No commentary on this one, kids, so no one will be yawning in my ear. Nope, it’s all just sexxxy sexxxy whores. Let’s get to it!
Big Band Jazz is playing, and a redhead is putting her lipstick on. She’s dressed in a black teddy and a robe. Her lover – a middle-aged dude in a suit who seems not quite sober – comes into the room, only to find her shot twice and super dead.
The guy who found her is named Barry Draper. Obviously Don’s younger and much less dashing cousin. He has no idea how the vic – Julie Beemer – ended up in his room. Uh-huh. Sure. Schenke grills the guy a little while Nick goes through Julie’s purse, and finds a matchbook from The Raven.
Janette says that yes, she knew Julie, but not her pimp. “The women are welcome. The men who think they own them are not.” Nick’s surprised that Janette has any truck with hookers, but Janette tells him “We’re all women of the night, aren’t we?” Nick confirms that Julie’s dead, and then it’s Flashback Time for Janette.
Who, surprise surprise, was a whore. Shocking. Or, you know, not at all, really, considering the 12th century and the fact that almost everyone was poor and how else would a woman feed herself? Janette’s friend is pregnant, and their pimp isn’t happy – he ends up killing her.
So Janette tells Nick that it was probably Julie’s pimp, who likes to keep the girls young. Julie was 22 – she couldn’t earn her keep at such an advanced age. The pimp, Mason, had also beat Julie severely the month before. She sends Nick and Schenke over to Celeste, one of Mason’s girls, who might know where to find Mason.
This whole time, Schenke has an attitude. It doesn’t get any better when he walks up to Celeste and her friend and calls them “ladies” in a voice that’s marinating in sarcasm. Jesus, Schenke. Sex workers are people. They don’t deserve to be murdered. Can you stow it for two seconds to talk to a fellow human being who might help you solve your case? Celeste claims Mason didn’t do it; they take her in to the station and wisely have Nick question her.
Celeste claims that Mason isn’t that bad, that he didn’t hit Julie that hard. But she was living on the street before he picked her up, so she owes him everything. “He’s all I’ve got,” she says, and I believe it.
But because she can’t give them anything, they process her out, then follow her – hopefully straight to Mason. But she just goes to work – on a street corner. Buh? Julie got posh hotel rooms, but Celeste has to work the street? In any case, she makes the tail, then goes to see Mason. She tells him she’s late because the cops questioned her about Julie, and Mason’s all “Whut?” then slaps her. Nick has followed on foot, and busts in after the slap and takes Mason in.
Back in the station,Nick lectures Celeste on her life choices.
Look, we can talk about how Celeste, in particular, has been forced into prostitution even if she might not like it. Sure. That happens. A lot, and it’s why many people think of sex work as synonymous with sex trafficking. But many sex workers choose the work – often for reasons similar to Celeste’s. “My sister works in a donut shop for minimum wage. She’ll never see a fur coat or a glass of champagne. Is that better?” she says to Nick, and Nick’s all, Bah, I can’t deal with you, and walks away.
The truth is, lots of jobs are terrible. Why is it more terrible to be a sex worker than a fryer jockey at McDonald’s? I mean, when you take away all the bullshit about how the state likes to think it owns our bodies and can tell us what to do with them – in other words, when you ignore the legality of certain work – what is fundamentally different in choosing to use your body one way versus another?
Get her away from her scummy pimp, sure. Change the law so that the protection of a scummy pimp doesn’t seem safer than going it alone and risking arrest, rape, and assault with no recourse. But don’t give her a fucking lecture about how she’s such a smart girl, or a pretty girl, and could do so much better. It’s not your life, Nick. She obviously hasn’t had the privileges you have – the number one being your maleness. A lesson you might want to learn before you go back to Janette and shit all over prostitution like it’s such a tragedy and who in the world would ever debase herself so?
