"The Contest"


by DL, illustration by LikeStatue

(Spelling tweaks & cleanup by Dmuk)

"So what's all the commotion about tonight?" Ashley asked from behind the bar.  She handed the pretty blonde on the opposite side a bottle of spring water; looking a bit puzzled.

"You mean you don't know?!"

"No.  Should I?"

"Oh, girl.  It's like, only the biggest night of the year!  Mr. Preston's coming in tonight!" She paused to take a sip of water and replaced the cap.  "He's making his yearly choice... tonight."

"Who's Mr. Preston?"

"Like duh, one a' the richest guys in the whole friggin' countryAnd the man who can rescue me from all this for good!"

"Huh?" The sexy female bartender was even more confused.  "Rescue you?  What are you talkin' about, Ginger?"

The statuesque blonde leaned in close to the bar and gently touched Ashley's arm.  The gesture nearly caused her d-cup breasts to spill out of the tight bustier that was purposely adjusted to expose as much cleavage as possible.  "Mr. Preston owns one the largest modeling agencies on the West coast.  He comes here once a year and chooses the dancer who impresses him most, then gives her a job with his agency.  Last year it was 'Peaches'.  We hear she got a helluva sign-on bonus, and he swept her off to California that very night!  We haven't actually seen her since, but the postcard we got said she was traveling to fashion shows in Paris or someplace; livin' large.  I can't believe you never heard about it!"

"She's never called or anything?"

Ginger gave Ashley an 'oh please' look.  "If you were rich and traveling round the globe, would you?" 

"Yeah, guess not... But wow!  From a titty bar to Paris..."

"Gentleman's club," Ginger politely corrected.

"Sorry, no offense." Ashley apologized.  "But you know what I mean."

"None taken.  But this ain't your average dive, you'll have to admit."

Ashley nodded in agreement.  She looked around the club, taking in the ornate furnishings and she recalled the many "high rollers" and area dignitaries, not to mention the recognizable politicians who had frequented her bar alone in just the past few weeks.  She also knew the exotic dancers hired here had to meet a standard far and beyond those of similar establishments.  All of the women employed, including herself, were extremely gorgeous and could rival some supermodels.  But somehow they had maintained that "girl-next-door" look as well.  The owners insisted upon only the best with strict, strenuous, auditions preceding any dancer's employment.  This was definitely not a club where you would find your everyday skanks.  The performers weren't even allowed to have any cosmetic surgery or enhancements.  Only natural breasts and obscure, tasteful tattoos or piercings would be seen.  Exposed skin however, was another story.  Full nudity was the norm.  

"How long've you been workin' here, honey?" 

"About three months." Ashley seemed almost ashamed of the fact.

"I think you should give up this bartendin' gig and come up on stage with us.  It pays a whole lot better." The experienced dancer looked Ashley over.  "You've certainly got the body for it."

"Jake's pestered me about it ever since I walked through the door, but that's not me." 

"Jake." The blonde rolled her eyes.  "He ain't much of a manager, but for once I'll agree with the old perv.  You'd be a hit, sweetie.  You should think about it."

"Uhn, uh." She shook her head.  "My God, my parents would kill me if they even knew I tended bar here," she blushed.  "I'm just tryin' to make a few extra bucks for school, and that's it.  The sooner I’m outta here, the better."

Ashley remained quiet as Ginger's blue eyes swept up and down her curvaceous body once again.  The older girl's gaze became a bit more than an objective appraisal and it freaked the bartender out a little.  She'd always had a suspicion that Ginger could go both ways and the thought didn't interest Ashley in the least, so she finally broke the awkward silence.  "I just wouldn't be comfortable."

"Why?  Because you'd be naked?"  Ginger smiled.  "Take a look at yourself.  It's not like you're far from it, now."

Ashley looked down at the purple halter-top and black "booty" shorts that she wore.  The letters of the club's name and logo were stretched tightly across her plump breasts, while the dangerously short shorts barely covered her shapely backside.  She knew Ginger had a point, but although the fabric was sparse, it did separate her from the women who strutted on stage each night.  Not that Ashley thought she was better in any way, but her conservative mid-western upbringing and modest personality just wouldn't allow her to join their ranks.

"Yeah, well, maybe someday," she fibbed just to end the conversation.

The attention of the attractive pair was suddenly drawn to the squeaky rumble of caster wheels being pushed across the polished hardwood floor.  Two men, wearing coveralls, were heaving against an elevated circular platform that was surrounded with curving polished brass bars resembling a giant birdcage.  Two additional men, in Armani business suits, flanked the workers and reminded Ashley of characters who'd stepped out of an old-school gangster flick.  Pressing onward past the pretty womens' positions at the bar, the imposing visitors did little to distract the cleaning crew and other diligent workers who scurried about, preparing the club for their distinguished guest's arrival.

"What's with that?"  Ashley cocked an eyebrow as the men maneuvered the odd platform into the separate V.I.P. section at the back of the club.

"Oh, that's Mr. Preston's private stage.  "That'll be where we all dance before the night's over.  Then after closing... he'll make his choice."

"He brings his own stage?"

"Insists upon it.  You'll see." Ginger took another slug of water.  "He gets his own special bartender, his own bouncer; everything.  He has the run of the club.  He's kinda demanding, but when he passes out hundred dollar bills like kleenex you can sorta overlook that."

"Wow!" Ashley shook her head again in amazement.  "I guess money can get you most anything you want."

"Yep, and I want some of it!" The busty blonde beamed with anticipation.  "No.  Make that a lot of it!"  

The two shared a giggle, as Ginger glanced up at the neon-lit beer clock above the mirrored bar.  "Well, catch ya' later Ash.  "Gotta' go get ready." Fluttering her long manicured fingers in a lazy wave, she headed for the dressing room. 

"Good luck..."

"Thanks, hon. I’ve really got a good feelin' about tonight..." The leggy blonde's voice trailed as she made her way across the still mostly empty room.  Ashley returned the wave just before the click-clack of the other woman's high heels faded, and then Ginger disappeared behind the dressing room curtain. 

Returning her attention to the strange flurry of activity that abounded everywhere inside the ritzy club, Ashley saw an inviting, handsome, sight approaching from the corner of her eye.  It was Kevin.  He was also a college student and had bounced here since his junior year.  His dark hair was cropped closely and the tight-fitting muscle shirt and faded Levis hugged his sculpted, masculine body to perfection.  The toned muscles of the young man's broad chest and arms not only deterred would-be gropers in the audience, they struck up feelings inside the lovely brunette bartender that she hadn't felt with anyone in quite a long time.  To Ashley, Kevin looked like he'd stepped right off the pages of a magazine. 

"Hey, Gorgeous."

"Hi." Ashley purred.  "How are you?"

"Great!  You?" 

"Good." She felt her face getting warm.  "Even better since last night.  I really had a good time."

"Me too..."

