Jacquelyn was returning from a walk down at the pier. When she was heading back to the tavern where she works as a barmaid two ghostly figures appeared in front of her. Startled, she stopped dead in her tracks. Never seeing anything like this before, she reached out to the glowing bluish-red face. The apparitions moved backward, not allowing any contact, and the two figures circled around her slowly.
Amazed with the unknown presence, Jacquelyn became curious to what this mystic presence could be and extended her hand out again. “What are you?” she asked without fear. “Are you angels?” A red glow flashed where the eye sockets once were. Frightened, Jacquelyn took off running towards the town. She did not look back.
When she was two blocks away from the tavern, she heard voices coming from inside the cemetery. Catching her breath, she walked slowly, not making any sound as she approached.
“Let’s hurry, and finish digging the grave. The rotting flesh is making me nauseous,” she heard Frank the gravedigger, recognizing his scratchy voice.
Jacquelyn scrambled backward, grabbed hold of the black Iron Gate that outlined the perimeter of the cemetery. Her gloved hands, slid down the length of the bar, resting her knees to the ground.
“What do you think happened, Dr. Morehead?” Jacquelyn heard Constable Montgomery ask, in his thick Scottish accent. She wrapped her dark blue cape around to the front of her chest, concealing her presence.
“I’m not sure...
replied Dr. Morehead. He stood up straight after examining the neck of the boy,
allowing Frank the gravedigger to lower the body into the open grave. Dr.
Morehead remembered the same markings that are on the boy's neck from when he
traveled to Egypt twenty years ago. The puncture wounds, and torn neck appeared
to be the same. but
Constable Montgomery handed a shovel to Dr. Morehead, taking one for himself. The three men shoveled dirt into the grave. “What’s wrong, doctor? You’ve clammed up.”
“Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all,” Dr. Morehead replied. The frown on his face worried the others. Dr. Morehead remained silent. He did not want to say too much, or cause alarm.
“Well, if you ask me,” Constable Montgomery started. “We just might have a murderer loose!” His voice deep and convincing.
Jacquelyn could not believe her ears. Had she heard correctly? That there might be a murderer in Port Townsmont. From a distance, she continued to watch the three men shovel dirt into the grave and listen to their conversation.
When a rat ran across the length of the gate where she sat, Jacquelyn covered her mouth so her fear would not give her being there away.
“A murderer?” responded Dr. Morehead, quickly. “I don’t know how you’re going to prove that, Constable. Not with all the merchant ships in port. You would need to question the crew, delaying their departure in the morning.”
The possibility of Port Townsmont having a murderer had Constable Montgomery thinking. He took into consideration what Dr. Morehead said. How was he going to prove that a murder took place without any suspects? And if he questioned all the crew from the merchant ships, the captains would be unhappy not leaving out of port on time.
Jacquelyn remained silent, hanging on to every word they said. She knew that she had been away from the tavern too long and needed to return. However, she wanted to finish listening to their conversation.
“What I think happened,” Frank said, out of the blue. “The boy got into a fight with one of the crew members, and got his throat cut. Then they threw his body overboard.”
Dr. Morehead raised his brow, glancing over at Constable Montgomery. “That’s a possibility, Henry.” Dr. Morehead packed down the mound of dirt with the shovel. “You’d have more trouble conducting an investigation. And not allowing the ships to leave port might cause trouble.”
“I've been entertaining the idea. I wish I didn't find the boy's body lying on shore.”
“Neither did we,” Frank added. “After being out here in the cold air, I’m ready for a brandy.”
“Same here. I could use a drink myself,” Dr. Morehead remarked, tossing the shovel down. “Let’s go, we’re done.”
Standing up slowly, Jacquelyn headed away from the cemetery onto the cobbled street until a pebble caught underneath her boot, causing her to fall down. “Ouch,” she cried, noticing a slight tear to the bottom of her dress.
“Who’s there?” Constable Montgomery called out. Lantern in hand, he moved quickly through the cemetery, kicking dirt up behind his enormous boots.
Shrieking from the sound of his rugged tone, Jacquelyn limped back towards the entrance of the cemetery.
