“Look, kiddo,” said Denis finally, “you need a job. Hep needs someone who can ask hard questions to people without offending them. Nothing like a registered social worker to do that on an hourly basis. Hep has the money for the hourly basis.”
“When did you two talk this over and decide I was the next Nancy Drew?”
“Before I called you,” Denis said, enough less drunk than we were to still be shamefaced. (We, more simply, were just shitfaced.)
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me this then? I’d have stayed home with Bunnywit and eaten flies. Forget it. I’ve got my new career all mapped out. AAAAAlthea. Poetic but lusty. By the minute, hour or week. Anything you want. How’s that sound?”
“It sounds stupid. These days you gotta have a dungeon and six thousand dollars’ worth of video equipment just to turn a trick. And besides, Althea? Really. Why don’t you just use your own . . . shit, no way you’re distracting me. You need a source of income, if only to pay me back the big bucks you owe me. Not that I’d be crass enough to mention that as a way of trying to influence you.”
Hep then named an hourly rate which made even my over-inflatedly self-indulgent subconscious blink, and between the emotional blackmail of being reminded how much I owed Denis, the memory of my empty cupboard, evocations of the pitiful dead kid, and greed, I was persuaded — provisionally, with confirmation to be given once I sobered up — to give up my career as a hooker and become a detective.