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The Five Dollar Flop by T.J. Spears

© T.J. Spears

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The Five Dollar Flop

*start italic*
This is a chapter from ‘The Temperance Hotel’ (sequel to ’Eva Jelinek’). Nat and his lover ,Eva, have arrived in Placerville to learn that Eva’s old partner, Thelonius Sexton, has employed a woman who may be a prostitute to pose as Eva, forge her signature and empty their joint bank account. Now Eva has decided that the reluctant Nat must visit the brothels and locate the woman suspect.
*close italic*

Eva eventually did persuade me to try to find the hooker who had signed in her name on the Western Union withdrawal slip so I reckoned the best way to start was to locate the brothels. Now there’s some towns where a blind and deaf man could find a sporting house ten seconds after he took to the sidewalk, but these particular burgs are usually close to a source of women-starved men: mines, trail-heads, military forts and such like. It ain’t so easy in broad daylight in a town like Placerville, one that’s striving to throw off its disreputable character and act civilized. I asked Eva how she thought a Pinkerton’s hound would ferret out a whorehouse in such a case. She said the Bear Flag desk clerk had probably pointed a thousand lonely men towards the parlor houses in his time and I should go down and consult him.

He was tipped back in his chair with his feet up reading The Mountain Democrat. A desk clerk’s life sure looks considerably easier than a buffalo skinner’s, but I didn’t pass comment for he folded his paper and stood up polite enough when I palmed his brass bell and set my elbows on his counter.

“Yessir, can I help you?”

“Lookin’ for some information. You know what a parlor house is?”

He sniggered.“Sure do, sir.”

“You got some of them establishments here in Placerville?

“Operatin’ or closed?”

“Operatin’. I ain’t interested in buyin’ the building and opening a home for retired schoolmarms.”

He chuckled and scratched his head. “Used to be- let me see - maybe six of them but there ain’t but two now.”

“Tell me about them two.”

“Well you got the Amorous Dove Hotel just off Canal Street. That’s still open. Then you’ve got the Five Dollar Flop.”

“Five dollars!”

“It’s got more class. It ain’t really called the Five Dollar Flop. Sign says Hangtown Lodging House. Choice of four nice girls last I heard. Your five dollars gets you the girl and the room for the night.” He took a scrap of pencil and began sketching out a little map. “Five Dollar Flop right here where I’ve marked it in Old Pino Lane halfway along Union. Very popular with fellas from the camps on account they don’t have to pay separate for a room. ‘Course you’ve already got a room with us here so that wouldn’t appeal to you, sir, not economy wise, but I do believe there’s plenty fellas that just go for the three dollar option and head back straight up to the diggings after.”

I thanked him and on my way out through the lobby I caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. He was shaking his head, either in admiration or disapproval at what he surely surmised was my unbridled sexual appetite since he knew that Eva and I had registered as a wedded couple. In consideration of Eva’s position in the hotel I should have perhaps tried to explain that I was seeking a missing person, but I doubt he would have believed me. He might even have alerted the mystery woman to the knowledge that she was being hunted down.

Back up in our room I told Eva that the Hangtown Lodging House had four possibilities. “This ain’t goin’ to be easy, Eva. There could be a whole stack of girls around town that fit the clerk’s description.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a way, Nat. Look how well you’ve just extracted the information from the desk clerk. Tomorrow you must begin your visits to these establishments.”

I told her that I didn’t appreciate her flattery and that it hadn’t taken much winkling on my part to get the clerk describe the bordellos that Placerville had to offer. I also pointed out that, as a result of my inquiries, he would no doubt look on her henceforth as an unfortunate spouse betrayed by a brazenly fornicating husband.

“Phooeey!” she said, “As if I should care what a pipsqueak hotel clerk should think of me!” And indeed when she swept past him on my arm as we left the hotel later she treated him to a jaunty ‘Good morning’ and the peartiest of smiles.

Next day Eva declared that she planned to take Jessa into Sacramento to buy her some new outfits on account of how she had fled from the Mormons in little more than her night clothing. That left me most of the day to mope around town before visiting the Five Dollar Flop.

I hadn’t entirely relinquished the notion of trying my luck at gold mining so I spent most of the day poking around the mines north of Placerville. I didn’t care to venture along the rails leading into one of the dark tunnels but loafed around by the spoil heap by the steam crusher shed. Soon enough along the rails comes a brawny fella pushing a little rail-car loaded up to the brim with half a ton of pay-dirt.

