[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 3: The Service
I lived only a few blocks from La Ville and sauntered through the twilight towards my apartment house. When I got in I turned some lights on and put a CD in the player: something sleek by Ahmad Jamal. It would calm me down and let me drift a while as I sat in a soft chair by the window and, soothed by the A/C, stared out at the park spreading its darkening shadows ten floors below me.
The truth is that Fab worried me. I’ve always been able to take a pretty accurate read on people, and my skills have been honed over the past eight years. Fab was the kind of snake in the high grass that lies in wait until you come along least expecting him and then he strikes swiftly, sometimes lethally. In my head I know Aspasia’s gives me all the protection I need, but it didn’t feel right in my gut. There was something wrong with Fab, something at a fundamental level. Who knows what awful things, if any, he’d endured growing up? as an adult? But I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was seriously damaged goods and he had not forgotten the trouble I’d caused and cost him. His kind had elephantine memories for slights and slurs. They’re the perfect grudge collectors, and they want payback.
I poured myself a glass of Pouilly-Fumé Sauvignon Blanc from the bottle in the refrigerator and sat down at the Dell on my desk in the study. After a few clicks on the keyboard I was into the file I wanted to open. I carefully entered the transaction data for the day’s work, including the tips Bernard and Walter had given me.
The service pays me once a month on the basis of my work as a ‘consultant’. They make all the deductions for FICA, applicable city taxes, state and federal, as well as 401K, medical and dental, and life insurance. I pay all my taxes, and that does not exclude the tips, which I track precisely and pay on whatever my accountant says I owe.
I don’t cheat.
I keep accurate records of all my clients and where and when and how long and how much. I’ve designed my own system for doing this in such a way that nobody would ever figure out who the real people involved are, or even that there are people involved, or any kind of financial transactions. Thank God one of my majors was Classics. If those morons who claim it is a useless degree, mere ornament, as Ben Franklin once said of Greek and Latin, could only appreciate how vitally practical it has proved to be for me, they might sing a jazzier tune. I’m actually quite proud of how I have set things up.
I store all financial and client data in files housed in my Classics folder. Who would even think of looking for them there? And if someone did, what they would find is a file named LITERARY CHARACTERS. It started as an Excel spread sheet that purports to be a dated listing by book and line number of characters I come across in my readings of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I match some character with a given client, and once that connection has been made I never forget it. I don’t have a photographic memory, but it is very good, a more than helpful talent for anyone studying Classics and one that is rigorously exercised by such study. After a while I expanded my available onomasticon by branching out to characters in Greek tragedy, Vergil’s Aeneid, and – my favorite Latin poem – Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Maybe I should pick out some of the ancient sleazes in The Annals of Tacitus, too, since I can readily see possible matchings to some contemporary slime I’ve oozed into.
As an example, Fab became that ugliest of Greeks at Troy, Thersites. Walter was my Priam, and Bernard turned into Istor, the adjudicator at the trial on the shield of Achilles. By going over these lists from time to time I kept refreshing my memory about who was who, and of course after a number of years I now had a largely repeat clientele that did not require new names. But I had them, hundreds still, if I should so require.
But let me pursue Walter’s case. Here is how his entry for today would appear under the heading READING DATE & DATA:
Unpacked, it stated that I met client 0948 (columns 5-6 + 9-10) on 8 (columns 11-12) August (columns 7-8) 2003 (columns 1-4) at 5 P.M. (columns 13-16) at venue 04 (columns 17-18) in room 2203 (columns 19-22). Since I only use half a dozen hotels columns 13-16 are easy to remember; for the rare home visits I use 08 and for the even rarer flights to a different locale for special clients I use 09. For those I have no trouble recalling the details. Next comes the length of the visit (columns 23-24); here the first digit is a dummy, that is, it is meaningless. Thus, for Walter today that entry reads 21 (one hour) but could also have been 01 or 11 or 51 and so forth. Since only visits to other cities last longer than nine hours, these are all coded as 09 or 19. Aspasia’s standard rate is $1000 for each hour or portion thereof, payable up front to the management (in theory, no money changes hands between the client and me); of that I always get $500. Thus, if these columns code 03, 13 or 23 it means I earned $1500. The final three columns (25-27) track my tips, the first digit being a dummy and the last two multiplied by 10. A number of say, 423, indicates that I got $230 in tips — these have always been in increments of at least $10. For Walter I have typed in 425 — $250.
