Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
There was something about being two thousand miles from Detroit and Robbie that rebuilt some of the street smarts that Sandy had painfully learned from Dayna over the years, although this wasnít one sheíd tried before. As soon as she was off the airplane in Las Vegas and found a phone, she looked in the yellow pages under "prostitution, houses of", "bordellos", "brothels," even "cathouses". Nothing. But then she remembered from somewhere, maybe Dr. McIntyre, that the Nevada houses werenít allowed to advertise. Well, that made sense, or else there would have been big billboards all over the terminal. She got her bags, slung the twelve-string, and headed out to the cab stand. The first cabbie was a black guy, a Rastafarian from the dreadlocks, who didnít speak much English, so she walked back to the second cab, which had a white guy. "Hey, guy," she said. "Whereís the nearest legal cathouse?"
"Thatíd be the Redlite, out toward Antelope Valley. I donít run the meter on a run out there, itís a flat eighty bucks."
"Any others around?"
"Thereís Sheriís and the Chicken Ranch in Pahrump, theyíre a little farther out, the flat rateís a hundred."
"I know youíre not the person to ask, but do you know if theyíre hiring?"
"Usually are," he said. "Sheriís is smaller and they get a little picky, but you wouldnít be the first woman with a black eye Iíve taken to either the Redlite or the Chicken Ranch and not brought back."
"Tell you what," she grinned. "Run me out to the Redlite and stick around for a few minutes so I can find out what the scoop is. If they bounce me, you can take me to the Chicken Ranch."
* * *
Sandyís first view of the Redlite Ranch was not what sheíd expected. It sat right out exactly in the middle of nowhere. The cabbie told him the place was called Antelope Valley, but it was flat as a board and covered with sagebrush. "Way back when, they used to set off open-air atom bomb tests not far from here," he told her. "They did underground tests until just recently. Honest to God, that place has been nuked more than anywhere in the world."
They could see it a long way off Ė a fairly large building, but what she noticed first was a huge tower, something like an oil derrick, with a rotating light on the top; even in the day she could see it was red. As they got a little closer, they could see a huge red sign on the tower, an old fashioned red railroad lantern with a naked womanís silhouette superimposed on it, and surrounded by the words, "Redlite Ranch Bordello".
"In my opinion this is the best of the houses in this end of the state," he told her. "They pull out all the stops to pull in the Vegas high-roller trade."
"Why the hell is it way the hell out here?"
"Because the county line is about two hundred yards this side of it," he told her. "Prostitution ainít legal in Clark County."
As they got closer, they could see a handful of other buildings scattered around, a general store/gas station/casino/God knew what; a small motel, a handful of mobile homes half masked by cottonwoods. There was an airstrip sitting to one side. The building itself was single story, but large and modern, sitting behind a solid fence that covered a large area, a couple of acres, at least. "Why the fence?" she asked.
"County ordinance," he said. "In some places itís supposedly to keep the girls in, but Iím told that here they look at it more as a way to keep assholes out. Mad husbands, mad wives, mad Mormon protesters, people like that."
The cabbie pulled to a stop in front of an iron gate. It looked pretty intimidating, she thought, but there was no turning back. "Iíll stick around for a few minutes," the cabbie said. "Donít worry none, theyíre pretty cool." She got out of the car, grabbed her gig bag and suitcases, and walked up to the gate, where there was a sign reading, "RING BELL Ė PUSH GATE Ė HAVE FUN". Well, here we go, she thought, pushing the button. She pushed on the gate for an instant, but it didnít move. Instead, there was a womanís voice from a hidden speaker: "May I help you, Miss?"
"Yes," she said. "Iím here looking for a job."
"Thought that might be it," the womanís voice said. "All right, Iíll pop the gate for you." There was a light click, and the gate popped loose. She pushed against it, and walked up a wide AstroTurf sidewalk to an ornate door on the front of the building. Before she reached the door, it opened, and in the shadows behind she could see a woman. An older woman, slender, gray-haired, wearing a nice dress, nothing fancy. As she got closer, she could see that she was not older, but old; her face was deeply lined, but she had a nice smile. "Welcome to the Redlite Ranch," she said warmly. "I suppose that shiner has something to do with why youíre here."
"Yes, it does," she admitted. "I need to establish residency for a divorce."
"Have you ever worked as a prostitute before?"
"Not in a house, but Iíve turned tricks off and on for about five years."
"Street or escort?"
"Sort of incall," she said. "I worked with another girl, we had an RV we worked out of."
