Disclaimer: The Equalizer and all its characters are property of Universal and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Robert woke up out of a fog of sleep. He opened his eyes and looked around the now familiar room. It was crowded, with barely space for the wide bed, a small table that held a basin with a pitcher of water. There was a desk, its top laden with empty whisky bottles and the detritus of another day’s excesses here in Alexandria.
With a groan he flung the light cotton sheet off his body. Although wearing only a pair of drawers – light, cotton drawstring trousers –he felt stifled. Heat, heat and more heat, that’s all there was.
If he had been in Port Said, with the rest of the British regiment stationed there, he might be enjoying a repast of some of his favorite foods. But here on the outskirts of Alexandria, he had only eaten the occasional greasy piece of chicken and a bit of fruit since he had arrived. And when was that now? Four, five days ago?
Even though the curtains were drawn, he closed his eyes against the glare of the ever present sun. Its light was colored as if with the essence of lemons, so sharp and bitter it was. In the quiet he could hear the sea, that great body of water that surrounded Alexandria. From time to time the urge to go to the beach and swim in the water overwhelmed him, if only to attempt to let the water cleanse the acidity and anger from his soul. But going to swim wasn’t a possibility. Even if he tried to cast off the deep ennui that pushed down on him, the British Army had been thrown out of Alexandria a year ago and his too pale skin and all too British demeanor would insure that he’d be a target of unpleasant interest.
Within moments, he couldn't stand the quiet anymore. When someone else in the house started to play a victrola and the sound of some crooner singing "Alone Together" wafted towards him, he was glad of the noise.
Suddenly he realized it was a song that his father had liked. Two people alone together, with just each other. It was as his parent’s marriage had been. His father’s family had rejected William’s choice of a bride: an American working class girl, an entertainer at that. So the family had disinherited him.
On the rare occasion when his father was deep in his cups, he’d go on and on about that great hurt: that his family didn’t understand, his regiment didn’t understand. They didn’t want to understand, of course – so what with that, it all broke his heart. Only when inebriated would he also mention that he had something to prove, to his family, to himself – even to Robert, his only child.
The same old anger and despair built up again inside Robert. All of those circumstances made William McCall a damn good soldier – and a damn bad father.
He groaned out loud then as all the hurt and pain cut through him. His father had just been murdered by a man he thought to be a friend, shot in the back – and all Robert could do about it was to rail at his memory!
His self-loathing grew even stronger.
He turned over on the hard bed and pushed at the bottles on the table next to it. He finally found a half full bottle of cheap whiskey and downed as much as he could before gagging.
The bed shook as he threw himself back upon it again. He had come to this brothel to escape his thoughts, to find that surcease of sorrow that comes with large quantities of liquor and a nonstop parade of woman, but it seemed that he wasn’t going to achieve that state of forgetfulness. The memories were still there, attacking him, prodding him.
Randall Payne. That black-hearted bastard. While the brave soldiers were on shore fighting Egyptian guerrillas, Randall Payne and his Special Unit were "interrogating" prisoners. Robert couldn’t believe the horrid rumors circulating about Payne. After all, he had been his father’s friend. Robert blanched at his naivety. To such a young fool as he, Payne had seemed to be a cultured and well-read person. Robert had never believed that such a man could have been guilty of committing torture on anyone. He never dreamed that such things could be true.
They were true, all of it. But, the military hid that. They needed information and Payne was able to get it for them. What couldn’t be kept secret were the executions. Robert’s heart pounded harder. Captain William McCall had stopped the horrors, closed down his unit – and for that, Randall Payne shot his father in the back.
And then the British Army – that bastion of "decency" – let Payne get away with it.
An officer killing another officer was not something the army wanted to admit. All Payne had to do was to resign his commission rather than face any sort of charges. They brushed the details under the carpet and covered it up.
Bile rose in Robert’s throat. The old boy's network protected their own.
Just as he was about to take another drag from the bottle, a soft knock thudded at his door.
"Naam?" he croaked out. He hadn’t spoken much for days and his voice sounded terrible.
The door opened and a woman in traditional Egyptian dress, entered the room carrying a tray.
Robert couldn’t be sure he had met this one before. Although the women in the house were multinational, most wore modern dress, and many of the women had dyed their hair to look like American film stars. But this one was completely covered in a veil and multi-layered caftan. Only her eyes were visible.
