by Jeffrey Penn May
Even though the air conditioning in the BlowJammer lounge was blasting down on me and freezing Al’s ignorant gold chain to my bare chest, I acted cool and kept my eyes peeled for a prostitute. Not that busting a prostitute was any big deal, but it had to be more exciting than making the rounds with Al.
I’d been with the hotel a whole week already, and the prostitute thing was the first real suggestion he’d made. Most of the time, he said stupid things like, “Things change a lot around here. Then again some things don’t. They sort of stay the same. I’ve been in hotel security for what? Twenty years now?”
What? Was he just asking one of those rhetorical questions or what? I couldn’t resist answering, “How should I know how long you’ve been insecure in hotels?” He just looked at me, so I repeated, “You know, insecure. In security. In secure in hotels.”
But he just put his feet up on the desk and said, “For instance, I’ve seen a lot of young upstarts like you come and go.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “Where do they go?”
He said, “Mostly they become state troopers.”
What a dumb-ass. He probably resented being stuck in hotel security. So I had to rub it in a little more. “Oh gee Al, how’d you know the one and only desire in my whole life was to become a state trooper?”
But he went right on talking as if I wasn’t there, which kind of pissed me off. “As for me,” he said, “I’m happy with hotel security, and this hotel is a good one.”
I knew why he liked it so much. There were three kitchens. And he knew the best way to raid them. The second night on the job, we stuffed our faces with big chunks of chocolate cake, and took it easy in a vacant room. We watched TV. It’s no wonder he was getting fat. I told him so, but he didn’t even grunt. He just changed the channel. I think he had like an atrophied brain. He was boring.
We could never loaf for too long because, periodically, we had to walk up and down the long hallways and swipe a coded card though these time recorders that were placed in strategic locations around the hotel. When Al swiped the card, it marked the time, and that’s how management made sure we made our rounds. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Don’t they trust us?”
We were walking down the hallway for a long time before he handed me the card and said, “Here, you can do the next one.”
“Hey! Wow! Can I really? Just like you? How soon can I walk the halls on my own?”
I was just getting used to him plodding and shuffling along. So what he did next sort of threw me, caught me off guard. He moved fast. He stepped in front of me, stopped me cold, and stuck his face close to mine, his eyes all squinted up. Then he said, “Just why are you here, anyway?”
It got me thinking, why was I here with this jerk. So I looked down and tried to answer, “Maybe I just want to see a little action. I don’t know. It’s a job. I need the money. If I wanted to, I could become a state trooper, you know. Maybe I’ll be a lawyer, or a judge or something…” I’d been staring at the carpet talking and thinking about what I was going to do so I didn’t notice that the bastard started off down the hallway again. I had to run to catch up to him. “What? You trying to ditch me or something?” That’s when he said I should go undercover. Of course I jumped at the chance.
Al led me down the hall to the front desk. It surprised me how casual the manager was, plopping down a thick roll of one-hundred dollar bills along with a room key card. I waited for Al to pick them up, but he didn’t. So I stuffed the loot and the key card into my front pocket. It felt like there was a growth of some sort bulging out from my thigh.
Al explained the rules. I was supposed to hang out in the BlowJammer lounge and flash my money around. I could show my room key if I needed to, but I had to make it look natural. Al said to try and make her do the proposing. “What?” I asked, “Am I going to marry her, or what?” Al said to be careful not to trap her. “That,” I said, “would be entrapment.” Al said I was supposed to get her into my room, get her to take all her clothes off, then flash my badge. “Yes, I know,” I said. “We can’t arrest her unless she’s inside the room.” But legally, Al said, a hotel security officer can’t arrest anyone. Only a real cop could do that. He’d call the cops as soon as he saw me leave the BlowJammer with the prostitute. He said I didn’t have to worry because they’d be outside my door, waiting. “I’m not worried,” I said. All I had to do was call the front desk, and let everybody know when she was naked.
That’s when Al gave me that stupid gold chain bling from the 80s. He had to dig around in the office desk to unbury it. “It’s been well used,” he said.
“For what?” I asked. He didn’t say any more about it. I took off my blue blazer and striped tie, and undid a few buttons on my white shirt.
Al looked me over and said, “Don’t you have any chest hair?”
“Chest hair?” I asked, and even though I knew I didn’t have any, I strained to look down and check it out. “Oh shit! Don’t tell me! You need chest hair to be a state trooper?”
He shook his head and muttered, “Smart ass.”
I jumped on that. I got him a little pissed off, so naturally I had to see if I could make him really mad. “Ha,” I said, “I’ll bet you don’t have any chest hair?”
“Yeah, I do,” he said. He unbuttoned his shirt. Sure enough, he did. I never would’ve expected it from a guy whose belly hung way over his belt and had a blazer that wouldn’t even button up in front.
“Well,” I said, “I have some stomach hair!” I pulled my shirt up and showed my hair and, just for the hell of it, I flexed my stomach muscles.
“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. “Okay, let’s go.”
I sauntered into the BlowJammer first. Al followed me in and stationed himself near the door.
