The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 8, Sgt. Whitford

“It’s Rhonda and quit trying to look like you don’t know what I am talking about. Why do you think I’ve been calling you Steve all this time? I may have fake tits and dance to pay my bills sweetie, but that does not make me stupid.” She forked another piece of Veal Picatta into her mouth as he stared dumbfounded, watching her red lips move and wriggle while she chewed.

They’d been together every moment other than work the last three or four days, more if you counted picking her up. Regrettably, embarrassingly, he hadn’t remembered her name and it appeared she’d known it all along. He’d even gone so far as to meet her at her work. While she was dancing, turning other men on with her gyrating, naked body, he was nonchalantly asking her name. Unfortunately, the name they’d all given him – Pinky, her stage name – was not the one he was looking for and he could not get a single soul to cough up another.

He threw in the towel after the second night. Instead, changing his tactic, he asked why they called her Pinky.

“You mean, you haven’t seen her floor show?” Some toothless wonder sitting in pervert’s row asked. A splotch of beer-sweat dribbling from his glass, adding to the already soiled Hooters-T stretched to its limit, in failed attempt to contain the overdeveloped beer gut peeking from the bottom, threatening escape. “Why, Pinky’s near famous!” He hadn’t any luck getting more from the guy and since the announcer called her name next, he settled in the front row – perverts row – to watch her show.

She was surprised to see him, to say the least. Not only there, in the club, but sitting so close as she knew he wasn’t all that keen on how she made her living. Even so, that only lasted a moment as the professionalism of an old-pro took over and she went about her business.

The first number was Journey’s, Don’t stop believing. He watched her strut, lip sync, swing around the pole and basically shake her scantily-clad assets in every face around the stage, including his own. When the song was over, she was still in her dancing bikini. It was the same one or near enough, as he’d witnessed her in on the night he’d picked her up. He honestly wasn’t a stripper kinda guy but had somehow found himself in this joint the night they’d met.

Hot Legs, by Rod Stewart, was next. This one turned up the heat a notch. Even if he were blind, he would’ve known it was getting steamy. As the audience of mainly males, with no more than a sprinkling of females other than the dancers, began cheering and whooping and winking and fist-pumping one another.

Pinky strut her stuff, commanding the stage, their undivided attention. She peeled her bra strap by strap, seducing, urging them to cheer, and let loose her massive tits for all to admire. She caught his eye, sauntered toward him and dropped to her knees. Draping her bra around his head, she pulled his face to her bountiful mounds. Though smothered, the eruption from the crowd was deafening, each calling out to be next and then the moans of frustration when they realized there would be no next.

On the third song and what he was soon to realize was her floor show number, Pinky pulled a soft, pink, fur-blanket from her personal tickle-trunk located behind the curtain and spread it out in front of him near the edge of the stage. Had he the inclination and the assurance from the gargantuan bouncers that they wouldn’t pummel him to ground-chuck, he could have reached out and touched her leg. Even more if she’d scooted her ass another inch or two closer.

Upon seeing the pink fur blanket, he figured he’d finally learned the history behind her stage-name. He could not have been more wrong.

To begin, she lies down on her back in front of him with her toes pointed at his face. Then, ever so slowly, she began to lift her legs up and up until they rolled over her head. With a smoothness only achieved with many years of practice, she peeled the g-string from her last bit of privacy, spreading her legs wide so he could see her everything. It was that precise moment he realized how she’d earned her name.

Scott kept his eyes locked with hers, convinced she was trying to embarrass him. Positive his face was far too heated to deviate from their wonder, to look upon the multitude of enthused men, the knowing women, cheering her on, extolling him as the luckiest bastard in the world. It took everything he had to remain seated. Annie Lenox sang Sweet Dreams in the periphery with everything else. All but the two of them.

Rhonda proceeding to do things to herself, unimaginable things, not four feet from his lustful, blushing face. He’d not even known they were allowed to do such things on stage and had gone as far as to make a mental note to check on it.

After the show, he went out to his car and waited for her to finish so he could drive her home. He watched her approach, illuminated by the near sunlit parking lot. He could tell by her determined walk and set lips that she was pissed with him – embarrassed and pissed.

“Why, thank you for trying to save me from certain humiliation and public disgrace – sir!” She said this while snuffing out her lipstick stained cigarette butt with her six-inch pump, stamping on it again and again to ensure it was dead. “But if I don’t dance, how am I supposed to eat and put a roof over my head?” She was still in her stripper attire, barely concealed by the tiny robe she wore over it and he had to admit – she looked pretty hot standing there, somewhat mad and all. But he was still unsure how he felt about sharing that sexy with all those other men. A feeling he found surprising – if he were honest with himself.

“You could get a different job,” he said, yet the second it came tumbling out of his mouth, he knew how lame it sounded.

