a Cassidy & Spenser Thriller
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Thursday, October 3
Susan Smith nursed her root beer and drummed her fingers on a table top at Perks—the coffee place that adjoined the gift shop for the new wax museum—while she awaited instructions from her madam. She’d come here to meet a john.
Three years ago, at the age of twenty-one, Susan made a conscious decision to lose her virginity. According to Madam Lucille, none of her other girls could say the same. Lucy, herself, claimed to have been twenty-one and a half when she lost hers to a Hollywood record producer—one who was now on trial for the manslaughter death of a famous actress, but that wasn’t really relevant. Since Lucy was a madam rather than an actual escort, Susan thought hers was a legit claim as the longest hold-out in the stable. In any case, she prided herself on the fact that she’d chosen her own path from the moment she’d first lost her virginity right up until today.
She was no man’s puppet. And not Lucy’s either, though Lucy liked to think she could control all of her models.
Model was a euphemism.
Model. Actress. Escort.
And while it might be true that she and her Mom didn’t get along, and that in some small way she was getting back at her mother for paying so little attention to her, it was still her choice. There was no reason to feel sorry for her. No reason at all.
She’d first met Lucy in the student union during senior year of college. She’d gone down to the lounge to catch an episode of Days of Our Lives, and Lucy had bought her a Coke and told her about her modeling agency. Susan had an inkling right away that something was up, because at five foot nothing, weighing one hundred and ten pounds, she wasn’t the type of girl the Ford Agency recruited. Anyway Lucy had been very upfront. She’d explained that she’d started out placing her models into auto shows and trade mags, but received so many requests from her clients for introductions to her girls, that she’d finally wised up and made an adjustment to her business model. Over the past two years with Lucy’s agency, Susan had only gotten two sitcom walk-ons and one beer commercial—but she made a good living turning tricks.
Lucy’s wasn’t a typical escort/modeling agency.
You couldn’t find it online. The only way a client could get to Lucy was through a personal connection, friend of a friend, that kind of thing. It was all very Hollywood, in that you had to know someone to get ahead.
Ha ha. Get a head?
Anyway, the johns were mostly minor celebs and international businessmen, though Lucy claimed one girl had gone with an A-lister to the Oscars, so you never knew what might come your way. The men Susan went with loved to pamper her. In exchange, she did whatever they required to get off. Half the time, they simply wanted her company. Men like sex, but they also like to get high and talk. So she listened to them ramble on about their lives and watched them get wasted on their drugs of choice.
Her one unbreakable rule was that she didn’t partake in mind-altering substances. The exception being alcohol, and then only when she poured her own from a bottle that she’d opened herself, or if she was served at a club and the drink had remained within her control at all times. She sometimes acted as a safety monitor for her clients, calling the guy’s best friend if he got too wack on the dope. Occasionally, she got to go home with a wad of cash without ever having taken off her clothes. It wasn’t a bad life, as long as you knew what you were doing. As long as you were careful. It was important to have safety rules…and to follow them.
After all, nobody wanted to become the next fallen angel.
With the fallen angels in mind, she was feeling more cautious than usual tonight. Besides which, this was by far the creepiest place she’d ever been asked to meet a john. While part of her thought a rendezvous like this might be fun, her guard was up. If she didn’t like the vibe the guy gave her, she’d bounce. She checked her phone, reviewing the text Lucy had sent earlier. When Lucy gave her the signal, she was to proceed to the alley behind Waxed and wait at the employee entrance. Her cell phone beeped:
She gulped a final sip of root beer, stuffed her napkin in the empty cup and headed out. In less than five minutes, she’d reached the back door of the museum. Some people probably think whores are used to dark alleys, but she wasn’t that kind of whore. Normally, she’d refuse a meet like this one, but this particular john was offering five thousand dollars, and Lucy was giving her a fifty-fifty split instead of the usual forty-sixty. She could really use that twenty five hundred since she was planning to get her boobs done at the first opportunity. Small, natural boobs like hers appealed to a niche group of men—that’s part of how she got her place in Lucy’s agency—but a nice pair of double D’s would mean more clients. Then Lucy would have to find another girl to fill her niche requests. Of course, Susan didn’t only get the specialty guys. Some men…or women…didn’t care about the rack, as long as the girl was beautiful. Not being conceited or anything, she knew she fit the bill. Her hair was I-was-born-with-it blond, brightened by the Cali sunshine, and her eyes were ocean-blue—at least that’s what her bio said. She’d gotten lucky with good skin and full pouty lips too. Her only real handicap was her height. She couldn’t please the ones who went for long legs, so that was another reason she needed the implants.