Mason tested negative for gunshot residue. There are no prints or anything to put him in the hotel room, and based on the angle of the shot, the shooter was a good six inches shorter than he was. Celeste also refuses to press charges for assault – wisely – and takes off for The Raven with Mason close on her heels.
Janette tries to kick him out, politely, but he won’t go. She pulls Celeste away to talk to her, to offer her a place to go. “You know, they say when you’re drowning, you can still see the light above you until you stop swimming.”
“Or you learn how to breathe underwater,” Celeste says, just as Mason drags her out of the club.
Now, this is how you offer a way out to someone who might be looking for it. Janette knows Celeste isn’t choosing this out of a surplus of options. She knows Celeste just can’t see any other way, so she gently and lovingly offers her support. Not a lecture. Not a “why don’t you just stop?” Janette knows that sometimes, that’s simply not an option.
Nick’s just gotten up when Janette comes to see him, wrapped in a fabulous cape-and-hood set. She wants to know how Nick could have set Mason free. “I thought you were the knight in shining armor, out to rescue the damsels in distress, but WHORES DON’T COUNT?” she shouts, telling him he needs to take care of this. That she expected him to have more sympathy for someone who’s trapped in the dark with no way to sever the ties to her master – but maybe he can’t have any sympathy, because he doesn’t “know what it’s like to have every man believe that he owns you. To believe it yourself.”
And we’re on the street in Paris, 800+ years ago, where men are pawing at Janette and demanding a freebie “for a couple of veterans”. They steal her cloak and follow her as she runs, right into a group of nuns who refuse to help her. The priest they’re with tells her rapists: “Not in front of the sisters, please!” There is no help for a whore, because she’s communal property – she doesn’t belong to a husband or a father anymore.
Janette fights her rapist and manages to get away again. She turns, thinking he’s following her, but she’s been helped by the only person who would help a “lady of the night” – Lacroix, who’s killing him.
“A thousand years, Nicolas,” she says, “a thousand years, and it hasn’t changed. Another dead hooker, big deal!”
And…she’s right. You guys, I need a bunny break.
Okay. I’m better.
Nick wonders what she wants him to do, what she’s asking for. “I want him to pay!” she yells, and Nick tells her that’s not the way it works anymore; his hands are tied. “Mine are not,” she says.
At the precinct, Nick is reading Schenke the riot act because he’s all, “She’s been living that life, she doesn’t want out, she doesn’t know anything else.” Nick wants them to go after Mason, and Schenke’s all, there’s nothing to go after! So Nick goes to see Natalie, wondering if Celeste can even start a new life if she wants to. Is she past the point of no return? Nat doesn’t think so, but it’s up to Celeste.
Schenke comes in; Mason’s alibi holds up. They have no angle to go after him. Nick rushes off to The Raven, but Janette’s out. Nick has a bad feeling about that, so he goes to Mason’s to find Mason dead and Janette there. But Mason’s been shot, so Nick calls it in and Janette’s just there as a witness. Turns out the bullet is a 9mm, same as the ones in Julie. Nat’s pretty sure they’ll match.
The detective from vice is there. He comments that this is the red-light district’s version of mergers and acquisitions, and that the girls are “like pilot fish: they’ll fall in behind anyone who comes along.” Janette bristles, but wisely keeps her temper, considering it takes some vampire mojo from Nick to make Vice not want to take her in for questioning right before dawn.
Nick drives Janette back to The Raven. She asks him if it’s easier, living by human rules. He says it’s not, and she wonders why he does it. Her way is simpler: pick a side, then act. Nick says the rules keep him from picking the wrong side. Janette shrugs. At least she has her vengeance, and Celeste is free. “This didn’t free her,” Nick says, as he takes his leave. “She’ll just belong to someone else now.”
Back in Paris, Lacroix’s been following Janette. He asks if she’s of noble blood, and she tells him she’s whatever he wants her to be. He tells her to come with him, and she says only if he can meet her pimp’s price. Oh, no, says Lacroix; this is not something to be bought or sold. You must choose.
