Memoirs of a rich bitch – Madame Sheila’s brothel

Notice: This is an excerpt from a fictional novel in progress that is being developed exclusively for This work is copyrighted. You may not reprint without permission.

Lolas Wohnung aus "Lola rennt" in der Albrechtstraße Berlin
Lolas Wohnung aus "Lola rennt" in der Albrechtstraße Berlin Image Credit: Luiz Eduardo

Granny B’s murder would  change the course of my life. At the age of 13 I entered the New York City Foster Care System; and by all accounts I should have become another statistic; but it turned out Granny B had believed so much in me that she’d made someone promise to help me beat the odds in the event anything should happen to her before I became an adult. That someone was Francis Berkley’s husband Richard Berkley.

It was through Richard Berkley that Granny B had acquired the one-hundred thousand dollars she’d been saving for me and my cousins to go to college. I would eventually come to find out from Francis Berkley that my grandmother had acquired the one-hundred thousand dollars over a period of five years during which Richard Berkley would pay $2000 per episode to act out his master slave fantasies with her.

“Your grandmother was just a worthless whore,” was how Francis prefaced the revelation. “She didn’t mean anything to my husband any more than you mean anything to him.”

But a decade of life-altering events would precede my showdown with the rich bitch I had grown up hearing my grandmother curse daily.

Richard Berkley would not come into my life until I was eighteen. Up to that point I’d been in and out of foster homes and my life was certainly not heading to any point where I was going to be accomplishing anything with it. My little sister Keisha had been raped and  killed when she was eleven just two years after Granny B died. I was 15 at the time. I read about her death in the daily news paper. I hadn’t seen her since Granny B died. I hadn’t seen my cousins Paula and Wendell. Devon was in jail for life for killing Granny B. As to what happened to the money Granny B was killed on account of I never found out.

I pretty much dropped out of high school when I was sixteen. I just could not manage to care about school. I would skip and get picked up by the truant police. This started when I was fifteen and then at sixteen, almost seventeen, I just figured what the hell. I wasn’t even going to pretend to go to school any more. So I stopped going and started hanging out at the apartment of I girl I’d met while living in Eastern District.

That was how I ended up at Madame Sheila’s brothel. It started with one of Denise’s customers propositioning me while I was watching TV in her living room one morning. Denise had gotten sick on him before they could get down to business and while she was in the bathroom throwing up he came out and asked me how much I charged. I told him I wasn’t in the business. He didn’t believe me.

“Seriously, how much?” he repeated.

I repeated that I wasn’t in the business; that I was still a virgin, which was the truth. He prodded more and eventually realized I was telling him the truth. He then started talking about how beautiful I was and how I could make a lot of money. He said I didn’t have to do it low-classed like Denise. I had a quality he said. There was a certain dignity in the way I carried myself and the way I spoke. Not like any Black girl from the streets he’d ever heard speak before. He said that I could easily get high profile clients and that he knew someone and would put me in touch if I wanted. I’d be meeting multi-millionaires and making ten times more money than Denise.

That day I wasn’t really interested; but by the next month I’d changed foster families again and I started thinking how nice it would be to have my own apartment like Denise and be responsible for myself and not have to get moved around from place to place every time someone decided the money they were getting paid to be my guardian wasn’t worth the frustration of having to deal with the problems that came along with foster parenting me. So when Jeff Humphries came around again and asked me if I’d made up my mind to have him introduce me to his friend, I said yes, I’d made up my mind. I was ready.

And for the next fourteen months I lived in what was essentially a brothel in lower Manhattan where I was in training to become one of Madame Sheila’s special talents. Because I was a virgin and apparently very beautiful and graceful and possessed of a certain quality that, according to Madame Sheila, was going to make me a star at the brothel, she invested fourteen months into my training.

I would later find out that Madame Sheila had been looking to make money selling virginity.  She had come up with an idea after reading about Japanese Geisha and how men would bid for the pleasure of taking a Geisha’s virginity, and she’d been wanting to find a virgin who had a pretty face and a great figure in addition to that aura she insisted I possessed. The aura was some intrinsic quality that radiated outward and made some women more distracting to a man than others.

I’d never thought of myself as having any aura really. I was actually kind of quiet, though not as a result of being shy. I was usually just bored with people and never really found anyone I considered particularly interesting. Generally I didn’t talk about things that didn’t interest me. If I wasn’t interested in a conversation I wasn’t going to be pretending to have something to say. It was partly my natural inclination and partly the way Granny B had raised me.

“Never talk for the sake of talking,” she used to say.

