a Short Story
Copyright © July, 2001, Kellis
The caller ID specified Hilltower Hotels. A surprise visitor, maybe? She picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hi.” It was a male voice, young, not too deep. “Is this Cutesy?”
Cutesy? Who in hell would let herself be called Cutesy? That was a generic name for little girls, such as her grandfather had used. Nevertheless the query intrigued her, overriding her automatic wrong-number response. “Suppose it is,” she answered.
His voice conveyed a grin. “Playing it cagey, are you?”
“A girl has to be careful these days.”
“Yeah, don’t blame you. Jim gave me your number. I’m Lenny and I want to do something for you.”
“Something for me? Oh, I get it. You mean, in exchange for something for you!”
He chuckled. “Well, sure.”
“Jim gave you my number? Jim who? There’s lots of Jims. Every girl has a brother named Jim.”
“Oh, the girls always remember this guy: big, muscles, black hair, likes to whistle.”
She snorted. “I think you just described about ten thousand guys.”
The man laughed. “Sorry, but he never showed me the part you’d be sure to remember. But he sure remembers you! He talks about you all the time. Can you meet me tonight? I’d like to get to know you as well as he does.”
She took the receiver from her ear and stared at it. Did this guy have in mind what she thought? With a whimsical grin she restored the instrument and asked, “What did Jim say I did that made him remember me so well?”
“Everything,” the man answered breezily, adding, “You gave him the works.”
“Did I! In exchange for what?”
The man hesitated again, finally admitting weakly, “$300.”
She knew he was lying. She chuckled silently. Bluffing games were always fun. She demanded with rich derision, “Who do you think you’re kidding?”
She thought of another angle. Into his silence she asked with a sneer, “Which kind of cop are you?”
“No, no! I’m not a cop!”
“Aren’t you? Did you just arrest this Jim?”
“I tell you, I’m no cop. I’m in town on business. Why do you think I’m a cop?”
“Well, actually you’re right. Even a cop would know that the works is $600.”
“$600!” he screamed. “Good god, what a liar Jim is!”
She chuckled. “Well, it’s been nice chatting with you, Lenny. Call me back when you raise the money.”
“Wait.” He added grudgingly, “I’ve got $600.”
“Cash only, Lenny, nothing bigger than a fifty. Did Jim lie about that, too?”
“All right, I’ll get the cash.” She heard him take a breath. “What will you do for it? I don’t remember what Jim said you call those tricks.”
She had not long ago read a novel about prostitution, at least to the point of boredom, but some of its words tripped off her tongue. “Frenching, 69, whatever.”
“For that much money you should stay all night.”
“Sure. I give good service.”
“Jim went on and on about how special you are. All right. Will you meet me in the lobby, say, tonight at nine?”
Momentarily she was ready to admit her duplicity, but the temptation to see just how gullible he might be was stronger. “Nine is too late,” she declared, assuming the voice of confident experience. “Everyone can see what’s going on.”
“Then you tell me.”
“You buy me supper. The Hilltower has a restaurant.”
“Yeah, pretty good ribs. You’ve got Caller-ID, have you?”
“Doesn’t everyone? Okay. You go in at eight and get a table for two, give your name and say a friend will join you. I’ll ask for you at 8:05. Then if we leave together it will look perfectly natural.”
“I guess. If you don’t dress too …”
She laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ll wear a business suit and even bring a briefcase.”
“Oh.” His tone improved. “High class!”
“The best, Lenny. Well, is it a date?”
“God, Cutesy, I can’t wait!”
Her imagination shifted into high gear. “You still might be a cop.”
“Aw, I thought we were beyond that!”
“Almost. Get the money as twelve fifties and put it in a white business envelope with two one-ounce postage stamps on it. Can you do that?”
“I guess so, but why?”
“I’ll write an address on the envelope and when it’s safely in a U. S. mailbox, we’ll go up to your room.”
“Isn’t that a lot of trouble?”
“Maybe, but if a bunch of cops suddenly march in, I don’t want them to find that money on me, or my fingerprints on the money.”
“Oh. Oh! Okay, I see. I’ll have it in an envelope.”
“A stamped envelope. Better put three stamps on it.”
She let her voice convey a smile. “Good boy, Lenny. You’re about to become another Titanic.”
“Huh? You don’t mean to sink me, do you?”
