I grabbed Trish’s arm to lead her around to the side entrance of the building.
“I’m so embarrassed that they saw me in there,” Trish whispered to me.
“I’m sorry, Trish, I really am,” I said. I really was. It hadn’t occurred to me how young she was until right that second.
“Lady, what the hell do you think you are doing? Trish is not going back in there with you people.” A young sailor with a bloody nose took Trish’s other arm and started pulling her in the opposite direction.
“This is Bama,” Trish snuffled. “I call him ‘Bama’ because he’s from Arkansas.”
“Alabama,” Bama corrected.
“Bama,” I said, “I know you are upset, but Trish has to come back into the building. Even if it’s just for a minute. Her clothes are there.”
Bama considered Trish’s get-up. He actually looked around like he was wondering how hard it would be for her to navigate the city in heels and a bikini.
“OK,” Bama finally agreed. “But we are coming with her. And, she isn’t staying!”
We arrived upstairs with Trish and the sailors in tow. Moira was delighted when she unlocked the five locks and opened the door and saw all of that bloody, rumpled manhood. It was nice to see her happy, again.
Moira wasn’t the only happy one. Lynn actually made a sound like a giggle. The women weren’t glad at all to see Mike, however, and he slunk to the bathroom for a shower, his virility as be-shitted as the rest of him.
Bethel did show an interest in Mike, and she floated after him on a cloud of his scent, nostrils and pupils dialated. “Don’t throw your clothes on the bathroom floor, or Bethel will roll on them,” I called after him. “Bethel loves smelling like different poops,” I informed everyone. Nobody seemed to know what to say back to me. “It’s like she thinks she’s in disguise, when she smells like different poop,” I explained. Everybody continued to look at me without entering into conversation. I felt my cheeks flame red.
Bama broke the silence. “Change and get your gear, Trish.” None of the sailors would leave the doorway of the apartment, but one of them kept winking at Moira until it looked like he had a nervous tic.
“Bama,” I decided to try for peace after about five uncomfortable minutes, “why don’t you guys sit down for a little while? Talk to us. Tell us where you are staying and how you are doing. This isn’t your city. Where are you staying? How are you getting along?”
“We aren’t being whores, ma’am. We are fine.”
“I wasn’t being a whore, Bama!,” Trish came out of the bedroom in her sailor suit. She hadn’t taken off her garish make-up, so her dirty dress whites looked like just another stripper outfit. “One of our friends is missing. Well, two of our friends, now, and I was trying to help find them.”
“Trish,” Bama said, “these are bad people. If they were your friends, they wouldn’t have let you work in that place.” He folded his arms like the Naval God of Judging Bad People.
“Bama,” I said, “you might be right that we are bad people. We’ve been pretty desperate, but we aren’t really whore mongers. We put on shows.” He looked at me with an ‘I Know You Are Bad People And Whore Mongers’ face.
“Not dirty shows. Off-Broadway shows. Well, most of them aren’t dirty. What I’m trying to tell you, Bama, is that we do consider Trish to be our friend. She’s one of us.” Bama gave me a distaste-filled look. “Not like she’s one of YOU. We don’t have a bond like that with her, but any one of us would have gone and danced naked to find Trish, if we’d lost her.”
“Maybe not me,” Lynn whispered. I glared at her.
“They would have, Bama,” Trish said. “I know they would have.” Bama reached out a hand for Trish’s backpack, but she held it out of his reach. “I really think that we should all stick together, right now. Things are going to get worse. There is safety in numbers. We are strong and they are…,” she looked at me and Moira and Lynn and couldn’t come up with a valuable quality to mention. “Well, they know the city, and we don’t. They have a lot of Spam. Cigarettes, too!”
“Maurico, stop winking at that woman,” Bama exploded. “Trish, we are leaving and we are leaving now. We are going to the river to wait for our ship.”
“Bama,” I said, “there is a big damn bird eating people who walk west to the river. I wish you’d consider staying with us.”
Bama took Trish’s arm again and pulled her out the door. The other sailors spun and followed them, with only Maurico turning back to throw one last wink at Moira.