"Thatís different," the woman grinned. "Miss, weíre a little strict about some rules, and Iíll have to go over them with you. One of them is that you canít leave the property unescorted on your first shift, but we do that with all girls we havenít worked with before, whether theyíve worked in a house or not. If youíre asked back, you can come and go as you please."
"Iím only concerned that I can get to see a lawyer and get the divorce going."
"Not a problem," the older woman said. "Weíll have to run you into Piute Wells to get your medical check, background check, and get you carded, no reason we canít run you by Dougís office while weíre there."
"Heís our local attorney. He can run you through the divorce with no problem. Itís actually simpler and cheaper here than in Las Vegas, Iím told."
"Talked me into it," Sandy smiled.
"Good enough," the woman said, then turned and waved at the cabbie. "Like I said, welcome to the Redlite Ranch. Iím Shirley Hoffman, Iím the house manager, and I double as the shift manager during the day. Letís go inside, Iíll show you around a little, get you a cup of coffee, and weíll get down to business."
* * *
Sandy had no idea what it would be like to be inside a Nevada bordello and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was clean, well-decorated, and just short of luxurious. "We wonít be able to have you working before tomorrow, what with all the license stuff," Shirley said. "But letís go back. Iíll set you up with a room so you can leave your stuff." She stopped at the office for a second, grabbing a couple keys and a padlock, then led her down a hall and around a corner. "This should do you," Shirley said. "The door locks, and you keep the key, although Iíve got a spare up in the office. Anything you donít want walking off, put in the closet and use this padlock. Youíll have the only keys."
"Does stuff walk off a lot?"
"The girls are OK; sometimes we get a thief in the house, but sheís out on her ass as soon as we find out," Shirley said. "We have found some clients like souvenirs."
Over the next several minutes, Shirley gave her a quick tour. The Redlite was quite a place. Beyond the regular rooms, there were several small bungalows out in the back yard, which Shirley explained were used for special parties; they had special themed interior decorations. There was an indoor and an outdoor pool, a Jacuzzi by each. There was a gym where the girls could work out, off limits to customers, and a lounge, also employees only. Back inside, Shirley led her to a lounge area off the main entry, then into a dining room; there was a bar that fronted on both. They sat down at one of the tables, and Shirley asked the bartender to bring them coffee.
"Shirley, this is quite a place," Sandy said as they were waiting. "I donít know what I was expecting, but this wasnít it."
"They all say that," Shirley laughed. "Believe me, you compare this to Maybelleís up in Ely where I turned out, there just ainít no comparison. When George and I started designing this place, we wanted to make it the best house there ever was, and I think weíve done pretty well, even though weíre still only about halfway through our building plans."
"George? Is he your husband?" Sandy asked.
"No, my husbandís been dead since 1970," Shirley told her. "George is the owner, although Iíve got a piece of the action, too. Heís put several million bucks into the place. Youíll meet him a little later; heís a nice guy." She smiled. "Back when I ran a place up north of here called Bettyeís Ranch, George used to come in, negotiate a package deal and then proceed to party with every girl on the place, so I was just a little leery about what was going to happen when he owned a house of his own. I mean, kid in a candy store kind of thing. Turned out exactly the opposite. Heíll do a girl once in a while, especially if sheís had a tough run she didnít deserve at breaking luck, but he always pays full rate."
"You sound like youíve been doing this a while," Sandy smiled.
"A while," Shirley grinned. "I turned out at the age of fourteen back in 1943. I took a few years off in the late forties and early fifties, but Iíve been working houses in one way or another ever since. As far as I know, Iím the longest-standing carded prostitute in the state, although I only party for special situations anymore, like an old friend or someone with a special problem. What Iím saying is that if something comes up you donít know how to handle, come to me, Iíve probably dealt with it sometime in the last fifty years. Donít be shy, Iím not here to be on your ass or watch over it, just to make things go smoothly."
There was something about Shirley that brought on a lot of confidence and eased concerns. She seemed just like everybodyís dream grandmother Ė except that sheíd been a hooker for half a century! "I donít want to cause any trouble," Sandy said. "Iím here to learn and make some money."
"Iíll do everything I can to help you with both," Shirley told her. "Now, I say that to a lot of girls. Some take advantage of it; others think they know better. Theyíre usually wrong. Now, you say you never worked in a house before. Do you have any idea of how things work?"
"Not really, I never thought about it much."