“No. I’ll be the one going down. What I mean is, you’re about to have a night to remember.”
She hung up the telephone, leaned back and laughed heartily, thinking of his unknown face, upon which she superimposed the visage of Gary, her last lover. The face would be worried at 8:15, angry at 8:30 and wistful at 9:00. How long would he wait? She laughed again. Men! Let him learn to key a phone right.
At least she had arranged for him to get a good supper. With a final chuckle she returned to her novel. Now if Christina would just realize what a slime-ball this Lord Edgarfield was under his fine clothes …
* * *
But Christina, realizing nothing, was about to submit to Lord Slimy when the telephone rang again. Absently, unable to tear her eyes away from the page, she groped for the receiver and fumbled it to her ear without checking the caller-ID. “Hello?”
A recorded woman’s voice declared, “Collect call from” — pause, then a cold male voice — “a concerned friend.” The woman’s voice returned. “If you accept, press One, otherwise press Two or simply hang up.”
She didn’t recognize the voice but decided she really needed a concerned friend. She pressed One and heard the woman’s voice declare, “Your party accepts. Go ahead.”
The man said, “May I speak to Ms. Cleo Ferris?”
Uh-oh! For an instant she had a flash of premonition. This was the cops wanting to know if she had agreed to meet one of them for sex.
“Speaking,” she admitted guardedly.
“Ms. Ferris, I’m calling from the home office of Lords Department Store about your charge account that is now $1200 past due. I wonder when we might expect payment.”
She gulped. “Some concerned friend!”
“I am indeed concerned and compared to the lawyer who will contact you next, I’m also your friend. Are you enjoying the clothing charged on your account, Ms. Ferris?”
She took a deep, shuddery breath. “Mr. Lord, if you only knew what’s happened —”
“My name is Jamieson,” he announced coldly.
She squared her shoulders. “Mr. Jamieson, would you like me to bring it all back?”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Ferris. Returns are not accepted after 30 days. The last purchase on this account was six weeks ago.”
“Well, I … I do want to pay Lords what I owe, but just now I can’t.”
His voice did not change. “Then may I suggest that you come into the local branch and talk it over with the credit manager. It may be possible to arrange something.”
“Oh, do you think so?”
“Often it is. But I warn you, Ms. Ferris. Parts of your account are as much as six months in arrears. We have sent you two unacknowledged letters already. If we don’t hear from you this week we’ll be forced to turn this account over for collection and judgment.”
“I — I’ll come around before Friday.”
“Good. Thank you, Ms. Ferris. I always enjoy talking to a friend.”
The irony in his tone reached her. “You bastard!” she declared, but he had already hung up.
Lord Edgarfield’s seduction of the foolish Christina faded into insignificance. Cleo laid the novel on the table beside the telephone and laughed scornfully at herself and at fate. Her looks in Lords’ clothing had obtained for her the commitment of a receptionist’s job at International Pharmaceuticals, scheduled to start in five weeks when the current girl left on maternity leave. But in five weeks all these past due accounts, including the apartment rent, would very likely ruin her credit and dump her on the street. She had run the sums just last night. A mere $600 would tide her over with token amounts to her creditors until the new job began to pay. A mere — She chuckled. Was that where the $600 for “the works” derived?
Cleo’s expression sobered. $600 for the works! Do you suppose … She rose and went to her bookcase. Surely she hadn’t thrown away that book on — There it was, Loveless Telephone! Returning to her chair, she began to thumb through it avidly.
* * *
The formally dressed headwaiter directed Cleo to a table in the corner. The man sitting there alone watched as she crossed the floor, wearing the very same clothing that had impressed the manager at International Pharmaceuticals: skirt, high-heels and jacket over ruffled blouse. She advanced the briefcase slightly to be sure he noticed it. His face showed strong approval as she neared, but hers developed a frown. “Stand up!” she hissed. “You want everyone to think I’m a hooker?”
He grinned but leapt to his feet. “This is Cutesy, is it?”
His voice was the baritone she remembered. He wore a business suit over a medium build. His face was lean and untanned. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose.
“Cutesy enough,” she retorted. “And you’re Lenny?”
“That’s me. Please have a seat, Cutesy.”
He didn’t come around the table to seat her, but men didn’t do that anymore, at least not for a business associate, did they? Or a whore, except when they wanted to be ironic, according to Loveless Telephone.