"Hey, Kevin." A male voice interrupted from behind.

Kevin moved aside to make way for Jake as he stepped closer to the bar.  "I need to talk to you for a couple minutes right now, if you can come to my office." 

"Sure, Boss." Kevin winked at Ashley and stood from the barstool.  "Be right there."

Jake Holloway was the nervous sort as it was, but this evening he seemed especially on edge.  The man was about forty-five, Ashley surmised, and not what most women would consider attractive.  In appearance he fit the part of his chosen profession, dressed in a flashy polyester leisure suit that was several decades out of fashion and a sport shirt open at the collar.  A gold chain circled his pudgy neck. He was also the stereotypical middle-aged man; still trying to hang on to whatever fading youth he had left while slowly losing the battle.  Jake was dwarfed by the younger, more handsome man at his side and he fidgeted a bit before finally speaking to Ashley. 

As much of a lady's man as he might have pretended to be, Jake was actually kind of shy when it came to beautiful women.  The young bartender thought it was odd for the manager of a nude nightclub to be plagued with such a phobia, but at least he wasn't the groping, "touchy-feely" type like other men she'd worked for. 

Ashley also recognized that Jake was dressed a bit nicer tonight.  The suit that he wore on this particular evening was noticeably newer, and in fact much classier than his regular attire which usually consisted of clothing several years old and bursting at the seems from the denial of his own weight gain.  Jake was a bit of a nerd, but all in all, he wasn't a bad guy to work for.  He was distantly pleasant most of the time, and he paid his help very well.  That was the main reason the club attracted so many young women from the nearby campus to tend bar and to grace the stages.    

"It's kind of important, if you have a minute,” the manager politely urged his employee.

"Okay.  Let's go." Kevin left the bar without another word and in a moment the two men disappeared behind the closed door of Jake's office... 


Nearly three hours had now passed since Ashley learned about the events that were to unfold this evening.  The show room had eventually filled with customers, many of them regulars, but it was still rather slow for a Friday night and she wondered when their illustrious guest would arrive.  Tips had also been sparse so far, and as she watched the other beautiful dancers filtering on and off stage with wads of cash tucked neatly beneath their garters, she wondered if Ginger might have had a point.  No, I just couldn't... 

The night seemed to drag on and on.  The pulsating disco and hip-hop tunes were pounding in Ashley's ears and she felt like a headache was coming on for sure. 

Then, at nearly 10:30, she finally saw what she could only assume to be the infamous Mr. Preston arriving with his entourage.  He was not what Ashley had expected at all from what she had seen of his associates.  The wealthy man was tall, distinguished, and handsome; he appeared to be only in his late thirties or early forties.  He plainly stood out from the other men in business suits and the one sleekly attractive oriental woman, dressed to the nines, who accompanied him.  His sheer appearance alone commanded respect.

Ashley watched him as he approached like visiting royalty.  He glanced around the club at the locals, the young men celebrating a raucous bachelor's party.  His gaze shifted to the center of the large room where the elaborate marble and mahogany stage was filled sexy, exotic women, flanked with cheering customers all too happy to reward the women with bills in any place on their costume that the beauties were willing to allow them. 

The strobe lights seemed to flash in conjunction with the music as imitation smoke rose from hidden orifices at the edges of the "T" shaped raised stage.  The faux vapor mixed real smoke from the many burning cigarettes in the room, twisting and swirling mysteriously in the ever-changing colored lighting.  

Preston didn't seem to notice Ashley as she stood quietly behind one of the two large and ornate bars that were located on either side of the room; his attention was drawn momentarily to a lovely lithe Asian beauty who had climbed nearly ceiling high on one the stage's many brass polls.  Skillfully, she slid downward in an inverted position.  Her long, muscular legs were milky white and they hugged the pole in the seductive manner that a woman would wrap herself around a lover.  Her free hand caressed her modest breasts as she spiraled down. Preston however, watching almost clinically, did not seem impressed and pushed onward. 

Jake looked like he was on pins and needles when he saw that Mr. Preston had arrived.  He rushed forward to greet the group near the entrance, and quickly shuttled them away to the reserved V.I.P. section, the private room where by now the man's personal stage had been assembled and adjusted precisely by the workmen who were long gone.  Only the two nattily suited men had stayed behind, guarding the entrance to the room like soldiers on post. 

Once the party was seated, Jake returned to the main showroom and approached Ashley with determination.  "Hey Ash, I'm gonna have someone fill in for you here.  I need you to cover the V.I.P. bar the rest of the evening, for our special guest."

"Sure." she shrugged.  "Maybe it'll pay a little better.  Tonight's sucked so far."

"Just be nice to the gentlemen and give them whatever they want, no questions,” the manager instructed.  "No rails, only top of the line liquors and double shots in the mixed drinks.  Oh, and no domestic beers, either.  Got it?"

"Got it, Chief."  Ashley smiled and gave the man a sarcastic military salute as she turned to close out her register and headed to her special assignment.

Once inside the room with Mr. Preston and the others, Ashley took the groups' order and promptly made their drinks, pouring the expensive, imported beers to perfection.  Kevin stood with arms crossed on the opposite side of the private lounge and the two shared an occasional brief glance, but neither he nor Ashley wanted to make their affection for each other too obvious. 

All the guests' attention, as well as Ashley’s, was soon drawn to the curtain as Amanda sauntered forward to be the first performer of the night.  She was a petite, chestnut haired beauty with moderate breasts and the toned thighs of a track star.  The lower portion of her legs were concealed inside the black, thigh-high boots that were laced up tightly to a point just below here knees; a skimpy green corset and g-string were the only other garments that separated her from nakedness.  After she had entered the cage however, those garments didn't remain in place for very long.  Her dance was not perfect, but Ashley thought that Amanda had done a good job.  Would she be Preston's choice?  Who knew?  There were many more to go...

Song after song, dancer after dancer, each performer made their way onto his private stage.  One by one, they all tried to give the exhibitions of their erotic careers in hopes of catching the rich man's eye.  The girls ranged from tall to short, thin to full-figured, with every skin color and many diverse nationalities represented as the night droned on.  Their respective costumes also varied in nature from traditional negligee themes with fishnets and garters, to naughty female cops, to construction workers clad in hardhats and boots. But none of these beautiful women seemed to faze Mr. Preston in the least.  Blondes, brunettes and redheads had all passed in front of him, all revealing their finest attributes, but he remained as stone-faced as a statue; never cracking the first smile until he took the last sip of his neat bourbon and glanced in Ashley's direction.  She quickly reached for the half-gallon of Maker's Mark and returned his pleasant look.  To her surprise he placed his hand over the glass.

"Pasion Azteca, please." It was the first time Ashley had heard the man speak all night. 

She gave him a puzzled look, as the extremely expensive tequila was not something that was normally served even in this upper-class establishment.  "I'm not sure if we have..."

"Top shelf," he gestured, with a glance to the bar.

