A beam of light from the street lamp arced against the mouth of the alley to Tracy's right and the stench of rotting food
swirled in the cold, night wind. Phewee! Must've missed the Dumpster behind Wong Lo's again; nothing worse than two-
week old Chinese food, except maybe three-week old Chinese food. She glanced quickly into the black hole yawning
beyond the reach of illumination and then pulled closer to the warmth of the brick behind her back. Neighborhood's
going to hell in old, shopping carts.
The realization that folks probably had that same thought when the girls started working this strip made Tracy chuckle.
Talk about an ironic twist of fate. Now the gang-bangers were trying to take the territory. No wonder she didn't feel safe.
Somebody could walk up with an Uzi and take them all out in a matter of seconds.
She told her friend a few weeks ago and Amber laughed.
"It's not like we're in the middle of a war zone," she said. "And even if we were, why would they hurt us?"
"You think people have to have a reason? You never heard of a drive-by? That don't mean take-out at Taco Bell."
Amber just shook her head.
"Time for you to get a day job, my friend."
Tracy thought a lot about the suggestion. She knew Amber hadn't really meant it, but the words planted a seed of
speculation. The idea of sleeping at night held great appeal and Tracy spent a few days entertaining the possibility of
changing her life. She pictured herself in some normal routine; waking in the morning, going to an office. She'd even gone
so far as to put herself in a three-piece power suit, as if the fantasy was even partially obtainable.
Recalling that short-lived whimsy, Tracy smiled and ran a thumb
around the waistband of her leather mini-skirt. If she counted the halter-top and shawl it qualified as three pieces, but
hardly fit the mental picture. Neither did reality.
Even if she could somehow elude the hold Raul had on her, there was no way she could land some respectable job. Lack
of education and training had made that impossible before and what could she put on a resume now? Stalwart; can stand
in the cold for hours? Qualifications? Friendly and outgoing; meets people easily? Ha. Then what do you think is going to
happen when they ask about experience?
Sighing, Tracy pulled her shawl across the goose bumps on the generous portion of her breasts not covered by the
halter. It was better for business if she showed some skin, but catching pneumonia wouldn't exactly be a boon. She
wished she could just quit for the night. Go home and stand for hours in a steamy shower. But that wasn't a realistic
option, either. She only scored a couple of times tonight and Raul would make sure more than her feet hurt if she came
When she first aligned herself with him, the prospect of some protection held a great deal of appeal. It had been a long
time since she had someone to watch out for her, and word was he wasn't like the other pimps. That was true in some
respects. He didn't demand her body for his own use. Said he didn't want to wear her out before the customers got a
chance. But he did expect a certain level of profitability. Forget the fact this wasn't like some production line where your
next piece of work came along at regular intervals. She couldn't make the Johns appear. They came or they didn't, but
did Raul give a shit? No, all he cared about was cash flow. If it didn't run in rivers, he got downright mean.
The first time he hit her, the stunning blow knocked her senseless. He hadn't cut her; that would have been bad for
business. But he hit her on the side of the head so hard her ears rang for a week. He knew how to hurt without marring the
goods and didn't hesitate to demonstrate his expertise.
Leaving him was an idea she entertained often, but it wasn't an option. Not unless she had enough money to really
escape. She'd have to get far; far away from this place and his control. Raul didn't take kindly to girls who opted for early
retirement. Rumor had it that he iced one girl. Did she have enough moxie to take that risk?
Six months ago, after another session of discipline, she decided moxie or not, she had to try. Careful not to take very
much at a time, she started skimming a bit off his profit and stashed it away. She called it her “Escaping Raul” fund.
She sailed high on the notion that she could actually pull it off. Maybe go to California and live on the beach; never have
to freeze her butt off again. And Raul would never know.
The excitement crashed the day he found the money. Who'd've ever thought he'd go through her kitchen cabinets and
look in the box of Harmony for Women. If he wanted a freakin' bowl of cereal there was an open box of Wheaties. He
didn't even ask what the money was for. Course he didn't have to…he knew, and that day he didn't worry about damaging
For a while Tracy tried not to think about getting away. It was a day-dream she could ill afford, figuratively and literally.
But she couldn't completely resign herself to an indefinite future that included Raul. She couldn't see herself enduring his
abuse forever; never sure what would set him off.
So even though the scardy-cat part of her screamed, no, no, no…she started skimming a bit of the proceeds again. This
time she left the money with Amber, figuring the worst her friend would do was run off with it. But that was a whole hell
of a lot better than what Raul would do.
Tracy stopped her wandering mind when she spotted a midnight-blue BMW that slowed as it drew near. She slipped her
aching foot back into her shoe and put on her best smile. Wouldn't do to let this one go by.
Letting the shawl fall off her shoulders, she pushed away from the building and stepped into the full light of the street
lamp. Make him stop; she fervently implored some unknown benefactor of working girls. She didn't kid herself that it
could be God. He certainly wouldn't dip his hand so low, but previous pleas garnered positive results. It didn't hurt to ask.