“You lookin’ for work, partner? “ he said.”If so you’re plumb out of luck. They ain’t takin’ on no more hands, not until one of us gets hurt so bad he has to quit” He crossed himself. ”You kin leave yer name and where yer lodgins is at though, if ye care to.”

“You finding a lot of gold in there?”

He spat out his chaw, tipped a ladle of water from a convenient barrel over his sweaty head, filled it again and then swallowed a prodigious draft. “You just got to California, brother? I’ll wager ye heard back east that the hills are full of gold, ain’t that so?”

“Everybody knows there was gold here. Maybe I came along to late to get my share.”

“There’s gold sure enough. There’s enough in this here mine for another ten years but it ain’t easy winning it. This here is what they call a hard rock mine. Pick and shovel work for them that can abide it.”

He stepped on a lever with his foot, heaved with his brawny shoulder and tipped the rail car’s load into the crusher.
I agreed that it looked like it was devilish tiresome toil.

“You reckon this is hard? Why you want to to see the fellows laborin’, at the dark end of that drift. I’m shovin’ cars today on account of I can’t swing a pick with a broken thumb.” He held up a hand wrapped in a soiled bandage.

“Don’t you fellas use that powerful new explosive stuff and save all that sweat?

“Nitro? Why, a body can’t even use a charge of black powder in there. Rocks so rotten you’d bring the whole roof down then you’d have to find the vein again.”

I thought to myself, this ain’t exactly what I come all the way west for and I’ll be hanged before I spend a day stooped underground at the end of one of them rock burrows. I said, “What about panning in the creeks? Ain’t that a more agreeable way to earn a dollar or two?”

He laughed “Mebbe twenty years ago but that alluvial stuff is all gone now. Easy gold’s all panned out and stamped into eagles years ago. Some crazy fools and Chinese are still dredging the gravel in the creeks up in the hills but they ain’t takin’ much more than pays for their grub and a night in town every month.” He cut a new plug and stuck in his cheek. “Mebbe the Chinese make more but would you want to work like them coolies. No, sir!” He put his shoulder to the empty rail-car and began rolling it back along the rail into the tunnel mouth.

“Nor like you either, friend,” I thought. Down in the bowels of the shed the steam engine started up, the drive belts started whirring round and the crusher began milling the ore with a deafening grinding clamor. I turned on my heel and strolled back to town rather more resolved to help Eva recover her money than I had been before.

Towards the end of the afternoon I went down Union Street and found the lane and the Hangtown Lodging House easy enough. Opposite the whorehouse was a small quiet saloon called The Troy Ounce. I went in and bought a beer and sat up at the bar where I could see the comings and goings in the street. By and by the the little barkeeper slithered along the bar. He grinned and said, “Seen you watchin’ the Five Dollar Flop, partner. Feeling frisky?”

I said, ”Happens sometimes.”

“Classy parlor house. Five dollars gets you the girl and the room for the night. Makes it more swanky than the Dove. Course you can just get a poke for three dollars if you’re a bit short.”

“Got some nice gals there, have they?”

“Can’t say from personal experience being as I’m a God-fearin’ Baptist.” He grinned and tapped his nose. “Them as do visit regular say they’re as lively a crew of girls as you’ll find between here and Sacramento.”

I reached over the bar and punched him soft and friendly on the shoulder, just the way I knew that kind of dandiprat would appreciate.“I’ll lay a dollar to a dime that you’re a welcome customer over there, bud.”

He simpered, “I’m Baptist on Sundays to please my maw. Rest of the week, I allow I’m more of a man about town, if you know what I mean.”

“Hey, I bet you are. It’s only natural that a red-blooded young rascal like yourself gets carnal urges. Here, fill my glass again and draw one for the Sunday Baptist.”

He laughed mighty pleased with himself and when he came back with the glasses he leaned right over with his arms on the bar and said,”They got a German and a Swede girl, blondes both of them, and two that claims they’re American. ‘F I was you I’d ask for Carlotta. She’ll see you right.”

“She speak English? She ain’t Mexican, is she? Don’t sound like an American name, Carlotta.”

“Why, she speaks American as good as you an’ me. Ain’t nothin’ in a name. Could be she took it like a nom de whatyacallit, for professional reasons. Most of us boys call her Lottie.”

