Life of Crime: Confessions of a Hustler
Dallas struts over, still stuffing crumpled cash into her holographic fanny pack. She somehow looks even prettier glistening with sweat.
Note: This Fictional story is a stand-alone piece within my series, Life of Crime, but go back and read “Confessions of a Teenage Drug Dealer” if you wish, for additional context and character development. Thanks!
Some pop electronic hit blasts as Becca, glowing under a colored spotlight, dangles elegantly from a silver beam. She twirls upside-down with her legs split above her, toes pointed. Most of the vets here can’t even do that. I remember tossing her in the air on the sideline of our high school football games. That shit was harder than we made it look.
“You got energy drinks?” a young man with a loose tie steals my attention.
“Yeah.” I soft-smile and pour carbonated gold over ice.
The sunny music creates a faux festival vibe in our neon dungeon of employment. Most of the girls here prefer hip hop, but management insists “that kind of music draws the wrong crowd”. Sounds prejudiced, but okay.
The man pulls a flask from his suit jacket and mixes his own drink. It’s illegal to sell alcohol here, but we turn a blind eye to guests bringing their own. Drunk people spend more recklessly. He leans over the bar and smirks. “When do you go up?” He asks, gesturing towards to stage.
“I’m a bartender.”
“I see that. But we both know you’d make more money up there. I’d love to see it.”
“And I’d love to see you show my girl Becca that support. She’s killin’ it.” I turn to wipe down my already-clean bar, eyes still fixated on my friend. Fuck, I meant to say Dallas… not Becca. She goes by “Dallas” here.
Dallas defies gravity as she lowers her sparkly platforms to the stage. She bends over, then snaps back up, flipping her hair towards the VIP section, right on beat.
I ponder the concept of wealthy housewives, sticking their nose up at “exotic dancers”, while paying more for pole fitness classes to “feel in touch with their inner goddess” than our professionals actually make on that elevated platform. Contrary to popular belief, all the money is in lap dances. The performance is just an opportunity to be seen and desired.
Energy Drink mirrors my movement. “I’ll give you a hundred dollars to go up.” He flashes a stack of cash as he continues, “and I’ll throw more throughout the dance.” I roll my eyes. He persists, “Two hundred. Plus tips.”
“What do you do, mister high roller?” I ask as sarcastically as possible, now resting my elbows on the bar, head in my hands. He just laughs. So I continue. “Let me guess… sales?”
“You’re feisty, eh?”
“Just intuitive. And mister salesman, do your clients ever request a damn circus act or do they let you do your damn job?”
He looks smug. “I’m not a salesman.”
I toss my rag down in front of him. “And I am not a dancer.”
A new song starts as Dallas struts over, still stuffing crumpled cash into her holographic fanny pack. She somehow looks even prettier glistening with sweat… like a dewy little fairy. She grins and shouts, “oh lovely, magical, booze wizard! One shot please!”
I pull a plastic bottle of vodka from the cabinet under the sink and pour two. We always match. And hey… I said we don’t sell here. I can provide to staff.
Our third wheel lifts his drink. “Cheers, ladies.” We all knock ’em back.
Dallas looks up, puppy dog eyed, at her new victim. She runs a long acrylic nail down his tie and coos, “long day?” She grasps it, pulling his face closer to hers.
“Uh… better now.” he stammers.
“Buy a dance?” She flutters her mink lashes.
He glances over to me, then back to her. Aw, does he think I’ll get jealous? Our paychecks go to the same rent bill, homie. He stands up straight and relaxes his shoulders. “Let’s do it, babe.” He looks back at me once more as Dallas drags him to a private suite. I wink.
Becca and I are home by 4 AM. Sometimes the sun’s out when we leave that place, but if we make enough for the week in one night, we can bounce early. And if we tip out the house extra, nobody asks when we disappear for a few days. They’re over-staffed anyway. So management doesn’t care. Nobody does.
Our other roommates have weird jobs too, so people are in and out at all hours. Sometimes the place is empty for days, while other times, we need to tip-toe around strangers passed out on the floor, surrounded by ash and red cups.
Luckily, this is a vacant night. We’ve got a lot of cash on us and honestly, we can’t trust these hoes. (“Hoes” is a gender neutral term.) I’m sure they don’t trust us either. Fair. So despite the empty nest, we count our earnings in our room. The kitchen table is for beer pong, not business.
