LIVE FROM DEAD-END STREET
by Gina Gallo, guest columnist [December
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] The long stretch of west Madison Street is nearly deserted tonight but
for the shivering figures that huddle in doorways, scanning the deserted
road. Madison Street is famous for the United Center, home of the
Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls. But here on the near-west side, Madison
is one of the most notorious whores' strolls in the city.
shine, the prostitutes are out. Women, men, and a variety of gender-uncertain types, parade along the gritty streets, dressed in everything
from sequined bras to leather collars, advertising their wares. Any
hooker working this stroll will tell you Madison Street is the place to
make some beaucoup cash.
of executive types drive over from restaurants of nearby Greek Town for
a little 'dessert.' The nearby expressway means truck drivers can
take a quick detour without losing too much time on long distance runs.
like tonight are best. Although the streets are empty now, and it's
bitter cold, the regulars know there'll be big business later. The
Bulls are playing at the United Center, and nothing is better for business
than a sports crowd. After the game, they spill into the streets,
excited and hyped. Young fans travel in packs, while the older (or
married) gentlemen are more discreet, but the outcome is the same: The
Bulls won? Celebrate with a hooker. In the event of a home
team defeat, what better consolation than -- you guessed it! -- a hooker.
the girls are out tonight, waiting in the cold.
my undercover assignment means I'm whore for a night, shivering alongside
the pros. I'm working "Operation Angel" -- the prostitution sting that
uses cops as decoy hookers. Every few months, our unit lieutenant
decides his arrest stats need a boost, and orders us to do a sweep. This time, it's the customers instead of the whores we'll be locking up. That means that one of the tactical team gets decked out in some flash
'n trash apparel, goes out on the whores' stroll, and grabs whatever prospective
trick takes the bait.
While the whole operation fairly screams of
entrapment, our bosses justify it by pointing out the arrest 'criteria':
A customer must name a specific sexual act, and the price he's willing
to pay. It doesn't have to be a specifically sexual act. As
long as it provides sexual gratification, it's considered a crime.
out here. This is December, and I'm dressed for Miami Beach. The purple satin shorts look like they've been sprayed on, and my sequined
tube top is as tight as a pressure-wrapped bandage, which will be just
the thing if some irate john decides to shoot me in the chest. A
pair of stiletto heels complete the outfit -- red, to match the acres of
is slumped behind the wheel of a parked car down the block Because my
outfit is too skimpy to conceal a gun or a wire, I have to signal for an
arrest. Once the prospective john's named an act and a price, I'll
brush back my hair -- an obvious gesture that will be visible from 50 yards -- and
wait for my backup to arrive.
the plan. In theory, it sounds foolproof.
I stand on the corner, I check out the whores. Since I've arrested
most of them at various times in the past, I know their names, am fairly
familiar with their M.O's. Although I've booked most of them in Women's
Central Detention, not a one makes me for a cop tonight. Amazing
how a platinum wig and exposed skin can change an officer's appearance.
is out. She's going for the eclectic look in ancient go-go boots
and orange g-string. Nappy dreadlocks whipped by wind, flapping over
eyes glazed by fatigue and amphetamines. Farther down the street,
"Chantell" (Lester in his other life) poses in a skintight dress in shocking
pink. Fake leopard-skin spike heels teeter under Chantell's 300-plus
pounds. He's substantial enough to moonlight as a large appliance,
but still dresses to impress.
Tiffany with her fuschia wig and oozing lesions. Pandora of the gold
teeth and glass eye. Whores minus teeth, whores with habits, whores
scarred and maimed by strutting pimps. Some wait for the next trick,
others for the next fix that brings white heat and cold oblivion.
Ford eases to the curb. Before rolling down his window, the man inside
eyes me, considering. Middle-aged and balding, plaid wool jacket,
black-framed glasses. Portrait of Average Joe Citizen With An Itch. The window inches down.
he says solemnly. "How much?"
my most inviting whore's smile. "Depends on what you want."
Joe lowers the window even more and shows me what he's brought to the party. Joe is a man skilled at driving one-handed. "How 'bout you swallow
some of this? Twenty bucks sound good to you?"
and brush back my hair. "Follow me right around the corner here into
the alley, and we'll party."
minutes later, Joe is on the way to jail, and I'm back on the corner.
a stunning transvestite in a thigh-high rabbit fur skirt, waves at me from
across the street. Gesturing to a tiny radio, he smiles. "The
Bulls are up by eight," he calls. "Four minutes left in the third
quarter." He fluffs his fur in anticipation before heading toward
a red Toyota.
more customers. One of them, a Catholic priest, offers me eternal
life for a shot at my holy grail. To seal the deal, he tosses a $10
bill on the sidewalk. A group of teens in a low-rider Chevy pull
up to inquire about my group rate. After many lewd proposals, they
offer seventy-four cents and a half-eaten candy bar.
arrests, I notice the girl shivering in a doorway. She's young, not
more than 14, with a starveling body and wide, curious eyes. Her
hands, trembling from cold or drugs, clutch at a shabby silk vest. The sweater beneath it is ragged enough to display the tracks on her skinny
seen you around here before," she tells me. "Who's your pimp?"
Her teeth -- what's
left of them -- are chipped and blackened, indicating a long and intimate
relationship with heroin.
