Square One
A Spearfish Lake Story


a novel by
Wes Boyd
©2004, ©2012




PART I: ANTELOPE VALLEY

Chapter 1

 

In real estate, they say, location is everything.

There would be nothing at all in Antelope Valley, Nevada, if it werenít for its unique location.

No one has ever seen an antelope in Antelope Valley, and it isnít really much of a valley, either Ė in fact, itís mostly a wide, dusty, mostly sagebrush-filled flatland laying between two low ranges of hills that are often hazy in distant mirages. Nor is Antelope Valley much of a town; a handful of trailer homes clustered back away from the highway, and a few business buildings. In other words, itís in the middle of nowhere.

But, itís an interesting nowhere, in its way.

There was a bombing range target several miles away at Jackass Flats during World War II. For whatever reason, the generals involved decided that a paved emergency runway nearby was a necessity. The runway was declared finished on August 6, 1945, the day Hiroshima was bombed, and saw little Air Force use thereafter.

The existence of the runway, and the Las Vegas/Reno highway that ran close by, caused the first buildings to be built there in the 1950s Ė a combination motel/gas station/restaurant/bar/casino known as the Antelope Valley Inn, along with a handful of mobile homes. In those days, the Jackass Flats bombing range was put to another use Ė it became known as "the valley where the giant mushrooms grow." The nuclear weapons testing dates and times were supposedly secret, but the local grapevine always knew when a shot was scheduled, and Antelope Valley became the place to go if you wanted to see an atomic bomb shot off. Sometimes people would fly into the old runway to watch a shot.

In 1959, a second, smaller motel, the Sagebrush, was built in Antelope Valley, by a thirtyish man from Arkansas by the name of Art Johnson. The Sagebrush Motel was a small place, built of cinder block, and it did fair business when a shot was scheduled. It was pretty damn slim pickings financially for Art for a long time after the test ban. He managed by offering good rates for long-term rentals, especially a six-week package for people getting in their residency requirements for a Nevada divorce; they were much easier in Piute County than they were in Las Vegas or Reno, where they were already pretty easy.

The situation for Art eased a little in the 1970s, when Groom Lake became known as "Area 51," and there were rumors that the Air Force was using the place to build and test back-engineered versions of a captured UFO. This meant that there was often a core of UFO freaks staying at the motel, eyes on the night sky, looking for strange lights in any and all directions. UFOs were in fact there, but were called "stealth fighters" and other such things, weird in shape but not exactly flying saucers piloted by little green men.

One other thing about the location of Antelope Valley added to the growth of the place Ė itís just across the county line from Clark County, the one where Las Vegas is located. One unique thing about Nevada is that in the lesser-populated counties prostitution is legal by local option, and Antelope Valley was in an eligible county and as close as it was possible to be to Las Vegas for operating a legal bordello. Shortly after the legalization in 1970, a small brothel opened in a joined cluster of mobile homes and rather run down modular buildings, and did a steady if not spectacular business.

A millionaire Texas real estate developer by the name of George Bush was an occasional visitor to the Redlite Ranch Bordello. He thought it was a dump, and the girls were mechanical and uninspiring. Mostly, however, he thought that the owners of the Redlite Ranch didnít have the vision Ė or the financing Ė needed to make the place what it could have been. In 1992, as a recent divorcee, he decided to give up housing developments near Dallas and concentrate on something that had the potential to be more fun. He bought the Redlite Ranch, and spent well over a million dollars on a new upscale facility right next to the airstrip, neat, clean, and well-maintained, with a bar and restaurant and a number of comfortable rooms for the girls to use. It was not an architectural masterpiece, but did look considerably better than a dumpy collection of mobile homes. Bush brought in some new girls with a more consumer-aware approach to the business and raised prices dramatically, looking to bring in Las Vegas trade.

