Book #5 JEWEL OF THE EAST
“Oh, woman! All care-relieving woman.
Thou art the true physician to the sickly mind.”
Simon and Salime’s story coming early 2013
King’s Place, an elite brothel in St. James, Westminster- 1784
“Are you quite certain Mustafa?” Salime repeated in astonishment. Her mute servant gave a firm nod of his giant beturbaned head. She resumed her fitful pacing of her chamber, kicking at the silk-tasseled cushions that littered the floor. This was the third time in a week that one of her clients had failed to keep his scheduled appointment. It made no sense when she had always been in such high demand. Indeed, known as the Jewel of the East, Salime was the most sought-after courtesan in all of London.
She wondered now if after nearly five years of reining supreme, her star had begun to fade. No, it was unthinkable! It was also impossible, for she had taken careful measures to ensure no man would ever become bored with her. Just as a concubine only had one night to couch with with the sultan, Salime had adopted a policy of never accepting the same gentleman twice. In doing this, Salime promised her clients an experience never to be forgotten… nor to be repeated. And no other woman in all of England could equal her skills in the erotic arts… save perhaps one— the only one Salime had ever entrusted with the Eastern secrets to a man’s ultimate pleasure.
Until now, given the exorbitant rates Mrs. Hayes demanded for her company, Salime had always benefitted from preferential treatment. But the madam was gone, having bowed out after a legendary career. The bawd had passed the baton to Kitty Matthews, the number two courtesan of King’s Place, a fact that had always rubbed the other woman raw. As spiteful and vicious as her namesake, Kitty made no secret of her resentment of the one she called ‘the heathen whore’.
Salime had paid her little heed, however, for life in the brothel was really little different from petty jealousies she had known in the Imperial Harem, a place where rivalry for favor was a way of life, but with Mrs. Hayes retirement, change had come, and none of it to Salime’s benefit. Kitty had begun by demanding a higher percentage from Salime, raising “the procuress’ poundage” from five shillings per guinea to ten. It was unfair in the extreme, but going into private keeping as a gentleman’s mistress was not an option for Salime for her secret would quickly become revealed and her reputation lost. No, Salime had little choice but to remain at King’s Place where at least she had the benefit of her ever-present Mustafa to defend her person, even if he could do nothing to protect her livelihood. To that end, sadly, she had only herself.
“Come Mustafa,” she ordered her eunuch. “I have need of answers.” Something was not right. She knew it in her bones. Snatching up a veil to conceal her face, Salime departed her private rooms in search of a footman.
“Lord Winthrop, he has not arrived?” she accosted the wooden-faced servant who attended the opulent reception rooms. “He was to see me this evening, but has yet failed to appear in my chambers. Has he taken to cards or other entertainments?”
“He is not at cards,” the servant replied, his eyes failing to meet her gaze and then shifting away from her face altogether, to focus over her left shoulder. It was not an outright lie, perhaps, nevertheless, he concealed something.
“Then you have seen Lord Winthrop?” she demanded.
The footman’s gaze darted about the lavish room and then to the soaring frescoed ceiling form which was suspended a massive Ventian crystal chandelier. “Aye,” he answered.
“That is all? It seems you would make me draw the truth from you in slow agony, much like a bad tooth? Perhaps Mustafa would be a more effective tooth drawer than myself?” She half- turned to the giant eunuch who stood behind her with arms crossed over his massive chest. Her threat was not without effect. The footman’s formerly deadpan eyes widened. “His Lordship came as appointed, Madam Salime, but I was instructed to conduct him to Madam Kitty’s chambers.”
“To Kitty?” Salime frowned. “And he remained there?”
“To the best of my knowledge.”
Salime’s frown deepened to a full blown scowl. “And the evening last,” she continued to press him. “Did you also conduct Sir Phineas Weatherby to Kitty’s chamber?”
“Those were my instructions, madam, but I only follow the orders of the one what pays my wages,” he added apologetically.
Hiding her distress by this revelation, she slipped a few coins into his palm. “You will tell no one we have spoken.”
With her blood boiling, Salime spun away with bracelets clanging and silver bells on her slippers jangling. Kitty was poaching her clients! It was unconscionable! But how could she have managed it? While Kitty was attractive in the common English way, she had never rivaled the allure of the exotic Salime, and now there were three in one week?
Suddenly the pieces began falling into place. They were small things, trifles hardly worth mentioning, that had first disappeared from her room — a bracelet, a couple of silver bells, a scarf, but over the past two weeks, Salime had noticed items of her clothing had also gone missing. At first she had suspected one of the chambermaids of the thefts, but then wondered what a simple English girl would do with a pair of Turkish Trousers or a bejeweled girdle.
How stupid she had been! The answer was now so obvious for the petty jealousies and intrigues at King’s Place were no different from those of the Imperial Harem, with every woman vying to be the number one. Now it was clear her most noted rival intended to usurp her place.
So instead of returning to her own chamber, Salime marched to Kitty’s apartment where another liveried servant barred her entrance. She lifted a brow and commanded . “Mustafa, open the door.”
Without hesitation, Mustafa placed his huge hands on the footman’s shoulders, easily lifting the shocked servant him out of the way, and then with a single kick, the door splintered from its frame. With a bow to his mistress, Mustafa then stepped aside.
She boldly entered the room and the scene before her stole her breath, for the chamber was a near duplication of her own! Brass lanterns provided a low glow of light, countless yards of silk draped from the ceiling and covered the walls. Turkish rugs and cushions scattered about.
“How dare you interrupt us!” Kitty screeched and sprang from the pedestal bed.
Salime swept her rival with a contemptuous look, taking in the black wig that topped her head to the Turkish trousers encasing her legs. It was far worse than she had suspected for Kitty had not stolen only her clothes, but her very identity!
“Who is this woman?” His lordship demanded, while fumbling to close his falls.
Salime stepped toward Kitty with controlled rage and snatched the wig from her blonde head, tossing it to the befuddled nobleman. “Effendi,I fear we are both victims of a great fraud.”
In a desperate act of retribution, Kitty yanked away the veil that draped over the left side of Salime’s face. Kitty’s jaw dropped and then she shrieked with delight. “So that’s why you hide behind your veils? There is no room for such hideousness at King’s Place. Remove yourself and your bedamned blackamoor from this house at once, you heathen whore!”
“As you wish.” Knowing it far better to accept her fate with dignity, Salime gave a haughtly toss of her head, and turned on her beslippered heel. It was not the first time a rival had attempted to destroy her. Retrieving her veil, Salime ran her fingers lightly over the unsightly scar that disfigured the left side of her face, marring her once great beauty. It was for her a constant reminder of the danger of having fierce rivals and no true protector.