Maybe I’ll be lucky and the third time will truly be the charm.
When I’d been here before, the door had been locked, the knob unmovable. This time, when I gave it a twist, the knob yielded and the door opened. Within was a reception area equipped with nothing more than a pair of inexpensive chairs and an equally cheap desk. Boxes were stacked everywhere. Most of them were closed, but two resting on the desk were still open. One was filled with file folders, the other office supplies. Opposite the door I had just entered was another, which stood partially open. A voice called out from behind the other door.
“Hello! I’m sorry, but the office is closed, and I’m no longer taking cases.”
“That’s alright, I’m not here to ask you to take a case, I wanted to talk to you.”
Silence, then a face appeared around the edge of the door. I’d seen a single image of that face, but like most mugshots, it didn’t do the individual justice. The young woman I saw was darkly good looking, with coal black hair hanging down past her shoulders. She stared at me, eyebrows drawn low and a frown on her face.
“What do you want?”
“I’m here to ask you about your arrest…” That was all I got to say. She stepped from behind the door and began shouting so loudly that my ears hurt.
“Get out of my office! Isn’t it enough that I’ve been arrested? Isn’t it enough that my reputation is completely ruined? What more do you want?”
I did my best to answer her questions. “I want your story, that’s what I want. Not the press releases from the cops, not the DA’s ‘unofficially’ leaked info, I want to know your side of the story.”
“Why should I talk to you?”
“Because if you don’t tell your side of the story, the only story anyone is going to hear is the one that’s out there now. So, are you willing to let the ‘official’ story be the only one anyone hears?”
“Why do you care?”
“Because I’m a reporter. Actually, I’m a writer and a reporter. When I heard your story, I couldn’t believe it, and I’ve covered some truly strange stories. So I decided to find you and find out what the truth was.”
The frown diminished, but her whole body was still tense, her doubts obvious. I decided to throw my last card down.
“I promise not to publish anything without your approval. You can even read the final piece and veto its publication. So, are you willing to talk, to tell your side of the story?”
Her eyes were still narrowed, but her posture began to relax. Then she opened the door to me.
“I’ll give you your interview, but on one condition: You agree, in writing, to publish nothing without my written consent. Agreed?”
I walked up to her and held out my hand.
Her office was bare, not a Spartan lack of decoration, but the look of a space stripped of everything movable. An ornate dark wood desk dominated the office, and the leather covered chair she sat down in looked like it cost more than I made in a week. I settled into one of a pair of comfortable, significantly less pretentious looking chairs opposite her. She opened a drawer, pulled out a legal pad and pen, and began to write. The agreement she drew up was a model of brevity and clarity: just three sentences long, it gave her complete power over any piece that might arise from my interview. I signed, more than willing to give her that level of control if she’d tell me her story. She took it, leaned back in her chair, and fixed me with an unwavering stare.
“So, ask away.”
I pulled my phone out, called up the recorder app, and began my interview.
“The first question I have to ask is, are the accusations true?” I expected some sort of denial or evasion, but none came.
“Of course they are.”
The admission of guilt surprised me, and I struggled to follow my mental list of questions.
“So, you’re admitting you worked as a prostitute while you were a lawyer?”
“Yes, I did. I’ve been engaged in prostitution since I was a sophomore in college.”
That bald statement knocked me completely off track. I shook myself and asked the only question that occurred to me.
A smile slowly spread over her face.
“You mean ‘Why would a good girl like you do something like that?’ Simple: money. My freshman year, if I wasn’t in classes or studying, I was sleeping or slaving away at some shitty minimum-wage job.”
I nodded, remembering my own struggles to make ends meet in college. She saw my agreement and nodded herself.
“You’ve been there, haven’t you? At one point, I was working three part-time jobs and barely making ends meet. One day I was working sales in Victoria’s Secrets, and a guy comes in to buy some lingerie. He starts teasing me, telling me how good I look, asking if I had a boyfriend, the usual crap guys give women. I thought it was kind of funny, I mean a guy who’s old enough to be my dad teasing me like that.”
She stopped and shook her head. When she continued, she sounded sad, like she couldn’t believe Fate could be so cruel.
“That would have been the end of it, but a couple days later, my car broke down. There was no way I’d be able to afford to get it fixed. So I was stuck catching rides with friends. Then in walks Mr. Tease. He wants some more lingerie, but in a different size than what he’d bought the last time. So right off, I know he’s seeing more than one woman. He starts teasing me again, but this time, I play along. He gets his stuff, come up to the register and flashes a pair of hundred dollar bills and asks if I could use them.”