Bordellos in Nevada canít advertise, per se, but that didnít slow Bush down much, and he did a number of things to promote business. It wasnít the easiest time, and things were rather break-even for a couple of years, but in the long run it boomed, becoming the largest business, and the largest single tax revenue source in Piute County, which made Bush popular with the county government. It was no secret that the brothel was there, of course. In fact there was a sign Ė a Federal Sign and Signal job by the same company that made the huge lighted signs in Lost Wages. It had a ten-foot red lantern and flashing three-foot-high neon letters reading "Redlite Ranch Bordello", along with an airport-sized red rotating beacon that could be seen from Las Vegas at night.

The fact that the Redlite Ranch was just across the road from the Sagebrush Motel meant little to Danny Evachevski as the last weeks of 1999 rolled down. Danny was staying at the Sagebrush because his lawyer in Piute Wells, the county seat, suggested it as the cheapest place he could stay in the county for six weeks . . . well, short of setting up a tent. It would be difficult to prove residency living in a tent, and besides, it could get darn cold this time of year. After eight years of residency in Florida, Danny wasnít up to handling cold like heíd been able to as a kid in Spearfish Lake, so he followed the lawyerís suggestion.

Since Danny was planning on heading back to Spearfish Lake and the North Country once he got through with his business in Nevada, he figured that heíd better do what he could to get ready for cold country again. Thus, he was sitting in the shade in one of the lawn chairs in front of his motel room about eight on that December morning, in temperatures around forty degrees, readingWar and Peace. Well, at least trying to read it; it was boring as hell, and his mind was far away.

"Ainít it a little cold to be sittiní out here readiní?" he heard Art ask in his Ozark accent.

Gathering himself together from the start that Art had given him, Danny just shook his head. "Where Iím from originally, the temperatures here this time of year would be considered a heat wave."

"I suppose," Art replied. "You planniní on doiní anything useful today?"

"Not really," Danny replied. "You get right down to it, I donít have much to do the next few weeks except watch the calendar pages turn."

"Gotta be dull for ya," Art grinned.

Danny shrugged. With five weeks left to kill, he figured on doing some reading of long, dull books that heíd often wanted to read but never gotten around to; he was switching off between War and Peace and Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Between the two they were boring him out of his mind. "Better to be bored to death than be bitched to death," he snorted.

"Yeah, I suppose," Art laughed. "Thatís part of the reason I never got married. You like some breakfast?"

"Had a couple of granola bars and some instant coffee," Danny admitted. "The budget is kind of tight, and I donít like to risk the heartburn over at the Inn more than once a day."

"I can understand that," the older man nodded. "Donít go there much myself. You tried the restaurant over in the cathouse yet?"

Danny frowned and shook his head. "Didnít even know they had one there," he said.

"You ainít been over there yet?"

Danny shook his head again. "I donít have money to blow on women, at least not now."

"Come on with me," Art said. "The restaurant at the cathouse is cheaper than the Inn, and the food is better. If they ainít busy, they donít mind if someone comes in just to eat. They ainít never busy this time of day."

"Talked me into it," Danny replied. It had been getting damn boring, and Art had seemed like a nice, friendly guy with a few stories to tell. "Let me dump this book in my room and Iíll go with you."

As Art and Danny started across the dirt parking lot, a familiar car pulled in. Danny knew that the two guys in it slept all day and were gone all night, doing whatever. It pulled to a stop at the end unit, and Art wandered over in their direction, Danny following. "You guys see anything last night?" Art asked.

"Not much," the guy behind the wheel said as he got out of the car. "Might have seen the outline of an Aurora, maybe not. Theyíre testing something out there, thatís for sure."

"Heard a lot about that Aurora," Art admitted, "but I ainít never heard of someone thatís seen one up close enough to tell if itís real, or what."

"Iíve heard people that say they have," the guy replied. "But whether theyíre full of shit or not, I canít say."

"Would be fun to know," Art nodded. "You gonna try it again tonight?"

"Thatís what we come for," the other guy said. "Maybe weíll get lucky."

"You find out something real, let me know," Art grinned.

"Sure will," the guy said. "Guess weíll try and get some sleep."

Art and Danny turned to walk across the parking lot. Once they were a little ways out of earshot, Danny asked, "What was that all about?"

