|Cover design by Joanne Renaud
Here's a sample story...Nine Ladies Dancing, which originally ran as part of the Dark Valentine "Twelve Days of Christmas" fiction fest last year.
Nine Ladies Dancing
There were four little cubicles crammed into the basement of Jake Mirzoyan’s club, each with a mirror, a tiny shelf for makeup, a couple of hooks for costumes, and two chairs. On Saturday nights, when all the girls were working, things got a little crowded in the basement. There was only one bathroom down there—the girls weren’t allowed to use the one upstairs, the one the customers used—so if someone ate a bad taco for lunch, everybody knew it.
They all knew about a lot of things—about Reva’s abortion, about Lanelle’s problem with her ex, about Kim’s relapse with the vikes. You get eight women in close quarters and they’re going to be all up in each other’s business. It was kind of like a family that way, a big dysfunctional family with an abusive daddy. The girls knew all about abusive daddies.
Jake was greedy but he wasn’t ambitious and he was bone lazy. He made a lot of money from the club—almost all of it cash, almost all of it untraceable. Girls came and went at the club but there were never more than eight dancers at one time. Eight was enough. Eight was a number he could handle.
And then Suki showed up. Suki with her pale, pale skin and her dark, dark eyes. Suki with the red hair right out of a shampoo commercial. Her real name was probably Susan or something but as far as Jake was concerned, she could call herself Angelina Jolie if she wanted to. She was tall—taller than him—and big-breasted, just the way his customers liked them. And they weren’t fake tits like Jude’s or Kitta’s either.
Even though Jake had a rule about not mixing business with pleasure, he would have chopped off his own dick to dip into Suki’s honey-pot. He wasn’t the only one. Brianna, who’d been dancing at the club since she was an underage runaway, took one look at Suki and fell in love.
Suki was too good for Jake’s little place, but didn’t seem to know it. The girls all knew it, though. They knew Suki could have been working the gentlemen’s clubs in L.A., somewhere she could maybe find a sugar daddy to take care of her. A lot of celebrities go to those clubs for kicks. A lot of money gets thrown around. The girls wondered why Suki would come to a rat-hole like Jake’s club when she had other options. None of the girls who worked for Jake had options. At least, not any more.
Jake let it be known that he would be firing one of the girls to make room for Suki but he didn’t tell them which one and suggested if anyone wanted to discuss the matter privately with him, then he’d be available in his office any time. Jude was the first to climb the stairs to Jake’s office. She had a little one at home that her mother took care of. She supported both of them. She needed the job.
Cheree went next. She’d been on the verge of being bounced for months and the struggle to stay under 120 in the weekly weigh-ins was stressing her out. She smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and her husband was starting to complain she smelled like an ashtray. Of course, he smelled like an unemployed loser, but she never mentioned that.
Kim’s reaction was “fuck it, fuck him,” which was pretty much her reaction to everything since going back to the vicodin. Reva kind of hoped Jake would fire her so she could move on with her life.
Dee didn’t make the climb because she had job security. She knew one thing the other girls didn’t—the number of Jake’s wife’s cell phone. She let the other girls think she was just as freaked out about impending unemployment as they were but inside, she knew there was no way Jake would ever fire her. The consequences were just too dire.
Kitta indulged in magical thinking. Lanelle went into denial. Brianna stood at the back of the club and watched Suki dance, not thinking about all about herself.
And eventually, Jake made up his mind and told Jude that she could work out the weekend but then she’d have to pack up her pasties and g-string and hit the road. He gave her a hundred bucks severance pay and told her he’d be happy to give her a reference if she wanted to try dancing at another club. He suggested she might want to do a little hooking on the side. He told her he’d vouch for her blow-jobs too. She gave a quality hummer.
Jude was stunned almost to the point of being catatonic. The other girls didn’t know what to say to her. They knew about the little one at home. They knew about her mother. And even though they kept their voices down and stopped talking whenever Suki stopped nearby, she got the picture pretty quick.
If it hadn’t been for her, Jude would still have a job.
What happened next surprised everyone. Instead of ignoring the hostile looks and the whispered accusations, Suki took charge. When Jake went out to lunch, she gathered everyone together in the stanky basement of the club and gave them an option.
See, Jake’s wife thought the money that paid for their nice little split-level house and the late-model cars and the vacations in Aruba came from a used car lot Jake owned and kept to launder money through. Mrs. Jake didn’t know about the club at all.
And Suki, who had taken some accounting courses at community college could see what a money-maker the club was even though she’d just been working there a couple of weeks. She suggested a change of ownership and let the other girls do the math.
When Jake came back from lunch, he was very surprised to find his nine dancers waiting for him in his office, naked as the day they were born. It never occurred to him they were all nude because that way trace evidence wouldn’t show up on their clothes and they wouldn’t transfer anything to the surfaces in his office.
The club opened with new management that same night and customers never knew anything had changed. Occasionally someone would ask about Jake and Suki, who now managed the place, would say that he’d moved on to other opportunities. After a month, when no one came looking for Jake, Suki had all his tacky office furniture hauled away and repainted.
The girls were all equal partners now and Jude could bring her baby in to work with her because Suki baby-proofed the office when she had it redecorated. Cheree gave her bozo of a husband the boot and didn’t even flinch when he called her a whore. Reva taught herself Dreamweaver and put up a website for the club. Kim got clean with the help of Lanelle and Kitta. Briana continued to moon over Suki, who was kind to her. Dee, meanwhile, just couldn’t resist making a phone call to Mrs. Jake and discovered that on the day the club changed hands, she’d taken off to Aruba with her pool boy and a chunk of Jake’s money and wouldn’t be coming back.
When Suki heard that she smiled. It made her feel like dancing.