"It may be a perverted taste, but I love prostitution, and for itself, too, quite apart from its carnal aspects ... The idea of prostitution is a meeting place of so many elements - lust, bitterness, complete absence of human contact, muscular frenzy, the clink of gold - that to peer into it makes one reel. One learns so many things in a brothel, and feels such sadness, and dreams so longingly of love!" - Gustav Flaubert
I sat on the terraza at the bottom of the cathedral steps and sipped at my second jarra of beer. I'd had it ten minutes and already it was lukewarm. My back was to the wall so that I could watch everyone who passed. Old habits die hard.
There weren't many locals around only fat, sweating tourists bemoaning the intolerable heat. This was nothing. They should feel what it's like in Seville. That's the kind of heat that'll fuck you good, and won't buy you dinner afterwards.
I almost called to them to quit their bellyaching. After all, it was two o'clock. Anyone with a grain of sense would be taking a siesta.
I lit a cigarette and glanced down at my day-old English newspaper.
The paper was a fucking rag. No news, only shitty celebrity scoops and hysterical scare stories and a column or too dedicated to foreign affairs in the middle, before the sports. The sickly, clammy fear of terrorism pervaded it. Even seeping into the Blunder Leads to Own Goal stories and the Skinny Runt Popstar Snorting Cocaine scoops. They were right to be afraid too. The Game's all about fanaticism nowadays.
It was not always thus.
Maybe I was starting to get nostalgic, but I didn't think we were ever fanatical. Those of us on the front line, the Reds and us decadent Westerners, we didn't believe the politicians' bullshit any more than they did. We were just doing a job of work. That's why they called it the Cold War – we were cold fucking bastards to a man. We'd shoot you, but it was nothing personal. We weren't sending you to heaven or hell. Or anywhere. It was business.
It was the Game.
The Soviets thought they were playing chess, but we knew it was Snakes and Ladders. That's how we won. But now ... who knows what the fuck they're playing. I was well out of it.
Girona is a pleasant enough town to get lost in. With its winding mediaeval streets, and sprightly bright-coloured houses lining the river, it's almost – but not quite – diverting enough to let you forget what you're running from.
I had found myself a nice spot to sit, drink my beer and try to ride out the midday heat. I had a view of the cathedral, and a good bit of shade. I didn't know how long I'd stay in town. I'd booked a hotel down near the Plaza de l'Independencia for a week, but probably wouldn't stay so long. There was an airport close by. I could go anywhere at short notice. I'd got some money and could always get more.
I was free as a bird.
Or, at least, free as a sparrow or a wren, always darting glances hither and thither on the lookout for cats and hawks.
A raggedy woman pushing a ramshackle pram passed in front of the terraza, which was set back into an alcove away from the pavement. She shot me a sidelong glance and hurried on by. I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but she'd passed me a quarter an hour before going in the other direction. Being in the Service makes you paranoid, because being paranoid keeps you alive.
Of course, she was watching me.
Impoverished single mothers are prime material for recruitment: They always need money and the babe in arms gives them a sort of invisibility. Sexually unavailable, destitute and desperate, no one will look at them in case they ask for money or, worse, for pity and humanity. All she'd have to do to earn her silver dollars was to keep an eye on me, and let her handler know when I moved.
Ideally there'd be two or three watchers, each taking home a few euros for their trouble. I angled my head to see beyond the wall on my left. Sure enough there was a man sat on the steps disinterestedly turning the pages of a novel.
Being a watcher is easy money, only don't get noticed.
There'd be a professional stationed somewhere nearby. I'd never be able to spot them. They'd be too good.
That was it. I was getting out of there.
I didn't much care for being followed, no matter who was following me and for what reason. Whoever was pulling the strings was something of a klutz, but even a clodhopping fool can kill you. The incompetence didn't rule out some serious fucking people.
Throwing down a ten euro note, I rose from my seat and strode briskly from the cerveceria. Not looking left or right, I ran up the steps two at a time, passing the man with the book who studiously paid no heed to me. That proved it. No way do you blithely ignore a man running upstairs in the heat. He should at least have looked up or raised an eyebrow.
Panting, I reached the top and darted through the ancient archway and around the back of the cathedral entering into the narrow, gothic streets of the old town. I ducked and weaved my way through them until I was satisfied that no one was following, or, at least, that no one was hard on my heels.
