In the back a man in a greasy tight fitting suit sat at a piano continually playing one popular song after another. At times a few drinkers bellowed out words to the songs until the bouncer came over to quiet them down and tell them that this was a respectable place and they couldn’t do that.
Little clerks ran around and a couple good citizens from the province sat at a nearby table making advances and talking dirty to the prostitutes. A waiter swung between the tables bringing an unappetizing brown sauce in glasses and a yellow one in cups. It was called bouillon and the other Melange. He also carried a full carafe of schnapps with little striped shot glasses.
Two women came up to their table and asked for coffee. It was no big deal; they just sat down and ordered.
“The blonde perhaps?” whispered Dr. Petersen.
But the attorney waved him away. “No, no not at all–She is only flesh. Not much better than your monkeys.”
A short one in the back of the room caught his eye. She was dark and her eyes seethed with eagerness. He stood up and waved to her. She loosened herself from her companion and came over to him.
“Listen–” he began.
But she said, “Not tonight, I already have a gentleman–Tomorrow if you want.”
“Get rid of him,” he urged. “Come with us. We are looking for something special.”
That was tempting. “Tomorrow– can’t it wait until tomorrow darling? I really can’t tonight. He’s an old customer. He paid twenty Marks.”
Frank Braun gripped her arm, “I will pay much more, a lot more. Do you understand? You will have it made. It’s not for me–It’s for the old man over there. He wants something special.”
She stopped. Her gaze followed his eyes to the Privy Councilor. “Him, over there?”
She sounded disappointed. “What would he be wanting?”
“Lucy,” screamed the man at her table.
“I’m coming,” she answered. “Not tonight. We can talk about it tomorrow if you want. Come back here around this time.”
“Stupid woman,” he whispered.
“Don’t be angry. He will kill me if I don’t go with him tonight. He’s always that way when he’s drunk. Come tomorrow–do you hear me? And leave the old man–Come alone. You won’t need to pay if you don’t like it.”
She left him standing and ran over to her table.
Frank Braun saw how the dark gentleman with the starched felt hat bitterly reproached her. Oh yes, she had to remain true to him–for tonight. He went through the hall slowly looking at the prostitutes but couldn’t find any that looked corrupt enough. There was still a last residue of self-respect, some instinctive certainty of belonging to some other class of society.
No, there were none of the lowest of the low. The pert and saucy ones that had their own way, that knew what they wanted to be, whores. He could hardly define what it was that he was looking for. It was a feeling. She must love what she does, he thought, and want no other. She would not be like these others that through some chance unfortunate coincidence had wound up here.
These upright little women would have been workers, waitresses, secretaries or even telephone operators if their lives had only been just a little bit different. They were only prostitutes because the coarse greed of males made it that way.
No, the one he was looking for should be a prostitute. Not because she couldn’t be anything else, but because every inch of her body screamed for new embraces, because under the caresses of one lover, her soul already longed for the kisses of another. She needed to be a prostitute just like he–he hesitated. What was he? Tired and resigned, he finished his thought, just like he needed to be a dreamer.
He returned back to the table, “Come uncle. She is not here. We will go some other place.”
The Privy Councilor protested but his nephew wouldn’t listen.
“Come uncle,” he repeated. “I promised you that I would find someone and I will find her.”
They stood up, paid, went across the street and then further to the north.
“Where,” asked Dr. Petersen.
The attorney didn’t answer, just kept walking, and looking at the big signs on the coffeehouses. Finally he stopped.
“Café–Drinks–Gentlemen,” he murmured. “That would be right.”
These dirty rooms were furnished in every style imaginable. To be sure, the little white marble tables stood here as well and plush red sofas were stuck against the walls. The rooms were lit with the same electric bulbs and the same flat-footed waiters shoved through the crowd in sticky suit coats.