"Kinda interesting," Art said. "The Air Force has that secret test area on a dry lake about thirty miles away, out in the middle of the Nellis Range. Some people say they got out there is whatís left of a UFO that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico back about 1947, and theyíre trying to back-engineer it. Me, I think itís a load of bull, but thereís people that come out here and spend their vacations trying to get a glimpse of one of the test flights, like these guys. Other people say the Air Force has a hot new stealth bird called the Aurora. Theyíve been supposed to have had it for a while, which is why they retired the SR-71 ten years ago. Some people say theyíre both the same thing. Anyway, thereís this big hill, Telegraph Peak, a few miles off that way," he pointed, "and if you get up on top with a big telescope, you can just make out the buildings and stuff at Groom Lake. Iíve taken a few people out there, even spent a few nights out there. Never seen jack shit, though."

"Did they really used to set nukes off out here?" Danny asked.

"Yeah," Art nodded. "They set off underground shots up till fairly recently. They quit doing open-air stuff forty years ago, but I saw a few shots when I first come here, over that way," he pointed, not quite in the same direction as Groom Lake. "When they set one of them babies off at night, it lit up the whole sky that way. Youíd get a pretty good flash in the daylight, too, even if you couldnít see it directly, since it was off behind them mountains. You could usually see the mushrooms pretty good, though. Gave me a pretty good respect for them things, even though they supposedly never set off any of the real big stuff out there. They did that out in the Pacific at Bikini or Eniwetok or Amchitka or some damn place."

"Guess I have to say that it doesnít break my heart that they quit doing that shit," Danny snorted.

"Well, yeah," Art said, glancing both ways along the highway. It wasnít terribly busy, but Antelope Valley was not much of a place, and didnít even qualify for a "reduce speed" sign, let alone a lower speed limit. The traffic was not heavy but was fast, so it always was worth the trouble to stop and look. Right at the moment it was light, only a semi half a mile up the road. "Them was interesting days, though," he continued as they started off across the roadway.

It was a two-lane road, and didnít take long to cross. Danny looked up at the big Redlite Ranch Bordello sign, and saw in changeable letters underneath, "THIS WEEKEND Ė LEARJET JENN." "Whatís that?" Danny asked. "Some super-hot babe to headline the lineup?"

"Yep," Art grinned, "Flies her own Learjet in from somewhere for the weekend, Phoenix, I hear."

"Youíre kidding," Danny snorted. "Her own Learjet?"

"Yep," the older man laughed. "They call her the fastest woman in the state of Nevada. Iím also told sheís the most expensive piece of ass on sale legally in the whole state, too, which has something to do with how she can afford a Learjet. She must be real damn good to be able to afford to fly her own jet out here."

"I canít imagine spending a grand on a roll in the hay," Danny shook his head. "On the other hand, what it cost me to get married and what I got out of it, it might be a bargain at that."

"I hear you, boy," Art shook his head. "You ainít the first guy to do six weeks residence at the Sagebrush sayiní that."

"Damn straight," Danny agreed. "Letís face it, if thereíd been a competent, reasonably priced hooker in my home town when I was about college age, I could have saved myself a hell of a lot of money and trouble."

They walked across the parking lot, which only had a few cars and three semis sitting in it. The Redlite Ranch itself was surrounded by a freshly painted chain-link fence. The customers entered by pressing a doorbell that read "Ring Buzzer Ė Push Gate Ė Have Fun!" Art pushed the buzzer twice, and they could hear a lock in the gate open. "You come over here," Art told him, "always buzz twice. If you only buzz once, they call the girls on duty out for a lineup, and if they find out you only come over for breakfast or something they get a little pissed, especially if theyíve been taking a nap or something. Twice says youíre a regular or on other business."

They walked across a small courtyard, and into the building. As they entered the place, blinding winter desert sun was replaced by inky darkness. Two girls sat in lounge chairs, displaying long legs and lanky bodies and not much clothing. "Hey, big boy, you want to party?" the younger and more petite of the two said. She was blonde; Danny guessed she might go five-one or five-two, slender, and shapely, if not real large in the chest. She was wearing a very snug black dress, very short.

"Naw," Art said. "Just came over for breakfast. Been busy?"

