IV. TULSA TIME, CAT CATRELLE STYLE
Maggie tried to remember the face of the first few ladies on her list as she started to dial the numbers. She could plainly recall the first, Tabby Moore, but it was peculiar how she was the only one. The rest just seemed to be familiar names that had no faces. They should’ve been more than name to her. Maggie struggled with the fact as she waited for Tabby to answer.
“Hello?” came the familiar sound of Tabby’s velvety smooth voice, “this is Tabby speakin’. Who’m ah talkin’ to?”
“It’s Sadie,” Maggie replied, “or should I say, Maggie Usher, Tabby. I need to ask a favor of you.”
“Oh, mah!” Tabby exclaimed, happily, “ah didn’t ’spect ta heah from y’all! ’specially since ah normally ain’t usually heah any mo’. Y’see, ah moved to Vicksburg. Anyhoo, what c’n ah do for y’all?”
“Well,” Maggie began, “I’d like you and the girls to come up to my wedding.”
“Ah’d be more’n glad to, dahlin’,” Tabby replied, “but, I can’t answer fo’ th’rest. Ah hope y’all c’n understand. We no longer have the cathouse an’ we ain’t in that business anymore. So, we don’ see each othah no more.”
“I understand,” Maggie replied, “and thanks. I look forward to seeing you again. See you in about a week…?”
As she hung up, Maggie remembered how hard she’d tried to destroy these women. And yet, Tabby seemed totally enamored with her. If anything, these girls should hate her. But, it seemed, they didn’t. Just from Tabby’s reaction, they seemed to look up to her. She couldn’t figure out why, even after what she’d done to their lives, they’d feel anything more than an undying hatred.
Shaking off the wonderment, Maggie dialed Catarina ‘Cat’ Catrelle’s number. For the life of her, Maggie couldn’t seem to remember Cat’s face at all. She couldn’t remember anything about her. Not one clue would offer its self to her memory. She was drawing a total blank. Then, a sultry voice answered on the other end, and it all came flooding back.
“‘Llo,” came the sultry answer on the other end, “Cat heah. How may ah he’p y’all?”
“Cat,” Maggie replied, remembering now that she spoke to the Amazon of the group, “It’s me. Y’know, Madam Sadie.”
“Well,” came the surprised reply, “if’n this ain’t a surprise.
Girl, ah thought y’all forgot us po’ girls a long tahm ago. What c’n ah do fo’ y’all?”
Again, Maggie went into detail and asked the Amazon to come for a visit. Again, she got an affirmative. The tall woman’s voice seemed to be filled with admiration as they continued to talk. Maggie was beginning to get choked up with emotion. Never had she ever anticipated that her attempts to destroy those girls would leave them with an admiration for her. Nowhere did she hear even a hint of the hate she rightly deserved from them. Why?
After talking to Cat for an hour, the conversation was at an end. When Cat hung up, Maggie dialed the next number. As she did so, she struggled to put a face on Macie Loomis. When a thick, rich alto voice answered, she saw the face immediately. The mulatto ‘African Queen’ was always an object of desire for many a man.
“Hello,” Macie’s rich alto voice sang across the wire, “Macie, heah. How c’n ah he’p y’all?”
“Macie,” Maggie answered, “it’s me, Madam Sadie.”
“”Ell, ah’ll be,” Macie exclaimed, thoroughly surprised, “How y’all been? Ah been ’spectin’ a call from y’all, but not this soon. What c’n ah do fo’ y’all?”
“I need a favor,” Maggie replied.
“Jus’ name it,” Macie replied, “an’ ah’ll see that it gets done.”
Maggie spent an hour explaining to Macie what she needed done. When she finished, Macie agreed to call the girls together and explain what was being asked of them. She allowed how Maggie was being extraordinarily brave by coming clean and that she though it was for the best. After Macie hung up, Maggie began dialing the next number. As the phone rang, she tried to remember Sadie Hadfeld. Then, as a soft, quiet voice answered, Maggie remembered.
“Hullo,” a small, quiet voice responded, “Sadie, heah.”
Maggie fought back the tears as she remembered the fragile, delicate sixteen-year—old beauty that had been naïve enough to join the chaotic and often dangerous life in the cathouse. Cat, Macie, and herself had made it their personal mission to protect the youngest of their crew and often found themselves physically beating violent johns off little Sadie. They found themselves personally defending her time and time again; not wanting to see her get killed by the men who just didn’t care. Even though she’d wanted revenge, she never wanted to see any of them go through that kind of a nightmare. It just wasn’t right to wish that upon anyone.
“Sadie,” she said, choking back the tears, “it’s me.”
V. MELISSA TREAT AND SAMANTHA SWEETS
Melissa Treat and Samantha Sweets had become roommates soon after the end of their lives as prostitutes. They’d remained in touch with all the other girls after they went their separate ways, but had lost all contact with Maggie. The two girls had made a name for themselves after writing a novel based off their lives. Now, they continued to team up on literary projects that added to their already growing wealth. As with the rest, Mel and Sam looked up to Maggie. She’d given them a chance to stay alive after they’d been forced to live on the streets. At the time, they didn’t have the heart to tell Maggie that their parents had all died. Nor could they bring themselves to tell her that they knew who she was.
Of course, Cozy had seen to it that they knew who Maggie really was and why she was luring them into her trap. But, still, they went willingly. They all felt that they had no other choice.
They felt somewhat responsible for her. Indeed, they wanted to make things right. So, one by one, they joined her. First, Tabby. Then, Cat. And then, Macie. And then, they had joined her…followed by Sadie, Rosa, Stephi, Lea, Consuela, Andrea, Philicia, and finally Daria. Together, they had made up the members of the cathouse. With Maggie’s brilliant and protective leadership, they prospered.