“You look very good,” the man noted with some enthusiasm when they were seated. “Wish I could do business everyday with people who look that good.”
She grinned. “Or every night?”
“Especially then!” Clearly he would have said more, but a waiter appeared, asking for their drink orders. Though she was tempted, she ordered a coke while he ordered a bottle of wine.
With the waiter gone, he grinned at her. “Don’t you think we could both use a lubricant, Cutesy?”
“You’re not a bad looking guy yourself, Lenny. I don’t think we need it.” He was a nerd, one that her teenage cousin would award a sneer, but Cleo noted silently that she herself was well removed from teenage.
“Thank you.” He took a deep breath. “God, Cutesy, it’s incredible to think you’ll let me fuck you in a few minutes.”
“After we eat, Lenny. I’m hungry.”
“I could eat you!”
She grinned. “I trust you mean that figuratively.”
“Not so figuratively!”
She chuckled and shook her head. “Few men want that.”
“Huh?” He was momentarily puzzled. “You mean, of hookers. Cutesy, you look … fresh as daisy. Jim said there wasn’t a wart on you. I can’t believe you’ve been at this game very long. That’s a fact, isn’t it, Cutesy?”
“Jim again! When did he claim to have seen me?”
“A couple months back, I think. Had you just started out then?”
She studied him thoughtfully. “Lenny, are you married?”
“Huh?” He frowned. “What difference does that make?”
“About as much as how long I’ve been doing this.”
“Oh.” He sighed. “I guess you’re right. No personal histories, eh? Huh! What does that leave us to talk about?”
Loveless Telephone had mentioned this problem. Cleo smiled confidently and suggested, “How about the space program?” According to the book all young men were interested in the space program. She had even picked up a few names to drop.
“The space program!” His eyebrows shot up. “Don’t get me started about those dummies at NASA who won’t go back to the moon!”
She smiled tolerantly. “Know any astronauts, Lenny?”
He blinked. “Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve had some Email exchanges with Cliff Seagret.”
“Oh, really, Cliff Seagret? Wasn’t he captain on a shuttle mission?”
For the rest of the meal they did not lack a subject of conversation.
Both eschewed dessert. As they were folding their napkins, she asked quietly, “Do you have the money?”
“Oh, yes!” His hand slipped into his coat and began to withdraw a white envelope.
“Hold it!” she hissed. “Wait till we leave the restaurant. I saw a mail drop just beyond the entrance. I’ll take it there.”
* * *
When he opened the door, she marched past him to the back of his room, observing with satisfaction that his luggage was monogrammed L. E. W. — he probably had given her his true nickname — and kicked off her high heels. She had noted the book heroine’s practice of keeping her shoes on, even in bed, because cops loved to haul you off wrapped only in a bedsheet to a station house full of booted men who were hell on a girl’s feet, but old habits were triumphant. Gary had wanted her naked. It was only logical that any man would. She had thought it over and intended to keep her word. She would give Lenny good service for his envelope full of fifties.
In a jiffy her business suit and ruffled blouse were draped neatly over a chair back. When the slip had passed over her head, she saw the man regarding her with approving surprise.
“Wow!” he exclaimed. “Does the Space Program turn you on?”
“$600 turns me on,” she responded dryly. “What turns you on?”
Belatedly he began to throw his own clothing over the table. She finished first and stood naked between him and the bed. Stepping out of his shorts, he said fervently, “You turn me on! You are stacked, Cutesy!”
He had a medium build with ill-defined muscles that would look better with exercise. Indeed he was a nerd — but not a shy one! In one step his body touched hers and his arms slipped around her. His face bent forward with puckered lips. Obviously he expected a kiss, even though according to her book, men seldom offered their mouths to whores. In the book’s opinion this was a good thing because a man’s mouth, basically just another avenue of infection, was unimportant to satisfactory service. She shrugged mentally. If he wanted a kiss, he would get one.
To her surprise, it was a powerful kiss. She had spoken with him for nearly an hour, taken dinner with him and found him mannerly, educated and fairly witty. Enthusiastic at her appearance, he had also responded well to her sallies. The lengthy, deep kiss warmed her down to bare toes and induced a familiar tingle. But she would have laughed at herself if her mouth were not otherwise employed. This might be a desirable man, but he was first of all a john to whom she owed service, not affection. She was surprised to discover how much prostitution limited a girl’s options!
