The Newsie

th-13.jpg

It occurred to me Giovanni might have attended the Wild Bunch’s horses. I wouldn’t ask him to break Miss Fannie’s Code of Silence. I had a few secrets of my own. “I’ve come to you because I believe I can trust you. You enjoy the company at the bordello—”

“Hey now,” he said through a lop-sided grin, “only as a bystander.”

“Giovanni, you always search for missing pieces. You know everyone in San Antonio. Can you think of another blonde woman in town who might be involved? Can you help?”

He stifled a belch then leaned toward me, his eyes more adult than juvenile. “Meta, you know what I do when I lay in bed next to my wiggly sister? I stare at a bowed ceiling and wait for it to fall on me. I squeak back at the mice, tell them if they want more food, they should move along some place else. And then? If it’s not raining and I don’t have to mop up the puddle by my bed, I think about what I’d read in the newspaper that day. If I have a question about something on those pages, I keep it in my mind until I can ask at the office. When the lantern’s down, I picture myself typing like those folks at work. I picture getting a real salary. I’ll help if I can. I don’t sleep much anyways.”

Stupefied by his Revelation, I said the only thing that came to mind. “Anyway. No ess at the end.”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello (published)

Daily word prompt: Revelation

A Quick Poke

John drummed his fingers on the table. “Least we caught him.”

God, not Butch and Sundance. “Who?” I tried to keep my voice flat and not give away the flutter in my chest.

“The man who killed his wife last night. Owner of a bit house on the west side. Said he was too drunk to know what he was doing. Said he thought it was an intruder.”

Reba shook her head. “Fool.”

A loud knock struck the front door. Happy for the diversion, I excused myself and hurried to answer. If Mayor Hicks stood behind it, I’d slam it in his smug face.

A far cry from my regulars, the scruffy young man peeled off his cowboy hat and used it to dust off his britches.

“May I help you?”

“Passin’ through, ma’am. Jus’ looking for a quick poke.”

“It’s early, son.” Although he appeared only a few years younger than me, calling him son reminded him who sat on top of the totem pole.

“Yes, ma’am. Won’t take too long.” If a man could salivate with his eyes, this cowboy was doing it.

Maybe he could get Sadie’s mind off Etta and put it back on what she was good at. Besides, a quick poke meant quick pay. He’d be out the door, a grin on his face and a skimpier pocket in our favor. I ran upstairs and received Sadie’s okay.

I held out my palm. “Five dollars for a chit, young man.”

“A chit?”

“A token, darlin’. Our legal Tender ” I reached into my pocket and retrieved the metal coin that read Madam Fannie Porter’s Sporting House. Most often, clients bought more than one chit to exchange for booze. Each morning, the girls returned the tokens to me and received half their value in hard cash. “Hand it to Sadie. First door on the left.”

I traded him the chit for his five dollars and returned to the kitchen.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily post prompt: Tender

Meeting Madam Fannie Porter

 

unspecifiedI neared the front door and stopped to read the sign. Madam Fannie Porter’s Boarding House. The term Madam did not escape me. Nor did the sparsely dressed and licentious female boarders I spotted through the slightly-parted curtains.

I sat on the curb, too tired to cry.

A thick raindrop thumped my hat, the second thudded my skirt. A lightening bolt forced me to stand.

I glanced back at the grand house of ill fame, swallowed the bitter taste of doubt, and inched toward the red doors.

 The iron horse head lifted, I calmed my breath then struck the knocker’s plate, plunk, plunk, plunking it loud enough to be heard over bedlam behind the red door.

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 authority and were the same color as the hair perfectly coiffed on her head. Perhaps in her thirties, she wore a Natty 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.”

Daily Word prompt: Natty

Bed Robbers

tumblr_n0r0hc3uVZ1sd4vovo1_500.jpg
photo credit

Last night, alone in Sadie’s bedroom, I had slipped a chair beneath the doorknob to prevent intruders from stumbling in while I slept. Even so, I tossed and turned worrying about Sadie meeting Clayton.

Although too early for breakfast, I hurried to dress and entered the kitchen to hear the soothing melody of Miss Reba humming Coming for to Carry Me Home while stirring diced potatoes in the fry pan.

“Mornin’, honeypot. You’s up early.”

Like always, the woman had eyes in the back of her head. About to tell her I couldn’t sleep, Miss Fannie sauntered out of her bedroom and into the kitchen wearing her familiar lavender peignoir. “Had a doozy, last night.”

“’Nuther bed robber?” Miss Reba said without turning.

“Bed robber?” I asked.

