Two's a Crowd Ch. 08byangiquesophie©
In the weeks after the surreal adventure in Rhode Island, I had a hard time focusing on my work. But as fate would have it (and won't it always?) there was a huge merger opportunity hitting us right then. The company concerned was not into software at all. They were large-scale brokers -- they invested for big clients. Enthwistle was amongst them, I saw.
Onslow had long since tired of getting his money via the indirect way of first producing stuff. He wanted to expand into this first-hand money. He wanted to set up a second leg of the company and this merger was a great way to start.
I didn't object to this strategy. Numbers had always been my game. I was supposed to be the octopus, stretching my tentacles in every conceivable direction to collect data and do my magic with them. I had to ponder their validity -- separating the wheat from the chaff.
At first I was too distracted. Since I had to travel a lot to meet the people behind the data, I was often alone. And alone meant brooding -- mulling over my frustrations in empty hotel beds or at lonely breakfast tables; or worse -- at bars, over slowly melting ice cubes in empty whiskey-glasses.
That is where I met Shireen.
The girl should be called a woman, I guess, but she looked too young for that. She and I seemed to be the last people at the bar when all the others had gone to have dinner.
She was blonde, in a modest, honey-colored way -- the hair was cut in a bob style. It left her neck and the lobes of her ears free, while covering her cheeks with sweeping tresses. She had a long and very kissable throat. Her dress made me think of old movies -- Audrey Hepburn, maybe.
She had the fragile frame and the huge eyes to go with it.
Her smile was hesitant, almost wounded. It must have been caused by my rather rude attention. I was so deep in thought that I didn't realize I was staring at her. It made her blush.
When I got out of my daze, I saw her embarrassment. I apologized with the rasping sound of an unused voice. Then I asked if she was waiting for someone.
She was, she said. But she feared she had been stood up by her dinner date. I started giving her the obvious compliment about the guy being stupid to miss out on a date with her. Then her cell phone rang. She fished it from her purse and mumbled into it -- her face turned away for privacy.
She had a lovely neck.
"That was him," she said, turning back to me with her insecure smile. "He can't make it -- business." She started collecting her purse and waving to the bartender.
I cleared my throat. Then I asked her if I could suggest substituting for her absent date -- just to add some delightful company to my otherwise barren dinner table. It was a gamble and a silly one, but she never said no.
She extended a narrow, white hand and told me her name was Shireen and, yes, the waiting had made her quite hungry. So I told her my name and minutes later we shared an intimate little booth in the back of the hotel restaurant.
"I never do this," she said, after we had ordered.
"Neither do I," I assured her and we laughed. Her laugh was wonderful. It was held in check by her guarded lips, but her big eyes lit a sparkle that suited the silvery sound of it.
She was married, she said. Only now did I see the modest ring she wore on her left hand. She thoughtfully turned it around on her finger. "My date was not with my husband."
I considered the range of implications. Then I told myself it was none of my business. I smiled. "I assume the date was meant to be as innocent as ours will be?"
She laughed again. The waiter poured our wine. We toasted. "To absent loved ones," I said.
She sipped. "Loved ones?" she asked, emphasizing the s.
"Long story," I said.
"Aren't they always?"
The waiter brought an amuse gueule -- it was that kind of restaurant. It was a simple spoon holding a mousse of truffled venison. She lifted hers from the table and brought it to my lips. The intimacy shook me, but I opened my mouth and let her feed me. Then I lifted mine and returned the compliment. She smiled. "Love birds," she said.
I studied her giggle. There was a forced quality to it. "What about your husband?" I asked. She pointedly looked away. When her eyes returned they were darker. "What about your wife, Bruce?"
"Ex-wife," I said.
"Ex...." she mused. "You feel married, though." And again she laughed her silver laugh. This time it was real. I joined her. "Look at us," I said. "Jetsam and flotsam."
I raised my glass in a toast.
Shireen was an efficient seducer. She never missed a shortcut during our meal to make the route to her end-goal the quickest possible. That goal was my bed. And her stepping-stones were flirtatious looks, little touches and rather shockingly direct remarks. On top of that there was her incredible laugh.
