Episode 31: A Full-Blooded Evening | Scryer's Gulch
Julian Hopewell wasn't in the habit of visiting Mamzelle's Palace, at least not while the goodtime girls had been in residence at his place. But they were gone, all but Emmy. For a price, Emmy would do anything a man might want, from dishes to more personal services. But Julian preferred that girls at least pretend they liked him, and Emmy wouldn't do that for any amount. The occasional splurge on a visit to Mamzelle's became necessary.
The problem was affording it.
Luckily for Julian's libido, a hotel tenant with a big back bill and not much sense struck it rich on a claim everyone else had given up on. The greenhorn came back to town with one nugget the size of his fist and another the size of a hen's egg; he paid Julian with the smaller one, told him to keep his room open and keep the change--"Call it six months' interest and six more in advance"--and hightailed it back to his suddenly valuable claim.
As a result, tonight Julian was in funds. The first thing he did after hitting the assayer's office to cash in the nugget was to bespeak a dinner at the Palace, featuring a beefsteak the size of the table top.
"Yes'm," he said to Mamzelle as he sat back from the dinner table, "I tell you, you ever get tired of that ching-chong Chinaman in your kitchen, you just send him my way. Best cook in town--oh." He pulled up short. "'Cepting for my Ralph, a-course. My Ralph's a fair hand in the kitchen, I must say. Ain't much to look at, but no one comes to my place to look at folks," he leered.
Mamzelle smiled. "I like mon Chinois--my Chinaman, you say. But eef I do grow tired, I weel know where to send him." In a pig's eye, you savage, she thought. His people were writing poetry and building great cities when you lot were still picking mud out of each other's hair. "And so now you 'ave dined, Monsieur 'Opewell. What now? You would like perhaps a leetle company? Une jeune fille?"
"Boy, Mamzelle, the way you do talk, I'd swear you really were from France instead-a..." Hopewell paused, uncertain. "Instead-a...er...wherever you all are from," he finished with a weak smile. "Well-l-l, I guess I would like a little filly at that. S'pose that's what I came for!"
"Très bien! I weel give you the choice best of my girls. But first, perhaps a drink?"
She gestured, and Howard the enormous bartender appeared at her elbow so suddenly Julian started. Two glasses and an amber bottle were set on the table, and Howard disappeared as quickly as he'd come. "That man's a tad disturbin'. He's not...not one of your folk, is he?"
"Oh, no. 'Oward, he is human." Mostly, she added to herself. She poured Julian a stiff drink and encouraged him to knock it back.
"Boy, Mamzelle, you sure are bein' nice to me tonight!" said Julian, with more cheer than suspicion in his tone.
"And why would I not? Now we no longer compete, I weel be ton ami--friend. Friends of the best, no? 'Ave another."
Julian grinned and hoisted the bottle. "Don't mind if I do!"
With each swig, Julian grew more talkative, just as Mamzelle had hoped; they began a good gossip over all of his various tenants. "The new schoolteacher--Mademoiselle Duniway--she goes well?"
"Oh sure, Miss Duniway, she's a peach!" burped Julian. "A reg'lar peach. That cat of hers is a holy terror, though."
"Cat?" said Mamzelle with casual interest. She had tracked Misi down to a single block of buildings including the Hopewell; her plan had been to go through the guests one by one and see who might be the owner of a large black cat. Hopewell had cut to the chase for her. "What kind of cat causes trouble for you?"
"A big black tom. Furry beast with a bad temper. Just as soon spit 'n' scratch as say hello, that cat," grumbled Julian.
"I think I know this cat," purred Mamzelle. "Now, mon ami, shall we try your luck of the best at the roulette wheel?"
She stood behind Julian advising him on where to put his money, and made sure he lost so gently, and so mildly, and with such grand occasional reversals to good fortune, that when he came away much lighter in the pocket he barely noticed. He trotted upstairs with a giggly girl and the remains of the bottle, and didn't come down for the rest of the night. When he did come down, it was minus the rest of his windfall, but as far as he was concerned it was a fair trade.
For her part, Mamzelle kept moving among the night's customers, encouraging just enough drunkenness in them to throw caution to the winds and money on the gaming tables. It would be a good night, perhaps a very good one. At the next full moon, when she was free to kill once again, she'd have an even better one.
Mamzelle knew where Misi slept at night now, and with whom. It remained only to kill the Duniway woman. Then Misi would be free to kill Jedediah Bonham, and then together they would slaughter the entire Dark-forsaken town full of human garbage. Kill them all, even down to her dear Chen Bing-wen and Sheriff John, and fly away.
Would their blood be enough to cleanse her? She doubted it, but the world was full of human blood to bathe in. At some point she would be satisfied, though it might take a few centuries and great gouts of gore to accomplish.
Mamzelle licked her sharp teeth and let her eyes glow red for a moment. She returned to her work, throwing an arm around a greenhorn with a dandy of a waxed mustache; he smelled of bay rum and anemia. She wrinkled her nose. Anemia was not tasty, but it could be fixed in time for her revenge.
"A beefsteak, peut être, monsieur? On ze house," she smiled.