The Bellin Brothel – By boewhiskey
“Is it true?” A young woman’s voice broke my concentration. I looked up from the computer where I was inputting data from the day’s sales.
“Is what true, child?” I asked her, taking in her appearance. She stood straight, seeming almost wary of coming too close to the counter that separated us. She looked to be in her late teens. Her fiery red hair hung down around her face, the layered ends curled slightly inwards, framing bright blue eyes and a creamy complexion. The beautiful contrast of her skin and hair reminded me of the face cream that my mother used to make herself.
“That… Uh, you’re, uh,” she stammered. I was famished had no time for this.
“I could pretend to not have any idea what you’re referring to and prolong this charade while you attempt to regain the ability to articulate your thoughts or we could just skip past that and get to it. Honestly, I haven’t the time or mental energy to deal with games so let’s just get this over with, shall we? I assume that you have heard about the Bellin Brothel, or as most refer to it now, the Bloody Brothel. You researched it and stumbled across an obscure photo of the young woman who helped bring it down and then, out of a deranged curiosity, you tracked me down for whatever selfish reason. Now you are here, wanting to know if I am really the descendant of Petra Bellin. Is this correct?” I spoke while turning on my stool to completely face the girl.
“Yeah,” she said in a small voice with a sigh. I had just made this easier on her and although she was grateful for that, I knew she was still unsure about being in my presence, as evidenced by her rigid posture.
“I believe you meant yes,” I corrected. I really was my mother’s daughter, still, after all of these years. I waited for her to nod before I continued. “The answer to your question is yes. I can easily trace my line back to Petra Bellin, founder of the Bellin Brothel.”
She took a moment to try and find the right words. I gave her the time and stretched my arms out before pulling the ponytail holder out of my hair and letting my own blonde waves fall around my shoulders. When she failed to say anything after a minute, I narrowed my eyes slightly and took it upon myself to get the conversation moving.
“What is your name, girl?” I asked.
“Um, it’s Adeline,” she responded.
I smiled, “Ah, what a pretty name. It’s French and not very common.”
“Yeah, I mean yes,” she quickly corrected herself with a nod.
“What is it you would really like to know, Adeline?”
“I’ve read all of the information that I could find online but one thing still gets me,” she began, immediately finding confidence somehow. “There are some who say that Petra was involved in witchcraft and sold her soul for eternal youth. Others report that she was deranged and believed what she was doing was for the good of humanity. I just want to know why she did it.”
I tilted my head to the side and studied her face for a few seconds before answering with my own question, “And you think that as someone that came from Petra, I would have this answer?”
“Possibly,” she shrugged. “I also couldn’t find anything that said what happened to her daughter, Gizella.”
“Ah, the great mystery of Gizella. Her life after the brothel really wasn’t as scandalous as some people like to speculate. It’s been quite a while since I told this tale and I suppose it’s about time. Give me just a moment to lock up and I’d be happy to regale you with the truth behind Bellin Brothel. You can take a seat over by the bookshelves and I’ll be with you shortly,” I gestured to the corner of the store where bookshelves lined the walls. There was a small table set amidst three armchairs that would be much more comfortable than the stool and standing at the counter.
As I walked around the store, closing the curtains over the windows and locking the front door, Adeline obliged and took a seat to wait for me. It only took a few minutes for me to complete my tasks and once I shut the computer down, I fetched a bottle of a sweet rose wine and two glasses from the back office.
When I returned to the front, I set the glasses on the table and showed her the bottle with a questioning look. She nodded and I poured wine into each glass before setting the bottle carefully on the table and seating myself in the chair across from her. We both took a sip of the wine before beginning.
“First of all, is there any specific detail you would like addressed, aside from what you have already mentioned?” I asked the young woman.
“None that I can think of,” she answered.
“Alright, then let us begin,” I took another drink from the glass and cleared my throat. “Petra Bellin came from a family of landowners. Although not much is truly known by anyone about her life before the brothel came to be, it is known that she mingled with those of a higher status than her.
I cannot speak for certain as to the reason she decided to open a brothel, that part is purely speculative for anyone. It was rumored that she had once fallen in love but when she and the man she thought she would wed engaged in premarital coitus, she found herself alone and cast out of his circle. It is possible that is the catalyst for her perversions beginning to manifest, but again, no one can say for sure. Her own daughter never found out the truth of her mother’s history.