“It’s me, Jacquelyn Cassiel,” she said loudly, limping closer to the entrance.
“Stay where you are!” He ordered, huffing and puffing every step of the way. Reaching the entrance, he caught his breath. Constable Montgomery pushed his eyebrows together. “What are you doing walking the streets at this hour?” His voice stern and disgruntled.
Jacquelyn resented his approach. She understood it was a policeman’s job to ask a civilian the reason for walking the streets during the night. But Constable Montgomery knew she used to work as a courtesan for Madam Aimée, and she was afraid he had other ideas.
“I stepped out for a breath of fresh air,” she admitted. “Why? Have I committed a crime?” A sharp twinge traveled down to her ankle. Jacquelyn slid her right hand down her leg, giving her ankle a quick rub.
Grunting like a grizzly bear, Constable Montgomery released his air. “You’re a little far away from the tavern to have stepped out for a breath of fresh air. Hmm,” he replied, indicating something more. Jacquelyn glanced over his shoulder, recognizing Dr. Morehead, and Frank the gravedigger approaching the entrance.
There were many times during the years she worked as a courtesan when both Frank and Constable Montgomery would be in the parlor wanting service. But she would not have anything to do with either one of them. And that included her boss, Alfred Struthers, who is the owner of the Black Rose Tavern. There were times that Alfred would come over to the house, drunk, and wanting to be with her when she sat alone on the
settee, waiting for a gentleman. She refused him every time.
Jacquelyn fancied older men, with a more slender shape. Dark eyes, dark hair.
Much like her own.
Dr. Morehead met her eyes, reached into his front pocket, and pulled out his watch. “It’s after eleven thirty.” Indicating his concern. “You shouldn't be out walking the streets alone at this hour, Jacquelyn,” he said, scratching the lower part of his brownish-white beard.
“I haven’t committed any crime, have I?” The three men looked off towards the pier. Starting to feel uncomfortable, Jacquelyn started twitching as if she had a tick. From their expressions, she could only imagine what they were thinking.
Constable Montgomery snorted. “Not that I can prove...”
“Well, if you’d excuse me, I need to return back to the tavern,” she said. Not being happy that they might be thinking she was prostituting, Jacquelyn turned up her nose, and strutted off in the direction of the tavern.
She was not too thrilled in returning to work. And when she past the staircase that led upstairs to her loft, she stopped walking for a moment, almost darting up. Animosity overflowed her. She had been outside far too long. Her boss, Mr. Struthers will be drunk by now. And being away far longer than the ten minutes allotted her, her pay would be docked one hour. But Jacquelyn did not care. She was still trying to digest the conversation in the cemetery, and the apparitions that she saw.
After hanging her cape on the brass hook on the wall behind the bar counter, Jacquelyn took the broom that was waiting for her in the corner. She turned her head to one side when she heard a soft, pleasant humming. “You sound happy,” Jacquelyn said, facing Gabriella.
“I am,” Gabriella replied. Her smile, larger than the length of a centipede. “I have a date with a sailor after work.” Gabriella continued to hum as she spun around behind the bar.
“Why a sailor? You normally like older men as I do. The one’s with money.” Charlie, who was standing two feet away, started whistling. Jacquelyn nudged the side of his arm. “Do you mind? We’re trying to talk,” she implied, pushing her way behind Gabriella.
“Damn, women. Always getting caught up in each other’s business,” Charlie said, stepping to one side to wash the dirty glasses. Gabriella and Jacquelyn wrinkled up their faces. “Well, you better stop talking and get back to work. Mr. Struthers
Jacquelyn breathed in deeply, griping the broom handle tight.
Blowing a large puff of smoke into the air, Mr. Struthers tapped the ashes down at Jacquelyn’s feet. “There's a table in the center of the room waiting to be served,” he said with a depth of tone that can sink deeper than a well.
“Yes, sir,” Jacquelyn replied quickly, and without hesitation handed the broom to Gabriella. Once at the table were four merchants were sitting, she glanced over towards the door. Sitting alone underneath a window, she saw an older gentleman.
Clearing his throat twice, the merchant said, “Excuse me, miss, but could we get three ales and one whiskey?” The merchant turned around to see the distraction. “Saw him earlier, down at the pier.”
