Meta pretends she’s a prostitute

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His lips mashed together into a thin line. “Hey, wait just a confounded minute. Did you say…? They didn’t hire you to, you know…”

Retaliation. “Yes! I got a job there, and I know I will love it. The clients can be quite challenging. Last night, when I had to explain that I wasn’t warmed up yet—”

“I don’t want to hear more. Hell, I might be street-smart, but I haven’t even turned fifteen yet. Porca miseria!

“Porca what?”

“Just practicing on not saying ‘shit’ all the time. Ma doesn’t like it, and my little sister thumps me between the eyes when I say it. It’s a little Italian cuss word that means pig misery. Like saying ‘damn.’ Where you off to, anyhow?”

“My Aunt Amelia’s. Would you care to accompany me, Mr. Scallywag? I found a job because of you, did I not?”

He tore the cap off his head and rubbed his greasy black curls of hair. “Stop saying that. I had nothing to do with you getting that job!” He pointed his finger eastward and accelerated his pace.

“Oh, but you did,” I said, hurrying to catch up. “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be tingling with avidity for this evening to arrive. That’s why I’m going to visit Aunt Amelia, to tell her the good news.”

“What’s avidity mean? Wait, you’re going to tell your great-aunt about your new job? At Fannie Porter’s?”

“Of course. She’ll be thrilled for me. Besides, she knows I’m good at it. I’ve been doing it for years now.” I muzzled the smile aching to form.

His eyes widened into a dumbfounded glare.

“And avidity means eager, like being Avid about something.”

“I gotta go,” he said, turning away.

One more chance at deception. “Giovanni? You said you were fourteen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, you are too young to be entertained at Miss Fannie’s. However, I’ll ask her if you can watch me perform sometime.”

His jaw dropped, his dander standing taller than his five-foot-five stature. “You want me to…watch?”

“Ah, we’re here. Thanks for the company.” I trotted off with the last laugh.

From The Last Bordello, historical fiction set in 1901

 

 

 

The Prostitute takes a position (not on the bed)

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photo credit

“What is it, Meta? You seem quiet today,” Sadie <the prostitute> said.

“I’m thinking of Emil. He would love this place.”

“You want to marry this Emil fellow?”

“When the time is right. But I also want to go to college.”

Sadie turned away. “Well, marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It cements a woman’s future and her feet to a kitchen floor.”

I wanted to tell her that some men look at prostitutes as mere fodder for their tumescent phalluses. I held my tongue. “Did you not hear what Miss Fisher said at the meeting? How women need—”

“I do know one thing.” Sadie inhaled a deep, scrappy breath. “I don’t think men care for their wives after they’ve poked them a couple of times. That goal’s already been Conquered. Girls like me? We sleep with money the same way wives do, but we get paid without the bossing.”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, historical novel set in 1901

 

 

Step Aside, Mr. Mayor

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Mayor Marshal Hicks

Mayor Hicks slammed a fist on the table. “This is a damn murder investigation. That woman had her throat slit. The whore sitting here is known to pull out a knife. Plus, she had possession of the deceased’s scarf. Sheriff or not, you can’t just take them out of here. Miss Dubois has a cell waiting with her name on it.”

Sadie shuddered. Van Riper sat motionless, the emotion behind his squinting eyes, unreadable. Anger? Curiosity?

John shot a dogged grin at Hicks. “What murderer would flaunt a scarf belonging to the person they’d killed? What murderer could slit a throat and have no blood on their clothes when they returned home? Now, step aside. We’re leaving.”

Hicks’s face flushed with rage. “So you can go back to your whore madam? Make a sandwich between the sheets? Talk about a conflict of interest!”

In a  Blur of motion, John pinned Hicks to the wall, his hands around the mayor’s throat.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

 

The Madam’s Worry

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Another one-two-three whiskey slam, and Reba retired to her room. The house quiet, I poured another shot, placed the poker chips back in their slots, and settled my weary bones in the parlor.

I flicked off the chandelier and closed the curtains, indications the bordello was closed for business. Now, only a small flame flickered from the lantern beside my settee. A beautiful house, a beautiful room. The thought of being forced out terrified me and left me queasy. Perhaps the whiskey was talking, making me somber and heavy-hearted. What if city officials dropped my grand establishment from the city’s Blue Book, and Madam Volvino’s House of Disgust remained open?

