This short story was published in FUTURES MYSTERIOUS PRESENTS DIME, edited by Babs Lakey, Quiet Storm Publishing, Martinsburg, WV, ISBN 0-9749608-6-1, 2004. Author, Laurie Wood.
Ruby Westlake still had the goods for a whore nearing thirty-five. She yanked up her leather miniskirt that had twisted sideways on her thin hips, and rearranged her fake red cashmere sweater cut down-to-there so that more of the gold glitter showed on her boobs. She shoved the sweater nearly off her shoulder under her white rabbit fur jacket that just barely touched her tiny waist. Fluffing her blonde wig with her long ruby-red nails in the reflection of a car window gave her a glow of satisfaction.
She looked good and she knew it. Who cared about her birthday on Boxing Day? Tonight was Christmas Eve and she was still only thirty-four, lookin' twenty-eight. Hardly a wrinkle, firm boobs, legs that went on forever in these boots over her knees, and a tight ass to match. Too bad it was so cold; the john's wouldn't find the ruby in her belly-button right off.
Leeza was already warmin' their corner on Warner and Lightguard Streets. It was near the harbor and just south of the respectable part of downtown. Still, there was an all night diner "The Amazon", with a neon red Parrot hanging out front, where the girls hung for coffee and just to get out of the cold. Raoul was a good guy, even if his tattoos were scary. His neck was surrounded in a tattoo of flames, parrots and vines ran up both arms, and his chest and back were covered in Peruvian fire gods.
Leeza blew into her hands, plumes of frosted air in a swirl around her cinnamon face.
"Oh man, ah cain't believe y'all got that mini skirt on girl, yor gonna freeze yor ass off! Y'all never gonna last all night out heah!"
"I don't need all night. Just need till one, maybe two, in the morning. Gotta run for some cigs. You want anything?"
Leeza shook her head no and stamped her feet. Her cheap plastic high-heeled boots slid in the slush. She wore a leather motorcycle jacket over a neon green slit skirt with a leopard print top, draped low in front to her nipples. Huge African hoops swung from her ears and her lips were painted a vivid blood red.
"Y'all got any gloves, girl?" she asked, as Ruby came back and lit up.
"Go get warm. Raoul's put on a Christmas feast for anyone droppin' by. Egg nog, fruitcake, turkey'n everything. Go on, you can turn tricks later." Fiery ash flicked off Ruby's cigarette.
Still blowing on her hands, Leeza nodded. She grabbed the long door handle to "The Amazon", and Ruby watched the chewed up plastic wreath swing back and forth as other street people crowded out the door. Sated on turkey, and Raoul's bootleg brandy, two men went east on Lightguard St. singing Christmas carols and trying to hold each other up. Ruby took one last drag of her cigarette and considered her options.
One car slowed down to take a look at her, and she waved him off. The Giant Tiger Store was still open down the block. She took a few steps forward and tapped one perfect nail against her teeth, right hand cocked on her hip. Leeza was still inside. Ruby ran across Warner St. all the way to Giant Tiger. All she had with her was a black purse that was empty except for a small roll of dollar bills and a thin stiletto. The other stiletto she carried in a special holder in her right boot.
Once inside, she walked carefully up and down the aisles, keeping her eyes out for other shoppers. The clerks were bored and there was hardly anyone in the store. Ruby knew she needed a special gift for tonight, two if she could manage it. She sidled into Ladies Wear and over towards Accessories. The purse was on backwards and she pushed a pair of ladies winter gloves into it.
Brown leather with a soft lining. The clerks were still talking to each other as Ruby walked out and crossed the street to "The Amazon".
It was a relief to get out of the cold. She grabbed a mug of brandy-laced eggnog as the tray went by, and raised it with a smile of thanks at Raoul. Red and green Christmas lights rimmed the long counter where platters of turkey and fruitcake were laid out. Raoul's patrons were a mixture of drunken steet people who would leave here for their grates and cardboard boxes, punked up teens who might find a bed at a shelter if they were lucky, and whores who worked the six blocks surrounding his diner. Someone was singing "Silent Night" and crying in the back corner booth.
"Raoul!" Ruby grabbed his bulky sleeve as he tried to get all 250 lbs. of himself behind his counter. "Can I buy a fifth of brandy from you?" She fished a twenty-dollar bill out of the waistband of her skirt.
"Hey doll, it's Christmas!" His meaty hand slapped her on the shoulder. "And isn't it your birthday soon?" He reached under the counter and tipped a mickey of Napoleon brandy at her.
"Got any more of those really great Cuban cigars, too?" She had to yell in his ear to be heard over the din.
"You don't smoke cigars!" He yelled back.
"It's for a friend! A Christmas gift!"
"Ok, for that I'll take five bucks."
Ruby handed him a frayed five-dollar bill. She tucked the precious cigar into her purse, along with the fifth of brandy. "All right if I take some fruitcake with me?"
"Help yourself! And come back in...don't stay out there all night, ya hear me?"
Ruby stuffed three pieces of fruitcake wrapped in a napkin into her purse. She couldn't close it and it banged against her hip. She found Leeza sitting with a bunch of whores from Fairmont and Leeds Ave.
"Here honey." She held the gloves in her hand. "Merry Christmas, it's just a little something."
"Oh man, I din' get you anythin', girl!"
Ruby hugged her around the shoulders. "You never mind, just stay out of trouble, ok? I'll be gone for awhile, so stay warm until I'm back."
Ruby was already out the door, and the red neon light from the Parrot drenched her rabbit fur jacket in a bloody red hue.
Two blocks west the harbor turned into warehouses and alleys. Squatters lived there and built their fires, hung their blankets and dragged in cardboard boxes from the delivery trucks. Ruby scrambled over the snowbanks in her high heels, grabbing at icy chunks to steady her, while holding on to the precious cargo in her purse with the other.
She entered a low car park and went around to the back, through a dingy alley that smelt of rotting meat and urine, and then into the back of a warehouse. The door squealed and two men jumped out of the shadows, lunging at her.
****End of Part One*****To Be Continued**********************************************
Copyright Laurie J. Wood*************************************************************