Jacquelyn pulled her eyes off the stranger, finding it difficult to do so. “Certainly, I’ll bring them right over.”
A peculiar sensation came over Jacquelyn suddenly as she returned to the merchant’s table. She glanced over and noticed the older gentleman staring at her. She placed the drinks onto the table and began her way towards the gentleman that’s sitting near the door. Afraid to go any further when a smoke cloud covered her face, causing her to cough, she turned around and went off towards a table that had empty Steins. “Bastard!” she angrily muttered under her breath.
Not understanding his reasons, and perhaps being disgruntled for never giving him the time of day when she was a courtesan, Jacquelyn has tried to understand Mr. Struthers’s attitude towards her. Unless she finds a way to leave Port Townsmont, or if Mr. Struthers’s drops dead from a heart attack, she had no idea how to solve the animosity with her employer.
In the brief silence, Jacquelyn heard low voices of men at the next table where she was cleaning up spilled ale. She bent her ear to listen.
“Tomorrow we should go to the pier and see if we can find the ship the boy is from. It's only fair to notify the ship’s captain,” Jacquelyn heard Constable Montgomery say.
“It might be difficult to find exactly what ship the boy is from,” said the grave digger grumpily. “Ship crews come and go. Its cargo and slaves, they keep an accurate log.”
“Frank is probably right, Constable. I was under the impression you weren't going to conduct an investigation.” Jacquelyn detected hesitation from Dr. Morehead’s voice.
“I’m not. I thought the captain should know what happened to one of his crew.”
Frank glanced over the crowded room, spotting merchants sitting at tables, drinking rum and whiskey. Meeting the constable’s heavy eyes, he said, “Out in the rough waters of the Atlantic, sailing back and forth from port to port.” Frank paused to clear his voice. “Do you really think any ship captain cares or even knows how many men are aboard their ship?”
Constable Montgomery shrugged his square shoulders back. “I guess not, Frank. I had forgotten before you arrived to Port Townsmont that you worked on a merchant ship.”
Gathering the empty steins, Jacquelyn turned around right when Madam Aimée approached the table next to her. “Good evening, Madam Aimée,” said Constable Montgomery. “It’s always a pleasure to see you.”
Madam Aimée raised her brow. “Gentlemen, what drags all of you together on a chilly night?” Madam Aimée asked, sounding suspicious. “All of you should be home where it is warm. All except for Henry, who should be out walking the streets.”
“Well, since you’re that concerned, how about sending me one of your women?” Frank said, indicating intentions. Madam Aimée ignored his remark, and turned instead to Dr. Morehead as he began a coughing spell.
When he caught his breath, the doctor replied, “Frankly, I believe we stayed in the cold air too long.” He continued coughing louder with every word.
“Charlie,” Jacquelyn heard Madam Aimée yell over the crowded room. “Bring over four whiskeys. Charlie reached for the whiskey bottle and four glasses. “That’ll clear your cough right up, Allan.”
“Just when I was going to order a round myself,” said Constable Montgomery. By the expression on his face, Madam Aimée knew very well that he wanted a drink without having to pay.
“Instead of rubbing elbows with these two, don't you think you’d be more useful if you were patrolling outside?” Jacquelyn heard the sternness in Madam Aimée’s voice.
“Clairee, don't be giving Henry a hard time. We've been out in the graveyard for...” Dr. Morehead started.
Charlie arrived at the table with the glasses of whiskey, sat all of them on the table. Madam Aimée reached into her purse, and pulled out a shiny coin. “Thank you, dear,” she said, handing Charlie a penny. Charlie gave a quick nod, returning to the bar counter.
“As you were saying, Allan,” Madam Aimée continued.
Mr. Struthers strolled over to the table, right beside Madam Aimée. His stare glowered toward Jacquelyn. Turning to face him, Madam Aimée frowned. “Why the sullen look, Alfred?”
Mr. Struthers grumbled a little, took a long puff on his cigar, blowing smoke in Jacquelyn’s direction. “Don’t you think you've spent enough time gathering those steins?” he said, his voice full of hatred. Jacquelyn turned around sharply and headed towards the bar counter.
