The Age of Eric Contest
Title: Soiled Dove of Deadwood
Pen name: Sarifina85
Time Period: The Gilded Age 1878-1879 — Deadwood, Dakota Territory
Characters: Eric and Sookie
Disclaimer: Deadwood was a mining camp that grew into a town of corruption, sex, and violence. This story is a historically accurate look at the era of Deadwood at its height of crime and violence. Prostitution ran rampant and blood spilling in the streets was simply everyday facts in Deadwood.
A HUGE thank you to my beta, cretin, for going through this several times with a fine-tooth comb to find all of the things I let slip through the cracks!
“I think it is time I move on, Pamela,” I told my child as we strolled down the quiet streets of Pittsburg. Dawn was only an hour away and few humans were awake at this hour.
“Why? We’ve just made investments here and purchased a house,” my child said in confusion. She gave a predatory smile, “And of course, there is an abundance of high society ladies to charm.”
I smiled at my child; we of course shared a taste for “charming” highborn ladies out of their garters and corsets, but it had begun to lose its appeal. I said as much to my child, but I wondered if it was more a desire to see new places than it was a desire to peruse new “food.” My people had been explorers as well as warriors, and I yearned to see lands that I had not set foot on.
“I am bored with these so-called ‘sophisticated’ urban dwellers,” I admitted.
“We’re making money hand over fist with the investment we made with Carnegie,” Pam said as we walked up the steps to our new home. The human servants were, of course, gone; they weren’t allowed in the house until after dark when we left for the night.
“Money is not everything. I have grown weary of this place.” The new steel company we were investing in was proving to be extremely profitable. Humans were immigrating to this country in droves, and industry was paving the way for their coming. There was no shortage of human workers with all of the new immigrants, but even the high profits we were making could not make up for the fact that high society balls and theatre had lost their intrigue for me. The wives of rich industrialist were becoming too easy to seduce. The cities were too tame since the end of the human’s Civil War. New York had been wonderfully exciting during Draft Week: the riots and blood that had coated the streets had been invigorating for a vampire. Growing industry, new factories, and the labor union movement held no interest for me. True, I loved the money that was being made in this time, but I longed for the excitement and blood that had flowed through the gutters just fifteen years before.
Pam began pulling her elbow length gloves off before she began taking off her corset as we walked through the house and up the stairs towards the bedroom. It was the one locked room in the house that the servants were not allowed into. Our coffins sat side by side in the room. I began loosening my tie and removing my long tailed coat and vest in preparation for our daytime rest.
“But where would we go? What would we do?” Pam questioned as she pulled a loose slip over her naked body. Though we had stopped having sex some time ago, as Pam’s tastes changed, I still appreciated the sight of my child.
“I think it was time you made your own way, my child. You may stay here and watch our investment while I explore the west. This house will be yours.”
I could see both fear and excitement in my child’s eyes. “You are releasing me?” she asked.
“Yes. I told you I would after we had settled into the New World. I think it is time for you to be on your own,” I explained. “I shall do as Horace Greeley suggested in his editorial last decade, ‘Go West, young man, and grow up with the country,'” I quoted with a smirk as I helped my child into her coffin.
“Only you are not a man, nor young,” Pam complained, rolling her eyes. I laughed and kissed her forehead as she settled into her coffin. “Where will you go?” she asked, grabbing my hand before I could step away and close her coffin.
“I shall make my way across the country. Not many of the few vampires in the New World have ventured from the eastern seaboard. I don’t think any have traveled all the way to the western coast since the first vampires arrived.” I smirked at Pam, “Besides, I should like to gamble for a time, but my child does not approve of the practice.”
She once again rolled her eyes. “It is a vulgar practice and only vulgar and disgusting men partake in it,” she said with a huff. “Especially in those dirty western towns.”
“You can be quite the snob, my child,” I laughed as I closed her coffin.
I shed my trousers and climbed naked into my own coffin. I knew exploring the West would mean more days of sleeping in the ground, but I found myself looking forward to exploring the West with an excitement I had not felt since I explored the Old World after first leaving my own maker.
The next year found me crisscrossing the Midwest and South. I traveled from dirty cow towns to booming rail centers. The wildness of the west was exactly what I had been searching for. I spent my nights moving from town to town, gambling and betting on anything from horse races to bare-knuckled boxing. There were even cockfights, dogfights, and the occasional Were and shifterfight, though humans rarely understood what they were betting on. They were drunk enough to believe the fighting Weres were simply large wolf-like dogs.
Gambling with humans was almost too easy. I never glamored them, it was beneath me to glamor their money out of them anyway, but after more than eight hundred years, it was easy to read humans when they were gambling. Even easier when they were drunk.
I made good money simply by gambling, but still I felt restless. Many of the towns I traveled through were rough and rowdy, but none of them were truly wild enough for my predatory nature. Even Dodge City was too tame for my tastes. The Earp brothers had mostly gained control over the cow town, leaving it with little of the excitement I yearned for.
By the end of the summer of ’79, I decided to travel to the mining camps. Dakota Territory had struck gold in ’76 and the dirty mining camps had grown into booming, muddy towns. Though horse was the normal mode of travel throughout the territories, I could travel faster by foot or in the air. I needed no more than the money in my pocket and the clothes on my back.
It was a cool night in mid-September the night I first made my way into Deadwood. I saw instantly that this town could hold the excitement that would sate my bloodlust. Dirty miners and prospectors littered the muddy streets and boardwalks. Working girls and “painted ladies” called out to the men passing by, trying to entice them into their curtained rooms. When two humans stumbled out of a nearby bar, shouting and shooting at each other, I knew I was in the town I had been looking for. The men and woman who littered these streets hardly batted an eye as one man lay dead in the street and the other stumbled back into the bar.
I smelled the stench of various Weres on the streets, but the professions of prospector and miner were littered with their breed. I passed a building whose sign read “Gem Theatre” and entered inside. I rarely played at the Faro tables, as it was common practice for the Faro dealers to rig the dealing box. I easily fell into a poker game with a group of humans and one Were. After I had taken a good deal of their money, I wandered the now quiet streets. Most of the humans had found boarding houses or tents to pass out in, or simply passed out on the boardwalks.