Robert scanned the room. "Put the tray, over there – henak." He pointed to a chair nearby. "That's fine – tamam."
The woman closed the door with her foot and stared at him.
He still couldn’t tell if he knew her or not. "Esmak eh? What is your name?"
"Ana batkallem englizi," her voice was the merest whisper. "I speak English."
"Oh good," he said, some of the girls in the house knew English and French. "Put it there. Thank you."
The woman nodded, but walked to the bed, still holding the tray. "Madame say you want special?"
Special? Robert remembered Madam Bontecou smiling and mumbling something about "special" yesterday when he had overpaid her for the next three days. But he had been sick drunk and didn’t quite understand her garbled French, so he had nodded and smiled politely, hoping to get rid of her faster that way.
Robert studied the woman. She was an exotic Egyptian woman and the hair that escape her headdress was long and midnight black. Why not something special with her?
"Naam, men fadlik. Yes, thank you," he said, wondering what excess he was letting himself in for now.
Amid the rustling of the caftans, the tray was set on the floor by the side of his bed. The woman folded her long sleeves up above her elbows, but strangely kept her veil on.
When she pulled at his loose cotton trousers, he lay on his back, lifted his hips to permit them to be pulled off and he waited, very interested, as the woman sat down next to him on the bed.
The sound of water being wrung from a cloth in the basin on the floor was accompanied by a lovely light citrus smell. When the cool cloth was passed over his chest and then down his arms and over his neck, he closed his eyes to the bliss.
He felt cooled and refreshed as he was silently washed. He would, from time to time glance at the woman, but still all he saw of her were long lashes and black eyes intent on her job.
After a while, after he had been diligently bathed – fore and aft – he settled on his back almost dozing. When the woman’s weight lifted off the bed, he thought she was leaving.
He opened his eyes as she crawled onto the bed in between his legs. She had tucked herself into a ball and all Robert could see was a pile of colorful clothing.
She bent forward and took his male member into her mouth under her veil!
He gasped in surprise! Although only the age of nineteen, he had heard rumors of such things, of positions and practices out of the ordinary, but he had always only indulged in straightforward sexual ways, such as his father, and other decent fellows, had admonished him to do.
At first he thought that, perhaps, this "special" was too daring for him, that he might be put off, but he was amazed to feel a glow of interest course through him.
He sighed, yes, this was something different. But it was very comfortable and relaxing.
The woman was a master of the art. With her hands and mouth hidden under clothing, she was prodding, pulling, smoothing and paying rapt attention to parts of him which other women never touched.
Sensations were being built up in his groin, some teasing and light, some deep and sweeping. He was happy to permit the woman to do as she pleased for as long as she wanted. He closed his eyes again to enjoy all of it.
Soon though, the ministrations began to increase in tempo and his breathing deepened accordingly. She became harsher in touch, sometimes he felt sharp teeth tease. Sweat began to cover his body. Now the scent of citrus grew in the room. An altogether pleasant phenomenon surrounded him as the woman rocked her body upon the bed. He began to feel as if he were lying in the ocean, being bourn by gentle waves.
Suddenly a feather light tickle spread over his lower extremities. He glanced up and saw that the woman’s long hair had been liberated. A Victoria Falls of coal black hair cascaded over her head to spread out over his belly and thighs.
He broke his languor long enough to move his hand to touch her dark tresses. It was surprisingly coarse hair, each strand much more wiry than expected, but it was long and luxurious, scented with that clean citrus smell.
Movements upon his member began in earnest. The woman’s head bobbed as she took him deeper and deeper into her throat, permitting her teeth to scrape at his most delicate parts, her sucking mouth to pull at all of him . Her hands became insistent, massaging and urging him to higher sensations. The bed began to rock as if in a storm. Breathing became constricted as his hips began to arch up, thrusting again and again into the air without his permission.
Before long he was panting, gasping for air, sweat poured off him as the scent of citrus gave way to something more animal-like and feral. His fingers found the headboard above his head and he grabbed on for dear life. The ardor coursing through him filled the muscles in arms and made him pull at the iron, the force so intense that there was danger of him untwisting the metal’s design.