I needed to lie low somewhere for a while before considering my next move. But where? The answer appeared in front of my eyes as I rounded the next corner: Scrawled in chalk on the wall was the word 'putas' with an arrow beneath it.
Whores. Why not? I could get off the streets and I hadn't had a good fuck in days.
I followed the direction of the arrow, arriving at a junction where there was another scribbled direction pointing the way to the 'burdel'. I rounded the corner and saw a black, nondescript door leading into a tumbledown house. The shutters were drawn and on the one nearest the door was written:
'negras = 10e; romani = 15e; espanolas = 20e'
You'll know that Spain has stamped out racism when they start charging the same amount for their hookers. I looked more closely and, to my surprise, I made out beneath the price list the words: 'Inglesa = 30e'. This was added in a different hand. An English prostitute in a rundown brothel in Girona?
She was probably some Spanish girl with her hair bleached blonde speaking pidgin English. A grotesque parody of Englishness for fantasist locals.
I rapped on the door and waited a few moments. No response. I knocked again. This time I heard movement from within. After half a minute or so, the door opened to reveal a dark, greasy haired Spaniard. He was short and slight, but had a dangerous look about him.
He was the kind of guy you didn't want to let out of your sight, unless you wanted to find yourself a hundred euros poorer, and two pints of blood lighter. And he was ugly in a violent kind of a way, a big, deep scar across his cheek and missing one of his front teeth.
He grinned at me. It was a humourless, sinister smile and it made me want to sock him.
"No ab-low es-pan-yol," I said carefully.
"Is no problem. We have English girl. Only trentay oor-o. You want? She is very good fuck."
"Sure." Perhaps she'd be able to understand fully the acts of depravity I wanted her to perform.
Beaming, he motioned me in, closing the door behind me. He held out his rough, gnarled hand, palm upwards and I reached into my wallet and extracted a twenty and a ten. I placed them unceremoniously into his grasping fingers. He nodded.
"Please you go upstairs. First room on left no es occupado. Wait there."
I did as I was told. The room was soiled and squalid, the walls yellow and streaked with grime and the bed workmanlike and uncomfortable looking. The sunlight broke through the ageing shutters in bright streaks in which motes of filth orbited one another.
The venerable mattress and the sheets needed to be washed. In fact, they needed to be purified in the heat of a furnace. The room reeked of illicit sex. Grubby, musty, seedy. It smelled of sex at its most fundamental, its most raw.
No one had ever made love in this room. They had only fucked like animals and later felt ashamed of their lust. No spooning, no whispering in each other's ears, barely any words, only libidinous desire and sweat and semen.
I could hear a couple wordlessly screwing through the flimsy wall. The creak of the bed, their harsh rasping breaths. The place was nasty, inhuman, sordid. My cock was already getting hard.
I took off my shirt and tossed it into the corner of the room. I wondered what was taking so long. Not that it mattered overmuch. I was in no hurry.
The pair next door finished up with a loud, masculine, urgent grunt. And I heard the sound of someone hurriedly dressing. There was a surprisingly decorous "gracias" from the john, then they made their adioses, the door opening and closing.
Shortly thereafter I recognised the voice of the swarthy pimp who'd shown me in. I could picture his sneering features. Then there came a rejoinder from a gentler female voice. I couldn't make out what they were saying, and even if I could I wouldn't have understood it. They fell silent and I heard footsteps in the corridor. The door to the room opened.
She was stunning. Garbed only in a white dressing gown, she stood in the doorway, one hand upon the knob. She smiled at me, it was a pretty smile although it was belied by the rest of her features.
The smile did not play upon her startlingly blue eyes, which remained inscrutable. Maybe it was because she was so very beautiful, and so out of place, but she seemed a tragic, otherworldly figure, as if her entrance ought to be accompanied by some mass of Bach's in a minor key.
The dressing gown was folded loosely, formlessly about her, but could not conceal her magnificent figure. The gown gapped slightly at her bosom, revealing the uppermost part of her cleavage. Her breasts curved elegantly. On the upper part of her sternum I could make out blot which was unmistakeably drying semen. There was a rivulet of it cloying upon her right cheek to boot. The john had obviously blown his load directly in her lovely face. Somehow that struck me as being rude.