I reply. "I'm a free agent."
her cold. Her eyes, heavily shadowed with sparkly blue, widen in
disbelief. "You out here, on Madison, and you ain't got no pimp? Can't be messin' around here, thinkin' you gonna make some money, and nobody
to protect you. The pimps who run this street gonna kick your ass!"
Nodding, she pulls her vest closer against the biting wind. "Maybe you new around here and don't know. See, you can't be on some
other pimp's turf 'less he says so. Like me...my pimp is 'C-Note.' He the one take care of me, and I give him my money."
takes care of you, why does he take your money?"
at me like I've lost my mind. "Cuz I work for him, that's why. I'm like his employee. And C-Note, he takes that money and gives
me anything I need."
some food? Looks like you could use a few meals."
right." She shrugs and scans the street. Her practiced eye
tells her no customers are imminent. She turns back to me. "Why you be trippin' -- like you my mother or somethin'! Like you worried
about what I'm doin'."
away again, but not before I catch the smile that tugs at her shivering
lips. It's a child's smile, sweet and somehow poignant. It's
been a long time since she's had any sweetness in her young life.
that's what you need," I tell her. "Maybe someone better than C-Note should
be taking care of you. How old are you, anyway? A kid like
you has no business on the street."
broadens, as old and tired as Time. "Looks like you and me,
we be in the same kind of business."
can answer, she's sliding into the front seat of a black Mercury.
10 minutes later, she's back and grinning. "Twenty dollars that time. Few more like that, I can call it a night." She stuffs the bill into
her wig, a mangy matted affair that's standard uniform for any streetwalker. It's the best place to stash their money.
Peaches," she says. "You wanna look out for me, I'll watch your back,
too. If you new around here, maybe you wanna work for C-Note. That way, you won't get messed up by no trick, or no other pimp. C-Note, he real nice."
her stalkish limbs and purple scars. "How long you been doing this,
years. C-Note, he told me I'm fine lookin'. Said a fine thing
like me could make a lot of money."
need no money. C-Note gives me whatever I need. Like this." Pointing to her ragged vest, she preens and swivels so I can admire it. Her sweater droops at the back, low enough to show the bruises. Bruises
dark enough to be seen even in the dim street light.
red Pontiac pulls up -- my next customer -- Peaches steps away discreetly. Even at her tender age, she knows it's bad form as well as a health hazard
to horn in on another girl's john. The Pontiac's driver announces,
in a charming Austrian accent, that he's a dentist looking to party. He admires my incisors and informs me that, for twenty-five dollars, he'll
be happy to fill all my cavities.
return from the alley, Peaches is back. "You sure did take care of
him quick. That's good." She nods wisely with the experience
of her years. "In this business, it's best to do 'em fast. Time is money."
calls from across the street. "Forty seconds left in the fourth quarter. Bulls up by seventeen. Lawd, they gonna be some partyin' fools 'round
Camaro rumbles to the curb. Dual carburetors, custom flames painted
on the rear panels. A gang-banger's car, complete with tinted windows
to obscure the occupants. The car vibrates with music loud enough
to cause arrhythmias. When the window rolls down I see two beefy
thugs with do-rags and gang tattoos.
gimme some a that!" One drawls to Peaches. "C'mon get in this
ride and let's get busy!"
guys look like they could share honors as poster boys for the criminally
insane. The sweet stench of cheap wine and marijuana smoke gusts
from the car. I can imagine the arsenal of guns under the front seat,
the stash of drugs that's fueling the madness in their eyes.
on the passenger side opens the door. "Girl, what you waitin' on? Get in here. We'll give you half a yard ($50) and all the weed you
it, Peaches," I whisper. "These guys are trouble."
her wig, she smiles at me. "Don't worry. I told you C-Note
care of me. He watch to make sure nothin' happens. No way I'm
gonna pass up $50!"
the back seat and the Camaro peels off, swerving around the corner.
the street comes alive. The game is over, and a squadron of honking
cars comes out of the west. Jubilant fans troll the avenue. The whores prance to the curb, ready to bargain. It's a Bulls' market
now, with plenty of money to be made.
the honking and cheering, I can barely hear it -- think, at first that I'm
imagining the thin scream.
closer to the corner, hear the shriek -- a muffled sob, car doors slamming. It's the squeal of tires and roar of dual carbs that starts me running.
her in the alley, slumped against a building like a broken doll. The shabby little vest is drenched red, like the tattered flag of a defeated
nation. Her child's eyes are wide and blank in a head that hangs
at an odd angle. Peaches' neck was broken -- please, God, I hope -- before
did the rest.
I find the knife, I see what it did to her, how she's spilled out all over
the ground. They used her, gutted her, left her seeping life in this
filthy alley. No one's around, not my backup, nor a passing citizen,
but I can handle this. I'm the police, and I've seen death a hundred
her in my arms, this child-woman with the vacant eyes, and feel her fluids
run hot and sticky over my shivering flesh. I know that some supervisor
will reprimand me for disturbing a crime scene, interfering with critical
evidence. But they won't be too concerned. Peaches was a whore,
they'll say. Nothing much to investigate. Just another victim
of 'the Life.' If the johns didn't get her, the drugs would have. There will be only the most cursory of investigations, the minimum paperwork
before the books are closed on Peaches, aka 'Black Female Jane Doe -- age
now, I can hold this child's cooling body and try not to wonder about the
life she had, her future denied. Or the people who were supposed
to take care of her, like C-Note. Like me.
Copyright © 2001 by Gina Gallo
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