Sitting around the lounge acting cool and freezing my ass off got boring fast. I was ready to call it quits when the music finally started. As people came in and danced, the room started to warm up. The lights were dimmed, except for the dance floor. It was bright, lit up. I watched the feet of all the people out there shuffling and bouncing around making fools of themselves. A pair of very high heels came toward me. Whoever could walk on those things had to have good balance. Of course I had to check it out. The heels had straps around really skinny ankles. And these long, sleek legs blended into this short black dress wrapped tight around skinny thighs. An attractive woman, I thought. Except, she had a punk hairdo. It went straight up high on one side. Glue, I thought, would be the only thing that could keep it up like that. Also, it was bright orange. Because her skin was black, the hair seemed to really stand out. It looked like it was floating by itself, chopped off from the body. It floated past, hung in the air a second or two, then moved toward me again. This must be a prostitute, I thought.
I was a little concerned that the music might be too loud, that conversation would be impossible. If I was going to get her to proposition me, I’d have to use body language. Al had already told me that flashing money would be the best way to hook her. Hook ‘er, I thought. Maybe I could use that on Al later. I tilted my head back and pulled on my gold chain. I put my hand into my pocket and played with my money. I thought I was sending some pretty clear signals, but the orange hair floated back into the crowd, and it floated away in the lounge light. That’s when I saw Al on his way over. The idiot actually waved at me! Sure, it was a quick wave, could have been at anyone, but it made me feel conspicuous. He stood next to me and talked loudly from the corner of his mouth. “She say anything?” The music stopped. “To you,” he whispered.
“Yeah,” I said, loading up with as much sarcasm as I could. “She did say something. She said, ‘Oh no, there’s that dick brain security officer! I got to split!’”
“Oh, she did, did she? Well, you nail her good for me, will you?”
“Yeah, yeah, I will.” But I was thinking, since when was he so concerned about getting the job done? I turned to the bar and bought one beer with my own money, but the next one was coming from that wad of money in my front pocket.
The floating orange hair returned. This time, she didn’t waste any time. She came streaking right at me, sat on the open stool next to me and crossed her long legs. Her dress had vertical see-through stripes. They came very close to exposing her nipples. I stared at them. They took my mind off her hair. Her mascara glittered, but her eyes were drooping, half-shut. And, in spite of a lot of sweet perfume, she smelled a little like auto exhaust.
“Hi,” I said.
“No, I ain’t,” she said.
I didn’t say anything.
She leaned on the bar, close to my face, and spoke, very slow, and careful, “Baby, I am not high.”
“Oh. Well, could I get you a drink?” By now, my wad was itching to flaunt itself.
“That’d be awful white of you.”
That comment made me uneasy. I felt really white. She waved the bartender down and ordered her “usual.” I ordered a beer. When our drinks came, hers was in a long-necked glass and had three different colored layers of liquors. It cost ten bucks. My beer cost five. Being very cool about it, I shoved my hand into my pocket. I had to lift my butt off the stool, but I pulled out my wad. It felt nice in my hands and, moving slow, I unrolled one crisp hundred dollar bill, and flicked it onto the bar.
The bartender seemed impressed. “You sure you want to break a hundred?”
“Well, let me see,” I said, and glanced over at the prostitute. With her eyes being so dark and droopy, I couldn’t tell if she saw my money or not. She seemed not to focus on anything. I unrolled another hundred-dollar bill and yanked on it to make it go “thwack.” She still seemed unmoved. I did another thwack. Nothing. Another, but it turned out to be a grubby one spot. I re-rolled the wad fast, stuffed it back into my pants, and said to the bartender, “Nope, all I got is C-notes.” When I said that, I know I saw her head turn. I felt good about getting her attention, but it was moderated because I spent a long time after that wondering if a “C” note was a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars.
The prostitute poked her straw into her drink. The colored layers swirled together, and I smelled peach-almond followed by a zesty, penetrating kind of licorice smell. I sipped my beer. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist. She just sat and sucked. I studied her. I thought, in a way, her eyes were sort of mysterious, and attractive. But I still had trouble with her hair. I leaned toward her and yelled, “So, what’s your name anyway?”
She looked at me. “Babe, you going to ask me or not?”
“I’m sorry, what was that you said?” I thought I heard her right, but the music was loud.
“Shit,” she said.
It felt like a rejection. I was kind of hurt. She slurped the last of her drink as if it was a milkshake, and she slid off the stool, her dress pulling up on her thighs.
“See ya baby,” she said and swung her tiny silk purse over her shoulder.
“No, wait,” I said. “Do you want to see my room?”
I grabbed my loose change and stuffed it in around my wad. “Nothing’s too special about it. You want to see it or not?”
She stood, one heel tilted, her small hip sticking out. By reading her body language, I figured out she wanted me to follow. I was right! She did. I followed her out the exit and into the elevator where the light made her face look a little haggard. “Did you have a long day?” I asked. Seriously, I wanted to know. But she ignored me. Just like Al. Where was Al anyway? The idiot better not have forgotten me. I didn’t remember seeing him when we left the BlowJammer.
