I remembered the tape this time. A month ago, I had to improvise. It was not pretty or elegant. But I was in a hurry. That all too familiar itch rose to the surface, and if I didn’t get it out, if I didn’t satiate the desire, the fire would consume me.
I surveyed my backpack for the most important items.
Sleeping pills, check.
I grabbed the black Jansport backpack and added a few new things that recently appealed to me, I didn’t know if I would use them, but the idea that they were there gave me just the slightest tingle all over. I placed my newly acquired items into my tool bag and began the process of getting ready.
I sat at the table humming along to the blaring music, so loud that I could barely make out Iggy Azalea singing Black Widow. The bass overpowered the lyrics. Its rhythm pumping through my veins, making my hand slip a little as I tried to perfect the line of my eye with the liquid mascara. Instead of wiping it off and starting over, I decided to draw a curly Q in the corner. Add a bit of whimsy to an otherwise austere occasion.
“Dixie, you ready yet?” Henry asked.
He never knocked, just walked in like he owned the place. He didn’t. His father did, and Mr. Jack was a lot nicer to the girls than Henry could ever be. Mr. Jack saw us as family, whereas all Henry saw was the bottom line, dollars, and cents.
“I’m coming,” I said. I stood up, naked except for the bejeweled thong that barely had enough room to sport the colors of the American flag. I stuck on my pasties and pulled on a dress from the rack by the door. It didn’t matter what I went out in. It always came off.
Charity walked past me and off the stage, throwing a wink over her shoulder. I felt sorry for her. She’s the type of girl that doesn’t belong in this kind of place. She’s smart, should have gone to medical school, but an unplanned pregnancy derailed that dream. Now she works a respectable job across town part-time during the day so she can be home when her son gets off the bus from school.
When he goes to bed, she pays a sitter forty bucks to sleep there while she strips to make up the difference to afford her rent. The other women think Charity walks around with her nose in the air, so they constantly ride her. I’m the only one besides Mr. Jack that’s ever been kind to her. What she’ll never tell you is that she secretly likes it a little more than she needs it.
“I got them all warmed up for you,” Charity says before disappearing behind the black and gold glittery curtains.
It’s not like they would need warming up. Once they hear my theme song playing, the regulars know I’m out next. And they’re all regulars.
The familiar drum fills the room, but I wait as always until the guitar part of Fortunate Son to play before I part the curtains and strut onto the stage. It doesn’t matter how many times I gyrate onstage to this routine. The regulars seem to love it. There’s always a list after to go into the back room with me, but I never go in order. I make sure my biggest tippers come first.
Tonight, a new guy is giving me the eye from the audience. When I finish my routine and enter the velvet room, he’s there waiting for me. He doesn’t know it yet, but Wayne is my only guest this evening, prechosen by me.
“Don’t I know you?” he asks.
I bend over in front of him, making sure that view of my derrière completely obscures what I’m about to do.
I reach in my bag and pull out a pill, dropping it into his glass of champagne. It doesn’t take long before it dissolves into bubbles. I ask him, “Do you like what you see?” Then I hand him the tainted glass. I watch as he takes a nice long swig before putting the flute on the table beside the big purple velvet couch.
“Of course. I’m here because I want to see more.”
I straddle Wayne’s lap, shoving my chest into his face.
“You’re beautiful for a black chick,” he says like he’s the first white guy ever to say that. I tell him, “Thank you,” before reiterating the old saying about berries and juice. Only I’m not that dark. Thanks to mom and dad, I’ve always walked the line between two worlds, never fully belonging to either one.
I watch as his head wobbles a bit.
“I feel a bit out of it.”
“What was in that drink you gave me?”
“Just some E,” I lied, “It will relax you. You’ll be fine, I swear.”
I continue to go through the motions of my show to relax him. He leans back onto the couch to watch, and then like magic, it’s lights out.
The clock has starting ticking. I have four hours to get him to the playroom. I grab my sweats from the bottom of the backpack and pull the hoodie over my head. I tie my loose brown wavy hair back into a bun and pull on the sweat pants. Charity is waiting at the door for me. She helps me lift him, and we walk him out into the parking lot and to his car. It’s an old Mercedes E class, the kind that people from the hood buy used because they want to feel like they’ve made it.
“I’m just going to leave him here to sleep it off,” I tell her before saying, “Goodnight.” I pretend to leave him there while I go back inside and grab my backpack, saying another round of goodnights to whomever I could find to see me.
Wayne is fast asleep in the driver’s seat. One hard shove is all I need to slide his ass over to the passenger side before turning the ignition over.
The playroom is a fifteen-minute drive down Oronoco Street into a deserted part out of town at three in the morning. The abandoned warehouse, I discovered while on another evening excursion, suited my needs just fine.