"Not shit since Iíve been on shift," the girl said.

"Figured somebodyíd be working them truckers," Art grinned.

"Somebody did," the older girl shrugged. As Dannyís eyes got used to the light, he thought she might be about his age, maybe a little older. She was a blonde, too, somewhat larger, maybe five-six or so, well equipped in the chest, shapely, but more solid. She was wearing what had to be about the slinkiest red dress he had ever seen. "Theyíre sleeping it off."

The younger girl eyed Danny. "You like a freebie?" she asked. "Iím bored. No point in wasting being awake at this hour."

Danny shook his head. This was awful damn forward for anything that he was expecting Ė not that he should have been surprised, he thought Ė but doubts were on him big time, too, and not just about her. "Uh, Iíll get back with you on that," he smiled. "I will buy you a cup of coffee, though."

"Might as well," the girl snorted, squirming to get up out of the lounge chair. "Thatís the best offer Iíve had all morning."

"Thatís the thing about these early damn shifts," the older girl said with a headshake, as she got up too, giving Danny one of the most incredible views of cleavage heíd ever seen packed into a dress. This one didnít conceal much. "Canít hardly give it away."

Art sort of nodded his head. "Always seems slow this time of day," he commented, not paying any noticeable attention to the display.

"Yeah, but you never know," the older girl Ė well, woman Ė sighed. "Could have a carload pull in any minute, and Shirley would have to call out the on-call girls. At least George gives us a better cut for working the slow shift, and rotates it around."

The two women led Art and Danny into an adjoining room. This really was more like a medium sized restaurant, somewhat better lit, and nicely, expensively decorated, with a bar at one end. The room probably would seat eighty or a hundred people, but it was empty, except for a man and an older woman sitting at a table for six. "Morning, Art," the man said. "Come on over and join us, if you like."

"Sure, always glad to," the old motel owner replied.

"Are you and your friend just here for breakfast?"

"I guess," Art replied, and introduced his guest. "This hereís Danny Evachevski. Heís doing the six-weeks thing across the street."

"Well, pleased to meet you, Danny," the man said, extending his hand. "Itíd please me if you tell your friends that you had a cup of coffee in a Nevada cathouse with George Bush."

"Something tells me you must be a Democrat," Danny laughed as he shook Bushís hand.

"You got it, kid," the heavy-set, balding fiftyish man grinned. "Itís even worse now that it looks like his no-good, useless son is heading for the White House. Iím from Texas and I know what kind of an idiot that horseís ass is. You here for breakfast, or to party?"

"Just breakfast," Danny said, sitting down. "I kind of hate to admit it in here, but Iím kind of fed up with women right now."

"The six-weeks-residency thing got something to do with that?" George asked, then smiled. "Canít say as I blame you. I went through a round of that myself. Of course, I got over it. Danny, do you know why a divorce is so expensive?"

"Iíll bite," Danny said, seeing that this guy was pretty lighthearted for this hour of the morning.

"Because itís worth it," George laughed. "Weíre short a waitress right now, so I guess Iím it. Let me go get some menus. You like some coffee?"

"Love some," Danny admitted. "That instant stuff just doesnít cut it."

"Donít get up, George," the younger girl offered. "Iíll get it."

"Sure, thanks, Patty," he said. "So, Danny, is this your first time in here?"

"Afraid so," Danny admitted. "First time ever in a place like this."

"Thatís true," the seventyish woman with George said. "Thereís no other place in Nevada like this, and I worked in most of the Nevada houses when I was younger."

"Well, that was the general idea," George agreed. "Danny, when I first started hitting the cathouses in this state, they werenít aimed at the tourist trade, but at cowboys, miners, truckers, and like that, so they were pretty rough, and the girls werenít always exactly first class, either. When I built this place, I aimed at the high-roller tourist trade out of Vegas. Itís taken a while to build it up. Shirley, here, and LouAnne and I just about had to redesign how the business is done."

"The biggest reason any organization does something," the woman about Dannyís age said, "is because theyíve always done it that way before."

