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Tricks of the Trade

Loose laws have turned Denver into an easy place for hookers to do business, but the fun's about to end.

Except her line is, "Help me out with one. Come on, girl, you know I'll get you back. Come on, now, come on." The crack fiend's eyes are those of a panicked horse.

Brushing the woman aside, Laticia makes her way through the milling throng of crackheads and hustlers in the Motel 9 parking lot and into a brightly lit room with an open door flanked by stony-faced men positioned like sentries outside a palace. Five minutes pass. Laticia comes out of the room in notably better spirits, tucking a blackened glass pipe into the sleeve of her blue-and-white-checked flannel shirt. She passes the motel office on her way back to Colfax. There's a weathered sign next to the office door that reads: "To serve you best we work hard because we're Motel 9."

Feeling chatty now, Laticia entertains questions. She says she's from Denver and is pretty sure she's 29. This is harsh if true, because Laticia looks older, much older.

"I've been selling my pussy for going on five years," she says. "And I've never been arrested, not once. I'm too voodoo for them police." She doesn't have a pimp, exactly, though male crackheads will steer business her way for a percentage should they chance across a Colfax john scraping for a bargain, which happens fairly often.

"A lot of the white boys who come down here, they're looking for some crack, and then they're looking to get their dick sucked, usually in that order," she says. "They just want to handle everything right there in their car. They don't want to be messing around with no motel room or any of that shit."

Laticia's painfully aware of her out-of-town competition, the circuit girls. She says that two summers ago, or maybe last summer -- she's a little hazy on the timeline -- she was getting her hustle on across the street from three circuit girls on the corner of Colfax and Steele Street. She was undercutting them on prices and taking away business until their pimp told her to beat it, then slapped her silly when she told him to go to hell, that Denver was her town. The hostile pimp threatened to rape her with a hot curling iron if he caught her whoring on "his side" of Colorado Boulevard again.

Many other native crack whores have been similarly beaten and threatened, according to Laticia, and with no pimps to defend them, they've had to accept the terms of an uneasy truce. The circuit girls work wherever they want, and the crack whores stay east of Colorado Boulevard. Laticia says the pimps use "tudge boys," street slang for hired enforcers, not only to rough up circuit girls who get out of line, but also to patrol Colfax, looking for crack whores out of bounds.

"Those nasty pimp motherfuckers -- they don't want to do their dirty work themselves, so if they catch you slipping, they'll sic a tudge boy on your ass," she explains.

Laticia's derision is not reserved solely for pimps. She has no love for their circuit girls, either.

"They show up here thinking they're all that, looking down on me like they're better because they're wearing some damn miniskirt and a fake necklace their man bought them, when you know he's wearing the real gold," she says with a snort. "I don't need a man, don't want one. My pimp is Mr. Crack."

Motel 9 was only twenty minutes ago, but Laticia is already getting jittery, not as interested in talking. She's walking west on the south side of Colfax, passing a succession of pager and cell-phone stores owned by Salvadorans where Kid Rock rotates out his four phones and six pagers every other week. She stops to check out the window display in one of the three clothing boutiques in the stretch between Colorado and Monaco that specialize in the hip-hop "hoochie mama" look: hot pants, miniskirts, glitter tops. Kid Rock is a regular customer here.

"The way they dress, they're targets," Laticia says.

She looks down at her own casual garb -- denim and flannel -- outstretches her arms for a moment, then shakes her head and keeps on, blending in with the other creatures of the Colfax night.

Half an hour later and five miles west, Kid Rock is munching a plate of French fries -- Dominique's favorite forbidden snack -- in a booth at Tom's Diner. It's a little after 1 a.m., and he's made $1,300 in the last six hours. It's been five nights since he "trunked" Asia. "She's coming along," he says, swabbing a fry through a pool of ketchup.

The pimp wipes his hands with a napkin, stands up, peels a ten-dollar bill off a fat money roll, drops it on the table, and nonchalantly struts out to his Lincoln. A little bit later, he passes Dominique at her usual post outside the 7-Eleven and taps his horn twice, just to let her know he's there.

A pager rattles on his belt. He picks it up, looks at it and says, "Aw, shit, what now?" It's an emergency page from Asia. She's at the Lazy-C Motor Lodge, next door to Motel 9, and she's in trouble. The pimp punches the accelerator and rockets through the Colorado intersection at sixty miles per hour. He gets to the motel, runs up to a room and starts pounding on the door. No one answers, and the pimp steps back to kick in the door. But just then, Asia calls to him through the open window of the room three doors down. Inside, Kid Rock finds her in bad shape. Her neck's scratched, one of her cheeks is puffy and crimson, and her bottom lip is ruptured and leaking blood, which has been smeared all over her face like war paint.

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