Unfortunately, there were virtually no women in Deadwood who were not “working girls”, I preferred to seduce woman rather than pay for them, but there was little choice in this town. I had glamored and fed from a prostitute in a brothel earlier in the evening and was slowly making my way out of town to find a place to rest in the ground for the day. The area was littered with rocks and pine trees. I knew it would be difficult to find a place where I could dig into the ground deep enough. The sudden burning of silver hit my throat at the same time as the smell of Were permeated my nose. Anger instantly filled me for being distracted by my new surroundings and not noticing the Were from the poker game following me.
My body was powerless to stop the Were as I slumped to the muddy ground in the alleyway. The Were quickly cut at my wrist and began draining my blood into a bowl. Though humans did not generally know the effects of our blood, Weres were unfortunately versed in its drug use. I was silently cursing myself in every language I had ever learned when there was a crunching thud and the Were who was crouched over me, tumbled to his side.
I looked up into the eyes of a scantily clad blond woman who was holding a shovel. She let the shovel slide from her hands and dropped to her knees beside me in the mud. “Oh my Lord!” she exclaimed as she pulled the silver chain from my neck and dropped it beside me in the mud.
I quickly sat up and looked at the woman kneeling before me as she examined my neck and the silver. “What the hell happened?” she asked, looking back and forth between my neck and they silver.
“I am allergic to silver,” I explained stiffly.
Her brows furrowed and she looked on in shock as the wound at my neck was closing. I kept the cut on my wrist away from her, and when she turned towards the dead Were, I threw the bowl of blood into the shadows, wanting to keep this woman from seeing it. I knew I could glamor the woman if need be, but for some reason I found myself not wanting to take the memories of this encounter from the kind woman.
She looked at me again. “You’re alright?” she questioned.
“I heal quickly from my allergy,” I said. That was true enough, though now I would need blood to replace what I had lost.
She nodded and crawled towards the Were. She held her palm in front of his mouth. “Shit! Oh shit! Al’s gonna kill me,” she said frantically when she determined as I had that he was dead. Her muscles began to shake as she fell onto her butt in the mud and stared at the dead body. She repeated over and over, “Al’s gonna kill me. He’s really gonna kill me this time.”
I felt some of my strength return, and I knelt beside the woman. “Al is your husband?” I questioned, unsure as to why the thought upset me.
She shook her head. “He’s my employer,” she explained carefully, not looking away from the body. She gestured towards the body, “Don Pelt was one of his men. Shit! He’s really gonna kill me this time!” she moaned as she buried her face in her hands. So this Al was her pimp. I was sure by the threadbare appearance of her plain cotton dress and lack of proper corset, that she was a prostitute; not that I objected to the profession, I just rather preferred the thrill of the hunt and the art of seduction.
I drew her face from her hands, forcing her gaze up to my own. Her light blue eyes shone with unshed tears. I was impressed with her obvious determination not to let them fall. “Who says Al must know what happened to this man?” I questioned her.
Her brows furrowed and her eyes darted back and forth, as she appeared to be processing something. “Are you strong enough to carry him?” she suddenly questioned.
I tried not to smirk at her question. “I think I can manage.”
She nodded and started to struggle to her feet in the mud. I stood and offered her my hand, pulling her to her feet. She looked at me curiously, “What are you?” she suddenly asked.
“What do you mean?” I dodged.
She tilted her head. “You’re cold as ice and you sort of … glow,” she said slowly.
I looked at her in shock. I was not surprised she noticed the coolness of my skin, it was the reason we were careful of our contact with humans, but never had I heard of a human who saw our glow. Only other vampires could see that. I stared at her. “My allergy often makes my skin cold and makes it take on odd appearances,” I hastily lied. I knew I should glamor the woman, but I could not bring myself to do it. She had surely saved my life. How could I then erase my memory from her?
She shrugged and turned back towards the body. “Well, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with. If you think you can carry him, I might know of someone who can get rid of the body. I just hope Mr. Wong can keep his mouth shut,” she said as she wrung her hands.
I easily threw the stinking Were over my shoulder. I was tempted to simply take the Were into the woods to dispose of, but was interested to see what this woman’s plan was. I followed as she hurried down the alleyway, her head darting from side to side as she looked for anyone who might see us. I looked down to see that she was stepping through the mud barefoot.
“Why did you help me?” I asked as I followed her.
She came to a stop and looked at me incredulously. “He was going to kill you! Should I have let him?”
I gave a half smile. “I am glad you didn’t,” I answered. “How did you know we were there?” I asked. It was a dark and deserted alleyway. She couldn’t have seen or heard us from the street.
She looked nervous, but answered, “I just got done with my shift, but I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to go for a walk. We’re not supposed to leave the saloon, but I just needed to get away from everyone to clear my mind.” She looked embarrassed by her answer and turned to hurry on.
We soon arrived at the area I assumed was considered Chinatown. I had to suppress a growl, knowing that the Were I was carrying would have likely taken my blood here for the Chinamen to mix with their opium. It was a favorite drug mix among supernatural creatures.
The woman quietly but hastily knocked on a door, its sign read “Lee Wong’s Laundry.”
“Come on, Mr. Wong. I know you’re awake. Hurry up,” she pleaded.
A grizzled old oriental man stepped out and looked at me curiously. He barely gave the dead body or the woman a glance as he stared at me, obviously knowing instantly what I was, but then he turned his attention to the woman. “What you want?” he asked gruffly. I had spent little time in the Orient, but I knew that their lands held many variants of supernatural creatures not common throughout the rest of the world. I could smell that he was some form of two-natured, perhaps a fabled were-dragon.
“We need you to throw him in with your pigs out back and not say anything to anyone,” she pleaded, gesturing to the body I carried.
“What I get?” he asked, his eyes roaming over her form in an assessing manner. I had to admit, the woman was lovely, and the lack of corset and simple dress actually accented and displayed her firm high breasts and soft curves.
“You can have whatever you want,” she said in exasperation.
The man’s eyes lit up as his eyes roamed her curves again. I couldn’t explain why the thought of her offering her body to pay a debt that should be mine upset me so, or why the thought of this man touching her stirred my blood. I gave a low growl, saying, “I will pay you two hundred dollars to dispose of the body with your pigs.”
