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Grasshopper And Gadfly Go To The Brothel

Grasshopper and Gadfly go to the Brothel
D'Alaire — 16 Sep 1998, 10:43 PM

It was possibly the lushest establishment Qwai-chang had seen in America. The velvet wallpaper of a tasteful deep red and white pattern, plush mahoghany furniture, below fine works of art, crystal chandeliers and decanters, and a fine upright grand played quietly by a man in fine clothes.

There were cats strewn about the amber lit interior, puffy, fat cats, licking their paws or carelessly watching from their chosen perches, and nicely dressed men, most of them supplied with a silken-clad lady on his lap as they sipped their sweet drinks and listened to the music. The sultry singing began eminating from the other side of the room, and coming closer....

"Woman is fickle, false altogether;
Moves like a feather, borne on the breezes
Woman with witching smile, will e'er deceive you,
Often grieve you
Yet as she pleases, her heart's unfeeling
False altogether,
Moves like a feather, borne on the breeze."

Qwai-chang watched without reaction as the scantily clad, wildly red-haired woman prowled around her audience with a mewing, pampered kitten her other hand, wafting her feather boa under their noses as she huskily sang, purring out every note...

"Wretched the day is when she looks kindly
Trusts to her blindly his life thus wasting;
Yet he must surely be dull beyond measure,
Who of love's happiness ne'er has been tasting...."

Qwai-chang merely stared as the woman ran her silky white hand around one gentile man's neck, making him grin. Then she teasingly rubbed the kitty against his cheek. In turn, he goosed her. Qwai-chang blinked.

"Like that?" Max grinned. "That's our own Miss Racine. She's the best. Her evening act draws 'em like flies every night."

Qwai-chang was polite. "I am, unaccustomed to...this, behavior."

"What? Oh, don't worry about Mister Larson, he's easy to tease. Truth is, he likes all the attention he can get."

"I did not mean Mister Larson. I have not visited a place like this before."

"Loosen up," came a woman's voice from behind him and he turned. Appraoching softly on the embroidered scarlet carpet was a sharp-eyed lady with a sanguine bustier, a heavily embriodered satin skirt, and a thin lace shawl draped behind her and over her elbows. "This is the nineteenth century, you know."

Max grinned and tipped his bowler to her. "Madame Maxine, meet Qwai-chang. Gonna have Doc looking after his brother in the last room--if we can dig him up, that is. He's pretty beat up, I'd barely recognize him. But Qwai here's helping with the Merlot and the kitchen 'till he's paid off."

Qwai-chang bowed politely. "I will work very hard, for my brother."

Madame Maxine looked the quiet man up and down, then grinned. "Okay, Mr. Chang, but you keep you hands off my ladies, and remember-- the Merlot belongs to me and Max here -- we bought it fair and square, no tips, no sips. Aside from that, welcome to the Provencal."

Qwai-chang bowed again. "I am, grateful, Madame Maxine."

Max grinned and replaced his toothpick. "Right this way, Qwai. We'll start unloading, and send ol' Hogan off for the doc."

Madame Maxine raised her brow at that. "Are you sure Doc's okay?" she asked, giving him a look. "It is past ten o'clock."

"He'll do fine," Max grinned. "Doc can rip out a tapeworm with three sheets to the wind."

Madame Maxine smiled. "I guess you're right -- put don't remind Mister Hogan about that. You know he reacts when you talk about worms."

"Got it. -- C'mon, Kwai, we've got crates to tend to before the sun gets too hot."

"Yes, Max," Qwai-chang said, and followed him into the back.

Maxine peered down the back hall after them. "Thirty crates, twenty per, right, Max?" She heard no reply but turned back anyway. She had a business to run after all, and the day was only beginning.