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Wife of time traveling bartender Mike Callahan, and employer of some of the most unusual and talented performing artists ever to work in the field of hedonic interface, Her Ladyship has designed her House to be an "equal opportunity enjoyer," discreetly, tastefully and ...
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Wife of time traveling bartender Mike Callahan, and employer of some of the most unusual and talented performing artists ever to work in the field of hedonic interface, Her Ladyship has designed her House to be an "equal opportunity enjoyer," discreetly, tastefully and joyfully catering to all erotic tastes and fantasies, however unusual. Like her famous husband, Lady Sally doesn't even insist that her customers be human...as long as they have good manners.
Small wonder, then, that she and her staff encounter beings as unique and memorable as the superhuman Colt, whose banner never, ever flags...Diana, the deadly dominatrix who cannot be disobeyed...Tony Donuts, the moronic man-monster even the Mafia doesn't want to mess with...or Charles, the werewolf with a distinct difference...
It's a good idea to stake out a spot near an alley, if you can manage it without a fight. Occasionally you get a john who's in a big hurry, or who enjoys the thought of making out in almost-public. Either kind can be dealt with in a quarter of the usual time, with minimal effort, and neither kind is liable to insist on a discount. Besides, if you think about it, they are getting a discount since they don't have to pay for a room.
You have to look them over carefully before going up that alley with them. Even the cheapest, sleaziest hotel room has an inhibiting effect on a rapist or mugger or nutcase. Whereas an alley is a place from which he can escape in two directions in a hurry.
But it had been my experience that, while perhaps a quarter of all johns were weird in one way or another, less than one in a hundred was dangerously weird. And I had never met one of those that I couldn't cope with. I used to quote those statistics about how the vast majority of murder and rape victims were assaulted by someone they knew. So when I hit the set that night, the first thing I did was to grab a spot near a good alley. One with no overlooking windows or fire escapes, or intrusive lights. I got there just ahead of Suzy Q, and he glared at me, but surrendered the spot. (Suzy was a pre-op transsexual, who billed himself as the One-Stop-Shop, and he and I had an understanding. He didn't mess with me, and I let him stay a pre-op transsexual.)
The moon was just coming up over the pool hall across the street when a well-dressed couple walked past me: a short, sad-looking man and somebody's maiden auntie, talking in low voices.
I only noticed them because of the glance the auntie gave me. Lots of well-dressed aunties looked at me with a mixture of pity and condescension and revulsion. This one's eyes held only pity. Somehow that was even more irritating.
So I half watched them as they walked by me and neared the mouth of the alley. I noticed vaguely that he had awfully big ears, and that she had a pretty fair little shape for an auntie. And then his worried sounding murmur rose in volume, so that I caught the last two words "-right now!" He thrust something into her hands, and she took it at once, began doing something to his neck with it. The gestures she made were oddly familiar, but I couldn't place them. She stood back, and I got it. He now wore a dog collar around his neck, and the end of the leash was in her hand.
And they ducked into the alley.
I broke up. They were just the most unlikely couple I could imagine to grab an alley quickie-much less to be into B&D.
I stopped laughing almost at once. When I was her age, came the thought, I'd probably have to take the weird johns too.
Or maybe their relationship was personal rather than professional. In any case, they were consummating it in my goddam alley. I followed them into the alley on cat feet.
A shaft of moonlight on the alley wall provided dim illumination. I saw them about twenty yards away, their backs to me. I moved so that I was no longer silhouetted against the mouth of the alley for them, and settled into voyeur mode.
The show was already in progress: he was removing his clothes with considerable haste. All of them, which I thought was strange and rather rash considering the exposed location. As he removed each garment he handed it to the auntie. In a surprisingly short time he was stark naked. Not even socks; not a wristwatch or a ring. Just the collar. He looked... like they all look.
"You'll forgive me if I don't watch," I heard her say, and she turned away from him. She was British, and unquestionably she was someone's maiden aunt. I had heard that some Brits were into this sort of thing. The question was, did I let them proceed with whatever the hell it was they were doing, or chase them off my turf?
While I was deciding, he changed....
I don't scream, okay? I never have, not once in my life. Oh, I've yelled at the top of my voice a few times, hollered "Ouch!" or "Stop!" or "You bastard!" or whatever. But that cliché of a thousand suspense films, the unspellable, unpronounceable, generic falsetto female scream, is just not natural to me. Believe me, the life I've had, if it was going to happen it would have by now.
I didn't scream this time, as he changed. But I tried.
