Imitation in Death:In Death 17

By: J. D. Robb


Summer of 2059 was a mean and murderous bitch who showed no sign of lightening her mood. September dragged in on the sweaty heels of August and smothered New York in a wet blanket of heat, humidity, and foul air.

Summer, Jacie Wooton thought, was killing business.

It was barely two A.M., prime time with the bars spitting out customers, and those customers looking for a little extra action before heading home. The heart of the night, as she liked to think of it, when those with a yen and the price to satisfy it came trolling for a companion.

She was licensed for street work, since she’d screwed herself up with a little illegals addiction and a couple of busts. But she was clean now, and intended to work her way back up the prostitution ladder until she was back on the arm of the rich and lonely.

But for now, she had to earn a goddamn living, and nobody wanted to have sex, and pay for it, in all this heat.

The fact that she’d seen only a couple of associates on the stroll in the last two hours told her there weren’t many willing to have sex and be paid for it in the current climate either.

But Jacie was a pro, had considered herself a complete professional since the night, more than twenty years ago, she’d put her first license to use.

She might sweat in the heat, but she didn’t wilt. Just as she’d cracked a bit under the probationary street license, but it didn’t break her.

She’d stay on her feet—or her knees or her back, depending on the client’s preference—and do the job.

Do the job, she told herself. Bank the pay, mark the time. And in a few months, she’d be back in a penthouse on Park where she belonged.

If the thought passed through her mind that she’d gotten a bit old and soft for street work, she blocked it out and focused on making one more score. Just one more score.

Besides, if she didn’t make that one more score tonight, she wasn’t going to have anything left over for body treatments after the rent. And she needed a tune-up.

Not that she wasn’t still choice, she told herself as she strolled by a lamppost in the three-block area she’d staked as her own in the bowels of the city. She kept in shape. Maybe she’d traded the Push for a bottle of vodka—and she could sure as hell use a drink right now—but she still looked good. Damn good.

And she was showing off the merchandise in a go-glo halter and crotch skirt, both pulsing red. Until she hit the body sculptor, she needed the halter to boost up her boobs. But her legs were still her best feature. Long and shapely, and given an erotic touch with the silver spike sandals with lattice straps that crossed to her knees.

They were fucking killing her as she walked the streets looking for one more job.

To give her feet a break, she leaned on the next lamppost, cocked out a hip, and scanned the all-but-deserted street out of tired brown eyes. She should’ve gone for the long silver wig, she told herself. Johns always went for hair. But she hadn’t been able to face the weight of a wig tonight, and had simply spiked up her own ink black, and given it a careless spray of silver netting.

A cab streamed by, and a couple of cars passed. Though she leaned over, gave them each the standard come-on, nobody so much as paused.

Ten more minutes and she’d call it a night. And she’d give the landlord a free blowjob if she was short on the rent.

She pushed off the post and began to walk, slowly on aching feet, in the direction of the one room she’d been reduced to. She remembered she’d once had a high-toned apartment on the Upper West Side, a closet full of beautiful clothes, and a full appointment book.

Illegals, as her counselor had told her, sent you into a downward spiral that often ended in miserable death.

She’d lived through it, Jacie thought, but she was right dead center of misery.

Six more months, she promised herself. And she’d be back on top again.

She saw him walking toward her. Rich, eccentric, and out of place—you didn’t see many guys wandering around this area done up in evening clothes. With a cape and top hat, no less. He carried a black satchel.

Jacie put on her game face, and slicked a hand down her hip. “Hey, baby. Since you’re all dressed up, why don’t we have a party?”

He smiled at her, a quick, appreciative smile that showed her a flash of white, even teeth. “What did you have in mind?”