[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 003-005
The Previous Five Months: Appointments
Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart.
Shakespeare Hamlet III.ii.35-37
Chapter 1 – The Clients
He’s on top of me.
He’s a noisy jackhammer pounding my pliant pavement, and just as he breaks ground he shudders and groans, “Ah, baby. Beautiful, just beautiful.”
He rolls off to the side and lies on his back next to me, both of us spread-eagled, a smirk of male satisfaction working its way into the corners of his panting mouth. His chest glistens with our mingled sweat. He is looking at the ceiling of our suite.
“Yeah,” he confirms, “just beautiful. Abso-bitchin’-lutely beautiful.”
His head turns towards me and his eyes crinkle. He gives me his little boy’s grin. So naughty. So proud of himself.
He gets up off the bed and heads for one of the bathrooms. “Have to hustle, baby. I have a 3 P.M. today.”
As I shower in the other bathroom I think about Bernard. Bernard Fathom. A sweet guy, really, and I’m not unfond of him. He’s certainly generous to me. Late forties, good-looking, a snappy dresser, and (so he says) happily married to a wealthy socialite. They have two attractive daughters at an expensive private high school; his fondest hope is that they will go to Yale or Harvard and then, of course, law school. But in my view he’s a walking self-delusion, this judge of other men – in his own modest assessment fairly high in the city’s legal hierarchy — who handles mostly vice, but sometimes garners the glory of a high profile case. Nothing like building up that resumé.
The irony that screams to me apparently falls on ears of his that are beyond deaf.
I’ve checked him out with the bar association and some lawyer friends I know, and in describing his legal status it seems for once he’s avoided personal hyperbole.
He’s almost dressed when I emerge from my steaming bathroom. He fusses over the knot in his Hermès tie.
“Everything copacetic, baby?”
Bernard likes to give himself the impression that he’s still kind of groovy. In spite of all his degrees and legal juice. A man-of-the-people kind of thing. I humor him. Why not? He’s paying the freight.
“Right on, honey.”
“Sorry, baby, but I gotta boogie. Same time next week?”
“You’re already down, sweetie.”
He eyes me, almost possessively. Pecks me on the cheek and hands me an envelope. “Just a little something extra for you. You were the greatest!”
I start to buss him and, predictably, he pulls back. “Can’t mess up the clothes,” he says by way of full explanation. I stroke his chin, and he holds on to my hand just a beat too long.
Then he’s out the door, laying down a wake of Aramis.
My cell goes off.
“Honey, Walter will be waiting for you around five in twenty-two-oh-three at La Ville.”
“Walter at five in twenty-two-oh-three at La Ville. Got it.”
“Nothing this evening. Talk to you soon.”
“Thanks, Michelle. Later.”
That leaves me about three hours free. I double check the suite for my things, straighten out the tangled sheets on the huge bed, leave, and take the elevator to the lobby. I ask the doorman to hail me a cab, tip him, and jump in.
“Public library,” I instruct the turbaned driver.
The reading room at the Schwann Memorial Library is large, quiet, and austere. People whisper or speak in hushed respect, and the only sound you hear is the cicada-like clicking of keys on laptops. A lofty ceiling shaped in the form of a vault contains numerous skylights that bathe the room in a natural luminescence. The accessible stacks rise up to the mezzanine on three sides around the central pit where the tables for readers and their research materials are located. At one end is a long table filled with banks of terminals dedicated to the library’s enormous databases. Next to it sits a checkout counter; here you can also request items from the hidden stacks and back issues of magazines and journals not available online. Coin operated copiers are on guard nearby.
It is a restful place. You feel relaxed, part of a community of seriousness, insulated somehow from the hectic and the tacky out there. I often come here, sometimes just to sit and think, or, like now, to settle into one of the comfortable chairs on the mezzanine and do some reading. Currently I am working my way through a smooth Penguin translation of The Annals of Rome. Earlier I had tried to read it in Latin, but, sadly, and despite my years of study of that majestic language, my command is not sufficient at this point to tackle the peculiar brilliance of Tacitus. I am in Book 4 now, the rise and fall of Tiberius, and the applicable modernity of this first-century masterpiece appeals greatly to my sense of how political and cultural idiocies have come to dominate our own public life in the twenty-first century. Nil novi sub sole, right?
