Tepic strolled through the open kitchen door and let out a hearty greeting.
“Ello ladies!” he spotted George in the corner and added “an gent!”
The room was full of the smells of breakfast being cooked, smoke from various pipes, cigarettes and cigars being smoked, and a range of perfumes from the subtle to the obvious. From all corners his greeting was returned, along with hair tousling and a few hugs along with an invitation to join the working girls for breakfast.
Seated at the communal table, they were served by the establishment matron, a lady of impressive proportions who had also in the distant past been a girl at the Blue Sparrow. This was the back rooms of the place, well away from the public areas, and only vaguely connected to the tasteful suite of the Madam, where she entertained her friends and colleagues surrounded by elegance and finery.
Oddly, for some reason, it reminded Tepic of the kitchens in the larger communal farms of Dairy, everyone mucking in together, discussing the events of the day, or night in the case of the Sparrow, even the humour had a similarity, though in both types of establishment they sometimes all laughed for no reason he could fathom.
After stuffing himself to the point of almost bursting with thick slabs of bacon, sausages the girth of his forearm and enough eggs to celebrate Easter, he opened up his pack and passed round jars of his patented vole milk ointment, It was a new line and some of the girls swore it softened the skin better than anything else, giving it almost a velvety feel.
The girls probed him for news from the City, though they were not restricted in their comings and goings, most of them shopped in the more genteel areas, and were always hungry for any gossip from the streets most of them had come from. Naturally, the talk turned to the recent riots, especially as it centred around an establishment similar, but with far less taste and decorum, as the Sparrow.
Tepic was able to relate great tales about the conflict, despite not having been able to see much due to the storm, it was, after all, just gossip and tale telling, so embellishments and exaggeration were only to be expected. He described how he was able to bring comfort and succour to the combatants, carefully sneaking knockout drops to those who had instigated the riot. He basked in the glory of being such a cunning and clever chap and displayed his black eye as a badge of honour.
Finally he remembered his mission to enquire as to whether any of the girls from the ‘other place’ had ended up at the Sparrow. He was answered by the Matron.
“Lawd, young master Tepic, a couple of the poor ducks did come by, but the Madam sent em packing!” she declared, “Said we was a respectable establishment and couldn’t be doing with the sort of goings on as at that Harding chap’s place.”
Reluctantly Tepic excused himself to continue on his rounds, escaping before more than a couple of the lasses could plant kisses on his cheek.