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Life hadn’t always been so comfortable though – but Madam Chang had survived. She was an astute businesswoman and believed any woman that was going to live the life of a whore should have something to show for it when age took its toll and it was time to leave the profession. Most women didn’t last past age twenty-five. For the most part, the women had short careers. The lucky ones could hope to latch onto a fella, and run off and marry him; but that didn’t happen too often. Most of the girls didn’t have family, didn’t have friends outside the other whores they worked with. They didn’t have no one and nowhere to go. So, she took care of her girls. Took care of the dirty cowboys in need of baths, took care of the abusive scum looking for a brawl – and took care of the general messes that often plagued the lifestyle they lived.

Madam Chang took care of all of the messes and there was no man in his right mind wanted to mess with Madam Chang.

That was now – and forever – if she had any say in the matter. She had been messed with plenty in her life and she had no intention of ever finding herself back in that predicament.


2

“Ba Ba, I do not understand why you do not let me help Ma Ma with the washing. She is too tired to work alone,” Mei Lin pleaded with her father. Her mother was only a skeleton of a woman. Sharp shoulder blades protruded out from under her thin dress and her mother’s dark eyes sank into hollowed sockets.

“No. No. I tell you before. No one must see you. You safe from the wild men here inside. No one know you here,” her father replied angrily.

“Ma Ma is working too hard. What good is gold if she will not live to spend it?” Mei Lin shouted.

“I tell you, money we earn is for ticket on boat home. Take us back to China. Where you will be safe.”

Mei Lin’s green eyes glared at her father. “Safe from what? The wild men?”

“There are things you do not know. Things you must learn. You learn these things at home – in China. Now stop fighting, daughter, and tend to mother. She is hungry.”

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