The agony of the pleasure threatened to burst his heart and lungs when the woman finally pushed him over the top. Propelling him into the mindlessness of his body’s pleasure, he sped on enraptured by the physical sensations.
He regained his senses as he continued to gasp for breath. The air in the room was heavy with his own scent mixed with citrus. Surprised that his hands were still locked on the bedpost, he loosened his fingers and let his arms drop to his sides onto the mattress with a satisfied sigh.
Recuperating from the exercise was almost as pleasurable as the act. His body was still reverberating with the afterglow when the woman brought her head up and gathered her long hair to tuck it out of the way. He somehow managed to swallow his moans of enjoyment as she began to clean him off, first with her mouth then with more of the fragrant water and a rough towel.
The sound of the rustling of clothing made him sit up. She was leaving without so much as a word.
"Intazir, wait," he said. "Esmak eh? Tell me your name, in case I want to ask for you again."
The tray was in her hands and she looked down. "Madam says who I go to." Her voice was still a light whisper.
"Then if I ask for special, I will get you?" Something about her appealed to him. Maybe it was her old-fashioned shy way, maybe it was her talent with her tongue.
She nodded and made for the door.
"Intazir, one moment. Don’t go yet. Come, stay with me for a while longer." He suddenly had the urge to see all of her, more than the dark eyes and the capable bronze hands and arms. "I will pay for special to you. Now." He leaned to the table at the side of the bed, opened the bottom drawer and took out a few bills. "Here," he waved the money, "for you, for now."
"No. Madame takes money. I never."
"What never? You don’t take tips?" She seemed uneasy. He showed her the denominations. It was a lot of money, but he didn’t care. All of it was from the savings he had put aside for the trip back to England when his service was up. But now he knew that he wasn’t going to leave the army. It was his only home other than the boarding school he had attended since he was young. He moved the money closer to her. It must be more than the poor girl saw in a week. "Baksheesh, a tip for you. Stay here for more special."
Tentatively the woman set the tray down and moved towards him.
"More special? Madam offer you special and you want?"
"Yes, here and now." He lifted the light blanket off the bed and patted the mattress. "Come lie down next to me. Take your clothing off and come to me."
With a graceful movement, she took the money and hid it in one of the many layers of her caftans. Her eyes seemed to search his face for something, then at last she nodded.
With a whisper of a breeze she stepped to the foot of the bed and turned her back to him.
First, her veil was removed, but she only permitted Robert to see part of her face as she turned to look at him over her shoulder. What he did make out pleased him. She had a large mouth and fine white teeth, and he felt a shudder at the talent that lay in that mouth.
Then she combed her hands through her hair, spreading it out, fanning it to cascade down her back all the way below her waist. It was like a black curtain, moving in waves. Lovely.
Her hands became busy with the front of the caftan, and soon the first layer of clothing slipped down off her shoulders. Her blue caftan revealed a yellow one beneath it and Robert felt himself enthralled by the color change. Then the yellow gave way to a white light cloth covering. This one was sheer and he could almost see through it, but just barely, and he felt his breath stop in anticipation of what was beneath .
Finally, with a quick glance at him, she uncovered half her back. She was very slender and broad shouldered. Her skin was a deep brown and Robert knew he was going to take his time tasting that sweet skin.
The final caftan dropped and Robert took in what he could see of her rump. Her long head of hair swayed over it, permitting him only a partial view. She was very narrow hipped with long legs, her behind was high and tight, he could see the muscles beneath it move as she pivoted to turn to face him.
She had gathered some of her hair to drape over her chest and as Robert searched to see her breasts he found that her tresses covered them completely. His eyes wondered down her dark skin, her belly was flat and… My Lord!
Peaking out between her legs was a penis!
In a split second, confusion turned to rage! Almost without thinking he shot off the bed and, open handed, he swung a blow at the creature standing before him. It fell to the floor with no cry at all.
"How dare you!" was all Robert could say. "How dare you!" he repeated as he grabbed it by its hair, pulled the head up and slapped its face so hard Robert felt his own hand sting.
The creature didn’t make a sound other than a small whimper as it lifted its hands, trying to get Robert to let go. Robert tugged his arm up, keeping the hair in a tight fist, forcing the creature’s head up. He slapped at it again, putting all his anger and surprise at the discovery of its sex behind the punch.