Jacquelyn loathed Alfred Struthers, for the simple fact that he thought of himself as a ladies’ man, and she could not figure out why. His body was beefy. His neck buried below his shirt. She did not think he was very attractive either. His gray thinning hair swept to one side. And his dark beady eyes have always been cold as stone. She would giggle at times when he would be drunk, and strut like a tomcat through the tavern.
“What's going on here?” Mr. Struthers asked, his voice grouchy, and focusing his stare at Constable Montgomery. “Shouldn't you be out patrolling the streets, Henry?” Madam Aimée coughed, waving the smoke from her face, and muttering profanity under her breath.
“Could’ve used your help two hours ago, big boy,” indicated Constable Montgomery.
“You're not exactly small around the waist yourself,” barked Mr. Struthers. “And what brings you in here tonight, Allan. Another interlude with Clairee?” he said, making a rude insinuation. Dr. Morehead did not say a word. In fact, all three of the men continued to sip their whiskey, as if Mr. Struthers had not spoken.
Dr. Morehead coughed a few more times before being interrupted by Madam Aimée. “You were saying, Allan, why the three of you were in the graveyard...”
Dr. Morehead met her eyes with a blank stare. “We buried a young boy tonight.”
Madam Aimée’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. “Oh, my, anyone we know?”
Dr. Morehead reached into his coat pocket, and took out a dark colored handkerchief. He wiped the sweat from his brow, and said, “No, he’s from one of the merchant ships. Constable Montgomery found his body that had washed up on shore.
Madam Aimée did not question any more, at least right now. The tavern was packed, and full of people from Port Townsmont, along with many merchants. There were far too many patrons in the tavern. She could tell that Dr. Morehead was not in good health.
“Henry, you and Frank take Allan home,” Madam Aimée said. “He’s not looking well.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Dr. Morehead replied. He propped his head up with his hand. “I have a headache, and feel a little light headed.”
Constable Montgomery and Frank helped Dr. Morehead to his feet and out of the tavern. Madam Aimée and Mr. Struthers at the same time looked over at the large clock that hung on the wall. “The tavern will be closing soon. I have payments to collect,” Madam Aimée said, strolling off into the crowd.
Mr. Struthers returned to the table that is in the center of the room. He finished logging receipts in the ledger, while keeping a watchful eye on Charlie, Gabriella, and Jacquelyn who were behind the bar counter.
Reaching down towards her feet, Jacquelyn pulled off her boot, and rubbed the bottom of her foot. The twelve-hour shifts caused her feet to hurt. Sometimes, she would get blisters on the edges of her feet, and on the bottoms of her heals from standing and walking around the tavern on Thursday nights. Thursdays were one of the busiest nights at the tavern. Every week on Thursday, the merchant ships would sail into port with fresh cargo. Early the next morning shortly after sunrise, all the ships would be out of the harbor, sailing to their next destination.
Gathering towels to clean the tables, Jacquelyn stopped and caught a glimpse in the large mirror that hung on the wall behind the bar. “He’s still sitting there,” she said, just above a whisper.
“Who’s still there?” asked Gabriella, turning her head around, catching a frown from Mr. Struthers. “You know that Mr. Struthers sit's in the center of the room every night.”
“No, not him,” replied Jacquelyn. “The man reading the newspaper.” Gabriella moved closer towards the mirror. When she saw the man Jacquelyn was referring, she backed away.
“He’s been here ever since you stepped out for a breath of air,” replied Gabriella. “A very distinguished and courteous gentleman. I served him coffee and brandy earlier. He’s interesting to talk to, and quite the world traveler.”
Jacquelyn turned towards the mirror again. “He’s definitely attractive.”
“Why don't you walk over to his table?” Charlie suggested.
Jacquelyn shrugged her shoulder. “I tried an hour ago, until Mr. Struthers saw me, and blew smoke into my face.”
Jacquelyn pumped water into a bucket while staring into his direction. His long face, dark wavy hair, and grayish eyes set Jacquelyn into a trance.