The tinted window on the passenger side inched down, sliding with a soft whir into the well of the door. Tracy leaned
over to be greeted by a rich, pungent odor. She didn't know if it came from the expensive interior leather or from some
new cologne she'd not had the pleasure of meeting yet, but it danced deliciously around her. Beat's the hell out of rotting
The man, wearing a dark suit with a loosely knotted tie, turned his face in three-quarter profile. A gray Fedora cast a
shadow over his features, but Tracy didn't care if he turned out to be butt-ugly. The car, the clothes, all screamed
money. She might be able to put the touch on him for more than her usual. She could even double it and keep it all. Split
A surge of excitement tightened her stomach, and she tried her best smile.
"Looking for a date, Sweetie?"
The only response was the click of the automatic lock being disengaged.
I guess that means, yes. But caution made her hesitate as her hand touched the cold metal of the door handle. What if he
was some kind of weirdo? The silent types often were, wanting all kinds of strange things. She should be careful and not
let her excitement carry her headlong into something she'd regret.
"I'm not waiting forever."
The voice registered barely above a whisper, but it nudged Tracy to open the door.
Settling back on the leather seat, Tracy marveled at what money could buy. She was enveloped in warmth and comfort
and soft music filled the air when the man pushed a button on the dash. The sound was so clear, so sharp; she swore she
could distinguish each string of the violin as it resonated under a master's bow.
After giving directions to the motel, Tracy was quiet, taking a cue from the man. She didn't mind not talking. It was
pleasant to relax in the luxury of the car and pretend that she wasn't just going for a short ride to the motel. This was her
chariot of deliverance. She was on her way to some magical place suggested by the strains of the music that flowed
through the car.
Headlights from an oncoming car flashed through the windshield and Tracy glanced over at the man, alert for any
warning signals that she shouldn't have gotten into the car. Her instincts pulled her out of some difficult situations in the
past and she trusted them.
Tonight, there weren't any alarms. What she could see of the man's face under the dark Fedora was surprisingly young
looking, so perhaps his taciturn manner was due to inexperience, nothing more.
Tracy unlocked the door to the motel room and stepped in ahead of the man. She used air-freshener when she rented the
room earlier, but the dank mustiness of long-forgotten dirt still prevailed.
"How about a drink?" Tracy asked, moving toward the standard-issue low dresser that held a few bottles of liquor Raul
dropped off. "I've got whiskey, scotch, or gin and tonic."
"Whiskey. Neat." The man sat down on a chair by the long, dark curtain covering the sliding glass door. Tracy opened it
once to see a narrow slab of concrete that was euphemistically called a balcony.
She poured a generous portion of whiskey into a glass and carried it over. When he took it, their fingers met for a
moment and she felt an electrical charge flicker up her arm. It might actually be fun to do this guy.
"You don't talk much, do you?" she asked.
He took off his hat, gazed at her with pale blue eyes and gave a slight shake of his head. If eyes were windows to the soul,
this guy pulled the drapes.
Disconcerted, Tracy hurried back to splash some whiskey into a glass for herself. The first swallow slid easily down her
throat, warming her from the inside out and she tried to figure the best way to break through the reserve. In better
lighting he didn't look so young anymore. Maybe he was a business man. Maybe he had more money than her usual
clientele. Ha…clientele. As if.
"The usual's two hundred," Tracy said. "I'll do you as many times you can get it up in an hour. Anything goes as long as it
don't cause pain."
The man didn't hesitate. He pulled a thin leather wallet from the breast pocket of his suit coat, slipped out two crisp one-
hundred dollar bills and held them aloft. Tracy quickly crossed the room and snatched them out of his hand. Added to
what she already had, it was enough to carry her far away from Raul.
"You want I should get undressed?" she asked into the silence.
She kicked off her stiletto heels and slid the zipper down on her black mini-skirt. The man seemed to watch her with
pleasure, so she turned the whole thing into a sexy little dance, thrusting her lace-clad hips at him and rolling her pelvis.
A single snap of the hook released her breasts and her nipples grew taut in a breath of chilled air.
Still the man said nothing and she wondered if she had mistaken his interest. She sidled closer so he could smell the
warm, muskiness of her arousal and tried to fathom those unblinking eyes.
"You should at least loosen your tie."
Tracy tugged playfully at the knot, but the man made no move.
She shrugged and let the dance carry her back to the center of the room. If he wanted to pay two big ones to watch her
dance, so be it.
Closing her eyes, she imagined that she was dancing in some exclusive gentlemen's club where patrons would stuff bills
in the elastic of her lace panties. Back in high school—God that seemed like a hundred years ago—Karen told her she was
a good dancer. Maybe she could get a job dancing when she got to California; wouldn't have to end up on the streets.
A whisper of sound commanded her attention and Tracy was relieved when she saw the man had risen from the chair.
She could clearly see the bulge of his arousal as he moved slowly toward her. It's about time. Now I can just do him and
get the hell out of here.
The relief died when she saw the glint of metal in his right hand. No! Not this! Oh dear God! A cold shudder of fear made
her knees buckle and she leaned against the bed for support.
"Not a hint of noise and you won't get hurt." The man's breath was sour in her face. "Understand?"
Tracy nodded, even though her gut told her he was lying. The calculated menace in his voice invaded her body and
rendered her helpless.
Helpless as he pushed her back on the bed, pinning her with his length.
Helpless as he murmured words next to her ear that was deaf with terror.
Helpless as he laid the cold edge of steel against her neck. He was right…it didn't hurt, and she was finally free.
It wasn't the way she would have chosen to escape Raul. But it worked.
By: Maryann Miller