Miss Fannie filled her coffee cup and joined me at the table. “A nightmare, Meta, and yes, it was a doozy. I dreamed me and Sadie were both stuck in the shining closet. Neither of us could breathe, but it was Sadie who turned blue. Her hands were bound together, but she lifted them to her throat trying to speak. I tried to reach for her, help her, but my arms were frozen to my sides.”

Miss Reba chopped off a chunk of butter with a loud thud with her knife. “A sighting? Teeth chatter?”

Miss Fannie shooed an Imaginary fly from her face.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily word Prompt: Imaginary

Madam Fannie defends her bordello

th-4
The real Madam Fannie Porter made famous by harboring Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch

John opened the paper and tapped a small ad on page three. A glance down at the headlines, my smile faded.

The mayor already hated me. Now, he had new artillery.

Mayor Marshall Hicks, the blue-skin Presbyterian, and member of the Knights of Pythias who had taken an oath to abstain from vices. My bordello sat a mere block outside the district; a fact Dick-Hicks pointed out on a regular basis in his crock of shit. The mandate had been established only a year ago, six years after I opened the bordello.

“What is it, Sheriff?” Reba fiddled with the ties of her apron and remained a vigilant guard by the sink.

“San Antonio Women’s Club have asked the Women’s Christian Temperance Union to speak at a public forum,” he said.

“I believe in Lawd Jesus too, but them Thumpers from their Christ Union are full’a horse pucky and needs to mind their own business.”

The WCTU pledged to protect women by banning alcohol, as well as prostitution. Obviously, they’d never known a woman who could have Survived without my profession, me included.

At Madam Fannie’s Boarding House, my girls earned a good living and treated fairly. A client who forgot that rule or broke any others got a hard stare down the barrel of Reba’s Ratchet. Over the years, that shotgun proved well worth every cent we coughed up to buy it. When trouble knocked at our door, Ratchet made its point with one threatening crack.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily word prompt: Survive

 

 

“No Jail!”

th-4
Madam Fannie Porter

Sadie threw her hands over her ears and rocked back and forth. “Just no jail, no jail, no jail …”

When  tears tumbled down Sadie’s cheeks, I caught Louis’s look of compassion—the same as Meta’s, the same as Reba’s. The same as mine.

“I won’t let you go to jail, Sadie. That’s what this is all about,” John said, his voice softer. “But you need to do what we suggest. I have a plan. But we have to find you a hide-away, some place safe other than here.”

Silence slithered around the frank, yet well-meaning posse while the irony struck me as funny. Over the years, the surrounding walls had safely protected politicians, successful businessmen, and Notorious train robbers. Now, they weren’t strong enough to protect my hard working and best girl who felt more like kin.

Reba thumped the settee’s armrest gathering our attention. “Fannie, what  we ain’t gonna do is snap a fine branch off this family tree and throw it to the fire. If she gotta leave, it better be a damn good place so’s she can come home when time’s right.”

A moment passed and I felt the soft squeeze of Meta’s hand.

“I might know a place,” she said.

 

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily Word Prompt: Notorious

Firing Squad

a-solied-doves_bessie-colvin_alice-abbot.jpg
photo credit

The officer turned to Sadie. “Miss, get up now. We need to ask you some questions. City Hall is only a short walk.”

Sadie gripped the edge of the table as if nailed there. “But I didn’t do anything wrong. I found this the night of the meeting. Meta?” Her eyes begged for help.

What could I do besides sit with my mouth open? I forced myself to stand and offered Sadie my hand. “It will be all right. I’m sure it won’t take long to answer their questions. You’ll be home before you know it.” With afterthought, I turned to the officer. “Sir, doesn’t Sheriff Tobin have jurisdiction over this county?” An elected official always had command over a hired police force.

Ignoring me, the officer grimaced at Sadie, his fingers resting atop his cudgel. “What’s your name, Miss?”

Sadie creaked out of her chair like a woman twice her age. “Miss Sadie Dubois,” she said, her voice low.

“And where do you live, Miss Dubois?”

Again, Sadie stared at me for support.

“Sir, we live at the corner of Durango and San Saba,” I said, not giving away the proprietor or Sadie’s profession.

He tilted his head upward as if picturing the city streets. A slight grin crept up one side of his mouth. “I’d say it’s time for us to take a walk.”

I followed behind a slumping Sadie. Outside, the fresh air did nothing to help my breathing. The officer held fast to Sadie’s elbow and pulled her toward the courthouse. The Temperance women, glued to Sadie’s heels, followed behind like a firing squad taking a prisoner to her Final destination.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

51rszIW1buL._AC_US218_