The Madam

Never, ever, will I regret saving that woman from the hangman’s noose eleven years ago. That good-for-nothing she killed deserved being plugged. Even so, a Negro woman who murdered a white man might as well start braiding her own rope.

“’Nough mess … ” Parts of her newest grumble bounced from the parlor into the kitchen. I muzzled my laughter then I heard the thwack, thwack of a dishtowel slapping the velvet settees–Reba’s version of dusting.

Without Reba Mae Tyler, I wouldn’t be grinning at the cash stacked on my desk and organized by denominations. Who better than me, and my five-foot-three-of-nothing-but-glory best friend, to earn this kind of money?

Madam Volvino down the road would have scammed the Wild Bunch. I pictured that dollymop charging a lesser fee for her bawdyhouse services then afterward, jiggling her fat rump straight to the law to collect the one grand in bounty—one grand for Butch alone.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

Organize– daily word prompt

The crooning crowd

“Prostitution is a sin. Prostitution is a sin.” The crooning continued.

Ugh. My blood boiled. I thought of ignoring them, but John said they were a persistent bunch. Even when thrown out of saloons they remained outside badgering customers.

“We expose an evil vice. Are you men or are you mice?”

I wanted to yell, “Yes, for an admission price.” They wouldn’t appreciate the humor.

Floyd, the client who had left dissatisfied the night Sadie had gone to the meeting, nudged Lillie off his lap and ambled toward me. “What the hell’s going on out there?”

“Protestors, hon.”

“Cain’t you get rid of them?”

Only one reason these women knew about my bordello. Sadie. And, since Mayor Hicks had sat in on her interrogation, he must have told Mrs. Stoddard where she worked. A sly devil, I’d give him that much. I’d also give him a whack with my broom, maybe shove it up his bloated ass next time I saw him.

Firecrackers popped.

I moved closer to the window and spotted the bocce cap outside to the left.

A woman shrieked. “They’re shooting at us.”

Enough! I smoothed my dress and opened the door. “Ladies, ladies. No one is shooting at you. And Giovanni, stop it this instant.”

“You!” Another woman yelled out to me. “You house prostitutes and liars.”

I stood firm. “Prostitutes, yes. At least that part is correct.”

“That girl of yours took our Marcy’s scarf. She knows more than she’s telling.”

A new client approached and stood next to Floyd, also out of view.

“Madam Fannie,” Floyd whispered behind the door. “We’re gonna skedaddle. We didn’t bargain for an ugly women chant show.”

I trailed my fingers along his cheek. “Floyd, darlin’. They won’t come in. You can do your business and no one will be the wiser. Go back and sit down. Enjoy yourselves. The women outside think all men are ignorant of their wants. But look at the pretty girls you’ve left on the settee. They’ve been waiting all day for you, and they know exactly what you want,” I winked.

“They can’t come in?” his friend asked.

“No, sir. This house is made of stone, my friend.” And a lot of manipulative persuasion. “Now look behind you. See what you’re missing.”

Both men turned. Lillie held a sensuous finger just inside her mouth. Greta rubbed the inside of her thick thigh.

Floyd and his friend returned to the waiting girls who smartly escorted them upstairs. I opened the door wider. “Now, ladies. It’s time for y’all to be mozying along. Obviously, you’re not interested in anything in here. Or are you?” my words flirted.

Reba nudged me. “Tell them maggots to let Jesus calm their storm.”

“Should I wash their feet too, Rebie?” I whispered.

“No need goin’ that far,” she whispered back.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

Amble -daily word prompt

Wrong place at the right time?

If I weren’t so frightened, it would, or could be, comical. I felt plunked into the pages of a lecherous novel.

Greta and Lillie wore corsets that barely covered their nipples. Their legs shimmered inside shiny silk stockings attached with garters. Trying to be nonchalant, I squinted in the dim light and read Greta’s novelty garter atop her thick thigh. “Good things come high,” it read.

Sassy Sarah and Sadie both wore dresses pitched long in the back but rose above their knees in the front.

Another thought amused me. Except for Miss Fannie, I felt overdressed. A farm girl is rarely overdressed.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

Shimmer– daily word prompt

If it crawls up your drawers

“So’s what she found a scarf? Who wouldn’t pick it up if it weren’t attached to a person?” Reba’s hands might have been in the kitchen when Meta came home, but her ears were everywhere in the house. She knew what had happened.

