Friday, June 12, 2020

Crystal's Night by Alexander Schuhr

Alexander Schuhr tells the story of a tough night in the life of a Los Angeles prostitute.

It was midnight, when Crystal reached her regular spot at Santa Monica and St. Andrews. She had tried other locations. But this one worked best. Sure, there was more action westward, near Highland by the 7-Eleven. But the girls there didn't like competition. Only last week, these vicious queens had beaten the shit out of a rival and clawed her face into a bloody mess. It would be weeks before she could even think of earning money again. Plus, they had protection. The kind of protection Crystal didn't have, nor want. After all, she was here to make money for herself, and herself only. She had also tried working up East, but she had soon crossed into Spanish terrain. And the welcome there hadn't exactly been warm either. Her work was dangerous. But she had a goal. And she had long decided that it was worth the risks.

Eventually, she had settled for Santa Monica and St. Andrews Place. It wasn't the best area, but it had its advantages. Nobody seemed to be bothered by her. Sometimes a few other girls, mostly black or Spanish, worked the streets nearby. But there was no bad blood. Also, from her corner, she could see patrol cars approaching from a mile away. That way, she could easily retreat when the cops were bored and out to harass people.

That night, business was slow. A few cars had rolled by, and she had felt the drivers' gazes wandering up and down her body. But they all had moved on. By 3am, nobody had stopped. It couldn't have been her outfit. Her tight spandex dress barely covered her butt. Her hair and makeup were in place. She looked good and she knew it. But still, no customer. You sometimes had those nights, and there was nothing you could do about it.

She was walking up and down to fight off the cold. Her feet hurt like hell in these high heels. But it was better than standing still and shivering in that little piece of nothing she wore. Every inch of her body wanted to go home. But she had to remain focused and suppress these impulses.

As she was walking, bright headlights crept up on her. She turned and squinted. She could make out a grey SUV, which came to a halt a few feet from her. After a moment's hesitation, she walked over. The window on the passenger's side buzzed down.

The driver didn't say anything. Crystal screened him quickly, a routine that had become second nature to her. He appeared to be in his early forties. White, with a trimmed goatee, thinning brownish hair and glasses that gave him the appearance of a banker or an accountant. He was a big guy, somewhat pudgy. And he still wasn't speaking.

"How's it going?" Crystal asked.

"Good," he said. He was staring ahead, avoiding her eyes. His fingers were tightening around the steering wheel.

"You're looking for something, baby?" she asked.

No answer. Most of them were nervous. But this one was... strange. She considered passing on the opportunity. But the thought of her less than successful night prevented her. And there was still the switchblade in her purse. She wouldn't be an easy victim, if anybody wanted to give her trouble.

Crystal's eyes wandered to the backseat and discovered something that put her at ease immediately. An infant seat, stained from milk or baby meals, in a greenish color that made it impossible to tell whether it was meant for a boy or a girl.

He was a dad. How bad could he be, if he had a baby somewhere? Sure, there was probably a wife, too. A wife who had to be with the baby and certainly didn't imagine him being here right now. But whatever that revealed about his character, a dad wasn't that menacing.

"You want me to get in with you?"

He looked at her for the first time. Then briefly nodded.

"What's your name?" she asked, after they'd been driving for a while.

"Donald," he said. He hesitated, "You can call me Don."

"Thanks, Don." She tried hard to sound cheerful. "I'm Crystal."

They kept driving. Soon they reached the limits of West Hollywood. A few more blocks and they would be in Beverly Hills.

"Where are you taking me, Don?" Crystal asked playfully.

"Not far from here. We're almost there."

Don turned right into a quiet residential street. He drove up some driveway, framed by a lawn and a neatly trimmed hedge, and turned off the engine.

The house was a towering two-story mansion with pillars and tall windows. Although it was massive, it wasn't even the most impressive home on the block. But then again, even a gardener's shed in this neighborhood would have been beyond Crystal's means.

Don led her straight to the bedroom upstairs. She looked for photos of his family. But the room was sterile and impersonal, like a hotel room. Don must have tidied up for the occasion, she thought. The bed was made. White sheets and fluffed up pillows. By the nightstand was an exercise mat, a few resistance bands, and two dumbbells with iron plates. The white-collar warrior's weapons in his battle against muffin tops and back fat rolls.

It was time to get to work. "What can I do for you, baby?" she asked.

But she had a pretty good idea. She knew the type. His wife was gone, perhaps visiting relatives with the baby. Some trip that had been planned well in advance and would keep her safely away. She had probably called earlier this evening, and let the baby babble some gibberish into the phone to daddy. Meanwhile, Donny here had made plans of his own. It was time to live out a long-held fantasy. Donny wasn't out to have a standard adventure, easily available from any secretary or intern at his office. Donny wanted something that his wife couldn't do for him. Donny was curious, and none of the women in his life could help him with that.

Crystal had figured Don out while they were still in the car. That's why she had discretely transferred the blue pill from her purse into her mouth. Now, with a knowing smile, she produced a condom and the K-Y jelly from her purse.

Barely twenty minutes later, Crystal was slipping back in her dress. Don, trembling and moaning only a few moments earlier, had been silent since then. Brooding and motionless, he sat on the bed, his head resting in his hands.

Crystal had seen it before. Some of them, when their excitement subsided, became all miserable and regretful. Once, a guy has been boohooing endlessly, while showing her pictures of his kids. Others just couldn't stand her around anymore and wanted her gone. This one seemed to fall into this category. Whatever was going on with him, she didn't like it.

