At 7 p.m., Brooke was getting dressed. At 8 p.m., Brooke was still getting dressed. She and Mush were only two floors apart at the Washington Marriot.
The phone rang. “Should I swing by and pick you up?”
Brooke was nowhere near ready. In fact, she was in the middle of her fourth outfit change. She was about to say, “Give me a half-hour more,” when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. She still had the new boots on, but had removed her dress. Looking at herself she said, “Yes, I’m ready. Come get me.”
She ran to the bathroom and checked her makeup. She gave the hair one more brush, checked her teeth for lipstick smear, gave herself one more look-over and headed for the door. On the way, she tenuously reached for the hotel robe. As she held it in her hand, she considered it and then placed it back on the bed. At three steps from the door, she turned to retrieve it. There was a knock, she started to put it on, but then carried it to the door. She thought to check the peephole, lest she give some poor bellboy a very wrong message. Even distorted by the fisheye lens of the peephole, Mush looked good. She breathed in and went for it.
Mush had his hat in his hand and was fingering the brim. When the door swung open, he was walloped with a thud of invisible energy that literally knocked the air out of him. The hat hit the floor. It took a half a second, but he managed to shut his mouth and put his eyes back in their sockets. Standing before him was the object of many nights of desire. His circuits overloaded as he took her in in her lacy black bra, panties, and tall boots with giant heels. She was pure sex. The epitome of every male fantasy he had ever dared dabble in. Her physique was cut, but not bulky. Her curves were perfect and the shape of her legs and tapered thighs just invited him to explore — but instead he stepped into the room, shut the door with his foot, grabbed the robe and draped it around her. “We need to talk.”
* * *
There are many reasons men don’t wear leather pants anymore, but in the after-hours clubs of Switzerland, the diffused euro-sexual gender ambiguity was in full view. In this case, the view was that of Raffael Juth’s simulated-cowhide-covered butt. The observer was Hanna Strum, an attractive woman whose long curly blonde locks dangled and played peek-a-boo with her pushed up breasts that Victoria was not trying to keep secret. Raffey, of course, exhibited all the male characteristics of trying not to stare while staring that tickled Hanna at a level she dared not let on. After he caught her looking a few times, he drummed up the courage to walk over to her breasts and ask if she’d like to dance. She made sure not to look at him approaching; however, another woman watching would have noticed the subtle “girls up” pose she morphed into.
“Hi, I am Raffael,” he said as he bobbed and weaved a little to place his face in her line of sight as she was scanning the room.
“Hi.” She gave him a quick glance then continued her not-interested investigation of the gyrating room.
“I was wondering if you would like to share a dance with me?”
“You were?” She said without looking at him.
“Yes, unless you are here with someone?”
“Would that matter to you?” She said, finally locking eyes with him. “It would be a pre-condition of which I was not aware and therefore acceptable to me as your preference.”
“I don’t understand a word you just said. What are you, some kind of word nerd?” She turned her attention back to the dancers on the floor.
“No I assure you, words are not my craft.”
“I am more of a theoretical physicist.”
“If I dance with you, will you talk like a normal person?”
“Most assuredly — eh, yeah. Sure.”
“You’re learning,” she said as she offered her hand.
She sounded like she was from the U.S., but there was something else, something Germanic mixed in. Raffey couldn’t discern it over the throbbing bass of the music.
They hit the floor as the DJ changed to a popular house music cut that any American would have known was five years old, but the crowd let out a collective “whoo” as the first slamming drum beats were instantly recognized. Hanna’s hand flew from Raffey’s fingers as she became a writhing, flame-like entity, wavering to the seductive beat. Raffey maintained his two-step, stiffly choreographed routine, one that most girls let pass for some kind of dance. In her throbbing bass-induced dance trance, Hanna was in a world of her own. Raffey was drawn to her indifference, as if she were beckoning him to her boudoir with a come-hither finger gesture. He was hooked.
* * *
Hanna’s gyrations weren’t attracting Raffey’s eyes alone. Prince El-Habry Salaam, nephew of the Saudi King, was unwinding in the VIP section of the club. His father had sent him to study banking in Switzerland so he could better administer the Royal Family’s billions. Across the velvet ropes, Hanna’s undulations made him don his hated glasses, which he never wore in public, in order to see if she was the vision she appeared to be. Upon more focused inspection, he nodded to Abrim, his head of security. Abrim knew the drill.
As Raffey and Hanna were in the middle of their fifth dance, the six-foot-three-inch guard of the Prince appeared and, in English with a hint of Arabic accent, asked for forgiveness. “Pardon the intrusion, but my employer wishes for you to join him.” He pointed in the direction of the roped off area.
Hanna shot a quick glance at the thin, dark-skinned man wearing dark glasses in a dimly lit corner of the club. “No, thank you.”
Abrim pushed, “He is a prince of the Royal Family Saud. His intentions, I assure you, are the most honorable.”
“Not interested.” Then she turned away and danced even more seductively.
Raffey moved in close, “Who was he?”
“An errand boy. Want to get a drink?”
Raffey smiled and led her to the bar. It being three deep, he decided to get the drinks while Hanna found a small table. She removed her right shoe and rubbed a complaining instep. When she sat back up, Abrim was there.