I did my preliminary due diligence on the place. Abandoned five years prior and currently in the middle of a legal battle over ownership that seemed poised to linger on until at least one of the owners passes into eternity.
It’s deserted as expected when I arrive. I run inside and bring out a wheelchair I stole from Adventist for this very purpose. He’s a big guy, Wayne. Clearly, over the one-eighty, he boasted on his profile page.
Doesn’t anyone tell the truth anymore?
I wheel him into the room I set up for this evening’s activities. It was probably once used as the foreman’s office — a few dusty rusted-out filing cabinets in the corner and a desk that I pushed to one side. I grabbed a folding table from my garage that I pray doesn’t buckle under the weight of Wayne. My backpack, I toss on the desk kicking up the remainder of the dust. I didn’t bother cleaning up.
“I need some music, Wayne.”
My playlist has about three thousand songs on it, but only one will do for tonight. I need something relaxing. I push play, set my phone back onto the dust heap.
I start stripping Wayne, which isn’t easy because he’s one of those guys that wears skinny jeans and really shouldn’t. It’s like they were painted on him. I can almost see him struggle like a woman, throwing himself onto the bed trying to get these pants up over his thighs. I get them off, but I wasted precious time in the process. I have about thirty minutes left before the effects start wearing off. I know because I tested it on myself and then Adam. Only he didn’t realize it at the time.
It’s a good thing Wayne is going to be dead when I take this tape off.
Wayne is pretty hairy, not like Sasquatch hairy but close. I take my time making sure he’s securely taped to the table. I don’t want him getting up and overpowering me. I’m not in the mood to have to clean up a super mess tonight. Nor do I have the time.
I’m standing over Wayne when he starts to come around.
“What the…,” Wayne manages to stammer out. He’s not entirely with me yet.
He struggles against the duct tape but soon figures out he’s not going anywhere. He starts to scream, and while I know that no one is around to hear him, I don’t feel like listening to it. I grab the mallet and hit him over the head with it, just hard enough to knock him out but not kill him.
“What should I do to you tonight, Wayne?”
I grab the knife I brought with me, stolen from the kitchen at the club. Why a strip joint needs a kitchen is beyond me. I could never understand the appeal of eating buffalo wings while staring at titties, but men are just weird.
The tip of the knife glides down Wayne’s rib cage bringing a trail of crimson with it. Eventually, he’ll come around. The pain will wake him up. I’m fascinated by his body, the mass of it, weak as a newborn kitten under my knife.
He starts to scream again just as my favorite song comes on. Sarah McLachlan’s voice never sounded as good as when she sings Rainbow Connection.
I sing along, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, And what’s on the other side. Rainbows are visions, but only illusions. And rainbows have nothing to hide.”
Wayne looks at me like I’m insane, and maybe I am just a bit, but I fucking love this song. “Come on, sing with me, Wayne.”
Instead of singing, he starts to scream, so I plunged my knife into his throat so he’d shut up.
“That takes care of that.”
I watch as his blood shoots out every direction and onto the plastic sheets I lined the floor with. I need to control raging hormones. Now, I’m stuck cleaning up a mess again.
My cell rings. I look at the phone. It’s Adam. He gets antsy if I’m not home thirty minutes after closing. I think he believes that if he calls me enough times, I won’t have sex with the guy who’s just offered me two grand for it. If a man thinks my pussy is worth two G’s, I’m going to take it. Why should he complain? He’s getting it for free.
“Yeah,” I say, trying not to get Wayne’s blood all over my phone.
“Hey babe, are you on your way?”
“I’ll see you in the morning.” He knows that’s code for I’m getting paid. He won’t ask any more questions.
“Do you have to? I know I just started my job, but I get paid next week. We’ll be straight until then,” Adam says, almost begging. I can hear it in his voice, the neediness. It’s what I love and hate about him.
Before hanging up the phone, I say, “Gotta go, be home soon, love ya, bye.”
I’ve never used the word love before. It’s enough to throw him off guard and placate him until I get home.
You never realize how much blood a person has in their body until it all spills out and makes a fucking mess that you have to clean up. The towels I left there when I arranged the plastic sheeting sopped up a good deal of it. I planned on wrapping the body in the plastic sheeting anyway. I rip the tape off of the dearly departed, leaving a duct tape-sized swath of bare skin across Wayne’s arms and legs, and abdomen.
The drive out to Quaker National Forest is about a two-hour drive from the playroom. It’s that time of day where it’s neither night nor morning. It’s my favorite time of day when the world is indecisive about whether it wants to be awake or asleep.
I pulled onto a gravel back road. The familiar crunch under my tired feet feels like home. I drag Wayne from the trunk to a slight clearing in the brush. I make a pile with Wayne on the bottom, my clothes, and the towels on top. I torch everything except for the skinny jeans. They were too chic to burn.