Head first, according to the book. She broke from him, backed away slightly, dropped to her knees on the carpet and took him in hand. Clearly he did not need further arousal, but she meant to go by the book. Gary had liked this, too. Lenny’s organ filled her mouth even better than Gary’s, though it was somewhat shorter. With a little care she could abide it in the back of her throat. When she had allowed Gary such depth, he had insisted on thrusting farther, choking and gagging her, which though typical, was only one symptom of his lamentably inconsiderate personality. Lenny trembled but stood still, allowing her to gauge the penetration. Pleased at this, she took his testicles gently in hand, while the other arm encircled his clenched buttocks, and worked his shaft vigorously, suckling and rasping the glans with a circling tongue whenever it withdraw far enough.
“I’m about to come,” he warned, thrusting at last. Her hand clasped him, limiting his depth. She tasted the first cool spurt. As Gary had taught her, she ballooned her cheeks while clamping her lips around the shaft behind the head and closing her throat with the back of the tongue. Shortly she had a mouthful of liquid as well.
When the flow ceased, she sucked once more, causing him to gasp, then released him and spat a white gob onto the carpet. He shuddered, taking her by the shoulders.
“Knees weak?” she asked demurely. She rose to her feet, backed away the short distance to the bed, threw back the covers and fell into it. “No need to stand up, Lenny,” she noted, leaving him room beside her.
Staring at her, he took a deep breath. Instead of sagging beside her as she expected, he came over the foot of the bed and dived between her legs.
“Lenny …” she began in a warning tone. The book had been explicit: only very old men did this to whores. But his tongue was already circling her clitoris. The earlier thrill, never fully faded, sprang up afresh.
Oh, god, he really knew how to do this! The terrible pleasure swelled and engulfed her until it became unbearable. Moaning through clenched teeth, she rose up and forced his head away. Now she needed another kind of attention. She fell back, staring into his eyes, and opened her legs until her hips creaked.
He obviously understood. He crawled upon her and his thicker organ spread her flesh delightfully. She grunted in renewed orgasm at the first smash of his pubic pad against her inflamed clitoris. He began a slow thrust that apparently he could maintain forever, transporting her beyond herself, inverting her awareness. The book had never mentioned this! She had approached such a state with Gary on a few occasions. Was Gary so deficient compared to Mr. Average Lenny or was Lenny in fact the superman to Mr. Average Gary? Before she could contemplate an answer she realized that he was finally coming again. She spiraled into mindless ecstasy.
When full awareness returned, she found herself retaining his member and supporting his hips, though he held his torso off her with extended arms. He was kissing her cheeks, her nose, her chin, her lips. Both man and woman were panting lightly.
He spoke first. “God, Cutesy!”
With her arms across his back she pulled herself up against his chest. “You’re the god, Lenny.”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “You couldn’t have faked that.”
“I didn’t fake it,” she admitted.
“But … but …”
She took a deep breath. “But call girls aren’t supposed to have that much fun?”
Suddenly he frowned. “That’s right: they aren’t.” He took a deep breath and backed away from her to stand at the foot of the bed, studying her with a scowl. He shook his head and said in the tone of surprise, “I don’t want you to leave.”
“What time is it, nine-thirty? We’ve got hours.”
“You don’t have … another appointment?”
“Tonight I’m all yours, Lenny.”
He smiled. “That’s right, you are. I’m going to order us some drinks. What’ll you have?”
“Nothing very strong. How about a Coors Light?”
* * *
She awoke at 4:12 by the red-glowing numerals of the headboard clock and slipped out of the bed. Enough outside light entered the room around the edges of the drapes to find her clothing. During a pause in the sex she had exchanged her business suit and high heels for jeans and sneakers in the briefcase. She dressed quickly.
His snoring had ceased. “Cutesy,” he asked, “will you come back tomorrow night?”
She caught her breath in pleasure at his words but paused, uncertain how to answer him, understanding only too well that she was in no position to bargain. Traces of the warmth and tingling he had imparted hours ago still lingered in parts of her body. This man had possessed her literally. Her soul knew that she was his property. Only the irony of her claimed professional status prevented her from announcing it. Realization of that had plucked her from his bed.
“I’ll give you $600 again,” he said more firmly.