"Let me give you a brief run-through, then. Thereís a couple hoursí worth of stuff I need to go over with you, but we donít need to do it all today. If it doesnít get busy, maybe we can. Anyway, the customers come in from the gate. One ring on the bell means for the girls to form a lineup to greet them, but when you rang I called it off. When a lineup is called, you all line up in the lobby. About all you can tell the customer is your name, anything other than that the girls consider dirty hustling. The customer may put it off and head into the bar for a drink, and there you can talk to him and hustle him, although you donít want to undercut another girl whoís already working on a guy or sheíll get pissed. Usually the term is that youíre taking the guy out back for a tour, which usually means a tour of your room. Now, one important thing: you canít talk specifics of what youíre going to do with a customer, or the cost, out in the front of the building, it has to be in your room, or in one of the negotiation rooms off the lobby if you think youíre going to walk the dude, anyway."
"Turn him down because you donít like him, heís too drunk, or something," Shirley explained. "Anyway, once youíve worked out a rate, you do a dick check, that means look for STDs, and youíll be shown how. Then get his money or credit card, come back up to the office and pay, then go back to the room and party. We keep the money up front because if a guy thinks heís been shorted and the money is in your room, he may try to get rough."
"Thatís something we always had to watch out for," Sandy said. "Sometimes we put the money in an envelope addressed to us and dropped it in a mailbox."
"All right, youíre professional enough to understand that," Shirley smiled. "I think youíll do OK here. Now, the deal is that the fee is split 50-50 with the house for your first shift, or at least till we know we want to invite you back, when it turns 60-40 with you getting the top half. Weíre the only house in Nevada with a 60-40 split. House minimum is a hundred, and the customer, who is never called a john, by the way, doesnít get much for it. Beyond that youíre on your own for rates, but Iíll give you some rules of thumb a little later. One big thing to remember, and I will be on your ass about it the first few times you party, you always put a condom on him, above or below. No barebacks, and I mean never, although most of the guys coming in here understand that. Weíve never had a case of AIDS transferred in any Nevada house, and we donít intend to start."
"I never had sex without, except with my husband, and I usually made him use one."
"Like I said, I think weíll get along just fine," Shirley said. "Any questions so far?"
"Just one," Sandy said. "Iím trying to get in touch with the girl I used to work with; I need to have a number where she can get in touch with me."
"Is she going to have any problems with you working in a house?"
"I donít think so, but the message will be coming through her parents, and they would have one."
"Not a problem, thereís a special phone in my office, the red one, thatís always answered as ĎRLR Casino Management.í Itís mostly used for just that reason, because it sounds like a casino or something. There actually is an RLR Casino Management; itís one of several companies George runs, but its main purpose is to be something to stamp on credit card slips that doesnít say Ďbordello.í You will have customers who will ask you about that."
"You sure have all the details worked out," Sandy grinned.
"After fifty years, I damn well better have," Shirley laughed. "Look, I think what Iím going to do is get George to run you into town so we can get rolling on your paperwork. He can run you by Dougís office and get the divorce going, too. Oh, and while youíre getting the medical, see if thereís anything the doctor can do about that shiner. Probably not, but sometimes they can help a little. But we can help with the makeup. You got any good hooker clothes?"
"Not really," Sandy sighed. "I left in kind of a hurry."
"Not a problem, we have sort of a grab-bag lost and found, thereíll be something there you can use; although if youíre going to stay with it, you should invest in some good duds. But you donít have to worry about it your first shift. While Iím thinking about it, most of the girls take a work name, rather than use their real name; sometimes it limits the problems they have on the outside. You might want to think about it."
"Not a problem," Sandy grinned broadly. "My girlfriend and I used work names occasionally. She was Lucille Bogan. Iím Memphis Minnie."
"Oh, ho!" Shirley laughed. "A couple real serious blues fans! Iíve heard those names. Have you ever actually been in Memphis?"
"Only to do some recordings. My girlfriend and I cut three albums there, in the same studio where Elvis did his first five records."
"Interesting," Shirley smiled. "I suppose that explains the guitar. Are your albums anything I might have heard?"
"Probably not," Sandy shook her head. "Except for a few hundred that went through a distributor, we mostly sold them out of the back of the RV. We made out pretty good."
"Sounds like a good deal," Shirley nodded. "Whyíd you quit?"
"Itís a long story, but it can be summed up pretty quick: I got sick and then fucked up big time. But Iím hoping to get back together with her."
* * *
Everything went pretty smoothly after that. A little later, George ran her into the small town of Piute Wells for the paperwork and to see the attorney. The only thing that seemed at all out of place was that she figured the guy who owned a brothel as nice as the Redlite would have the biggest, glitziest Cadillac pimpmobile on the face of the planet. But no, George drove her into town in a dusty, old, beat-up Ford pickup truck. "Gets me around and no one, I mean no one, thinks about stealing it when I drive into Vegas," the heavyset, balding, fiftyish man grinned. "Hell, I can leave the keys in it and no one bothers it."
