Home      Last Pass


From ragpicker, to thief, to whore. For a girl brought up in the slums of New York’s Five Points, born to one of the immigrant families whose dreams of a new life ended right there, that was her most likely career path. Some, maybe, would find a husband, and perhaps he would neither spend their little money on drink nor beat her regularly; perhaps, but probably not. With no work, no prospects and no hope, few could avoid the depression that drove men to drink, crime and violence.
Maude is tough, a necessary quality for survival in Five Points. She is also intelligent, ambitious and determined to find a better life, but realistic enough to know she has little hope of ever escaping the slums. When she sees the chance to get away with some money, she takes it without hesitation. Others in Five Points have neither the luck nor the wits to make their own luck, but Maude’s actions have an impact on more lives than she could have possibly anticipated.
“Last Pass” is a new town at the base of the Rockies in Wyoming, founded by three young men who headed west after a life of crime when their fathers were hanged. Few come that way, and most who do have a very good reason for avoiding the usual trails west. Perhaps it is pure chance takes Maude and her little group of slum whores in that direction, or perhaps it is her destiny.
The following evening she worked the trade at her usual Five Point tavern.  Henry Monahan held court with a few other Irish, drinking and making plans for the journey out west, which would never happen.  Maude made two trips upstairs and was preparing to lead a third man to ecstasy, when she heard Lottie scream from the corner.
“Oh, Gawd.  He’s bleedin’, you bastard,” Lottie wailed.
“Son of a bitch was cheating,” the man yelled back.  “Look in his pocket.  Look in the bastard’s pocket,” he demanded in a drunken slur.
Maude set her jaw, pulled free from her trick and headed towards the commotion.  “Hey, whore.  I ain’t done with you,” the man called after her.
Maude walked up to Lottie. “Wipe your eyes and take my trick upstairs.”
“I can’t,” Lottie cried. “Oh, Maude.  I think he’s dyin’.”
“Lottie,” Maude lowered her voice and gripped the girl’s jaw, forcing her to look into her eyes. “Take my trick upstairs. Now.  These men are all friends, and it won’t take much for them to convince the police it was a whore who stabbed him for his money.  You’ve got his blood all over the side of your dress. Now, take the trick upstairs for an alibi, and clean yourself up before you come back down.”
Lottie looked down at her dress and shuddered.  “All right, Maude.”
Maude stood at the card table, glaring at the shocked men.  “You’ve got two choices.  You either agree Charlie Dugan knifed him or you don’t remember a thing.  What’s it going to be?  This man was your friend, and he’s got a wife and brat waiting at home for him.  What am I going to tell her?”
Charlie’s mind was clearing fast.  “You don’t have to tell her nothing.”
“You worked the docks with him, Charlie.  At least, when you bums bothered to work.”  Maude reached out and scooped up the coins from the pot.
A young man at the table glared at her.  “Put the money back, whore.”
Maude turned and slapped the man so hard that his head rocked back into the wall with a bang. “I’m giving this to his widow to pay for a proper funeral.  I owe her that much.”  Maude walked towards the door, and stopped.  She looked over her shoulder and stared at Charlie.  “Clean this up and get your story straight.”
Maude followed Mulberry Street and slipped down the small walkway to her old tenement in the back. She stood on the porch for a moment before knocking.  It had been more than a decade since she walked through the door of the apartment she had been born in.  Her mind reeled back to a scene of her mother sitting beside her, reading the newspaper filled with other peoples’ lives.  Now she was twenty-three, and she felt the shroud of an old woman threatening to drape over her shoulders.  Maude knocked.
“Yes?”  Maggie opened the door a little wider and held up her candle. “Maude?”
“Maggie, something bad has happened.  Kathleen is going to need your help with Anna.”
“It’s the middle of the night, Maude.”
“Henry’s been knifed. He’s dead in a tavern up at Five Points.”  Maude held out her fist and placed the coins from the poker table in Maggie’s hand. “I collected it to help with the funeral.”
Maggie held the coins in a fist against her chest.  “Oh, poor Kathleen.  What is she going to do?  All the kids left her and all she has is Anna.”
“You ask me, she’s better off without him.  I know your kind gets fixed on a man, though.”  Maude looked across the dark backyard.  A single candle flickered in the window to guide Henry safely back home. “Is she still trying to get on at that laundry?”