She almost chuckled, knowing she would have paid him! And that brought her up short. The book had mentioned the danger of emotional attachment. The man would become her pimp and beat her whenever she brought him too little money. The cure was to concentrate on every man as a dollar sign, an object needing service like a dish to be washed, not the lover who could make your life sing. She clenched her fists. This needed to be put on a more business-like basis.
“All right, Lenny, if that’s what you want.”
“Huh! I can’t believe you don’t want it!”
She sighed. “You’re no cop.”
“I told you that.”
“So I’ll knock on your door at nine.”
“Couldn’t I take you to dinner again?”
“All right, that would be nice. But you don’t need the stamped envelope.”
The light was barely enough to see his teeth glimmer in a smile. “Good. Will you give me a kiss to remember you?”
“No, Lenny. If I kiss you right now I’ll never get out of here.”
* * *
She awoke a little after two, made herself a sandwich and moped while she ate it, wondering how she could possibly live the rest of her life without Lenny, assuming he would shortly leave town and return to the likely wife and family. L. E. W. in Room 714! She wondered what she could tell the Hilltower desk clerk that might elicit the full name behind those initials.
After eating, she checked her apartment mailbox, although it was too soon for Lenny’s money. Among the bills was a letter from her brother in Cleveland. She wondered what prompted him to write and tore the envelope open with a sinking feeling. But she was pleasantly surprised. At first.
Cleo, Cute Sis,
Was thinking of you. Hope you’re well and by now have seen what a louse that boyfriend is. What’s his name, Robert? Or was that a boyfriend or two back? Just kidding. You’ve stayed out of my love life, so I’ll try and stay out of yours.
What I really wrote about was to pass along some good news before you hear it screwed-up from Aunt Tilly. I won the Hotshot Special last week. Hope you’re sitting down. It was worth $14,000 after all the damn governments took their cuts.
Aunt Tilly says you’re starting a new job next month. I’m giving you a measly thou to tide you over — and to pay back some of what you’ve let me have from time to time, for which I’m still grateful. I’d give you more but I need the rest to take my babe on a cruise.
My successful buddy, Lew Waltham, is coming to your town for a few days. He’s agreed to deliver your cut: 20 fifty-dollar bills. I gave him your phone number and told him you’re my cute sis, which you are. But watch out for him. He’s a great kidder. If I know him, he’ll make you sing for your supper.
Hope it does you some good.
All my love, Jim
Cutesy. Cute sis?
She sat at her dinette table, wide eyed, mouth hanging open. She read the letter again. L. E. W. in Room 714 was Lew Waltham. Did he sometimes go by Lenny, first name Leonard, or was that only for her benefit? And Jim was only too clearly Jim Ferris, her own brother, who no doubt did indeed remember her well, if not quite in the manner Lenny had implied.
At first she felt a terrible wound, as if “Lenny” had shot her through the heart. What an absolute fool she was, pretending to be a whore, then becoming one! She had even believed herself falling in love with him.
The most horrible aspect of it was that she had done it to herself. In her mind she reviewed the original telephone call. He had given her a false name, probably in response to her stupid “Cutesy” play-along, probably delighted to discover that Jim’s sister was now peddling her pussy unbeknownst to Jim. She groaned, gritting her teeth in anger and rising embarrassment.
Not that “Lenny” was so innocent, she decided. He had used Jim’s gift to pay for a whore’s services. She shuddered in loathing of him and of herself. How pleased he must be with himself, how amused by the chance to indulge his lust at another’s expense! Her brow wrinkled in concentration as she considered the adventure from his point of view. Jim had probably extolled his sister’s integrity and goodness, because he believed both true of her, ignorant of the harlotry that Lenny had now discovered. Showing Lenny this letter would only amuse him the more. He would guess how much she’d hate for her brother to hear of her new profession. She could imagine the scene. Lenny would laugh gleefully and suggest that the $200 extra, paid from his own pocket, was about what two nights with her were actually worth.
Bitter tears of ignominy streaked her cheeks. She sat sobbing for a long time at the table before finally getting up, finding a tissue and drying her eyes. All things considered, what was best for her to do? Lenny might be a cheat, but he wasn’t alone in playing a game. Cutesy, the professional call-girl, using all the tricks to avoid prosecution, talking the talk and even walking the walk, a professional for exactly one night, so professional that she fell for the first john to put it in her! Even now her body tingled at the memory of his hands, lips, tongue and fat penis. She shivered and recognized the cause only too well. It was a simple longing for his touch.