Well, we all know what she chose. And here’s another opportunity to talk about female vampires, and why they tend to be different from their male counterparts. You’ll notice that in pop culture recently, the repentant vampire is a thing. They’re torn up about murder and what it means to be human or not-human, and they’re almost always male.
My theory? Men have the luxury of wondering about such things. Women – especially women from earlier times, when we were nothing but property – do not. Women do what needs to be done to keep body and soul together, to protect themselves, to protect their children. We have much less time to wonder about the moral implications of our actions, especially when the actions determine whether or not there’s bread on the table that night. Female vampires experienced a power that being mortal would never, ever have afforded them. To go from being nothing but an object to being a person with the literal power of life and death over others – What must that feel like? To know that for once – for the rest of your life, in fact – you are the only person who decides your fate? Wouldn’t that be amazingly precious? You wouldn’t sit around wondering if you shouldn’t just end it all. You might sit around wondering how you could help all the other women achieve the same ends, but you certainly wouldn’t squander your power moping about and whining.
When you have been denied the luxury of agency, and are suddenly granted it, you won’t do anything to have it taken from you. Hence Nick sits around all broody, and Janette just gets on with life. You can tell which one I prefer, I’m sure.
Here’s moar bunnies, for getting through all that:
Nick and Schenke hit the streets to find Celeste. They ask another girl where she is, and she offers them a “two-on-one” for $300, same as Julie and Celeste would have charged. Now, Don Draper’s cousin said he paid Mason $300 and got a room key, but only Julie wound up dead. Nick’s all, “$300 for the both of them?” and then the hooker figures out they’re cops and offers a discount. Enterprising young woman.
They drag Draper back into the precinct, because he was holding out on them. They confirm that he was paying for two girls. The guys think that Celeste witnessed the murder, and she’s afraid the guy will come after her, and that’s why she won’t talk. Vice has found her, and gives them a call, wherein they tell him all this and tell him to take care of her.
He tells her it must have been scary, seeing her friend get offed, and that the cops can help her start over. She’s all, “what do you know about it?” and he’s all, “I have a daughter your age. I’m sentimental.”
Guys, this has been a heavy episode. And I’m glad you’ve stuck with it. But I’m going to turn this “what if she were your daughter” crap over to someone else, because I’m a little tired, too.
Celeste says she has to turn down his offer of a head start. “It’s not in my plans,” and she pulls out a gun and shoots him. She runs to The Raven, sobbing, asking Janette for help.
Nick and Schenke find Vice, and notice he never had time to get to his gun: the killer was in the room the whole time. Schenke calls it in while Nick goes to Janette.
Celeste spins some story about the killer finding her and her getting away, and she needs help getting out of town and getting a new start. Janette’s all, “Yeah, I know people who can help with that – howsabout I give you a whole new life right now?” She flashes back to killing her own rapist, all those centuries ago, and she’s about to drive her fangs into Celeste when Nick comes in and stops her, proclaiming Celeste the killer.
Celeste says she had to, she had to kill Mason to get away from him. But Nick’s all, no, you just wanted to take over the business. Janette’s face is amazing in this scene, as her anger and betrayal build, until Celeste shoots her – to no effect, of course. “I should tear your throat out,” she tells Celeste, just before erasing her memory of vampires and handing her over to Nick to be arrested.
There is, of course, a little coda where Nick talks about how he understands living in captivity, and I’m sorry, but no. Being sort of semi-beholden to your vampire maker is in no way comparable to the grinding, soul-sucking reality of living as an object, a piece of property, as a human who is almost never recognized as being a person. When you’re the default, Nick, you don’t get to tell me that you understand. I’m willing to tell you about it, so you can sympathize, but please, spare me the “that’s my struggle, too!” nonsense.
Or I’ll have to use this again:
Next week: VAMPIRE NOVELIST! I really hope that one’s fun. I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a gif party.
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