Eyes half closed, the prostitute took the blow with only a gasp. Blood sprang out from its nose and Robert then saw that it was no longer conscious. He let go of the hair and the prostitute landed on the floor.
Gasping and filled with conflicting thoughts Robert went to the bed and found his cotton pants and yanked them on.
Was this all a set up by an enemy? Randall Payne perhaps? To be found with a male prostitute would be the end of his military career at the very least. It was still illegal to be a homosexual in England and this incident made public could ruin his future. It would ruin it!
He stepped as far away from the body on the floor as possible and sat down, trying to think.
None of the other officers in camp would have suggested the place if they had known that this kind of activity was offered here. Robert knew that for certain. Galsworthy and Baskcomb were both friends of his father’s and proper men, proving themselves honorable and brave in battle time and time again. Neither would ever have suggested the establishment if they had known anything like this was going on.
He looked at the naked being on the floor. Its feet were facing him and Robert could see that the soles were covered in welts, old scars and round discolorations that looked like burns.
He had heard that servants were beaten and burned on the feet. There were stories around that prostitutes who had tried to run from their houses had been treated that way so their faces and bodies weren’t scarred to spoil the client’s pleasure. They were still able to ply their trade while recuperating in bed.
He examined the feet. This person had been through many such thrashings.
Suddenly he felt vulnerable. All that stood between him and ruination was an unlocked door. He stood up, took a chair and wedged it under the doorknob to keep it closed.
He looked at the creature on the floor who was now silently coming to. The body was of a small person, small boned. Most of the generation that grew up during the war was small, due to lack of a proper diet. But this person looked to be young. Oh God, Robert realized – it might be a teenager.
As he looked, the prostitute woke up and, eyes wide with fear it rolled into a ball. Robert grasped that this person must have had a lot of practice being beaten. It still hadn’t made a sound and to take such punches as he had given, in silence, was a skill developed over many years of abuse.
Regret filled him. He kicked the pile of caftans closer to the quaking figure on the floor. Robert went to the other side of the room and sat on the chair there. "Get dressed," he grumbled.
My God. Look at what he had become. His father dead only a month, he had fallen to the lowest he had ever been in his nineteen years. Even if he had not known that the person giving him pleasure was a male, he had paid for such an act – he had disgraced himself, no matter the circumstances.
The creature was now dressed, huddled in a corner, only the eyes visible over the veil.
"Did someone send you here to entrap me in this mortifying situation?" Robert asked, doing his best to keep his voice level and calm.
The creature shook its head. "Madam sent me here after you agree to special." Robert saw tears in the eyes. "Madam only send me if special is asked for and agreed on." The small body started to shake. "Madam will be so angry. Please." It reached into its clothing and withdrew the money Robert had given it. "Please English, I am sorry. Do not tell madam. Oh Please!"
Its voice was pleading but still just a whisper. The hand holding out the cash was trembling – hard.
"Does Madam beat you?"
A silent nod of the head. "When I try to get away, Madam beat me. When I accept money for myself, Madam beat me." The shoulders started to shake and Robert could hear deep gasps of breath. He supposed that this was how he had trained himself to weep. Silently.
"Tell me," Robert made his voice gentle, "how old are you?"
After a few moments where Robert found himself being studied, the answer came. "I do not know for certain. Maybe fourteen, I think."
Oh Lord. Robert’s disgust for himself tripled. He was responsible for the degradation of a child. Someone years younger than himself. Oh Lord.
"For God’s sake, take that veil off your face and talk to me man to man. How long have you been doing … what you do?"
The boy took the veil off and backed himself into the corner. He still looked very frightened. His nose had stopped bleeding, but Robert could see that the bruises from his slaps were beginning to puff up and show dark on the child’s face.
"Uncle taught me what to do when momma got sick and couldn’t anymore," he said. "I was… seven, I think."
"What?" Robert felt his guts twist. "Your uncle?"
"Momma had been working in a carpet factory when father went to the war. I was born after he left and she did the best she could to keep us together. Uncle also worked at the factory and he visited."
"So he really wasn’t related to you?’
The boy looked down, misery plain on his face. "Momma said he was uncle, so I thought he was."
Sadness overcame Robert. The boy certainly had a bad time of it.
