The Red BMG

a Short Story by Kellis

April, 2000



“Daddy, can they arrest you for prostitution?”

Ferris Clay looked up from his newspaper at the young woman standing in the doorway.  She was dressed for the street in high-heels and a pants suit with ruffled blouse, her dark hair hanging in the wrinkled and seemingly wet strings that for some unknown reason were currently popular.

“You’re certainly quiet this morning.  When did you come in?”

“Oh, I’ve been here a while.  Can they arrest you?”

“Arrest who?  Me?”

She smiled faintly.  “Well, you and the girl — I mean, the woman?”

“Yes, I suppose they can.  So far as I know it’s still illegal in this state, but the street-corner crowd peddles drugs these days, not sex.”  He offered her a section of his newspaper.  “You can find out by checking the police report.”

She came into the room, took his offering and sank into a facing chair.  He watched her thumb into the paper and begin to scan.  She was a very pretty girl, he thought again for perhaps the thousandth time:  what her mother must have been at 21.  Her body was fully matured and seductively curved, even under the mannishly cut clothing:  an impressive body that he had seen twice in recent years, both times accidentally in the upstairs hall as she returned nude to her room from the common shower, both times when he had come into the house while her shower had been in progress.

She looked up.  “Possession, mainly, plus assault, shoplifting, bad checks, even urinating on the sidewalk.  No mention of prostitution.”

“Times are good, Patsy.  The working girls can afford to be discreet, even the ones who only need a fix.  Why this sudden interest?  I hope you’re not looking into it professionally!”

She didn’t smile.  “You use the discreet kind, don’t you?”

He stared at her.  “Do I ask you about your sex life?”

Slowly she shook her head.  “Only when you had the doc prescribe birth control pills.”

“And I only asked you then if you wanted them.  You know how I feel about privacy.”

“Jeremy says you’re a cold fish.”

“Jeremy!”  He chuckled.  “That poor bastard —”

“But I know you’re not,” she interrupted.  “I remember your face when you … looked at me.”

“You do?  Hmph!  You are talking about …”

“Those two times you caught me in the hall.”

“Why wait till now to mention it?”

She drew in a deep breath.  “Because I’m about to take a chance.  Because I can’t guess how you’ll react.”

“What kind of chance?”

She licked her lips nervously.  “Tell me again what killed mother.”

“Huh?  You know what it was:  equine encephalitis.  The mosquitoes bit her and the disease killed her before the doctors figured it out.”

“You sure it wasn’t drugs or some sexual disease?”

“It was encephalitis, confirmed by autopsy.  What’s this all about, Patsy?”

“It wasn’t any lingering illness?”

“Lingering?  I think it took about a month.  You were there!  It was only five years ago, for Christ sake!”

“Yeah.  But some of these pictures were dated seven years ago!”


She took an envelope from her purse and passed it across to him.  He lifted its flap and impatiently extracted a thick stack of 3X5 color prints.  His face paled slightly as he turned up the first one.  Quickly he spread them apart, not so much to view their depictions — he had studied every one many times before — as to verify how thoroughly she had discovered him.  He flipped them over and examined the backsides.  The familiar watermarks were missing.  These were copies, then.

He looked up darkly.  “Where did you get them?”

Her eyes were wary.  “The originals came from your safe.”

“Where are they now?”

“The originals?  Back in your safe.”

“How many copies have you made?”

“Oh, two or three.  You can keep those.”

He threw them down with a contemptuous clatter.  I don’t need them!”

Her eyebrows rose.  “Do you want the maid to find them?”

He laughed harshly.  “By damn, that’s a fine concern!  Just how long have you been rifling my safe anyway?”

“‘Rifling?’  I never took anything from it except a few photographs to copy.  Everything is in it that you put there.  As to how long, I found the combination in your desk a month after you married Mother.”

He regarded her in wonder.  “You’ve been going through my things for ten years?”

A smile flicked briefly across her lips.  “Don’t all children?  I take pride that you never once noticed.”