When the elevator doors opened onto the right floor, I grabbed her arm and pulled her out into another one of those long, gold-carpeted hallways. In the bright light, her dress was even more revealing. I could see a lot of her naked butt. By now, she was holding tight onto my arm and she wouldn’t let go. Where the hell was Al?
That’s when this family came out from their room. The man of the family, he was wearing a green golf shirt and white pants. The wife was wearing a long evening dress. And the little daughter who looked about ten years old was wearing this dumb pants-dress thing and knee socks. The whole damn family stopped and stared at me and my prostitute. The little girl started whining. “Mom, I want a dress like that.”
My prostitute pulled me down the hall. “Baby, how far is your room?”
I’d taken the long way around. “Right here,” I said.
“I could’ve got us here sooner,” she said.
I reached into my pocket for the key. She grabbed my wrist. Automatically, I grabbed onto my wad of money. And, I guess in a perverse sort of way, I was excited.
“I want something from you,” she said, using a thick voice.
Of course my voice squeaked, “What?” So I had to repeat it in baritone.
She still held my wrist, so she had to use her other hand to rub my thigh. “What exactly do you got in your pocket?” she asked.
I didn’t say anything.
“Baby,” she said, “I ain’t goin’ in there until you put out a little.” Her grip on my wrist was firm and she went right on rubbing while she talked.
“Here?” I asked.
“Yeah, here. Come on, you know what I want.”
I think I knew what she was getting at, but didn’t know for sure. “You want to ‘make love’ in the hallway?”
“Oh man,” she said. She sounded pretty disgusted. “You’re a mess.” Then she let go of me.
She was the one going to be in a “mess” as soon as we got inside. Now that I was pretty sure she wanted money, I pulled out my wad and thwacked off a twenty. She grabbed one of my hundreds. When she did that, I asked myself why the hell she had to be inside the room for me to call the cops. Goddamn, she wasn’t exactly taking money in exchange for helping me make my rounds.
She held the hundred in front of her nose, sniffed at it, then stuffed it in her purse. I swiped the card to unlock the room, but that red light flashed, so I swiped it again, and another time. Then I felt her behind me, her hand slipping in between my legs, rubbing my thigh again. I turned to face her and fight it out with her, but she knew exactly what to do. She grabbed my balls. She didn’t squeeze them, but she could at any second, and I didn’t want to take my chances. So, being very careful, I leaned against the wall and fished around in my back pocket for my badge. That would stop her. But the damn thing was gone. I thought I must’ve lost it. Then she started massaging me. Boy, did she have fast hands. My back slid down along the wall, and my ass hit the carpet, but her hand stuck with me. She tried pulling but couldn’t get a good hold because my pants were in the way. That’s when she finally let go. I don’t think her getting me hard was that big a deal. I mean, I think I get hard all the time anyway. But I was impressed when she opened her purse and pulled out my badge.
“Thanks baby,” she said, and tossed it in my lap. “I had a fine time. You know, you guys ought to get a different act going. Those big gold chains went out of style a long time ago.”
I just sat on my butt and watched her stroll down the hall. By the time I came up with a good come back, it was way too late. I should’ve said, yeah, your hairdo isn’t any better. But she had already gone out the stairwell door.
That’s when Al finally made it on the scene. That jackass had a big glob of whipped cream on his chin. I got off the carpet fast.
“You see anything?” he asked, and wiped off the cream. “I got a call. Some guy got all worked up about hookers roaming the halls?”
Boy, was I mad. But I didn’t want him to know it. “Ha,” I said. “Yeah, I know. That’s a good one, isn’t it?” Of course he just looked at me and waited, not saying a word, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I said, “Okay, where the hell were you? I mean, can you just tell me that much? Like what happened?”
He said, “I was making my rounds. We got to do that, you know. Otherwise, nobody’d know we were doing our jobs.”
I headed for the front desk.
I was handing back my partially spent wad, and I was trying to convince the manager that it was a bigger, better wad because, hell, it was thicker. That’s when Al came up behind me and said, sort of over my shoulder, “By the way, trooper, how was Sherita tonight?”
What he said didn’t click right away because I was paying attention to the manager who was saying that, under no circumstances, was I supposed to spend any of the wad. I would have to pay it back out of my paychecks. I almost quit on the spot. But then I turned to face Al. I wanted to punch him. But he was already way down the hallway. That’s when I started thinking, maybe the big dummy knows something.
Jeffrey Penn May has won several short fiction awards, including one from Writer’s Digest, and has published numerous short stories, poems, and mountain climbing articles. His novel Where the River Splits received an excellent review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and his work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Jeff has been a waiter, hotel security officer, credit manager, deck hand, technical data engineer and currently teaches writing and fly fishing. His adventures include floating a home-built raft from St. Louis to Memphis, navigating a John boat to New Orleans, digging for Pre-Columbian artifacts, and climbing mountains from Alaska to South America. Please visit www.askwritefish.com.