"When the war ended, father never returned and momma became ill. Uncle moved into our house. He wanted her to do for him." The boy wiped his bloody nose on the caftan, "but she couldn’t. She was too sick, too weak and the coughing…"
Stomach turning Robert said, "So he taught you?"
The boy nodded. "When she died he brought others to the house for me to… Then our neighbors found out and told him they would kill him if he didn’t leave. That was years ago. He took me here to madam and sold me to her."
My God. Robert knew such things went on in Egypt all the time, but he had never been in contact with anything like this in person. His father had made sure he had been protected from the iniquities of the world, even in Egypt.
The boy’s sorrow-filled eyes looked up at him. "Please, do not tell madam I tried to take money or give special myself. She always warn me never to do that, she say that English forbid men with men. She say she must find the guest want it first."
Robert felt his blood run cold. He looked like the type to want this?
The child pushed the money towards Robert. "Please, forgive. I only try to give you more special because you looked kind."
Looked kind. That helped Robert feel better – somewhat.
The boy started to shiver. "I must run from here. Madame tell me I will be too old soon. She say that soon I will begin to look like a man and I can not stay. She will sell me to another house where men go to men." The boy wrapped his arms tightly around himself, as if fighting overwhelming panic. "Madame said that maybe she will make me into eunuch very soon, will have me fixed to not become man! That is why I offer more special to you, for myself, for money! I must run away!"
Covering his head with his long sleeves, the child wept. Only its shuddering body and small intakes of breath let Robert know how deep was the boy’s misery.
He didn’t know what to say. What an awful situation for anyone to have lived through, much less someone so young.
"Madam must have been joking," Robert muttered, "she wouldn’t do that – would she?" The moment he said it he regretted it. Saying that you might castrate him, to a child you owned and treated the way she obviously did, was no joking matter. It was a horrifically mean and sadistic statement.
Robert understood – if only from the evidence of the scars on his feet – that the child had been the victim of the worst sort of evil all his life. And he had no way out. The odds were against him.
An idea began to form in Robert’s head – and heart. It wouldn’t be easy, or safe. The house was filled with a cadre of toughs whose job it was to collect money, to make certain the men visiting the house behaved themselves – and to keep the girls as part of madam’s stable. "If you could escape from this house, where would you go?"
The boy looked up. His eyes were red with his weeping. "I would go to England where men are not permitted to bed with boys or other men."
"Really?" Robert said.
"I would live there as a man lives, have my own family and work hard to protect my children and wife." A glow of desire lit the boys eyes. "I know how to read and count, I can work hard and make all my life in Alexandria forgotten! I will be free!"
"Do you have the courage to do that?" Robert studied the boy’s reaction.
Head raised, with his eyes locked into Robert’s, the boy nodded. "I would swim the whole of the sea to get there!"
"Then I will help you to get to England." He could help the boy. He knew it. A plan started to solidify in his mind.
"I don’t believe you," the child shook his head, "why would you help me? You are making joke, having a game with me."
Robert stood up from his chair and rifled through his clothing that lay about the room. "No, I’m not teasing you. I’m going to help. Think of it as my penance, my atonement for my sins." Robert stopped speaking to concentrate all his thoughts on what he was preparing to do.
He’d need the clothing that could be cut down quickly or made to fit the boy as easily as possible.
The first dicey part would be to get the boy away free and clear from the house. If it was found out that Robert was helping a prostitute escape, and a boy at that, there would be hell to pay. Fighting through Madam’s pimps would be difficult, and once on the road there would be many miles of travel before they got to the safety of Port Said.
"Here," Robert took out a pair of scissors and held them out to the child. "Take this and start to cut off all that hair."
The boy must have been growing that long mane since he first stated to deal with men. If he would agree to change himself that radically, then Robert knew he was brave enough to go through with any plan he could come up with to free the child.
Hands shaking, the boy reached out to take the scissors. He stared at them and studied Robert’s face, as if looking to see if the truth was there. And then he swallowed hard and grabbed a handful of hair and started to hack at it.
Ah, the child is determined. Good.
"What’s your name, boy?" Robert asked as he found pants and a shirt he could use.
"I… I am called…" the boy shook his head as discarded hair began to fill the floor around him. "I want a new name. What do they call you?"
"My name is Robert McCall." Robert chuckled. "But you don’t look much like a McCall."