The man’s eyes lit up even more, saying, “Yes, yes. You bring out back.”
The woman and I followed the tottering old man as he led the way towards his pigpen. I dropped the body over the fence, and the hogs instantly went to work on the body. I could see that the four sows would make short work out of their new meal.
“Now, you can’t say a word to Al,” the woman pleaded with Wong.
I cast a glare at him over her shoulder, reinforcing her words.
“No, no. I not speak a word,” he assured. I handed him the money and he toddled back towards his laundry.
The woman gave a sigh and grabbed my hand as she pulled me away. “Hopefully Al will think Don just decided to move on. Come on, let’s get out of here,” she said as she led me down the street.
“What is your name, woman?” I asked.
She slowed and looked up at me as we continued walking, though she didn’t drop my hand. “They call me Tricksie,” she answered evasively.
“What is your given name,” I pressed.
She hesitated, but finally answered. “Sookie, Sookie Stackhouse. But nobody round here ever calls me that,” she said looking down. “What’s your name, mister?”
“I am Eric Northman.”
We stepped onto the main boardwalk in silence and she let go of my hand to step towards the Gem Theatre. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Mr. Northman. I gotta get back before someone misses me,” she said giving me a little nod.
I reached out and grabbed her hand again. “Call me Eric. This is where you work?” I questioned as politely as I could.
She shrugged, but nodded.
“May I visit with you tomorrow evening?” I found myself asking.
She shrugged again and responded sadly, “Anyone who pays can visit me.” She turned and ran quietly into the back of the brothel before I could respond.
The following night, I wandered the hall of curtained rooms in the back of the Gem Theatre. I stopped and looked into each of them, looking for one particular woman. In the rooms where women were waiting for customers, they called out in slurs, “Come in, dearie.” I was disgusted with the state of most of the woman in this brothel. All had been heavily drugged, their spirits dampened if not killed with opium, laudanum, or liquor. All had also been very heavily handled, most sporting a patchwork of colored bruises, black eyes and swollen faces. It was almost impossible to tell any longer if any of them had once held any beauty.
I heard a man’s gravelly voice sound from a room down the hall from me. “You remember your place, bitch! You still owe me a debt. You don’t go nowhere unless I say so. That includes from this room. I better not hear from Johnny again that you been sneaking out!” He turned from the curtained doorway, and started down the hall towards me. I could smell instantly that this man was a Were. From his harsh appearance, I assumed it was the proprietor, Al Swearengen. He was tall, even for a Were, nearly my own height, and squarely built with thick dark hair and dark tanned skin. He moved more in a slink than a walk. I had glamored a drunk prospector in the front saloon into telling me what he could about both Al, and “Tricksie.”
Swearengen was known as an overly violent pimp, and Tricksie was regarded as his best prostitute. The drunk had explained that though she was quiet, she was known to give a man exactly what he wanted. She was reputed as quick and efficient because she could give a man exactly the attention he wanted without him even asking. My interest in Sookie had been peaked last night, but now I was determined to learn more about her.
Swearengen looked me over speculatively. “We got a couple half-dead girls you can finish off if you pay me right,” he said as he stepped closer.
My eyes narrowed. “I was looking for the girl they call ‘Tricksie.'”
His body stiffened. “We gots several Tricksies, which one you looking for?”
I saw the side of Sookie’s face peak out of the curtain Swearengen had just left. Pointing at her, I said, “I would like that one.”
Swearengen gritted his teeth. “Fifty dollars for that one. You get fifteen minutes,” he snarled at me.
I saw Sookie’s eyes widen at the price. Obviously, Swearengen was inflating the price for a vampire. “I will give you five hundred dollars for the night,” I offered, knowing Swearengen would never turn down the huge sum.
I saw the greedy glint in Swearengen’s eyes. “Fine, but that girl belongs to me. She better be in one piece when you’re through,” he warned, his shoulders drawing together threateningly.
Sookie’s head leaned further out of the room, and I saw her swollen and red cheek. A small trickle of blood still ran from the corner of her mouth. For the first time in my existence, the blood did nothing to excite me. “She will be safer with me than she or the rest of your girls are with you,” I threatened with a glare. I handed the folded bills to Swearengen and dismissed him with a flick of the hand. I held my hand out to Sookie, gesturing for her to come to me. “Come.”
She hesitantly stepped out of her room, but froze when Swearengen spun around towards her. “You get back in there, bitch!” He turned towards me, “She ain’t going nowhere.”
I let a soft growl escape, reminding this Were of the pecking order on the food chain. “I have paid for her time; I can use it wherever I choose. Leave,” I hissed.
“Fine, but she better be in her room before dawn,” he snarled as he pushed his filthy body past me to go down the hall.
I offered my hand to Sookie again. “Come,” I repeated.
She nodded and reached back into her room to grab an old woolen shawl. It was well used, as was her dress, but clean and well cared for. I helped place it over her shoulders, pleased to see that tonight she was wearing some old shoes as well.
We stepped silently out onto the street, and continued down the wooden boardwalk. “Do you know how to ride?” I asked curiously.
Her eyebrows drew together as she looked up at me. “Yes. Why?”
“I thought you might like to get away from town. We could go down to the livery stable and rent a couple of horses to take a ride. If you prefer we can even take a buggy,” I offered.
“No! I’d love to go for a ride. I haven’t ridden a horse almost since I got here,” she said quickly in excitement. It pleased me to see a happy smile finally grace her face. She had pleasing features, but with her smile, she face truly showed its beauty.
I carefully brought my hand to her jaw, noticing that she flinched slightly at the action. I wiped the trickle of blood from her chin. Her eyes dipped down in embarrassment when she saw the blood on my fingers. My body yearned to taste her blood, but my mind whispered that it would be so much sweeter when freely offered. The thought confused me, but I batted it away.
I offered my elbow to her. “Well, if you would enjoy a ride, then ride we shall.”