Ashley turned and examined the dusty bottles that lined the highest shelf behind the bar and did indeed locate a small bottle of the prime liquor that the man requested.  She thought it was odd with all the cleaning and preparations earlier that no one had bothered to even dust the bar in the area that the rich man had reserved.  "Coming right up, Sir."

Although Ashley was almost five-ten and wore four-inch heels, the shelf was still out of reach and she had to stand on tip-toe to reach the elusive bottle.  She didn't realize that Preston was watching appreciatively as she stretched her shapely body upon a step-stool to retrieve the potent alcohol.  When she did, the cheeks of her perfect ass snuck out from under her black shorts and the small tattoo on her lower back played peek-a-boo with the only man she'd met who could afford such an exotic and expensive beverage.

When she stepped down, her boobs jiggled a bit and she filled the shot glass double before leaning forward to pass it to the wealthy customer.

"What's your name, dear?" Mr. Preston fondled the glass with his fingers and seemed to savor the sweet aroma of its contents before swishing it around, then downing it in one tossed-back gulp.


"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Ashley."  He grinned almost boyishly as he slipped a one hundred bill across the table and towards her.  "Thank you for the drink."

"Thank you, sir!" It looked like her night of poor tips was over.  Hell, this made up for the whole thing!  "Another?"

He complied by sliding his empty glass forward... "Just leave the bottle."

When it was finally time for Ginger to strut her stuff, Ashley was nearly five hundred dollars richer and she'd had time to check out this special stage, or cage as it were, of Preston's.  The base was evidently hollow, concealing some machinery attached to an internal platform that was remotely operated, giving the person in control the option of elevating the dancer inside several feet above the tables where the men and beautiful woman were seated.  Built-in colored lighting also surrounded the lower portion; this seemed to change with a mysterious smoothness as each contestant graced the small dais.

Ashley winked at her friend as the music pumped and Ginger was raised within the small enclosure.  The sultry blonde was dressed in a see-through halter-top and a black leather skirt that might have been more accurately described as a ‘wide belt'.  Her bountiful breasts were pressed tightly against the fabric of her top and her flared hips turned into shapely legs that trailed beautifully downward into the six-inch platform heels that she danced upon with grace. 

Ashley thought that Ginger looked beautiful.  She might have well been right about her lucky feeling as she appeared to be the woman of the evening when compared to the other twenty-plus woman who had danced before her.  The two friends shared another glancing smile just before Ashley looked back at Mr. Preston to see his reaction.  He seemed to pay little, or no attention to the sexy woman twisting and gyrating in the cage in front of him.  Instead, he was staring straight at her!

What was with this guy?!  Why's he gawking at me?  Ashley knew she hadn't done anything wrong; or at least she hoped she hadn't.  But with some eccentric fuck like him, who knows?... I hope I don't get fired...

Ginger's dance ended just as all the others had.  The leggy blonde left the stage much richer than she'd arrived, but as far as Ashley was concerned none of the women who had strived so hard for the man's attention truly achieved it.  Maybe she was reading him wrong, but the only thing he really seemed interested in was her.  His steely blue eyes had begun to follow her every move.  It was getting a little too weird. 

Ashley tried to go about some busy work, and began wiping down the bar for about the tenth time in only a few minutes, but the distraction was useless.  Every time she looked up, those piercing blue eyes of Preston's were still there.   

Closing time was quickly approaching.  Just before 2:00 AM, the last of the club's gorgeous dancers completed her routine and stepped down from the private stage.  Immediately, Ashley noticed Mr. Preston summoning Jake.  The all too eager to please manager rushed forward and leaned down to the rich man, but not until the gesture to come closer was certain.  She could tell Mr. Preston was whispering something into Jake's ear, but the conversation was inaudible above the straining, thumping bass of the disco tune the DJ had just spun.  Ashley couldn't help but be curious.  Was he was telling him who his choice was? 

The shake of Jake's head however, revealed an obvious negative response to whatever the man had said, and then she saw her boss shrug.  Preston frowned, speaking forcefully.  Jake looked crushed.  Finally she was able to read his lips enough to translate the words "I'll try." Mr. Preston's stern expression however, suggested that he do much better than that...


Jake disappeared for a few minutes but when he returned, he approached Ashley and anxiously pulled her aside, ushering her into his office.  He closed the door to the tiny, cluttered room and gestured toward a seat.  Accepting his offer, she relaxed in the cool leather chair in front of his desk.  Jake however, remained standing and addressed her.  "Ashley, honey," he began to look even more nervously than usual.  "Mr. Preston has made a special request."

"So, what's new?"

Jake acknowledged her sarcasm with a smirk.  "Well, this request is a little different, and it involves you."

"Me?  I knew it!" Her tone became defensive.  "Did I do something wrong?  I mean, I kept their drinks full all night; did everything they asked for."

"Oh, I know; good work.  He was very impressed with you; more than you realize.  You did a great job tonight, but your bartending skills aren't what I'm getting at."

"Then what are you getting at?" Her face twisted a bit in confusion as she sat forward in the chair, uncrossing her legs.

"Well, I know we've been over this before," Jake paused to select the perfect words.  "And, I also know how you feel about it... but Mr. Preston was so taken by you that um, he's requesting that you ah, dance for him." 

"What?!" She scowled.  "You mean...?" 


"No, Jake.  How many times have I gotta tell you?  I'm not dancing."

"But, kiddo.  He's a very respected man, probably our wealthiest client.  I wish you would consider it; just this once.  It would be a HUGE personal favor to me!"  He looked like he was ready to fall to his knees and beg.  "Please... I don't want to deny his request.  I can’t." 

"Jake, read my lips." She was now on her feet and pronounced the letters "N - O" instead of repeating the word.

"Please, Ashley...?" He was interrupted by the stop sign that her opened palm represented.

"Jake, I'm gettin' ready to walk out this fuckin' door for good.  If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times that I'm not getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers.  That also goes for strange rich guys who think they can have anything and anyone they want!" 

"But..."  Jake's pitiful attempt to convince her was interrupted once again as the door to the small office squeaked open.  The infamous Mr. Preston stood in the opening, without his entourage for the first time since he had arrived. 

"Hello again, Ashley."  His voice was smooth and professional.

"Hello, Mr. Preston," she replied without a smile.

"David.  Please, you should use my first name.  Did Mr. Holloway here relay my request?" He asked as he re-secured the door; blocking out the noise from beyond.

"Yes sir, and I'm sorry, but the answer is no.  I'm a bartender; not a dancer."

Jake hung his head as if Ashley's rejection of the man's request was equivalent to signing his death warrant.

"And an excellent bartender you are," Preston smiled.  "But for a woman as beautiful as yourself, why - - "

"Mr. Preston; Jake." She addressed both the men.  "With all due respect, I'm not stepping onto your stage or any other to strip.  I'm not a piece of meat to be objectified.  I wouldn't even be working here if I didn't need the money."

