Callahan's Lady is a book which takes places at Lady Sally's Place. It is narrated from the point of view of Maureen Hooker, a streetwalker whom Lady Sally fortuitously rescues from certain death at the hands of her brutal pimp. Due to her life-threatening injuries, Sally takes Maureen back to her House where her friend and practicing "artist" Doctor Kate helps to nurse her back to health. As she is recuperating, Maureen pieces together that she's been brought to a house of ill-repute and becomes paranoid that Lady Sally has appointed herself Maureen's new owner. She attempts to call an old friend to bail her out, but when he hears where she's at he simply laughs and tells her she's gotten what she deserves. She then attempts to cold-cock Lady Sally at the door with a blackjack fashioned from a sock, but her injury acts up and she simply collapses.
As she learns why Maureen attempted to attack her, Lady Sally frowningly informs her that she has no intention of hiring Maureen as one of her hookers, ever. Maureen thinks she's only trying reverse psychology, but Lady Sally is firm in stating that she doesn't employ minors (calculating Maureen's age as "16 at most" and likely to pass for someone even younger). She also doesn't like streetwalkers and other sex workers she hasn't personally trained up, as she's had bad results with them in the past. She can tell at a glance that, like most of these, Maureen harbors anger and resentment at her lifestyle and her clients ("johns")--an attitude Lady Sally has no intention of trying to work with. She states that Maureen is free to leave immediately, or stay until she has recovered (Maureen has refused to go to a hospital), but that will be the end of it.
Gradually Maureen recovers some strength and mobility, and is granted a tour of the premises. As she is escorted along by Robin, a rich male client of small and bald stature who is both a crossdresser and a submissive, she realizes that every "rule" she's learned about prostitution simply doesn't apply here. Lady Sally runs a classy joint where mutual respect between client and artist (she refuses to use the pejorative terms "whore" and "john") is the cardinal rule, and security is taken quite seriously. Those few bad apples that slip past her rigorous screening and won't learn how to behave are bounced to the street by her buff-yet-sexy bouncer, Priscilla. No artist has to take on a client they object to, and various evesdropping devices (usually listened in on by Sally and Mike's daughter, Mary--known already to serious readers of the Callahan stories) help ensure that in a pinch, "code words" will bring help on the run within about 20 seconds to any place in the House. Sally also doesn't enforce time limits out of a sense of pimp-like greed, preferring the client and artist alike to achieve satisfaction, arguing "art takes as long as it takes." From an economic standpoint, Maureen has to wonder how the place turns a profit (especially since patrons are offered a sliding scale based on income), but decides it's not her worry. Gradually Maureen realizes this is a place she really wants to work and be at, and becomes saddened that she doesn't make the cut in Sally's eyes.
She briefly has some conversation with Sally, whom she tracks down through Priscilla, on the subject of her employability, and is in tears. Sally soon deduces that Maureen suffered a serious trauma early in life (though not what it was), and that is the true source of much of her "bad attitude." She also finds out, to her surprise, that Maureen was once apprenticed (successfully!) to one of the truly great con artists of the world, known only as "The Professor", and left it for the comparatively honest life of a hooker since she began to feel sorry for the marks.
Soon enough, there is a ruckus at the door, as a drug-crazed and angry Big Travis (her pimp) has managed to track her down to the premises and has sucker-punched Priscilla into unconsciousness. The artists and clientelle are showing disturbing signs of being ready to "rumble", and to calm the situation Maureen quickly plays the eager submissive to Travis, ready to go with him and do his bidding instantly. A few clients try various strategies to distract him from his mission, but even the wonkiest of them (like Ralph von Wau Wau--another familiar Callahanian face) don't penetrate his drug-addled senses. Eventually, Maureen (who learned fluent Japanese while stationed in Tokyo as an army brat) manages to pass a coded message to Sally and the eavesdropping Maureen. She then maneuvers him out the door, where a waiting Mary plummets from an upper-story window (Mary who, according to Jake Stonebender, is built like "a sexy sumo") and plows into Big Travis with both feet, killing him instantly.
Commending her quick thinking, her skills (Maureen turns out to be well-trained by her father in the martial arts), and her willingness to go above and beyond in protecting Sally's House and its clientelle, Lady Sally decides Maureen would be a welcome addition to the House after all and immediately inducts her into a two-year training program that will enable her simultaneously to become legal age and learn all the House's operations from the ground up. Happily, Maureen realizes she's found her true destiny and place, and sums it all up with the classic punchline: "Just lucky, I guess."
(Further stories follow in what is essentially an anthology with a framing device; stay tuned for next installment)