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Photographs by
Jana Birchum
In half an hour, a tan Cadillac passes the side entrance of the Bel Air Motel four times, while down the street, a black-overall-clad blond woman walks past the Texan Market four times, swinging a small black purse. Hers is a jaunty walk, unafraid. Congress Avenue, south of Oltorf Street, is a fairly quiet place at 4am on a Friday night -- a good hour past the 2-3am traffic that pours onto the street from the parking lot of the Expos* "gentleman's club." It is this section of Congress that made hand-in-the-hooker-jar Texas Senator Drew Nixon a household name in the capital city. For the same reason, this stretch of Congress has patterns of foot and car traffic in the wee hours of morning, which only become apparent to those who frequent or steadily observe its action. This is the section of Congress Avenue that Fuller worked as Lauryn Paige the night he was killed.

Dixie says she and Lauryn always tried to work together on the streets -- a kind of buddy system: It was their MO. While Dixie admits she had already been providing favors for money to men she met at the clubs, she says it was a chance conversation with a street veteran that propelled her and Lauryn out into the night. "We were broke, and we met a prostitute who said we could make all this money and how easy it was, so we went," she says matter-of-factly. "Then we depended on the money. We couldn't handle the slow money anymore." Dixie -- who has been living as a woman since the age of 17 -- knows how hard it can be to find a day job.

Dixie reiterates that it was the "easy" money that drove her to the street. For Lauryn, she says, the seduction of the street was not only the money but the attention. "I knew she was depressed deep down. I'd say the majority of my friends are not happy and do not have that support [of their families], and it hurts so much because you're stuck," she explains. "Either you do what you do, and they're unhappy. Or you do what they want, and you're miserable. Either way, somebody gets hurt. I think that's exactly what happened to Lauryn."

Dixie's voice falters when recounting a conversation her mom had with Lauryn the week before she was killed. "She told my mom that she just didn't want to be here anymore." she remembers. "But she had just begun taking the [female] hormones; they make you so emotional, I thought it was just that."

Dixie remembers that, on occasion, Lauryn would go out onto the
street alone and, when she came home with money in her pocket, would be elated. "But it was just covering up. Basically it was about survival."

Kelly Kline shares a similar view of Fuller's prostitution activities: "A lot of the girls [hooking] want to meet someone who will take them away. That's what Lauryn always said. She wanted a fairy-tale thing: that she'd meet someone that would tell her what to do, and she'd be on her way. The Pretty Woman thing -- but that doesn't happen to anyone."