At 12:30 am, Gina was finished for the evening. She returned to her dressing room and collapsed in the chair.

“What are you looking at, bitch?” she snapped at her sweat and ink smeared reflection, unable to stand herself any longer.

She took a long shower, put on a robe, and then sat back down. Her thoughts kept returning to Tony, which just made her angry.

Gina had struggled to complete the final two performances. Fortunately, no one seemed to care as long as they got to see the goods.

“So fucking what,” she said. “I’m sick of this shit anyway!”

Gina stared at the money on the dresser. She’d earned $1,500 this evening—$500 per performance. It was great money for her three shows, but it just wasn’t enough. She needed to get out of this business and make a better life for herself… something respectable. Gina needed a hundred-thousand dollars to make it happen. Her goal was to have enough money to go anywhere in the world she chose… and start over. With forty-five thousand in savings, she still had a long way to go.

Not even half-way there yet, she thought with a heavy sigh.

To make matters worse, Tony had avoided her the rest of the evening.

Tony Fucking Marcuchi.

“Where does he get off judging me?” she yelled at her reflection. “Who does he think he is, my fucking father? Hell, he’s not even my lover!”

“Ahem.” The voice of the devil, himself. Tony was standing in the doorway.

“Ever heard of knocking, asshole?”

“Uh… your door was wide open.”

“Well, close it next time and then fucking knock!” She refused to turn and look at him. She focused on brushing her wet, red hair, shooting her fierce green eyes at him through the mirror.

Tony said nothing, unwilling to trust words.

“Well, what do you want? I’ve got to get cleaned up and go home. I’m filling in for Sally tomorrow night and my legs are killing me. Don’t you have some perverts to toss out, or something?”

“There’s a guy at the bar who wants to meet you. Very insistent type. I told him to come back tomorrow for a lap dance-”

“Fuck you!” Gina spun her chair around to face him. “So you think I’m working the booths now, turning tricks on the side, too? I dance and get paid well to do just that… nothing else.”

“Dancing? Is that what you call what you did tonight? Looked like you were enjoying it.”

“Fuck you. I’m not a whore.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t!”

“I saw the dirty looks you gave me. What’s the deal? You know what I do here. It’s a little late to get all self-righteous about it.”

Tony shook his head and held up his hands. “Look, I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. I just wanted to tell you that the guy said he wasn’t looking for a lap dance. Then he handed me a hundred-dollar bill just to have me talk to you.”

“I guess that makes you my pimp.”

Tony was upset now. “Now look, I never called you a whore. I just don’t like what you do up there sometimes… especially tonight. I don’t like to think of you like-”

“Like what, Tony? A whore?”

Tony took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “You’re not like the other girls. You’re smart and could do anything you want to do and you’re meant for far better things than this hell-hole. I only agreed to give you the man’s message because I know you’re trying to save money and get out of here.”

Gina was silent.

“He wants to offer you a job. Just dancing, so he claims. But it sounds shady to me. Anyway, he’s offering a lot of money, enough that I needed to tell you about it.”

Gina rolled her eyes and sighed. “Give me a minute to clean the whore off me and I’ll be out.”

Tony shook his head. “I’ll stick around… you know… just to make sure he’s not a nut or something.”

“How sweet,” she said sarcastically.

“I know you’re not a whore,” Tony stated firmly. “I said what I said because… well… I care about you.”

Gina was caught off-guard. She turned in her chair to look at him.

Tony looked at his feet, feeling like the world’s biggest idiot. “So… I’ll go tell the guy you’re coming.”

“You do that,” she said, lowering her tone.

Tony nodded and started to leave.

“So… hey… we’ll have to talk more about this whole, ‘you care about me’ thing later… okay?” She finished with a smile.

Tony turned and smiled back.

Damn, that smile.


Still in her bathrobe, her hair tied back into a bun, Gina stepped behind the bar, nodding at Hal, the bartender, and fixed herself a Screwdriver.

At the other end of the bar a lone patron, dressed in an expensive black Armani suit, sat patiently, staring into his half-empty glass of bourbon.

Tony came over. “I’ll be right here, okay?”

“I’ll be right there, okay?” she mocked in a bad imitation of his gruff and tough voice.

Tony shook his head and laughed.

After mixing her drink, Gina filled another glass with bourbon and placed it before the stranger. “That’s on me for tipping the bouncer,” she said. “And just to let you know, in case you get any strange ideas, he’s a good friend of mine and is standing just within range to break your neck if he even thinks your language is offending me. Are we clear?”

The man looked over at Tony who stood at the other end of the bar with his arms crossed like an intimidating stone. Without getting up, the stranger said, “Good evening, Miss Melborn. I am Malcolm Hathaway and it’s an honor to finally meet you.” He was a short man up close, with slick, brown hair tied back into a ponytail. He picked up the glass. “Thank you very much for the drink.”

