Marc emerged from the building for a bit of post-prandial sunshine. That abandoned half-sandwich was alright, but left him unfulfilled. Sort of like his morning.

It was warm now. He walked the dozen or so blocks that separated his office from the red-light district. He grabbed a steamé from a stand and munched on it as he worked on his casual glance. It wouldn’t do to stare too much. Not if he wanted to go unnoticed, which was probably a doomed endeavor anyway.

Street hookers were not especially difficult to spot. They were usually hanging around in groups of two or three, and conspicuously not talking.

It was the silence that gave them away. Also the makeup. Wow, was it thick. Not that their clothes were especially discreet either.

They scanned the street, for clients as much as for cops. Most of the ones who made it on the street, the crime reporter had once explained to him like it was some big secret only he possessed, were pretty good at playing the cops. Crime reporters always inflated their own self-importance. Nobody thought they were useful to the journalistic profession except themselves. But they were always there when misery struck somewhere and people wanted to read about it.

Anyway, the trick for making it on the street was to not be loud or argue with anyone. The first hint of a fight could signal the beginning of a long day in the klink. That’s no way for a girl to make money.

They moved their long legs along, a forced smile on their lips. And while you could easily spot them they were, by and large, skilled at knowing the difference between whore-wear and will-get-you-arrested-for-public-indecency attire. Montreal was pretty tolerant when it came to public displays of epidermis, but there were limits. Besides, you only really needed boots to get noticed. Some girls wore tattered fishnets too, but these were for the really thick customers. Amazing to think someone that clueless had money to spend for sex, but there you have it.

Desperate women, Marc thought, take desperate measures. But why the big-hoop earrings on top of everything else? He couldn’t explain that. He’d have to ask someone at the office.

It was a fine thing, being gay. It let you talk sex at the shop without anyone getting hot and bothered by it. You could call it research and get away with it.

Marc wasn’t particularly judgmental but he had to admit these ladies of pleasure didn’t appear especially bright. The world was full of people battling demons only they could see while others wore theirs on the outside. One thing Marc had learned covering politics is that the ones who were best at hiding their struggles while appearing highly functional went far in that business. But they always had something to hide. Maybe these girls were more honest than politicians.

He was eager to believe some prostitutes were smart enough, and not just because he’d sold sex himself. But on that particular day, around this particular street corner, this particular group of humans appeared rather dim, yet clever in an almost impressive way. They were wise to the ways of the street. Like squirrels almost. Their eyes may have appeared fatigued by drugs or lack of sleep, but they sure lit up when a car window rolled down anywhere in their vicinity. Even if it was just so the driver could throw out his cigarette butt.

“Hey,” they’d almost sing. “How’s it going?” Some drivers stared grimly ahead, trying to avoid the sinful creatures. That only made things worse. “Oh, does your mama know you hang out here?” “Hey, I got a special for first timers if you’re interested…”

Not that it worked. But that wasn’t the point. Making a prude blush was worth the little effort it took.

The girls were also quick to spot the jokers, who only tried to get a free ass grab. They were invariably loud and way too direct. Real customers were discreet, never grabbed and avoided giving girls reasons to start a shouting match.

His hot dog and research were both done and neither had proved especially rewarding. Sigh. Marc would have to get back to work.