"Yeah, we had to fight like hell about that," George agreed. "We pretty well agreed that because it was done that way anywhere else, that was the best reason to do it differently here."

"Right," the woman agreed. "I worked a shift in another house years ago and swore off the Nevada houses. I kept hearing this place was different, so came up from LA to check it out for a weekend. Itís the only house Iíll work in, anymore."

The younger woman Ė Patty, as Danny remembered Ė came over bearing cups of coffee for the four new arrivals, which included herself, and menus for Art and Danny. Danny glanced at the menu Ė the prices were reasonable, much better than the Inn Ė and George took their orders, then took them back to the kitchen.

Over the next few minutes, Danny learned a lot about Nevada bordellos, especially this one. It proved that Shirley, the older woman who had been talking with George when they came in, was the shift manager, a businesslike term for "on-duty madame." Experience had shown them that things worked better if the girls worked directly with another woman who had been there and done that Ė which Shirley had, although she was retired from that end of the business now, she explained.

The blonde woman about Dannyís age was Frenchy Ė a "work" name. Sheíd been in and out of the business for a decade and a half. Sheíd been mostly out of it after a bust in LA, and only came back into it several years before since she could work legally here. She worked three-week shifts every third month, leaving her two kids with her husband for the duration.

"What does your husband think about that?" Danny asked.

"Fine with him," Frenchy replied. "He knew what I did when I met him. The kids pretty much know, too. My daughter thinks she wants to work here when sheís old enough, to make money for college, but I donít think sheíll go through with it. If she did, itíd still be better than some of the other things Iíve done."

"Thatís what Iím doing," the younger woman said Ė her work name was Peppermint Patty, and Danny thought that Charles Schulz had to be rolling over in his grave. "Iím pre-med at UCLA, and I wanted to avoid some of the student-loan hassle, so Iím taking a year off to work three on and one off. Iíve banked about a hundred thousand since May. Iíll work weekends when I go back to school."

"Been there, done that," Danny nodded. "I had a half-ride on baseball and worked as a railroad brakeman summers, worked as a bartender evenings in college, and I still had to go into the loans. I finally got the damn things paid off, and I still had to tend bar and work a day job."

"Hold it," George said, eyes opening. "Youíre a bartender?"

"Among other things," Danny said. "I havenít actually done it for a couple years. My day job was wholesale sales of herbal supplements and vitamins, but I walked out on that when I left my wife."

"Son of a gun," George smiled. "You doing anything useful while youíre waiting out your residency?"

"Not really," Danny said. "Just trying to struggle through War and Peace."

Just then the buzzer went off Ė once. Both Frenchy and Patty sprang from their chairs and headed for the lobby, pausing at a mirror near the door to touch up their hair as they left the room, just as the words "Order up" came from the kitchen.

"Would you be interested in tending bar days, maybe help out a little some evenings?" George said, watching them go. "We need a daytime bartender bad, someone that can also wait tables in here. It only pays minimum, but people usually tip pretty good, and I can work you a lot of hours. You have to keep your hands off the help when youíre on duty, but they know that, so they wonít hit on you."

"George," Danny shook his head, "Iíve been so goddamn bored Iíd just about pay you to do it, if I had the money."

"Good enough," George smiled. "Welcome to the wildest line youíll ever have on your resumé. Now, since youíre the waiter, how about going back and getting our breakfast?"

*   *   *

George took Danny out to the kitchen, and introduced him to the cook, a heavy-set, older woman by the name of Sarah. George explained that Danny would be working for them for a while. George and Danny each took a couple plates and headed back out into the dining room. When they got back out, Frenchy and Patty were nowhere to be seen. "Couple of truckers, a team, I guess," Shirley said. "Guess Iíd better head over to the office, check them in, and get Becky and Margaret up here in case someone else shows up. This shouldnít take long."

"Danny, go put Shirleyís breakfast under a heat lamp in the kitchen," George told him. "No point in letting it get cold on her."

When Danny got back to the dining room, he could see Shirley in a small office with a back door that opened into the dining room. He headed over to the table and sat down, and from there, he could see a counter on the far side of the office. After a few seconds he could see Frenchy and Patty on the far side of the counter, getting credit cards validated. "Well, good," George commented. "Glad they got a little business. This is usually about the slowest time of the day."