"I can appreciate that." Preston countered.  "But this is an opportunity that could open a lot of doors for an ambitious young woman such as yourself." 

"Oh, I'm sure..." The sarcasm was thick in her soft voice.  "But some doors, sir, are best left closed. Even yours."

"I'm sorry you feel that way.  I'm very disappointed."

"What about your ah, 'choice' or whatever you call it?  I'm sure she'll be glad to dance for you.  I know my friend Ginger wou..."

"Ashley, you are my choice."  Preston leveled his eyes at the bold young woman.  He seemed to be sizing her up.  His look was a mixture of lust and the appreciation one would display in examining, then admiring, a fine piece of art.   

She didn't quite know what to say.  She was angered by the lewd request, but at the same time she couldn't help but feel a little bit honored that she'd been chosen for such a prestigious position.  She knew the other girls backstage would eagerly jump at the opportunity.

Preston hadn’t given up yet.  "How much would it cost to persuade you?" His tone had turned smug and arrogant; it infuriated her.  The initial intrigue quickly faded.

"Again, no disrespect, sir," Her eyes now flashed with anger.  "Your money might be able to buy a lotta' things, but I'm not for sale!  I do have morals, you know."

"Of course you do, my dear.  I'm not questioning your values whatsoever, simply finding the appropriate terms."  The distinguished man fell silent for a moment and rubbed his chin as he contemplated the remaining obstacle between himself and ultimate satisfaction.  Subsequently, a smile crossed his face. 

"Ashley?  Do you ever dance in private?"

She blushed a little before answering.  "Well, I ah, yeah, sometimes at home when nobody's watching.  But it’s not like..."

"What if," he cut her off, "we waited until after closing time?  There'd be no one else around except for me, Mr. Holloway and one of the bouncers... For your protection, of course."

"No." She folded her arms in determination.  She wasn't budging from her position.

"Let me finish, Ashley, before you decide," his tone remained firm but offering.  "You wouldn't have to be naked and I'd be willing to pay you, say, ten thousand dollars cash if you'd agree to dance to only one song."

"Ten THOUSAND dollars?" She laughed with disbelief.  "Why?"

"Because you're the most beautiful, sensuous and exciting woman that I've met tonight."

"Well thank you, sir.  I'm flattered.  But you'd really pay me ten grand just to dance for you... no shit?"

"No shit."  His smile turned mischievous, but the determination in his handsome features said he wasn't kidding.

"And I wouldn't have to be naked?"  It was more of an accusation on her part than a question.

"No.  A bit of your lovely skin to make it worth my while would be nice, but no, nudity isn't necessary."

"Not even topless?"


"Can I have a few minutes to think about it?"

"Take as long as you'd like.  But it sounds like you could use the money," he nailed down his argument.  "You said you were only working here for extra cash." 

"Hmmph!  Guess you got me there," she conceded with a suspicious smile.  "But still... I don't know."

The rich man could see the wheels turning inside her pretty head, and he knew that she would soon be his latest acquisition.  He was used to getting what he wanted and he'd learned how play these games with skill.

"One dance?  With nobody else around, huh?"

"No, dear.  I'd actually prefer it that way myself."

"Come on, Ash." Jake urged her.  He had continued to nudge her and grit his teeth in encouragement throughout the entire conversation.  "I'll give you some paid time off, a raise; whatever you want, kid.  We just like to make Mr. Preston happy... Come on...!"

"Call me Dave, please," Preston interjected, soothing the young woman further.  His narrowed eyes told Jake to shut up.  "No need for all this formality.  Wha'dya say?"

Ashley took a deep breath and stared at the floor, then the ceiling.  The decision she knew she had to make tore at her gut.  "Nobody'll know, right?"

"Nobody besides you, me, Mr. Holloway here and the bouncer.  Look, Ashley," he went on.  "You don't even like working here right?"

"Hell, no!"

Jake glared at her in disgust at the negative response, but held his tongue.

"Well just think," Preston went on, "after only one dance... a quick three minute song... you won't have to anymore.  You'll have secured a lasting position with my agency and money will no longer be of concern to you."

"I appreciate it, Mr. Preston, err ah Dave, but I don't have any interest in a position with your agency.  I'm majoring in nursing; that's what I wanna do."

"Fine," he reassured her, holding up his hands to concede.  "I promise that you'll have no obligations after tonight.  But a nursing degree costs a lot; I’d imagine.  How long would it take to earn that much money, just tending bar?  Think of the things you could do instead."

It was so tempting!  He was reeling Ashley in more and more by the minute.  I could just concentrate on school if I did this, she mused.  And Mom and Dad'll never know... I might feel like a slut in the morning, but I'll be a rich slut...

Then an even more devious thought entered her mind.  Suddenly she realized that she was in control here.  Mr. Preston might be all rich and powerful, but it was apparent that she had something that he wanted, and if he wanted it so badly, then he'd have to pay dearly to get it.  She was nobody's fool, but she never thought he would buy the ultimatum that she threw in his direction next.

"Dave," She said coyly.  "The more I think about it, ten thousand's not enough." 

"How much, then?" His confidence never wavered, but inside his blood nearly boiled at the impudence and cleverness of this lowly female bartender.

"Fifty… Fifty thousand."  She blurted the figure with resolve and was sure the man would never pay that much just to see an ordinary bar girl step onto his stage for only one song; clothed at that!  She figured that she had him by the 'short hairs' and would save herself the embarrassment as well as maintaining the upper hand, but she didn't know David Preston. 

"Done."  He didn't bat an eye.  His blank expression once again said that he meant business, and Ashley's stomach sank.  She realized a moment too late that she was playing out of her league and that her bluff had been called.

Jake was now utterly speechless!

"Can I, get this in writing?"  Ashley's voice began to quiver for the first time. 

"Most definitely," Preston countered.  "The comely lady who accompanied me this evening is one of my attorneys.  She already has a draft contract prepared.  We can edit it appropriately."

Ashley stammered a bit before resuming the conversation.  "Um, okay," she finally sighed.  "I guess I'll do it.  But only under one other condition?" She was now groping at straws.

"Name it."  Both men were amazed after her reluctant acceptance.

"Kevin.  He's the one I want to stay behind as my bouncer.  He's my friend."

The two anxious men shared a looked that troubled Ashley for a moment.  She wasn't sure if it was a look of concern or one of mixed humor, but with a smile they both agreed.  David Preston shook her hand with an odd look on his face.

It seemed that the deal was done...


It was one of the few times that Ashley had actually entered the dancer's dressing room.  She glanced around at the many mirrors, makeup tables and racks of sexy clothing that filled the small area.  Tonight, the room was also occupied by many beautiful and dejected young women.