“Damn it, Patsy, I respected your privacy!”

She shrugged.  “That was your rule, not mine.”  Her head tilted toward the pictures scattered on the carpet.  “You were seeing that woman two years before Mother died.  And you have other pictures in your safe that are dated even earlier.  You may have respected my privacy but you didn’t respect your vows, did you?”

She recognized most of the expressions that chased each other across his face:  shock, chagrin, calculation, impatience and very briefly a flash of discovery — before he imposed blankness.

He said softly, “Your mother was carefully insulated from that.  She never saw those pictures.”

“How do you know?”

“Huh!  Because she would have exploded.  Why didn’t you show them to her?”

The girl nodded.  “Because she would have exploded.”

“And you didn’t want that?”

“No.”  Her chin came up.  “Even at eleven I knew the difference between life with you and with that … bum she was supporting before she went down on you at the picnic.”

“Before …”  His eyes widened.  “You knew about that?”

“I was in the hayloft of the barn.  Is that why you married her, because she would do that for you?”  Again she indicated the pictures.  “That woman is doing it in half of those pictures.  You like that a lot, don’t you?  Why didn’t you marry that one?”

“Willingness was only one of your mother’s good qualities.  I believe she genuinely liked me.”

“Oh, she did!”  The girl laughed harshly.  “She said you were the only faithful man she ever knew.”

He took a breath.  “I think I am — in my own way.”

“A funny way!  That’s why I asked you what killed her.  You were seeing a lot of other women, prostitutes mostly, weren’t they?  Some of your pictures have other men in them.  I just wondered if you brought home the disease.”

“I’m careful about that, Patsy.  The autopsy made certain.  You only get equine encephalitis from mosquito bites.”

A third time her head indicated the spread of fallen photographs.  “What did you get from her?”

He smiled humorlessly.  “You have to ask?”

“Do you still see her?”

“What if I do?”

“You do know who she is, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course, I know who she is.”

“You know that she’s running for city council?”

He tapped the newspaper in his lap.  “I can read.  In fact …”  He turned the page up to face her.  “Here she is, large as life.”

The picture showed a full-faced woman, fortyish from the crows-feet, looking off to the side under a coyly cocked eyebrow.  Patsy nodded.  “Very realistic.  She looks like a crook.”

“That’s why they published it, of course.  This paper favors her opponent.”

“But not realistic enough,” the girl added.

“What do you want, a cigar in her mouth?”

“A dick.”

He chuckled, reached down, took up such a picture from the floor and laid it on the arm of her chair.  “Perhaps you should send them this one.”

“You don’t care if she wins, do you?”

He grinned slightly.  “She’ll be less busy if she loses.”

The girl took a deep, shaky breath.  Her eyes locked with his.  “Suppose I send the whole lot to all the newspapers?”

He stared at her.  A hard glint appeared in his eyes.  He asked with deceptive softness, “What is your problem, Patsy?”

“My problem?”

“Do you want to stamp out prostitutes?  Do you hate that I, like a lot of other men, can’t resist female charm?  Or do you only want to make me a laughingstock in my club?”

“Is that all it would do to you?  They wouldn’t arrest you?”

“Hmm.  I hadn’t thought of that.  I do have some enemies in the court house.  Do you want me arrested, Patsy?”

“No, of course not.  I could just send the ones that don’t have your face in them.”

“That tattoo on my dick is unique, too.”


“Did you think it was lipstick?  Patsy, what are you really after?  I had no idea you were interested in politics.”

“Well, actually, I’m not, though I don’t think a whore ought to be on the city council.”

A whore!  Good god, Patsy, they’re all whores!  But that’s not so bad as you think.  Even a whore has to keep her word if she wants to stay in business.”

The girl’s lips curled.  “Still, a known whore!”

He shook his head.  “Once more, Patsy, what are you really after?”

“The same thing I was after last week.”

“Huh?  As if I’m supposed to know it?”

“You do know it.  A red BMG.”

His mouth fell open.  “You don’t need that BMG!  We discussed this in gruesome detail just last week.”