Gina examined Malcolm’s face. “So why don’t you tell me what you think your money’s going to get out of me and then I’ll give you a choice of colorful expletives to choose from as my answer.”

Malcolm had dark eyes, a hawkish nose, and a clever looking smile. He had the look of a man who was not impressed by much in the world, but amused by everything. He took a long sip from his drink, placed it back down on the bar and stared right back, without a word. After sizing her up, Malcolm smiled and asked, “So… what’s the verdict? Am I an ex-con, fresh out of jail and looking for a good time? Perhaps I’m ranked much lower among the detestable and despicable, desperately seeking to talk you into a plethora of strange sexual positions, based on my excessive amount of liquid courage and cash… hmm?”

Gina shook her head, waving her drink in his face. “Why don’t you tell me? You have until I finish this, and then I’m going home.”

“Straight to the point, I respect that,” he said. “I assure you, what I need is a dancer—no more, no less—and I’m willing to pay a substantial amount for your services.”

“I’m still listening.”

Malcolm laughed. “To seduce a man or a woman with the right words is far more challenging than flesh upon the eyes, wouldn’t you agree?”

Gina shook her head and cracked, “With men it’s simple: present a hole… they’ll come. So what’s your particular fetish? Believe me, I’ve heard them all.”

“I guess my particular fetish this evening are the holes on the side of your lovely head,” Malcolm said.

“Figures,” she said, taking a long gulp of her drink and tiring of the conversation. “Let’s say we cut through all this witty foreplay and get to the fucking—the fucking point, that is.”

“The fucking point, as you say, is that I would like to hire you to dance at a dinner event that I’m hosting.”

“Sorry, I don’t do private parties.” Gina downed the rest of her drink. “That kind of shit reeks of trouble… and this girl’s not interested.”

“Again, the monetary reward I’m offering for your time and trouble is quite substantial. Would you at least lend me your ears a bit longer and entertain my offer?”

Gina didn’t want to hear anything else. She was tired and it was late. “Thanks, but no thanks. Tell you what, ask any of these ho-bag waitresses working tonight, and they’ll do anything you want for a twenty.” She handed her empty glass to Hal and started walking away.

By the time she reached Tony, Malcolm said, “How does ten thousand dollars sound to you?”

She looked at Tony and whispered, “Did he just say, ‘ten thousand dollars’?”

Tony went wide-eyed and nodded.

Malcolm laughed and asked the bartender, “Sir, could I get another one of these, and one of whatever the lady is having.”

Hal looked to Gina and shrugged.

Gina shrugged back. To Tony, she whispered, “If he’s serious, then he wants more than just a dance… or he’s fucking crazy.”

Tony thought about it. “Hear him out. I’ll even go with you if it sounds legit.”

“You’d do that?” She was touched.

“Do you really have to ask me that?” he kidded. “Now go hear what he has to say. That’s a lot of money to ignore.”

Gina walked past Hal, who handed her another Screwdriver, and stood before Malcolm with her arms crossed. “Okay, you bought yourself a little more time. Start making some sense. Why am I worth ten thousand dollars for one night’s work?”

“I assure you, my dear, there’s no catch attached to it. A dancer is what I need… nothing more. Of course, your services are easily worth half that, but I need to conclude our business shortly and I believe ten thousand would be sufficient to ensure your commitment on short notice.”

“What’s the rush?”

“I’m afraid my dinner party is already in progress.” Malcolm looked at his Rolex. It was 1:15 a.m. “By now, my guests are arriving and will be expecting my presence within the hour. I had a last-minute cancellation with another talented woman, which leaves me without a dancer.”

“Wait… so you need a dancer… now? It’s a little late for dinner don’t you think, Hathaway?”

Malcolm smiled. “I would be happy to explain the nature of my dinner party and all details of your involvement on the way… but I need your decision. We would need to leave within the next thirty minutes.”

Gina was exhausted. Just the thought of adding on an additional performance to an already late evening made her want to climb into bed that much faster.

“I would pay you in advance, of course,” Malcolm added, sweetening the deal. “You’d have the money upon arrival at the party.”

She looked across the bar, catching Tony’s concerned gaze.

Gina couldn’t help thinking about what an extra ten thousand dollars would mean. She could bank that free and clear. It would take her weeks to save up that much money—weeks cut off in a single night. It was tempting.

As she continued to watch Tony, Gina wondered if he would come with her when she finally flew the coup. She’d always intended on asking him, if she ever worked up the nerve.

Just you and me, Tony. We’ll be able to walk away from this dive and go wherever we want and start a new life.

Some dreams required the occasional risk.

It’s just one more show… and a free dinner to boot.

“What does one wear to the way-past-midnight ball, anyway?” Gina asked.