She sucked in a deep breath and noticed the goose bumps on her arms. It was a warm night, but the wind and the spooky alley were giving her the shivers. She was wearing an expensive, white gauze blouse, and a butt-hugging short Lycra skirt. Stilettos of course. Her Michael Kors shoulder bag contained her keys, ID and one hundred dollars in cash in the zipper pouch. There was also the brass four-leaf clover her grandma gave her and pepper spray in the main compartment. She let out a choppy breath. Somewhere on the street, a car backfired. Startled, she turned her ankle on a stupid alley rock.
Take it easy. Stick with your rules. It’s all good.
She told herself there was nothing to be afraid of. Lucy knew exactly where she was, and who she was meeting, even if she didn’t. She’d vetted this john just like all the others. He would be high class, because Lucy’s accounts always were, and when they had spoken earlier, Lucy hinted this might be one of her bigger celebs. Not to mention a scream from Susan would bring the whole of Hollywood Boulevard running back here to check things out.
You. Are. Fine.
Twenty five hundred for a couple hours work, she reminded herself. She waited, and she waited some more. The breeze in the alley was bringing her smells from the coffee shop and a pizza joint, and it made her stomach growl. The sting in her ankle was subsiding though, so that was good. She checked her phone again and noticed it was after ten. Maybe this guy was full of shit. How was he going to get into Waxed after hours anyway? He might work there, but that didn’t add up. It was mostly kids making minimum wage manning the desk and counting the tickets. Of course he might own the place. Or maybe…he was one of the artists that made the wax figures. She’d heard each statue cost over a hundred and fifty grand to create, so the sculptors could definitely afford a girl like her. Her phone beeped again:
Are you in yet? Lucy asked.
No, she typed back. But just then, she heard creaking, and the back door to the museum swung open.
“Hang on a minute. I gotta check in with my boss.” She raised one finger in the sticky night air, making a point that she was texting on her phone. Then she typed I’m in and hit send. Her phone made the reassuring blurp of a message sent. She dumped her cell in her bag and focused on the positive: They were sneaking into the wax museum. One of the perks of working for Madam Lucille was that the clientele were not only connected, they were often creative. This guy right here was wearing what looked like a custom silk suit…in addition to a Charlie Chaplin mask. Tonight could make for a good story, like that Oscar extravaganza.
The john was playacting at being someone he wasn’t, and she was doing that too. After all, she’d been pretending to be Gina since she went to work for Lucy. Her real name, Susan Smith, wasn’t nearly as catchy as Gina Lola. She’d re-named herself after Gina Lollobrigida, because if she was going to be someone else, she figured it might as well be someone she wished she could be—like an exotic Italian movie star with long legs. Life was so much easier when you pretended.
You got this.
Her shoulders relaxed.
Charlie Chaplin motioned her inside, and the door slammed shut behind her, sending a cool wind across the backs of her knees. Compared to outside, the air in the narrow stairwell felt heavy and oppressive in her lungs. It was creepy dark here, but she could see light seeping around the edges of a door on the landing. It was that light, and the draw of twenty-five hundred dollars, that kept her from calling things off right there and then.
“I’m Gina,” she said, blinking hard, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the low light. Until she walked up those stairs, she hadn’t fully committed.
Wordlessly, Charlie turned his back to her and headed toward the landing, which was somewhat reassuring, as she thought this was his way of showing her that she could stay or leave as she pleased.
But apparently, he’s wasn’t the talkie type—probably why he was wearing a silent film star’s mask and wig—and this was not good news for her. The talkers were the ones who didn’t require much out of a girl, and since Charlie didn’t seem to want to bend her ear, her guess was he’d have plenty of other stuff he’d want her to do for him.
Likely things he wasn’t proud of. But the mask would also keep his secrets…She’d never be able to identify him.
