Diamond Lil's was a bit of a contradiction.
The original building was designed as an Old West theme-saloon, complete with batwing doors, a stage,
an upstairs balcony that ran around three walls of the large bar area and everything was resplendent with gaudy Victorian decoration.
Over the years since the Fall, a lot had changed with the introduction of things like slot machines, pole dancers, one of those dumb-ass glitter balls and loud, loud music.
But Aunt Lucy did what she could to keep the olde-worlde atmosphere alive... including allowing occasional gunplay.
For all its character and random rowdiness, Lucy ran a tight ship. There were rules, and Lucy made it quite plain, 'Break the rules and I'll break your balls'.
She even had notices up to that effect. And to enforce these rules, Lucy employed her 'marshals', complete with shiny silver stars, who prevented the horseplay from becoming murderous.
In the main, that is.
An ordinary evening shift employed ten such marshals to look after the saloon area and the twenty-four girls working upstairs. Four more marshals looked after what went on below ground.
Diamond Lil's extensive cellars also took in the space that once belonged to the building that used to be next door.
When that building collapsed decades ago, it's cellar survived and it was little effort to break through the adjoining wall and create large, often soundproofed,
areas that catered for those of Lucy's clientele with more exotic tastes.
Besides the marshals and the whores, there were regular staff too. After all, someone had to clean up the blood and broken glass and all the other jobs required to keep the place functioning.
Besides the three girls and one guy who were the regular dancing troupe (Lucy assumed it was a guy but he was one of those you couldn't be sure about until it was in your hand),
there were the half dozen bar staff, a couple of women in the kitchen and a half dozen kids who collected glasses and emptied spittoons.
Lucy sat in her office, going over rosters and inventory. She had two days to get the place up to snuff and the last thing she wanted was to run out of booze or whores.
Typically, there were six girls who worked the day shift and four marshals. Well, a few strokes of Lucy's pencil soon changed that.
On the day of the Traveller party she was planning, there would be no day shift, it was going to be all hands in come the evening.
She also pushed the boat out and ordered some decent booze. Spivey's rotgut would definitely be back shelf for this visit.
There was also going to be a ready supply of fashionable drugs too, which reminded Lucy, she needed to make sure all the girls were going to be 'amenable' to the needs of these important clients.
If things went well with this busload of bigwigs, Lucy could see doors opening for her in the Traveller strongholds.
A Diamond Lil's in Trader Flat or Bankers Hole would not only be very profitable but would give her some all-important exposure to the faction royalty.
Lucy sat back in the high-backed rocker and let the motion and the lulling creak of the custom-made chair bring a contented smile to her craggy face.
"Get this right old girl, and you'll end your days rich enough to eat yer laying hens."
Miss Ytte Skovlund, Hyle Troy's formerly Prussian army officer and now school-teacher in Hope Springs, stepped off the bus, still dressed in jacket and pencil skirt, this time carrying a clipboard.
"I trust all is prepared, Miss Lucy? Nice dress by the way. Very retro, in keeping with the surroundings."
She nodded her thin tight-ass smile and took her place beside Lucy on the kerb by the bus doors.
Lucy had indeed treated herself to a new outfit, very madam-like while narrowly avoiding the old 'Mutton-dressed-as-lamb' cliche.
Lucy, flanked by four of her Marshals, welcomed each of her clients as they filed off the bus.
" 'Smell like a bunch of Kansas City faggots if y'ask me." She muttered through her smile.
The goon next to her snorted as the smell of cologne wafted from the file of Travellers as one by one they went inside.
"Fourteen..... Fifteen..... Sixteen....." Miss Skovlund ticked at her clipboard.
Lucy smiled her welcomes, feeling wonderfully wealthy as the 'dollar signs' in dusters nodded their way past her and into her brothel.
"Seventeen..... and... last but not least. Eighteen!"
"Eighteen?" Lucy asked. She was sure the booking was for seventeen!
"Good evening Aunt Lucy."
More surprised, Lucy turned around to look at the figure just alighting the bus, the voice had sounded familiar. But....
"I'm here to close you down." Hyle Troy smiled graciously. "It's about time someone shoved a spoke into your wheels. Don't you think?
Lucy heard the hammer lock and felt the noisy end of a gun held by Miss Skovlund press against her temple. She also heard the scuffling as the four Marshals behind were overpowered.
From inside came the sound of more scuffles, breaking furniture and screaming girls. A few shots rang out here and there but no sustained gunfire
From along the street came the sound of running feet as Hyle's reinforcements arrived and piled inside the brothel.
"Why you scrawny lil'....." Lucy cursed at the thin smile of Miss Skovlund.
"Game's up!" Grinned Skovlund.
Lucy knew it.
Lucy put her hand on her gun, the one secreted under her skirt, not one of these silly chrome pop gun-in-a-garter affairs, but more a huge damned cannon of a revolver strapped to her thigh.
But reason overcame anger just in time. If she went for the gun now, Prissy Skovlund would put a bullet in her brain and Lucy would be off to the cloner, instantly losing everything she owned.
Anger was subdued by reason, but with a lot of help from greed. Better to play along with this bitch Troy and see what happens.
Slowly, Lucille Slater raised her hands above her head, cussing.
A, for once, clean shaved and groomed Ned appeared at the door resplendent in faux traveller duster. "We got the place under control, Miss Troy."
"Good." Hyle stepped around Lucy and spoke to Ned.
"Get the girls on the bus, take them down to Hope. The hostel is expecting them, they know what to do.
And once you have her goons all trussed up, you can hand out the sledgehammers and start pulling this shit-hole apart."
"Yes, Miss Troy." Ned nodded
"Oh, and Ned?" Hyle smirked. "Nice work!"
One by one, the girls were led out to the bus. In the main, the girls were relieved about their release.
Some happy to get away from the hellish existence they had come to know, others far too zonked on the Storm that Lucy and her people had fed them on to really understand what was doing on.
But human nature being what it is, a small number of girls, perhaps due to some form of Stockholm syndrome, or maybe just an innate stubbornness to survive, actually felt a loyalty to Lucy.
Lucy, herself, had been sat down at one of the tables in the saloon area with explicit instructions to keep her hands in clear sight on the tabletop.
Ytte, 'Miss Skovlund', stood behind her, still holding the gun to the back of Lucy's head.
To the sound of splintering wood and breaking glass, Lucy heard her balance sheet plummeting south as, in ones and twos, 'her' girls were guided outside.
Lucy though had her eyes fixed on Hyle Troy, despising this 'bleeding heart do-gooder' with every inch of her acid soul. She laughed inwardly as she saw the sympathy and sadness on Hyle's face.
Of course, Lucy just saw business assets, Hyle saw people.