When we concluded the dinner with espressos and brandies, her body ended up being very close to mine. Her hand had long since disappeared under the exquisite damask tablecloth. The slow caressing of my thigh made my cock swell. She touched it and smiled.
I guess she knew how powerful the contrast was between her naïve, almost childlike appearance and the sluttiness of her conduct. I'm sure I didn't always hide my embarrassed arousal successfully. It amused her. Her laugh got throatier with every sip of wine she took.
Then her lips were on mine, followed by her tongue.
The ride on the elevator didn't interrupt our foreplay. Her tits were small and delicious. I had imagined them exactly like that, before taking them out of the top of her dress. Her mouth sunk over my cock before I even closed the door to my room. I lifted her face off of it to prevent my coming -- which would have been much too soon.
Carrying her glowing body to my bed was another step up to heaven. Her mouth sucked mine as one hand slowly stroked my poor defenseless cock. The other kneaded my ass, her fingers running the length of its crack.
After dropping her on the bed, I looked down on her. My hands were on both sides of her face. She stretched her body like a kitten, smiling wickedly. "You have a fine cock, Bruce," she moaned. "Can I have it?"
She could and she did. Not two minutes later my boiling sperm tore its way through my cock to splash against the entrance of her throat. She just swallowed, making tiny, satisfied sounds from deep inside. Her eyes had never left mine during the entire time she blew me. They were dark pools of quicksand sucking me in.
Shireen proved pretty much insatiable. We did it three times that night. She had numerous orgasms. If she faked any one of them, she must have been a great actress. I ate her between erections. She loved it and didn't exactly whisper her appreciation.
When we lay on the bed together -- exhausted and at the furry edge of sleep -- I turned to her, imitating her voice: "I never do this."
The next morning I heard the shower running. Minutes later she came into the room, wrapped in a towel. She looked as fresh as a croissant, but when I asked her to have breakfast with me, she simply apologized and started dressing.
Ten minutes later she was gone.
The pictures arrived three days later.
I was back at my office when I found them in my e-mail inbox. The sender had used a no-reply address. The message was very simple: "Bruce," it said. "You hurt the sweet thing badly."
There was no name of a sender.
I remember wondering how they made the shots. For some of them the camera must have almost been peeping over my shoulder. There were remarkably clear pictures of my cock entering Shireen's inviting ass. And there was one close up of a man with an embarrassingly smug grin on his red, sweaty face -- me.
I assumed Estelle had sent the message. I wondered why she thought this could in any way be used to blackmail me. I was a single man. I'd had several one-night flings since I got divorced -- even short affairs. I checked, but there wasn't a wedding ring in any of the pictures. The woman could very well have been an escort or a call girl. My mother might be mildly shocked, certainly, but that would hardly...
Then it struck me -- how slow I am. The pictures weren't taken to blackmail me. The one-line message explained their goal. The snapshots were meant for Myriam. It had been a "yah boo, sucks to you" action to hurt her -- and I imagine it would be very effective in that regard.
The message also told me it must have been true what Myriam had said -- she was, indeed, Estelle's prisoner. She loved me. She was innocent. And I let her down -- again.
The pictures would wound her. Maybe they would destroy the last straw she had held onto. I had offered myself up on a plate to the cunning and totally despicable Estelle. I had played the perfect clown. I should have seen the irony after how I set her up at the Houston Hilton. She repaid me in kind, but I could not smile.
My heart sank into depression.
When I told Erica, she didn't nag about me stupidly fucking the woman. She did "tsk, tsk", but then immediately went into a conspirator's mode. I guess she just loves challenges too much. She had to counter the bitch. I suspected she had started loving the cloak and dagger aspects of the whole affair -- maybe a bit too much.
"Is she still in the marble castle?" she asked, sipping her juice.
We were at a deli on Seventh Avenue. The lunch hour's rush was all around us. A bunch of outrageously-dressed, Japanese goth-girl tourists filled the frame of my view.
I told Erica that the Enthwistle thing had made me an avid reader of the gossip magazines. There had been pictures of Myr fainting at her engagement party. I was in them too -- or rather half of me. After that the magazines hadn't offered information for weeks -- until the day before yesterday, when People Magazine ran a short interview with Myriam about such breathtaking subjects as wedding preparations and honeymoon destinations.