She moved to a property that her family owned in the city and made it her permanent residence. It is said that she would often take suitors that would inevitably leave her. It didn’t take long for her to be referred to in whispers as the Courtyard Courtesan. After the rumors began, she decided that if she would be called such a thing, then she might as well make it true. Again, this is based on rumors and stories so I cannot say for sure if her thinking was true to this portion of the tale.
Her family did not approve of her decision and forbid her from using their home in such a manner, so she procured a fair sized home on a bit of land outside of the city. No one is sure how she afforded it, as it is believed her parents would not have lent her that amount of money. No matter, she bought it all the same and it became the Bellin Brothel.
She soon had other courtesans asking to join her ranks but she was very selective. She had a specific clientele, you probably know, and she was particularly cautious about who she let entertain them. Eventually, there were fifteen of them, including Petra, and business was good. They had many men who would regularly visit and occasionally even a woman, although the reports never mentioned that part. She paid the taxes owed on time, she held large and lavish parties that people came from miles to attend, even if they weren’t interested in any of her or her girls’ services. No one ever suspected anything other than a successful business driven by a vivacious young woman. At least, not until the children began to go missing.
They were never children of nobility or from wealthy families, no. It was the children of peasants that were targeted. Once enough had disappeared to no longer be considered a coincidence, people began stepping forward about strange happenings at the Bellin Brothel. They spoke of weird chanting behind the walls and strange idols placed on mantles. Some claimed to have proof that Petra Bellin was a witch, seducing men from all over in order to gain their money.
A police search was conducted and Petra was nothing but hospitable to the officers. She allowed them with no issue to go through the entire house and search for anything that would link her or any of her employees to witchcraft or the vanished children. They found nothing, of course. They agreed with residents that there were some strange statuettes but Petra was able to identify them as simply being from other cultures, gifts from around the world that her gentlemen callers would occasionally bring to her or their favorite girl.
Soon after, the butcher was found to have a severed toe in his storage. He was taken in and charged with the disappearances and murders of all children. Everyone backed off of Petra and the brothel. Business slowed for a while due to the disturbance but after some time, it once again picked back up and life was good for everyone involved. What the police did not know at the time was that there was a door hidden in the walls of the kitchen that led down to an otherwise unknown set of chambers hidden cleverly under the house. They also knew nothing of the toe being deliberately placed at the butcher’s shop to incriminate him. They didn’t know that the butcher’s wife had caught him going to the brothel and when she threatened to kill the girl he was with, he appeased her by saying that he would never come back and claiming that the girl seduced him with the intention of hurting the marriage and causing pain for the sheer pleasure of it.
No one considered any of this or knew any of this while the butcher was walked to the gallows. Not a single person thought it odd when his wife disappeared the day following his execution. They simply thought she was a burned and grieving woman who needed to get away from that place. Her remains were never found but the ring she always wore on her finger was among the personal effects found at the brothel when it was shut down.
Life continued normally for many years, including the pregnancy of none other than Petra herself. The father was unknown but considering the clients she herself took care of, it was likely that the father would never be told for risk to his reputation. Petra had a beautiful baby girl and named her Gizella. She doted on her daughter and spared no expense to ensure that she had a good education and as proper an upbringing as possible as the daughter of a high-class courtesan. She included her in the secrets of the brothel and planned to have her one day take over in her stead.
Gizella grew up in blood, as I’m sure you have read. The prostitutes had learned their lesson from the close call with the police before. They continued their practices, under the lead of Petra, but acted smarter as to not get caught. In the public eye, it was a travesty and a shock comparable to none when at the age of fifteen, Gizella helped the police discover the dark side of Bellin Brothel and the bodies contained within. But for those fifteen years, life was much different for the daughter of Petra.
Her mother trained her from almost day one in the art of ritual sacrifice and everlasting beauty. Petra served a dark god and in his name, took so many lives. Gizella understood that society saw what her mother did was wrong but she also didn’t see it as something bad until it hit close to home. She grew up watching her mother take children found in various areas of the country into the secret chambers. She helped hang them up and cut open their throats and arms to drain the blood into buckets below. Once the ritual was complete, she would help her mother into the tub and pour the still warm blood over her body.