She slowly wrapped her hand around my elbow and I led her to the livery stable. I paid the stable boy for the rent of two saddle horses with saddles and bridles. I was not unfamiliar with the beasts, even if I rarely used them, but was surprised when Sookie wanted to saddle her own horse.
She gently stroked the neck of the little bay gelding she had chosen before she stepped over to the tack and picked out a saddle. She picked up the saddle and a blanket to heave on the horse as she explained, “It’s been a while since I’ve been on a horse, but going riding was my favorite thing to do.”
I worked on saddling the large grey gelding I had chosen, but all the while, I carefully watched as she expertly saddled her own mount. I was surprised when she had not chosen a sidesaddle. She saw my look, “What? Think I can’t ride like a man?” she quipped. She pulled the skirt to her cotton dress up to reveal short woolen trousers that ended just before her boots. “Good thing I was chilled enough to put on some pants though,” she laughed. The sound was like music, and I was more glad than ever that I had decided to get her away from the brothel. She had seemed so quiet and withdrawn last night as we had returned there.
We led our mounts out of the livery stable, and I went to step up behind Sookie to help her into the saddle. Before I could even offer her a hand, she grabbed the saddle horn and swung lightly from the ground onto her horse, not even placing her foot in the stirrup to pull herself up. She grinned again at my surprise. I swung onto the large grey I had chosen in a similar fashion. “Where would you like to go?” I asked.
“Let’s follow the creek to the northwest. There’s plenty of pretty places to stop along the way,” she suggested.
She grinned again, and urged her gelding into a run. I smiled, excited at any kind of chase, and urged my own beast to follow.
Sookie’s yellow tresses had been piled on top of her head in a loose bun, but now were falling down and whipping behind her in thick curls as she leaned over the neck of her horse. When she could feel the breathing of her horse begin to strain, she pulled up and let him walk. I brought my own horse to a walk beside her.
“Isn’t it beautiful here?” she asked looking around the gulch. The creek ran along our right side through a rocky bed. High rock cliffs encased us on either side, with pine trees growing on many of the rocky surfaces.
“It is very beautiful,” I admitted.
After we had walked our horses in silence for several minutes she said, “It’s been years since I’ve been allowed to get away from town like this.” She looked up into my eyes, “Thank you, but you didn’t have to spend so much money.” Her eyes held fear, as though she were afraid I would agree with her.
“Worth every cent,” I assured her.
“We haven’t even done anything yet,” she said, dropping her eyes. “Why are you spending all this money on me? I could be no good for all you know.”
I chuckled, “I highly doubt that. Regardless, I would be more than happy to simply have your company.”
“‘A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and a real reason,'” she replied back with a raised eyebrow.
I threw back my head and laughed. “A woman who can quote J.P. Morgan. I see I shall have to stay on my toes with you, little one, but you are quite right. Men always have more than one reason for the things they do,” I admitted, but I would explain no further.
I brushed her tangled curls away from her face and she closed her eyes and leaned into my hand. “You’re so quiet,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry,” I said in confusion.
Her eyes popped open. “I mean, it’s so quiet out here. That’s why I like to get away from town if I can. I like the quiet,” she amended quickly.
My head tilted as I looked at her, but I let it pass. Her gaze dropped down again and she quickly dismounted to lead her horse towards the creek. She tied the reins around a low tree branch and sat down on a large flat rock facing the creek. I copied her motions and took a seat beside her.
“I don’t understand why you’d pay so much money just to have my company,” she commented, still looking at the creek.
“I am not altogether certain myself,” I admitted. “I only know I desired to spend more time with you away from that oppressive brothel.”
She looked at me, her face drawn in confusion. “Because of what happened last night?” she asked.
“Perhaps partly,” I admitted. “I have been in dangerous positions many times in my past, but never has a small woman come to my rescue before. I find myself intrigued with you.” I carefully considered what I wanted to ask her, and decided to start at the beginning. “What are you doing working at a place like Swearengen’s? Surely you could have found a man to marry.”
She kept her face turned towards the creek. “My Pa died in the War shortly after I was born, and my Ma got sick and died when I was only ten. My brother Jason and I stayed in Ohio for a while, working in kitchens and on folks’ farms for food when we could. When I was fourteen and my brother was seventeen, he decided he wanted to head west. He’d gotten a bit addicted to gambling and got talked into coming to Deadwood with Charlie Utter’s wagon train. That was back in ’76, Deadwood was just a dirty mining camp back then.
“That fall he got into bad debt gambling at the Cricket Saloon—that was Al’s first place—and when the other guy called Jason on his debt, they got into a fight. They both drew and Jason killed him,” she said with a shrug. “That wouldn’t have been a big deal in Deadwood, people get killed all the time, but the man he killed was one of Swearengen’s men, so Al shot my brother, and said I owed him my brother’s debt, both for the money and for killing his man. Only one way for a woman to work off a debt.”
I was shocked by her answer. I was sure there were just as many sad stories from any prostitute in any brothel, but never had I cared to know before. It was detestable that her worthless brother had gambled himself into a situation where his sister had to pay the price. Her flat, manner-of-fact way of answering was almost as disturbing as her tale. “How old were you then?” I questioned.
“Fifteen,” she answered casually.
“You are only eighteen?” I asked, surprised by her youth. The years of her labor had left her not only seeming older in maturity and intelligence, but also in appearance than her actual years. I could see the shadows of wrinkles already beginning, and I wondered how many more years she could survive her livelihood. Her only answer was a nod.
“And how long will it take to repay your debt?” I asked.
She snorted, “There is no paying it off. Every day of room and board just racks up more debt.”
“Why did you not go to the sheriff?” I asked her. Surely, the human sheriff could have stopped Swearengen from virtually enslaving the girl.
“Bullock?” she asked. “Seth’s a nice enough guy, but he can’t do anything in the Badlands.”
“Yeah, Bullock, he controls upper Main Street, and he does a right job of it, but Swearengen, he controls lower Main Street and no one tells him what to do there. That area is known as the Badlands,” she explained, finally looking at me.
“And does Swearengen normally keep you as drugged with opium and liquor as he does his other girls?”
“He tried to at first, but he let me stop when he found out how hard it was for me to concentrate. Men are afraid of crazy women you know,” she commented, eyeing me curiously.
