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There's another firework and a pistol has somehow slipped its way into Perry's hands as he raises it toward the boys. "Fly, you pig motherfuckers!" Perry shouts but before he can fire Longshaw bashes him over the head, catches that arm and nearly snaps it in two, forcing that gun to fly loose. The army was three years ago, and Perry's done nothing but hide away since. Nothing feels good about slipping the cuffs on him, but Longshaw’s ready to do a little jig considering he managed to get this solved all by himself.

"Shows over fuckwads, you bleeding? You dinged up? Quit blubbering and call your boy Rick and tell him you're gonna be late. We all have paperwork to fill out, ‘fore any of us get to that party." Longshaw shoves his boot into Perry's back to make his point.

#

The stench of burning hotdogs fills the whole house, even the clothes-strewn bedroom that Emerald finds herself digging through. There’s a bag of something in here with her name on it. Or maybe somebody else’s, but she wouldn’t mind taking their name if she’s got to, she’s done that before. When you’re considered nothing but a pair of tits and ass (and a scrawny pair at that, no matter how much of her tip money Emerald spends on fried chicken) you know how easy it is to go unnoticed, uncared for. Emerald, or Emma as she finds herself being called in her dreams, knows that the house’s six bedrooms won’t stay empty for long.

It’s getting dark and the amount of alcohol being consumed has already resulted in enough cans to fill the back of a couple of those big-assed six-wheeled pickup trucks. Mr. Billiard’s company is forbidden from taking the girls in here by daylight, and some of the men have already been going with the other girls off to their cars, but that’s only because Frank himself has yet to select his “brides” for the evening. So far, each one of the twenty-two girls has gone up to him where he stands alone by the grill and, like an audition, Frank has voiced his opinion. Emerald got an “Mmm, I think you’d be great for Rick. One of us full grown boys is liable to split ya in three, yeah?” then Frank offered her a burger and she didn’t want anything to do with his sweat-drenched body, but the insult still stung like the hands of the man with the potbelly that slapped hers and the other girls’ asses the moment they got off the bus.

There is something of value in this dark chamber of sleeping and fucking, and she is going to find it. Whether it be crank, coke, or plain crumpled cash, she’s going to get a part of it before someone less deserving does. Emerald didn’t ask to work today, but when you’re always hungry for that one fix, that one pinch through the nose that makes your heart finally start beating, you go to work on holidays. You put on the lacey underwear and make sure you’re more hairless than a lizard in the underbrush. Her sixty four-year-old mother, who knows everything but claims to be blind, asked her what she was doing today. Emerald was offered a place to stay and even though her mom lives in a third floor walkup with hardly a pool or grill in sight, it would have been something. Emerald could have gone somewhere, and she realized it as soon as the club-sponsored bus driver passed a pair of pre-party dope baskets down the aisle for the girls to get amped up on. The worst part about feeling alive and getting your fix is that, almost always, you feel like a good-for-nothing bitch the moment you should be at your most sated.

The door snaps open behind Emerald and immediately; “Hey, help me find my earing!” she asks, trying to take advantage of the real nervousness twitching through her chest. She turns and there’s the boy, her designated “partner” for the evening. Rick, who can’t be older than twenty-five, stands there, frowning.

“What are you doing in here?” He asks the wrong question.

“Well, what I was brought here to do.” She smiles with a well-practiced grin that she’s been fishing into the pockets of lonely losers and worthless mad dogs for years, for the better part of her own twenties.

“But Frank said…” and she has to do it, as she strolls over to Rick and grabs him by the crotch. She’s pretty sure she knows, and remembers, every bit of what’s supposed to happen next. As cringe worthy as it always, always is. When he grabs her by her jaw and slams her to the ground, every idea turns to shit. The young ones used to be so shy, and sweet. Who’s been turning them rabid?

Rick drags her by her ankle partially out the door and yells, “You were right! I found one getting greedy,” to a pair of giant legs.

Frank, a big goon with a baldhead, and a smaller, hairy man with a half moon tattoo on his cheek, and some kind of eye shadow, fill the hallway, a gleam in all of their eyes. Emerald predicts the very worst that these kind of men can do. She can take it, as long as nobody scars her. She can survive anything and she will get what she wants, no matter what any one of these no good pigs thinks about her or her profession or her needs.