It was raining, which didn’t improve the humidity that everyone was feeling. The air was heavy with moisture, thick and wavy. The rain wouldn’t last long, it never did. Just long enough to make everyone more uncomfortable than they already were, to make angry people just a little bit more so, Virginia in June.
“What a bitch!” said Jack Hollister as he made his way through the lobby of the hotel he was staying at to the open veranda where he thought it might be a touch cooler. He was wrong. With a heavy sigh he sat down in one of the chairs outside and kicked his feet up on one of the railings that surrounded the veranda. Catching the attention of one of the hotel staff he ordered a drink and observed the goings on and the people around him. The drink arrived in short order, bourbon, straight. Hollister looked at his watch, 11:50 AM, not to bad, he thought. A week ago, his first drink was at 8:00 AM.
Across from the hotel was a “Gentleman’s Social Club” which made Hollister grin. A whorehouse was a whorehouse no matter what you called it. Through drapes half closed he could ceiling fans turning lazily and pretty girls in silk waving paper fans with floral designs underneath upturned chins. It was noontime many would just be stirring from their beds after a long night of work. They needed their rest so they would be fresh for their gentlemen “friends”, older men with money who enjoyed the friskiness of the young girls and would pay what the house asked. Truth was, the girls were just trying to survive, they weren’t any different than anyone else in the city they just had the looks to do it in a different way.
Further down the road was another place. The women were older and the alcohol flowed a little more freely. Their mornings were not so pleasant. They usually woke up with a hangover and some mule of a man snoring next to them, breakfast from a bottle to help ease the pain and early evenings with make up, heavy on the rouge to bring back some of their lost youth to fool men who didn’t care one way or another. Sex and romance were two different things, only a fool would think otherwise.
Most people amused Hollister. The clergy man who spoke out about sin and women of ill repute but secretly fantasized of their embrace using the money that he convinced his flock the church needed. The upstanding and respectable shopkeeper, humorless and precise in his figures who would sneak away at night and throw dice. The tough city policeman who walked his beat and let everyone know he was the law but had no idea his son was a “man of lavender”. The haughty banker who embezzled money from the institution he worked for to maintain his lifestyle and send his sons to school in the east. Hollister understood that people had vices and weakness’ he just disliked deceit.
The street before the hotel was muddy with deep ruts from the wheels of heavy wagons. There were holes filled with foul water that dogs sometimes lapped up. Horse shit mixed with the mud helping to give the city that country smell and weeds grew widespread. Federal troops walked about wearing wool tunics of blue and scratching themselves. Reconstruction duty in the south was not the most pleasant thing to be on and many wished they were out west. Fighting Indians was better than policing a defeated and still openly hostile population, regardless of what President Johnson said.
Nigras and carpetbaggers could be seen as they scurried about, each to their own business. Hollister didn’t mind the Blacks so much but damn if those carpetbaggers didn’t get on his nerves.
Smooth talking bastards would sell their mothers if they could make a profit from it and it wouldn’t even have to be that much of a profit, of that he was sure.