What would you make of a data base filled with over 4500 records that look like 200309084808170004220321425 ? And now let’s add Fab and Bernard, too:
This data base now runs to some 4500 records.
Even if you knew what you were looking for you’d be hard put to figure out anything from these numbers that would hold up for purposes of blackmail or a court proceeding. But putting my other major – Computer Science — to work I wrote a driver program that unpacks these numeric data, uses inputs from other data bases — not stored on the hard drive! — that hold the codes, and loads the outputs into a dynamic file that I can scroll through and read in “English” before immediately deleting it or printing out a given portion. This “English” version appears nowhere on my hard drive, and indeed I wrote this program – again, not stored on the hard drive! — in such a way that the dynamic output cannot be saved. Whatever I may print to hardcopy for momentary study I then dispose of right away in a cross-cut shredder, mix up the fragments, divide them into four portions and dump one fourth each into the fireplace and three different waste baskets throughout the apartment. Here is what the driver translates 200309084808170004220321425 into:
Priam — Friday 8 Aug 2003 – 5 P.M. @ La Ville #2203 — $500 < Aspasia’s — $250
A further refinement of my driver program is that it allows me to massage the data in just about any way I want: earnings during a given period, number of times with a given client in May of 2001, total tips from this client or total earnings from that one, and so forth. It is extremely useful at tax time, and at first it helped me make sure Aspasia’s wasn’t sticking it to me at the end of the month. In eight years the service has never once not agreed with my data. Now I trust the service, and Michelle – and there aren’t many organizations or people I can calmly say that about.
But up until my revelations here, nobody knew how carefully I keep records. The Delphic oracle of our day!
Sure, I suppose some hotshot could figure out these numbers were a record of some kind, and it wouldn’t take a Ph.D. in math to realize that the first four columns were years. And maybe even that days and months were buried in the next eight columns. But after that, without knowing how each column was defined and not having the coded input data bases, there is no way anybody could figure out what was going on here. Private codes with private keys are essentially uncrackable because they are anchored in no public data but only the creator’s very private imagination. There is no predictability here.
I sipped the last of the wine.
Ahmad was stretching out the last sweet notes of ‘Poinciana’.
I turned off the lights and went back to my sofa chair to sit by the window and just go with the mental flow.
One of these days I would be exiting the life. Here I was, thirty-two already, and that didn’t give me many years left. But I would have no money worries, as I was quite rich in my own right. In that sense – and others – Aspasia’s had been good to me. On average I was doing about fifteen customers a week for maybe twenty-five hours, which grossed me about $12,500 a week; deductions ate about 50% plus. And to the $6000 odd I cleared from Aspasia’s you could add tips of perhaps $4000. Only taxes deducted there, which left me around $2500. So, I’m clearing in the neighborhood of $8500 a week. Since no camper is going canoeing up Red River, I don’t work when I have my period, so say it comes to thirty-eight working weeks a year; that clears me roughly a 320 G a year. I allow myself six grand a month for expenses, or about $72,000 a year, which leaves in the neighborhood of, say, a quarter mill to invest. Of course, these figures were smaller when I started in the mid-nineties, but I’m talking averages here. I have two brokerage accounts: one, an IRA that I took the tax hit on in 2001 and switched over to a ROTH IRA, and, two, a taxable account. After loading up the IRA I pump close to $250 grand into the taxable account each year.
In college I took some accounting courses, and one of the profs – bless him! – made us subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. I found it fascinating, and I still read it, now on line. That, some books, and a lot of internet research taught me what I know about investing; couple that to the manic market of the late nineties, and you can easily understand why, having sensibly gotten out in February of 2000, I am today worth well over six million bucks, and that’s after all taxes have been paid. Beats the kind of salary I was pulling down before Aspasia’s and I met one night across a crowded street.
When I retire, maybe I’ll go back to school, or move to Europe, or travel around the world.
For now, though, I’d better get myself off to bed. I’ve got three clients tomorrow, starting with breakfast at The Griffin Group.
TO BE CONTINUED