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Later he apologized and explained himself to the crowd. "I have three young girls living in my house under the age of 10. They see the prostitutes walking by the window. I had to buy the house next door to get rid of the prostitutes."
Lots of people have stories like that. But while almost everyone in the neighborhood agrees that something needs to be done, they can't agree on what.
Until they do, women such as Darlene will keep working the streets, selling $5 blow jobs until they have $20 for a crack rock.
"As long as they're prostituting there on the corners every day," says Ron Heldstab, president of the Lykins Neighborhood Association, "slowly, through the years, we'll have a totally devastated area where nothing is left."
Darlene's tour of her own devastation begins at a grassy slope overlooking a field between U.S. Highway 71 and the Independence Avenue ramps. Little is here but netless soccer goals and human-sized sleeping spots cleared out of the hedge. Darlene makes a beeline for a wide stone stairway-to-nothing at the far edge, climbs halfway up and sits.
"This was my little getaway place," she says. "I'd smoke my shit and set back and watch the traffic."
She'd go here to get away from the life she was living just across Independence Avenue. In 2003, she slept and smoked under trucks in the yard behind the Royale Inn on Paseo. When the rain came, the addicts and sex workers who lived in the truck lot hung a blue tarp to stay dry.
Darlene's first trick was a three-way with a trucker. A friend invited her into the man's rig, which was bound for Nashville. Her pay was dope, hotel rooms and the promise of adventure. She was 32 at the time, which made her two decades older than most girls when they start.
She was raised Linda Darlene White, but almost no one calls her Linda, and White isn't her birth name. Though she mostly remembers the good times growing up, long-timers in the neighborhood say her mother worked the same streets that Darlene does now. By the time she was 10, Darlene and her siblings were moving in and out of foster homes. She dropped out of Hickman Mills High School when she got pregnant her junior year. She's 39 now and has lived in and around Kansas City for most of her life.
She came to prostitution late but arrived with a decade-long crack addiction. She was hard-bitten, headstrong, instinctive and only too willing to get into a scrap. "It's like this," she says, slipping into the third person, "Darlene is a soldier."
She has rules of engagement. "I never get high with none of my dates. If I'm gonna get in a vehicle, I only mess with the ones I know." And she avoids the police patrolling Independence Avenue. "I don't mess with the avenue. Period."
Those rules keep her safe. There's another rule that she says keeps her alive. "Out here, you can't show no emotions. Out here, if they see any kind of emotions, they'll be coming for you," she says.
Darlene walks along the high barbed-wire fence surrounding the truck lot, to the corner of Lydia and Admiral. There, between a motel and a mosque, she turned her first few nervous tricks.
Then life started to take on a new rhythm. She'd binge and hook for four weeks without sleep, then return, bedraggled, to sleep. She was carless, jobless and homeless; Darlene's four children were living with her fourth foster mother. But as long as she had crack, life was OK.