ick dancers were definitely not something that DaShawn was supposed to be handling. That was on Llewellyn’s list of jobs: Number one, hire the girls, a task that Llewellyn embraced full-heartedly, though it wasn’t as simple and as pleasant as everybody seemed to think, finding hot-looking non-skanky females who were both willing to grind their naked booties on stage and who could be relied upon to show up and do so.
Number two on Llewellyn’s list of duties: Fire the bitches who were chronically late or who fought with the other girls or who tweaked or shot up on the premises or who had perennial babysitter problems or psycho boyfriends or who gained too much weight or got too old or who attempted to turn tricks without giving DaShawn a cut of the action. Llewellyn had initially pussied out on the firings but after being played by enough females was now turning nicely cold.
Llewellyn job number three: Deal with the girls who fainted because they didn’t eat enough or yacked because they drank too much or who went crazy from too much crank or two many hands pawing at their pussies or who cut themselves or who passed out or nodded out because of whatever reason.
But it was DaShawn’s arms that Taryn fell into when she toppled off the stage. Girl was usually prancing around the stage, racing around, working that pole, shimmying so fast she was a golden blur. Taryn Piper was the finest child ever to wander into the Exquisite, and her talents had a lot to do with DaShawn’s success, he never denied that. It was, shit, nearly ten years ago the first time she walked through the door, claiming to be 18 and with the phony papers to prove it, but looking more like 12. Barely up to his shoulder, barely 100 pounds, with teeny little turned-up breasts tipped pink as rosebuds and hair the color of home-churned butter on her head AND below: that was one special sight. Everybody, DaShawn included, was so mesmerized by that blonde-haired pussy that Taryn still held the distinction of being the only girl never sent over to the spa to be waxed.
And now here she was, in his arms, light as a cat and still as the dead. He’d known something was wrong as soon as she stepped on stage for her last set. Earlier tonight, she’d been racing around the stage as usual, amped up even more than usual, getting into the crank heavy now, so heavy DaShawn was afraid he was going to have to ask Llewellyn to have a little chat with her, something he dreaded. Half the bros in the Go Go were still there expressly to see Goldilocks, as Taryn was affectionately known.
But then she came out for the last set, moving as if she were underwater, swaying her hips so slowly you couldn’t take your eyes off them, wondering whether she was going to make it all the way to one end of the bump and then back to the other. She let her head fall back, ran her hands oh-so-slowly up her bare breasts and over her throat, and then stuck two fingers into her mouth and licked them as she yanked on her own hair.
That’s what DaShawn was doing next to the stage in the first place: He, along with everybody else, couldn’t stop watching. He even felt himself growing a hard-on, something that had long ago stopped happening to him in the Go Go. Those girls on stage, they might as well have been accountants in cubicles, workers on an assembly line, for how much they moved him. But not Taryn. Especially not tonight.
“Everything’s all right, everybody,” DaShawn called out, as all eyes in the place went to him and to the passed-out girl in his arms. “Drinks on the house. Ebony! Come on, sugar, time to start your set.”
He hustled into the back room and laid Taryn down on the cot they kept back there in case somebody needed to nap between sets or had no place to stay for the night. And yeah, once or twice DaShawn had gone a round with some bitch or other on that cot, but not often, and not for a long time. Don’t shit where you eat, he’d learned.
“Taryn,” he said now, slapping her lightly on the face. “Taryn, wake up.”
She moaned softly — that was good, at least she was not dead — but other than that showed no response. He noticed, seemingly for the first time, that she was naked except for a black lace thong, stark against her creamy skin. He grabbed a length of dark pink brocade left over from one of the girl’s numbers and pulled it over Taryn.
“Tiffany,” he said. “Rhonda. Did anybody see her take anything?”
They all shrugged, looked away from him. Everybody took something, every night. It was as normal, as beneath notice, as drinking coffee in an office, as slugging on a plastic bottle of water.
“Did one of you give her something?” he asked, turning up the heat. “If I have to take her to the hospital, the cops are going to be here before you can blink.”
‘I saw her with the dentist,” Rhonda said.