Petra lavished in it and would soak for up to an hour, submerging her entire body in rich, red liquid that she swore kept her young and beautiful. After her bath was complete, Gizella would assist her mother in tipping the tub over and pouring the sanguine fluid into the dirt floor to be soaked up and forgotten. She never had to help the other girls but her mother always insisted that she was there with her. And if there was any blood left in the bucket, it was Gizella’s duty to take it upstairs to the kitchen and warm it before pouring it in a wine glass for Petra to drink. If there was enough, Petra would share.
Once a week, nights were set aside for house dinners. All of the courtesans, Petra, and Gizella, would gather around the large table and feast on roast made from the flesh of their victims, wine mixed with any excess blood, and delicacies that would be considered atrocious even today. As far as Gizella knew, this was normal. She didn’t interact much with anyone on the outside and her mother always insisted that the goings-on of any home were meant to be kept private and not spoken of. Without being told, she somehow knew that if anyone outside of their special home found out, they would not approve, but she thought it was more akin to the strange practices of other cultures that she had read in books.
When she was thirteen, she had her very first and own bath of blood. Her mother helped her choose a young boy and then slaughter him in the secret room. She undressed carefully and slid her naked body into the tub while her mother poured the syrupy substance over her body. She let herself relax and felt the magic mix with the blood and tighten her already taut and young skin, aiding in the prevention of wrinkles as she aged. She allowed the life taken from the child to culminate between her fingers and toes, reveling in the sensation that her body was being renewed. When she got out, she could swear that her hair, once rinsed of the red, shined brighter and felt softer. Her skin glowed with added youth and she understood her mother’s work completely. They were special.
She did not take on any clients of her own but was meant to when she turned sixteen. Before that could happen, though, she did fall in love. There was a boy who assisted his father in repairing anything in the home or on the property. They looked after the grounds and Gizella had seen him many times. It wasn’t until she was fifteen, though, that she first spoke to him.
The boy knocked on the door to request some water for his father who was becoming severely dehydrated. Gizella just so happened to be the one who answered and fetched the poor man something to drink. She joined the boy in returning to his father who was seated on the steps of the building, wiping sweat from his brow over and over. He drank the water and politely thanked her for her kindness. Once he felt strong again, he continued his work, calling his son to join him. It was too late, though; Gizella and the boy, who she learned was named Abel, had already shared that initial spark.
Their romance grew rapidly like a wildfire and she soon found herself asking permission from her mother to spend more and more time with him. Petra allowed this, convinced that her daughter needed to get it out of her system and once this boy, this Abel, broke her heart, things would go back to normal. He didn’t break her heart, though. Their love blossomed into something truly vibrant and beautiful. Everyone could easily see it, especially Petra.
Shortly before her sixteenth birthday, Gizella expressed her want to be with only Abel and no one else; she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother was angry with her and they fought, resulting in Gizella running out of the house and into the wooded area on the property. Abel discovered her there after trying to call on her at the house and after she cried in his arms, they shared a night filled with a new kind of magic, one that was more positive and precious than any bloody bath or ritual to a dark lord. They agreed to find a way to get her out of that house, going so far as to even discussing running away together to start a brand new life. It was young love, incredible, breathtaking, full of hope and excitement, and foolishness.
The following day, Abel did not come. His father came to the door of the brothel, inquiring as to if his son had stayed there overnight. Gizella wasn’t the one to answer him but immediately felt her stomach twist and turn in fear and pain. She ran from where she had been seated, listening to the conversation, and up the stairs to her mother’s chamber. Petra was not there. She searched the entire house, knowing in the pit of her soul where she would find her mother but wanting desperately to be wrong. Sadly, she was not wrong.
Petra was in the secret chamber, soaking in a red bath, with her hair slicked back against her skull. Gizella saw no hanging body and confused, asked her mother what was going on. Her mother simply told her that she was relaxing. When Gizella demanded to know where Abel was, Petra smiled wide and raised her hand out of the blood. It took Gizella a moment to understand what she was looking at due to the liquid taking its time dripping off of the surface of what her mother held in her hand. When she was able to determine what it was, she doubled over and vomited there on the ground while her mother laughed and tossed the thing towards Gizella.