Malcolm was ecstatic. “Very good! Don’t worry about your apparel, my dear. I just happen to have a stunning green dress in the car that would accommodate your eyes wonderfully. And I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars that it fits you perfectly.”

Gina laughed. “Are you always so sure of yourself? I’m tempted to say ‘no’ just to wipe that shit-eating grin off your face.”

“I usually get my way, if that’s what you mean,” Malcolm added with a smile. “The dress was just a calculated gamble, with good odds in my favor. Only a fool would turn down easy money.”

I’m sure there’s someone swimming at the bottom of a lake somewhere that thought the same thing once, she thought.

“One more thing,” Gina said. “It’s a two-for-one deal. If I go, so does the big guy over there. If that doesn’t work for you, then the deal’s off.”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow. “If he dances as well as you, I may have to split the fee between the both of you.”

“Very funny.”

Malcolm got up, and with the biggest shit-eating grin he could muster, added, “It just so happens, I have an extra-large suit in the car. It should fit your friend very nicely.”


At 1:45 am, Tony and Gina exited the lounge. Gina lit up the parking lot with a stunning, strapless green dress that hugged her features snugly.

Tony looked uncomfortable in a black, casual dinner suit. “I didn’t know we were going to the prom.”

Gina blew him a kiss. She pulled the front of the dress up. “This is why men have no business picking clothes for woman. I can barely breathe in this thing.”

“You look very… elegant?” Tony suggested.

Gina spit a piece of gum out into the parking lot.

“Okay, scratch that.”

Malcolm met them and offered to drive them both in his Mercedes. He wanted to discuss the details with Gina along the way.

Tony and Gina made other arrangements. It was agreed that he’d follow them in his Camaro just in case they needed to leave prematurely.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you,” Tony reassured her.

She nodded and got into Hathaway’s car.


“So where are we going?” The drive in the stranger’s Mercedes was making her nervous.

“I own a beach house fifteen minutes from here,” Malcolm said. “Dinner will be waiting for us when we get there, followed by a party on the beach. That’s where you come in. I’ll be giving a bit of a performance of my own, and you will dance to augment my narration. Can you improvise?”

“I’ve been doing that my whole life.”

“Very good. Based on what I’ve seen of your work, this will be easy for you.”

“Anything specific in mind? It’s your dime, after all.”

Malcolm turned to her and said, “I want the one you call, Fire. She will be perfect for what I have in mind.”

Of course.

After a long moment of silence, Gina said, “Okay, here come the questions: What’s so special about tonight that can’t wait for a more reasonable hour and what’s this performance you have planned?”

“Think of it as a late-night theater event. As you are well aware of your employer’s taste for the dramatic arts, I too look for similar talented individuals such as yourself to… how shall I put it… capture the crowd. May I ask you a personal question, Gina?”

She laughed. “Well, Malcolm, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, I’d be a rich girl by now.”

Malcolm quickly caught on. “Is that because you are very personable, or is it because some confuse sexuality for intimacy?”

Gina raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Spot on, Malcolm. You read between the lines fairly well.”

“I try to listen. Please continue. I’m… intrigued by your profession, and I mean that respectfully from an intellectual point of view—nudity aside. What’s it really like, Gina?”

“Well… I’ve seen them all in my line of work. Men from all walks of life come in and treat the fantasy as an invite to remove their masks, allowing them forbidden freedoms not found in the nine-to-five world. That’s how the scam works. They pay for the illusion of not only seeing what they desire acted out, but of being desirable as well. It puts them at ease. They see what they want to see from my performances, but they don’t see me. They come in, watch me dance, watch me take off all of my clothes and fall into the cleverly crafted illusion that the business provides. Men come up to me after a show and want to buy me drinks—want to get to know me. They think they’ve paid for that right by seeing me naked and that we’re instant friends. Frankly, it’s insulting. Even illusions have boundaries… and that’s usually when the line’s been crossed.”

“I see,” Malcolm said. “I’m sure you’ve had advances as well.”

“Plenty of those, but that’s to be expected. Let’s see… hand-jobs, blow-jobs, twosomes, threesomes, those who want me to masturbate and those who want me to watch them masturbate, whips, chains, pain, and my all-time favorite: shooting projectiles out my va-jay-jay.”

“Can you do that?” Malcolm asked teasingly.

“Can you?” she fired back. “Seriously, the ones that really get under my skin are the ones who want to know me. I can deal with the rude ones—it’s clear what they expect. But the ones who want the real me, get under my skin. Like, it’s not bad enough that they sat there and paid to watch me get naked, something they would never do with anyone they really cared about, but then they have the audacity to assume that I’m fine with it, and that it’s okay to get personal after that. Know what I mean?”

“Yes, I believe I do.”

Gina felt foolish babbling on to a complete stranger. “Sorry about that,” she said. “I guess I had that building up for a while.”