Well the blondes didn’t fit the bill but Lottie did sound promising. “What’s this Lottie look like? I don’t like ‘em too tall, nor too short neither.”

“Lottie is just right for you. Not forty yet and full of sport. You’ll have a good frolic with Lottie.” he nudged my hand. “That’s her going up the street now.”

We watched a smart young woman making her way towards the Hangtown Lodging House. From that distance I could see she might fit the description we got in the Western Union tolerably well. The bar tender hauled his eyes off her and said, “You ask for Lottie. Tell her ‘hi’ from Syd.”

“Thanks, Sydney, I’ll maybe do that.” Some other customers came in and he moved off to draw their beer.

I set for a while sipping my beer and studying on how best to find out if she was indeed the fake Eva, and if so find out what she knew of Sexton’s whereabouts. Lottie might well be the one we sought but I knew it wouldn’t do no good to barge right out and accuse her of forging Eva’s signature. That would just frighten her off and get me thrown out of the house. I was beginning to realize this detective work needed a lot more thought if it was to be done right. No, this undertaking required deceit but that had never been a problem for me in the past. Also spending so many weeks in company with Eva must have sharpened up my brain considerable for it didn’t take long before I came up with a bully idea. However I reckoned it would be better to say nothing about it to Eva yet, for if the ruse didn’t pan out right it would leave me looking like all kinds of a fool. So I sat spinning out my drink for another half hour and running the scheme through my head to get it perfect.

Near four o’clock I saw them closing the curtains over at the Five Dollar so I knew they were ready for the afternoon trade which, if you think about it,is kind of contrariwise. Most regular businesses open up their shutters to attract their customers and close them when trading ends but parlor houses are the exact opposite. I waited a few minutes more, finished my beer and then sauntered out pretty casual - but not before Sydney near dislocated his eyeball with his encouraging winks and leers.

From the outside you would hardly have guessed that the Five Dollar Flop was a parlor house. But when the door closed behind me it sprung a little bell and the sound brought a sharp nosed woman hurrying through the curtain behind a desk in the lobby.

“I’m looking for a woman, Ma’am.”

“I didn’t reckon you was here to sell Bibles, Mister. We got three women on duty. Want to take a look at them?”

“Reckon I do ma’am, if it’s convenient.”

“Go through to the parlor and when you’ve chosen you pay me. For all night you you pay five dollars. That’s two to me and the girl will take three. Stayin’ just an hour, it’s one dollar for the room and two dollars to the girl.”

I was slow in answering her for her accent was that English one where ‘pay’ comes out kind of like ‘pie’ and ‘night’ more like ‘noy- ite’.
“Them’s the rates. If it’s too expensive and you don’t mind catchin’ the clap you’d best head on down to the Amorous Dove. That’s a common whorehouse (‘oor ‘ouse).” She took long breath and the next words came rattling out like a poem she had studied up by heart. “The Hangtown Lodging House (‘angtown’) is a respectable parlor establishment purveying the sociable company of ladies from the highest classes of European and American society to discerning gentlemen callers.”

“I’ll take the three dollar deal.”

“Choose first. Go straight through that door. That’s where the girls are waiting.”

In the parlor three women, two blonde and one dark haired, were playing pinochle in a spiritless sort of way. It looked as if they’d been turning over the cards for a month and the joy had gone right of the game after the first week. They looked up as I entered and smiled friendly enough.

“Hello, honey, come to sweeten up our afternoon?”

“You’re the first beau to come callin’ today. One of us is going to treat you real special.”

“I guess a big fella like you ain’t just here to watch us play cards.”

Well what do you say to stuff like that? If you ever feel inclined to go into a parlor house I recommend you have two or three shots of whiskey first, and then the conversation won’t sound so damn false and foolish. Anyway I grinned and said to the dark haired woman. “Reckon you’re Carlotta. Sydney said to call in on you.”

“Lottie, to you, darling.” She put down her cards and one of the blonde woman swept them up and started a fresh deal.

Lottie took my hand and led me back into the lobby. I gave the English woman a dollar as we passed the desk and she pointed at the clock and said,” Your ’our starts now,” and withdrew behind her curtain.

