Standing close to a building on L Street NW to shield herself from a steady rain, a young platinum blonde in a tight black dress talked about why she continued to work the streets of downtown Washington even though seven prostitutes from the area have been killed in 14 months.

"I'm a capitalist," said the woman, who said her middle name is Irene and would not identify herself further. "I like the money. I'm not really social. I'm not what you call patient. It's easier to put up with people who are ignorant for five minutes at a time rather than five days a week, 52 weeks a year."

As Irene spoke, a friend who called herself Maria stepped off the curb, eager to attract a customer.

"I need a {expletive} date," Maria said impatiently.

Irene, Maria and others working the red-light district this week said all of the now-predictable things about how they felt after the discovery in Northern Virginia last weekend of two more slain prostitutes. They said they are scared, they are taking more precautions and fewer risks and they are more discriminating about whom they "date."

But for those women -- some of whom knew the prostitutes who have been killed -- the color of money painted over their fear.

"It's not like I can go out and get another job that would pay me this well," said one young woman who gave her name as Skinny. "If I were to quit, what could I do -- go get a job at McDonald's?"

The women were as different as the flashy outfits they wore: One said she was a college graduate from Los Angeles, another a high school dropout from Montana.

But all said they liked the comfortable lifestyle their work afforded them. They said they take in, on average, $1,500 to $3,000 a week, including their pimp's share. And although they said prostitution always carries risk, they conceded they are more afraid than usual.

The fear doesn't seem to have reduced the number of women working in the prostitution zone, on L and K streets between 12th and 15th streets NW. It also hasn't reduced the number of potential customers. Recent rains and additional police in the area for Mikhail Gorbachev's stay at the nearby Soviet Embassy may have done more to dampen business than the string of killings.

On weeknights a dozen or so prostitutes generally can be found there. On weekends the number doubles or triples as prospective customers, many in cars bearing Virginia and Maryland license plates, line the streets.

The bodies of four of the seven victims were found in Virginia, two last weekend alone. Police say all seven had worked as prostitutes on the District's streets.

The women interviewed this week said the only pattern they see to the killings is a general description of most of the victims: They were white, had blond or light brown hair, and were fairly tall. There is no agreement on who the killer or killers might be, only that it must be someone a prostitute would trust enough to do business with.

"We don't know what to think," said the woman who calls herself Skinny.

In recent weeks, some prostitutes have begun taking new precautions. They ask friends to write down and keep the license numbers of cars they get into. They take a cab to a hotel instead of riding in the customer's car. And some say they are arming themselves with sharp objects or guns.

Nervous about the deaths, Skinny said she was considering going to Philadelphia for a while, to work the streets there.

But with friends in the area and an apartment in Virginia, she said such a move would be temporary. She'd be back, she said, as soon as she felt it was safe again.