I wondered at her comment, but didn’t press it. She continued, “He uses the opium to keep the girls compliant, but he also uses it to keep them from getting their courses. That way he doesn’t have to worry about them getting pregnant.”
“But you don’t use opium?” She shook her head in response. “So how do you avoid pregnancy?” I wondered. It had never been a concern for vampires of course, but I found myself curious about what she did to prevent what had to be such a common consequence of such a profession.
“I got pregnant once, not long after I started working at the Cricket Saloon—that was the saloon Al had back before he built the Gem—Al had Doc Franks give me an abortion. Something went wrong though, and I bled real bad for a long time and was really sick.” She shrugged. “It hasn’t been a problem since,” she finished.
“And do you have friends among the other girls?” I asked. It struck me that she seemed lonely, a sentiment with which I could relate.
She gave a slight shake of her head. “Not really. Most girls don’t last long enough to make friends with. I’ve been working for Al for over three years now; I’m considered an old timer, especially at Al’s. Most girls don’t usually survive working at the Gem, so it’s not worth the heartache of trying to make friends with them. It’s better to keep to yourself.”
“Where do his girls come from if they don’t last very long?”
“Oh, Johnny and Dan will procure some, but most all of the girls come from back east. Al advertises for jobs in hotels and stage performers but only hires the girls that can’t afford to make their own way out here. He pays their way and when they get out here, he puts them to work in the brothel telling them they have to work off their debt. Course with room and board, there is no working off your debt, so you’re stuck here for life. A lot of girls shoot themselves or poison themselves right off when they figure out what kind of life they’re in for. Others wait until they have nothing left to live for before the take their lives.” Her voice was so blunt and factual as she talked.
“Surely there must be a way to get out of his debt?” I wondered, abhorred at her obvious acceptance that she would just work until she could not take it anymore and killed herself. “Or you could simply leave,” I added.
Sookie sadly shook her head and drew her knees up to her chest. Wrapping her arms around them she said, “I’m stuck with Al till the day I die. He won’t ever let me leave. If I left with some man, he’d hunt us down and kill us both. I couldn’t do that to anyone else. It’s my problem, no one else’s,” she sighed. I admired her temerity to face her problem alone.
“Why would he go to such lengths to hunt you down?”
She eyed me, “You’ve seen his two goons, Johnny Burns and Dan Doherty?” I nodded, I had indeed noticed these two “goons” as she called them. Burns was the Box Herder. In other words, the one who beat the girls to keep them in line. Doherty was the manager of the brothel. “Well, Dan’s the manager now, but he used to be a Box Herder like Johnny. Al’s brother, Lemuel, used to be the manager, but one night he got drunk and got rougher than usual with me and I got so mad and scared of him, that I grabbed his gun out of the holster on the bedpost and aimed it at him. I was just trying to get him to leave, but my grip slipped and I shot him in the front of the head.” She shivered at the memory and pulled her arms even tighter around her legs. “He lived for another half hour after that. Doc Franks tried to put a tube in his head and save him, but he died. That’s why Al won’t let me go. I owe him an even bigger debt than ever. Al, Johnny, and Dan, they’d all hunt me to the ends of the earth if I ran. Dora Duran, one of the madams in town, tried to buy my debt once to get me to work in her cathouse, but Swearengen wouldn’t take any price she offered.”
“Cathouse?” I asked in confusion, surprised at the term.
“Oh, Dora had real bad problems with mice, and so she shipped in a whole mess of cats from back east on one of Charlie Utter’s wagon trains. She started calling it her cathouse because of all the cats and the name stuck,” she explained.
I thought about her words, and though she didn’t know it, all three were Weres and would easily be able to track her if she did run. “What if you left with me?” I asked putting my arm around her shoulder and pulling her into my body.
“It’s a nice thought,” she said quietly into my chest, “but I’m not naïve, I know that no one would go against Al over me.”
I wanted to say that I would go against anyone for her, but I wasn’t naïve either, one vampire alone against three Weres would be a very difficult fight. “So what will you do?” I questioned, sadly.
She pushed away from my chest and looked up at me. “Work until I die, I guess,” she said darkly. I felt my face fall at her words and she pushed out of my embrace and jumped to her feet. “Al doesn’t have any more power over me than I let him have!” she snapped. “He may be able to keep me here and sell my body, but my mind is my own. I won’t let him win and become one of those weak women who shoot themselves or drown their minds in drugs and booze. As long as I can keep my mind my own, I’m as free as just about any woman can be in these parts! So don’t you dare pity me! I don’t want your pity!” she said vehemently.
I felt my body respond to her passionate response. I admired, and was drawn to, her fire. It took a moment to will my fangs to retract before I could open my mouth to speak. “Then you shall not have my pity, Sookie,” I said quietly. I held my hand out to her again. “Come, sit with me. We’ll speak of more pleasant things. You enjoy riding, what else do you enjoy?”
She cautiously took my hand, looking at me as though to make sure any sign of pity was indeed gone. She sat once again and told me about how she enjoyed reading and often got her customers to sneak her books as part of their payment to her. We spoke briefly of the books she’d read and I told her a bit about my human life, explaining the loss of my wife and child, though carefully leaving out that they had been dead for more than eight hundred years. She could tell I was uncomfortable with the topic and didn’t press. She also didn’t offer any pity for my own loss. I found that strangely comforting.
I brought her back to the Gem near dawn; once again, she was quiet and withdrawn as she entered the brothel. I found another prostitute to glamor and feed from and then I made my way into the woods, pleased that I had found a cave the night before to sleep in rather than the ground. The cave went deep enough that I was able to be in complete darkness. It was preferable to sleeping in the dirty rocky ground. As I waited for sunrise to bring me to death, I considered the beautiful but damaged woman I had spent the evening with. I understood the term “soiled dove” better now. She was beautiful, innocent, and gentle, but at once she was grounded and flightless. A soiled dove.
For the rest of the week, I returned to the Gem and spent the nights with Sookie. It cost me a lot of money, but money was something easily replaced. I tried to make myself stay away from her, but I could not keep away. Each night we would simply stroll the boardwalks and talk, or go for a ride since Sookie so enjoyed it. Her bright smile was worth any price.