Gabriella cleared her throat when Mr. Struthers stood up. “Jacquelyn, get back to work. Mr. Structures watching,” she warned. “We don’t need any trouble from him now. The tavern closes in thirty minutes.”
Jacquelyn turned sharply around and reached for a cloth. Dabbing the cloth to her forehead, Jacquelyn wiped the sweat that formed. “You’re right,” Jacquelyn replied, and squeezed behind Gabriella. “I’ll sweep the floor tonight, if you clear off the tables.” Gabriella nodded, handing Jacquelyn the broom.
While sweeping the floor, Jacquelyn would sneak glances towards the table where the man she’s attracted to is sitting, and thought of what she might say to him should she build up the courage to approach him. When she worked as a courtesan for Madam Aimée, she did not have an issue approaching anyone. But the more she would think of what to say, her words in her mind twisted around.
When the man placed the newspaper down, and took a sip from a china teacup, he spotted Jacquelyn looking in his direction and gave a friendly smile. Jacquelyn was instantly beguiled. Her hazel eyes were glued to his, and she found it difficult to pull her eyes away from his.
Speechless, she smiled casually. She shifted her eyes away from his, down in the chair where she spotted his black overcoat that is neatly draped over the chair. Gray gloves were folded crisscross on top of each other that rested perfectly next to the newspaper. He was sharply dressed, wearing a white long-sleeved button-up collared shirt, and charcoal gray vest. He sat as if he was a usual part of the scene: relaxed and comfortable, paying no mind to the squabbling nonsense from the next table.
Jacquelyn stood in the center of the room as if she was glued to the wood-planked flooring, staring at him. They gazed at each other for a few minutes, unaware of the patrons walking around. She felt as though she was in a trance, and could not turn away from his influence.
His dark, pearly eyes were fixed on her hazel eyes. Jacquelyn’s stomach rolled as though waves crashed against the shore. Her heart raced, causing her breathing to be
Drawn to him, Jacquelyn moved slowly towards his table. The gentleman pushed the chair out from him and stood up. Jacquelyn was lost for words. With a friendly smile, he said, “Good evening, my dear. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Victor,” he said, reaching his hand towards hers. He was straightforward and so sure of himself. Jacquelyn placed her palm into his, and gave a quick shake.
“G-Good evening,” she stammered, bewitched by his powers. “It’s nice to meet you.” A burst of heat covered her face.
“The pleasure is all mine,” he replied politely. Jacquelyn took a step backwards, looked over her shoulder, and caught a snarled glare from Alfred Struthers. Victor looked over her shoulder, noticing the glare. “I won’t keep you, miss. I wouldn't want to get you into any trouble with your employer.”
Jacquelyn bent down, removing the empty teacup from the table. “Would you care for another brandy?” she asked with hands shaking, and teacup rattling.
Victor folded his arms against his chest. “Well,” he paused briefly when a group of merchants pushed their way behind Jacquelyn. She took a step forward, closer towards the table. “Would you care to join me this evening, after you have finished with your duties?” he asked softly, as he draped his coat around the broadness of his shoulders.
Shocked, Jacquelyn did not know what to say. She wanted to go with Victor, but feared if anyone found out and told Mr. Struthers, he would cause her problems.
“Thank you for your offer, but I couldn't,” she said, frowning.
“Why do you care what the patrons in this establishment think? You’re a grown woman,” Victor said, encouragingly.
“But I do care. I am not well liked in this town. Besides, what would people think if I went off with you?” Jacquelyn whispered so the patrons close by could not hear. “You’re a complete stranger. I've never laid eyes on you until tonight.”
“Not well liked,” said Victor, surprised. “As beautiful as you are. What could you have possibly done to not be well favored in this ghostly town?” Victor wrinkled his forehead. The lines across his brow ran deep.
Jacquelyn hesitated. “Years ago, I worked as a courtesan for, Madam Aimée.” Jacquelyn pointed towards a nearby table where Madam Aimée was standing collecting payment from businessmen.
Victor smiled while looking at her intently “I understand completely. You must have had your reasons for that line of work. I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you.”
Sighing regrettably, she said, “Thank you, sir. But because of that very reason, I must decline. I’m sorry.” Jacquelyn turned away as tears filled her eyes.
