Authors: Morgan Black
She nodded, “Another tequila for you, Judge? It is Saturday after all.” So it was the man the blonde had been referring to.
He laughed. “Monique, you know me so well.”
She sauntered off, and I watched his eyes as they focused in on her ass. I had to get his attention back or he might request her.
“Judge, is it?”
He nodded, “That's my name here. But I'll tell you a little secret; that's what I do in real life, too.”
“Fascinating,” I said, as I leaned on the table. “Tell me more.”
Lucky for me, the judge and I had a lot in common. My political science major, and interest in current political events had served me well. Conversation flowed easily, and after a couple of drinks, the judge put a card on the table.
“Do you know what to do with this?”
I picked up the dark card, and held in my hands. It felt slick under my fingers. It read:
Boston Buyer’s Club
I shook my head. “No, sorry.”
He smiled at me kindly. “You take it to the Madame. She stays back behind that black curtain.” He pointed to the left corner of the club. All the material in the club was black: the chairs, the bar, and tablecloths on each table. I listened as soft music played in the background. I hadn’t noticed it over my thumping heart before. But the judge relaxed me, and I was calmer.
“Once you get in there, she'll tell you what to do. And then she calls me to make the arrangements. I'm not looking for anything serious. I keep a hotel room at the Roosevelt for my girls. We can go get some dinner, and then you can stay the night there. Anything you want, you can have. There's no commitment here; just a night.”
I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves that were once again rising in my chest. “One night?”
“You look nervous. It’s nothing sexual, if that’s what you’re thinking. The girls say I’m old school, just looking for company. If you’re a good fit, I’ll take you to functions with me. I’m always looking for an eloquent date for those boring charity balls.”
I smiled, “That sounds fabulous.” No sex, no problem. I took the card, and sauntered off to the back corner. Outside of the curtain was the same bouncer I'd seen outside the club. He held up his hand for me, and I handed him the card. He took his cell phone and scanned the back; there must've been hidden information there.
“She'll see you now.”
I nodded, and he held back the curtain for me as I entered. A woman in her early fifties sat in a large red velvet chair behind a black desk. The room was completely smoke-free, nothing like the club I had just been inside. It shocked me that only a curtain separated such two different worlds. In here, it was all business; outside it was all pleasure.
She was talking on the phone as I entered, and held up a finger for me to wait. I stood holding the card in my hands, flipping it over and over, trying to calm my nerves. I couldn't believe I was actually doing this: getting paid to go on a date with a man I hardly knew. A man who was twice my age, at least. The judge seemed kind and trustworthy, but maybe that was a mistake. As I stood there waiting, I realized that this whole thing could be a mistake, but if I walked away now I would never know.
One night. One night was worth finding out what this was all about.
“Calla, right? Come here, darling.” She stirred me out of my stream of indecisiveness.
I walked forward. “You know my name?”
She smiled at me. “Of course, dear. I would never let a girl in my club without knowing everything about her. But I'm sure you would like to know some things about me. Sit.” She extended her hand to a chair that was in front of the desk. I sat down and held the card in my lap, still turning it over in my hands. “I am Madame Nica, and I own this wonderful establishment. I've been the sole owner now for about ten years, but once I was a girl like you. Lost and confused without a penny to call my own. And now, I own all of this.” She tossed her hands up in the air, and I noticed her perfectly manicured red nails. They matched her lips, which stood out against her pale skin and light brown hair that just framed her face. She looked distinct, important, but most of all confident.
“You own all of this?”
“Of course I do. I used to let men run my life, and now I let them put money in my bank account. Worked out perfectly. I have everything I could've ever wanted.”
I nodded. “That's amazing.” She made it sound enticing.
She leaned onto her desk, her white shawl draped over her arms. “You can have everything, too Calla, you just have to give me the card. Those cards will make all of your dreams come true. And I know you're thinking about it, contemplating your future here. But I'll tell you one thing; if you walk out that door tonight, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
I looked at the card in my hands. It seemed so simple.
