THE BLU VELVET
It is past midnight. The streets are wet with rain, and life at the BLU VELVET can be heard blocks away. An eager crowd gathers at the door; a line winds around the building and down the street. It is standing room only inside.
Backstage a perfectly defined woman sits in her private dressing room. She is waiting to go onstage and puts the final touches on her make up.
My name is Erin. I'm a stripper. I don't sugarcoat what I do. I don't call myself anything exotic like a dance interpreter, and I didn't take lessons of any kind. I wear very little, go on stage for an incredibly short period of time, and make an obscene amount of money.
Looking sideways into the mirror, she pulls her hair back.
Why do I do what I do, instead of a more admirable form of employment ? Because nothing would come close to paying what I pull in here for a few hours of so-called work. Besides, the motions of admirable employment only lead to mediocrity. I loathe the average. In my world I am famous. I am who all dancers dream of being. My time is my own, and I decide when I dance, or if I dance at all. I am in complete control. My career has put me in line with all walks of the professional and social ladders. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, husbands, wives, teachers, preachers, priests, mostly those who would prefer that their names not be associated with a strip club, or its star stripper. Don't misinterpret, I am no one's hooker. I dance, they pay, and this puts them precisely in the palm of my hand.
Erin stands up and adjusts her thong. Looking at herself from every angle, she puts on the finishing touches.
In general, my life has gone exactly as I have wanted it to. It's a requirement, not a luxury.
Erin walks out of her dressing room through busy hallways and toward the stage.
Until a month ago I have never gotten personally involved with a co-worker, or anyone really. The others who work here are strictly casual work friends, nothing more. Personal involvement always leads to complications, and I embrace simplicity. She walks on stage behind the drawn deep blue velvet curtains. She adjusts her thong one more time before turning her back to the still hanging fabric. Her head is bowed, and her legs are slightly apart. Her skin glistens, accentuating the muscles of her slender body.
The D.J.:Ladies and gentlemen....the crowd goes wild....May I remind you, and for our first time guests inform you, of the cardiac and hyperventilation warnings posted. Before you pass out, please take notice that the Resuscitation Room is directly under the blue neon sign OXYGEN HERE. If you cannot read at that point simply head toward the bright blue lights, and you will be assisted. Now, without further ado...the crowds' screams drown out Erin's signature music....the BLU VELVET is proud to present....money begins to land on the stage like confetti....For your exclusive entertainment....the curtain swings open, and the lights hit Erin's body. The DJ and the music can hardly be heard over the roar of the crowd. All are chanting her name. All but one illusive figure that slides unnoticed through the screams, exhaling cigarette smoke through his nose. Erin's shadow on the wall is larger than life. She lets the music take her body, but her mind is far from the stage.
Her name is Ana. She came in one afternoon, months ago. I saw her sitting at one of the tablestalking to Sal. He owns the BLU VELVET. He waved me over and introduced us. I knew at that moment she wasn't like the others who came in for a quick dollar. Sal offered me a seat, but I didn't want to sit. I didn't want to be interested in what she had to say, I didn't want to get to know her, and I just wanted to drop off my things for that weekend's show and leave. I hoped there wouldn't be anything interesting or different about her, but I knew I was wrong.
Erin was dancing as though nothing else mattered. Everyone in the BLU VELVET believed she was dancing for them, and only them. The crowd was in a controlled frenzy. The inconspicuous figure continued to slink through the crowd.
Security measures were in place around the stage to ensure the safety of the dancers, especially Erin. Body guards known as the Messengers stood guard against anyone who thought they might try to get too close. The head of the Messengers is Bruno. He stands at the forefront of the stage during Erin's shows defining the line of acceptable distance between the entertainers, and the entertained. The Messengers were supposedly employed by a government. No one will say by which government, or in which division, but some government nonetheless. A first time guest once inquired, but when he showed up the following week with a broken arm, it was no longer a topic of conversation, or curiosity. He was compensated with a year of free passes. A few years ago a fight broke out during one of Erin's performances. Two guests attempted to reach past Bruno wishing to touch just her ankle. Those individuals have not been seen, nor heard from since. They protect all of the dancers to an extent, but Erin is their top priority for many reasons. Everyone who enters the BLU VELVET is given a brochure informing them of the proper etiquette, purchasing minimums for alcohol, and private dances. It is a system that works, is never questioned, and has not been challenged since.
The crowd throws money until the stage is completely covered with large bills. Several newcomers have fainted near the stage and are being carried to the Resuscitation Room by the on-staff medics. When they regain conscientiousness, they will continue to watch the show through the wall-sized window with oxygen at their side. The nurse and doctor on staff monitor everyone closely. Through all of this, Erin does not miss a beat.
I don't know how long we talked. I don't know when Sal left the table. Ana said she had been coming to the club for a few weeks. She admitted it was for a job at first, but then she said it was to see me. She said I was captivating. She said she had never seen an audience so mesmerized by anyone. I told her she was reading too much into a dance, but that she was right.
We left the club to get something to eat. It was late so all we could find was an all night diner. The burned, stale coffee and greasy food were easily overlooked in our conversation. I rarely give the time of day to someone I have just met. People tend to bore me, but Ana was anything but boring. I could see we were both driven to be the best, and determined to get, and do, what we wanted to the point of being nothing less than sheer bitches. Our lives had not been defined by the same lines, but if there were such things as coincidences, we were full of them.
Another club visitor faints. The music pounds, vibrating every part of the club. Erin is oblivious.
Over the last few weeks we have become much more than friends. The potential for commitment has never appealed to me, but Ana is different. She is someone worth looking forward to.
The crowd begins to chant for more. They know Erin's routine is almost over. The illusive smoking, dark figure slid out the side exit door. Money continues to fall on the stage. She struts on it with indifference.
They want more. They always want more, but they won't get it tonight. Ana is backstage waiting. When I am done with this….her signature song was almost over....we are going to my place in the islands. Sal has a company jet for out of town shows, or if I request it. I make him a bundle, I get perks.
The crowd becomes completely silent as they watch Erin glide back into the same position she started her routine. Their eyes are wide open, jaws dropped, and some continue to pass out. Erin is perfectly still, the music fades, and the large, flowing blue velvet curtain closes gracefully. A few stray bills float slowly to the floor of the now silent club. Slowly the audience comes out of their trance-like state, and the silence is broken by their deafening chants for more.
Erin does not look back; she runs backstage, takes Ana's hand, As they jump in the back of the limo, and head to the airport she slides into a pair of jeans and t-shirt they talk excitedly about their plans for the next two weeks in a tropical paradise. Unknowing, that behind them in the red glow of the tail lights, a shadow is cast by the dark figure that eluded everyone in the club. A dark figure well known, but not well liked in the strip club world, Comodo Snatch.
Comodo Snatch : Well, ladies, you're off. Off without a clue. Go to your tropical island, enjoy the sticky, heavy, salty air. I'll have what I want, what I deserve, and no one will keep it from me. A gray, slivering exhale of smoke trailed from Comodo's nostrils as he watched the car slowly drive away. Another sharp exhale, good bye ladies.
The red glow of the car lights disappeared as Comodo quietly faded into the shadows. He was completely confident that he had set into motion the perfect plan for murder, the perfect plan for vengeance.