"I want an English name," the boy said. As the hair came off, he was beginning to look more and more like a teenaged boy. "I will be called Robert."
Pleased, Robert smiled. "How about we call you Robbie for now, as befits a young man?"
A bright smile erupted on the child’s lips. Robert turned away when the memory of what that mouth had done to him, not an hour ago, flashed through his mind.
"Yes, thank you sir," the youngster said. He stood up, the hair was unevenly cut from his head, some places stood in tuffs.
"Give me the scissors." Robert eyed the pants he held up in front of him and cut off three inches from both legs. "Try these on, we can roll up any excess. Good thing few in Alexandria are well dressed nowadays."
The boy grabbed the pants with a wondrous smile on his face and slipped them on. Robert threw a shirt at him and, once the child had turned his back to Robert, he threw off the multicolored women’s caftans and put that on too.
Now he looked like a poor teenaged urchin, the bruises on his face made him look like he did indeed fight and live on the streets of Alexandria. Except there was still a slight resemblance to his former self.
One more thing would help the transformation. Robert grabbed his shaving kit and set a chair in front of him. "Sit here Robbie, by the time I finish with you even your own m—" he stopped himself. Now was not the time to remind the boy of his mother. "Your own mirror will not recognize you."
The boy rushed to sit down and let Robert place a sheet over him to protect his new clothing. He watched in rapt attention as Robert mixed the shaving cream and only flinched once when the barber strap was taken out to sharpen the razor.
He must have been beaten with such a strap many times, Robert thought as he lathered the boy’s head preparing to shave it clean, to look like so many other lice ridden children in Alexandria.
"I have a friend in Tanta," Robert said as he worked, "Well, my father has a friend, a wealthy woman, Mrs. Winthrop, who has a home there and another in Ireland. Being Irish she kept her friendships going with both sides during the war and has many friends in Egypt and England. She’s been known to take orphans and place them in school."
"School?" Robbie said in a tone of amazement.
"Yes. I can’t promise you school, but I can promise you an education of sorts and a place in her household – and the opportunity to work hard and improve yourself. She’s a good woman, a fine person and she will take you in as a favor to me and to my father’s memory."
The last of the boy’s hair had been shaved off. Using a towel to wipe the head clean, he studied the child. Face black and blue, mouth puffy from the slapping and head bare and shaved clean, there was no longer any resemblance to the person who had entered his room.
Robert pulled his large portmanteau onto the bed and began to open all the drawers and the wardrobes and piled his belongings onto it.
"Next, young man, you will need all your courage. I am going to collect the car I’ve been using. When you hear me call out ‘Boy, bring down my bag at once!’ you came running down the steps, in front of Madame and her staff. You do not look at them, you do not stop to stare, you go straight out to my vehicle and climb into the back seat to put the bag in. But you close the door after you get in and slide down to hide. Do you understand me?"
Robbie shuddered, but lifted his chin in defiance. "Yes, I understand. I can do it."
"All right them." Robert rubbed his hands together in excitement. "I don’t foresee any problems, but if anything goes wrong – run boy – as fast as you can. Run into a crowd and lose yourself there. Get to Renault’s tobacco shop," he looked at the child, "Do you know where that is"
"Yes, I go there to buy American tobacco for the guests here."
"Good," Robert felt elated. "Renault is a friend. If I am taken by Madam’s men tell him that Robert McCall needs help. He’ll know what to do. Stay with him then boy and tell him that I was helping you. He will see to it that you’re safe."
A feeling of joy and purpose filled Robert as he finished dressing in his best clothing. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw the colorful pile of discarded caftans and wisps of the cut hair over the floor. "Gather all of that and stick it into the bag. We’ll throw them out when we’re far from here."
He walked to the door and stopped to smile at the boy busy cleaning up. "Wait for me to call you." Then he removed the chair that he had wedged under the doorknob, walked out and down the long hallway.
Glowering, he nodded to the big, hulking man that stood guard by the staircase. He went down the steps and then glared at the small ferret-faced man known to be good with a stiletto who lounged by the main door.
Robert kept as much of a calm demeanor as any nineteen year old British Officer could, surrounded by a more well armed and muscled enemy. He knew that bluff and a sense of composure would get him through this.
"Tell Madame I am leaving – right now!" he called out. "I want my car, and I want to see her before I leave," he shouted.
