Page 4 of 7
She went on like this until the night when a muscular security guard stopped his van in front of her. She hopped in, and they drove to a spot he said he knew.
After their date, when she was putting her pants back on, the man pulled out his black .357, held it to her head and started punching her. He snatched back his money, grabbed her wallet and said, "I got your ID. If you tell the police about this, I'll come around and kill you."
When he drove off, she started walking back to the trucks. She was bloody, and her clothes were torn. A passer-by picked her up. He wanted to take her to the emergency room or call the police. "No," she remembers saying, "Don't call the cops. Just take me back up to the avenue."
Most of the Northeast's streetwalkers won't report crimes against them for fear of getting in trouble or being harassed. They'd rather nurse their black eyes and fat lips, self-medicate with crack and MD 20/20, and spread the word about the violent johns.
But dates mean dope. Three weeks after the .357 was pressed against her head, Darlene was back eyeing cars at Admiral and Lydia. If violent men with loaded weapons couldn't keep her off the corners, how could SOAP and SODA do any better?
Most working girls deal with the threat of imprisonment the way clock punchers put up with an annoying co-worker or a long commute.
Near the corner of Wabash and Amie is another one of Darlene's landmarks.
"Down there is where they line girls up when they do a sting," she says, pointing down Amie Street. Last November, she was one of the women arrested. After she got in a fight with her husband, Ray (an out-of-work ex-con who relies on Darlene to keep them in food and cigarettes), she hit the street to get crack money — and violated her rule about tricking with strangers.
The undercover cop was a fine-looking man with gold on every finger. Around his neck was a thick gold chain with a gold dollar-sign medallion. He was built, Darlene recalls, "like a brick shithouse." With looks like those, he had busted 12 girls in 45 minutes.
Sitting on the curb with the plastic handcuffs on tight, Darlene heard one of the girls talking. "She goes, 'I been out here about a week now. I'm tired and I'm hungry. I told this brother I'd fuck him for nothing.'" The girl said she figured he was a cop.
Sometimes jail is a vacation — three hots and a cot. But when police bring streetwalkers to the station, jail time isn't guaranteed. More often, women are arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing, possession of a crack pipe or jaywalking, which are city-ordinance violations and equivalent to traffic tickets. With only 250 beds in the municipal lockup — and police prioritizing violent crimes — women who do spend the night in jail are usually back on the street and doing their thing the next morning.
Most of the time, it looks like they're just hanging out, and hanging out isn't illegal. If it's hot or if she's tired, Darlene will sometimes drag a lawn chair to the sidewalk and wait for dates. The cops can stop and question women who seem suspicious to them, but in the absence of tools like SOAP and SODA, law enforcement amounts to chasing women from street to street.