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Working Girl: When the Prostitute Smurfs, the Princess gets Smurfing Smurfed

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Moral 107: When the Prostitute Smurfs, the Princess gets Smurfing Smurfed

Image by Images_of_Money at Flickr Commons.

Image by Images_of_Money at Flickr Commons.

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My boss Caroline had a lot of hard cash floating around. I understand that happens a lot with professional escorts.

Caroline did use a bank, but during the five years she’d been going in—wearing short shorts and cleavage-baring runner’s clothes—to deposit thick stacks of cash, the manager had taken notice, and come up with a theory as to where the money came from.

Banks are required to report deposits over $10,000 to the IRS. So Caroline would either make a lot of trips to deposit smaller amounts (probably one reason the manager had noticed), or use a second bank, or stash the money in different places, like the safe in her cabinets, the box under her bed, the old duffel bag up in her closet, and god knows where else. She also had safe deposit boxes.

Sometimes I worried she’d forget where all her money was, like an old pirate who couldn’t remember whether he’d stashed treasure on this island or the last one, because all the islands start to look the same after a lifetime of looting.

 

Moral 105: Having too much to hide means some things are probably going to get lost.

 

But loaded or no, Caroline wasn’t particularly generous.

So I was surprised when she offered me, her lowly errand-girl and assistant, $5000.

“Leslie,” she said one day. “Why haven’t you started up a writing business yet?”

“What do you mean?” I said. My hands were in a sink full of sudsy water and sex toys.

“Well, I know you want to be a writer. I know you write all the time. You’re good at it, right?”

I shrugged. I actually didn’t think I was very good at it. At least, not good enough to make a career of it. I thought I’d probably lead a long life of secretary-hood with desk drawers full of unpublished manuscripts and articles.

“I’m a businesswoman,” Caroline said, “among other things, and I don’t see what you’re waiting for. Is it the start-up capital?”

“Start-up capital?” I said.

“Yeah, you know what start-up capital is, right?”

I knew what it was. I just didn’t know what I’d use it for. Exactly what kind of business did she imagine I would start up? It would probably be online. I didn’t think that would cost too much to get going. But unlike Caroline, I didn’t see myself as a businesswoman.

“What would I use it for?”

“You know,” she said. “Having a website built isn’t cheap. And then marketing. How much do you think that would be?”

“Umm, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Well, what would your ballpark guess be?”

“Umm, I really have no frame of reference to answer this question.”

Caroline sighed and tried to hide how annoying she thought I was. “Would $5,000 do it?”

I dropped a sex toy and sudsy water splashed up on my shirt. “$5,000? Caroline, I don’t know what I’d use all that for.”

“Well, I want to help you get started,” she said. She went to her cabinet, opened her safe, and began counting out hundreds. I watched the money pile up—soft, wrinkled bills that fell out of the stacks she made into a big pile. “I know I sometimes tease about making you one of my girls,”—Teasing? It sure felt real when she tried to pimp me.—“but I really don’t wanna see you stuck here. You’re better than this. Here.” She slid the pile of money toward me on the counter. “It’s a loan. An investment in you. Put it in the bank.”

I didn’t quite understand what was happening. This was not the Caroline I was familiar with. The Caroline I worked with every day was stingy and manipulative. She cheated her girls out of money and lined her own pockets with it. She extorted her clients for thousands of dollars. She had me lie to a store clerk to try to get three identical leather jackets for free.

“Whatever you don’t use in two months, you can just give back to me,” Caroline said. “And whatever you do use, I’ll just take out of your future pay.”

I had never seen so much money in one place. It sat in a pile on the counter, like a morning-after prom dress—it was all wrinkled and I wondered where it had been.

I’ll admit, I never seriously entertained the idea of taking the money. It would have put me in Caroline’s debt, and that was one place I definitely didn’t want to be.

Something wasn’t right here. I looked at my hands dripping with sudsy sex toy water.

“Wait a minute . . .” I said. I was putting this situation together like a verbal math problem. (If Caroline loans Leslie $5,000 cash, and then Leslie puts that money in the bank, but Leslie feels uncomfortable with the loan and never uses it, she will eventually give the money back to Caroline and . . .)

“Are you . . . are you trying to launder this money through me?”

“What!” Caroline said. “No!”

I must have looked doubtful.

Moral 106: “Free money” usually comes with a catch.

 

Caroline sighed. “Leslie. What does it matter? Just take the loan.”

“Yeah, and when I pay you back, the money will be a little cleaner, won’t it?”

“A happy coincidence! It’s not even really enough money to have to launder.”

I wasn’t convinced.

Caroline got annoyed again. “OH MY GOD! Leslie, you are great assistant when it comes to the meaningless jobs but when I really need you, you’re just not there! I mean honestly—do you think you can work for me and not get your hands a little dirty? WHAT MAKES YOU SO DAMN HIGH AND MIGHTY? ARE YOU A F—–KING PRINCESS?!”

“No,” I said, drying my hands on a dish towel. Anytime Caroline went off like this I liked to be as collected as I could, in case I had to suddenly get out of the apartment or evade some kind of physical attack. Caroline never actually got violent with me (though I’d seen it happen with others), but it never hurts to be prepared.

Caroline loomed in the doorway of the kitchen like a dragon guarding a cave. I was trapped in the cave. “If you’re not going to do this, then do you have a better idea for how I can clean up this money?!”

“You want me to come up with a money laundering scheme?”

“Yes! You’re smart! You should be able to do this!”

“Caroline, I don’t really think this is my area–”

“THERE YOU GO AGAIN, YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS! Come on, help me out here. Me and the girls smurf for each other all the time. I have a lot of old tricks, I need something new!”

“Smurf?” I said. I didn’t know what that was (it’s a money laundering trick where a large deposit is broken down into smaller parts and deposited in different ways, at different times), but I did know that any scheme I concocted would probably be pretty dumb and get everyone caught.

 

Moral 107: When the prostitute smurfs, the princess gets smurfing smurfed.

 

“You know what, Leslie?” Caroline grabbed up the big pile of money on the counter and shoved it back in the cabinet. “I was wrong. You’ll never get anywhere because you don’t know how to play outside the lines.”

Didn’t washing a sink full of a prostitute’s sex toys constitute playing outside the lines? I kind of thought it did.

***

Working Girl is going to be a book! I’m winding down to the end of the series, and I’m collecting all the entries into a book, along with additional material and microwave instructions. 50% of the proceeds will go to sex trafficking non-profits for the entire life of the book. It will be released March 25, but you can pre-order it and get more information here! Let’s help people and convince ourselves our lives have meaning!

If I don’t make the March 25 deadline, I’ll dye my hair pink. No, really. It’ll be Jem-tastic.

I’ll also do fun and frightening milestone events. So when we sell 500 copies, I’ll sing a karaoke version of Damn, I Wish I was Your Lover and share it online. But fair warning, I can’t sing. So buy a copy and contribute to my awkward humiliation!

***
L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.


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