Where on Earth is Greenville?

Part I

"That's a dead hooker, all right," Bart said as we stood over the partially pulled out drawer in the city morgue.

It was just one of the many moments that made me wonder why I had ever become a Vegas cop. I'm Edwoena Carrington, and I'm a vice cop in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was born and raised in this town, and still it never ceases to amaze me. It's one of the few places in the country where prostitution is completely overlooked, if you follow a few little rules. If you have a gentlemen's club and not a brothel, if you have health insurance and pay all the licensing fees, if you have clients that visit your club or take your girls out as escorts on dates, and if don't let your girls walk the streets at night, you can run a business with hookers. I figure that this is where the phrase "What happens in Vegas," came from.

I shouldn't complain, since my job on vice is relatively simple. I only have to make sure that the girls aren't breaking any of the little laws and rules. It's not like I have to arrest them for going to work or anything. The truth is, if I decided to get on my soap box about the topic, I would be laughed out of town. I mean, half the showgirls in town are hiring themselves out for nookie in one way or another, although mostly to find a rich husband that can keep them in boob jobs and diamonds. The problem is, as in the case that I was standing over at that moment, that some people have a problem with hookers. Some people come from out of town to make their point that they don't approve of working girls. Apparently, this latest unfan had a serious aversion to ladies of the night. Now, my job would be to protect the girls from the possibility that this person wasn't through making a point.

Some days I wonder why I didn't choose an easier path like becoming a Playboy Bunny or a showgirl on the strip. That way I could have earned my own diamonds and boob jobs. It was hard to see some of the crimes that went on in Vegas. There were some really disturbed visitors amongst the average tourists.

I knew why I had become a cop even though now it seemed like a stupid idea. I'd done it because I had this fantasy that it would allow me to figure out what happened to my dad. He'd disappeared when I was five, and no one had seen him since. He'd been associated with some unseemly characters that he worked with on the strip, so most people figured that he was living with the cactus somewhere in the desert. I have this personality flaw that makes me want to know the truth about everything. My mother doesn't share that trait, so she doesn't talk about much. That leaves me to go on quest after quest to figure out what went on in my life before I was old enough to follow.

Mom is a retired showgirl, who lives a very good life for someone who didn't accomplish all that much in life. I've often wondered where she really got all her money, not to mention the money that she'd spent on me. She'd put me through college and given me a villa (it was not a structure that you could just call a house) that rivals some of the celebrity homes in town. All mom would ever say was that dad left her in great shape and that I should not question it when my mother gives me a gift.

I stood and looked at the body on the slab. "Chenille," I snapped at Detective Bart Schulz, my ex-boyfriend and one of the biggest mistakes of my life so far. "She has a name, it's Chenille."

Bart was a good looking guy about six feet tall with brown hair and brown eyes. He had this way of softening his look enough to make women think he was sensitive. Eddie had decided long ago that the sensitive part was all a farce for picking up women. She was sure that Bart had no emotions except for anger and competition. He liked to win at things and he loved to bet. Eddie had often wondered how he'd managed to stay out of bankruptcy court in a town that had wall to wall casinos.

"Sorry, jeez," Bart snapped back. "I was just stating the facts. Chenille is currently a dead hooker."

I bit my lip to keep from getting sucked into a debate about Bart's lack of sensitivity, mainly because I knew he would like it. "I can see that." I turned my attention to the coroner that stood a couple of feet away. "Jose, do we have a time of death, a cause of death, or anything that might give us a lead on the person who inflicted the death?"

"Officer Carrington, I'm very sorry for your loss," Jose replied. "I didn't know you were friends."

"Chenille is an acquaintance. She worked for Madam Wu at her club. Now, what happened to her?"

"Well, she drowned. They found her in a dumpster behind Terrible's Casino. It appears that she died around midnight."

"It seems like a strange place to swim. Do we know anything else? Did anyone see her with someone? How was she discovered?"

"Reportedly, some of the staff was cleaning up the overnight buffet and discovered her. No one saw anything."