Lottie’s room was pretty nice. An open window looked down on the small backyard of weeds cut short and old chairs set out where a body would catch both the morning sun and afternoon shade. Against the wall there was a brass bed with a clean sheet already on it and fresh ones stacked on a chair. Some kind of blue flowers were bunched in a china vase on a card table. There were two upright chairs for putting your clothes on. Before Lottie could start in on instructing me how to wash my pecker I sat down on one of them and put my two dollars on the bed.

“Lottie, I ain’t up here for the usual thing. I need you to do something different for me.”

Lottie drew herself up very haughty and blazed out, “I’m a respectable whore, Mister. Two dollars gets you the usual thing. Fancy stuff you need to go to San Francisco.” She picked up the two dollars and dropped it in my lap. “You can go down and ask Missus Credge for your dollar on account of you only been in here two minutes but I doubt she’ll give it you back.”

“No wait, Lottie. It ain’t what you think. I just want you to write me a letter.”

She stared at me for a few seconds, and then deciding that I was somewhat wanting in the brain department, explained slow and patient: “You want a letter written you’d best go down to the lawyer’s office. His clerk will scratch you out a letter. He can write a sight better than me.” She shook her head in mystification. “Damnedest request I ever had.”

“Clerk won’t write the kind of letter I‘m lookin’ for.” I fetched my notebook and pencil out of my jacket. “I need a letter to say I’m normal.”

When she was done laughing she said, “If I was to write a letter saying that you was normal it would be telling a stretcher. It ain’t normal to come into a parlor house and ask a whore to write a letter declarin’ that you haven’t lost your senses. I may be a whore but I ain’t goin’ to tell no whopper like that for two dollars, not for ten either.”

“It ain’t about my head. It’s about my lovin’ tackle. I want you to write that it’s in good working order. I need a letter to show the boys up at the diggins.”

“Since when have they required a functioning pecker to swing a pick?”

“It ain’t nothin’ to do with mining. More like what you’d call recreational Saturday night pursuits.”

“Ain’t your dingus in working order?”

“I don’t know. Never been inclined to find out.” I shuffled my feet around a bit and looked at the floor. Acting is just another kind of lying and I believe I done a pretty good job of looking sheepish. “The boys chaff me because I don’t ever come into town with them and go to sporting houses.” Lottie’s faced softened a bit. I went on: “So I reckon if I could get a note to say I prefer to do the deed sober and private, rather than roarin’ around on Saturday nights with all them ruffians then they would lay off me.”

“That the Quartz Hill boys that are ragging you?”

I jumped on that. “That’s them, the Quartz Hill fellas.”

“They’re a rough lot. I ain’t surprised. Duchess Credge has banned a couple of them for their high jinks. Well I guess it can’t do any harm to write you a letter.” She took a pair of spectacles off the chiffarobe and put them on. “You’d better lower them pants down and I’ll take a look at you.”

“No need to check up or nothing.” I tore out a blank page from my notebook and gave it to her “You just write the letter.”

“Just the letter? You ain’t frisky.”

“Just the letter. I’ll pay you the same as if -”

She took the pencil.“So what do I write. You better tell me.”

“You make it up. Sound more natural coming from you.”

So she went over to to the wash stand, and with half an inch of tongue poking out between her teeth, she began to write. In a moment she looked up.

“What’s your name?”

“Evan Jelks.”

“You're goin’ to have to spell that.”

“E-V-A-N J-E-L-K-S”

“Like that?” She showed me the paper.

“That’s it.”

It took her about five minutes but then she handed me the note. I read it out:

* start italic* To whom it may consern

This here dockumint is to say that Evan Jelks is well schooled in the art of sporting (poking). He has a large whanger and keeps it cleen. He sure knows how to pleese a lady which is more than I can say for some of the Quarts Hill boys.
P.S. You know who you are but I will not let on names.

Signed Lottie Barker. Hangtown Lodging House
*end italic*

“That’s a bully letter. When the boys start houndin’ me again I’ll just show them that.” I folded it away. “Say, you won’t say nothin’ about all this if they come in inquirin?”

“Not a word. Professional secret.” She took off her spectacles. “You still got more’n half an hour if you want to socialize.”

Well, I did stay until my time was up and we had a mighty companionable visit. She’d recognized my Missouri accent, bein’ from just over the river in Illinois herself, and we talked a good deal about the fine times before the war when the boats still steamed up and down the river and folks weren’t so dreadful set at each others’ throats due to their political notions.

When I got back to the Bear Flag Eva had already returned from her expedition and was unwrapping paper packages and holding garments up for me to admire.