Abel’s head rolled to a stop, his cheek lying in the freshly evacuated contents of Gizella’s stomach. She could see the white bone protruding from his neck and one of his eyes was bulging out of its socket. She stared at it, too much in shock to even cry. When her mother shifted and began to stand, Gizella broke her gaze at her lover’s decapitated head and looked at Petra. She stood in the tub with something pink and long coiled all around her body, the boy’s intestines. In her hands, she now gently held something smaller than Abel’s head. Petra showed her daughter the object and told her that it turned out Abel did have a heart. Then she bit into it and audibly sucked the juices out, letting them drip down her chin and join the rest of the blood that was sliding off of her naked form.
That was when Gizella ran. She ran out of the chamber, up the stairs, and out of the front door. She ran until her feet hurt and then pushed herself on more. Her mother’s laughter resonated in her skull and she heard her mocking voice telling her nasty things about the boy she had fallen in love with.
By the time she reached the town, she was exhausted and could barely keep herself from collapsing. She yelled and screamed for help from anyone who might pay her any mind. When she saw an officer approaching her, she fell over, her world going black.
When Gizella awoke, she was in the police station, lying on a bench. Officers were scurrying about, preparing a party to investigate the brothel. She sat up slowly and asked what was going on. When someone finally noticed her, they explained that while out, Gizella had kept saying something about blood and her mother and a secret basement. Mixed with the vomit and splatters of blood on her clothing, they took the delirious claims seriously and began immediately the preparations of a strong-armed search.
From there, I’m sure you know the rest. Pieces of Abel were discovered, along with bodies not yet consumed. All of the courtesans wound up either imprisoned, institutionalized, or executed, including Petra.”
I took a long drink of the wine and watched Adeline take a few deep breaths.
“I didn’t know that Abel was involved with Gizella,” she said in a hushed voice, searching the ground with her eyes.
“Almost no one did and those who knew, the police officers specifically, kept that detail out of the public eye in order to help Gizella hide her pain,” I answered her nonchalantly.
“But what happened to her after? Did she not go to jail herself? She helped kill children,” Adeline looked at me, confusion apparent in her expression.
“She was too young to know any better, they decided. She was placed in a special home and rehabilitated. When she was twenty, she was deemed safe to be in society and moved across the world, to here. She was even able to keep her own daughter and bring her.”
“Her own daughter? You mean she had a child before she left?”
“Oh, yes. Like they say, it only takes once,” I said with a smirk. “She had a child by Abel who grew up to become a bright woman and create her own life, far away from the destruction her grandmother had wrought.”
“And you’re part of that line. Your name, though, must have been chosen because of Gizella,” she commented.
I nodded with a grin, “In a way, yes. I know that it is mostly spelled modernly as g-i-s-e-l-l-e but it is originally spelled the very same is Petra’s daughter. This is mainly due to the fact that Petra is the one who named me.”
“Huh?” I could see Adeline becoming more and more confused.
“Did you know that it took more than one attempt to put Petra to death? Hanging didn’t work and she seemed impervious to bludgeoning. They resolved to cut off her head and then burn her body and her head together. Only then did she finally die,” I set my unfinished wine on the table and leaned forward. With my elbows on my knees, I pressed my fingertips together and looked intently at Adeline, waiting to see the wheels click into place. “Her daughter was taught the same magics and served the same dark lord as she grew up.”
The girl rubbed her palms on her thighs and let out a nervous laugh, “You’re trying to say that you’re the same Gizella from all that time ago? That’s impossible.”
“Is it?” My smile grew even wider. “It isn’t often that I find such a beautiful offering such as yourself so easily. The young ones don’t typically wander into danger.”
Adeline eyed me fearfully and shot up to her feet, “Uh, I have to be going. Thanks for the story.”
“I think not,” I stood up slowly. She was young and didn’t look weak, sure, and I was old but I was much stronger than I appeared. It almost wouldn’t be fair to her.
“Giselle?” She took a step to the side, towards the door. I said nothing and only watched her. When she was away from the chair, she rushed to get out. The knob refused to turn and she pulled at it over and over.
“I locked up, remember?” I said, holding a key up in my hand. I knew from the very beginning how helpful it could be to have something a little more secure than a deadbolt or knob that had the lock on it. “And please, call me Gizella.”
“Let me out!” She screamed, her voice breaking and squeaking.
“The fearful ones always do taste the best and leave the most radiant glow on my skin,” I closed the distance between us. With a gentle touch of her cheek, I added, “Don’t worry, child. No one will hear your screams.”