Claire took the exit to Route One, Saugus which quickly went from two lanes to one before merging with Route One, South. The new right hand lane quickly became two lanes again and the change in speed mixed with the merging traffic on the busy off-ramp, and bumper to bumper traffic, was an experience in white knuckle driving. Claire, however, handled it beautifully as she laid on the horn and stomped on the gas, while the big V8 truck leapt forward causing others to simply back off. “Fuckers,” I heard her mumble under her breath.
Just as we merged with traffic I saw the newly refurbished sign of the Golden Banana, a traditional stopping place during my younger days on many trips to see the Red Sox play. The Golden Banana is a strip club, called more commonly in this day and age of political correctness, a gentlemen’s club. The place had been closed and rotting away to memories of days gone by for years, but recently had been renovated. I had not been in the place since my late twenties but knew when it reopened as they had hired an ex-guard from Portland, Maine’s reform school, Jake Simson. Jake and I had met years earlier when I had captured Jason Wambaugh trying to swim the river that separated the school grounds from interstate 295. Jake and I kept in touch for a while, meeting for drinks at Gritty’s in the Old Port section of Portland or sometimes Pat’s Pizza in Scarborough. I decided a conversation with Jake might give me some insight on the local cops and criminal elements in and around Boston; insight the local authorities might not provide.
“Claire there is a turnaround up ahead on the right to get you onto Route One North,” I said as I pointed to the turn off just coming into view.
“Sure,” she said. “But why are we heading back north?”
“I have an old acquaintance that is head of security up the road. I’d like to ask him about the local PD’s, who the local pimps are and where they recruit their girls.” She took the turn off and waited for the light to allow us to cross the two lanes of Route One South. When I saw the giant banana sign I said, “There it is, pull in at the Banana.”
“The strip joint? That’s where your friend works security?”
“Yeah, ever since they reopened. Ever been there?” I asked while a quick vision of Claire dancing around a poll slipped into my head. I decided if she had she would have more dollar bills then the US Treasury Department.
“Last year at Meagan’s bachelorette party, it was male review night. I’m no prude but some of the shit those women would do with the guys, was way friggin’ over the top.”
“They have a no touch policy so how bad could it have been?”
“No touch, fuck, they should have a no yank policy for ladies night.”
“Remind me never to try out for Chippendales.”
“Baby, don’t get me wrong, you look great, but these guys are ripped.”
“And to think I was just thinking how good you would look spinning around a pole. I was going to search on-line to have one installed at my apartment.”
She laughed and looked over at me as she put the truck in park, “That’s very sweet,” then her eyes narrowed, “I think.”
“It was meant as a compliment. The only women I have seen more beautiful then you are in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and they have the advantage of air brushing.”
She leaned in close and kissed me deep, her tongue gently exploring my own, and then she looked into my eyes, our noses almost touching, “I can’t wait to get to the hotel, this won’t take long will it?”
“I don’t think so but we need to wait here a minute so I can stand up.”
“You’re going into a strip joint so you should fit right in.”
We opened the door to a small room that separated the outside world from the inside world. The doors closed on the sunlit day making the foyer seem as dark as night before my eyes adjusted to the dim black lighting of the small room. To the right was a window where a scantily dressed blonde sat in a booth. Around the booth window were posters of coming attractions mostly former Playboy or Penthouse magazine models. A burly bouncer stood, arms crossed, in front of a set of double doors that entered into the main club.
I walked up to the window, nodded to Claire and said “Two please.”
“That will be twenty dollars,” she said with a pleasant smile as she inked up a stamp to mark my hand as a paid customer. I gave her a twenty and she stamped my and Claire’s hands. The stamp was a thumbs up sign that was only visible under a black light. As we approached the double doors, the bouncer nodded and opened one of them to let us in.
The room was dimly lit but our eyes had already adjusted to the light in the foyer. In my younger days the room would have been smoke filled but that was no longer allowed in bars nor, apparently, strips clubs. I did notice that it smelled a lot better than I remembered. The stage was the center of attraction, with its traditional pole, located in the center of a spacious room with 30 or so tables, with three or four high backed plush chairs around each. It was three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and the place was about a third full. To the left of the stage were two smaller round stages, each also with a pole and to the right a bar lined the wall.
The last girl had completed her routine and was walking off the stage carrying her discarded clothing along with a fist and garter full of money. The announcer began introducing the next dancer Lieutenant Lisa, who promptly came out in a cop’s uniform, but wearing shorts that no Lieutenant would ever get away with. She strutted over to the pole, smiled at those in the audience that sat on chairs pulled up to the stage and removed her hat and tossed it on the ground. Long black hair cascaded down around her face as she trussed it up, throwing her head back.