“I know we did.  To paraphrase you, I don’t ask what you need!”

He stared at her, eyes narrowing.  “Let me get this straight.  You’re threatening to send those pictures of me and Mathilda to the newspapers, stolen pictures to which you have absolutely no right, unless I buy you a red BMG?”

“Not just any red BMG.  I want the new Zephyr that’s on display at Helmlick’s.”

“Yeah, you told me.  Sixty thousand dollars’ worth.”

“You called them about it?”

“Of course.”

“Well, that’s wonderful.”  She smiled beatifically.  “If I’d known that …  I’ll give you back all the copies.  I’ll go to Jeremy’s apartment right now and —”

“You’ve shown them to Jeremy?”

“Well, yes.  In fact all this was his idea to —”

“Damn it, Patsy!”  The man’s mouth hardened.  “Then forget it.”

“Huh?  What do you mean?”

“That asshole Jeremy has undoubtedly shown them to half the city by now.”  He got to his feet.  “It’s time for damage control.”

Her hands went to the chair arms as if preparing to flee.  “What are you going to do?”

“Make a phone call.”

He turned his back, picked up a phone and punched in a number.  She waited and heard him say, “Mathilda?”  Thereafter he lowered his voice.  She made herself busy by going to her knees and reassembling the packet of damning photographs.  The man turned around to regard her.  “How they got out,” he said clearly, “is my problem, which I am about to take care of.  You can just be certain they are out, all over town.”  He smiled at something he heard.  “Of course.  You know my old Hasselblad takes very sharp pictures.  No one will doubt who you are or what you’re doing.  If they publish them, every man in town will carry a boner for you.”  He chuckled.  “Is that what you’re counting on?”

He turned away again, exchanged a few unintelligible words, then gently put down the phone.  When he turned back, he was almost smiling.  “Mathilda says to make sure you hit all the newspapers.”

“She what?”

“Hell, I agree with her.  Damned hypocritical laws!  I welcome this chance to publicize them.  Maybe our legislature can even grow up a little and repeal them.”

“You …  You don’t really mean, send them to the papers?”

“Why not?”  He shrugged.  “Sure.  Send ’em.”

She stood staring at him.  “You’re not even mad?”

“Huh!  As to that, young lady …”  His look became a glare.  “Are you aware that what you just tried to do is called blackmail and extortion?  Talk about being arrested!  You could go to jail for 20 years.”

Her face paled and her voice quavered.  “Do you p-plan to have m-me arrested?”

He sniffed.  “Smart of you to collect the evidence!”  Resuming his seat, he took chin in hand and studied her thoughtfully.  “I have several remedies available to me.  That’s only one.  I could revoke your college fund.  Might as well; it’s clear you don’t have time for that.  I could throw you out of here and let you find out what life with Jeremy is like when you don’t have an allowance of half a grand a week.  One thing is very clear:  I can cancel an outstanding order for a certain red BMG Zephyr.”

Her eyes flashed.  “You are mad!”

“As in insane?  I would be if I continued as we have been after this stunt!”

Her eyes dropped.  “I meant angry,” she explained softly.  “I … I’m sorry, Daddy.”

“That’s another thing,” he began but stopped.  He found himself reluctant to say it.

But she understood.  She looked up.  “That you aren’t really my daddy?”

“You’re 21, Patsy, your own woman.  I wouldn’t owe you anything even if I were your father.”

“Are you … going to throw me out, then?”  Her eyes on his were stricken.

He took a breath.  “Patsy, you say this extortion scheme was Jeremy’s idea?”

“Yes.  When he saw the pictures, he said they were valuable.  He said we could get what we wanted from you and Mathilda York.”

“What did you intend to demand from Mathilda?”

She shrugged.  “Money, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Jeremy is supposed to do that.”

Ferris grinned darkly.  “Mixed emotions!  Ordinarily I’d hope he goes through with it.  Mathilda would grease him right into jail.  But he’s sure to implicate you.  You’d better call him off.”

