Photo is of the real Madam Fannie Porter who was made famous by harboring Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch.
The portal to the unknown inched open and revealed a handsome woman, her head held high like a proud Thoroughbred. Her eyes looked stitched with a dark-brown thread of authority and were the same color as her perfectly coiffed hair. Perhaps in her thirties, she wore a lavishly brocaded burgundy gown that cinched her waist and revealed her curves. And her shoes! I had read that Mrs. McKinley had worn such shoes at the president’s inauguration—white satin slippers beaded with color.
“Miss? How can I help you?”
“I…I’m Meta Duecker.” I hated my fear, my uncertainty and lack of confidence. “It seems I have been misled to this address. I was hoping for a glass of water and directions, perhaps?”
“Meta, I’m Madam Fannie Porter. Please come in.”
She grabbed the heavy hatbox and steered me away from the inappropriately dressed women in the parlor.
“Have fun, boys,” she said to the salivating men.
Frozen, I averted my eyes from the coquettish prostitutes and their clients and focused on the opulent décor.
To my left, an ornately carved baluster led to upstairs. Through the upstairs banister, I counted six closed doors. A grand chandelier hung from the high ceiling, and a large gilded mirror above the hearth doubled the brilliance of the room and cast a sensual glow on the two red-velvet settees and the wingback armchairs upholstered in Oriental fabric. Next to the chairs sat tea tables covered in tatted lace. A slightly faded Persian carpet lay beneath the furniture. Never had I seen such grandeur.
“Meta? Shall we?”
I followed the madam through the parlor to the right. An old upright piano stood in the corner just before the swinging doors. The wood, soft to my touch, yearned for attention.
Excerpt from The Last Bordello