I shut the door as Becca makes herself comfortable on the old rug. She speaks as she begins to separate bills by denomination: “that last guy was actually pretty cool.”
“Cool or rich and easy?” I tease as I flop backwards onto our king air mattress. I sink into the middle.
“Both!” She giggles, now slouching over the edge of the bed, pushing all the air into one side.
“Can you inflate this thing?” I point to the nozzle at the foot of the bed.
“UGH!” She rolls back onto the floor and flips the switch. WRRRRRRRRRR. I slowly begin rising. She shouts over the reverse vacuum, “he said he had another job for you!”
I shout back, “what? To suck his dick?”
“No bitch!” She laughs, “he said he needs a driver!”
“So he should hire a driver! The fuck?”
“I told him you have a car!” She turns the pump off and the room is quiet.
“You don’t find that suspicious? That he’d want some random chick drive him around instead of using one of the many apps available for that kind of service? Bro, he wants to abduct me.”
“How’s he gonna abduct you in YOUR car?”
“Imagine this: I pick him up. He puts a fuckin glock to my dome and…” I get up on my knees, puff my chest, and point two fingers like a gun. I move closer to Becca, who’s trying not to laugh, twisting her neck to watch me. I lick my lips to do my best creep impression, and put one hand to her head, my other arm gently across her neck. I deepen my voice and whisper, “have my fuckin’ babies, bitch.”
“EW!!!” Becca pulls from my grasp, cracking up.
I return to my normal disposition. “Ew is right.”
“True but also, no.” She crosses her arms. “Bring your own weapon for self defense. And what if it’s fine?! I know you want to get out of the club.”
I sigh. “Did he say how much he’d pay?”
“A hundred dollars per hour.”
I raise both eyebrows. “You’re lying.”
“Then he’s lying!”
“No! Listen, he explained the situation. He said he’s got to keep his business under wraps — so he can’t be using ride share, and he’s on a tight schedule so he can’t be waiting around.”
“Oh. So he’s a drug dealer.”
“I bet it’s cocaine.” I half-joke, “I feel like only coke dealers wear ties.”
She shrugs, “whatever drug it is, dude, you’ve got the resume.”
“Fuck, man. Is this Gordy two point oh?”
She shoots daggers from her eyes. “Don’t.”
“He just needs a driver. And I’m trying to help you.” She pouts, “Help us.”
I’m defeated. “You got his number?”
She pulls out her phone. “I’ll send you the contact.”
Ping. I unlock my device. “Hez. Fucking Hez? What is that? Sounds about real as Dallas.”
“Bitch, just text him.”
I watch instant coffee crystals dissolve in my mug of hot water. Shit’s nasty. The address Hez sent is almost an hour from here in traffic, but he said I’d be compensated for it. I’d better be.
A winding road through the hills finally leads me to his opaque fence. I text him: “Here.” A panel in the fortress wall slowly slides over to reveal my new boss, donning a crisp, fitted suit and a smile. He swings a briefcase by his side as he walks. I try to look past him, but the house isn’t even visible from the end of the driveway.
I roll down the passenger side window and call out, “hey Hez! Or is it ‘Heez’?” Becca told me it’s “Hez”, but I feel so inclined to fuck with him.
He opens the front door. “It’s Hez. Short for Hezekiah — means ‘God gives strength’.” He sits down and shuts the door. “And you look beautiful today, miss.”
I ignore his compliment and ask, “so you’re religious?”
“My parents were.”
“Ah.” I pull away as the gate closes, and start to make a U-turn. “Where to?”
“I have to go two friend’s places, and then the bank. But first… would you like a coffee?”
“I had one already.”
“Well I didn’t. And there’s a great spot nearby.” He types the location into my GPS and we head out of the fancy neighborhood. He turns up the volume on my speakers, which were quietly — now loudly — playing my music library on shuffle. He starts rapping along to some throwback. Okay homeboy, I see you.
We arrive to our first stop and he orders two “lavender honey lattes” at the window. Thanks.
The caffeine-fueled morning breezes by in the driver’s seat. Hez insists I park at a curb near the bank instead of in the lot. Yes sir. As I wait, I imagine what happens next: I take him home, he pays me in cash, then I go home. Easy day. I’ve only been out about three hours, but if he’s for real about the rate, I’ve made as much as I do bartending on a good night. So I haven’t been asking questions — I don’t want to seem nosy. And I pretty much know what he’s up to.