The room, empty of anyone with predetermined Expectations of me, I slouched on the red velvet settee and took another sip. I remembered that one perfect night with John and then dismissed the memory. Years ago, others saved me. This time, I’d do it on my own.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

 

If the Bordello’s table could talk!

Madame Fannie Porter’s “soiled doves” give Meta, the bordello’s piano player, a gift.

“Meta,” Lillie said, her voice soft, as usual. “We have something for you, too.” She nudged Sassy Sarah.

“Sorry it’s not wrapped.” Sassy pulled the item from her lap and presented Meta with a comb carved with ivory roses.

“Kinda my idea,” Greta said, and ignored Sassy’s frown.

My girls. Their thoughtfulness overwhelmed me. They remained dry-eyed. Maybe too leather-skinned from hard lives to soften now. Some day, perhaps.

Meta shook her head as she placed the hair ornament inside the box. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“Well, missy.” Reba shook her head. “You sure picked a fine time to come to the big city.”

Meta chuckled. “A doozy.”

“I seen doozies of trouble in my day. Most is harder to pull off than ticks. Best thing? Meeting Fannie Porter. Worst? All them days before.” Reba draped a handmade amulet necklace around Meta’s neck. “For good luck.”

Meta didn’t ask what concoction Reba had put inside the amulet. Instead, she curled her fingers around the necklace then stood to hug Reba.

Reba and I had been worried about Meta after the shooting. Unlike my girls, Meta came from a simple, pleasant life. When she came to San Antone, she had seen the hardscrabble side and had proven herself a survivor.

Meta sat quietly, skimming her fingertips across the tabletop.

“What you thinking, girlie?” Reba said.

Meta let loose a wide grin and glanced at each of us. “So many secrets engrained in this wood. If only it could talk.”

“H’yaw, now.” Greta thumped Meta on the wrist. “Cain’t tell everything.”

We all cackled like a bunch of old women at a quilting bee and that image made me shiver.

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excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

 

Overwhelming

Hold That Position!

Innocent Meta, mislead to the bordello, is mistook as a prostitute by one of Madam Fannie’s clients.

“Hold that position right there, new girl!”

Edgar? When had he arrived? The three of us peeked over the swinging doors and into the parlor.

Typically a Southern gentleman, Edgar Harmon became cantankerous with too much liquor in his gut. President of the West Texas Bank and Trust, he was still as short and pudgy as when I met him a lifetime ago. Gray hair, the ones still clinging to his scalp, made him look older than his fifty-eight years.

Edgar rose from the divan and staggered toward Meta. “I liked seeing you bent over like that. If you had a little more meat on that rump of yours, you’d be right as rain. You know, a little something more to hold on to,” he said, chuckling.

Meta stood firm. “Excuse me?”

Sadie nudged my elbow. “Shouldn’t we do something, Miss Fannie?” she whispered.

“Hush. I want to watch what happens.”

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Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

Don’t mess with the Madam

Madam Fannie Porter vs. Mayor Hicks: Excerpt from The Last Bordello

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“Pull the reins back, Mayor. Sadie’s not evil. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.” He was using Sadie as an excuse, a reminder I hadn’t moved into the mandated zone a stone’s throw down the road.

“If she could pull a knife on a man who harmed a friend, what measures would she take if she thought she had been wronged? It’s no secret she hates the temperance women.”

True. “What are you getting at? Do you still think that just because she found a yellow scarf, she’s guilty of a crime? Had something to do with the missing girl?”

“It’s likely.”

“It’s preposterous. Now, is there anything else?”

“She was there at the meeting. You know it as well as I do.”

“That’s no secret.”

“Too bad for her it’s not.” He stood, approached the front door, and yanked his jacket off the hook. “Not looking good for her. Nor for you and this place.” He waved an index finger around the parlor like a gun. “I’ll be watching.”

I didn’t escort him to the door, but watched him exit at the same time thunder rattled the porch. Good. For all I cared, he could glide back to the office on his own slime.

Two sets of eyes peeked over the swinging doors and into the parlor. “Okay, nosy children,” I said and joined Meta and Reba in the kitchen. “What happened to those good old days when Bryan Callaghan was our mayor?”

“We’s been scorched by a stinkbug, that’s what.” Reba palmed her newly straightened and gelled hair.

Meta’s expression remained grave. I had the feeling she felt a kinship with the missing girl.

Scorched