And I remember you're bad at keeping secrets. His reproach felt like a stab and she bit her lip, wishing that the tears pooling in the corner of her eyes would not — not now — roll down her cheeks. Right after Robert's death, Sansa had been the first to draw Cersei's attention on her parents' suspicion and on their plan to go back to Saint Paul. She had confided in Cersei like a silly little girl who didn't want to leave the lifestyle she had in New York.
And three weeks later, they were dead. Turning around again, she replaced the 78 rpm, rolling her eyes. She hated that stupid nickname he had given her when she lived in the Red Mansion. As derogatory as Joffrey's tone when he calls him 'Dog'. He followed her on the balcony and he shook his head when he realized it was located on the facade. God, he's so rude.
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She kept her chin up and showed him the other french window, much more narrow than the other one. He opened it and inspected the balcony overlooking the back-alley. Leaning back against the window frame, he cursed, seemingly as exasperated by her manners as she was by his. What do you choose?
The song's end exempted him from answering and he motioned her towards the bedroom with an incline of his head. Do they give you enough food? Discretion about the customers was another of Peitho's advices. A whore is like a doctor , she had said. You can't reveal the other people's secrets. I was crying and I didn't please him. So he took his belt and beat me. As he stayed silent for a while, she understood this information was what he precisely wanted. Why were men so obsessed with virginity, she couldn't tell. It seemed to her that men wanted to sleep with every woman and even paid for it, but the idea of maidenhood — how to make sure your daughter or sister keeps it, how to take it from a girl — drove them mad.
This was absurd, as well. She didn't really mean it: it was more some sort of curiosity, yet she couldn't take it back. He turned around and stared at her for a while, puzzled, weighing the pros and the cons. She wanted to add something, to tell him it didn't matter, but words were stuck in her throat. His expression was unreadable, but finally his grey eyes met hers. Sansa stood in his way but he stepped forward, imagining she would move aside so that he could reach the door; she stayed still and he stopped in front of her.
She nodded and let her eyes fall away. Noticing the crease on his waistcoat, she mechanically tugged at the seam. It was nothing but the mindless gesture of a girl who liked to put things in order but she saw him stiffening. Not frowning or grumbling like he used to, but stiffening as if her touch made him uncomfortable. Nobody has kind thoughts for him , she realized and that idea aroused her compassion. She moved aside and let him walk to the door. The noise of the door closing behind him made her shiver.
She was so tired she could have fallen asleep in ordinary circumstances, but this wasn't ordinary; disobeying, she ran to the balcony overlooking the street. She needed fresh air and the raw light of the street lamps to realize what had just happen was true.
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Sansa heard a creaking noise below, then the front door slammed and she saw him getting out of the brothel and walking in the street. A vagrant went after the Hound but his long strides allowed him to outdistance the old man. At the end of the street, he turned right and disappeared. She looked at the street, rather quiet in the first hours of the night. Later on, next morning, it would be crowded with passers-by.
There would be children playing and screaming, but right now the street was hers, as the vagrant was huddled in some corner. She jumped at the soft knock she heard on the door, then she turned around: Peitho appeared on the threshold and joined her on the balcony. The madam, wearing a green taffeta dress, had sleepy eyes. I asked him if everything was all right when I met him downstairs. Do you know what he answered? He said 'The girl was docile' and he left.
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I thought American veterans were more There were so many men like him when I lived in Paris, at the end of the Great War. Since she knew Sansa had learned French when she was in Saint Paul, Peitho always asked her that sort of questions. I don't think we have an equivalent in English. We simply say 'disfigured war veteran'. He works for the Lannisters; that's how I met him. He's one of their henchmen. That was how she would describe him, though it didn't satisfy her. Her guest kept a shadowy side she couldn't characterize, nor understand. Be careful, now. As kind as she was with her, the madam was sly and well-versed in falsehood; she could tell if someone was sincere or not.
But Sansa's stay in the Red Mansion had taught her how to lie. So he didn't hurt you? I'll talk to him. Perhaps I have a plan for us. We're the same, you and I. She hugged her and Sansa smelt a fragrance of bergamot and oakmoss. The madam usually drenched herself in perfumes. It was camphor; she hadn't noticed it when he had applied the ointment on her back, because she was so frightened, but now she was sure. Peitho shrugged and mumbled something about American men and hygiene.
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At dawn, realizing she couldn't go back to sleep, Sansa got up and looked at the street again. Everything was silent, in the first hours of the day. A few hours ago, she had decided to leap into the void. Eyes closed, she listened to the calm, then opened her eyes again and gazed at the asphalt. Thirty feet below. A quick death. Someday perhaps, but not now. She wanted to know more about this man who had come to visit her. Before leaving the balcony, she noticed how the sky was red on the horizon and she suddenly remembered what her nanny told her when she was a child:.
A storm was approaching. Sansa went back to her huge bed and huddled under the blankets. Play your part and I'll play mine , he had said. Among his numerous habits — getting up at dawn, eat spare ribs for dinner, visit a brothel once a week — there was one Gerald Halder especially loved. Every night, he would go to the warehouse filled with casks of spirits he possessed. There were some beer barrels too, though beer wasn't one of his specialties. The restaurant his father had left to him twenty-six years ago was thriving and allowed him to put money into what was the most profitable activity: selling alcohol.
Gerald Halder was proud to offer his customers the largest range of spirits one could find in New York, on his unofficial wine list: you could drink in the backroom of his restaurant that incredible Irish whiskey the Lannisters imported, Italian wines or moonshine coming from Tenessee, of course, like in every decent speakeasy, but what made him so proud were the rare alcohols he possessed and stored in his warehouse.