“Quit that for a minute, Eva, and see if you can find that cash withdrawal paper I borrowed from the Western Union.”

She looked a bit puzzled but fetched it out sharp enough and laid it on the table. I gave her my note from Lottie. “Now read that Eva and let me know what you think.

She read it through and looked at me fair mystified.” Who is this Evan Jenks?”

“Me, in a manner of speakin’”

She read aloud:

”He has a large whanger and keeps it cleen. He sure knows how to pleesure a lady ... That’s you?”

“Never mind that. The whore at the Five Dollar Flop wrote that out for me. Now, quit laughin’ and listen. My idea is to look at the Eva Jelinek signature and see if she makes some of the letters the same. See, here we’ve got a word starting with EV and another starting with JEL. That’s why I made up that name.” I put the two papers close together. “What do you think?”

Well it didn’t take but five seconds for Eva to declare that different hands had written these letters.

“See how your lady friend, Lottie, makes her E. Nothing like the bank withdrawal E. And see how she doesn’t join up the E and the L. The woman who signed at the bank had learned her writing in a school with proper copybooks. Lottie picked up her writing where and when she could.”

“Then I guess Lottie is innocent. I’m kinda pleased about that because I got to liking her. Grew up across the Mississippi from my home town.”

Eva gave me a sharp look. “How long were you there?”

“Just the regular hour. I’d paid my three dollars so it seemed polite to stay and socialize for a bit.”

“What about the other whores. Did you try your sad story on them too?”

“Wasn’t worth it. They were both blondes. Besides you only gave me five dollars.”

“So that makes three women who ain’t our quarry. You told me yesterday four worked at the Five Dollar.”

“There weren’t but three there this afternoon.”

“So where was the fourth?”

“Maybe they take turns to have a day off.”

“Nat, I think you need to go back tomorrow and find out

*start italic) Next day Nat returns to the saloon opposite the Flop *close italic

Sydney racked up the glass he was polishing and grinned when I pushed through the door. “Did ye say hello to Lottie for me?”

“Said more than hello. She’s a comely girl, that Lottie. Draw me a beer, Syd.”

“Like I told ye. Best parlor house in El Dorado County.”

“I’ll allow that’s the truth.” I put my coins on the counter. “Goin’ in there again when it opens.”

He swept the foam off the beer and set it down in front of me. “I can see you’re a man that ‘preciates women.”

“That is the truth and I been told often enough that I sure know how to pleasure them.”

Sydney looked mighty impressed, but then maybe that was one of the skills of his profession. I took a swallow of the beer. “Yessir, where would we be without the fair sex?” I leaned in closer. “Trick is Syd, you got to learn to flatter them. They goes crazy for a ladleful of flattery.”

“That’s so, sir, ain’t that just the way God made ‘em. You right on the nail head there. Yes, indeed.”

“Listen, Syd, didn’t you say yesterday that there were four girls over there.”

“Believe I did. Two foreign and two American.”

“I didn’t see but three, Syd. Two Germans or some such foreign nation, and Lottie herself.”

“Could be the other American girl was takin’ time off. Call it monthly vacation. Why, wasn’t ye happy with Lottie?”

“Sure Lottie was fine, but you know how it is Syd. Man needs a little variety.”

Sydney laughed, “Ain’t that the God’s own truth! Why I could tell ye a tale about variety. One time I was working in Denver, ‘course I had more money then, there was this house that - “ But just then he had to excuse himself and attend to some customers who were tapping their glasses pretty impatiently at the other end of the bar so I never did hear his story out.

Ten minutes later I pushed open the door of the Five Dollar Flop parlor. The same three bored women laid down their cards, looked up and smiled. That is to say the blonde girls managed to keep their cute smiles on their faces but Lottie’s was mighty quickly replaced by a puzzled frown.

It was a discomposing moment for me as well. I could see there was no fourth girl on duty and I couldn’t wish them a courteous ‘good day’ and leave them to their game of cards. After a moment I said, ”If you don’t have no objections, Lottie, I’ve come a callin’.”

She stood up and took my hand, for the look of the thing I guess, but I could see that she was exceeding perplexed. I paid my dollar to Milady Credge at the desk and followed Lottie up to her room. As soon as the door closed behind us she spoke out pretty sharp. “So what’s the tale this time, Evan Jelks? Don’t tell me a mule et up your note before you could show it to the Quartz Hill gang. Or maybe you just come by for a friendly chat about old times by the Mississippi river.”