She commented one night how nice it was to have only one customer for the evening.
“How many men do you serve during a shift?” I asked curiously.
She thought for a moment, “I usually work the night shift, when it’s busier and I guess an average night for me, or any of the girls, would be about 25 men. Al likes to keep the men running through as quickly as possible.”
My eyebrows raised in shock. “That’s average? How many in a busy shift?”
“Well, if you’re quick, and keep the men moving, and there’s a big line, like on the day the miners get paid over at the Homestake Mine,” she thought for a moment, “well, I think I got nearly 80 men through one time.”
I was shocked and surprised at how enraged I was at the thought of my Sookie having to service so many men in one night and that so many men had laid their filthy hands on her. I knew this was Sookie’s profession, though not by choice, but I had never really understood what the implications were for any of the working girls of the brothels.
One night as we were walking down the boardwalk, she suddenly grabbed my arm and stopped me. Two drunken humans burst through the doors in front of us, both shouting and pulling for their guns. I grabbed Sookie and spun away from the door, pressing her against the side of the saloon to protect her if bullets started to fly. She looked surprised at how quickly I had moved, but I was equally surprised that she had known that the humans were coming.
With my arms braced against the side of the saloon on either side of her head, I looked down at her intensely and said, “How did you know they were coming through the door?”
“How did you move so fast?” she breathed.
“Answer me,” I whispered, aware of the gathering crowd that was now watching the two drunks yell and threaten to shoot each other. For the first time, I pushed my influence at her, willing her to answer.
She studied me for a long time, then said, “I guess we’re both more than we seem,” was all she would say. Strangely, I didn’t feel compelled to push her for an answer and I let it be. Not even the fact that she had not yielded to my glamor made me push her.
“Indeed,” was all I said as I dropped my arms, and pulled her down the boardwalk away from the crowd.
Another night, as I strode down the now familiar hallway to Sookie’s room, I once again ran into Swearengen in the hallway. His face darkened when he saw me, but he simply held out his hand. I pressed the folded bills into his hand and wordlessly walked past him.
Normally Sookie always seemed to know I was coming and met me in the hallway. She didn’t tonight.
I pulled the curtain back, and saw Sookie’s battered form on her dingy bed. I was instantly on my knees beside her, smoothing back her blood-streaked hair from her face. One eye was swollen shut, and blood still trickled from her nose. I could see from the angle of her jaw that it was broken. I gently pulled back the sheet to uncover her naked form. Visions of her body had plagued me since I first saw her, but this was not how I had hoped to see it. Her torso, arms and legs were a patchwork of bruises. My fangs ran down in anger, and I felt my jaw clench shut. I wanted to track Swearengen down and rip him limb from limb, but I couldn’t leave Sookie like this. I also couldn’t stand allowing her to stay in this dirty room for another moment, so I carefully wrapped the sheet around her and slid my arms under her body.
She moaned as I picked her body up. I was surprised at how light she actually was; she was a small woman, but she was obviously undernourished as well. I quickly but carefully carried her small body down the street to Dora’s cathouse. Sookie had introduced me to Dora on one of our walks, so I kicked at her door, demanding entry.
Dora herself came to the door, wrapped only in a light robe and ushered me in. I demanded an empty room, and then demanded the clucking woman leave me alone with Sookie. I was sure she meant well, but I wanted to be alone with Sookie to heal her. I carefully laid Sookie down on the bed, and smoothed her matted hair away from her face again.
“Sookie, can you understand me?”
She nodded slowly. “Yes,” she said with surprising strength, answering even through the obvious pain in her jaw.
“I can heal you if you let me,” I told her, as I carefully sat on the bed beside her.
“All right,” she answered carefully.
“Your nose and jaw are broken and need to be set before I can heal you so they don’t heal out of place. That will hurt. Be strong,” I told her. I quickly set her nose, she gave a soft cry and tears ran down her cheeks, but she didn’t pull away. Setting her jaw took more time and was more painful. I felt along her body and also moved two of her broken ribs. Each time brought more tears and a soft cry, but her eyes stayed on mine, showing me her complete trust.
I shed all of my clothes and eased behind her on the bed pulling her torso against my chest gently. Biting into my wrist, I presented it to her. “Drink quickly, before the wound closes. It will heal you,” I urged.
She hesitated, but then her lips connected with my flesh and she began taking deep draws of my blood. My other arm wrapped around her waist to hold her against my body. I could no longer hold still, and began moving rhythmically against her back as she took swallow after swallow of my blood. With every one, she was stronger, and I began to feel her emotions. I could feel her confusion, her pain, and her lust. As she took one last strong draw on my wrist, my body jerked against her back as my orgasm came over me like a torrent.
I could feel her exhaustion, and knew her body would still need some rest to finish healing. “Sleep, lover,” I whispered into her hair as I slid our bodies down the bed to lie down. She turned into me and laid her head on my chest as sleep overtook her.
My mind drifted into downtime as I watched her sleeping form. Her bruises slowly faded, leaving her skin smooth and clear. She looked so peaceful and beautiful wrapped in my arms.
Eventually she stirred and looked up at me. She kept her upper body on my chest but pushed her head up to look down at me. “What are you?” she asked. “Your blood heals. Is that why Don Pelt wanted your blood that night we met? Because it can heal?”
“Yes and no,” I answered. “My blood does heal, but that is not why he wanted my blood. In a healthy body, my blood can make one very strong and give euphoric feelings,” I answered as I reached out to twirl a strand of her hair between my fingers.
“But what are you?” she asked.
I steeled myself, but answered truthfully, “I am a vampire.”
She kept looking down at me. “What does that mean?” she asked, but didn’t pull away.
Letting my lips draw back, I willed my fangs to run down. Again, I expected her to draw back in fear, but she leaned forward and ran a fingertip down one fang. My eyes closed and I groaned at her intimate touch. “You’re dead. That’s why you’re cold and I couldn’t hear your heartbeat when I was lying on your chest?” she asked curiously.
“Yes,” I answered cautiously.
“And you drink blood?”
“That is how I survive, yes.”
“Would it kill me, if you bit me?” she asked, tilting her head.
