[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 018
Chapter 7 (1 of 2): The Consultant
I had never met this client before. When Michelle made the appointment, she had told me he was a consultant here in town from Berkeley to finalize the details of a project that involved bids on the electrical subcontracting for a major development plan the city was negotiating. What is more, he had asked for me by name.
This was in itself not all that unusual. After all, it was the way I had developed a fairly large base of repeat business over the years, with both locals and visiting firemen. I tried to recall whom I had entertained from Berkeley recently who might have made such a recommendation. Although I’ve spent considerable time in Berkeley visiting my sister, Valerie, who is an anesthesiologist at an Oakland hospital, I certainly had not ‘worked’ while I was there. But I guess word does get around.
The Parisian is an older hotel, recently renovated at great expense, but it still shows its age. It is certainly a fine place to stay, but in my view it didn’t hold a flickering candle to a dazzling luminary like La Ville. But the lobby was just as busy. Any place even halfway decent is bound to be cooking on a Saturday night, and I noticed that the in-house restaurant was filled, and the bar was doing a brisk trade. I recognized several beauties from Aspasia’s clustering convivially with some super-fixers from City Hall who had that sleek, well-fed on-the-take look and were dressed in bespoke tailoring.
The world turns.
My guy was supposed to be waiting in 3453, and I took the elevator up to the 34th floor together with a party of happy campers headed, so I gathered, to the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel. I stopped in front of the door to the room and mentally put on my face before knocking.
The man who opened the door was no strain on the eyes. Lean, about six feet, tanned, a remarkably symmetrical face.
“Hi,” he said, smiling at me. “Mazarine? Come on in.”
“Hi,” I said, and smiled back. We shook hands. “Yes, Mazarine.”
I was probably not fully conscious of doing so, but I always check the fingernails and teeth of any man I meet for the first time, especially if it’s a date. This guy passed both tests: even, white teeth, a bit on the small side, and the fingernails were cut square, buffed and not a trace of grime underneath. So far so good.
“What a lovely name,” he said, and he said it in such a natural way that I thought it was spontaneous and that he meant it.
“Thank you,” I volleyed back. “Nathan Hoe, is that right??”
“Right you are,” he laughed lightly. “Nathan Hoe. Good of you to remember.”
I had moved into the large space. The lights were turned low and it was starting to turn dark outside. The suite gave an appearance of comfortable intimacy. He followed and pointed to a cozy chair. “Please,” he said. “Sit down. Can I order you something to drink? I was waiting to call room service.”
“That would be nice. I’ll have a double shot of Grand Marnier in a large snifter.”
“A double shot of Grand Marnier in a large snifter it is.” He picked up the phone.
“Room service? Yes, this is Nathan Hoe. We’d like a small bottle of Grand Marnier and a fifth of Jack Daniels black label. A couple of large snifters and cocktail glasses. And be sure to include some nuts and chips, plenty of ice. Napkins.” He gave me a nod. “Yes, that’s correct. Room 3453. Thank you.”
He put the phone down. “Be about ten or fifteen minutes.”
He apeared relaxed, in a situation he was used to, enjoying himself. He seemed like a respectable enough sort as such things go. He was polite, not forward, well spoken. There was no sense of urgency, no rush, no embarrassment.
“So,” I said, “you’re in town on business.”
“Yes,” he answered. “Just wrapping up some final points on a major contract.”
“Are you a lawyer?” I asked.
“No, goodness no,” he chuckled. “I’m just a consultant. A consultant with an M.B.A. The lawyers do all the fine print reading, but my company likes me to be in on the closings.” He waved his hand deprecatingly.
“I see,” I said without really understanding exactly what it was he did. But that was hardly important. “I understand you’re from Berkeley.” I tried a lateral move in the conversation.
“Yes, that right,” he said.
As if to establish some kind of rapport, I tossed out a few ice breakers. “I have a sister who lives there. I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time there over the years,” I said.
He missed a beat. “I see,” he said slowly. He shifted in his chair, and I got the unequivocal impression he was suddenly uncomfortable.
“It’s really a lovely city.”
“Yes, it certainly is.”
“She lives on the beach next to the bay,” I continued. “It’s a lovely view over the water.”
“Yes, I can imagine,” he nodded.
“I remember last time I was there, let’s see, about six or seven months ago, we went to a really great Chinese restaurant named Bok Choy. Do you know it?”
There was a knock on the door. The relief on his face was palpable. Whatever else he was, he was not an actor.
“Excuse me,” he said. He got up and opened the door. A waiter brought the order in and fussily set it down on the table by the window. Nathan signed for it and peeled a ten off a thick roll in a gold money clip.
He busied himself fixing up our drinks. “Cheers,” he said.
“Cheers.” I raised my glass and swirled the amber liquid in my big snifter. “So,” I picked up the conversation, “what do you think of Bok Choy? I thought they had an absolutely marvelous hot-and-sour soup, and the Mongolian beef was out of this world.”
He gazed at me thoughtfully. “You’re right. It’s a terrific place, and I eat there probably at least a couple of times a week.”
I took a sip of Grand Marnier and savored its honest flavor.
I didn’t want to push any further and readily acquiesced when Nathan, with great relief, diverted the conversation into the safer channels of local chitchat about plays, museums and interesting bars.
TO BE CONTINUED