In their time with her, all the girls came to love Maggie as they’ love a sister. In fact, they’d become something of an actual sisterhood. Yes, in their hearts, they’d grown to be a family. Now, as the two writers talked with Maggie over the phone, they reminisced about those days. It was as if their lives together had never ended. Their adventure seemed to continue on even after the group had gone their separate ways.
As they talked, they tried to ease Maggie’s mind and arrest her feelings of guilt. They conveyed the fact that they loved her. They’d be happy to make the trip. They’d do anything for her. They’d be there in a few days. As Maggie hung up, she felt a lump grow in her throat. The love these ladies had for her was evident. They were willing to drop everything and come to visit.
Maggie dialed the next numbers, still shaking from emotions. Her guilt where her treatment of these ladies was concerned was visible. Her grief over the wrongs she’d perpetrated against them gripped her. Her utter remorse was beginning to surface. She knew she had to beg their forgiveness. She had to do so in order to be able to forgive herself. That was all there was to it.
And so she called them. The next familiar voice she heard was that of Andrea Munroe. The quiet one men called the ‘Ice Queen’ was as thrilled to hear from her as those she’d already contacted. She, like her friends also agreed to the reunion. She was as ready as any to come.
After a short conversation with Andrea, Maggie called Rosa.
Rosa was a beautiful senorita with a sweet personality, who’d wanted to make amends for her parents’ crime in the worst way. It had, unbeknownst to Maggie, been Rosa who’d convinced the rest to go to their former madam and join her. She’d known that it might destroy them, but she convinced them that whatever happened, it would be better than what they were suffering at that point in their lives. Their parents had been killed as well. Murdered by those flame-haired demons that had paid them all to hide the murder of an honest man, Maggie’s father.
She knew in detail how it all had come about. She’d heard of Calvin Usher and how successful he was. This had made several of the town fathers very mad. He was an outsider. How dare he make good with their constituents’ money. And to think that he thought of himself as a Christian.
Just when Mr. Usher had reached a certain level of popularity, they unleashed their fury upon him. The poor man never stood a chance. Though he’d become a deacon in the local Methodist church, his rank would not hold under the crushing weight of the accusations that would be placed upon his character. He’d be accused of marital infidelity, sexual misconduct, unlawful business practices, practicing witchcraft, and many other things that the children knew to be lies. But they were mere children. There wasn’t a single thing they could do.
All these things took place at a time after those red haired demons had arrived in the town, and accosted Mr. Usher. When they couldn’t get him to give them whatever it was they were after, they began these ugly rumors. They found a few unscrupulous sorts to bear out the insinuations, to bring forth the accusations and offer a questionable burden of evidence. Money had changed hands, and the damage that was done was irreversible. From there, everything began to unfold.
This first attack merely served to destroy Mr. Usher’s reputation in the community…or, at least, among the adults. The children of the town loved Mr. Usher and his young wife. They gave jobs to the youth who needed summer work. They tutored the less fortunate. They offered encouragement to those who needed it the most. The children couldn’t understand why these strangers were doing these things to such an honest man.
The night when Mr. Usher was murdered, Rosa had been there. She’d seen it take place. She also noticed that those firehaired demons were also there. Their pawns had pulled the trigger, but those two demons had remained unsuccessful at procuring whatever it was they’d been after. She remembered as she fled the horrifying scene, she ran smack dab into a man who was the very image of Mr. Usher.
“Run, girl,” she could remembering hearing him whisper, “and don’t look back.”
And she did run. She ran until she couldn’t run anymore. There she sat, tears streaming down her face, until she fell asleep. Her brother found her the next morning and carried her still sleeping body home. The days that followed ran together in a blur of colors and sound. Nothing made sense; her family began moving from place to place from that point on. Their luck ran out when they reached Tulsa. Of course, by that time, her brother was already gone. But, again, Rosa witnessed it all. This time, those fire—haired demons killed her parents with their own hands. If Juan had been present, he would’ve died as well. It was just by sheer luck that they had not seen her. She lay, hidden beneath her bed, for several hours…staring into her mother’s dead eyes.
When she finally emerged, her teenage legs were like jell-o. She could barely walk. Her mind, now traumatized, was nearing breakdown. Hysterical, she ran from the house…never to return. Weeks later, she was found by Tabby and Cat. It took them weeks to calm her enough to get details of what had happened.
All that time, they brought her food and comfort in their makeshift shelter. From there, she would learn the fate of all their parents was the same…death in the most horrible fashion.
As she now talked to Maggie over the phone, these memories came flooding back. Her guilt at not being able to do anything to stop what she’d witnessed still haunted her. This was why she’d do anything for Maggie. She felt that she had to do something to make up for what she couldn’t do. She had to repay her parents’ debt to Maggie.
Maggie hung up after talking with Rosa, feeling as if the Hispanic had some secret she kept trying to tell her. But it seemed as if the words just wouldn’t form. Whatever it was, it must’ve been something horrible. But she wouldn’t press her for it. It wasn’t all that important to her anymore. What was their friendship. How ironic that seemed, since Maggie had spent so much time hurting her.
As she dialed the next number, Maggie hoped that Stephi was home. Perhaps the brunette was out on location again. She had found acting after the group disbanded. From that point on, she was a difficult person to get in touch with. Perhaps it was best, at times, to just vanish. Perhaps acting was her way of coping, Maggie didn’t know.
“Hullo?” a voice answered.
“Stephi,” Maggie said, “it’s me.”