“No problem. That was very enlightening. Thank you.”

“So go ahead and ask your question and I’ll decide if it’s too personal or not.”

Malcolm laughed. “You’ve already answered my question… and then some.”

Gina, feeling guarded, asked, “And just what question was that?”

“I understand the nature of masks all too well,” Malcolm said. “In fact, tonight is all about removing those masks without creating an illusion to hide within. Tonight’s about removing the illusion entirely, which is the mask itself, and finding real freedom.”

Gina had no response to that. “So why don’t you spell it out for me, Malcolm. What am I getting myself into here?”

Malcolm turned, opened his mouth to answer, and then said, “Oh, I’m sorry. It looks like we’ve arrived. The rest will have to wait for dinner.”

“What convenient timing.”

Malcolm sighed. “Honestly, tonight will be better understood through the experience rather than attempting to convey it through inadequate words. It’s all harmless, I assure you. But if I’ve made you uncomfortable in any way, you’re more than welcome to terminate our arrangement and leave with your friend. I’ll be disappointed, but the show will still go on. Of course, the ten thousand dollars in my trunk will remain with me.”

“Let’s just get to it.” Gina felt the carrot being dangled over her head. “We’re already here and I’m starving.”

Malcolm gave her a wicked little smile.

He turned off the main road and onto a private drive that ran parallel with Lake Erie. Low sand dunes sprouting vegetation were scattered on both sides of the small, gravel road, which curved inland toward a modern, two-story home built on stilts. Solar panels dominated the irregular, slanted roof that faced the lake. With the exception of minimal lighting from within the house, the brightest lights were coming from torches surrounding a large glassed-in deck, overlooking the beach.

Gina was feeling more and more uneasy. Malcolm Hathaway had done a terrific job of only telling her what she needed to know, while politely dodging everything else. She looked back several times to make sure the Camaro was still following. Thankfully, Tony was still there.

As they approached the front of the beach house, Gina observed several expensive cars scattered across a large driveway.

Malcolm selected a spot at random and Tony pulled in next to him.

Gina exited the vehicle and covered her bare shoulders with a green shawl that Malcolm provided.

The air was cool on the skin, but not unpleasant for early October. Storm clouds gathered in the south and promised winds off the lake, and a chill by dawn. But for now, the humidity made it feel much warmer.

The night was deceptively still. Gina could hear waves breaking on the beach below the beach house, masking an uneasy silence. The full moon, slowly approaching its zenith, dispelled the darkness of the surrounding dunes, leaving a soft afterglow on sand and shadow.

Malcolm opened the trunk of the Mercedes, reached into a large leather satchel and handed Gina two bundles of hundred-dollar bills. “Ten thousand dollars, as agreed upon.” Malcolm quickly closed the trunk.

Gina stared at the two stacks in her hands. She was tempted to check the bills for blood stains. So this is what dirty money feels like. She almost inquired about the large bag of cash, but reconsidered, wanting to know as little as possible. Gina handed Tony the cash and he placed it in the glove box of his Camaro.

“Now that your services are paid-in-full, I hope the both of you can relax and enjoy the festivities.” Malcolm escorted them toward the house. “I must warn you, my friends can be a bit eccentric and down-right obnoxious at times. I apologize in advance for their behavior.”

“Unlike the atmosphere we’re used to at Herpies,” Tony cracked. “Nothing but quality family entertainment there.”

Gina elbowed him and whispered, “Behave yourself, Tony, or I’ll tell the boss what you called his dear love-child. And wipe that sarcasm off your chin, you’re starting to embarrass me.”

“Yes, dear.”

When they reached the front door, Malcolm turned and observed the full moon. He glanced at his watch: 2:05 am. “Plenty of time,” he said cheerfully.

He led his guests inside.


Next Episode 2-3

Previous Episode 2-1


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“Chapter 2-2: Dinner and a Movie” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  1. midnightwriterporvida says:

    I’m getting scared for Gina and Tony! I love it!!! Your writing is amazing and the character development is beautiful!!! You’re really good at showing who these people are through their actions and reactions!


    • sscherr says:

      Excellent. this one is my favorite so far because it really starts getting into conversations between characters, which is a big deal throughout this long story as it progresses. Tony sounds more natural now, like you’re starting to get a feel for him. You were spot on with Malcolm. He sounds just the way I pictured him. Well done. Both conversations between Tony/Gina and Gina/Malcolm sounded great. Especially when Gina’s telling Malcolm all about her profession. This was almost perfect if not for my fuck up in the last sentence. I had “Marcus” written for “Malcolm” and that’s my bad. I’ve fixed the text. Other than that, like I said, your narrative in this episode is my fav so far. Look forward to hearing how you pull off that crazy dinner party in the next one ;)


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