They say the wheel of karma turns slow.
Unless of course that wheel is rolling through the Gutter.
Unless of course that wheel is rolling through the Gutter.
The Pole Dancer by Nancy Cole Silverman
Sarah Anne Miller thought her past was behind her when she arrived in L.A. Nobody from the small, dry, dusty desert town where she had grown up in the U.S.’s four corner’s region, would ever look for her here. Or expect a shy girl who had never worn anything more than a hand-me-down prairie dress with her long platinum blonde hair, plaited in French braids, to be working as an exotic dancer. Not in the forbidden City of Angeles. No. That girl – that fourteen-year-old runaway, desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a man thirty years her senior, and whose story had made national headlines –was long gone. No one would recognize her. Not today. Not seven years later. No one, that is, except Ely Wade, her intended, who had hunted her like a bounty hunter, and vowed to bring her home.
Ely Wade sat with his brother Thomas at the edge of the stage. This had been their second strip club for the evening, and the two were well passed the legal limit. A cocktail hostess, dressed in a black, mini spandex bustier that looked like it had been painted onto her body and wearing fishnet hose with garters and six-inch red heels, refreshed their drinks. Bourbon and seven.
“Anything else, gentleman?” She batted her eyes, lined with thick black eye-liner like Nefertiti, and smiled. A gold, rhinestone encrusted ID necklace hanging above her full breast read Xstacy!
“No, Miss. I think we’re done here for the night. You can close out the bill.” Wade reached into his pocket and threw a couple of crisp new fifties on the table, enough to generously cover the tab. “Keep the change.”
“Sure you don’t wanna to stay? One more round maybe? Couple of men like you don’t want to miss the final act. Stay a little longer, I promise you won’t regret it.”
Ely glanced back at the stage. A red velvet curtain had been drawn across the stage’s apron.
“I thought the show was done for the night. Didn’t know you had another act.”
“For them who got to get home early on a school night, maybe.” She nodded to a thinning crowd at the bar, settling up for the night. “But for men like you, the best part of the show won’t begin ‘til after midnight. That’s when things get serious and the real crowd, not just students and tourists looking for a kick, comes in. Crown Jewels is who they come for. And in a few minutes, you won’t be able to get a seat anywhere near the stage, but if you have to go – ”
The waitress leaned down to collect the tab, both men’s eyes went to her breasts, like soft white pillows, they spilled out over the top her bustier. Ely clapped his broad hand on top of hers before she could collect the money.
“This Crown Jewels a friend of yours?” he asked.
Xstacy curled her fingers around the bills and shook her hand. “Afraid not, I’m really more of a fan. But if you boys want another round I’ll order ya one. My shift’s up and I need to close the tab out, but you’re welcome to stay. Like I said, you won’t regret it.”
Ely released her hand and glanced over at Thomas. “One more then.” They hadn’t seen what they had come for. “I think we need to stick around and see this Crown Jewels.”
“You won’t be sorry,” she said.
Off stage, over the sound of music so loud the beat of it could be felt vibrating through the floor, a male voice like that of a carnival huckster, announced the next act.
“And now, what we’ve all been waiting for, the beautiful, the hot, the sexy, Miss Crown Jewels.”
A neon strobe swung wildly through the lounge, illuminating the shadowed faces of mostly men and a few women, and then back to center stage as the curtain opened onto a darkened set. Then another light, a soft white round cameo, spotlighted a long, leggy dancer. She stood motionless, the light reflecting off her well-oiled body and her red sequined bikini that barely covered her breasts and that small diamond area between her legs. On her head, a black top hat tilted low over her face, and a headful of long red curls fell across her face and halfway down her back, masking her identity. With one hand above her head, she leaned her shapely body back against the pole, and then like a burlesque dancer, she began to move.
Ely sat forward, his eyes following her across the stage. Couldn’t be. This girl was too professional. Taller than Sarah Anne, but then when Sarah escaped she was barely fourteen. How much could a girl grow after that? But there was something.
Thomas, fist bumped his brother’s shoulder.
“You think, maybe?”