“It belongs to that missing Temperance girl, Rebie.”

“And ‘member that red hat I’s left at Market Square? Belongs to somebody else now. That Sadie might have a stubborn streak miles long, but she wouldn’t hurt a Bumble bee ‘less it crawled up her drawers.”

Had it? Had the Temperance women hovered over her, gotten too close? Invaded her safety? Sadie had become a barbed-wire fence that kept others out or, perhaps herself in.

What was Sadie keeping from me?

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

daily word prompt: Bumble

Missing the country-side

Electric streetcar rails made circular patterns on the paved intersections of busy streets while the trolley’s bells deafened my rural ears. Businesses of every kind lined up one after another, many sharing common walls. Women wore feathers and stuffed birds attached to their hats and paraded them down the street like migrating nests. Barouche carriages transported men and women in their finery. At least the clamor and Jangle of wagons pulled by tried horses reminded me of home.

I set my luggage down and rubbed my tired arms.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, 1901

daily word prompt: Jangle

Bootlicker

“Do you have news for us?” Miss Fannie asked.

“Some of it funny.” He turned to Miss Reba. “A Snack?

“If you catch this here.” Miss Reba tossed him a biscuit.

Giovanni caught it and took a bite. “Okay,” he said, chewing. “Last night on my way home I went to check on Sadie. She was standing on the curb. Clayton Lamont was with her.” He glanced in my direction. “We were right, Meta. He lives across the street from Aunt Amelia.”

Miss Fannie pinched her lips and let in a sharp inhale.

Miss Reba squinted a stern look. “What you talking about? That same man who threw his hands ‘round Sadie’s throat?”

“Yep,” Giovanni continued. “Someday, I’m going to own a three-button pinstripe suit like he was wearing. A real beaut. Anyway, I sat on the curb close enough to hear. Sadie caught my eye but didn’t let on she saw me.” He stuffed the remaining biscuit in his mouth, chomping as he stared out the kitchen window.

“I’s could fried green tomatoes in the time it take you to—”

“Get to the point,” Miss Fannie snarled, interrupting Miss Reba.

“Okay, okay.” Giovanni stuck his thumbs behind imaginary lapels and faced his audience. “Lamont said, ‘Miss Dubois’,” Giovanni lowered his voice to base. “’I don’t think we have been properly introduced’. Told her he’d been rude and callous. Sadie stammered out, ‘pleasure to meet you,’ real nervous-like. When she asked why he moved across the street he said, well, what he said is something I’m going to remember if I ever meet a girl I’m smitten with. He said, ‘when a good man needs to apologize for a misdeed, he finds a way.’”

“Bootlicker,” Miss Fannie said.

Daily prompt: Snack

The Madam’s Ire

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Meta stood and removed her clothing down to her chemise. “And Mr. Harmon was there. I had the good fortune of meeting his wife.”

“Ah, Ingrid. A delightful woman. Each Christmas, Edgar brings us baskets of fruits, nuts, cheeses and the finest of brandies. It’s really Ingrid who buys the gifts.”

Meta blinked, her eyes rolling to the left. No doubt, Meta’s curiosity rested on why a married woman would support her husband’s attendance at a bordello. Meta didn’t need to know the reason.

“You seem to know a lot about San Antonio’s denizens, Miss Fannie.”

She had no idea. The secrets I knew about San Antonio’s citizens would fill more than a dozen barrels in Otto Koehler’s brewery.

I left Meta and returned to my room. Unless a straggler walked in, no more appointments were scheduled for the night. I had the inclination many of my regulars attended the meeting to please their wives.

I thought of Sadie, her nightmare, her disobedience. I pushed the thought aside and picked up the February 14th edition of Life magazine and stared at the cover—a red heart shot through with Cupid’s arrow.

 

The loud slam of the front door jostled me awake.

Four a.m.

I crept out of my bedroom and found Sadie stumbling and swaying toward the staircase. “Where the hell have you been?”

Sadie collapsed on the first step, laid her head on the third and motioned me away. She lifted her head and vomited.

I left her there to stew in the mess she Created.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

daily word prompt: Create