But as much as she wanted to leave, there was the issue of transportation. He was supposed to drop her off where he had picked her up. The walk back would take at least an hour. No fun prospect in the cold, with high heels and a tiny dress. Crystal placed her hand on Don's shoulder.

"Now, baby, if you could just..."

He slapped her hand a way and rose with an explosive motion.

"Take your fucking hand away, freak."

Crystal felt droplets of spittle on her face. She backed up. Her chest tightened.

"Ok. Easy. Easy now." Suddenly, the ride home didn't seem so important. It was time to get out of there. Now. She grabbed her purse, turned, and walked toward the door.

"Where the fuck are you going?" Don's voice was growling now.

She was almost at the door. Those god-damned high heels. She should have kicked them off. She would abandon them outside. And she would run, and not turn back. Her hand grabbed the handle, when the full mass of Don's body smashed her head against the frame.

There was a red flash, then a rustling sound in her head. No pain, not yet. But her legs, feeling like overcooked pasta, could no longer support her weight. She felt herself descending to the floor.

It felt like she'd been in a daze for a long time, when she opened her eyes. At last, she could make out the crimson-colored face hovering above her. Only gradually did Don's words become audible.

"You think I'm a faggot, huh? That's what you think. I'll show you who the faggot is, you fucking freak." The slap in her face cleared Chrystal's head somewhat.

Her eyes frantically searched the room. She found her purse. It had slid a few feet across the floor. The switchblade.

She rose, pushing Don aside. Surprised and off balance, he stumbled backwards. She had closed half the distance to her purse, when Don tackled her again. Crystal fell over. Don landed on her back. She felt his hands tightening around her neck. Her vision went blurry again, then darkened.

Only one thought remained, cold and clear: She would die. No close call. No second chance. If she passed out, she'd be done for. It was as simple as that.

She couldn't loosen his grip. Her thrashing hands behind her, she searched for another target. At last, her fingers got a hold of something. She grabbed his balls through the thin textile of his boxers. She squeezed and dug her long nails in.

Don, roaring like a wounded bull, let go of her. Crystal pushed away. Air, sweet precious air, entered her lungs. Her vision cleared. Life reentered her body. It felt good, so good that she almost forgot where she was.

Behind her, Don rose to his feet, his face a grimace of rage and agony. One hand was holding his crotch, as he charged at Crystal. She staggered, reached for her purse. She felt Don's hand grazing her shoulder. She grabbed the first object she could get hold of, turned around and swung.

The iron plates clinked as the dumbbell landed in his face. It wasn't very heavy, 20 pounds perhaps. But it stopped Don dead in his tracks. For a brief moment he bent backwards, like an awkward contortionist. Then, his head landed with an ugly thud on the floor. Crystal descended the weight a second time.

She couldn't take her eyes of him. There wasn't much blood. But the left half of Don's face was slightly indented, like a concave facade. A wheezing sound emerged from deep in his lungs with every breath he drew.

She wanted to disappear, get away from this awful place, and this awful man. But she forced herself to remain calm and gather her things. She found her purse, her shoe, even the heel that had come off. She collected the condom and the tissues they had used. She would drop everything in some dumpster, far away from the house. After a while, she was confident that nothing indicated what had happened here tonight. Sure, her DNA had to be all over the place. But that would only be a problem if the cops got hold of someone to match it with. And Crystal had no intention of becoming that someone.

What about Don? Crystal went closer. He was almost motionless now, breathing flat but steadily, the wheezing faint and barely audible. If he made it, he would talk. At first, he would feed the cops some bullshit story about a home invasion or so. But they would see right through it and increase the pressure. And soon he would tell them any and every damn thing that would lead them to her.

It didn't matter that he'd attacked her. She would be blamed. It had always been that way. She'd always been on the run. From her father, who had tried to beat her "perversion" out of her. Who had insisted on calling her Charles, when even her grandma had begun using Crystal. From the jocks in school. From her town. From the cops. From everybody.

She was at the margin of the world that people like Don had created for themselves. She was becoming who she truly was, and this world wanted to make her pay for it. There were barely any jobs for people like her. The hormones, the surgeries, they ate up most of the money she made. And still, she didn't complain. She did what she had to do. And people punished her for it. They brutalized her, and then went on living their happy lives, until it was time to use her again. Well, not this time, she thought, as she lifted Don's chin, and slit his throat.

Dawn was greying when Crystal was back in West Hollywood, and a hint of pink and orange appeared at the horizon. She would return to her room and rest a little before leaving town - just a few sweet hours of sleep.

For the last time, she passed her spot at Santa Monica and St. Andrews. That's when it hit her. She stopped.

"God damn it," she whispered to herself, as she thought of Don's banknotes she had left on nightstand.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, what a twist at the end. I didn't see that one ahead at all. Skillful writing

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  2. Gritty and raw. I like the subtle clues that hint at the coming twist without giving it away.

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  3. Also a bad night for Don. Well-paced and a good read.

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  4. I love the title! Kristallnacht. Blue pill was good clue without giving it away.

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  5. Excellent though uncomfortable story. Very gritty and realistic.

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  6. This is well written, well paced, and intense. The author held me all the way to the end. And I did not see that twist coming. Great story.

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  7. Love writing that won’t let you look away. Well done.

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