And no one in Vegas ever did. And that was the reason that I was going to make this my last case. It was true that I'd made friends with some of the girls over at Madame Wu's. My best friend was Helen/AKA Jasmine. Most of the girls didn't go by their real names. Chenille was one of the few that did, although I didn't know what kind of parent would name someone Chenille. Probably the kind that would let their girl become a hooker. Anyway, Helen and I had been working toward opening our own business and getting out of our current professions. We were just a couple of weeks away from earning our commercial pilot's licenses. We only had a few hours of flight time to log and the test to pass with the FAA instructor. We'd already done our cross country trips and were just waiting for our test appointments. We were going to open our own flight seeing service and leave the cop and hooker things behind. I couldn't wait. I really needed a change. Let's face it, I was never going to find out about my dad.

"Let me know if anything comes of the autopsy," I told Jose. I turned to Bart. "I hate to say anything nice to you, ever, but thanks for letting me know about Chenille. Promise you'll call me if you find out anything. It worries me when something bad happens to one of the girls or two. I worry that he's not done yet, like apparently this guy's not."

"What makes you so sure it was a he?" Bart asked. "Maybe it was someone's wife or something that had a problem with her man screwing around with a professional."

"I don't want a debate with you. I used a pronoun, sorry if I picked the wrong one for you. I have to go and tell Pia about this." I went to walk out and Bart followed me. "What?" I said turning on him.

"Are you sure you don't want me to do that?" Bart asked. "After all, this is the second one of these. She didn't take it too well when Queenie turned up by the dam a few weeks ago."

Queenie was another one of the girls at Madame Wu's. Pia Wu had been in this business for decades, ever since she'd come over here from Korea, but she always became animated when something bad happened. It was as though she truly didn't understand how controversial her business was. When I'd told her about Queenie's body having been found, strangled at a scenic overlook out by Hoover Dam, she'd asked me flat out who did it, as though I knew. Then when I explained the mystery of it all, she got really mad. I wasn't looking forward to telling her that another one of her girls had turned up dead.

"No, I'll handle Pia," I told Bart. "Besides, she doesn't like you."

"You know, I'm just trying to help!" Bart exclaimed. "I hate it when you pull this independent, ain't needin' nobody bullshit. Why don't you take a little help once in a while?"

"Look, I appreciate your trying to help. I really do. I am serious about Madame Wu not liking you. She did nothing but complain the whole time that we dated. I don't know why she doesn't like you, but she really doesn't."

"Maybe it's because she's a whore," Bart snapped. "I mean really, if this was any place else in the country, all those chicks would be in jail. At the very least, Pia would be out of business."

"There goes that sanctimonious attitude again," I snapped. I turned and walked to my car to get away from Bart and on with the disgusting tasks of my day, but he followed me. When I got to the car, I turned to face him. "Prostitution happens here. Deal with it. It's every woman's right what she does with her body. These girls sell it. That's their prerogative. Why can't you just accept that?" I got my key out and unlocked my car. I noticed Bart smiling at me. "What?"

"Why on Earth won't you get another car?" Bart groaned.

I took a long look at my lime green 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. Bart hated that car. I loved it. I particularly loved that I never lost it in a parking garage. It was the only car I had ever owned. I'd bought it with my first paycheck as a waitress over at the IHOP when I was eighteen years old. My mother had tried to buy me a car and Bart had tried for years to talk me into buying another car, but I wouldn't.

"This is the only thing that I own that I paid for with my own money. My mother has given me houses, vacations, school, and even utilities. She hates this car, because it shows my independence. If I ever give it up, she'll think she won. I'm keeping this until the day I die, or until the day mom dies. One of those. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go tell Pia that one of those, what did you call them, whores has been murdered. So, get your sanctimonious ass out of my way." I shoved him out of my way and climbed into my car, only regretting that it didn't come with air conditioning, so in the heat I would have to open my window for air and risk having to hear Bart talk again.

"Look, I'm sorry about the whore thing," Bart said. I should have driven away, but I always felt the need to hear him talk like a real person when he wanted to. "I can accept the fact that it's these women's choices, I just don't like it. I can't help it. I mean, I like Helen. She's cool and all. Look a woman's body should be worshipped, not exploited. Is that such a bad belief?"

"No, it just doesn't give you the right to tell everyone else what to do." I gave him a little smile as I threw the old Beetle into gear and took off.

Note: Yes, this is another version of Greenville. Let me know which one you like better. I'm trying to decide which format to edit. Thanks!