Terri, a busty redhead, brushed by her; topless and unashamed.  The other woman's assets bobbed playfully as she prepared to dress in her street clothes and head back to her meager existence, no more famous than when she'd arrived for work several hours earlier.  The disgust and disappointment was evident on her pretty face, and Ashley even thought she heard her mumble "bitch" under her breath as she passed.

The other women backstage were no friendlier.  It had only taken a few minutes for the news of Mr. Preston's choice to reach them, and she probably should have expected this kind of reaction.  After all they were the dancers, the ones who had worked so hard to earn Mr. Preston's nod.  They had been preparing for this night, in some cases for years, and they had bared all to the rich man only to be outdone by a twenty-two year old bartender who'd accidentally caught his eye.  Ashley realized that they had every right to be jealous, if not down right pissed. 

Finally, she spotted Ginger, now clad in a pair of hip-hugger jeans and a lavender sweatshirt, preparing to leave.

Ginger looked up at Ashley with an expression that the pretty brunette had never seen on her face before.  "I guess you heard?" Ashley beat her to the punch.


"You mad?"

"Well," Ginger dropped her purse on one of the dressing tables with deliberate force.  "I'm not exactly happy."

"I'm sorry." Ashley pleaded.  "It wasn't my fault.  I just couldn't turn down that much money!  My education’s paid for, just like that."

Ginger's expression relaxed a bit and then she smiled.  "I know, hon. It ain't your fault.  You made a good bargain.  I just wish it was me, instead.  Come on, let's get you dressed." 


Most of the other women, as well as the support employees, were gone by now and the main floor of the club was quiet, dark and deserted.  Ashley stood in front of the full-length mirror in the dressing room and examined her costume – a replica of a nurse's uniform from by-gone days – only much skimpier and skintight.  Even a mock white cardboard cap, adorned with a red cross, crowned her dark locks after they had been pulled up into a tight, stylish bun.  As Ashley examined her luscious body in the mirrors, Ginger continued to apply a slightly exaggerated amount of blusher to her cheeks but the matching natural hue took precedence. 

Ashley had never before worn clothing so provocative.  The white top was cut extraordinarily low and showed off a little more cleavage than she had intended.  The matching skirt was no less revealing.  It barely concealed the portion of the satin thong panty that covered her sex, and intentionally allowed the inviting lower curve of her lovely derriere to be exposed.  White silk stockings clung to her shapely legs and rose upwards to mid-thigh where their elastic bands held them snugly in place without the help of a garter belt.  When Ashley stepped into the white, six-inch platform heels, her scandalous ensemble was complete. 

She took a few clumsy steps trying to keep her balance on the ultra-high heels and wondered how anyone could possibly dance in such shoes, when she could barely walk in them without stumbling.  "How in the hell do you perform in these things?  I feel like I'm a foot taller," she complained to the anxious Ginger.

The blonde's mood had improved after seeing Ashley's transformation into an exotic, naughty nurse and flashed her million-dollar smile at the nervous college girl.  "You'll get used to it, hon. Besides, look what they do for your legs!  The whole outfit for that matter.  Ashley, you do look stunning!  Preston's definitely gettin' his money's worth."

Tammy, the only other dancer still left in the room, agreed with an appreciative nod.

Ashley looked herself over in the mirror once again.  She didn't want to brag, but she did silently agree with her friends.  I do look pretty fuckin' hot!  But was she really worth fifty thou?!

"You're shakin', hon," Ginger pointed out the obvious.  "Here."  She reached into her large handbag and retrieved a thin silver flask.  She unscrewed the lid and offered the shiny container to Ashley.  "Take a couple swigs.  A little liquid courage always used to calm my nerves."

Ashley turned up the flask and gulped a mouth full of straight Kentucky bourbon.  "Blah!!" she complained.  She'd never been much of a drinker; short of an occasional glass of dinner wine, and the roughness of the cheap whiskey was a deep contrast.  She could feel the lingering, burning sensation descending from her mouth all the way to the pit of her stomach, but in spite of herself, she turned the flask up again. 

Ginger giggled, taking the liquor back from Ashley and enjoying her own pull.  "Take it easy, hon!" 

"I just don't know about this, Ginger,” Ashley admitted, primping in front of a make-up mirror. 

"Believe me, you're gonna be fine.  I can stay behind and watch, if ya' want?" The older blonde looked so eager.  "For moral support, that is."

Ashley didn't have time to respond before Jake burst through the curtains.  "Okay; Ginger, Tammy, it's time to go ladies.  We've gotta get Ashley up on stage, now." He clapped his hands loudly.  "Chop, chop!"

"Oh give it a break, asshole," Ginger shot back in reply to her boss.  "We're just helping her get ready.   This is her first time, as if you didn’t know that."

"She looks ready to me," he said as he gawked at Ashley's gorgeous features.  "As a matter of fact, she looks great!" He paused to drink in her beauty.  "But it's time to go."

Ashley glanced at Ginger with a sheepish, uncertain expression; the older blonde hugged her tightly.  "Good luck, sweetie.  I know you're gonna be great!"


Once Ginger and Tammy had been abruptly ushered out and Ashley encouraged to go on stage, Jake also returned to his special guest's side to await the unique show. 

Now Ashley stood alone just inside the velvet curtains that separated the shared dressing room rest of the club.  The same curtains also separated her from the mysterious man who had unexpectedly prompted her into this uncomfortable position.  She knew it was now or never.

Thankfully, the alcohol was beginning to take effect by now, slowly relaxing her inhibitions.  She hesitated a bit then finally took a shaky step forward, exiting the dressing room.  The air conditioning seemed especially chilly as it played over her exposed skin.  The music in the main show room was silent; the lights were dimmed.  Nobody was around to see her, as Preston had promised.

Walking gingerly upon the awkward heels, she approached the door to the V.I.P. lounge and came face to face with Kevin.  He seemed surprised by her appearance.  "Ashley, what are you doing here?!"

"I'm not so sure myself," she giggled. 

"No, I mean really, and why are you dressed like that?"

"Ginger picked it out.  She thought it'd be fitting.  Like it?"

"It ah, looks great on you, but..." he stuttered.  "I don't understand."

"They didn't tell you?" Ashley thought Kevin must have been the only person in the whole club who didn't know.  "Preston's gonna pay me fifty thousand dollars just to dance to one song!  I've got it in writing, signed and all!  Can you believe that?"

"Yeah, I believe it." Kevin hung his head.  "Maybe you shouldn't be doing this..."

"Why?  It's just a dance, and he said I wouldn't even have to take my clothes off.  I asked that you stay behind to be my protection.  I thought you'd be proud of me.  You’ve always said I needed to loosen up a little.  Well, here I am…"

"Your protection?" He grimaced at the irony of her words.  "They just told me that I'd be staying behind to DJ while Mr. Preston's choice gave a private performance.  They didn't tell me that his choice was you!

"Afraid so," She lifted her brow slightly. "Weird, huh?  Just make sure you play a short song." 

