"Bodas de Sangre?!"
I looked up from my reading to my fellow passenger in the aisle seat. She was a very attractive woman, professionally dressed, I thought perhaps a few years older than I was. I returned her smile. "Si. Garcia Lorca, 1933, Bodas de Sangre." I put down the manuscript of the play and continued in Spanish, "Have you read it?"
The woman shook her head no and answered in Spanish, "Blood Wedding? No. It's a little too dark for my taste, especially for recreational reading."
"Well, yeah... But it was written just a few years before the Spanish civil war. Those were dark times..."
"True... I did see the play once, a long time ago, my freshman year at college."
"Oh? Where was that?"
"Universidad Pablo De Olavide, about five miles from Sevilla. It must have been ten years ago... Hi! My name is Carlotta."
I nodded and continued attempting to speak Spanish. "Hi! I'm Gary. I'm pleased to meet you. I've never been to Spain. I'd like to go there someday."
The woman raised her eyes at me and laughed. "Forgive me, but your accent is very American! From your reading, I would have guessed... well... Oh, forgive me!"
I laughed back and continued to amuse her by speaking. "Oh, laugh all you want! I know I'm... what's the word... butchering the language. I just started to learn Spanish... less than a year ago."
"Then you are doing exceedingly well."
"I was in Chile last year, Copiapo and Santiago, for four years... err, sorry, what's the word? Months... four months. Uh, late May through September."
"And now you're returning. Do you have family there?"
"No. I'm returning to work there, at Banco Santander."
"Ah! In the city?"
I nodded. "Yes, that's right, the commercial district."
"Will you be staying in Chile long?"
"It's a permanent position. I'm thinking of making Chile my home."
Carlotta looked at me very thoughtfully. "That's a big decision, picking a new country to live in. I know from experience. Do you have a place to stay?"
"The Hotel San Francisco. The bank is putting me up there until I find a home."
"Wonderful! I work nearby, with my brother and his wife. We have an art gallery." Carlotta opened her purse and handed me a card. "Stop by if you like, once you settle in. Perhaps we could find something for your home..."
The stewardess arrived and served us a late snack. With the wine, it was almost a dinner. Carlotta and I started chatting, and I found her company very enjoyable. I was my first time to travel first-class, and I appreciated how nice it was to relax in the large comfortable chairs while having a meal and conversing. Carlotta was very easy to talk with, engaging, polite, very smart, and she had a true love of art. She also showed me some cute pictures of her five-year old daughter Isabelle, of whom she was fiercely proud.
It was late in the evening. American flight 7701 nonstop from Miami was due to arrive in Santiago at 6:50 in the morning. After dinner we continued to talk, describing our lives to each other. Carlotta also described some of the many museums in the Santiago downtown area, and we made a tentative plan to tour one together some weekend.
I sank back into my chair. "These seats are great. This is the first time I've flown first class."
Carlotta nodded. "For me too. My brother Emilio set up my flights for me. I didn't even realize what he had done until I boarded the plane tonight... He shouldn't have done it, we really don't have the money for this, but I think he thought I would need the gift... He is so kind to me..." She sighed and leaned back in her chair, looking tired and closing her eyes.
It was late. We both tried to do a little reading. Carlotta soon yawned and decided to sack out.
I turned out my overhead light to help her rest. "Muchas gracia Gary..." Carlotta murmured, keeping her eyes closed. I smiled at her, watching her fall asleep. It would be a long flight for me too, seventeen hours including my connecting flight from Newark. But my mind was too excited for sleep. I gazed out my window at the blackness of South America below.
I was getting back to Chile more than three months later than I had planned. In early January I decided both the mystery of A'moth and my affection for her would never let me rest if I didn't pursue her. So I told the bank president at Santiago I accepted his offer and would start working February 1'st. At first, Carlos was overjoyed.
All hell broke loose at the New York office when I announced my intentions to permanently transfer to Chile. Unknown to me, the senior New York executives were having such great success with my industry modeling, they had decided to create a new hedge fund based on my model's predictions. Why they didn't tell me about their plans earlier, well, high-level mucky-mucks sometime move in strange and mysterious ways.