"Thatís what Art was saying," Danny said, starting in on his ham and eggs.

"You never know," George smiled. "This is the time of day when really goofy stuff can happen, too. I always figured that anybody whoís horny at this hour of the morning either works weird hours or has a screw loose somewhere."

In a couple minutes, Shirley joined them again, and Danny went to get her breakfast. Just about that time two more girls walked into the room from somewhere in the back. Like Frenchy and Patty, both of them were babes by any description. One of the girls Ė Danny learned her name was Margaret Ė was black, although light-skinned, wearing a very short skirt, a thin tank top, and obviously no bra; the other one, Becky, was a white brunette, wearing very tight leather pants and a halter top. "Morning, girls," George said. "You like some breakfast?"

"I ate earlier," Margaret said. "I could stand a cup of coffee, though."

"Me, too," Becky agreed.

"This here is Danny," George said. "Heís going to be our daytime bartender and waiter for a while. Heís doing the six-weeks-residency bit across the road."

"Good to meet you, Danny," Margaret smiled. "I can tell you that youíre going to have some stories to tell when you move on."

"I can see that," Danny laughed as he got up to head for the coffee pot. In a minute, heíd served both of them.

"I didnít get the chance to explain," George told him. "Food and soft drinks are free for the girls, but you do have to have them sign the check so I can deduct it from my taxes. They have to pay for booze, but they still just sign the tab and we settle it up later."

"This is the only place Iíve ever worked where itís like that," Becky told him. "Every other place they charge higher than hell for food."

"I donít think thatís right," George explained. "The food really isnít that damn expensive, and Iíd rather have the girls happy. Ground rule number one, Danny Ė keep the customers happy. A happy hooker goes a long way toward making a happy customer, which is to say a paying customer whoíll turn into repeat business. These girls are professionals at what they do, and theyíre good at it. Iím not out to take advantage of them. Thereís enough money to be made by being honest, so thereís no point in being greedy and having them pissed off."

"Makes sense," Danny nodded.

"Youíd think so," Margaret smiled. "But itís sure not the standard in the business. George does go out of his way to make us feel like professionals at what weíre doing."

"I try to," George nodded. "Look, a few minutes ago, you heard Patty say that sheís banked a hundred grand since May. She ought to have close to two hundred grand by the time she heads back to school next fall, maybe as much as a quarter mil, and sheís busting her little butt to do it. Even with the bite the government will take out of her, that ought to be enough to pretty well carry her through med school. There are not a lot of women in this world who can have six-figure incomes at the age of twenty, Danny. When youíve got one working with you, making money for you, too, you donít treat them like dirt. A lot of people in this business have never understood that."

"Not just this business," Danny nodded, deciding to add something to the discussion. "Believe me, I know what youíre talking about. You ever hear of Jenny Easton?"

"Yeah, sure," George nodded. "Big country singer, used to play down on the strip some. I caught a couple of her shows, back before I bought this place. Guess she hasnít played there in a while."

"I know her a little; thereís a family connection," Danny said, choosing his words carefully Ė he was not about to mention around here that Jenny Easton, who preferred to be known as Jennifer Evachevski, well, Walworth since last fall, was his oldest sister. But then, he was used to that; he didnít like to trade on Jenniferís fame, and he knew her to be an intensely private person when not on stage. In truth, he didnít know her well anymore, and hadnít since Marsha started driving a wedge between him and his family shortly after they were married. "She hit it big, back when she was a freshman in college. Her first album, Smoke Filled Room, grossed well into seven figures, maybe even eight figures, I donít know for sure. You better believe the vultures were lined up for a piece of that action. It got so bad that she had to hire a live-in bodyguard to keep the scum she was working with off her ass, and she still got taken to the cleaners pretty good."

Danny knew there was a lot more to it than that, and also knew that there was even more yet that Jennifer had never admitted, at least to him. That was something to think about sometime soon, but not right now.