I was more of a thinker; and there was always a lot going up up there in my head, but again, Granny B had well shaped me before she died; and her constantly repeated admonition never to wear my thoughts on my forehead or let them reflect through my eyes had been well absorbed into my conscience.

Then there was the way I spoke, also attributable to Granny B. She had made sure all her grandchildren spoke proper English from their first word. Granny B used to be called Queen B by her friends in the neighborhood because she spoke such prim and proper English. Her friends used to tease her affectionately for speaking like she belonged in Buckingham Palace while she was living in Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Not many of them knew that Granny B had spent the first fourteen years of her life living in the British Caribbean; that she’d been born in Antigua and had been raised by a woman who would beat proper English into her and beat proper, ladylike conduct into her. Of course these assets didn’t save Granny B from a life of hardship and poverty;  but she hoped it would save her five grandchildren.

Unfortunately breaking a cycle of poverty isn’t always easy when life insists on adding tragedy upon tragedy to thwart your effort to rise above your lowly station. Certainly Granny B would never have wanted for me to end up at Madame Sheila’s brothel; and I probably didn’t belong at Madame Sheila’s brothel, but there I was with my “aura”.

It was this aura, which I suppose was just a quiet knowledge that I belonged someplace better, that Madame Sheila set about for fourteen months enhancing and teaching me how to use in anticipation of finding someone who would pay six figures to sleep with me.

But before Madame Sheila could reap the benefits of all the hard work she’d done on me, one of her former clients was murdered and because he was a high profile New York politician there was a huge investigation by the NYPD.

Sheila Davis was of course running an illegal operation out of her three-story brownstone; but she had managed to run her house for years under the guise of it being a sanctuary for wayward young ladies. She represented herself as a good Samaritan helping young women who would otherwise die out in the streets. She took in young street walkers and cleaned them up, turned them into proper young ladies. She gave them jobs as party hostesses who served drinks and h’ordeuvres at the parties she threw every week. It wasn’t that the authorities didn’t know she was running a brothel. It was that in all the years of its existence she had done a remarkable job of making sure it could not be proved.

But the murder of Charles Kennedy would bring Sheila Davis and her home into the spotlight. One of her girls was a suspect in the murder. That meant there were investigators coming around asking questions, and also reporters from news papers and TV stations hanging around outside waiting for any opportunity to accost anyone who came out into public view from inside the house. Madame Sheila made sure we were well warned not to speak to anyone; but with all the pressure and talk that she was running a whore house, she granted an interview to the local news people. And that was how Richard Berkley found me, as a result of a brief appearance on the news when a reporter asked my full name and how long I’d been living with Sheila and how I came to be there. I briefly told of how after my grandmother Beatrice Reynolds got killed when I was thirteen I got caught up in the system being thrown from foster home to foster home until eventually I dropped out of school and got caught up hanging out with prostitutes. I told the reporter how I would surely have come to a bad end, probably gotten killed in the streets somewhere in Brooklyn, and no one would have cared; but Mrs Davis took me in and made me believe that I could be somebody again.

The reporter asked in what way did Mrs Davis make me believe that I could be somebody again, and I told her the story about how I used to tell my grandmother that I was going to be rich and famous one day and that I was going to buy her a house in The Hamptons and a Chateau in the South of France.

“My grandmother used to work for a rich woman named Francis Berkley,” I said, explaining how every day when she came home Granny B would talk about how Mrs Berkely always brag about her house in The Hamptons and her Chateau in the South of France.

“My grandmother was poor,” I said. “She lived in the projects in Brooklyn raising me and my little sister and my three cousins.”

I said I didn’t know how she had done it, where she had gotten the money working as Francis Berkley’s housekeeper, but my grandmother somehow managed to save up one-hundred thousand dollars in a lock box so she could put her grand children through college.

“Twenty-thousand for each grand child,” I said. “But one of her grandchildren, my cousin Devon, killed her because she wouldn’t give him his share to invest in a business instead of using it for what she’d saved it for, so he could go  to college and make something of himself. And now Devon is in jail for life, and maybe if Mrs Davis hadn’t taken me in that’s where I would have ended up too, if not dead.”

Later that day they showed me on the news and Richard Berkley had been watching. He saw me and remembered how my grandmother had asked him to help me beat the odds if anything ever happened to her. He had failed to keep that promise after my grandmother died; but when he saw me on the news, according to him, it was like a sign from above coming just days after he’d had a dream about Granny B. He knew he had to keep the promise he’d made to Granny B to do something for me to help me achieve my goals and dreams.

Notice: This is an excerpt from a fictional novel in progress that is being developed exclusively for This work is copyrighted. You may not reprint without permission.

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