I told them my decision to emigrate was firm but they were not people who took no for an answer. They shocked me by pulling some strings with the Bank's board of directors in Spain. Carlos got a call from Spain at 6 AM Santiago time, pulling him out of a morning shower. He was asked to work something out with me, with the clear message to keep the New York heavyweights happy.
Carlos and I had a long phone conversation later that day. He's a very savvy guy. He pointed out to me that the New York executives were in a very vulnerable position, having just jumped up and down to the Board about how they needed me at any cost. Carlos told me he'd go to bat for me with the Board if I wanted to come to Chile right away, but he also suggested I take advantage of the opportunity, delay coming to Chile and milk the ticket for all it was worth. The New York execs couldn't say no without looking like a bunch of stingy idiots to the Board in Spain.
So that's just what I did. First I asked for another half million dollar bonus for staying an extra three months. New York made a counter offer to pay me the equivalent in restricted stock. I came back with accepting that in principle, as long as we had an absolute agreement I could be in Chile by May and be allowed to manage the fund from there. They also had to agree to my position for me getting a large share of the performance fee of the fund, and on a quarterly basis.
They balked over what I was asking. The fund's performance fee would be 20% of the profits, and I was asking for 30% of that, 30% of the gross fee, before any of the fund's costs. The bank wasn't used to having such a large percentage of the gross go directly to a single employee. But Carlos was right, I had a perfect position for the negotiations. I wasn't asking for something unheard of in the investment community, just something top of the line.
New York tried to negotiate me down, but I simply held firm. In the end they caved in. I also had the foresight to put into the agreement that they could insist I come back to New York for an emergency only once in any six-month period, and that any emergency would last no more than a week.
I thought setting up a hedge fund would be a fairly straightforward business, but what did I know? My background was in modeling and statistics. It was quite an education for me, learning all the fiduciary requirements for getting the project off the ground. Any chance for a quick trip to Chile, even for an extended weekend, disappeared. I've never worked with so many lawyers in my life. I found all the documentation work tedious and boring, but Banco Santander could get sued if we didn't fully disclosure all the test performance to the investors. And the rewards are fabulous. They're starting with $100M of venture capital from the fund's founders, and I think we'll make more than a 20% return for the year. That's $20M of profits, $4M in performance fees, and a $1.2M yearly payment to me, in addition to my salary. And once the fund starts to draw more investors... Well...
It's all set up now. New York certainly got their pound of flesh from me. The plane will be landing in Chile on May 31'st. My mind can finally switch from thinking of pounds of flesh to thinking about pints of blood. A'moth... Does she really exist? It's been eleven months since our encounter. One of my first action items in Chile will be to open my safety deposit box and do a reality check. Does A'moth really exist? And if so, how hungry has she gotten?
I pulled my eyes from the blackness of the window. Carlotta was fast asleep by my side, leaning in my direction, almost touching my shoulder. She told me quite a lot about her life, and with my empathy I understood a lot more than she probably realized.
She's twenty-eight years old, only a year older than I am. She married seven years ago and moved to live with her husband in a new country, Miami Florida USA to be exact. And then the problems started.
Carlotta's husband was a control freak, my words, not hers. He systematically began working to control her, how she spent her time, her interests, her access to money, most importantly, whom she associated with. None of this behavior was apparent to Carlotta during her engagement.
The saddest part was he was a master at control. He'd pick an issue and start working it, gradually building up the pressure until gentle Carlotta would decide it wasn't worth the struggle and cave in. He would back off the pressure for a while as a reward, but then move onto the next sick item of his agenda. Carlotta gradually lost all access to money, and lost contact with her neighbors, her friends, and finally even her family. It happened so gradually, she didn't see the danger. She was so determined to love her husband and make the marriage work.
Eventually her husband became abusive. I looked at her again, sleeping by my side, and admired the purity and gentleness of her soul. In sleep, all her tension and worries had left her face and she looked a lot younger. She was very beautiful, even her nose which was just the slightest bit crooked, from where her husband had broken it.