You couldn't taste the spirits Norwegian and Ukrainian immigrants made in the bathtub of their insanitary one-bedroom flat of the Lower East Side — some beverages so strong they burned your throat and left a bitter aftertaste on your tongue — unless you bought them from Gerald Halder. Every damn community seems to have its own recipe to distil strong and cheap alcohol , he thought, smiling a lopsided smile.
In Manhattan, as far as these strange and exotic homemade spirits were concerned, he had no serious rival. It didn't mean he had no worries, of course not. The war between the different bootleggers had devastated his trade: with an increased presence of the coastguards and the police operation Stannis Baratheon had carried out in New Jersey, getting imported whiskey was more and more uncertain. And there were the police officers: Gerald was sometimes ashamed to admit it was difficult to know which palm he could grease and which officers were useless.
To top it all off, the New Yorkers were rather anxious about their future. That is to say the workers, the clerks who lived from hand to mouth The upper class, the businessmen have never been that rich and they were eager to live life to the full. These rich customers were the ones Gerald Holder tried to seduce: they wanted to mix with the riffraff when they passed the threshold of his restaurant and booze was the secret ingredient of an unforgettable evening.
Despite the lacklustre context, he harbored the hope of better days with the coastguards' underachievement in New Jersey — they had seized a large part of the whiskey the Lannisters imported but their henchmen had managed to escape. The support of Mace Tyrell, the successful manufacturer of the South, to the Lannisters would certainly help: if the young Joffrey Baratheon became the next governor thanks to his father-in-law's support, Gerald doubted of the police's ability to enforce the Volstead Act. Such a prospect made him smirk, as he moved his paunchy figure between the rows of barrels.
Making more money meant indulge himself in going back to the brothel and seeing again that pretentious young lady who had refused to dance for him at first. The memory of her screams, when his belt had hit the smooth skin of her back was enough to make his cock harden. Next time he saw her, he wouldn't ask for a dance. Oh no. Above his head, rain drummed against the tin roof, but in the deserted warehouse, his footsteps echoed, amplifying his self-confidence.
Joffrey Baratheon would soon dampen the zealous policemen's spirits and let people like him work in peace. And he would himself crush his rivals such as the Moore and the old Francis Tucket, those shitheads unable to tell gin from apple brandy: it was just a matter of time before he had them working for him and licking his boots. In the quiet warehouse, he suddenly heard something: it didn't sound like a wind draft but like a rattle.
There were mice sometimes and even rats, though he gave a bottle of cheap brandy for each dead rat or mouse his employees brought him. He went on, wanting to make sure everything was in order. A flashlight in his hand, he walked slowly, paying attention to the casks — the storm had damaged the electric lightning, plunging the warehouse into total darkness. He had enough Irish whiskey, but he was almost out of Italian wines and Joffrey Baratheon would demand some rare Italian wines if he got married The sound of a barrel rolling on the plain dirt floor made him jump.
What kind of mouse was it? Gerald didn't get any answer, except from a gust of wind that lifted the metallic sheets above his head. He lifted his flashlight, getting closer to the barrel.
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The damn thing had stopped in the middle of a row, leaving a trail of red wine. Sangiovese, most likely. How could someone laugh at him and waste such a good wine? His yell echoed under the tin roof but no answer came.
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The flashlight lit up the spot where Gerald stood, his chest heaving, but darkness engulfed the rest of the warehouse. Spinning on his heels, he frantically brandished his flashlight in all directions, but everything seemed quiet. He recorked the barrel and put it the right way round with a grunt, then he heard a cat meowing. That stupid animal.
There were alley cats hanging around these days. The cook, that old fool, had seen fit to leave some scraps for the cats and now it was almost impossible to get rid of them. A black cat appeared in the reassuring circle of light: it was one these skinny animals that spent nights in the streets, fighting with its fellow creatures.
One of its ears was torn-down but behind its long whiskers, Gerald could have sworn on his mother's life that it had a smug smile. When the damn beast came to rub itself against his legs, Gerald rewarded its affection with a kick. The cat hissed and ran away as Gerald walked briskly to the warehouse's door. He hated cats and he hated even more the sensation of playing to be scared. Fortunately, nobody saw me making a fool of myself Everything seems perfectly quiet in this corner of the warehouse , he mused, wiping the beads of sweat rolling down his temples.
It must be that storm raging outside that got on my nerves. Gerald sighed deeply as he put his hand on the doorknob. Everything is in order. An iron grip on his shoulder made him squeak, then a forceful arm thrust him out against the metallic door. Gerald grunted in pain, mechanically bringing his hands to his knee.
As he lay on the ground, he felt the cold wind on his back. He had dropped his flashlight and whoever his assailant was, that bastard made sure Gerald couldn't reach the electric device. A deft kick sent the flashlight further and it ended up lighting the casks of Irish whiskey. A kick in his ribs answered to his question. Gerald screamed, his protestations echoing the howling wind. A blow to the genitals cut him off. Despite the excruciating pain he felt and the sensation that he was about to shit his pants, Gerald shielded his face with his arm and raised his eyes nonetheless.
He didn't really see his attacker in the darkness, but this huge, threatening figure was not Jimmy's. It couldn't be one of the men who held something against him either. So who is he? I don't know that man. The realization scared him even more. The man remained silent but squatted in front of him, grabbed his chin and shoved a rag inside his mouth. Gerald tried to protest, shook his head and flailed but resistance was useless.
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