"I have to ask," Sandy grinned. "How did you get into this business, anyway?"
"You mean besides liking to hang around cathouses?" he laughed. "I used to live in Texas. Several years ago, my wife divorced me and tried to take me for everything she could. She got a judgment with a really ridiculous alimony, so I had to do something. I got together with Shirley, and we started this place. Iíve never missed an alimony check, and sheís never cashed one. She knows where the money is coming from and wonít touch it."
"Cute," Sandy grinned.
"Itís even cuter," George said. "In Texas, thereís this law about living off the proceeds of prostitution, which is aimed at pimps and those sorts. But she knows damn well if she cashes a Redlite Ranch Bordello check I could call the cops."
"God," Sandy laughed. "I wish I could do something that dirty to the asshole Iím divorcing, but just getting the fuck away from him will be good enough."
"Ask Shirley for ideas," George suggested. "I never met her husband, Carl; he was killed in a car wreck long before I met her, but from everything I ever heard he was one of the greatest men to walk the earth. But sheís heard about every dirty divorce story thatís gone through a Nevada cathouse, she might have a suggestion."
* * *
Though she couldnít go to work for another day, Shirley told her to hang around the lounge and watch the action, but walk any guy that hit on her by telling them she didnít have a current card yet. It turned out that action picked up as the day progressed Ė it was almost dead quiet during the middle of the day. After she called Daynaís mother and left the phone number for RLR Casino Management, along with the message that sheíd have to be called to the phone, George asked her to join him and Shirley for dinner, which was cooked by a Mormon woman of Shirleyís age, Sarah, who proved to be one of Shirleyís high school classmates. The dinner was excellent with several selections; Sandy dined lightly on low-carb, low-fat foods, determined to get started on getting her weight back under control. That gym was going to get used, too.
Shirley introduced her around to some of the girls, as Memphis Minnie Ė "Your real name is your business; you can tell the girls if you want, but itís usually best to not let the customers know." Everybody seemed friendly. While there were some extremely good-looking women there, Sandy observed to herself that not everyone was a knockout, and was interested to note over the course of the evening that the average-looking girls did as well as the knockouts. Sandy realized she wasnít a knockout and never had been, but the average-looking girls seemed to make out by working harder, and she resolved that she was going to be busting her ass.
Somewhere along the way, George explained that while a handful of girls were more or less regulars, a lot of the girls only came in for a week or two or three at a time, sometimes with several monthsí break between shifts. On top of that, a number of girls came in just for the weekends, when traffic was heavier. That evening, she stayed up fairly late, then went to bed in her room rather relaxed. This was going to work. Not much more than a day before, sheíd been lying on the floor of her apartment, in pain and tears, wondering what the fuck she was going to do. Now she knew. Though sheíd had yet to actually have a customer here, if the deal with Dayna didnít work out, she had a fallback position she felt she could be comfortable with for as long as she needed to be.
The following afternoon, George asked if sheíd like to ride into Piute Wells, just for the sake of the ride, and she went along, of course. "So, what do you think?" he asked.
"Iím looking forward to getting to work," she said. "While Iíve never worked a house before, I know I can do this, and it looks like it ought to work out pretty good."
"Good," he said. "Weíve often had women show up looking to do a divorce and work at the same time. Sometimes they work out, and sometimes they donít. That first customer can be a real eye-opener, and reality can hit pretty hard. But youíve done tricks before; it doesnít look like youíre going to have a mental block about it."
"I shouldnít," she said. "My girlfriend turned her first trick about a month before I did, and I agonized over it all that month. But then the chance came, the money was green, and it went pretty well. We tried for years to just think of ourselves as occasional hookers, not real pros. But the time for that is past."
"Good," he smiled again. "Because one of the things weíre going for is to pick up your card, and when a lot of girls look at that line that says ĎLicensed Prostituteí, sometimes it hits them pretty hard."
"In a sense, yes, itís a little hard to make that admission," she said. "But you know what Iíd like to do? Iíd like to wave that card in my parentsí and my husbandís faces, just to let them know what Iíd rather be doing than be married to him."
"They might be a little pissed," George observed.
"George, there is no way they can be as pissed with me as I am pissed with them."
An hour and a half later, wearing a very short, very tight Spandex dress, Memphis Minnie stood her first lineup Ė and got picked out. While sheíd turned tricks before, she now realized sheíd been an amateur, a chippie. Now she was a pro. She had the card to prove it.