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Th Red-Light Artist


Phaedra put out a fresh pot of tea and sat down to roll herself a fresh cigarette just as a hesitant knock on the door announced the arrival of her guest. “Meg, I presume?” She said, a little too pleasantly, “Do come in.” She ushered the girl in and sat her down in a chair, “Tea?”
“Erm, no’m, thanks much.” She was holding a folder of papers against her chest like a shield.
“Are those the drawings Kate told me about? I hear you have quite a talent,” Phaedra smiled almost kindly, “May I see?”

“Oh, ah, of course miss.” The girl reluctantly held the folder out, Phaedra took it gingerly from her and laid it open in her lap, leafing through the drawings.

“Kate wasn’t lying, you’re an excellent study.” The drawings were portraits, mostly, done in charcoal of men sleeping in prone positions. The women, in various states of undress, looked almost aggressively out at the viewer, “this is an excellent likeness of Kate.” Phaedra held one up.

“Oh, yessim, she sat for me when she caught me at my drawings one night.”

“Ah yes, she said, you make them when your clients fall asleep? You must be quite quick.”

The girl nodded, relaxing some, “Yes, I have to be. I think some of them would be mad if they caught me at it.”

Phaedra pulled another at random, “this one only looks half done.”

“Yeah, he started to wake up so I had to put it away fast, s’why it’s all wrinkled.”

Phaedra nodded sympathetically, “Poor dear…ah, this one is unusual, who is this?” She recognized the man curled around a girl, his face buried in her neck, evidently deeply asleep.

“That? That’s Dom. He’s in all the time.”

“Is he?”

“Oh yeah, heavy sleeper too, and that’s…” Meg reached across and took the drawing from Phaedra to look at it, “That’s Tam. They’re both heavy sleepers, so I got some time.”

Phaedra took it back from her, “Must have been hard for Kate to wake them up.”

“Oh, Kate doesn’t kick Dom out, he pays for the whole night.”

“Really? That must be some stamina.”
“Not really, he sleeps the whole night.”

Phaedra lifted an eyebrow, “He pays a girl so he can literally sleep with them?”

Meg nodded, “Yeah, I think he has trouble sleeping.”

Phaedra regarded the prostitute with a long look, “You think he has trouble sleeping?”

“Yeah, I do think that.”

“What makes you think that, exactly?”

“Well because it’s mostly what he does when he comes to us. ‘course if you take him on you gotta be ready to spend the night trapped under his arm, some of the girls like that since they get some sleep for a change. Guess he doesn’t like to sleep alone or something.”

Phaedra took a drag on her cigarette and considered that possibility, blowing out a long stream of smoke. It seemed unlikely that with the abundance of all-too-available women in town that Brother Lapis would need to resort to paying for someone to make a second dent in the mattress.

The long silence made Meg nervous, “I think he has nightmares,” she blurted.

Phaedra fixed a calculating look on her, “Do you?”

Meg swallowed and nodded, ‘Yessim.”

Phaedra smiled, tucking the drawings back into their folder and holding them out at Meg, “I don’t think I need to remind you, Meg, how important discretion is to me.”

Meg looked startled and a little alarmed, “Of course, Missus. You can trust me.”

“Good, because I’d hate to hear any of our conversation here being repeated in the pubs.” She ushered Meg to the door, pressing a few golden coins into her hand, and closed it before the girl could make any more alarmed replies.

She hastened to her desk so she could get a letter out before the evening post came.

In a loose, spidery hand she wrote:

Mr. Lionheart,

It has been too long since we’ve had Absinthe together.

Mayhap we can meet soon?

~Phaedra Byrne.


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  1. Emerson Lighthouse Emerson Lighthouse March 20, 2012

    *Narrows his eyes and smirks*

  2. Erica Fairywren Erica Fairywren March 20, 2012

    *feels the temperature in the room is decidedly warm*

    oh lovely

  3. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin March 20, 2012

    Good place ter kip down, the Sparrow, long as yer goes round the back an not too late. The ladies is always kind, though some of em coo an makes a bit much of a fuss, sayin “awww… poor thing, ain’t e’ cute..” an stuff. Still, the boot cupboard’s warm an cosy, even if yer do have ter polish a few boots fer the blokes as is visiting, an the breakfasts is great! They got a big chap on the door too, so’s if yer on the lamb, it’s a nice safe dock……

  4. ElvisOmar Oyen ElvisOmar Oyen March 20, 2012

    Miss Byrne, please keep a watchful eye on this evening’s post. I have jotted down a few of my thoughts, and would be interested to hear from you regarding related topics.


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