The fucking dentist. That meant downers, pain pills, anything you could write fucking script for. Shit, this could take hours.
Wrapping her in the brocade, he lifted her up again, trying to think. If that moron Jamie McAdams were here, Taryn would be his problem. He’d been sniffing around her for weeks now, going home with her at night, showing up with her and sitting at the bar while she got dressed in the middle of the afternoon. But Jamie had not been seen for days now, come to think of it.
They were staying at one of those crank cabins, way up in the woods, was the rumor. As DaShawn laid the girl in the back seat of the Beamer, as he turned on the seat warmers and found a soothing playlist, he pondered driving up to the cabin, thrusting Taryn into Jamie’s arms, being done with it.
But Lord knew what those cracker crackheads would do with DaShawn in the middle of the night, state they were doubtlessly in. Lord knew what they would do with Taryn either.
She had never been his, though God knew he’d wanted her. But something about her fragility, her neediness, had made him keep his hands off. It had become a point of honor, almost, one of the few things he was still able to summon up when he needed to feel like he was a good man. I never took advantage of Goldilocks, he’d think. I always did her right.
He could bring her to his brother’s house. Dwight, who fancied himself practically God’s right hand fucking man, would hardly turn her away. But Dwight wouldn’t see the act for what it was: DaShawn once again taking good care of Taryn. He would see it as DaShawn once again dumping his shit all over the shiny wingtips of his saintly brother.
DaShawn briefly considered bringing Taryn to his mother’s place, but even he had too much of a conscience for that. And his own place: Totally out of the question. He was certainly not going to sit there and take care of her himself, for one thing. He had the rest of the night’s work to get back to. And he couldn’t leave her there alone.
And then he knew: George. Fool had married the bitch, after all. Was probably still married to her, in the eyes of the law, and so technically responsible. And would know how to make sure she did not die.
He drove fast out of town, turning up the music, singing along, happy to have found the perfect solution. George lived in a houseboat on the far side of the lake: DaShawn had been there for the wedding, and for a barbeque when Taryn was straight. Place looked like Heidi’s fucking grandfather’s house, floating on the water.
The place was dark when DaShawn got there, but that wasn’t surprising, considering Taryn’s ex was a citizen, and it was the middle of the fucking night. Leaving Taryn passed out on the back seat and the car running, DaShawn crossed the gangplank to the houseboat and knocked on the door, and then began pounding, finally ringing the big brass bell so loudly he thought the fire department might show up.
“Doc,” he called. “Hey, doc!”
Nothing. He was about to pick the lock but first tried the door handle and, sure enough, it opened. What would it take a man like that to stop trusting? Shaking his head, laughing to himself, DaShawn parked his car out of sight behind some rhododendrons and retrieved Taryn from the backseat and carried her into the dark boathouse. The place was empty, sure enough, though the beds looked recently slept in. DaShawn set Taryn down on the larger of the beds and removed the pink brocade, which was surely needed back at the Go Go.
He was about to pull the comforter over Taryn but then he couldn’t help himself, he just had to stare down at her body. Even after all she had been through, all the drugs, the men, having a baby, she still looked good. Not as fresh as when she first walked through the door, maybe, but still fine.
“Mmmm,” she murmured, reaching her arms up to him. “Come.”
Did she mean him? He sat down on the bed and then, when she didn’t lower her arms, leaned into her.
“Hmmmmm,” she said into his ear, moving her hips against him.
No, he couldn’t let this happen. He’d resisted all this time. He couldn’t do anything now, when she wasn’t even really here.
“Yeah,” she said, rolling toward him, throwing one leg over his hip. “Come on,” she said, pushing her pelvis into him.
And then, like gobbling that midnight cookie when you were supposed to be in training, like swallowing that first drink after drying out for weeks, he slid his hand into her lace panties and slipped his middle finger up inside her.
“Mmmmm,” she said, moving against him. But then she seemed to slip into sleep again, snoring softly against his ear.
Am I still a good person?, he wondered, his unmoving finger embedded in the warm, wet cushion of her. Or is it already too late?