I smirked and ran my fingers delicately along the side of her neck, “No. I can feed without causing you any harm. On the contrary, it would bring you great pleasure.”
She shivered, and closed her eyes as she leaned down, gently kissing my lips. Leaning back up, she asked, “Is that why I can’t hear your thoughts?”
I sat up slightly to look at her. “You are a telepath?” I questioned, things finally falling into place. She looked embarrassed, but nodded yes. “I have no idea why you can’t hear my thoughts. Have you run across anyone else whose thoughts you could not hear?” I had known she was different, but a telepath? They were so rare, and here was one, wasting her time, toiling as a prostitute.
“No. There’s some people whose thoughts are hard to read and fuzzy. Al, Johnny, and Dan and some others, all kind of have red tinged thoughts if that makes sense,” she said thinking carefully. “What are they? If you’re a vampire, and I’m a telepath, there must be a lot more out there.”
“They are werewolves.”
She rested her head on my chest again. I was shocked by her easy acceptance. I lifted her chin up with my fingertips to look in her eyes again. “You are not appalled by my nature or afraid of me?” I asked.
“Why should I be afraid of something that’s different? You’ve never hurt me. Everyone’s always been afraid of me for being different. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to fit in. I guess it has for you too,” she answered.
I was amazed by this creature, and pulled her face up to mine, catching her lips with my own in a fierce kiss. I had never been with a human that I had not glamored and allowed her to know what I was. She quickly returned my kiss as my hands reached up to cup her breasts. My body was hard and pulsing beneath her.
She pulled back to catch her breath and carefully moved down my body. I watched as she expertly took me into her mouth, carefully moving up and down along my length. As she began to speed up and applied more suction, I could no longer hold still. My head tilted backwards as my hands clutched at the sheets to steady myself. I groaned and grunted as she took me deeply and swallowed all I could give.
She lay down with her head on my stomach as I came down from my high. When my senses had recovered, I flipped her onto her back beneath me, drawing her legs around my waist as I nipped at her breasts.
She gasped in surprise. “What are you doing?” she asked.
My body was by no means sated, so my fingers delved into her, finding her center. She gasped and jerked beneath me in surprise. I wondered if any human had ever given her pleasure in return for the pleasure she gave them. It was not uncommon that prostitutes rarely received any pleasure themselves. I worked my fingers within her, as my mouth and tongue worked on her breasts sliding back and forth between them. As she neared her peak, I bit into her breast, pushing her over the edge. She cried out my name as she clenched around my fingers. Her sweet blood filled my mouth, and I wondered if this was the Valhalla my father had taught me about.
Her sweet smell and blood spurred me on, and as she came down from her high, I poised myself at her entrance. She looked into my eyes and nodded, saying, “Yes, please Eric.”
I slid in, and waited, giving her time to adjust to my size. I was surprised and pleased when she began moving her body in time with my own, meeting me thrust for thrust. My head dropped to her shoulder as her arms grasped at my shoulders, her fingers digging in and drawing blood. “This is best, this is right,” my voice said, coming out grated.
She tilted her hips, and with one last thrust, she began to orgasm. Her body clenching around me sent me into my own orgasm as I bit into her neck and drew another mouthful of blood. I knew I would never be able to get enough of this woman.
I collapsed beside her, drawing her body into my own.
“I’ve never felt anything like that,” she whispered breathily.
“Nor have I,” I agreed.
We lay in silence for a long time, my fingertips lightly stroking up and down her arm as she drew little designs into the skin on my stomach. Eventually she got up and wrapped her body in the bloody sheet that I had used to carry her into the room.
“What are you doing?” I asked, sitting up.
“I have to be back before dawn,” she answered as she started for the door.
I was in front of her in the doorway instantly. “No! I won’t let you go back to him. That whoreson could have killed you,” I said clutching her shoulders.
She reached up to place her hand on my chest over my dead heart. “Al beat me as a reminder of who I belong to. He was afraid I would run away with you. He wanted to make sure I knew how easily he could hurt me.” I started to speak, but she placed her finger over my mouth. “He’ll never let me go. I help draw men to the Gem, he’s never gonna give up that money. And he made it clear he’d kill you too if I ran off with you. I can’t let you take that risk. You should leave. You can’t come see me again,” she said sadly.
“Come with me,” I insisted.
“And what would I do? Go from one form of slavery to another? At least I know what to expect here. You’re a vampire. I don’t even understand what that would mean for me.”
“And so you would stay here, and possibly die because you fear the unknown?” I asked.
She shrugged. “I know what my place is here,” she answered softly. “I won’t let Al kill you. At least if you’re out there, and all right, I can hold on to that in my mind. If he kills you, I’ll have nothing left to hold on to. You can be free for both of us,” she whispered. She leaned into me, and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek before she pushed past me to pad out into the hall. “Good bye,” she whispered over her shoulder as she stepped out through the main door and onto the street.
I stood in silence, not knowing what else to do. Making my way to the cave I had been spending my days in, I wondered if I would be able to honor her wishes and leave the following night.
The next evening, my eyes snapped open as I felt Sookie’s overwhelming pain and fear. I ran through the cave and into town, searching for my blood in Sookie. It led me into the alley behind the Empire Bakery.
“You bitch! Taking blood from a vampire! You belong to me! You ain’t going nowhere!” Al’s deep voice bellowed. I could hear the sickening thuds as his hand connected with Sookie.
“I ain’t going nowhere, Al! I was just going for a walk. Please Al. Please, stop!” Sookie pleaded.
I rounded the corner and threw Swearengen from Sookie, pulling her body behind my own.
“You bastard! That bitch belongs to me! You ain’t taking her nowhere!” Swearengen shouted as he picked his body back up and squared off with me. I could see his eyes were dilated and I could smell the opium and vampire blood seeping from his pores. He’d obviously been to Chinatown to get laced opium. He tilted his head back and howled, I knew calling for his two Were goons. I was surprised at the speed he was able to shift. Almost instantly, he was racing towards me and leaping in the air to attack. I kept Sookie behind me with one hand, spinning slightly and pushing the Were past me with my other hand. He landed on his feet and turned to face me again as the other two goons showed up, already in Were form. Swearengen was by far the biggest of the three, and even alone would be difficult to handle.