“I'm in. This is the judge's card; he told me to bring in to you. He wants to take me out to dinner, and then he mentioned a hotel room…”
“Ah, yes, at the Roosevelt. He’s known for treating his girls quite well. You’ll like him. And inviting you to dinner on your first night? He certainly is enthralled with you.” She took the card from me, and used her phone this time to scan it. She then began typing furiously on a laptop. “You're going to need a mentor. I don't work with any of the new girls, but there is someone who does. If you need anything you will call her, not me. I am your business associate, your boss. Not your best friend. If you have a problem, you call Monique.”
“Monique?” The gorgeous black girl from earlier? Shit.
“Yes. She's one of the best. She knows exactly how to make the buyers happy, and she’ll teach you her ways. You will listen to everything, and do exactly as she says. She’ll meet with you tomorrow morning after your date.” She passed me a business card with Monique’s name and phone number.
I sighed. “Got it.”
She passed the judge’s card back to me. “There’s clothes for you upstairs in the dressing room. I believe you were up there earlier with Jessica. Change into something appropriate for dinner, and go to this room at the Roosevelt.” She scribbled down a number on a pad.
“Do I take a cab?” I realized that I probably didn't have enough money for the fare.
She shook her head and smiled. “Oh, darling, the girls here don't take cabs. We'll have a town car drive you. You will go there, and you will wait for him. He'll pick you up for dinner in probably an hour. I'll call him to make the arrangements. And don't be nervous. They can always smell fear on a first date.”
I held a small piece of white paper in my hands with the number 421 written on it. I sat waiting for further instructions.
“Sweetheart, you need to get moving if you're going to get there on time. Go,” she commanded.
I nodded, and exited quickly out the way I came.
I attempted to walk back through the club unnoticed, but when I turned to look at the far table, I saw that the judge was gone. I stood there for a moment wondering if he already left to meet me, or if the date was no longer happening. As I stood in the middle of the club, probably looking very confused, Hudson approached me.
“So, I was considering giving you my card.” He had his left hand in his pocket, and the other holding his glass.
“That's a shame.” I tried to channel my attitude from before. It seemed to intrigue him. And as cocky as he was, I wanted to peak his interest.
He cocked his head at me. “Why?”
I smiled. “Because I've already accepted another card for the evening. I told you earlier, Hudson, I'd already made my choice. Perhaps another time.”
He took his finger, and dragged it along my forearm. He leaned into me and whispered, “I will have you.” As he pulled away, I stared into his deep brown eyes, and I felt myself falling into them. But I didn't have time for Hudson and his tricks, I had a date to get to. I pushed past him, and walked up the stairs back into the dressing room, where I found an outfit laid out at a makeup station with my name written on it. They worked fast. I changed quickly into the red dress that they had picked for me. It fell above my knee, and wasn't what I would call overly sexy, more of a classy look. I grabbed my coat from the closet, and ran out to the front doors where a black town car was already waiting for me. The driver held the door open for me, and closed it after he helped me in. He began driving without me even telling him the address. This business was a well-oiled machine, and I had just become one of its newest gears.
When I arrived at the Roosevelt, I approached the front desk with my coat over my arm. I wanted to look comfortable yet confident, like I belonged there. I had never been in a hotel this nice before. The marble floor and matching columns had probably cost a fortune. And there was a bellhop at every turn. Twice, I was asked if I needed assistance with my coat. I clutched it like it was the last thing I owned; it was the only piece of my own life that I was carrying with me. I was in the club’s clothes all the way down to my underwear; nothing of my own, besides my coat and my purse, had remained with me. I was a completely new person, someone just playing a part.
“Room 421, please,” I said to the man behind the counter.
“Ahh, Judge Paxton’s guest. Of course. He hasn’t arrived yet. Odd of him. I'm sure he'll be up momentarily. But please allow John here to take you up while you wait. And if you need anything, please let us know.” He slipped a key card across the marble counter. I took it, and held it under my coat.
