Under the unsympathetic, blackest vault of a grieving heaven, an agitated bulkhead creaks, butch stringers snap, robust rivets moan in metronomic rhythm and herculean girders groan as a remorseless nor’wester’s kindred waves of replete urchins torment a rickety hull, of late in unbridled panic. Little wonder a weak-kneed full moon shies away. No place for clandestine romance by its silvery light on this old rust bucket ferry bound for The Port of Amsterdam. Certainly not on this night of ‘fee-fi-fo-fum’ overhanging salivating, ravenous crests impeding entry to the open wide gob of The North Sea Canal and the relief of safe moorings, a thing that would prove to be impossible until the contradictory calm of dawn’s first light.
She sits, eyes shut tight, not in the debatable comfort of her box cabin but in the ships pedestrian bar along with the vexed hoi polloi, a fine cognac safe and sound in one hand, a Lucky Strike tentatively glowing in the other. Unruffled by the mumbled prayers, legitimate tears and ashen faces of those vomiting to the rise and fall of the bounding main, she merely contemplates her new career.
She had anticipated a 10pm arrival the night previous, yet it was 8am the next day when the jaded wayfarers were finally able to disembark. Solid ground had seldom felt better. Given the ferocity of the storm endured at sea she found it startling that this fresh Amsterdam morn was acceptably warm by any standards, a caught napping sun at a rush to cast longest shadows and barely a breeze in the air. In need of urgent sleep, especially so as she had to prepare for yet another potentially long night ahead, she headed straight for Nieuwmarkt, a charming, vibrant square situated aside the notorious since ancient times Red-Light District where her new boss had arranged suitable accommodation in a room with street facing floor to ceiling windows above his smoky café. It was there that she enjoyed a light breakfast of just jam on toast, washed down with strong black coffee before taking of her rest. That Nieuwmarkt being in such close proximity to that Red-Light District known locally as ‘De Wallen’ (a euphemism, intimating one should say “Wall” when alluding to the matter of ‘paid for up front’ sex) by any other name, a wise choice for it would be from that bedroom window she would be seen by whomsoever cared to look hawking her exemplary wares as would any other indecent lady of the night. Not for her, the hanging around outside the square’s Old Church along with the cut-price, regular working girls.
By late afternoon, a refreshed and wide-awake girl sat outside the café sharing coffee and Dutch apple cake with the boss, going by the name of Bastiaan, a strapping tiger of a man, albeit more than a little weather-beaten with a smile that could win a woman’s heart from a hundred paces, let alone face to face. With a come-hither guttural delivery, he advised “You’ll have customers lining up for you in droves, not all of them males I might add. Do you have any issue with that?” Prompting an indifferent, “Why should I?”
Up above, curtains drawn and out of public view, she sought to change her persona to fit the task at hand. Recently she had read a full-length profile in Colliers regarding an up and coming starlet who exuded raw sex and passion by the name of Marilyn Monroe. Due note was made of Monroe’s individuality, her own distinct panache. They shared, although she was a little slimmer than the star-born one, the same hourglass figure and although plagiarism of another’s style was an alien thing to her, she was taken with the photograph of Monroe in a strapless, lowest cut ‘fit to fall out of’ red dress with matching belt around her waist, red heels and, a must, several coats of gleaming crimson lipstick. That the actress had permed mousey brown hair dyed blonde and hers was snow-white dyed jet black yet straight and natural at least ensured she would not be thought of as a would be copycat or ever-hopeful doppelganger. Such a thing would simply be too much, hence her own locks would be held up with combs, pins and sticks, Japanese wedding style. Regardless, when dressed and finally made-up, the words addressed to self, ‘A red dress for red lights’ brought forth a private grin. That, beside her outer layer she would wear nothing else at all save for her best new lucky threaded South Sea pearl anklet gave rise to brimming wicked snort of approved disapproval.
It was as the last soupçon of sunlight was swallowed up by its neon nemesis she commenced the new career as a polished prostitute seeking only the premium habitués. It was not a difficult thing. A pursed rouge lip kiss blown from the palm of her hand here, a raise of the dress hem revealing more than a just glimpse of thigh there, a flash or two of seductive feral cleavage ensured her authenticity as a seasoned professional. Bastiaan, in his day to day role of pimp, confessed to have been as busy as a beaver, the gorgeous new girl in the window was attracting the punters and already had a diary full of clients for the night, all seeking to part with hard earned gilders in order to avail themselves of her self-proclaimed unique services.
“With you on my books, I’m…well, you too…we’re going to make a serious fortune together.”
Poor Bastiaan, that she had him hook, line and sinker a pity in many ways, for it would be his downfall. On the face of it he was a charming chap. Yet this same man had had a major hand in the betrayal, transportation and eventual death of the many innocent souls during the war now over. It was thus that he had to die. She had no choice in the matter. As to the man himself, he had no idea as to what was coming when she idly suggested he might like to ‘sample the goods’ before she set to work for the evening.
Rather than let him die with a ‘yes please’ smile on his face, she made sure the dagger was imbedded up to the hilt in his belly, then spoke a few pertinent soft words in his reluctant ear. He smiled no more.