have heard a pin drop!
“Looking for the bathroom old man?” Larry asked.
Jack recovered quickly. “Yes, don’t want to get up after the game’s started, don’t trust you guys.”
“Through the door at the back, turn right” Larry said as he sat down again.
Janie looked into my eyes briefly and then looked away. Make up barely covered her bruises. Her clothes barely covered her body. The look of fear in her eyes was raw and real. She crossed the room and sat on a chair by the door.
“Meet Rosie, she’s here to please the winner.” the skinny guy said. He leaned back and touched her leg, sliding his hand way too high on her inner thigh. “Rosie is a little wild, but after a few pills she’s a real sweetie. Show us your breasts honey.”
Rosie didn’t move.
“Come on lets play,” Jack said, “I have no time for women.”
“What, you gay old man?”
“No, just want to take your money.”
The game began, Janie looked at me across the room. There was no hope in her eyes, only fear.