Ely didn’t take his eyes off the stage. He tracked Crown Jewels’ every move like an animal in the scope of his rifle, as she strutted suggestively to the beat of the music. Prancing and gyrating across the stage. At times coming just inches from their table, as though she were taunting him. So close, that if it weren’t for the club’s bouncers, at either side of the stage, he felt he could reach out and touch her, and that she might not mind. Feel her smooth, youthful skin against his own and caress her finely toned torso. Just thinking about it, Ely felt himself, like the music, growing stronger. Wanting her.
It wasn’t until the end of her number, when she turned her back to them and catwalked upstage, her hips swaying like an animal in heat, that Ely thought maybe. He waited, his eyes glued to her back. If this was his Sarah Anne, he needed to act quickly. And when she turned around and took her hat from her head and tossed her hair away from her face, he thought he caught that familiar youthful smile. A slightly crooked upturn at the edge of her upper lip. He could still taste that lip. A lip that held such promise as he had caressed it with his thumb.
From the stage, the lights were so bright, Sarah Anne could only see the front row. But it was enough. And in that instant, as she danced close to the lip of the stage, teasing the audience like a fan dancer with her hat as she dipped and swayed in front of them, she caught Ely’s eye. Any other time she knew she might have frozen, but her dance training had taught her never to react to the unexpected. The show must go on. She had to maintain character. But she knew, despite all those years in hiding, secured with a foster family that believed in her, given dance lessons, helped her graduate high school and then a dance scholarship to UCLA, that one day he would find her. And now he had. As she sashayed upstage, she could feel his eyes on her body, his hand on her back. Exactly like he had when she was fourteen and wearing nothing but a thin cotton prairie dress. She could still smell his sweat as he brushed his bristled beard against her face and those eyes. She could never forget those eyes. Returning to stage center, she turned and smiled out at the crowd, and with the flick of a finger above her head, she sent a signal to the stage manager to dowse the lights.
She didn’t know how long she had, maybe minutes, but tossing the long red wig behind her, she grabbed the robe she had left on a stool next to the stage entrance that evening and ran towards the club’s emergency exit. Pushing through the double doors, she set off an alarm, but she didn’t care. She had to get away.
Outside it was black. Exactly as she knew it would be. Traffic would be light. She stopped momentarily, wrapped her arms around herself and doubled over in the excitement to catch her breath. She could walk home from here. But what if he knew where she lived? He had found her here. He might find there.
Then from behind her, she heard her name.
She turned and stared back at the man she knew had been chasing her. She thought she had caught glimpses of him at other clubs where she had danced. A working student on partial scholarship, nothing more, and now here he was, standing in the center of the alley.
“How’d you find me?”
He smiled and took a step forward. His hand out like he expected her to take it.
“You can’t run, Sarah. Not anymore child. I’ve found– ”
Before he could finish the sentence, a white utility van came barreling down the alleyway. In the pitch of night, no one would have expected anyone to be standing in the middle of the alley. Not at this hour. Accidents could happen.
The van hit Ely’s body with such force that his body flew up against the windshield and over the top of the cab, coming down head first and hitting the ground like a mellon, followed by his body and a rolling motion, head over heels, until it came to land in a heap behind the club, where it lay motionless.
The driver of the van, small dark haired women, dressed in a dark coat and boots, stopped instantly, got out and raced over to the body.
In the moonlight, Sarah thought she could see the driver’s gold rhinestone encrusted ID chain.
“Is he dead?” Sarah hollered at the driver, unsure whether to run or stay.
The driver looked at Sarah Anne. “He’s dead.” Then standing up, she returned to the van and opened the rear slider. “Get in.”
Sarah raced to the van, and climbed inside, pulling the double doors closed behind her.
”We did it,” she said.
The driver with her eyes lined with dark eyeliner like Nefertiti then glanced in rearview mirror, back at Sarah and smiled. “We did.”
As the van sped away, Sarah looked out the rear windows. Brother Thomas was running towards the body. He bent down and put his hand on his brother’s still chest then looked up at the van as it sped away.
“You’re a wicked woman, Sarah Anne. You’ won’t get away with this. God will punish you.”