3 min

Terrorists in the parking lot

The police van meant it was time to go

Last month I shared some stories of my brief career as a West End madam at the Bute and Pendrell St James Court, an episode shared with friends Chrissie Warren and Jamie Lee Hamilton, and I promised to tell you how it all came to a close.

I think our landlord, an affable German, caught on to what was afoot the night the terrorists bombed the basement parking lot.

Up to that point, he and his wife had missed most of the late-night action and actually seemed to think they were running a retirement home.

Mary, the housemaid who brought clean sheets and local gossip twice a week, had told us about the foreign (she thought Russian) couple up on the next floor who had a frightening collection of firearms. They were, Mary claimed, mounted on walls and falling out of closets.

We had our own problems so didn’t pay much attention. Not, at least, until three o’clock one morning when the building was rocked by an enormous explosion. We weren’t the only people in our building with questionable incomes, and within minutes the halls were full of half-dressed hookers, johns pulling on their pants and making for the nearest staircase, and little old ladies who were getting their first good look at the neighbours.

Many toilets were flushed and thousands of dollars worth of illicit drugs were consigned to the care of the Vancouver Sewage and Drainage District.

There were sirens, lights flashing, queens screaming, respectable businessmen explaining to one another that they were just visiting friends, and our landlord rushing up and down the halls yelling commands in German.

When the dust had settled and it became evident that nobody was going to get arrested, the rumour took hold that the car belonging to the heavily armed couple upstairs had been bombed to tinsel and that they had vacated their apartment during the confusion. We made a mental note to pump Mary for more information in the morning and went back to work. We did have a business to run!

As with any business, systems are all-important in the love-for-sale trade, and anything more complicated than a quickie requires a good deal of planning. You’re dealing with the law, unpredictable customers and a landlord whose attention you would rather not attract. Never mind the terrorists.

Do be patient with the systems. The secret door-knock signals, the cleverly worded conversations over the intercom, and the “Joe sent me” mystique are all for your own protection.

I mean, what are you doing here, anyway?

It was a deviation from such a system that helped me avoid a lengthy sentence for living off the avails, contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, harbouring a runaway, possession of any number of unhealthy stimulants, and failing to file a tax return for the period in question.

It had been a fairly quiet evening, and Dagmire and I were closing up shop around 3:30am when there was a frantic knocking on our door.

At that hour of the morning a knock on the door might seem a matter of course for an establishment of our sort. But the fact was that nobody, and may I emphasize nobody, ever knocked on that door without first having been buzzed in on the intercom.

The two young men responsible for all that knocking were eager for “a good time” and refused to accept my assurances that I didn’t know what they were talking about and that we had just gotten home from a very late church meeting.

Dagmire, who hadn’t had a very good night, was pushing to let them in. The fellows were brandishing cash and insisting that a friend had sent them, and on that thin red moment hinged my entire future — or at least the next several years’ worth.

Gut instinct took hold and I slammed the door, sent a disgruntled Dagmire off to bed and took myself off to the Taurus Baths for the rest cure.

Leaving the building, I almost fell over a black police van parked at the curb. There, chatting amiably with the uniformed driver, was one of the fun-seekers I had just turned away from our door.

That was it. A brisk walk to the steams, a quick call home to give a heads-up, and another chapter for the memoirs came to a complete, grinding halt.

Oh, there was some talk of finding another apartment, but that was it for me. Anyway, I had a column to file!