She stopped for a second, a far-away look in her eyes, and then she focused back on me.
“I knew what he wanted. It wouldn’t get my car fixed, but it was a start, so I told him I could. He gave me his number, told me to call him if I was serious, and left. I called him as soon as I got off work. I told him why I was interested, and he proposed a simple solution: he’d pay to get my car fixed if I’d spend the upcoming weekend with him. He never said he expected me to have sex with him, he knew I understood what was expected of me. I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it until he pulled up. I got in his car without a second thought.”
A smile spread across her face, the smile of someone remembering an enjoyable moment.
“Looking back, I know I got lucky with him. He took me to a hotel, and while he seemed to want sex constantly, he never hurt me or treated me badly. And damn, did that man know how to use his tongue!”
I felt my face heating up. She must have seen me blushing, because she stopped and laughed at my embarrassment before continuing.
“What, did you think I’m some cheap street walker who’s got everything turned off below the waist? Most of the men I met didn’t do anything for me sexually. With them, it was just a matter of making the right noises at the right time, and they were happy. But every once in a while, I’d meet a man who knew about sex and didn’t mind making me feel good. Those were the ones I came to look forward to. But that first weekend, Mr. Tease got to talking about how he met other young women, the different ‘adult dating services’ and web sites where young women trolled for “’sugar daddies’”. I didn’t plan to take his advice, but when the next bill came, I knew I didn’t really have a choice. I set up a profile on some of the sites he’d mentioned, and. . . well, I just got into it.”
She stopped again, focusing in on me.
“It wasn’t a hard decision: I could see a guy for an hour, and make more money than if I’d worked a full week at one of my other jobs. Did I run into any problems? Yeah, one or two guys tried to get rough with me early on, but I got in the habit of calling the land line in my apartment and leaving a message on my answering machine. I’d always talk like I was speaking to someone, saying where I was, and they’d think someone could report them if they got too rough with me. After that, I never had any real problems.”
She stopped for a moment, and I took the opportunity to ask another question.
“Okay, I can see why you got into prostitution in college, but why keep doing it after you got your law license?”
She stared at me for a moment, then burst into laughter.
“Do you think a law license means people suddenly start standing in line, waiting to give you money? Hell no! Worse, you’ve got to rent space, buy furniture, advertise…it’s a long list. So I kept in touch with a few reliable customers, seeing them occasionally so I could afford to stay in business.” She stopped for a moment, frowning perhaps at her own naivety before continuing. “If one of my clients hadn’t been into ‘kiddie porn’ and stupid enough to keep copies of the emails we exchanged, I probably could have kept it going. But he also loved to take nude images of me. So when he got busted, the cops could identify who he was communicating with, and had everything they needed to bring charges against me. I heard there was a warrant out for me for Class X prostitution, so I decided to turn myself in. I was hoping to avoid the publicity of being arrested. . . and you know the rest.”
I only had one more question to ask.
“What will you do now?”
She didn’t respond right away. Her eyes were blank, like she was looking inside herself and not at me or anything in her office. Slowly, she focused on me again and shook her head.
“I don’t know. I’ve retained an attorney to represent me, but he knows the best I can hope for is to avoid prison time. I’m a damn good lawyer, but even if I can avoid going to prison, I doubt they’ll let me keep my law license. If I can’t be a lawyer…” She gave her head another slow shake, her face now showing nothing but sadness. “I’m not sure what I’ll do.”
The bitter edge to her voice made it clear she wanted me to leave her in peace, so I saved the audio file of the interview and closed the app. I stood to leave, but I knew I had to say something more to this young woman whose dreams were now shattered.
“You may not believe it, but I hope things work out for you. How can I get in touch with you so you can look my story over?”
That knowing smile returned to her face.
“You can come back here and ask the building manager. He knows where I live.” She must have seen my shock, because the smile became an honest grin. “Yes, he’s one of my reliables, and yes he gave me a discount on my rent.”
I couldn’t think of a reply, so I left.
It only took me two days to finish my story, but when I returned to the building, her office was empty and the sign had already been removed from the window. I left a message for the building manager, and he called later in the day with the address. The only problem was that when I got to her apartment, I found it too was empty.
I’d been played. I had the story of a lifetime, one that could make my reputation, and I couldn’t legally publish it. Standing there, all I could do was look up at the sky and mutter “Well, I guess she managed to screw me, and I didn’t even get the pleasure of screwing her.”