Maggie nodded.  “Her name’s been listed for years, but she’s being passed over for younger, stronger workers.”
Maude nodded.  “I think I might be able to help with that, too.”
“Maude, why?  Why would you do this for her now?”
“She helped me once and only asked for fair payment in return.  That, and she asked if she could give her baby my mother’s name.”  Maude shrugged.  “I never could figure the reason for that.  My mum was never nice to her.”
“Anna,” Maggie whispered. “Kathleen still had her dreams, back then.  The Irish have funny superstitions about carrying on family names.”  Maggie stared across the backyard.
“I owe her this, Maggie, but she can’t have my kind holding her hand through it.  I’ll pay you, if that’s what it will take.”
“No, Maude.  I’ll get her through it.  Will there be an arrest?”
“Not much sense to it. Henry was called for cheating over a game with his friends.  I suspect he was.  It was a stupid act that never should have happened.”  Maude continued to stare at Kathleen’s door.  “Little Henry was sitting at the table, Maggie.  He never said a word ’til I reached for the coin in the pot.”
“The poor boy watched his father die?”
“The poor boy called me a whore and told me to put it back.  I slapped him so hard his lip split.”  She turned back to Maggie.  “Kathleen doesn’t need to know that part.”
Maggie was finally beginning to see the spirit in Maude that Kathleen seemed to admire.  “Thank you for that.  I won’t mention it.”
Maude shrugged.  “I’ve got to get back.  I’ll send for Johnny McLaughlin to pick up Henry.  He’s the fairest on a burial.”  She stepped off the porch and called quietly over her shoulder, “Kathleen will be hearing from the laundry in a week.  It will give her time to set score with her grieving.”
For once, Mickey refrained from giving Maude crap for her shortage.  He did ask what she did with the poker pot, but he knew Kathleen acted as a mother to her when the cholera took her family and accepted her explanation. He appreciated those who took care of their own.  Mickey was not so understanding when Maude asked for the following Thursday evening off.
“I’ll move right now back to Kathleen’s,” Maude threatened.
“She won’t let a whore into her home,” Mickey sneered.
“I paid for her Henry’s funeral.  She wouldn’t turn me away.”  Maude continued rifling through the rags for her best dress.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
Maude slammed her room’s door and called out, “Uptown.”
“They’ll chase you off,” Mickey yelled back.
“Not tonight, they won’t. Not where I’m going.”  Maude pinched her cheeks and twirled a lock of black hair loose from the tail, letting it fall down the side of her face and setting off her determined violet eyes.  Men tripped over themselves begging for a trick as she walked through the tavern and headed out of Five Points.
She waited by the edge of a high wrought iron fence until a thin figure walked through the gate. Maude had spied on the man, played the stall again to learn his routine.  Thursday was the only evening he left the grounds to share whiskey with anonymous men and seek the company of an anonymous whore.  “Mr. Winthrop?”
Eugene turned at the sultry deep-throated purr of what he found to be an extraordinary strumpet. “I usually don’t find such a lovely woman waiting in the dark for me, Miss…?”
“Maude.  Just Maude.  Mr. Winthrop, I have a proposition for you.”
He chuckled, and made a thin, whistle sound.  “I don’t know how it works at Five Points, Maude, but uptown it is the gentlemen offering the proposition for a whore’s company.”
Maude had no delusion her dress or attention to her appearance would deceive him from what she was or where she came from.  She merely needed it to stall him long enough for her offer.  “There is a widow on your list in need of a position in the laundry. I can vouch on her experience in such matters with her own family through the epidemic.  Not one child was lost to the disease.”
Eugene held out his arm, and Maude smiled and looped her own through his while they strolled casually the length of the fence around the block the sanatorium was situated on. “And, the details of this proposition?”
“You have my services free, from dark to midnight one night per month.”
“Once a week,” Eugene countered, feeling he would be lucky to find such a woman once a year.
“No.  One night per month, Mr. Winthrop.  The woman isn’t family and, naturally, I don’t reside with her. I have my own expenses to think of.”
“Your offer for the woman is quite generous, then.  You are certain she is a good worker?”
“I’ve staked this evening’s pleasure for you to try her.”  Maude waited for him to open the gate.  “Mr. Winthrop, one more thing.”
“You are never to tell Mrs. Monahan of our arrangement.”
“Trust me, Maude.  She will never hear of it.”


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