“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
“My God, it’s Marcy’s!” The temperance union president stared rage into Sadie’s eyes.
The restaurant became silent. No clinking of cutlery, no chattering of women.
Sadie frowned and glanced up at Mrs. Stoddard. “Excuse me?”
“I said that’s my Marcy’s scarf. I gave it to her.” With one swift move, Mrs. Stoddard pulled the scarf from Sadie’s neck and examined the fabric. “See, right here.” She pointed to a tiny section of the material where, in faded ink, “M.S.” was printed.
Sadie squinted and folded her arms. “I found it, ma’am.”
“Where! Where did you find it? Where is Marcy? Tell me this instant. Someone find an officer!”
Sadie froze. “An officer? I don’t understand. You can keep it, if you’d like.”
Patrons murmured and buzzed like a Swarm of bees in a hive with no queen.
Sadie turned her frightened gaze away from Mrs. Stoddard. “Meta, I think we should head back.”
“You are going nowhere, young lady. Not until you answer some questions.” The woman’s lip quivered as she held the silk scarf against her cheek.
I searched the restaurant for support. Anyone. If only Sheriff Tobin were here. But the faces around the tables were unfriendly, their eyes condemning.