Would she let him get away with it? She sighed. Forget the cheating; what she hated was letting him get away at all!
She could hardly prevent that. But with the letter’s warning in mind, she thought of a way at least to let Lenny discover that she knew his game, even if he only thought he knew hers.
* * *
Loveless Telephone had suggested baseball as an alternate to the Space Program, but Lenny proved uninterested in sports. She was pleased to hear, however, that by no means did he consider the Space Program exhausted as a subject. He talked for 30 minutes around his prime ribs about the moon missions. He had bought copies of all NASA’s raw video footage, made by cameras on the moon itself, and apparently knew each lander mission blow-by-blow. He waxed eloquent about the distinctive moon shuffle, the difficulties in trying to drill into the regolith when the driller weighed less than 40 pounds, the simple problem of dusting one’s helmet bowl when no method existed to bleed off static. He spoke so well that she found herself interested in a subject that would normally bore her to tears, enough to respond encouragingly — though the tingle in her belly likely accounted for much of its appeal.
The restaurant tables possessed long damask coverings that draped almost to the floor. She slipped off her high heel and raised the stockinged foot to his crotch, causing his eyebrows to twitch at first. He slouched forward in the chair as her foot stroked him gently through the layers of cloth.
After signing the chit, while they lingered over coffee, he shook his head. “Cutesy,” he said with feeling, “I believe you’re the most interesting woman I ever knew — in all respects! You know what I hate the most?”
“Thank you,” she answered, hating the tabletop that separated them. “What do you hate about me?”
“About you?” He sighed. “I’ve got a flight out of here tomorrow at seven A.M. What I hate about you is that you can’t be on it, too.”
She took an unhappy breath. “Do you have to leave so soon?”
“I’m afraid so. I couldn’t find an excuse to stay in town.” He laughed wryly, looking away. “Besides, I’m running out of money.”
The words, “Forget the money,” were on her lips when the waiter leaned down to take the leather-bound receipt book. When he had turned his back, Lenny muttered, “At least we’ve got tonight.” He stood up, rounded the table and took the back of her chair. “Shall we go, my dear?”
As he pulled out the chair, she rose to her feet. She turned gracefully against him, raised her lips and kissed his chin lightly. His eyes glowed.
“Thank you, Lenny,” she whispered. “You’re a dream yourself.”
His whole face lit.
* * *
In his room she turned to face him as he kicked the door closed. He pulled a white envelope from his coat pocket. “Better take this before I forget it,” he suggested, extending it to her. She took it and threw it on the table beside her briefcase.
He was already slipping the loop on his necktie. “Take your clothes off fast, Cutesy. I want to kiss you all over.”
In short order they grappled on the bed. His hands and mouth explored her thoroughly for long minutes. Finally they reversed into a 69. His fierce tongue pierced her, riving her body with orgasms. She was almost unaware of the mouthful he gave her in response until he withdrew himself, shuddering and panting.
He ordered drinks and lay beside her on his elbow, fondling and stroking her body as one might a fine porcelain statue.
Every touch thrilled her. “I love your hands on me, Lenny,” she admitted.
“I love everything about you,” he declared, “how you feel, how you smell, how you taste, how you look, the tone of your voice. You are a rhapsody for the senses, Cutesy.” He chuckled lightly. “I wish you’d pick another name. ‘Cutesy’ is so … well, childish.”
She wanted to say, “You know my name,” but held it back for fear of changing his mood, of ending this feeling of blissful contentment.
“I’ll name you,” he continued whimsically. “You are Venus, the planet of love.”
She laughed fondly, wanting to say, “Only for you, my darling.” It was so hard to remember her new status.
Several times that night they slept briefly, but someone’s hands would soon wake the other to merge their bodies tenderly. Neither was concerned with orgasms, though they managed a few. Somehow she never admitted it, but she, too, wanted this night to last forever.
When the digital clock indicated four A.M., she rose sadly and dressed in jeans and sneakers. Her heart was heavy, but she remembered to pop his envelope into her briefcase after verifying by the light leaking around the window drapes that it did contain $50 bills. Hand on the doorknob, she turned to look at him one last time. He was awake, eyes glittering at her.
“Don’t go, my Venus.”
The pathos of his tone made her knees weak but she shook her head. “You know I have to, Lenny.”
“At least give me one last kiss.”
