Copyright© 2001-2003 by DB.
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Author's Note: This story was written in Lady Sally's universe - a fascinating subset of Callahan's Bar's universe - as created by Spider Robinson. I strongly recommend buying and enjoying his books about this "House of Incredible Repute[tm]" including Callahan's Lady and Lady Slings the Booze. They will also fill in a great deal of background material that I haven't included here.
I note that the cover art of one of his books shows a robot, though no robot appears in any of the stories. I decided this oversight needed to be rectified.
I always hoped there'd be a follow-on collection of stories by other authors where this might appear, but that doesn't seem to be happening.
A special (and belated) thanks to Gorgo for his excellent and much appreciated proofreading. All remaining mistakes are mine.
Concurrent with the United States Supreme Court decision regarding Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc (1994) and the copyright laws of the United States, this is a work of parody. This work is posted freely without any request for remuneration; its only purpose is social commentary presented in an entertaining fashion.
Lady Sally's house lay under siege. I had first become aware of it nearly a week ago. A furtive movement across the street as the light became iffy near sunset. A tiny rustle, like leaves in the wind, except that there were no leaves, and no wind. The sound of footsteps, yet no one was there.
These past nights it steadily increased. Now in nooks and doorways across the street, there appeared to be glimpses of figures in black, wispy cloaks over shadow, possessing neon-orange glowing eyes. They kept their distance, and seemed to fade away when looked at directly, but they were on all sides of the house now.
So far, Lady Sally's domicile and place of business stood firm against this assault, as it had against all previous ones. The multi-floor house occupies an entire block of a quiet neighborhood in New York City. It was built nearly a hundred years ago, when people built such mansions, and looked ready to stand another thousand, provided the melting polar ice caps didn't inundate it first. Even if they did, it would probably still be standing proudly on the sea floor. Rumor was that Lady Sally has party plans for every eventuality, including one for when the first wave laps against the front door. My name is Maureen. Should that day arrive during my lifetime, I can think of nowhere else I would rather be than here.
The house has entrances on all four sides, each serving a different purpose for different clientele. In the past two nights, I'd peeked out of all of them to confirm that the house was indeed surrounded, although not yet breached. The strangest part of it was that nobody else noticed - or at least mentioned - seeing anything unusual. This assault seemed invisible and unnoticed. I kept hoping Lady Sally herself would say something about it without being asked outright, but so far she'd held her silence. Until Lady Sally chooses to speak, I was ready to hold my tongue as well. But I kept my eyes and ears open when going around every corner in the house, alert for the sight of glowing eyes, or the sound of leaves inside these walls.
Inside though, it continued to appear as business as usual. Lady Sally's Whorehouse of Incredible Repute[tm] always seemes oblivious to the changing world outside, as if it exists in its own little island of reality - separate from any other. In the two years since I had gone full time with the professional staff (and they are all true professionals), nothing has halted the business-as-usual attitude for more than a few hours at best. And those were always events so strange that nobody could have ever expected, or anticipated, them anyway.
It is not clear why Lady Sally's house hosts so many events so strange that nobody could have ever expected, or anticipated, them. Somehow it just does. Yet despite all the strange things that have happened inside the house, it still always feels much safer than outside. For now, I'm making sure I'm safely inside before the last rays of sun depart the street outside. I feel protected here, and that's a luxury you have to live without for a few years to properly appreciate.
All the action here starts in the Parlor. This is where the majority of the clients enter, after going through the cloakroom and divesting themselves of their umbrella, coat, and any lethal hardware. Lady Sally has a strict policy on that. You can take it with you when you leave, but you can't bring it inside.
The Parlor is a long room with chairs, couches, a gigantic fireplace at one end, a concert grand piano, and two bars opposite each other. It's where most everyone hangs out until they decide what they want next, and make arrangements with the appropriate person(s). Some people, including the house's favorite clergyman, never go beyond the Parlor. But most do. What kind of a house would we be otherwise?
Overall, it's like a big party that never quite ends. Its tempos and rhythms wax and wane with both the cycles of the day, and those of the moon. But only when the remaining diehards are pushed into the corner for an hour's worth of cleaning in the early streaks of dawn's light, do they threaten to stop. Before they can flicker out entirely however they are fanned again, and rise like the Phoenix while the cycle starts over again.
It's always the new things that I like most about living and working here. The surprises each day seems to bring. Today I got a double dose. One of them was an impossible request from a client. The other was a new, young man I was hoping to see again tonight.
First, the new young man. It's strange for me to have called him young, since I'm only twenty and he is certainly in his early thirties. Yet I felt that way about him when I met him. While I'm a veteran of some hard years on the street before I came to Lady Sally's two-and-a-half years ago (I don't talk about those days anymore), he was clearly new to this scene. Last night had been his very first visit.
All the customers have house names, and these house names usually reflect some particular aspect of the customer's personality. House names preserve one's anonymity, yet also seem to free the person of their inhibitions and hang-ups. It's as if, by becoming another person, one can step out of their limitations for a while. Lady Sally has created a safe zone for this to happen, and that's why her house is the best.
When he had attempted to offer me his name the previous night, I had stopped him and explained that, for his own privacy, he would get a new name here. House rules. And no one can use your house name outside the house either.
"And is Sherry your real name?" he asked me.
That stumped me for a moment. No one else had ever asked me that so quickly and directly.
"It's one I've used here for awhile now," I finally replied. "One I choose for myself, rather than had chosen for me." I didn't mention that length of time I'd used "Sherry" coincided within a couple weeks of officially becoming an "artist" here at the House. I considered myself "official" when I had gotten my first salary check for the art. Lady Sally's is not like any other House you've ever hear of.
"Sherry," he said, rolling it over his tongue as if taking a delicate sip and tasting both its sweet, and tart - not that kind of "tart" - nature. "I've never chosen a new name for myself," he finally replied. "I guess you'll have to help me," he said, with a bit of a smile.
With that, I looked him over carefully, really for the first time. He was handsome enough, and came across as intelligent - much like my good friend, The Professor. But he didn't seem a con man, and I'm very good at spotting con men.
Yet he also seemed restless. Like he wanted this phase of our interaction to get over soon, so he could get on to the next one. But it wasn't just that he wanted to get on to having sex with me. While I don't flatter myself unnecessarily, I am quite good at what I do, and have a long list of regular customers to attest to it. This was more like he knew he was at the beginning of a long journey, and was antsy to get started. To find something important.
That was it. I cocked my head and finally said to him, "I'm going to call you 'Hunter', since it makes a better name than 'Searcher.' 'Searcher' is more of a title, while 'Hunter' is a name I know at least one woman uses, even though it seems more masculine than feminine."
I paused for his reaction. For a long moment, he didn't react at all. Could I have guessed to wrong about him? Then a slow smile creased his face. Hunter was obviously a careful thinker. That improved my opinion of him another couple of notches.
.... There is more of this story ...