I read slowly and purposefully. I savor the unfolding tale. I pause often to contemplate the words I have just pored over, and from time to time I jot down a phrase or fleeting idea in a little pocket notebook I always carry with me. After an hour or so I tuck away Mr. Tacitus and let my mind float in contemplation of Bernard’s relentless with-it-ness, the city’s crackling edginess, the imminent meeting with Walter, the luxurious notion of spending the rest of the evening all by myself in my co-op.
I start for the hotel, and since it is a spectacular autumn day with an incandescent sun high in his heaven I decide to walk the twelve or so blocks rather than take a cab. I don’t mind the crowded sidewalks; their anonymity leaves me feeling comfortably alone. It is just past four, so I make the time to browse the windows and their expensive displays of goods. I do not fail to see myself reflected in their polished glass: long legs, short red skirt, creamy blouse, a red felt beret.
Yes, I do have the look.
A book store has mounted an eye-catching display of lush art books to coincide with the new show of Spanish paintings on tour from various European museums. A few doors further along is a justifiably renowned pastry shop that is a branch of a Parisian original; its display appeals to a different appetite.
La Ville is an upscale hotel on the corner of Vale of Lilies and Ibis where everybody who is somebody stays. It’s the place to hang at if you want to see and be seen. Even people who don’t want to be seen are seen there as they go about their furtive assignations.
I like the place.
The suites are always immaculate: the beds are large, the showers spacious, the towels nappy and plentiful. The room service injects fresh meaning into ‘expeditious’ and the management is as discreet as it is discrete about its guests. It sits on Halcyon at the corner of Ceyks and overlooks a pleasant park replete with walking trails and a small lake for boating and swimming. La Ville has its private dock and beach with direct access from the lower lobby. In the summer I like to sunbathe there for a little while if I’m a bit early for a client. Families love it.
The main lobby is vast, airy, and Renaissance cavernous. It is its usual bustle of grouped guests and service personnel seeing to the small pleasures of late lunches and afternoon cocktails. Bellhops and a large party of Japanese tourists with tour guides throng the check-in counter in anticipation of their stay in our fair city. A susurrus of chatter enfolds the area, interrupted by the dinging of bells, the ringing of cells phones, the too enthusiastic laugh. In passing I notice several working girls I know fairly well, but here we studiously avoid acknowledging each other. I wend my way through this happiness to the banks of elevators at the north end of the lobby. I enter the express for floors twenty through thirty along with some teenagers in beachwear and two clusters of golfers raucously talking up the morning’s foursomes at Viridian Hills. I pretend to be unaware of the insouciant stares of all concerned. I just have that effect on men. It’s something about pheromones, I’ve been told by some of my medical friends.
When I knock on twenty-two-oh-three Walter opens the door and, beaming, invites me in with a flourish. Walter is in his early seventies, a retired English professor once of some note in his field of twentieth century American literature. I’ve been seeing him for over a year now, and we share a mutual comfort. As a sophomore at the University I had actually taken a course from him; after I’d gotten to know him I pointed this out to him, but he did not remember me. It had been a fairly large class. Walter had been a dying breed: a professor of English and American literature who still read, taught and thought about English and American literature and believed it was a worthwhile as well as enjoyable thing to do. By the time his age cohort finally had the decency to retire even the deconstructionist had been consigned to the dustbin of once oh so fashionable theories and the department was colonized by hordes of hegemonic neo-colonialistas and their many diversities. No more Beowulf, no more Shakespeare. It’s why I had switched my majors from English and Film with a minor in Poetry Workshop to Computer Science and Classics with a minor in Accounting. But that’s a tale for another time. For now, Walter and I always enjoyed talking about the latest books we had read.
Walter’s wife had died about ten years before he retired, but, as he had once confessed to me, he was still interested in women. “Of course,” he added, “the fires that once burned so ferociously are now banked, but the embers linger.” We had no regular schedule, but every two or three weeks he would call the Service and arrange something with me.
I genuinely liked Walter – indeed, I like most of my customers. He was cultured and refined. He was extremely well read along a wide gamut of interests and he had an attractive mind that was as sharp as ever. He was up on everything from world politics and the latest Bordeaux vintages to jazz, philately, and restaurants. He was no Charles Atlas on the physical front, but who is at his age? Sometimes he didn’t even want sex with me, just companionship, as he called it: pull the sheets down and cuddle naked together on the bed. He might fondle my breasts, run his hand through my pubic hair, and imagine that he was thirty. If it came to sex, it was slow, soft, gentle. Sometimes he’d come, sometimes not. It hardly seemed to matter to him. But if he felt like it, I’d help him. He was never shy about asking. But always the gentleman with me.