I pushed Sookie onto the porch of the bakery. “Stay put,” I told her, and then I turned back to face the Weres as the two smaller ones jumped at me. I was struggling to dislodge the Were on my front and the Were hanging from and pulling at my arm. I could feel my clothes and skin tearing under their teeth as I was able to sink my fangs into the neck of one and break his hold on me. Swearengen slowly circled us. Letting his Weres do their work trying to weaken me. I managed to throw one of the Weres away from me, and before he could turn to attack again, a shot rang out, causing the Were to yelp in pain and change back to his human form. I took the opportunity to throw the other Were at the side of the bakery. A kerosene heater overturned under the Were, setting the side of the bakery on fire. I turned to see that Sookie was standing over Swearengen’s discarded clothes, holding a pistol I assumed she picked up from his clothes.
She had the pistol trained on Swearengen. I punched a hole into the side of the bakery, tearing out a plank of wood that was soaked with kerosene and burning brightly. I moved beside Sookie and held the wood in front of me. “You have lost, Swearengen. She will leave with me,” I hissed.
He snarled and growled menacingly. I could see by the look in his eyes that he wasn’t going to give up easily. The Bakery was quickly becoming engulfed in flames, spreading to the building behind us. I saw the hardware store on the other side with barrels of gunpowder sitting inside the window. The Gem was only a few buildings down from the hardware store. I knew once the gunpowder went off, the rest of the buildings along this street would be close behind.
I threw the plank of wood through the window, knowing it was only a matter of time until the gunpowder went up in the flames. As the hardware story began to burn, I shouted at Swearengen, “I’ll burn down a hundred towns and a hundred of your saloons if that’s what it takes for me to keep her!”
Swearengen looked around at the flames that were quickly encircling the alleyway we were standing in, and he finally seemed to look down the street and see that his saloon and brothel were going to be in direct line of the fire. He turned and leapt over the flames, one of his Weres following closely behind.
“Oh, Eric! What do we do?” Sookie choked as she looked around, seeing no exit in sight.
I floated a foot off the ground and extended my hand to my soiled dove. “Come with me,” I said.
I could see the surprise and fear in her eyes as she looked up at me. Fear of the unknown that I was drawing her into. Fear of Swearengen following us. And fear of what we would mean to each other if she took my hand. “Trust me,” I whispered, hoping to assuage all of her fears.
She nodded and taking my hand, jumped up into my arms. I wrapped my arms around her, flying us high into the air just as the flames set off the gunpowder in a massive explosion. I hovered in the air as we saw several more buildings go up in flames, the Gem included. “Swearengen will be too consumed with rebuilding his business to come after us,” I assured Sookie as we observed the scene below.
“I hope so,” she whispered, as she clutched her arms around my neck.
I tightened my arms around her waist, nuzzling into her neck. “And now you are mine. I will keep you safe, and no other shall ever touch you,” I vowed. No more would she be a soiled dove. She would be pure and innocent once again, and she would take flight with me.
“Where will we go?” she asked in wonder as I began flying away from the enflamed city.
I flashed a fangy smile. “There are no vampires that I know of in San Francisco. With my age, and your talents, I could easily name myself the vampire King of California.”
“King?” she breathed in surprise.
I smirked, “There is much you don’t know about the supernatural world yet, lover. But you will learn, and we will rule together. You will stand always by my side as my Queen.”
She just shook her head in wonder and tucked her head into my neck as we flew on.
That night would live on in infamy in the Dakota Territory. The Great Fire of September 25th and 26th, 1879 would destroy more than 300 buildings, doing $3 million in property damage, and leaving 2,000 people homeless. No official claim would be made as to how the blaze was set, but I knew I would indeed burn down a thousand towns if it meant having my woman—my lover at my side.
A/N: There were hundreds of names for the prostitutes of the west: soiled or prairie doves, painted ladies, working girls, sportin’ women, ladies of the night, and the list goes on, but this account of “Tricksie” or “Sookie” is in many cases far tamer than the tales of other soiled doves. In most cases, they found no happy ending, only death in a small dirty room, their bodies bruised, broken, diseased and drugged.
Of course, there were all levels of prostitution in this age, from the lowest “street walker” who was past her prime, could not even attract her own pimp, and sold her body on the street corner and in alleys, to highly sought after courtesans who were high class, and often highly educated.
If you would like to read more about prostitution of the West, I highly recommend the book Soiled Doves, it is a fascinating read. Most of my stats and tales of “Tricksie’s” life are either factual tales from Deadwood’s history, or from tales read in Soiled Doves. Every tale, name, and event described throughout the story is 100% factual. My only additional/fictional characters—though based on real ones—are Don Pelt, Mr. Wong, and of course, Eric. Sookie is based on a prostitute called Tricksie as well as several other prostitutes. Al Swearengen’s brother Lemuel, was indeed his twin brother, but never actually came to Deadwood with him. The story of the man Tricksie killed was true, but no name was known for the man. All other events happened as described.
The Great Fire of 1879 was indeed started by an overturned kerosene heater in the Empire Bakery, though no one knows for sure how the heater was overturned. It was not the first fire to blaze in the town, nor was it the last, though certainly the biggest. The town was actually rebuilt many times; many of the businesses like Swearengen’s Gem Theatre were rebuilt bigger and more profitable than ever.
At least they were for the next 20 years.
The Gem once again burned down in 1899, in a smaller fire, and with the town finally pushing for the “Badlands” of Deadwood to be cleaned out, many of the saloons closed for good, never to rebuild as they once were. Swearengen left and died penniless in Denver a short time later of a mysterious head wound.
Prostitution continued to have a strong foothold in Deadwood until 1980 (yes, 1980) when the FBI raided the town and finally shut it down for good. Girls as young as 14 were being “sold” by biker gangs. Officials were left to occupy the upstairs apartments of Deadwood for years after to ensure prostitution did not return to this former dirty, mining camp.
Today, Deadwood is a popular tourist attraction, the tradition of gambling still lives on along with its myths and legends, and the western way of life still flourishes.