“Do you want to sit by the stage?” asked Claire. “There are a couple of empty chairs.”
“No, let’s find Jake,” I said though my eyes lingered on the stage for a moment longer as Lisa unbuttoned her shirt.
Behind the bar was an attractive petite Asian woman wearing a corset that barely kept her breast in check. “Can I get you something or would you prefer to have a seat and have one of the girls serve you?” she asked with a very nice smile.
“I would love an IPA if you have one on tap.”
“We have Stoner if that is ok?”
“That’s sounds great, the smallest size on that please.”
“Sixteen ounce glass, and you miss?” she asked looking over at Claire. Her eyes ran the length of Claire’s body as she spoke.
“A Samuel Adam’s will be fine,” said Claire returning the smile.
The bartender returned quickly with two frosty glasses handing one to each of us. “That will be fifteen dollars, would you like me to start a tab?”
“Yes, thank you,” answered Claire as she accepted the sweating frosted glass.
“You are very beautiful,” she said to Claire. “Amateur night is Wednesday night at eight. A five hundred dollar prize to the winner and a chance at a free professional photo shoot as a grand prize.”
“Really, how do you win the grand prize?” asked Claire as I almost choked on the first sip of beer at her response.
“Every ten weeks we have a dance off and the previous nine winners vie for the grand prize. The photographer is very good. We have two Penthouse models and one fashion model from last year’s competition.” She stepped from behind the bar and simply said, “Turn for me.”
Claire did exactly that turning slowly and running her hands through her hair as she did. “How’s that?”
“You could win this I think. Certainly the Wednesday night competition, well if you can dance. Ever dance on a pole before?”
“No, I haven’t,” she answered as she looked at the stage where the now completely nude Lieutenant was holding herself upside down by her legs from the pole. “Is it difficult?”
“No, it does take a certain amount of body strength, which you look like you have the muscle tone for, and a little practice.”
“Where would you practice pole dancing?”
“Here is my card,” she said as she gave her a black card with gold lettering. “I give lessons here every Saturday morning from eight to eleven. If you’re interested we could have you good enough for the amateur contest in four weeks or so. Seventy five dollars a session and my guess is you win the competition and you triple you investment.”
“Thank you,” Claire said as she slid the card in her back pocket. “I might just take you up on it.”
I took a long pull of my IPA as I tried to decide if the Asian bartender just had a hell of a marketing pitch or if Claire could actually win. Claire was looking at me with an incredible smile and I realized few women would stand a chance in hell of beating her.
“Miss is Jake Samson here?” I asked.
Her eyes opened as if she was afraid she might be in trouble as she answered, “Yes he’s in his office. May I ask why you want to see him?”
“I’m an old friend of his from Maine and heard he had landed a job here. Just want to say hello.”
“Oh,” she answered, clearly relieved. “Who should I say is asking for him?”
“Jack Chamberlain,” I answered.
“The Sherlock of Maine, Detective Jack Chamberlain?” she asked.
“Well the Sherlock is a bit of a stretch but yeah, that’s me.”
“Don’t be modest. He’s brilliant trust me,” said Claire as she wrapped her arm around me.
“I’ll go and tell him, just wait right here.” She went back behind the bar walking down its length and disappearing through a door at the other side of the room.
“Was that for real?” I asked Claire as she released her arm from me to take another sip of her now half empty beer.
“What, the pole dancing? You don’t think I could win?” She asked as she smiled, began turning and trussing up her hair as Lieutenant Lisa had done earlier.
“Actually I don’t think anyone else stands a chance against you. I’m just trying to understand if you’re really thinking about doing it.”
“Would you think less of me, like I was a tramp or something?”
“No, it’s just that I …” I looked over at the men gathered around the stage handing Lisa dollar bills and running their hands on her legs as she accepted them. “That’s just not a vision I would be comfortable with.”
“I see, guys copping a feel while I’m on stage?”
“Remember the last time that happened we got bounced out of a bar in the Old Port?”
She laughed and wrapped her arms around me and gave me a kiss on the lips. “How could I forget, Lancelot. As I recall you got bounced out, I just chose to go with you. Don’t worry I’m not entering any pole dancing competition. Not sure about the lesson though. A great way to stay in shape and be agile.”
The Asian bartender came over with two fresh beers and said, “Your tab has been paid. Mr. Samson’s office is through that door and he would be happy to say hello.”
“Thank you,” I said as I slid a twenty across the counter. “That’s for you,” I said which brought out a nice smile as she took it and placed it in her pocket.