She had worked mightily for years to make her marriage work, but the physical abuse finally activated her maternal instincts to protect Isabelle. Her love for her daughter gave her the strength and courage to terminate her horrible, horrible marriage. She contacted her only sibling, an older brother, for the first time in years, and he threw her a lifeline. He offered her a job in Santiago.
And now here she was, sleeping by my side, leaving Miami for the last time. All the pains of the courts and lawyers were over, her divorce was finalized. Carlotta could finally put all the frustration and sorrow behind her and turn into her new life in Chile with her daughter.
I stared at her as she lay sleeping. Did I want to be a part of that new life? Carlotta was very open with me. She knew I was unattached, and we both knew we found each other attractive. When I replied I'd enjoy very much seeing a museum with her, she made sure I understood where she was, what her commitments and responsibilities were like. Touring a museum or two was a pure offer for friendship, nothing more. I nodded I understood. But perhaps, in time...
Should I be a part of her life? Where do my feelings for A'moth fit in with all this? A possibility with Carlotta, or some other woman, for a completely normal and satisfying relationship, versus... versus what? Does A'moth even exist? It seems so impossible, a sexy fairy story run amuck. Does A'moth exist? I suddenly felt very confused, and spent most of the night turning uncomfortably in what should have been a very comfortable chair.
Well, I've been in Santiago for almost two months now and my life is finally starting to feel manageable. Work has been fine but so hectic. I'm involved with a whole basket of interesting projects with the Santiago branch, and the hedge fund hit the ground running, racking up quick sharp profits; way beyond what I was expecting. The performance is attracting a lot of new money. We have $157M under management now and prospects for much more.
My one outing with Carlotta was sweet but platonic. We visited the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. We both found the pre-Columbian textiles fascinating. Outside the museum there were cold rain showers throughout the day, typical Santiago winter weather. When the museum closed, she was close by my side under my umbrella, and I asked her about dinner together at my hotel. Carlotta didn't saying anything at first, just stood there looking nervous. She confided in me that she didn't think she was ready emotionally to date yet. She was still having nightmares about her previous marriage.
I suggested perhaps we just chat by phone for a while, maybe get together in a month or two, whenever she liked. She thought that was a perfect idea, and we gave each other warm smiles when we departed. I'm going to let her take the lead on this. I don't want to be too pushy.
And as for A'moth, how do you contact ghosts? You sure as hell can't look them up in the phone book. I actually tried. There is no listing under A'moth. A couple of weeks ago I jumped at the chance to spend two days back at the branch office in Copiapo. I sat in the deserted last car of the train for the return trip to Santiago, nervous the whole time. Absolutely nothing. A'moth is real though. I know she's real. I have her bag and clothes. But it's also the end of July. Is she starving again? About to murder again? I'm beginning to dread looking at the headlines in the morning newspaper.
How do you contact a ghost? I finally hit on an idea. I got some camping gear, and pitched a pup tent in the mountains less than two miles from the railroad tracks, about where I thought A'moth might have entered the train. I've been hiking around the area this afternoon wearing her gaucho hat, with her bag and poncho in my backpack. Nothing so far. The countryside is beautiful though.
I camped in a wide open plain, a hundred meters of clear visibility in all directions. There's a little snow on the ground and a full moon. I stood outside my tent for a while as twilight fell, wearing her hat and thinking of A'moth, enjoying the super clean air. As the stars came out I went into the tent to unroll my sleeping bag.
I heard a twig snap, right outside my tent, two seconds after I entered. I shook my head in disbelief. I had just looked around the area a moment before. There was nothing. Then I heard a soft voice call out, "Gary?"
I gasped. It was her! "A'moth?!"
"Yes. May I come in?"
She came into my tent, looked at me tentatively for a moment, and then sat down at the opposite end of my sleeping bag. I had a small battery lantern going, we could see each other clearly. We sat there of a long moment, silently staring at each other. She looked completely normal, her eyes and hair still jet black, but her lips were a natural red and her fingernails a normal flesh color. She was wearing hiking boots and a brown winter jacket, and had a pretty yellow ribbon tying her hair into a ponytail. She also had a small pair of high-precision binoculars strapped loosely around her neck. "Binoculars for a ghost?!" I thought. I felt very confused.
