The club. From her seat behind the pillar in the alcove Patrice has laid claim to, she watches the drama unfold. The mirrors she had Terrence install, supposedly to improve the lighting, are set in panels, angled so that her reflection does not impede the view. There are blind spots, but they are few. An acceptable compromise. One step removed from the action, Patrice has already seen a reflected Margot trudge up and down the stairs from the club’s main floor to the flat that the hostesses occupy. Now, stooping to leave a battered suitcase at the door to the main bar, the red-eyed girl approaches Terrence Blagdon. There is a certain inevitability about her movements. She knows what this is – an ending. Hugging the bar, the club’s substantial owner seems prepared. He takes from his jacket pocket a brown envelope. The type he uses for the girls’ wages and tips. He puts it on the bar, flattens one hand on top. Patrice knows that hand. Knows it is large and square; knows the oval of his gold signet ring. Margot looks down, waiting for the moment it is withdrawn. She nods several times, never once raising her eyes to meet Terrence’s. The hostess understands she has broken the rules; that what is happening now (the suitcase, the day clothes she is wearing, her immediate dismissal) is the natural consequence. Margot would cut short this encounter if she could, but she cannot walk away, not yet. What is in that envelope is owed to her. Logic tells Patrice that Terrence has devised this particular form of torture. He wants the club’s members – the tight knots of afternoon drinkers, armed with beers and cigarettes – to be absolutely clear. When one of them breaks the rules, his girls suffer. Look at the wise monkeys, how studiously they pretend not to be able to see or hear. How silent they remain. Is there one of them with a conscience? At last, Terrence lifts his hand. Shakes his head; looks away. Margot snatches the envelope, turns on her heel, stoops to pick up her belongings. Where will she go? Patrice looks to the men for a reaction, for a sign of sympathy, for anything. Not one of them breaks rank.
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