“How have you been, dear?” he asked.
We hugged briefly.
“Pretty busy, Walter. Like usual. And you?”
“I never have trouble filling up the day. I’ve hardly made a dent in the shelves of unread books I have. And new restaurants are constantly opening up.”
“I had lunch at Signora the other night. It was class all the way.”
“Ah, yes,” he nodded, “I did have dinner there about a month ago with my son and his wife. Great wine list, especially the northern Italian ones.”
He took my hand and led me over to the bed. We stood each on one side and pulled the cover down, exposing the crisp clean whiteness of the sheets. We lay down and hugged. After a while Walter began slowly to undress me, peeling off my skirt and blouse. He seems to like savoring what is to come by exposing me in just panties and brassiere. Then Walter takes all his clothes off, and he is pleased to note that Mr. Johnson is erectly oblivious to his age and its putative obtunding of desire. He lies on his back and moves my hand to where he lives with intensity.
“Why don’t you get cozy, too?” he asks.
I get ‘cozy’ with him, and soon his hands are scuttling across my torso and down to where I live with intensity. He is breathing harder, clutching lightly at my dark hair. He straddles me and a few authoritative tugs later it’s all satisfyingly over for him on my belly. I cup him as he rubs it over my torso, slowly, like an exquisite body moisturizer. “So sweet,” he murmurs. “So very sweet.” A deep appreciation hangs in his voice. He stretches out beside me on the large bed.
After about fifteen minutes of indolent silence he suggests that we shower up, and we march into the bathroom hand in hand like teenage lovers who have just done it for the first time. I actually think some fantasy along these lines is playing itself out in Walter’s imagination. We soap each other and wash under the needling rain of the shower. Walter is humming what he drily refers to as Cole Porter’s subcutaneous melody of want, one of his favorites. I hum along with him. I like that one too.
We grab some of the great big towels that line the racks in the bathroom and emerge from the steam to dry each other in the bedroom.
“Do you have time for the usual?” he asks when we have dressed again.
He nods, picks up the phone, and orders.
While we wait, he pulls out an envelope from inside his coat and hands it to me. “For you,” he says.
“That’s so generous of you, Walter,” I say, and mean it. I know it will be $300.
“It’s my pleasure, I assure you.”
Walter looks back at me over his shoulder as he opens the curtains, and the golden orange light of early evening cascades into the room. He is still handsome in a distinguished and venerable way. He does regular exercise and is lean, and his body certainly knows how to wear Brooks Brothers as if to the fashion born. His brogues (which, he once confessed, he has hand-made for himself) emit a muted creaking as he walks across the carpet to his sofa chair.
There is a knock on the door.
Walter opens and room service deposits a tray on the little table between our grouping of chairs. Walter gives him a twenty. “Thank you very much, sir,” room service responds. “Thank you,” Walter comes back.
He hands me the big snifter of Grand Marnier and lifts his frosted martini to his nose. I swish the amber liquid along the sides to release the bouquet. “To you,” he nods at me over the rim. “To you,” I say. We both take a sip.
We spend a desultory half hour or so discussing our latest reading projects. I mention my current reading and he is quite intrigued. He admits that he has never read Tacitus but thinks now that he might have to stop off at Barnes and Noble to see if he can pick up a copy of the Annals.
By six-thirty we are out of La Ville. “You take care, now,” he says to me as we part with a small hug in front of the hotel’s revolving door, and each of us heads out on our appointed rounds. I turn to watch him as he goes off down the crowded street, back straight, a spring in his step, like some Parisian flaneur of old. I feel good just watching him disappear among the crowd. He does not turn around and look back. He never does.
“Well, well, look at what the pussy brought in!” He leers crudely, and the hairs on the nape of my neck stand up as I hear the familiar scratchy growl. “You wouldn’t be a working girl, now, would you?” My small euphoria of a moment ago melts like hard butter on a hot griddle. “At a nice place like La Ville?”
I wheel around, and there he is, lightly thwacking his night stick into a dirty hand with grubby fingernails.
TO BE CONTINUED