Time for another excerpt? Here’s the hero of my current work in progress, Encouraging Prudence. David is visiting a brothel in the course of his investigation.
He arrived at the Admiralty steps just as Captain Talbot passed the guard on the front door.
“Sir,” he said, putting on his persona of eager disciple, “I cannot thank you enough.”
Talbot smiled, expansively. “Ready for a night on the town, young Walker, eh?”
Their first stop was, predictably, a brothel – an expensive brothel, by the youth of the workers and the quality of the fittings, but with the same sickening smells of cheap perfume, sex, sweat, and despair as the others his work had taken him into. He allowed himself to be introduced to Fanny, a statuesque redhead who was considerably older than she was made up to appear, and followed her to one of the rooms.
He looked longingly at the bed. He was beginning to feel the loss of a night’s sleep.
“Don’t bother,” he told the prostitute, as she began to unbutton her blouse. “When were the sheets last changed?”
“Maybe three days.” She looked uncertainly at the bed and back at him. “How do you want me then?”
David explained. “What I’d like you to do is sit in the chair over there, and wake me in half an hour. Before we leave this room, I’ll give you double what I gave your mistress. And when we get back out there, you’ll pretend to everyone, especially my friend, that we’ve coupled.”
The prostitute frowned. “You’ll pay me. Just to sleep in the bed.”
“On the bed, but yes. Miss Fanny… or is it Miss Frances… you’re very desirable, but I’m very, very tired, and I’d rather nobody knew…”
She nodded. “It’s Dorothea, really. But Old Hatchet-Face, her as owns the place, she said that weren’t a good name for a whore.”
“Do you have a way to tell the hour, Miss Dorothea?” He’d removed his coat, but he laid it on the bed and stretched out beside it. No point in putting temptation in the woman’s way. He’d wake in an instant if she approached the bed to check his pockets.
She nodded. “I can hear the clock tower down the street. Chimes the quarters, it does. It’ll be just on the half I wake you.”
“Good. Thank you.” His nose wrinkled, but he’d slept in places more rank. Willing his body to relax, he closed his eyes, and Mist was suddenly there stretched out beside him. No. He was here to sleep, not to fantasise about the only woman he desired.
“Mister? Mister Walker?” He woke to the woman’s whisper. “It’s been half an hour.”
Yes. He could hear the half still chiming. Half an hour was not enough, but it took the edge off his weariness. He’d cope.
In the main sitting area, Dorothea poured him a glass of wine, and perched on the arm of his chair, leaning against him while he waited for Talbot. Her silence money safely in the pocket she had tied to her waist under her skirt, she had obviously decided to throw herself fully into her part.
Talbot arrived some minutes later, buttoning his pants. His companion was smiling admiringly up at him, but David caught the contemptuous grimace she passed to her companions behind Talbot’s back.
“That’s the ticket,” Talbot said to David, grinning at the way Dorothea was draped over him. “Can’t get enough of you here, can they? They should pay us for servicing them, eh? Hah! That’s a good one. They should pay us, eh?” And he slapped the bottom of his companion with expansive glee.
“You want another round, Walker? Or what about an exotic dance, eh? I know a place where the girls…” he gestured expansively, shaping improbable globes in the air.
“That sounds very exciting, Sir,” David said, back to being suitably grateful. “Is it a place we could get something to eat, Sir? All that exercise…”
“Good lad. Worked up an appetite, eh? Oh, to be young again. Come on, then, lad. The night is young, eh? We’ll stop at a coffee house and then go on to Sultan’s Palace.”
David saluted Dorothea with a kiss on the cheek and received a warm smile in return. “Best half hour I ever spent in this place,” she told him loudly, “and that’s the truth.”