"Ashley!"  Kevin grabbed her by the arm.  "Please...You don't have to do this!"

"Too late, Kevin.  I'd better go, they're waiting."  She jerked away and started to enter the room where Mr. Preston and Jake were already seated at the table directly in front of the mysterious stage.  "I'll buy on our next date." She turned and winked seductively at the bouncer as she strode away.  "Deal?" 

Kevin only shook his head and walked somberly to the soundboard.

When Ashley entered the room, Mr. Preston immediately perked up; he flashed a confident, suave smile in the young woman's direction.  The signed, written contact lay on the table in front of him. 

As she made her way to the stairs leading up to the cage, she could feel tiny beads of perspiration forming on her forehead.  Was she doing the right thing?  Oh my God, here goes...  She took a deep breath and stepped inside.  Immediately the music and strobe lights resumed, replacing the eerie silence that had preceded it.   

Standing inside the small enclosure, Ashley looked out across the room and began to sway her hips to the rhythm of the erotic Shakira dance tune that Kevin had selected.  Seeing the mens' positive reactions made her a bit more comfortable, and the broad smile on Jake's face said he was very impressed at how well the beginner performed. 

He silently wished that he'd been able to convince her to dance before, since now he would never have that opportunity again...

Under the influence of the whiskey, it only took Ashley a short while to get into the mood.  She had blocked out everything and everyone around her, and only heard the music.  She let her mind drift.  Her body swayed pleasingly and she lifted her arms high above her head, mimicking moves that she'd seen the other girls do night after night.  She didn't have their rehearsed experience or finesse, but she displayed a perky innocence and honesty that many of the others lacked.  Was that what had drawn Preston to this unwitting young woman? 

By serving as DJ, Kevin was also controlling the cage's adjustable platform.  He pressed some switches and the young woman's high heels were soon at eye level with the rich man and the club manager, who was now almost drooling.  Ashley had become so caught up in the moment; she didn't notice that the now elevated floor had reached a position that no longer allowed her access to the steps.  Without it being lowered, she was literally caged behind the close-set bars that surrounded her, but she danced on.  Up until now, she hadn't realized how easy this could be!  To her surprise, she was actually enjoying it!  

Suddenly, Jake left his seat and approached Kevin.  His hands were shaking as he passed a slip of paper to the large man and quickly returned to Mr. Preston's side. 

The microphone whined as Kevin powered it up, and his husky voice boomed through the speakers.  "Our friend Mr. Preston wishes to offer the beautiful lady on stage an additional business proposal.  He is now willing to double, that's double his previous offer for one small and simple favor on the lady's part..."

Ashley glanced over her shoulder at Kevin after his unexpected announcement, continuing to gyrate in time with the music.  She thought the discouraging tone of his voice sounded unnatural, almost forced.  What the hell was this favor? 

Knowing that he now had Ashley's full attention, Kevin leaned into the mic once more.  "He's upping his payment to one hundred thousand dollars if the dancer will fully disrobe..."  

Another pang of uncertainty suddenly stung the young woman.  Had she gotten in over her head?  But one hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money!  'Oh, what the hell?' The club's newest dancer mused.  The liberating experience was like nothing she had ever done, and she also wanted to impress the bulky D.J.  She'd already shown him a side of her the night before that suggested she wasn't the total prude that many of her college friends thought she was, but this would do the trick for sure! 

Within a few moments, to all the mens' surprise, her white nurse’s tunic was lying upon the floor and Ashley's beautiful naked breasts came into full view.  Her hands glided along her waist and traced out the curve of her hips next as she hooked her thumbs under the skirt into the waistband of the thong.  Slowly and seductively, she slipped it down her slender legs, past her knees, then finally over her ankles.  She almost lost her balance on the heels when she stepped out of the sexy undergarment, but regained her composure quickly.  Maybe this wasn't so easy after all, but she had to admit it was fun! 

Now only her short white skirt, stockings and high heels remained, along with the cap pinned in her hair.  Getting back into character, the lovely young woman began to twirl the discarded panties on a finger then tossed them aside, albeit somewhat clumsily.  They did reach their intended target though, landing directly in front of Mr. Preston.  He quickly snatched them up, fondling the lace wildly, then holding the panty up to his nose for a sniff of her scent. 

The removal of the skimpy panties also allowed the occasional flip of her skirt to give teasing glimpses of the trimmed brown pubic hair between her sculpted thighs, and the coolness of the room along with the sensations of the moment soon caused her exposed nipples to respond. 

Her fingers began to skillfully play and linger over every inch of her upper body, and reaching up to release the clip that held her hair in the neat bun, she allowed the dark, shoulder-length tresses to spill down and splay across her smooth, creamy shoulders.  Although she was not the experienced dancer that some of her predecessors had been, she was a lovely sight to behold!  Her hands eventually returned to her pert breasts and she kneaded and caressed them both gently, rubbing the nipples to full erection.  It was nearly orgasmic!

Jake, unsuccessfully attempting to hide his own arousal, suddenly looked over to see that Mr. Preston was actually masturbating through his pants at the beautiful sight before them!  Jake wondered if it was simply carnal lust on Preston's part or in anticipation of what the remainder of Ashley's business contract entailed. 

Then, just when it appeared to Jake that Mr. Preston was reaching the point of no return, he saw the rich man pause and glance up at Kevin to give the now pale, sweating DJ a subtle prearranged signal.  

At first nothing happened.  Kevin was trying to stall as long as he could, but when one of Preston's thugs stepped out of the shadows, hand reaching inside the left side of the tailored suit, he swallowed hard and complied reluctantly with his orders. 
I’m sorry, Ashley, more than you will ever know!


Kevin pressed another shielded switch on the console and instantly the lighting at the foot of the cage changed to a pale blue that flooded upward to encompass Ashley's curvaceous, naked form.  A deep humming sound also began to resonate from the floor upon which she was dancing; she could feel an electrifying tingle in her feet and calves.  The sensation was similar to an extremity falling asleep, with imaginary, pin-pricking needles dancing from the tips of her toes upward to her sculpted thighs and above.  But this was different somehow.  It was so soft, so warming, and so damned comforting that Ashley wondered if this is what all the dancers felt when they took the stage.  It felt sensual; enticing.  By the time the feeling reached her sex, she was so fascinated and aroused that she didn't have time to be afraid or concerned. 

It only took seconds, however, for Ashley to react as she started slowing down.  Eventually her swaying body fell out of time with the music as each of her dance movements became more and more sluggish.  In Ashley's mind she was still moving and absorbing the wonderful, dreamy sensations that had been introduced into her beautiful body.  But to those watching her, she looked like a 3-D version of a video replay going in slow motion.  It now seemed to take an eternity for her to even blink an eye. 

With every passing second, she moved slower ... and s--l--o--w--e--r ... and... s----l----o----w----e----r...  

Then it happened:  She stopped moving altogether! The beautiful bartender turned dancer was frozen in place, like an erotic statue! 