Victor understood without further explanation and started walking towards the large oak curved door. Before leaving, he turned around, glanced around the tavern, and saw Alfred Struthers gloating in his direction. Victor glared back with hatred, kindling in his soul like a raging fire. When he felt the beast within him start to transform, he stopped himself, turned sharply away, and back towards Jacquelyn, making one last attempt to persuade her to go with him.
Jacquelyn noticed Victor’s raging eyes. Her heart sank deep into the pit of her stomach. She sensed Victor’s hatred that’s depicted towards Alfred. But during that very minute, and only that minute, she no longer cared what others thought. Her heart ached with the desire to go with him.
With tear-filled eyes, she said, “I'll… When…” and her mouth shut silenced as if someone put a lock on her lips. Victor reached for her arms, trying to encourage her. But she could not bring her lips to say the words. When she tried, only a quiver from her bottom lip vibrated a squeak of remorse.
“It will be all right. Perhaps another time,” he said. And he stroked the side of her cheek with the softness of his palm.
Then purely out of spite, Alfred Struthers stood up and spoke so the whole tavern could hear. “Don't just stand there. Move your ass, and finish your duties before I deduct your pay. Good help is so hard to find. Especially the ones I rescue from Clairee.” His speech slurred. He moved his beefy body towards Jacquelyn, but a merchant pushed his chair back, blocking Mr. Struthers. “Miserable bitch!” Embarrassed, Jacquelyn hung her head and started walking away, until Victor reached for her arm, pulling her gently to his side. His arm wrapped around her thin waist, he said, “I’ll kill him! It will be a slow and painful death...!”
Comfortable and secure, a moment of hope traveled through her small frame. She tightened her hands into a tiny ball, and faced Victor. “I fear him the most,” she managed to squeeze out her humming bird lips. “When he drinks all night, Alfred is belligerent and strong.” Her bottom lip quaked.
Victor narrowed his brows inward. “Drinking is no excuse to behave in such an ill manner,” he said, and placed both hands on her shoulders. “Come with me. I'll never harm you.”
A nice thought as that was Jacquelyn knew she could not go with him for the evening. Not now, not ever. And a single tear dripped from her eyelid. “I cannot.” Jacquelyn could not believe that a handsome man, one she just met, was interested in her. She was not afraid to go off with Victor. She only feared the cruelty from Alfred Struthers when she returned.
Victor sensed her concern. He lifted her right hand up to his lips, and kissed her gently. As she watched him walk towards the door, tears rolled down the paleness of her cheek. Regretting her decision, she hurried towards the back room and wept.
Realizing the time, Jacquelyn regained composure and returned to the bar counter. She noticed there was five minutes left and the tavern was nearly empty. Waiting for the next few minutes to pass, Jacquelyn’s mind drifted to the man she met, and how he captivated her. She never believed in love at first sight, but she believed now.
Jacquelyn, Gabriella, and Charlie walked to the door together. They heard laughter from the center of the room where Mr. Struthers was standing by a table, talking with two of his friends. “I wish all of them would get diphtheria and die,” said Gabriella, slanting her large blue eyes towards them.
“You shouldn't say things like that,” Charlie, said quickly, his eyes the size of an egg yolk. “You're going to burn in hell for your obscenity.”
Gabriella turned up her lip. “I'll just say a few extra ‘Hail Mary's’ and ‘Our Father’s,’ and light a candle for the souls in purgatory.” Swirling around to reach for the brass door handle, Gabriella caught Mr. Struthers snarling in her direction, and quickly opened the large oak door.“Let's leave quickly before that bastard walks over here. Besides, I have someone waiting for me down by the pier,” she added cheerful and loud, and unclipped the barrette, allowing her hair to cascade down onto her shoulders.
Jacquelyn placed her hand on Gabriella’s shoulder, and smiled. “Thank you for being my friend.”
Gabriella took Jacquelyn's hand, gave it a pat, and smiled back. “I’ll see the both of you tomorrow.” Gabriella hurried out the door.
