Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's a Job


After dinner, Mike and Ned dropped him off at the hotel their company was paying for. He felt he had adequately repaid all their generosity at dinner too. He liked fish in aquariums as much as the next guy, but Christ, Ned took it a little too far, what with a two hour discussion of salinity, water temperature and knowing to blending which tropicals such that no hundred and fifty dollar fish gets eaten by a predatory species.

Speaking of predatory species, it was time to get to work.

He called up to the room. Jenny answered on the fourth ring, just as she had been told to.

"Join me for a drink?"

"About time. They don't do HBO here, I'm watching repeats of Real Housewives of somewhere and I'm ready to jump out the window."

"See you in the bar."

A couple of RIT classes gave him enough verbal ammunition to gun down his dinner companions. He was, to them, a managing editor who decided where the pages of his four quarterly horse fancier magazines got put together and printed. Digital Solutions had a good reputation for electronic prep work together so he fancied he'd split assembly from final production for once. Price-wise it was a better deal and it didn't hurt that they were headquartered on Avenue Q in Washington DC.  Lots of excuses for trips into town.

 But two hours bullshitting about fishes? Really?

The hotel was built in the twenties, he figured. Brick and heavy cast concrete. Permanent. Not like today’s glass and stucco-oh sorry-is the site more valuable with a Home Depot-no problem let's just tear it down-notels. It was next to the Cato Institute which was funny because when it was built, the free market didn’t need an advocate. Things just worked that way. The hotel bar was, in a word, classy. Edith Piaf played quietly so there was no leaning into your companion to be heard and incidentally noticing a developing tooth cavity. Electrical cords that fed the lights over the bar were wrapped in fabric. There wasn't a video screen, anywhere, period.  There were newspapers and the bartenders (mixologists) wore bowties. Great place.

Jenny fit right in. In a black cocktail dress, Aigner heels with no stockings even the gay lobbyists nursing red wine in a corner booth turned their heads as she walked in. Her hair was up, just as he had instructed. It made her look the part; a twenty four year old who was trying to graduate from the party girl scene to something more satisfying in the long term.  She looked beautiful and sophisticated but twenty four or so years old. He was twenty years her senior, looked it and acted it. That was what made it work.

"Martinis, please.  For the lady a Bombay Sapphire straight up, red vermouth, with an olive."  That was funny because he had just ordered his usual.

"Yes, sir." Steve smiled and put a glass of crushed ice in front of her.

"Do I get an umbrella?" Jenny giggled. Perfect.

"You remember me from last night?"

"Yes, sir. Philadelphia. Bluecoat, distilled in your hometown. I believe you were somewhat insistent."

"You're a good guy Mike. You remember."

"Steve."

"Yeah. Philly's home. Gotta support the locals."

Bluecoat actually lacked the juniper tartness of Bombay but at least he wouldn’t have to endure its flowery finish tonight.  Steve compliantly pulled out the blue bottle of local gin that Harry had brought to the bar this afternoon and began to mix in vermouth. That he was mixing vermouth in with tap water bothered Harry slightly because the thing would taste like shit and if you're going to drink in a place this nice, wouldn't it be nice to drink your well-crafted recipe and brands?

 Not now, there was work to be done.

So Jenny was served his drink while he toasted her with watery white vermouth.  She smiled and pecked him on the corner of his mouth. Two men in business suits at the other end of the bar looked up, looked Jenny over, pretending not to.  Wow, Harry could almost hear their thoughts since, switch places, that would sure be what he was thinking.   She was dressed well.  Too well to be a compensated companion. Harry and Jenny clearly weren't related either since his genes couldn't possibly contribute to someone as beautiful as she was. So there was one option;  here was a young woman who had latched onto the luckiest guy alive. Son of a bitch. The men went back to their drinks and conversations, which was the idea.  The couple that had just come in and passed them looked at them too as they looked at every other person in the bar.  A man and a woman, when neither registered a familiar face, they nodded quietly to each other and sat down.  Harry saw this.  No one else registered it.  Harry looked at Jenny and smiled as if to say “thanks for being my date.”  She smiled back, reached out and stroked his cheek.  Then she straightened his tie and with a quiet left turn of her wrist activated the digital recorder in his pocket.

The new couple were in the second booth from where he and Jenny sat. Harry hoped the post-recording audio filters were up to the challenge because moving any closer would have them pay for their drinks and leave.

In the meantime he seemed like just a middle aged asshole plying a barely legal girl with booze so he could fuck her later tonight, no matter if she was semi-conscious. That would be pretty apparent to everyone around who would lose interest and move on to their own business.  That was the point. It was like Harry wearing a Hollister t-shirt and ratty jeans in Berlin; you're a forty-something idiot wearing twenty-something clothes and nobody takes you seriously.  You’re a forgettable clown and they ignore you.  Just the way you want them to.

"How was your day?" What a horrible drink.

"I slept through most of it."  Ok, so there wasn't a lot to talk about. Sip your drink quietly and let the recorder pick up the conversations. Perfect.

They each sipped quietly, smiled at each other and would intermittently hold hands, then not.  Two people without a lot in common.

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