She shook her head.  “He dropped his phone out the car window, but not to worry.  He’s too chicken for this.”

“Patsy, what in the world is your attraction to him?”

She shrugged.  “He does what I want.”

“A chicken?”

She grinned wryly.  “What I want seldom needs courage.”

His eyes narrowed.  “Yet you claim this extortion scheme was his idea?”

She sighed and looked away.  “I really do want that red BMG.”

“In other words, you don’t see the slightest wrong in blackmailing your daddy and his mistress, in threatening to expose their private lives, so long as it gives you what you want?”

She snorted.  “Right.  So long as it works!”

“Are you so amoral as that?”

Her lip curled as she turned her head away.  Suddenly she snapped back, “Oh, do you hold yourself up as such a great moral example, then?”

“Very well, Patsy.”  His face had again gone blank.  “We’ll leave morality out of this.  Let’s treat it as a straight business proposition.  You want that red BMG.  I want something, too.  Perhaps we can do a swap.”

Her face contorted.  “Don’t look like that!”

“Like what?”

“It’s the way you looked when you shot at the burglar.  I never meant to hurt you, Daddy.”

“And I don’t mean to hurt you.  How badly do you want that red BMG?”

“I want it.  Bad.”

“Well, are you interested in my deal?”

She shook herself with a sigh.  “What can you possibly want from me?  The only thing you ever asked was, do I want to go to college?  And I’ll tell you, no!  No, I don’t.  What I want is that red BMG.”

He looked at her, shook his head and leaned back in his chair.

“Well?” she said.  “What do you want from me?”

Again he shook his head.  “Some people would say you’re a very foolish girl, Patsy.  You can be anything you choose.  You could train yourself to be independent of me or anyone else.  If I were you, that’s what I would value, what I would want.  But I’m not.  I’ve learned that many people, perhaps a majority, don’t really want independence.  You’re one of them.  What you want is a red BMG, and that’s actually a pretty good symbol of what life means to you, isn’t it?  The good life is a series of fascinating baubles.  Well, okay.  That can even be made to work under the right conditions.

“What do I want from you?  You are what I want from you.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Sex?”

“Oh, yes.  Lots of that.”

“But you’re my daddy!”

“No, I’m not.  I was honored when you chose to call me that, but in fact no issue of incest can exist between us.  Or do you claim to feel squeamish about the idea of doing it with me?”

She snorted.  “How can you possibly want sex with me?  You have a parade of very skilled women to service you.  I’ve actually followed you a few times and seen you meet them.  47 different ones are pictured in your safe.  And that video tape where you tell, ah, Hortense what she feels like inside — that’s incredible!  I don’t understand … Ferris.  What can I do for you?”

“Several things.  Your mother was 37 when she came to work for me.  I always wanted to know what she was like as a young woman.  I believe physically you are her exact image.”

She studied him.  “Is that the deal?  I pretend I’m my mother for you and you deliver my red BMG?”

“If you wish.  But you’ll want other baubles.”

“And my home here, and my allowance?”

He spread his hands.  “You lose nothing, except a measure of trust.  I’ll have to change a few locks and combinations.  And you must agree that I also lose nothing.  All my ‘very skilled women,’ as you say, will continue to parade.”

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.  “Suppose I agree, if you don’t change the locks and combinations?”

“If you don’t try extortion and blackmail again.”

“Oh, I’ve learned my lesson!”

“Have you?”  He got to his feet.  Deliberately he unhooked his belt, unzipped his fly and lowered trousers and shorts.  He pulled his shirttails to either side, exposing unaroused genitals.

Her eyes flicked down and back up.  “What are you doing?”

“As you noted, one sex act in particular I like very much.  Your mother was one of the best at it.  She seemed to know exactly what I needed.  The question is, was that an inheritable skill or did she have time to teach it to you?”

The girl came to stand before him.  She almost smiled.  “I can think of a better question.”

“And that is?”

“Wouldn’t you rather teach me yourself?”  She sank to her knees.



Copyright © 2000, Kellis

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