"I get the picture," George said. "Itís not easy for a woman. I know the women here are the ones who have their butts on the line, and I try to be as fair with them as I can. Theyíre worth it. That two hundred grand net that Patty ought to make, when you get done with all the figures, also means a hundred and sixty grand for the business. Letís face it, I have to take care of a money maker like that or Iím cutting my own throat."

After a while Danny bussed the empty dishes back out to the kitchen and tanked up everybodyís coffee. When you got right down to it, this whole experience was surreal, but it did offer the potential of being less boring than just sitting over in front of the motel, shivering and reading War and Peace. The work would be welcome, he realized, and not just to alleviate the sheer boredom that heíd been sinking into. His divorce from Marsha was basically being financed off a credit card with a not very low interest rate, so at this point a penny saved now was two, at least, and what he wouldnít have to earn later. And besides, being a bartender in a whorehouse seemed like more honest, reasonable work than selling quack remedies. And it would for damn sure be more pleasant and interesting than living with Marsha.

Frenchy and Patty were back up front with their customers before long, arriving just a few minutes apart, and they seemed very lovey and huggy with them, which kept up till the two truck drivers were out the door. The two headed back to the dining room, where Danny brought them fresh coffee, and Margaret and Becky headed back to their rooms for a while; theyíd been pleasant to talk to but werenít scheduled to go on duty until noon. After a while, George took off for Las Vegas, saying he had some business to take care of there.

The morning moved right along, with Shirley and Sarah explaining to him how the kitchen and bar were operated; during a slow period, Shirley and Frenchy took him back to Frenchyís room for a quick tour, just so he could see what it was like. It was similar to a small motel room, with a small bathroom adjoining. The lights were low, and there were a couple of prints on the wall Ė nothing overtly sexy, and showing some taste. Some of the girls, Shirley told him, took some care to decorate their rooms, even if they were only going to be in them for a few days, but Frenchy figured that the setup supplied was about what she wanted, anyway.

Things began to pick up in the dining room around noon. Some of the girls drifted in from the back to have lunch, and so did a few of the locals. Frenchy and Patty, who each had had another customer during the morning, were now joined by Margaret and Becky, who came on duty so the lineup would have four girls. And, soon enough, four were needed; some guys began to drift in from Las Vegas, apparently tired of gambling or seeing shows Ė some obviously sneaking away from their wives.

For a while, Danny was about as busy as he wanted to be, serving tables and trying to keep up with drink orders, but it abated a little after the lunchtime crowd died out, and then began to build up again about three in the afternoon. Just then, however, the afternoon waitress came on; she was a high school girl named Tammy, who was good at working tables. She told him that she planned on going to work in the back just as soon as she turned eighteen in a little over a year, and that if there were drinks to be served he had to do it since she wasnít of age.

Just about that time things died down for a spell, and Danny spent some time talking with Tammy. Of course, he asked her what her parents thought about her career plans. She told him that her father didnít know anything about it, but she never saw him, anyway; her mother worked out back, but was off shift right now and would be until the weekend. "We think we ought to be able to do a mother-daughter double and do pretty well," the teenager smiled. "That kind of keeps it in the family."

By then, Danny had been flabbergasted by so many things over the course of the day that he took it in stride; it was just another thing to think about later. Tammy was a nice kid, braces on her teeth, a bubble-gummer teenager who wanted to grow up and take after her mother. It was just a little hard to swallow.

Along about that time, George came back. "Howís it going?" he asked.

"Pretty good," Danny admitted, not wanting to let his ruminations about Tammy and a few other things out in the open.

"You going to have any problem if I ask you to work till eight, and then come in at eight in the morning?" George asked. "While weíve been shorthanded, Iíve been working Mike, the evening bartender pretty hard. He moonlights here, and I want to give him a little time off to catch up. His wife is getting on his ass a bit about being down here so much."

"Sure, no problem," Danny said. "Iíd probably be sitting here and nursing a beer anyway. I might as well be doing something and be paid for it."

"Interesting to watch, isnít it?"

"Yeah," Danny nodded. "That it is."

"I never get tired of it," George smiled. "Itís fun to watch people having fun."



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