“Don’t take on, Lottie. First thing I’ll pay you regular for your time.” I laid three dollars on the bed. “And I’ll put in another two if you stay sweet and listen.” I peeled off two more and set them down.

She set herself down on the chair very stiff and upright. “I’m a-listening.”

“”First thing I ain’t Evan Jelks. I’m called Nat Hopper and I don’t have no problem with my pecker, so that ain’t goin’ to be an issue one way or another this afternoon.” I took out the bank receipt and the note she had wrote for me and laid them flat out on the bed side by side. “Take a look at these here papers and I’ll explain why I am here.”

Well, I’d gotten plenty practice telling the tale of how Eva was robbed of her money so in five minutes she had the bones of the story. “Now I do apologise for gulling you with that foolish tale about requiring a letter but when we looked close at these handwritings- “ I pointed to the papers. “-any half educated clod could see you ain’t the fake Eva.”

“So now you got that all figured out why are you back in the Hangtown Lodging House handing out dollars?”

“The Western Union clerk reckoned the woman who signed the paper was ‘a soiled dove’. Sydney over at the Troy Ounce told me that four ladies work here regular. I seen the other two, blonde ladies both of them, and since you ain’t the false Eva, naturally I want to make the acquaintance of the other dark haired American who lives here.”

Lottie rose from the chair, strode to the open window and latched it shut. After a moment she whipped round and let loose at me: “Let’s allow there had been another American girl here, which I ain’t sayin’ was the case, and let’s allow she is still here, which I ain’t sayin’ is the case, and let’s allow she did something against the law, which I ain’t sayin’ is the case, so what makes you imagine, Mr. Nat Hopper, that you’d find one so called ‘soiled dove’ willing to peach on another?”

It was a ten dollar sentence and Lottie was short of breath and red in the cheeks when she got safe to the end of it. Now she picked up the five dollars from the bed and flung them at my feet.

“Mr. Hopper, you can just take your filthy dollars and get out of here. I can smell a Pinkerton rat a mile off.”

“Lottie, first off I ain’t a Pinkerton. Second off, if we find this woman there ain’t no harm goin’ to come to her. You can take my solemn word for that.”

“Sure, take the word of a sneakin’ liar that can spin out words like a quack drummer. You already duped me once, Mister, with your woeful tale of your droopy pecker. I don’t know nothin’ about any other whore besides the two you seen downstairs. You go back and ask your Western Union clerk how she was so sure it was a whore who done the signing. Seems to me there’s a whole herd of Placerville women too goddam quick to spot a whore and pour trouble on her head.”

“And Sydney? He’s making a mistake too? There was only ever three of you here?”

“Ha, that little turkey! He’ll say anything.”

“Sydney ain’t got any stake in it. I told him nothin’ of the signing. He thinks I just want a different whore each time I come callin’. I do believe he is telling the truth and that you ain’t, Lottie.”

She bit her lip and said nothing.

”All we want to do is find out if this woman- the one you won’t admit is here- is really the one we are looking for. And if she is, can she tell us where Eva’s crooked partner went to when he left Placerville? Nothin’more than that. Then, if we get that information, we light out after Sexton.”

“Say you do find the missing whore why wouldn’t you turn her over to the law? She done your woman wrong.”

“Because we ain’t got nothin’ against the her. Eva has experienced hard times herself and run up agin’ the law too. She knows how hard it is for a woman out west. Also she don’t want to have to answer questions about how she come by her fortune.” Lottie seemed to be almost convinced so I carried on. “Eva just wants her money back and to teach her old partner that he can’t treat her that way. The law ain’t ever goin’ to have no hand in this affair, that I swear.”

I stayed quiet for maybe two minutes. Lottie sat with her chin in her hands. By and by she looked up. “Come tomorrow about eleven. Don’t try the Lodging House door, The Duchesse Credge keeps it locked in the morning. Go round to the back yard. If she wants to talk to you, and if she has something to say, she’ll be there. If she ain’t in the yard that means she won’t speak to you so don’t be coming back here botherin’ us again.”

“Seems fair.” I picked up the dollars from the floor and folded her hand over them. “That’s for your time. Take them. You ain’t peached on anyone, Lottie.”

“Bring your woman. Just you and her. No law.”

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