There was hardly a quote in the article that reminded me of Myriam. The civilized wording and style rang like her, but the content was vintage Estelle. I could almost hear the giggles and taste the greed.
Towards the end of the interview there was a hint. Close reading suggested that she and the Turd still stayed at the mansion, at least for the time being. It was a convenient base for his campaign. There were hints about going to Washington later on. I didn't know how late "later on" might be, since we had no idea how long the interview had taken to appear in print.
Erica pointed at my briefcase. It contained my laptop. After opening it she went on line and found the site of a local Rhode Island newspaper. I was surprised by her speed and expertise. After only a few minutes her face relaxed. With a wide smile she turned the monitor my way. On the screen was a list of locations and data for Enthwistle Junior's campaign speeches and fundraisers. During the next two weeks they would all be in and around Providence.
"So she'll be at the house -- probably," I said. "Neatly tucked away and guarded."
Erica frowned and nodded. "And no doubt meeker than ever, after the well-documented show you treated her on."
I flinched. She laid her hand on mine. "Sorry, honey, that wasn't nice of me," she said. Then her eyebrows rose. "I can see a way to get to her," she said. "You are still working on this merger, right? It's why you were at that damn hotel in Baltimore anyway, weren't you? Where you met the whore?"
The word "whore" startled me. It still felt uneasy thinking of Shireen as a hooker. God, she had been sweet.
"Yes," I said. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Erica said, stretching out the ll's. "Couldn't there be..."
"Of course!" I interrupted her. "I could use my work as an excuse to contact the Turd - or preferably his father. Their business is amongst the clients of the company we are probing for the merger. I guess it was why Estelle knew I was at the hotel to begin with. It would give me a plausible reason to meet him and maybe get to Myr."
"No," Erica said.
"No." She squeezed her paper napkin and pitched it effortlessly into a bin about five yards away. "He knows you. He knows you're the ex. He saw you and disliked you. He won't even talk to you."
She was right, of course she was. Damn.
"I'll go," she said. "There is a chance he doesn't remember me."
Now I grinned. "Oh yes," I chuckled. "He is blind, isn't he?"
Erica looked puzzled.
"No man on this side of death will forget you and the dress you wore that day, Erica," I said. "Trust me."
Erica gave her shoulders an irritated shrug. I knew it well and always loved what it did to her tits.
"I can seduce him," she said calmly.
I looked at her -- stunned. "You are a lesbian, Erica."
She shrugged once more. "He doesn't know," she said.
"Honey," I sighed, touching her hand. "The old guy is a predator. He won't let you escape when he catches you. He'll fuck you. And if you resist, he'll rape you."
"He won't," she said. I saw a groove between her eyebrows that I had never seen before. Her soft lips disappeared into a thin line.
"Erica," I said. "Why do you want to do this? It is dangerous."
"Am I your friend, Bruce?" she answered. "You love her. She loves you. You should have her back."
I tried to talk her out of it. I tried it that afternoon, that evening and all the next day.
I used every argument I could find. I even told her it was crazy. And it would probably not even work. Maybe Myr wasn't even staying there. She might be out shopping. She might be with the Turd catching votes or raising money.
That was when I discovered a side of Erica I had never seen before. She can be as stubborn as a mule. A most attractive mule, but still a stubborn one. The more arguments I found, the deeper she dug in.
I asked her what Marlene thought.
"She doesn't know."
"I guess I'll have to tell her then, " I said.
"You won't," she answered, tight lipped. "And besides, she is in France and will be there for the next month."
I was at the end of my arguments. I just plainly told her to forget it. Her reaction was not what I expected. She got mad. "Dammit, Bruce! I thought you were a man. The girl fought for you to the point of ending up in the hospital. And what do you do? You fuck a whore. You let them get pictures of it that go straight to Myriam. And now you dump her. You forsake her. Go on like this and you'll kill her!"
She screamed the word "kill" at the top of her voice. I was glad the coffee-shop was almost empty. I had never seen her like this -- my always wise and understanding friend yelled at me. More than that -- she screamed the most hurtful truths at me.
I just stared at her as she sat across me, trembling. When I reached for her she pushed me away. Her eyes smoldered behind a haze of possible tears.