“Oh, could I? Do you have any idea how many hours I would have to put in at minimum wage to cover what I make a week dancing?” He shook his head that he didn’t. “Well, neither do I and do you know why?” Again, he shook his head that he didn’t. “It’s because I can’t count that fucking high – that’s why!” She was pissed and had every right to be.

I knew she was a dancer from the start and yet I come waltzing in and ask her to stop and all because I’m embarrassed. They rode on in silence a full fifteen minutes or more, which could feel like hours if one person was steaming and the other was an ass.

“You could come and stay with me. I could take care of you.” Where the hell did that come from? he wondered, and yet he was okay with it. Kind of glad now that he’d said it. “That way the money wouldn’t be that important.” He kept driving, the silence becoming too quiet.

From the corner of his eye, he could see she was looking at him, that a tear was running the make-up down her cheek. She spoke softly, her head turned, looking out the side window. “You don’t even know my name. Why would you consider taking care of me?” And that, he’d had to admit, was quite a legitimate question.


That had been two nights ago and here they were at an Italian restaurant having dinner before she went in for her shift.

She stopped chewing and took a sip of her wine. “Well Scott? See, I know your name’s Scott. How can you be sure you want to take care of someone when you can’t even remember their name? I mean it’s certainly been fun over the last few days and the sex has been quite satisfying.” She gave him a wink. He smiled. “But you’re talking about me giving up my living and becoming entirely dependent on you. That’s a pretty big step – don’t you think? I mean, from the look of your apartment, you can hardly take care of yourself. No offence honey, I’m just stating the facts is all.”

“Rhonda—”

“Oh, it’s so romantic when you say it that way.” She teased.

He nodded, giving her the you got me look. “Go ahead, rub it in, I deserve it. But I do mean it.” He looked at her. She’d stopped chewing, sat frozen, staring at him, the fork in her right hand trembling faintly. He continued, “I’ll admit, I hadn’t even thought of it when the words came tumbling out – but now, after thinking on it, I know it’s the right thing. I feel it in my gut. You’re good for me and I think I can become the man I should be for you – Rhonda.” He smiled then added as if a confession as if she didn’t already know, “And yes, I was too embarrassed to tell you I hadn’t remembered your name. But I know one thing for sure, the only person I want calling you Pinky from now on is me and in the privacy of our own place. So what do you say? Instead of me dropping you at that scuzz-bar, why don’t I drive you home to our place and let you make sweet, wonderful love to me? Sound like a plan?”

She sat there, motionless, tears running freely now. He watched the dark make-up co-mingle, meander down her cheeks. She’d put her fork down some time ago. He realized he’d been holding his breath.

“Scotty…” she stopped, took a drink of water, “that is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” She stared at him, her head tilted. It seemed a long time. He tried to remember to breath. “Do you mean it? They’re not just words? You truly want to take care of me – to do this?” She pointed to each of them. “Together?”

It was his turn to get choked up. He took another sip of wine. Funny, he thought, these were actually the first drinks they’d had together since meeting. He’d not even bought any liquor since that night. He shook his head to refocus. “Yes honey, I want us to take care of each other.”

She wiped her eyes as best she could as to not ruin any more of her make-up than was necessary, smiled an apology to him. “Then let’s finish up here. I plan on setting some kind of record tonight. That, or have one hell of a time trying.”

He wasn’t stupid either and called for the check. He was taking his last swig of wine when his phone rang. He looked. It was the Lieutenant. Shit! Though they were at dinner, it was still early as she was supposed to be working tonight. She looked at him. He shrugged. “What am I supposed to do – I’m a cop.”

She smiled, stroked his free hand. “It’s okay. It’s your job. I understand.” Well, he could’ve been flattened with a feather. Lil had never understood the strange hours, the emergency calls. Come to think of it, neither had any other woman he’d ever dated. This might be the one after all.

He answered it on the third ring. “Sergeant Whitford.”

“Scotty, I need your eyes over at the Reichmann house yesterday, to check for clues. I think we might’ve missed something.”

“Lieutenant, I’ve been over every inch of the place. There’s no way we missed anything. Besides, Rhonda and I are out for dinner,” he winked, she returned it. “We’re heading back to our place for a romantic evening.”

“Rhonda? You mean the stripper? From the other morning?”

“No. I mean, yes – Rhonda – but no, not anymore.” He gave her hand a squeeze, she returned it, tears brimming, threatening to break free.

There was a pause then a sigh. “Look Scott, I’m sorry. Please apologize to her for me but I need you now. Besides, with your eyes you should be done within an hour or two, still plenty of time for your evening.” Silence.

He looked across the table and into her eyes. She blew him a kiss, nodding her okay to whatever it was he had to do then whispered, “I’ll wait for you at home. Your reward for a hard day’s work will be waiting when you arrive.” She licked her lips, flicked an enticing wink.

“Okay, but no more than two hours Sam. I’m clocking off in two hours, non-negotiable. What is it I’m looking for?”

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