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I think it was Jack White who sang "You can't be a pimp and a prostitute too." Or maybe that was Barbara Bush.

Either way, sex for sale is rarely a straight up cash deal, and you gotta watch the exchange rate down in the Gutter...

Barbie by Paul Heatley

A stranger took the stool beside him. Chuck glanced. They exchanged nods. Chuck returned to his drink.

The stranger ordered a gin. Sipped it. Turned. Cleared his throat. “Are you Chuck?”

Chuck raised an eyebrow. The stranger was tall and thin. Pale. Eyes sunken and cheeks unshaven. His jacket was baggy and he wore a baseball cap pulled down low. He looked familiar but Chuck couldn’t place him. Probably seen him sitting ’round the back of the bar, in the shadows, one of the loners that no one paid any mind to. “Who’s askin’?”

“I am. I heard you’ve got some broad down on Seventh. That you ain’t averse to pimpin’ her out on occasion.”

“Who told you that?”

“Way I hear it, you tell anyone that listens. I hear you make a pretty buck from her pussy.”

Chuck grabbed him by the collar, pulled him close so they were eye to eye, noses almost touching. “I don’t exactly hold court in the middle of the street. Who’s been telling you this shit?”

The stranger didn’t flinch. Met Chuck’s gaze. “I’ve heard things. Good reviews from satisfied customers. You want some green or not? I can easy head down the block a ways and pick up some whore from the corner. Or I could do a solid for a fellow barfly and we can talk business.”

Chuck let him go. Grinned. “Never know what you’re gonna come away with when you go see those girls.”

The stranger drained his drink. “Tell me about it.”

“How much cash you holdin’?”

“You name a price, I can match it.”

“You must have heard some damn good reviews.”

“It’s been a while since I last had a lay. The wife left about a year ago.”

Chuck looked him up and down. “You crawled out the bottom of your bottle much since then?”

The stranger laughed. “Only recently. So what’s the story here? Ain’t she married?”

“You’ve had your ear to the ground.”

“People talk, I listen.”

“Well, yeah, she’s married, but the guy just doesn’t do it for her. Works all hours, how she puts it.”

“So he don’t know about this arrangement?”

Chuck laughed. “Not a clue.”

“Who is he?”


“What’s his name?”

Chuck shrugged. “How’d I know?”

“There’s no chance of him comin’ home?”

“No chance. Besides, even if he does you’ve got nothin’ to worry about. He’s just some limp-dick asshole. She tells some stories about him. He’ll probably wait ’til you finish before he asks what you think you’re doin’.”

The stranger smiled. “You ever been caught?”

“Hell no. I’m a slick son of a bitch.”

“What’s her name?”

“What’s it matter?”

“I’m curious.”

“Barbara. Call her what you want. Slap her ass and scream your ex-wife’s name. She won’t care.”

“What does she get out of this?”

“A cut. And a decent dickin’. Of course, the latter part usually occurs with me. How the likes of you pleases her is entirely up to yourself.”

“What’s she look like? Sell her to me.”

“You already sound sold.”

“Maybe I’ve come on too slutty. Come on—let me have a chance to play hard to get.”

Chuck ordered a round. “She’s real Irish lookin’. Got red hair and green eyes. Pale, but once she gets goin’ you won’t mind.”

“Fat or thin?”

“Middle. Soundin’ good?

“Soundin’ real good. You must be makin’ a decent chunk of change, here.”

Chuck held out his hands. “It buys my beer. We doin’ this or what?”

The stranger nodded. Knocked his drink back. “Let’s.”

“Come on.” They stood and exited the bar. It had been raining and the ground looked darker. A car sped past and briefly illuminated them before disappearing around the corner. Chuck stepped up to a payphone. “I’ll let her know you’re comin’.”

Chuck turned to the phone and reached in his pocket for change. Took the phone off the hook and felt something slide between his ribs, just below his heart. It pulled out and he arched his back. Gripped the phone tight and turned. The stranger held a switchblade, its shine dulled by his blood.

“What the fuck?” Chuck gasped.

The stranger showed his teeth. “Guess, motherfucker.” He shoved the knife into Chuck’s stomach, two more times, then slashed crudely at his throat.

Chuck slid to the ground, still holding the phone.

Shit. The photograph on the dresser. The one she put down every time they got started. The one he only caught glimpses of—Barbara in her wedding dress, the husband in his suit. He’d lost weight.

The stranger walked away. Chuck tried to plug the holes in his stomach with his fingers. He could taste blood. Could feel it leak from the wound in his back. He held the phone to his ear. Heard the dial tone. The stranger was nearing the corner. The world went dark before he reached it.

Paul Heatley has previously been published in Read This, Sex and Murder, Sparkbright and Thuglit. He lives in the North East of England.