Again she shook her head. “No, Lenny. Tonight is even worse than last night.”
Then she remembered her idea of the afternoon. She added. “You might like to know I heard from Jim.”
“Did you!” His eyes widened.
She stood in the open door, looking back at him. “He said you’d want me to sing for my supper.”
“Huh! He said that, did he?”
“Yes. Tell him you liked the tune, will you?”
She saw him take a breath. “Cutesy …”
Without waiting for more, she wheeled from his room and closed the door softly behind her. She stumbled down the carpeted hall to the elevator, eyes filmed with tears. When the doors opened into the lobby, however, she had repaired her makeup enough to face the late night world pale of face but projecting a measure of dignity.
Crossing the wide space, she was startled as a heavy man in a business suit intercepted her. He stood in her path and raised his hand. “Could I speak to you for a moment, miss?”
“I’m in a hurry,” she warned, fists clenching. He wasn’t dressed like a mugger. She glanced around. No other person was visible, not even a desk clerk. She took a shuddering breath.
She saw a twinkle in the cold eyes. “You have nothing to worry about. I merely wanted to congratulate you. You’re as smooth an operator as I’ve seen lately.”
His face was almost familiar. She asked, “Do I know you?”
“So to speak.” He grinned. “I double as the maitre-d’ in the restaurant and chief house dick everywhere else.”
As headwaiter he had worn formal clothes. She demanded, “What do you want?”
“To give you this.” He extended a business card between two fingers. “That bit with the envelope last night was smooth, straight out of the movies! And you dress up mighty fine. But I haven’t seen you before, which makes me suspect your volume is not what it could be.”
She took the card. “My volume?”
“Of business.” He leered. “With your style and looks I’m sure you’re pulling down a lot more than the usual two big ones — or if not you ought to be. 30 per-cent of that wouldn’t be much of a nick, and I could triple your volume, guaranteed. Then there’s quick backup if you draw a rowdy drunk, credit card service and a doctor right here in the hotel. Think about it, Cutesy,” — he winked — “and give me a call at that second number.”
He turned away, walking self-confidently toward the recessed desk. She proceeded onward immediately without looking back. Good! A taxi was waiting.
She was inside the vehicle with the doors closed before she announced her apartment address. She leaned back in the cushions, finally relaxing. She smiled. Soon she was chuckling.
“Had a good time?” asked the driver, watching her in the mirror.
She pointedly ignored him, looking out the window and wiping her smile.
“Stuck-up broad!” he muttered distinctly.
She ignored that, too, but her laughter continued inside. Lenny might think himself a clever cheat, but by god she had made him pay three times the going rate, even if a thousand of it was already her money! She wondered if he would find out and think she cheated him.
But her inside smile soon faded. She missed him terribly. That he had her telephone number was her only consolation. If he was not so consummate a liar as a cheat, he would soon return to town.
* * *
The telephone was ringing. Owlishly she opened one eye and glared at her timepiece. One o’clock. Light filtered through the closed blinds. Must be afternoon. Another damned bill collector? She turned over to go back to sleep but the pesky phone wouldn’t quit.
Giving up, she clambered across the bed and took down the receiver. “What is it?”
She heard silence. “Damn telemarketing!” she proclaimed, but as she snatched the device away from her ear, it squawked.
On an impulse she brought it back. “What?”
A man’s voice declared, “I gather this is a bad time. I’ll call you back.”
“Oh, let’s get it over with. What are you selling?” At this angle she couldn’t see the caller-ID.
“Is this Miss Cleo Ferris?”
“You know it is.”
“Did I wake you up, Miss Ferris? I’m very sorry for that, though maybe you’ll be glad of it when you hear what I’ve got.”
She took an exasperated breath. “I already asked you: what are you selling?”
He chuckled a little. “That’s just it, Miss Ferris. I’m not selling anything. I want to give you something.”
“Huh! I’ve heard that before, too. What is it, a square foot of land in Arizona?”
His voice sobered. “I guess you didn’t get the letter. I’m Jim’s friend, Lewis Waltham. Jim was supposed to have written you that I was coming. I’ve got something for you I guarantee you’ll like.”
“You … you what?” Her voice was suddenly weak.
“20 fifty-dollar bills. I’m holding them in my hand… Cleo? … Miss Ferris, are you there?”
Copyright © July, 2001, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stories Gratis at http://www.dhp.com/~kellis