If you go to the movies much, you've probably seen a physical transformation very like it. That was my first thought: state of the art special effects. Skin stretched or shrank, changed color, changed texture, sprouted hair. Bones shifted, melted, extruded. The overall effect was a shrinking, a compacting. There was a constant muffled sound, like someone tearing up a whole chicken wrapped in a towel. I remembered that the moon was full tonight.
Maureen, I thought, you are watching a werewolf change shape in an alley in Brooklyn, while his auntie discreetly turns her back.
Of course I was wrong. Even in the lousy light, I could see the moment the transformation was finished that he was not a werewolf. If he had been, I think I would have refused to believe my eyes. But what they told me was so silly I simply could not disbelieve it.
He was a werebeagle.
* * *
There was no mistaking that shape, those ears. I had been in love with a beagle from ages five to seven, and had never really gotten over his loss. I recognized the new smell which was making the alley even riper than it had been a moment ago. Well, of course, I thought dizzily, it stands to reason that a beagle's bowels must be smaller....
Perhaps that small, homely detail made it plausible to me. They'd certainly never mentioned such a side effect of lycanthropy in any of the movies, and I knew I would never have thought of it myself-but it made sense. I didn't stop to work this out consciously at the time; I simply believed what I was seeing.
And did what seemed an intelligent thing: I turned very quietly on my heels and began tiptoeing out of there. This wasn't my alley (although I had thought so until twenty seconds earlier); if people wanted to walk their werebeagles here it was none of my affair.
How could I have guessed that I was walking in the wrong direction?
I'd have sworn my heart was already beating at maximum speed, but it revved up sharply as a large male figure appeared just before me in the mouth of the alley, silhouetted against the lesser darkness of the street. Then I recognized him, and felt a wave of relief. All right, I thought. If the gods had allowed me to summon any one I chose to assist me in that moment... well, he would have been somewhere above fifth on the list. It was Big Travis, my pimp.
"Hey, Baby Love," he said lazily.
I had always hated that stupid name: now it sounded sweet in my ears. Bad weirdness was behind me, but my protector was here. "Travis! Jesus, I'm glad you came along-you won't believe what I just saw-"
"You won't believe what I just heard."
"-later, honey; first come see this, honest to God you'll-"
I was shocked when he hit me.
* * *
I had actually thought I could control Big Travis-that I was controlling him. It was a powerful and necessary illusion for a girl in my position, I guess. I took a great deal of secret pride in being able to control so strong and wild an animal. Perhaps Travis was aware of the illusion, and had allowed it to persist as his means of controlling me. If so, the illusion backfired on us both, for it had given me the idea that I could get away with skimming from him. It kept me from noticing a smouldering glow in his eyes that night, and it persisted right up to the moment his big fist smashed into my left side, just below the ribs, and its loss caused me several kinds of pain.
Least of which-at first-was the physical pain. Travis had hit me much harder than that once, back when we'd been defining our relationship. I was convinced that I had allowed him to do so then, deliberately given him the illusion that he was the one in control, as a means of establishing my control over him.
But this was different. The last time had been the kind of male violence I was familiar with: he'd picked the quarrel, spent a few minutes shouting and working himself up to it, built his anger to the proper dramatic peak, and let fly. I had had plenty of time to decide how I wanted to react. This sudden explosion of cold violence was shocking, dismaying, disappointing... and above all infuriating. I might have accepted a slap in the face; but an unexpected punch in the side seemed... disdainful, rude.
"You son of a bitch," I gasped, backing away against the wall. I wanted to rub where it hurt, but I was so mad I wouldn't. "What the hell was-"
"You been holdin' out on me, girl," he said. His voice unnerved me as much as the punch had. Travis knew.
I felt faintly dizzy.
I tried anyway. "Bullshit! You know how many guys I do a night, you know what I charge, you get a dollar for every dollar I make, even the tips." Believe it or not, most street girls give all their earnings to their man, in exchange for room, board, protection, and all the luxuries they can wheedle. Since I'd learned where Big Travis hid his cash (pimps don't use banks), I didn't mind that so much-my money was mine on twenty-four hours' notice, anytime I decided to leave-but a girl likes some folding green in her pocket, so...
"Been talkin' to your johns. You raised your prices. And still gettin' tips on top of that."
Shit. "Then I must be worth it! If I can get more than the going rate out of those bozos, it's my business."
He shook his head. "No. It's my business. And I'm teachin' you what happens when you screw around with my business." He shook his head again and stared closer. "Bitch, what you smilin' for?"
"Because I know something you don't know."
"What that be?"
I felt very tired all of a sudden. "I grew up on Army bases. My father started me on hand to hand combat when I was six. I took a punch from you once because I figured that a bodyguard is more use with his precious male ego intact. But I would say that this relationship has come to an end. You take all my money, and then the first time I actually need you, you punch me. I know half a dozen guys I can replace you with, Travis. Thanks for everything, and you were a fair lay, but I am now going to beat the living shit out of you." I squinted through the darkness. "What are you grinning for?"