He smiled at me kindly, and a bellhop walked over to me and offered his arm. “Allow me to walk you up, Miss.”
I smiled at both of them. “Thank you.” I took John's arm, and he walked over to the elevator, where he pushed the UP button. He allowed me to walk in front of him, and as the door shut behind him, he turned around to face away from me, so that we were standing next to each other. “You haven't been here before, have you?”
I shook my head, and clutched my coat tighter to my chest. “No, I’ve never been here. It’s a beautiful hotel, though.”
He looked over at me. “You're different than the others.”
I attempted to appear confused, but I was sure that I knew what he was talking about. “I'm sorry?”
He turned this time, so that he could look at me completely. “You're different than the others. Don't let them change that about you.”
Before I could ask him what that meant, we were on level four, and he was holding the elevator door for me to exit.
“It's the fifth door down on the left, Miss. Have an excellent evening.”
I emerged from the elevator slowly, but as soon as I turned around, rethinking my decision, the silver door shut in my face. The hallway was empty. I was alone. I walked down the hallway to room 421, and I used the key that they had given me at the front desk to enter. I walked into a room with white carpet, white walls, and an entire wall full of floor to ceiling windows. I dropped my coat on the floor, and my purse by the door, as I admired the beautiful landscape in front of me. I could see all of Boston from here. It was breathtaking.
There was a bottle of wine and two glasses sitting on the coffee table; it had already been opened for me. I poured myself a glass, and sat in the white chair looking out over the city's landscape. I admired the twinkling lights as they told me stories that would never be spoken out loud. Friends meeting for dinner, lovers meeting for late night trysts, and parties going on that wouldn’t end until dawn. There were all these other little worlds out there that I knew nothing about. But, suddenly, I had been thrown into a world I didn't even know existed, and the thrill of it all was like a high that I couldn't get enough of.
My glass emptied quickly, and so I poured myself another. I figured that at any moment, the judge would come in, and we would leave for dinner at some lavish restaurant. The Madame said it would be under an hour, but it seemed like a lot more time than that had passed. I sat in the chair, continuing to watch the landscape, until my eyes started to close from the wine. I wanted to set my cell phone to go off on an alarm, to just take a quick power nap, but my phone was so far away back by the door, and I was so comfortable in the chair. I must've nodded off to sleep.
I heard a knock on the door that stirred me awake. I stood up so fast that I dropped what was left of the wine in my glass on the floor. Luckily, the glass itself didn't break. I grabbed it, and put it back on the coffee table before smoothing out my dress, and trying to appear as though I hadn't been sleeping. I checked myself in the mirror, and quickly grabbed my coat and purse from near the door, and put them on the chair that I had been sitting in. I didn’t want the judge to think that I had been bored waiting for him. The knocking grew louder.
“I'm coming!” I took one final deep breath, as I walked back to the door and put my hand on the handle. I opened it with a bright smile on my face, trying to appear calm even though my insides felt like they were on fire.
But the judge wasn’t at the door. It was a young man in a dark brown jacket, and he had a serious look on his face.
“Is this Judge Paxton’s room?”
I nodded, my confidence gone.
“And you are?’
I gulped. I was about to get caught on my first night. “An acquaintance.”
He smiled. “Sure.” His phrase dripped with sarcasm. “May I come in?”
“Not until I know who you are.”
“I'm Detective Barton, and I think there's something you need to know.”
Shit. Not only was I caught, it was by a cop. This could be the end of everything.
“What's that?” I prayed the judge would come up behind him, and clear all this up. Any moment, I would see his figure coming down the hall.
“Judge Paxton is dead.”
I leaned against the door, as my eyes widened with fear. I hoped it would hold me up. “Dead?” I had just seen him an hour ago, or had it been longer than that? He had seemed fine at the club.