Both of us were nervous about locking eyes again. She looked sheepish, and finally said, "You came back!"
I couldn't reply. I just nodded my head like an idiot. I took a deep breath, and tried to get a reading from my empathy.
She was hungry, very hungry, no doubt about that. But she was also calm now, in complete control of her actions. My heart broke for her. I felt filled with compassion for how she was starving herself before the urge to feed finally overpowered her. I asked her in total sympathy, "How long do you have?"
She understood my question immediately. "About one more month, before the madness takes me."
I took a deep breath. I had been wondering for the last year whether I'd have the guts to do this, but now that the moment was upon me, the choice was surprisingly easy to make. "A'moth, before we talk further..." I smiled as I remembered my very first words to her. I switched to Spanish. "May I feed you?"
She gasped and gave a soft sob, soft as a bird's wing. She nodded her head, her eyes moist as she came to sit by my side. She smiled for a brief moment and raised her eyebrows at me as she got my wry joke, and then turned serious again. "I won't control you Gary. With all that I am, I promise that. No pheromones, no neural inhibitors, nothing, nothing at all."
I nodded, dimly understanding what she was saying. She tilted her head up, offering for me to kiss her. I caressed her cheek, we kissed briefly, much more in compassion for each other than passion. She was beautiful though, and sexy. I felt myself beginning to get aroused, anticipating what was coming. An odd puzzle occurred in my mind. I whispered, "Pheromones? That doesn't sound supernatural. That sounds... physical."
A'moth laughed and nodded her head in agreement as she pushed me to lie down on my sleeping bag. She was so strong! She kissed me again, this time with passion. I felt my body responding. A'moth whispered in my ear. "Yes, I know. How many questions you must have about me. What a great debt I owe you in explanations. How much of that debt I'm still reluctant to pay... Gary?"
Her hands were caressing me, all over my body. She was playfully pulling at my belt too, unbuckling it. I felt my penis rising to meet her caresses. "Yeah?"
"How much may I feed?"
Her hand slid beneath my shorts. I felt her soft hand stroke my shaft for a moment. She started to playfully tug it. Oh, it felt so good, all caring and affectionate and full of sexual promise. Her hand descended to trace the contour of my sac. I gasped with pleasure as her fingers penetrated to fondle my testicles. Her question also shocked me back to the reality of what was about to happen. "Uh, I'm a big guy. Close to a hundred kilos. I should have seven liters of... Oh, that feels so nice... Uh, would a pint and a half be okay for now?"
"So much?! Gary... thank you..." She had my penis out of my shorts. It was a firm rod surrounded by the softness of her hand. She lowered her head to my groin, examining my cock in the light of the lantern. I felt her fingers gently probing the underside of my penis, near my scrotum. Her tongue was licking the head of my penis, her long black tongue. I shivered at the sight, but decided not to ask any questions... Not now...
She paused for a moment to undress us, first taking off my boots and socks, then my pants and shorts. My naked cock was a rigid vertical pole, waiting for her. She took off her own shirt, becoming naked from the waist up. She looked magnificent! Powerful, sexy and so unique. I looked closer. The layout of bones in her torso, just a touch odd. Orderly, not deformed, but somehow not quite right, not quite human.
She took off her boots and socks. I stared at her bare feet. They looked normal, like her hands, but her toenails were jet black. A'moth saw me staring and blinked, then shrugged her shoulders as if she had forgotten something. Mounting me in a 69 position, still wearing her jeans, she began licking my penis and sac, then holding my sac to the side and dropping below to lick my anus. I began to drift in the intense sexuality.
A'moth raised her head from my anus, looking back at me through her legs as she straddled me. Her eyes looked so sad... apologetic. "Gary, the last time I feasted on you, I was brutal, driven insane with hunger. I gnawed on you, chewed you, to get your blood faster. It was unnecessary, and cruel. I'm going to be super gentle now, two small arterial sticks, here... and... here..." I felt her fingers probing and caressing the underside of my penis, just above my sac. I only shivered in response. Arterial sticks? This sounded like a nurse, not a vampire. I felt so confused.