“Look, why doesn’t he just come over here himself?”
“He is a Prince. He could not be seen making an overture to a... a... “
“Commoner? Is that the term you are looking for?”
Abrim just half smiled.
“Well, my father always called me Princess when I was a little girl, so what’s he so high and mighty about?”
“The Prince has a great interest in you and would be happy to pay you for your time.”
“Oh he would, would he?”
“Yes. Ten thousand dollars, U.S.?”
Abrim imperceptibly twitched his hand, the result of the conflicting instinct to strike this infidel bitch, and the training that the social dictates of these Western countries demanded, which immediately stopped him. He just nodded and walked away.
“What did she say, Abrim?” the Prince asked.
“She declined your offer.”
“No, I mean what exactly did she say?”
“A crude woman, I’d rather not repeat it.”
“What did she say exactly?”
“She said, “Fuck off!”
He turned to admire his new interest. “Brilliant. She is full of spirit. One to be tamed.”
Abrim just rolled his eyes.
Raffey came back with the drinks. “I saw him from the bar; he came over again. What did he want this time?”
“He didn’t want anything, he was sent by someone with no balls. At least you had the courage to approach me yourself. Let’s get out of here.”
“But our drinks...”
Hanna reached down and grabbed Raffey between the legs, “You’d better have a set.” Then she walked off.
Raffey followed like an obedient dog.
* * *
Outside the club, Raffey took out his ticket stub for the valet; Hanna stuffed it back in his pocket. “My place is just on the corner. You can pick up your car in the morning.”
Raffey liked the sound of that, especially the “in the morning” part.
As they walked off down the street arm in arm, Abrim emerged from the club and watched.
In the hallway of the flophouse hotel, Hanna fumbled with the key as Raffey started kissing her neck. She laughed and shook him off to better focus on the lock and key. Once inside she went straight to the cabinet and pulled down a bottle of vodka. “The bathroom is through there. I’ll fix us a drink.”
“That’s okay; I don’t need to use the bathroom.” He plopped down on the couch and started to unbutton his shirt. Because her back was to him he didn’t see the slight mask of frustration wash across her face. He grabbed the remote for the TV and turned it on. Behind him, a man emerged from the bathroom with a rolled towel between his two fists. As Raffey yawned, the man brought the towel down across Raffey’s mouth. Startled, the young man started to scream, but the towel heavily muffled it. Hanna was tapping the air out of a syringe when the doorbell rang.
She and her accomplice were stunned. “Hold him.” She put down the syringe and went to the door. “Who is it?”
“It is Abrim. I have a message from the Prince.”
“Scheisse. It’s the goon from the club,” she said in a whisper to the man who was trying to stop Raffey from making any noise.
“Get rid of him,” he whispered loudly.
“Go away — I am not interested,” she yelled to the door.
“The Prince has asked me to tell you he will pay fifty thousand dollars if you’ll just agree to have dinner with him tomorrow night.”
“Fine, I will. I will be at the club tomorrow at eight. You can pick me up there. Now go away.”
Abrim didn’t know whether to believe her or not. But he didn’t really care. He had done his “pimping” for the night. He could report back that he had made the offer and she accepted. If she didn’t show up, it would only make the Prince more smitten and he’d up the sum to one hundred thousand. He turned to walk off.
Raffey had started to kick and caught the coffee table in front of the couch. It swung his body sideways and his next kick toppled the ginger jar lamp on the end table. It hit the floor with a terrible crash. In his attempt to stop him, the man had loosened the grip on the towel and Raffey’s scream accompanied the crash.
Abrim stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the calamity and went back and pounded on the door, “Is everything all right in there?”
The man behind the couch punched Raffey in the face as hard as he could and Raffey slid down to the floor like a sack of hammers. Rubbing his fist, the goon nodded to Hanna to open the door and let the man inside. He stepped to the right of the door and snapped open a stiletto-type knife. Hanna saw the shiny blade and knew at once what she had to do.
“No, please help me, he’s passed out,” she said as she opened the door. Abrim saw Raffey barely moving on the floor. “Could you just help me get him on the couch to sleep it off?”
Abrim was no more than four feet into the apartment when the blade entered his lung between the sixth and seventh vertebrae. The killer’s hand came down on the man’s mouth at that same instant to stifle the scream. But Abrim was a big hulk, and even though fatally wounded, he shook off his attacker like a rag doll. Hanna grabbed the vodka bottle and hit him hard on his temple. The bottle shattered and he went down on his back. She thrust the broken end of the bottle into Abrim’s neck, severing both his carotid arteries, which sprayed blood all over her. The man held his hand over Abrim’s mouth. In ten seconds his legs kicked one last time. He was dead.
When Hanna rose to wipe the blood from her face, she saw that Raffey was gone. The window to the fire escape was open. She turned to her partner, and cursed in German, “Verdammte Scheiße! You idiot.”
Raffey, choking, spitting blood, and gasping for air, was hobbling with a limp from jumping the last six feet off the fire ladder. He bounced off cars and storefronts as he staggered down the empty 3 a.m. Genčve streets.