He laughed aloud. "'Cause I know somethin' you don't know."
I shook my head. "Nice try, Travis."
He was nearly hysterical now. "No, no," he said, backing away. "I'll stand right here. Just take a peek."
I glanced down and back up before he could have moved. Nothing there. I took two steps forward to attack him before it registered.
If I hadn't been wearing a white blouse I'd have missed it altogether in the dim light. A large spreading dark stain...
Suddenly the pain in my side went from dull ache to lancing agony, and I was so scared I seemed to become hollow. He was still laughing at me, rocking slightly back and forth.
"Oh yeah? Well I can handle a knife, jerk, that's first year stuff, what do you think of that?" I screamed.
-and fell hard onto my knees-
His laughter tapered off. "I think you in your last year," he murmured, and moved toward me.
I saw his knife now. The blade was long and wet, and I knew I'd taken it all; I was cut bad. Most murder victims, I remembered thinking, are killed by someone they know....
I swayed on my knees. My arms were too heavy to lift. So were my eyes. I have seen a man turn into a beagle, I thought, and now I am going to die, and my last sight on earth will be Big Travis's crotch there, coming closer to my face. No fair. I wasn't ready. Start again-
"Told you once before, be no second chances, sweet thing. Whore cross me once, she'll do it again, an' I can't be bothered spendin' energy keepin' you scared." He took me by the hair, yanked my head back so that I was looking up at him, throat exposed. I was grateful, thinking that I preferred to die seeing his face. Then I saw his face. "My other bitches already scared good-but when they read tomorrow in the News what Baby Love looked like when she was found, the gon' get industrious. I don't plan to let you die fo' 'nother hour or so... so the first thing we got to take is your voice..."
"You must stop this at once. At once, do you hear?" someone's British maiden aunt said.
I was not scared. I had passed way beyond scared, seconds ago. I knew scared would return as soon as I felt the knife again, but now I was conscious only of a vast sadness, sadness and the bitter taste of defeat. It seemed unfair, and anticlimactic, of the universe to torment me further by adding dollops of guilt and shame to my sorrow. I had been stupid: the message did not need underlining. So why did I also have to bear the guilt for the death of an innocent bystander, somebody's harmless, brainless auntie? Not to mention the beagle, which Travis was probably going to stomp to death and sell to a Korean restaurant.
"Go 'way," I croaked. "It's a game we play-"
"That's right, Auntie," Travis said, grinning. "We playin' a game. Like foreplay, you dig? Better beat it on home, we jus' gettin' to the good part." He unzipped his fly partway with his knife hand, still holding me by the hair.
"If it is a game, dear boy, then I should very much like to play too, if I may. And in my judgment it is your turn to be It."
Big Travis frowned, confused. I closed my eyes and groaned, because I knew how he always reacted to confusion. Sure enough, he let go of my hair, and as I slumped back onto my heels I heard his snakeskin boots stride slowly away.
"Old woman," he said, "I think it be your turn to be shit-"
I knelt there marinating in sorrow for a thousand years. I could feel things rearranging themselves inside me where he had stabbed me, cut edges rubbing past each other, but the pain could not distract me from my sadness and guilt. Something exploded in my head, and I knew I had to open my eyes and look at her, had to see her sweet, well-intentioned, stupid face once, so that I could take the sight of it to Hell with me. I deserved to; I had gotten her killed. I turned my head in her direction with a massive effort and forced my eyes open.
There was something wrong with what I was seeing. The point of view was too high. I was on my feet! How had I gotten to my feet?
At once came the thought, Maureen, if you are strong enough to get up on your hind legs, you are strong enough to turn around and run.
I calculated my chances of escape at one in a hundred. But even that one chance made it more imperative than ever that I see the old lady's face before she died.
Excerpted from Callahan's Lady by Spider Robinson Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
This is basically four short stories centered around a working girl, Maureen. Maureen is a young street prostitute who stumbles upon Lady Sally's House, a very special brothel like no other. The Lady caters to a broad spectrum of tastes but always with discretion and manners. The first story introduces the two and sets the tone for the following fascinating stories. Although this is an adult themed novel, don't expect a bodice ripper or a porno. The characters really sell it (and yes they are enjoying themselves at the Lady's but it's not written in a smutty kind of way). The Lady has a secret though, she's the wife of time-traveling bartender Mike Callahan from the famous 'Callahan's Crosstime Saloon' series. If you enjoyed that series, you'll love Callahan's Lady!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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