The smaller man moved to get the madam, while the big one went down the steps to watch Robert.
He needed to get the man away from the door for a few moments, enough time to let them all think he ordered a boy from the street in to get his luggage.
He eyed the big man with disdain. "Well don’t just stand there," Robert produced a wad of bills from his pocket, peeled a few off, and waved them into the man’s apelike hand, "Go and fetch my car." He passed the keys over, "You know which one it is, on the corner there."
Since Robert didn’t look as if he was going to run without paying, the oaf went through the door. Madame Bontecou appeared at the end of the hall, wearing a worried expression.
"Is there something the matter?" she asked, her tone was concerned.
He glared at her. "I did not ask for anything ‘special’ Madame, I am a proper English gentleman who does not go in for such practices!"
"What do you mean?" Robert saw the sheen of a light sweat began to form on her upper lip. "Was something…?"
"That young woman gave me a pleasant enough sponge bath, that was fine, but – I say – she then started to make approaches towards my, hmmm, person with-" here he grimaced and whispered, "with her mouth!"
Madame tried to cover her relief. Robert knew what would happen to her British army clients if it were known that she catered to homosexual activities. A smug smile appeared on her face.
"But, sir, you ordered special."
"Well," Robert did his best to "harrumph" the way he had seen other men do,
"Well, I thought that I would be getting a appropriate and fitting activity, not an introduction to that kind of low debauchery. After all Madam, a man has some base needs, but there is no reason to fall toward the dregs of civilized behavior!"
He faced her and gave a curt nod. "I have paid to stay till the end of the week, but I am leaving now!"
"Madame says no refunds are allowed," the ferret man said, showing his wicked sharp stiletto blade as he pared at his nails.
"Keep the damn money." Robert made his voice sound as disgusted as he could, "I just want to leave this den of inequality!" He glanced out the door and saw that his car was pulling up directly in front of the door.
"Where is that street urchin with my bag?" He looked up the steps. "Boy! BOY bring down my bag at once!" he stamped his foot as an extra gesture.
He hoped Robbie could carry out his end of the plan. All he needed to do was run down the steps and get to the car.
With a rumble of feet on the staircase, Robert saw that the boy held the luggage in front of him, as if it were heavy. He ran down the steps without lifting his head.
"Into this car here," Robert yelled, pointing to the street. The large man had already gotten to the door and had to step aside.
Robert tried not to hold his breath. He waved more of his money to get their attention. "Other than this last day, I must admit I’ve had a pleasant time here Madame Bontecou." He leaned closer to her and passed more money into her palm. "I trust you will not mention what happened here today, as I will not."
He lifted one of his eyebrows in an attempt at a haughty expression, but wound up looking, he knew, like a foolish nineteen year old trying to be severe.
A fast glance at their faces assured him that they thought him a twit, and Robert grabbed at the presented car keys, sprinted into the car and started the engine.
Without moving his mouth he said, "Stay down, Robbie!"
The rearview mirror showed him that the three people didn’t follow him out of the brothel. It didn’t mean he was free and clear yet, but it was a good start.
The car ran well and at this speed he calculated that he would be at Mrs. Winthrop’s grand home just outside of Tanta in an hour. Luckily, anyone looking for him would think he would travel the road straight to Port Said. Tanta was in another direction. Once there, after he explained everything to her, he knew that Mrs. Winthrop would take the boy in and give Robert another way to safely get back to the military base.
He maneuvered the car through the streets, "Stay down a while longer, Robbie."
A muffled "yes" was his answer.
"I am going to tell Mrs. Winthrop all about you, she will need to know the truth, but it might be best that you not tell others of your experiences. Just tell them you lived with your mother and when she died you took to living on the streets and met me this week. Say I brought you to Mrs. Winthrop to get you a better life. Is that clear?"
"Yes, thank you, sir, thank you."
"Don’t worry, Robbie, trust me. I’ll take care of everything."
A feeling of well-being filled Robert as he steered the car through Egypt. Equalizing the odds for people who were in dire need of rescue felt good, better than anything else he had experienced in his life.
Less than an hour had passed when he made the turn into Tanta. Contentment filled him. Who knew? He might make a habit of doing this in future.
"Get ready, Robbie," he said, "Your new life is about to begin."