Job Suffers the Comfort of His Friends

His suit was rumpled but his hair was neatly combed. The card he gave to the man at the door said he was a writer for the Herald. The doorman looked him up and down carefully, said, “Just a minute, sir,” and closed the door. He ran a hand over his hair and sighed. There were dark circles under his eyes. He was strung out; in the last three days he had gotten six hours of sleep.

The door opened. The woman behind it watched him coolly as he bowed and introduced himself. “Charmed,” she said. “Do come in.”

He followed along a dark, wood-panelled corridor, his shoes clacking on the floor. A slip of a girl took his coat and gave him a chit with his name on it. She was reading Little Birds, her hands crossed neatly over the edge of the book. The woman led him into a library in yellows and browns. A large fire was buring in a queerly carved fireplace, beating back the chill of autumn. It softened the light of the room, flushed the faces of the prostitutes that sat or stood around the room, reading or laughing or flirting, made their eyes sparkle and wink. The woman sat on a low couch, and gestured for him to take a seat in a nearby armchair.

“Now,” she said. “What can we do for you?”

He coughed wearily and scratched at his beard. “I’m the brothel reviewer,” he said. “For the Herald. I’d like to interview one or two of your girls, if you don’t mind.”