I watch him waltz back to the car with pep in his step.
He gets in and speaks with a new energy: “okay! Last stop: we have to go back to my first friend’s house. I’ll pay you there, and then you’re good to go.” Okay, great. Best case scenario. I refresh that address. He continues, “And you were great today! I’d love to have you work for me more often, if you’d like to.”
“For sure!” I’m enthusiastic, but I don’t fully trust him yet. He seems to sense that.
“I’d like to pay you extra for today too!” I’m quiet. He explains, “I made a come-up today, and you were part of it. So you deserve extra. Consider it a signing bonus — no signature required. Does five hundred total sound fair?”
“For sure. Thank you so much.” I answer in a grateful tone, trying to hide my skepticism. I assume there’s a catch. But I’ll wait for it. I hope he doesn’t say I have to go inside with him to get paid. But lowkey… I’ve got a switchblade on me. So whatever.
“Of course. I’ll take care of you.” He looks thoughtful for a moment, then chimes back in, “we should make you a fake ID.”
“Huh? For what?”
“If you want to start doing what I’m doing and making even more.”
Oh. He want’s me to push for him now. Hey Gordy two point oh. I play dumb. “I don’t even know what you’re doing though”.
“That’s what I like about you. You play it cool. That’s why you’ll be good at this.”
“Wanna tell me what ‘this’ is?”
“You’ll see when we get where we’re going. It’s easier to show than tell.”
We ride the elevator up in silence. We’re both looking down at our phones. I text Becca my location… just in case. Ding! We arrive at the penthouse level. I follow him to a double door, where he knocks in a rhythmic pattern. I find myself trying to memorize the secret code, as if I’ll have to use it myself next time. One door swings open to reveal another grown up frat boy.
“Bro! Yes!” The man gives Hez a one-armed hug, then continues holding the door for me. “And hello gorgeous!” I walk past him to find an empty living room. Natural light fills the space. There’s some art on the walls, but no furniture. The guys chat inconspicuously about their success as they head down a hallway to my left.
Hez turns back to me, “you can hang here! I’ll pay you in a minute!” I walk over to the huge loft-style window to admire the view. Before long, Hez pops back into the hallway. He calls out, “actually, do you want to come in here?” My mind starts racing through all the potential negative outcomes here, but I figure it won’t hurt to just peek into the room. I follow his voice with my hands in my pockets; one on my keys — the other, my knife.
I peer through the door frame, past the boys. Piled atop a white upholstered king bed, a sea of green. This is significantly more cash than I’ve ever seen in my life… by far. And I briefly worked servicing ATMS at one point… don’t ask. I keep my composure and inquire, “so work went well today?”
“Yes my dear,” Hez approaches, band in hand, “And this…” he extends five crisp hundreds towards me, “is for you.”
I remove my key-hand to accept the offer: “thank you.”
“No, thank you! Now let’s get this ID made! We just need to take a picture and…”
I cut him off, “wait, can you explain this ID thing? What would I use it for?”
“Okay, yeah! Sorry I didn’t explain earlier; we can’t talk about this in public. I know you understand. But we can now. Feel free to get comfortable!” He gestures towards an ottoman near the open door. I sit. He continues, “I’d like to have you go into the bank for me from now on, but you’ll need a custom identity to access our accounts.”
Fraud. Great start. “What’s in it for me?”
“You’d get a percentage of all our withdrawals.”
“And what’s that look like?” I hate how alluring this is. I hear Gordy’s voice in my head: “just don’t be stupid.” I know that my face, attached to some other name, handling dirty money, on bank security footage, is probably stupid. But indulge me.
“Ten percent. On top of your driver wage. Our average withdrawal is ten thousand dollars. You could make around fifteen hundred per day.”
I take a deep breath, and hold it for a moment. Wait… Withdrawals? I thought these fools were making deposits. I exhale with an inquisitive look. I finally have to ask, “what the fuck do you guys do?”
Our nameless partner laughs, “you didn’t ask him already?”
Hez answers, “bro, that’s why I like her.”
I sit, wide-eyed, in anticipation. “So…?”
The two men look at each other, smirking, then back at me. They answer in sync: “we rob banks.”
Hez follows up: “White collar style.”