Her hair was sandy blonde, her lips full and red and her cheeks were slightly flushed.
"English?" she said.
"Just let me get cleaned up. I'll be with you in a minute."
"Okay." My throat was dry. She turned and walked away, her gait was languorous and her large, beautifully rounded arse swayed sensuously to and fro. She was Veronica Lake, she was Grace Kelly, she was Marilyn fucking Monroe.
What the fuck was a goddess like that doing in a hellhole like this? I could scarcely conceive of the misfortunes that had led her to this pass, and, for that matter, I could hardly believe my own good luck. That I was going to be able to have her. I'd already paid for her upfront.
Her absence from the room seemed interminable, building in me an erotic suspense I had not experienced since my earliest adolescent fumblings and awaking some long dead poetic sensibility in me, a sensibility I thought had been extinguished by colluding so closely with death for so many years.
She was, I thought, another Iris, a votary of colour and beauty and divinity. I wanted now not just to fuck her, I thought in my feverish suspense, but to worship her and be redeemed by her.
At long last she returned, her blonde hair wet from her shower, the cumstain gone from her chest. She wore once more the white dressing gown, but I could see that her breasts were now restrained by a black negligee.
Coolly, she looked me up and down. "Well – what's your pleasure?"
"You get straight to business, huh?"
"Sorry. You didn't seem like the sort who'd want to chat," she said without emotion.
"I like to treat my whores like human beings."
"You'll forgive me if I don't feel the same way about johns." A faint trace of a smile played across her features.
"Careful now, I don't tip so good if I feel slighted."
"In which case I think you're a wonderful man, with wonderful, humane qualities, who pays for a fuck just wonderfully."
I laughed. "For someone living in a glass house you sure love to throw rocks. In case you'd forgotten, there are two people involved in this transaction."
"Three if you count Pedro out there. Two of us have the economic power, giving and receiving the money. And one of us just gets fucked."
"Sounds like one of us needs better representation."
She smiled. "Tell me about it. Hell of a way to exist - 'Nay, but to live In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty ...' "
I recognised the verse. "Hamlet," I said as matter-of-factly as I could muster.
"You are a man of hidden depths, Mr ..."
"Ah yes. First name John? Mr Smith, in this profession one meets many men who share your name," she said archly.
"But not many who have your good looks and self assurance. Surely you don't have to pay for a fuck."
"One learns so many things in a brothel," I said vaguely. "How about you? How come you're here? What the fuck did you do? What's your name?" I didn't mean for so many questions to come tumbling out at once, and I felt foolish.
She answered only my last question, and it wasn't much of an answer at that: "The name's Smith," she said with a disingenuous smile.
She fell silent and looked away, then shrugged off her dressing gown revealing her black, lacy teddy.
"I believe, Mr Smith, that you paid for my cunt. Unless you handed over ready money for my sparkling conversation."
I nodded. "I paid for your cunt ... and for whatever else is on offer."
She was silent a moment, then said quietly and forcefully: "I don't do anal."
From the moment the words left her lips, I wanted nothing more than to take her arse.
"Why not?" I asked casually.
"Never have. I guess I'd feel too dirty." She laughed. "Sounds odd coming from a whore doesn't it?"
I wasn't to be deterred. "Any chance you'd change your mind?"
I considered a moment. "I bet I can make you beg me to fuck your arsehole."
"I daresay you could," she said steadily. "You have a wintry look about you. Hard, determined. You're a man who can get what he wants. You know, I'm sure, that all I have to do is scream and Pedro will be in here. And he's a hard man too."
"Jesus," I said, grinning, "I wasn't threatening you. I meant that I can get you so worked up that you'll want me in your arse. You'll invite me in."
She looked critical. "You know that myth about whores never cumming with their clients. Turns out - it's not a myth."
"I've factored that in."
"So, Svengali, let me get this straight - you can turn me on so much that I'll overcome my distaste, let go my inhibitions and forget I'm a pro," she said scornfully.
"As our American cousins might say - you can bet your ass I will."
She seemed a little taken a back by my confidence, and smiled a little, though it was a false, coquettish pornstar sort of a smile.