But there was no pretense. Everything appeared just as it really was. The air was bad, smoky and stuffy, but when you breathed it in you felt better and freer somehow. There was no constraint and students sat at nearby tables drinking their beer and talking dirty with the women. They were all confident, sure of themselves, as mighty floods of filth flowed out of their lips. One of them, small and fat with a face full of dueling scars appeared inexhaustible and the women neighed and bent over writhing with resounding laughter.
Pimps sat around on the walls playing cards or sitting alone, staring at the drunken musicians and whistling along while drinking their schnapps. Once in awhile a prostitute would come in, go up to one of them, speak a few hurried words and then disappear again.
“This will do!” Frank Braun said. He waved to the waiter, ordered cherry water and told him to send a few women over to the table. Four came but as they sat down he saw another going out the door, a tall, strong woman in a white silk blouse with luxurious fiery red hair springing out from under a little hat. He leaped up and rushed out into the street after her.
She went up the road slowly, indolently, lightly rocking her hips. She curved to the left and entered into a doorway. Glowing red letters arched over it, “North Pole Dance Hall”. He stepped across the dirty yard after her and entered into the smoky hall almost the same time she did but she didn’t notice. She stood standing out in front looking over the dancing crowd.
It was noisy with yells and shouts; men and women whirled around moving their legs till the dust flew high as the harsh words of the Rix Dorfer howled through the music. It was rough, crude and wild as the dancers pushed through each other and the crowd was certainly growing.
He liked the Croquette and the Likette that they danced over on the Montmartre and in the Latin Quarter on the other side of the Seine and fell into them easily. They were lighter, more grand and full of charm. There was none of that in this shoving, seething mass, not the slightest twinge of what the French girls called “focus”.
But a hot blood screamed out of the Rix Dorfer, a wild passion was driving the dancers crazy throughout the dance hall. The music stopped and the dance master collected money in his dirty sweaty hands from the women, not from the men. Then he bowed to the audience and gestured grandly for the band in the gallery to start a new dance.
But the crowd didn’t want the Rhinelander. They screamed at the conductor, yelling at him to stop but the orchestra played on battling against the will of the dance hall, secure high above and behind their balustrade.
Then the Maitre pressed out onto the floor. He knew his women and his fellows, held them solidly in his hand and would not be intimidated by drunken yells or threatening raised fists. But he also knew when he had to give in.
“Play the Emil,” he called up. “Play the Emil!”
A fat female in a huge hat wound her arm around the dance master’s dusty suit coat.
“Bravo, Justav. That was well done!”
His influence spread like oil over the raging crowd. They laughed, pressed onto the dance floor, cried “Bravo”, and slapped him whole heartedly on the back or playfully punched him in the belly. Then, as the waltz began he broke out in song, screaming and hoarse:
“Emil, you are a plant,
You climb all over me!
Are always quick to kiss
And that’s why I love you!”
“Alma,” cried out someone in the middle of the room. “There’s Alma!”
He left his partner standing, sprang up and grabbed the red haired prostitute by the arm. He was a short dark fellow with smooth hair curling tight against his forehead and bright piercing eyes.
“Come,” he cried, grabbing her tightly around the waist.
The prostitute danced. More daring than the others, she pranced the waltz letting her partner whirl her quickly around. After a few beats she was completely into the dance, throwing her hips around, bending forward and backward, pressing her body up against her partner in constant contact. It was shameless, vulgar and brutally sensual.
Frank Braun heard a voice near him, saw the dance master watching the prostitute with keen appreciation.
“Damn, that whore can swing her ass!”
Oh yes, she could swing her ass! She swung it high and cheeky like a flag, like a storm filled banner of naked lust, like the Baroness Gudel de Gudelfeld swung hers for the applause of the Crown Prince.
She doesn’t need any ornaments thought Frank Braun as his eyes followed her down the hall and back. He quickly stepped up to her as the music stopped and laid his hand on her arm.
“Pay first,” the dark haired man laughed at him.
He gave the man a coin. The prostitute looked him over with a quick look, examining him from top to bottom.
“I live nearby,” she said. “Scarcely three minutes in the–”
He interrupted her, “It doesn’t matter where you live, come with me.”