My Second Identity
It all began with such a touch of innocence, a ferverent desire to better her life--start afresh again. It was 1980, and Pegi had enrolled in Fresno State, planning to better her education with some basic courses. And perhaps there was an underlying challenge to prove to herself that she was definitely interested in bettering herself.
One lunchtime in the student cafeteria, Pegi overheard several girls talking.
"Well, when I was hired they let me know the escort service was just a front."
"A front? For what?" The attractive blonde to the girl's left took a bite of her tuna salad sandwich.
"Oh, come on, Julie, you can be so damn naive sometimes." The third student at the table shoved her tray aside, took a compact from a brown leather purse and began finger-combing her auburn bangs.
"Paid sex," the first girl told her. "Prostitution."
Pegi thought the blonde might choke on her tuna sandwich.
"You're hookers?" Her eyes grew wide.
"Yep, no more whining to Mommy and Daddy for money. No more student loans. You'd be amazed at the money we're making." The redhead drew a slash of magenta lipstick across her mouth, and blotted it with a paper napkin.
Pegi’s table was just a few feet from theirs, but she scooted my chair a little closer. She didn't want to miss a word.
"Wined and dined in the most expensive restaurants first, and then a little fun." She snapped the silver compact closed. Her long auburn hair glistened in the sunlight from the cafeteria window. "You ought to think about going to work for the service too, Julie. Better than waiting on tables, that's for sure! Money, money, money," she giggled.
Well, I didn't know if Julie would think about it or not, but Pegi couldn't get their conversation off her mind as she left the cafeteria. Her thoughts circled this track like race cars for several days. She began to make plans--not to join the ranks of the other escort girls, but to actually open a house of prostitution.
Sometimes life presents us with choices between good and evil, then lavishly rearranges circumstances, in order to sit back and see just what we'll do with those opportunities--which path we'll take.
Pegi had recently divorced and received a $40,000 settlement from her ex husband. At this particular moment she hated men and all they stood for. Their money, their power. Her ex-husband could manipulate anything and have it his way. Before her divorce she had registered at COS, the city college in Visalia. She was so thrilled when she arrived her to announce to her ex that she was going to college. She’ll never forget the look on his face when he heard those words coming from her mouth. He picked up her papers and right in front of her he ripped them up. "Oh no you want! Not while married to me," he stated.
Why not get even by taking advantage of their lustful, nasty natures? She'd get even by sabotaging them where it hurt the most--in their wallets. Not only would Pegi savor some retribution for the past, but by setting up a house of prostitution she could further her own dreams of becoming wealthy.
Life, which had rearranged her circumstances to see which path Pegi would choose, must have raised an unapproving eyebrow.
This life and business would be a secret among her friends and family. She’d even change her name in order to keep the two lives separate. Even the girls working for her would not know her biological name.
She began to make elaborate plans. Pegi would find a house with five or six bedrooms, but it had to be in an excellent neighborhood. The women must be beautiful, refined, genteel, very stylish, good conversationalists also. "No cheap women", She wrote on her list. They must have no bad habits--drinking and drugs would absolutely not be tolerated. Pegi had seen what both could do--turn a man into an absolute animal..
But where would She find the women? She decided it would be prudent to never use local women, therefore, she’d advertise for "models" in newspapers elsewhere. They could fly in and be met at the airport for their "appointments". This would be a first class operation, she vowed, but first Pegi had to find just the right real estate.
It was a warm autumn day filled with sunshine which dappled the pampered and manicured lawns of the Fig Garden area of Fresno. A panorama of lovely homes swept by the windows of the real estate agent's car.
They pulled into the driveway of a large, obviously well-cared for white stucco home. The red tiled roof spoke of its roots in Mediterranean architecture. Pegi made mental note of the fact that the front yard was large enough to erect a high privacy fence so that the house could not be seen from the main street which went by the front of the house. Instead, she’d put in the driveway off the side street, with a long gate. Pegi knew this was exactly what she’d been looking for once she toured the interior. There was a large living room, and a huge formal dining room. Perfect! We would serve meals if gentlemen wanted them, and if the girls were there for a day or two, they would need meals. There was a small two bedroom bungalow in the rear which could serve as her home.
Immediately, before the agent and Pegi even left the property, that thought amended itself. She would not live, or office on the premises. She needed to find an apartment nearby in order to protect her identity. The bungalow could serve as the housekeeper's quarters. She needed to find a couple--a broad minded couple--who could act in that capacity.
The sales transaction was quickly finalized as she walked through the empty rooms, her footsteps echoing on the hardwood floors, as Pegi excitedly visualized the furniture she would purchase for it, and her antiques which could be used. She began dressing the house like an anxious mother adorns her daughter for a wedding.
In order to conserve money, Pegi bought used furniture in good taste, painting, refinishing and upholstering it herself, while carpenters built the high privacy fence around the property. She even upholstered the headboards on the beds. Pegi chuckled happily to myself as she worked, I can take junk and mold it into a class act.