The energy produced by the platform increased automatically and a tremor of ecstasy rippled... escalated... and then exploded inside her!  Ahhhhh..... Her mind drifted and she imagined Kevin's strong hands caressing her; welcoming, her desire for one other particular part of his body to invade her... Mmmmmm... Oh, Gaaaaaahhh.... That thought alone preoccupied her mind; she had not yet recognized the fact that her shapely body could no longer move in the slightest way.

A subtle moan, a faint sound that might have been better described as a whimper, slowly escaped her slightly parted lips, along with the final breath exhaled from her stiffening lungs.  “Ooohhhhh…..”

Afterward she fell completely silent.  Her undetected, inward moans of pleasure were not heard by any of the audience, nor was the ultimate climax that washed over her seen by the men ogling her inanimate, sculpture-still form.  Her knees would have buckled if she were still capable of any movement at all; her shining brown eyes, though barely open, now stared into infinity.  The expression forever captured on her pouting face was one of pure pleasure.  Her mouth was slightly open and her right hand was frozen just as it was about to caress her pubic region.  The fingers were splayed playfully, just out of reach of their intended destination. 

Her other arm was stretched to full length, but close to her left side; tugging on the short skirt in a seductive gesture that her professional dancing friends would have commended.  Her stockinged legs, slightly parted, were beautifully captured with most of the weight on the left foot.  The right was in the process of lifting from the floor, in the next step to the music, just when she'd been completely immobilized.  An even closer inspection of her frozen body would have revealed the glistening excretion evident upon the stiffening... hardening... and soon unyielding mound of her quickly solidifying sex...  

Within a few moments, the strange light had disappeared and the music stopped.  Under a tearful Kevin's control, the platform jerked sharply and began to lower.  Ashley's formerly nubile body was only minutes away from complete solidification as the sudden motion caused her to wobble a bit upon her white, platformed, high-heels.  She tipped to one side and bumped the side of her head into the brass bars that encased her. THUNK!  Her frozen body seemed totally unaffected.     

"Balance her, you idiots!" Preston barked.  "I don't want this one damaged!"   

Kevin tried his best to hide his emotions as he and the suited henchman, who had reappeared, rushed forward and gently leaned the immobilized dancer back into a standing position.  Carefully, they removed her rigid body from the brass cage and attempted to maneuver her into a horizontal position between them.  

The bright overhead lights swept across Ashley's increasingly foggy vision, and a "rollercoaster ride" sensation settled into the pit of her stomach as the sudden backward, descending motion rushed over her.  The momentary unease however, was soon overpowered by the repeated orgasms that continued to erupt within her body since the instant Preston's sinister device suspended all her movement.  Now balanced like a piece of lumber between the two men, Ashley's mind again faded to bliss as Mr. Preston anxiously approached his latest prize.  Her beautifully stiffened figure had not bent, flinched or shuddered whatsoever. 

"Ah, my lovely Ashley," he smiled knowingly.  "You are so perfect... as I always knew you would be.  But you were a stubborn one.  Yammering on about your morals and values... At first I wasn't sure if I'd be able to obtain you.  But I shouldn't have doubted what I've known all along.  Everything and everyone is for sale, if the price is right; even you."

He stroked her now hardened cheek and let his fingers wander downward, lingering, caressing her erect nipple.  Preston noticed the firm texture of her smooth skin.  It hadn't completely hardened, as he knew it soon would, but now had a rubbery, almost putty-like consistency.  She would only be pliable for a few more minutes, but he saw no need to adjust her near perfect pose.  The man's hungry touch also sent another surge of erotic pleasure throughout the sculpture that Ashley had become while her enraptured mind drifted further and further away from the sights and sounds within the club as well as the distant sound of the rich man's voice. 

"My dear, right now you're enjoying the longest and probably the most satisfying orgasm of your short life; something that those self gratifying college boys could've never given you.  But now myself, an experienced man, has given you a lasting gift."

"What's that?" He leaned down close to her stiff, slightly parted red lips.  Not a sound escaped the still opening.  "Oh no, you don't have to thank me, Ashley.  Think nothing of it.  To simply do you this favor is my reward.  Along with the premium price that you're sure to bring, of course.  Against your better judgment, you sold yourself like an object."  He shook his head as his voice became cold and judgmental.  "Pity!  Because now, you are only an object.  I'd had intentions of retaining you for my private collection, but since you refused a position with my company, you'll be on the market again very soon.  You were right about one thing, though," he added with a sarcastic snicker.  "You do have 'values'.  You'll bring a much higher figure as a work of art than you evidently ever considered yourself to be worth as a person."

Kevin felt sick to his stomach as he listened to the man drone on in this ghoulish, wicked tone.  He realized from the beginning that he'd made "a deal with the devil", but this gave new meaning to the old phrase.  He wondered if the unfortunate Ashley could actually hear the man's cruel drivel, and if she could see him holding on to her ankles?  Her skin was beginning to feel cold and inflexible now.  If she could see me, what must she be thinking!  He tried to shake the thoughts from his mind and play it cool.   Ashley continued to stare glassily into the overhead lights.

Jake watched the scene nervously from his nearby position.  Mr. Preston seemed almost entranced as he gazed at this newly created mannequin and carried on the one-sided conversation with her.  The shaky manager had seen him excited about previous "choices", but never like this!

Preston somberly closed his eyes, lowered his head, and then continued his monologue as if he were alone with the petrified beauty.  "You were ashamed to dance, but now look at you.  You've become exactly what you despised.  An object for all to ogle and admire; to be touched without resistance for all eternity, or until I decide otherwise.  And for what?  A meager sum of money, in the long run. 

Was it worth it, Ashley?"  Only silence answered.

"No, I didn't think so," he gloated.  "I'm not sure if you can still hear me, but if you can, there is a positive note to all of this.  Even once your thoughts, along with those wonderful feelings of pleasure fade away, if they haven't already, the one thing that will never fade is your beauty..." 

His hands trailed lower to her pelvic regions and the captured muscles of her tight ass; eventually caressing the trimmed, mound of brown pubic hair between her creamy, toned thighs.  He felt the slippery fluids on his fingers and brought one of the dampened digits close to his nose and mouth as if he were "shushing" a child.  He seemed to revel in her sweet aroma before going on.  "Now, my darling, you will never grow old, never have to worry about the trials and tribulations of life, or death.  No; rest now, sweet Ashley, knowing that you are perfect, and will remain that way forever..."

He finally glanced up at the two men who bore the weight of the stiffened woman he was fondling and chastising.  Realizing by the grimace on their faces that he had lingered long enough for now, he addressed them.  "Maybe my finest 'choice' yet, eh fellows?"

"Yes sir, definitely."  They both agreed in harmony; afraid not to.   