"So you love her, huh?" she hoarsely whispered. "Such big words. If you love her, why are you here? Why aren't you at her place, breaking down her door and taking her with you? Huh?"
I raised my helpless hands. "You know why," I said. "They'll shoot me."
She just glared at me.
"They'll kill me, Erica. You know that. And what good would I be dead? They won't let me near her. It's no use for me to go there."
"I rest my case," she said. I sighed.
In hindsight the plan of course was stupid and dangerous. If it backfired I would certainly lose my job. But I didn't care. Or, to be more precise, I didn't even consider the possibility of failure.
Was it love that made me blind? I'd like to think so. I especially liked to think I did it for Myriam. But I am quite sure now that it was jealousy. It was Enthwistle. The way he had looked at her that damn day. The way he'd had his dirty fingerprints all over her.
In the end it was just about me. My sense of loss. The blatant injustice of it all. And the way the high and mighty scum thought they could waltz right over my feelings. I bet Freud could tell you what it was. I only know I went through with the plan. My eyes were wide-open shut.
Setting up the plan up worked like a song.
Erica absorbed all she needed to know with amazing ease. She mastered the jargon and seemed very much at home with the numbers and technicalities. We had never talked much about our jobs, but I knew she had graduated from Harvard. I once assumed she probably was a lawyer and she had said "kind of."
She phoned Enthwistle's holding company, saying she was part of an independent taskforce that researched the possible merger of Enthwistle's main investor with a large New York corporation. It might help her mission a lot if she could have a word with their most important clients. Especially the Enthwistles.
Enthwistle's company of course checked up on her to verify her credengtials. I backed her up with all they needed to know -- not forgetting to add a very flattering picture of Erica.
I wasn't surprised then when the elder Enthwistle phoned her personally. I also wasn't surprised that she got him to invite her to the mansion for a nice informal lunch. I would have been disappointed with anything less. We took a plane and I drove her down to the house after an hour of dressing and making up at an airport hotel. She looked great. I was sure the old fox would see right through her tight business gear to find the sexy woman within.
Of course it was exactly that which made me worry. But I seemed to be the only one. Erica was all bubbly and talkative during the journey.
She got quieter, though, as we drove up to the mansion.
We stopped before turning into the driveway. I once more briefed her on the official subject of the meeting. Then we went through the rest of our plan. She touched my hand and looked me in the eyes. "Don't worry, Bruce, it will be all right. Trust me, I am a big girl. Now drive."
I donned a red baseball cap and Ray Ban sunglasses. Then I started the car and took her past the security-post at the gate, up the driveway and to the posh entrance of the mansion. A man in uniform came down the steps.
I took her hands in mine. "Just this one last time, Erica," I said. "Don't do it."
She slid her hands out of mine just as the doorman opened her door. I saw a flash of glorious thigh as she got out of the car. It was obvious that the guy noticed it too.
The last I saw of Erica were her long legs climbing the steps. Her tightly packed ass swayed on top of them.
I stepped on the gas and returned to the street.
I parked on a tiny side-road, a path, really. It was a few hundred yards past the entrance to the house. Trees and shrubbery hid me from the main road. And I waited.
Waiting has this way of turning seconds into pizza cheese. In the end they stretch until each one becomes a minute. My eyes started traveling between the digital numbers of the car clock and the very quiet cell phone in my lap. I tried to find some music on the radio. After half an hour of country songs, ads and weather forecasts, I went out of the car to exercise my legs and to pee in the bushes.
I guess there is never a proper moment for feeling a gun poking into your neck. But getting it done while peeing into a bush of dark green holly has a wrongness all of its own. I must admit that I sprayed the tips of my shoes and even the cuffs of my trousers.
"Wrap it up and get in." The coarse voice was close to my ear.
As we walked over to my car, I saw the doorman of the mansion at the wheel. The coarse whisperer pushed me next to the driver, before getting into the back seat himself, the gun reconnecting with my neck as we drove off. We turned back into the driveway of the mansion. I was scared shitless.
Without a word the man with the gun helped me understand where I was supposed to go. The hall was empty. We passed the office where I had been questioned the last time I visited. Then we stopped at a tastefully furnished and rather intimate luncheon room. I saw a dressed table with half empty glasses and burning candles. The old fox had made quite a production out of it.