Pegi stood back and admired the elegant burgandy watermark satin headboard she'd just upholstered.
The carpenters build slender shelves in the windows to display her exquisite glass collection. Sunshine, filtering through cranberry glass, created clouds of roses which drifted happily across the thick carpeting. The house was ready. Now, all she needed were the people.
On a trip to Reno, Pegi met Printus. He was a bartender, and when she told him she was going back home he asked where home was.
"Fresno," she told him.
"Well, it's a small world. My wife's sister lives there and we're moving to Fresno. It's my last week in this job." He polished a bar glass as though it were an art treasure which belonged in a museum.
Pegi’s intuition immediately stood at attention, and she decided to tell him that she was looking for a couple to supervise meals and housekeeping for her new business. Pegi looked him straight in the eye and told him the nature of that business.
He set the glass down gently and laughed heartily. He and his wife, Sadee, both in their mid-sixties, had formerly managed the household affairs in the same kind of business in Las Vegas.
Pegi hired him on the spot, and never regretted my intuition. Printus, tall and thin, was the perfect counterpart to his chubby wife, and as a couple they were dynamite--efficient, neat, warm and lovable characters with abounding good humor. Neither were shocked at the nature of the business. They had worked in a house of prostitution before in Vegas...but then, prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada. It was not in California.
Pegi went to work immediately and placed advertisements for "models" in newspapers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Portland. The ads read that they must apply in person only, on a specified date and time, to such-and-such a suite, in a major hotel. She planned a group interview, and once the girls had all arrived in the suite, Pegi bluntly told them that this was for a prostitution service. Many walked out in a self-righteous huff, but Pegi was to find that this was a smoke screen. They would usually call back later and agree to work.
Pegi had three telephone lines installed in her apartment across town. She was the only one who answered the telephone. The girls were told they must make a reservation for times that they were available to work, and would be restricted to no more than two days per reservation.
Either Printus or Pegi picked them up at the airport. Many were married with families, and Pegi was quite certain she never knew their legal names, as they too never knew hers.
The men were also always transported to the house, and never permitted to drive there. Pegi advertised in men's magazines statewide, and paid the head housekeeper in many of the best hotels to put sticker ads in the telephone books placed in guest rooms.
Pegi made $6,000 her first night! It was easy to become addicted to that kind of money, and she was to later find that a money addiction is far more habit-forming than any addiction to drugs or alcohol.
This sudden infusion of money into her life was the blessing she’d always looked for, but it had its dreadful downside. Pegi begun to live a secretive life, adopting a new identity in order to conceal what it was she did for a living.
The subconscious strife began to take it's toll over the years of living a life incognito.
But the money was incredible, and there were humorous highs at times. One morning, after the house had been opened for awhile, Pegi answered the doorbell. No one ever just "dropped by" so this had to be a stranger.
Pegi opened the door to find, a tall African American gentlemen, nicely dressed in suit and tie. "Good morning," he said pleasantly, like he was here to award me the Publishers Clearing House prize money.
"Yes?" Pegi eyed him up and down trying to figure out why he was there.
He pulled a rather grimy California Private Investigator's license from his wallet. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm going to just level with you, lady. I'm investigating a gentleman who comes here quite often." He showed me a picture of one of our customers.
Her toes began to curl slightly in my high heels.
He shifted a slightly chewed cheap cigar to the other side of his mouth. "Now, there no sense dancing around this. Why is he coming here?"
Pegi smiled broadly and lightly touched his sleeve. "Well, I'll be truthful with you," she told him. "You see, I don't know how to put this delicately, but he's a very good friend of mine and also a transvestite. He doesn't want his wife to know, of course."
The P.I. shook his head in understanding.
"We're friends, so I allow him to come here and dress up in my clothes. I paint his toenails and let him parade around a bit. Get's it out of his system...that's all."
"Oh, I see," he said, and smiled in a conspiratorial fashion.
"I do hope you'll keep his little secret, and not betray this confidence." Pegi’s tone suggested the poor man had found himself diagnosed with a fast-growing cancer.
"You can count on me," he pledged and accompanied his statement with a broad wink.
She closed the door and leaned against it, while fanning her face. "Good grief, Printus, I think I just won the Academy Awards for this year!"
Sadee laughed until tears ran down her plump, apple-like cheeks.
Pegi’s obsession of money grew every day. The more she made the more she wanted. Finally she decided to put full page ads in the local telephone books. It was then that she was arrested. Her family were astonished beyond belief as they had thought their mother was going to college.
Pegi spent three years in a California prison. It’s no longer a secret, today she tells everyone. Pegi’s married to a teacher. Watch for her next story , THE MADAM, THE TEACHER AND THE PREACHER.
Copyright © 2000 Pegi Handley