2:30 on Sunday morning, next to Teasers gentleman's club, a drunk stripper ran out into the middle of A1A right in front of my cab. I hit the brakes so hard I spilled coffee all over the passenger floor. Lucky it was late enough, the bar crowd was home or the Waffle House. Thirty minutes earlier some drunk woulda ate my rear end.
In the club parking lot, a couple cabbies from another company and Greg the head bouncer stopped yappin long enough to rubberneck. They didn't pay any attention to the chick in the middle of the street, just stared at my taxi grinnin like a buncha idiots, shaking their heads and chuckling.
"Long night," I shouted to them through the passenger window. "You need somethin?" I asked her.
She was sexy, delicate, with long, straw-colored hair and spider-thin legs. Blue veins traced their winding paths under her skin; something you don't see much of in Cape Beach's year-round tropical sun. She looked like she would shatter if you breathed on her, until you saw the calculated daring in her eyes and lascivious part of her lips. One look and you knew, she could spend three days in the saddle like it was nothin', break you in half and amuse herself with wearing out the roommate while you rested.
She looked high on something. Strippers usually are. She looked my way but her eyes focused a thousand miles past.
"Do you need a ride, or can I go?"
She blinked. "Can you take me home?"
She walked over and stared at the passenger door. I opened it. She slipped into the seat so fast and light I didn't see or hear a thing. The wind gusted and blew the door shut. She brought the cold night air in with her and the temperature in the cab dropped ten degrees. I shivered and cranked the heater up to max.
"You know where I live, Chuck, just take me home," her quivering voice meandered through the fog of drugs.
"Name's Barry, we've never met."
"My name is Starla."
"That's a pretty name." I knew where this was headed, I went through it twenty times a night.
"Thank you, I picked it out myself. It's not my real name."
"You don't say," I said.
"Yeah, it's my stage name. I'm a dancer. My real name is Sarah."
"It's a sincere pleasure to meet you Sarah," I said in a voice as non-patronizing as I could manage. "Where do you live?"
She squinted and shook her head, "In the ... on the ... river ... drive"
"On the River Drive?"
"Banana River Drive?"
She was headed for the record books. Her head lolled back and to the right with her chin jutting upward. She stared at me with both lazy eyes and gave a nod.
"Cross," she slurred.
The way she said that, it reminded me of this guy I saw on a "Faces Of Death" tape when he got his head cracked open by a horse. It sounded like her last breath. A wave of shivers rode the ocean of my body.
"Right, Cross Road and Banana River Drive." I keyed my radio and called-in the cab number, "141"
Dispatch came back, "Go ahead, 141"
"Got a 10-5 from Sassy's to BRD and Cross."
"10-4, bring it in when you're done."
"Allrighty then, Miss Sarah. Let's get you home."
I put the Crown Vic back in gear and we started rolling North on A1A.
The fare was pretty smooth. She sat in the passenger seat moving her lips. I could deal with quiet crazy. It's noisy, get the cops called, try to eat your arm with Tabasco sauce crazy I have a little trouble with, and that's not as rare as it should be.
"He wants to kill me," she said at our exit.
"Really?" Too good to last.
"Who wants to kill you, darlin'?"
Her mouth gaped, but nothing came out.
"You might need to lay off the sauce," I said, rolling my eyes.
"Vincent does, he took my money" she said as I turned on to BRD.
"Vincent took all your money, huh?"
"How you gonna pay for this ride, then?" I nodded at the meter, $22.75 and climbing.
She took a little while to answer. I didn't mind, she was my last ride, and I had nowhere to go but home.
"I think we can work something out."
I pulled over into Kelley Park, just off the exit, cut the engine, pushed my seat back a couple inches, and threw my arm up on the passenger headrest to get things settled.
"What you got in mind?" I said.
Despite a valiant effort, and the Crown Vic runnin' a little hot on account of the shithead mechanic, the heater never quite managed to beat the chill in the cab, but when I turned it off I sure as hell appreciated the effort. The cold damp night penetrated deep into my bones. I didn't want to look weak in front of her, so I fought the shivers.
It didn't look like the cold was getting to her at all. She didn't have enough cloth on her to make a decent snot-rag, but she looked comfy. Her cheeks were rosy. Whatever threw her off her game earlier was gone. She was gettin into her groove.
"Whatever you like, Daddy," she said. It was beyond sexy. I knew it was an act, but I didn't care. She writhed and undulated in the passenger seat, hiking her skirt up so I could stare into the shadowy pit between her legs.
"Really?" I asked. The urge to shiver was too great. I lost control in tiny tremors that worked their way through my body one section at a time. I started composing a letter to penthouse to try to take my mind off of the creeping cold. I had a hot little slut on my hands, stranded, without cash, and of questionable moral fiber. This was a lonely, hard-working cabby's dream. I'd never hear the end of it if I blew it by coming off like some kind of creepy freak.
"I just want to go home, Daddy," she said. She leaned into me and almost, but not quite, touched my body. She traced the air millimeters from my skin. Her lips and tongue lingered over my neck. "I'll do anything to get there." She teased me without mercy. It would have been great if the cab wasn't becoming an icebox.
I tried to tell her that I wanted to turn on the heater, but all I could say was "c-cold," as I reached for the ignition. I felt like someone was pouring ice water on my head. I cranked the car and the warm air rushed in. I smelled the familiar ozone taint of the Crown Vic's ductwork, but felt no heat.
"C-cold," I said. Painful tremors racked my body. My hands shook and twitched like dying snakes. Sexual adventure was the last thing on my mind.
"I can fix that, Daddy, If you want me to."
"P-please, Help ... me."
"Are you sure?" she said.
"One more time, Daddy, please. Do you want my help?"
Hot tears trickled down my face. She sat aware and alert as a prize fighter, nothing at all like the half-dead zombie I almost ran down in the street. This woman was dangerous. The whole thing started smelling like a setup. I had no choice but to play along and hope for the best.
"Yes ... help."
She chirped a musical giggle and said "good." She straddled my lap, threw her hair back and said, "I knew I could count on you."
I didn't see her touch my pants, but I popped out hot and ready for action. The shivering subsided to a gentle quake, but I still lay paralyzed, buried alive in cold. From somewhere deep inside me came an unsolicited, "no ... please".
"Too late, a deal's a deal." she said. She eased me into her.