Thinking again of the fallen angels, she hesitated.
He was half-way up the stairs, and she could turn around and go if she wanted. Lucy had a no repercussions policy. Any time a girl felt like it, she was free to shut things down, no questions asked.
Twenty-five hundred dollars.
She followed Charlie upstairs, her high heels clicking on the industrial metal steps, her hand trailing reluctantly along the cold railing. When she reached the top, he flung open the door and they stepped into the A-List party room at Waxed.
Her breath caught. She couldn’t help it.
This was probably as close to being invited to a Hollywood bash as she’d ever get. To her right, Fred Astaire, dressed in black tie and tails, was dancing cheek to cheek with a lovely, and very lifelike Ginger Rogers. Ginger was wearing a beaded brocade gown that was simply too beautiful to be true. Susan walked over, reached out her hand and let her palm slide over the heavily textured fabric. She wondered if it was a real costume from one of Ginger’s movies.
Throughout the museum, rope lights, like those used to guide your path in a dark theater, lined the perimeters of the walls. The overhead lights were off, but there was moonlight sifting in through breaks in the drapes, imparting an eerie glow to the hordes of wax figures. They looked so real she got the feeling they might come to life and start following her with zombie arms any minute.
Her stomach flipped over.
She really wished he’d turn the lights on, but they were not supposed to be in here, so it made sense he’d keep them off. Anyway there was plenty of ambient light for them to move around without bumping into furniture or statues or anything, so she decided to immerse herself in the experience and enjoy her private tour of Waxed. She really did want to please her customers. Especially one like Charlie, who’d be paying well for her time. “This is cool.”
Moving forward, she all but tripped over George Clooney and Matt Damon, who were laughing and clinking champagne glasses. Closing her eyes, she sniffed. She thought she could smell their aftershave. She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination, or the statues, or Charlie Chaplin over there, but she liked the scent. No, it couldn’t have been aftershave. The smell seemed too sweet for a man’s cologne. In her head, soft music played. Enchanted, she swung around, wishing she had on a full skirt that would fly out as she twirled, but then…she remembered why she was there. She clapped her arms down to her side.
With a tilt of his head, Charlie motioned to her, and she followed him into another statue filled room and then another and another. At least ten minutes passed, and he still hadn’t spoken. She was starting to feel like she needed to take charge or they might be here forever. She noticed Charlie wasn’t that tall for a man, and that gave her a mental advantage, made it easier for her, someone who bought her clothes in the Junior Petites department, to assume control of the situation. “Tell me what you want,” she commanded in her sultriest voice.
He shook his head.
“Show me then.”
Still, he said nothing.
Maybe he wanted her to guess. But the clock was ticking. She still might have time to squeeze in another client if this one didn’t keep her tied up all night. “Charlie, baby,” she whispered, then licked her lips and slowly unbuttoned her blouse, just enough to reveal the tops of her breasts and her lacey red push-up bra. Even if the john didn’t specifically request it, it was a good idea to wear sexy lingerie. Lucy had a big walk-in closet, filled with specialty and designer items for the girls to borrow. Looking down at her small tits, she thought about the twenty-five hundred dollars that, along with Lucy’s plastic surgery discount, would all but pay for her implants. It wouldn’t be long until she could broaden her customer base and start making real money, like Lucy said some of her other girls did. Smiling, Susan gave Charlie a come-hither finger.
At last, an obedient Charlie closed the distance between them.
“That’s a good boy. Now, don’t worry about a thing, baby. Just tell me what you like, and we can get started.”
He stared at her, and above the silence she thought she heard the wax figures breathing. Charlie raised an arm and gently swept soft fingertips over her eyelids. She’d just bet he was one of those guys who got manicures.
“You want me to close my eyes,” she guessed.
He nodded, and she did what he wanted. In the next few seconds, she heard a faint rustling of fabric followed by a tearing noise. A spasm of unease closed her throat. What was that? Did he open a condom? Whatever he was doing he was taking his time, so she let her lids flutter slightly open and peeked out from beneath her lashes. First, her heart stopped beating entirely, then it began to jackhammer in her chest.
Charlie was wearing latex gloves.