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News & Features » July 2013 » “The Treasure Chest” by Sofia Quintero

“The Treasure Chest” by Sofia Quintero

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Sofia Quintero takes us to the Treasure Chest in Hunts Point, Bronx, New York. Next week, Marcelle Thiébaux brings us to Jersey City, Christmas, 1937. Headshot - Red BC - 2012

The Treasure Chest
by Sofia Quintero
Hunts Point, Bronx, New York, United States

Giselle slid in her green contact lenses before slipping out the back door and tottering in her stilettos across the parking lot to Chief’s car. When she opened the passenger door, she was greeted with the smoke of his nasty cigarette and a bouquet of blue hydrangeas. “For me?” She picked them up off the seat, eased into their place, and leaned over to plant a kiss on Chief’s cheek.

“You were especially good tonight,” he said as he put out his cigarette. “Who was that song by?”

“Santana.” Of course, he was too young to know it. “Carlos Santana.”

“I liked it a lot.” He hummed the melody. “Black magic woman . . .

Shut up. Giselle forced a grin. Just shut the fuck up. She looked as the sun set behind the Bruckner Expressway, a stream of trucks chugging forward in the evening rush. Soon someone inside the club would switch on that stupid neon sign: a wooden chest with a lid that popped open to reveal a bikini-clad blonde. Giselle’s next order of business would be to tear that shit down.

When Club Eleven fell, Giselle went back to dancing and waited a month for Chief to show up at the Treasure Chest. She recognized him—even without his suit and glasses—from his photo in the papers. Councilman Ortega’s right hand. The guy who played Petey Patron to gather information for the councilman’s crusade against Hunts Point’s jiggle joints, never informing his boss that he got his intel by romancing naïve strippers.

Giselle placed her hand on Chief’s knee. “So what else do you have for me?”

“I overheard the councilman talking to the precinct commander,” he said. “They’re raiding your club on Thursday.”

Her chest tightened. “On what grounds?” Giselle spent months and thousands of dollars cleaning up Harold’s mess. Fired all the chicks selling happy endings. Paid goons to “encourage” undesirable clients to seek thrills elsewhere. Balanced the books and fixed the health code violations.

“Babe, I don’t know, I swear.”

She had to play this right. “Sweet boy.” She reached up to stroke his cheek. “It’s OK.”

“Call out that night.” Then he laughed. “Do strippers get sick days? Maybe they’re nailing you on worker’s comp.”

Giselle dropped her hand, squelching the impulse to backslap him. Just when she had saved enough to buy out Harold to become the only female owner in the district, Ortega was elected on this “road to respectability” platform. He vowed to shut down every strip club in Hunts Point and was batting a thousand. Within a month, he got rid of Club Heat. A few weeks later, Platinum Pleasures went down.

A far better entrepreneur than Harold had ever been, Giselle hustled for the orphaned clientele, raiding her nest egg to organize and promote events. Stranded girls begged for work, but she only hired the one that would talk even though she danced like a newborn colt. Bettina told Giselle that a month before the El Coche raid, Chief had dropped in trying to make friends and influence people. He confessed to a thing for green-eyed brunettes and offered to help her. In exchange for Bettina’s company, he’d warn her about the impending raid and get her back on Straight Street once the dust settled. Bettina fell hard for the Pretty Woman bullshit, visualizing herself in designer clothes and business classes.

After the raid, Chief told her the councilman was grooming him to inherit his council seat when Ortega ran for Congress, and he couldn’t afford a wifey with a stripper past. He gave Bettina a few c-notes, kissed her on the cheek, and changed his cell phone number. A week later, the girl arrived at the Treasure Chest. When Giselle told the thirsty bitch to kick rocks, Bettina dropped to her knees. She’d do anything.

On Wednesday night, “anything” would mean ending up dead in Chief’s bed. Giselle was done catching the insubordinate bitch hooking on the premises. Her name wasn’t Madame Save-a-ho. She was a businesswoman. After two decades spinning from pole to pole across the Point, watching her tips shrink as her crow’s-feet stretched, suffering drunken truckers and baby gangsters, and ignoring the catty comments about her age from tight-bodied upstarts like Bettina, Giselle finally owned her own club.

She scooped up the bouquet and opened the car door. “Wait . . .” said Chief. “Where are you going?”

“One last dance, for old times’ sake.” Once inside her Treasure Chest, the hydrangeas would go straight into the garbage.

***

Determined to write edgy yet intelligent novels for women who love hip-hop even when hip-hop fails to love them in return, SOFIA QUINTERO wrote her debut novel Explicit Content (Penguin, 2004) under the pen name Black Artemis. She has since published three more novels including her award-winning YA debut Efrain’s Secret (Knopf, 2010.) Sofia is completing her next novel Show and Prove, and will be self-publishing a series of interactive fiction ebooks she calls “’choose your own adventure’ for grownups” this fall.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 29, 2013

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , ,



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