Charlie motioned Jacquelyn to walk in front of him, but Jacquelyn turned around when she heard
Aimée call for her.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Charlie. Give Elizabeth my love.” Jacquelyn went towards the bar counter where she saw Madam Aimée sitting. She was tapping her nails on the counter, glaring towards Mr. Struthers.
“You wanted to see me, Madame Aimée?” answered Jacquelyn. She glanced at her own reflection in the mirror and noticed her puffy hazel eyes.
“Gabriella snuck a word in my ear,” Madam Aimée said, removing her snarl away from Mr. Struthers. Jacquelyn faced her, scowling. “Now dear, don't be cross with Gabrielle. She’s a good friend, and she cares deeply for you. Now then-” Madam Aimée paused briefly as she took Jacquelyn's cold hand into hers. “I’d like for you to consider in returning to my house to live. I just might have a room available soon.”
Jacquelyn pulled her hand away. “I don't think so!” Her anger brewing. “And why would Gabriella say anything to you? I never said a word to her, suggesting I wanted to move back to your house.”
“Simmer your temper, love. Apparently there’s some miss communication,” she tried to explain. “Gabriella saw you crying in the back room, after the gentleman you were talking with had left. She also heard Mr. Struthers calling you unpleasant names.”
“Let me think about this for a few days. But if I decide to move back into your home…”
Madam Aimée smiled slightly. “Of course not, dear,” she said empathic, bearing in mind the redness on her face. “It would be understood that you would be just a boarder, and not a courtesan.” Madam Aimée reached for her chin, cupping her face gently. “You seem so sad. I am worried about you.”
Jacquelyn’s sullen mood became melancholy. A stream of tears flowed out of the sides of her eyes. “It's… just… that,” and her voice cracked with every word.
Madam Aimée pulled out a white laced handkerchief from the inside of her corset and handed it to Jacquelyn. “I know, dear, I know…”
Jacquelyn wiped her tears, wondering how Madam Aimée could know what she felt in her heart. She wanted to go off with Victor, and knew as she tried to rationalize the idea that the thought was crazy. At that very moment, Jacquelyn decided she was not going to care what people thought about her anymore.
“I'll give you my answer is a few days,” Jacquelyn promised, and blew her nose.
“Now then, I need to go check on Dr. Morehead. He was feeling a bit under the weather earlier.” Madam Aimée reached over and wrapped her large arms around Jacquelyn’s chest. “That sounds fine, dear. No pressure.”
Jacquelyn rolled up the handkerchief into a ball. “I’ll wash your handkerchief out before returning it to you,” replied Jacquelyn, forcing a smile. “And I will ponder the offer you’ve made.”
Madam Aimée walked out the door with Jacquelyn following right behind her. With her hand on the door handle, Jacquelyn tightened up and froze in place. The odor of a cigar was behind her. She opened the door quickly, trying to push her way out. But a large hand grabbed her from her waist, pulling her back. And
slammed the door shut. Jacquelyn stepped back against the corner of the door,
waving the smoke away from her face. “My shift is over. Do you mind? I’d like
to go home.”
“What's your hurry, love? Why not stay and join me for a nightcap in my chamber?” said Mr. Struthers, breathing heavily in her face. The stench of whiskey on his breath caused her to gag.
Jacquelyn turned away from his flirting. “No! The very sight of you repulses me.”
Mr. Struthers puffed on his partially burning cigar. “You know you want me. Why resist my charm?” He stroked the side of her cheek with the tip of his finger, making his way down her neckline. He gazed at her plump breasts that pushed up from the corset she wore, drooling. Jacquelyn wanted to scream, but no one was left in the tavern to help her, let alone care. She slowly scooted along the wall and opened the door.
“C’mon, my pet. I'll satisfy you like no other...” Mr. Struthers said, slamming the door shut. He touched the top of her breasts, sliding his hand down, cupping a breast in his hand.
She gripped his hand and pushed it away, but he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her tightly towards him. “Get away from me. Y-you drunken bastard!” Jacquelyn stammered.
Mr. Struthers stepped back and snarled. “You're nothing more than a lousy whore. Go, before I lose my temper and fire you,” he muttered under his breath. Jacquelyn squeezed past him and out the door.