Mr. Preston straightened his tie and cleared his throat again, before resuming his former, more serious, business-like banter.  "She's cooling down nicely, gentlemen.  Once she's securely packaged, transport the figure to the normal location.  I'll be there within the hour."

"Yes, Sir," his man replied almost mechanically.  Kevin remained silent.  

Carrying her horizontally between them, the suited man and Kevin headed toward a storage area in the rear of the building.  Ashley's immobile body had still not bent or moved in the slightest way.  The only change in her appearance was the glossy sheen that her smooth pale skin was now beginning to take on.  Kevin could feel her body temperature change as the small portion of her leg that he gripped continued to cool and harden.  There was very little life remaining inside the perfectly suspended body, and that was quickly slipping away.   Soon she would be like all the others.

Once Kevin and the suited man had disappeared, Jake turned to Mr. Preston.  "Is she going to be alright?"

"Holloway, you've been working for me for over ten years, assisted in the collection of many previous choices.  Don't try to develop a conscience on me now." Preston leveled his eyes at the older man and it made him squirm even more.

"Oh, I'm not.  It's just that... well, she was just a college kid.  Really sweet; innocent.  I can't help but feel a little bit sorry for her."

"Don't.  She's perfectly fine.  Neither this girl nor any of the others felt any pain and by now I'm sure she's completely unconscious.  And that's how she'll remain."

"Is it reversible?  I mean, just out of curiosity."

"I've been told so, but I never tried.  Maybe one day, I'll test it to see; if only for a few minutes." He added with a laugh that said “No way in hell!”

In the back room a large hard-plastic case, resembling the type that expensive musical instruments are transported in, had been placed near the service entrance; just beyond the doors a plain blue Chevy van awaited the precious cargo that it would soon convey.  As Kevin and the other man carefully maneuvered Ashley's stiffened body towards the crate, the helpless frozen woman could barely make out the dim ceiling lights passing above her.  Her vision had now grown so foggy that she could only vaguely make out shapes and her hearing had become almost non-existent.  She could however, feel the sensations of movement and the fact that she was being carried somewhere.  But to where?!  Suddenly, on impulse, she tried to move and found that to be totally impossible.  The feelings of ecstasy quickly escaped her and a panic, not far short of absolute horror, crept inside her to take place of the formerly wonderful feelings.   

What's happened to me?  She screamed from within.  I can't move!  I can't see... there's just a roar in my head.  Please, someone, anyone...

Her silent pleas, of course, went unheard as Kevin and the other man laid her frozen body gently upon the foamy bed of packing material that the special case already contained.  They found however, that fitting her neatly within the container would take a bit more effort than first imagined.  The transport case was designed for a figure with a more 'upright' posture, but Ashley had been captured just as she was leaning backward and slightly to the right in the middle of dance step.  But after some twisting and turning, the men were finally able to properly shift her stiffened form into a suitable spot and prepared to seal the box.  With what small amount of awareness Ashley retained, she could sense movement and someone staring down upon her.  As the silhouette of the person moved from side to side, then closer to her, she somehow realized it was Kevin.

Kevin.... Please.....

The young man looked down upon the gullible young girl whom he'd come to call a friend and had had such a wonderful encounter with the previous evening.  Her eyes only stared back him without emotion, allowing him to see his own reflection in the glassy, hollow orbs.  He thought about how beautiful Ashley was and how beautiful she would remain.  Forever, now, as Preston had suggested. Never growing old; never worrying; never feeling any pain or sorrow.  He tried his best to use these reasons as justification for his actions, but there was no reprieve from the guilt that was coursing throughout him at the moment.  Never again would she love, either…

The other man grunted as he picked up the reinforced lid to the crate that contained the statue-still figure of Ashley.  "Hey dude, gimme a hand here."

The request jolted Kevin from his daydream as he assisted the man in lowering the heavy lid into place and securing the latches.

Please...............!!!  Noooooooooooooo!!!   Help, meeeeeeeeeeeee........!!!   Ashley screamed uselessly in her mind as the clasps were secured and she was sealed within the quiet, silent darkness that engulfed her.   Consciousness faded into nothingness soon after.

Kevin assisted the man in loading the container into the back of the waiting van and was soon left alone in the storeroom as his 'partner' hopped into the back as well and shut the doors.  Soon the tag-less vehicle disappeared into the darkness.  Kevin sadly watched as the red taillights faded away in the distance.  Closing the double steel doors to the club’s back entrance, he wondered where Ashley would finally end up.  Wherever that was, he only hoped that she would be taken care of.

When he returned to the main area of the club, he saw that Mr. Preston was preparing to leave.  Somberly the rich man turned to Jake.  "Your account will be credited the agreed upon amount by the close of business Monday.  Whatever percentage you choose to share with your man here," he motioned towards Kevin,  "is up to you.  I look forward to my visit next year."

"Me too," Jake rubbed his chin.  He blurted his next comment without forethought.  "But I thought there was a bonus for full nudity on this one?" 

"She would've been naked anyway, one way or another." Preston frowned back at the greedy manager.  "Don't get too big for your polyester britches, Mister Holloway.  Remember, I own this club and you.  However, I can terminate our contract at any time, if you'd like," he said, putting extra emphasis on the word terminate.  Jake took a deep nervous breath. 

"N,No, sir.  The original amount will be sufficient."

"I thought you'd see it my way.  And by now, you should know that I always get my way."

"Yes, sir." Not wanting to press his luck, the beleaguered man nodded and ushered Kevin towards the privacy of his office.  

"Oh, Holloway," Preston barked from behind.  "I've taken care of all my loose ends.  I trust that you will do your part as well."

"Definitely, sir." Jake stopped and turned around.  "I know the drill.  Postcard or an e-mail or two in about three weeks and Detective Babcock from the city police will receive the usual."

"Very well, it seems you have some usefulness to me after all," Preston flashed a sly smile and headed for the door along with his men.  "Until next year."  The door swung shut behind them and Jake and Kevin watched until the limousine pulled away from the parking lot, accelerated onto the highway and roared out of sight.

Both men now retired behind the closed door of the Jake's office; sharing silent shots from a bottle of hundred-year-old Scotch, neither of them truly wanting to remember the events of the past evening.  Ashley’s ghost was a statue that haunted them both. 

In their haste, they also didn't notice the swish of the curtain to the dressing room as it closed in the semi-darkness of the presumably deserted club.  Ginger had forgotten her purse, returning to the dressing room through a parking lot entrance using a key that Jake had given her long ago.  She had previously been almost happy about the mistake because she wanted to see her young friend finally dance.  Pride welled in her as she watched secretly from behind a curtain as Ashley had taken the stage. 

Now, she'd seen a whole lot more!   Everything, in fact.

The leggy blonde crept silently on tip-toe through the dressing room, out the fire exit and into her small sports car, driving off before anyone was the wiser.  She had no idea what was going to happen to Ashley, but she knew that she had to do something to help her young friend...


To be continued?   

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