The challenge continued to hang in the stale air, and behind the false, pouting smile, I thought I detected a little excitement. "You're on," she said huskily. "But don't get your hopes up."
She stood before me in her lonely slip, whose material was opaque but clearly outlined her nipples, and failed to cover her skimpy black knickers.
I stood admiring her a while, enjoying the sight of her near-nakedness in the streaky afternoon light.
It was hot, and beads of sweat were just forming above her cleavage. Her breasts were high and firm, holding the material of the loose-fitting teddy away from her belly. Her thighs were toned and pale and smooth. I noticed that she wasn't wearing anything on her feet.
"So," she said at last, arching her left eyebrow, "you think you've got game. Impress me."
I needed no further invitation: I rose from the bed and grasped her shoulders firmly, holding her fast in front of me. I stared intently down into her eyes, which darted uneasily too and fro before reluctantly returning my gaze.
After a while she tried to pull away and I prevented her. I wanted her to know who was boss, that I could take her however I pleased.
She hated it.
Some women like to be dominated, but she didn't. She evidently liked to be in control.
Fuck, I had forgotten she was a whore. No naughty girl, dirty girl fantasies – no rape fetish. She'd fucking lived it. Men had paid to use and abuse her body, had brutalised and pounded away any feminine impulse towards submissiveness or masochism.
If I wanted to fuck her arse, then I would need to be gentler, more circumspect. I relented; gently hugging her and inclining my head forward in order to kiss her softly on the lips. I felt her body relax a little.
She kissed me back and hard, thrusting her tongue into my mouth, working her lips against mine. Her hands clasped my shoulder blades and, standing on tiptoe, she pressed her breasts into my chest, her nipples felt hard through the fabric of the cheap, flimsy teddy.
We had tussled briefly for control and she had, for the moment, triumphed. I was prepared to cede control of the situation to her. In that embrace and that kiss, we each learned a little about one another's predilections, about what we wanted and how much we were prepared to sacrifice.
And she was turned on. At least, the kiss seemed genuine enough.
Her hand snaked down across my naked chest, down across my stomach, resting just above the belt of my trousers. She paused a little, then kissed my neck and moved her hand down, so it was resting against my stiffening cock. She began to rub it through the loose woven cotton, rasping out a manifestly fake Hollywood groan as she did so. I couldn't resist a grin.
She loosened my belt and slipped her hand under the waistline of my trousers, and I breathed in to accommodate her. She deftly manoeuvred her hand through the fly of my boxers and her palm moved against my naked shaft.
Her fingers arched downwards towards the head of my cock. She gasped another ersatz gasp and she widened her eyes in pseudo surprise.
"It's so big," she purred.
I wasn't buying it. She must have had bigger cocks than mine, and, besides, she wasn't that good an actress. This was all business patter for her.
I imagined her in the next room with her Spanish John. Oh! she'd say in her practised silken tones. Es muy grande!
She kissed me on the cheek as she continued to rub and grasp at my cock, feeling it harden against her palm. After a few moments, she pulled her hand out, and guided me gently back onto the bed.
I didn't resist, sat upon it and leaned languidly against the wall. She stood back from me and pursed her lips lasciviously. She proceeded to lean forward, showing off her impressive cleavage, and tightening her thigh and calf muscles in order to exhibit her smooth, wonderfully sculpted legs.
She licked her lips. Can you believe, she said wordlessly in her expression and in her stature, that you are going to get to fuck me? Me - an unutterably beautiful woman?
I gave her the dazed, breathless little half-smile she seemed to be inviting. This was her comfort-zone. An awestruck trick, semi-hard cock in his hand and she in control. Showing, offering, eventually granting.
She began a languorous, well-rehearsed striptease. In no hurry to remove her scanty clothes, she moved her hands across her body, swaying her hips easily to and fro as she did so. She lifted her breasts together and smiled absently at me.
Fuck, she was gorgeous. I'd wager a good many of her more excitable clients had cum just watching the show. An easy fifteen minutes' work.
She turned her back to me and leaned away, showing off her plump, curved arse. Swaying her hips, she danced to some unheard music. The motion of her posterior was mesmeric. Slowly moving back and forth, now rotating, now shimmying in the hazy, grimy, sleepy Spanish afternoon. She had become Salome dancing in the desert heat.