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Authors: Room 415

Edward Lee

 

ROOM 415

Edward Lee

When Flood saw the naked woman in the window, he froze. He stood poised as a mannequin in the dark, lit cigarette in hand. Excitement flashed, first in his heart, then his groin. It was the spontaneity, he knew, the total surprise. From this angle (Flood was on the fifth floor, the woman down on the fourth) he couldn’t see her face. Just a blur of shiny, ink-black hair, a flash of white breasts as she turned. Now she stood back to window; his eyes locked on the lines of her shoulders, waist, hips. A perfect snow-white rump. At first he thought she must be wearing a white bikini, until a maintained stare revealed stark tanlines.
Another sun
bunny,
Flood thought. After that first second of reaction, he shrugged, uninterested.
Why bother even looking?
he told himself.
What’s the point?

But he kept looking anyway. Was it boredom? Or hope?

A sheer, salmon-pink curtain billowed out the window. Flood’s eyes remained on the buttocks and its perfect cleft, yet peripheral detail indicated that she was talking to someone. To her right, an unmade bed. Flood rubbed his crotch through boxer shorts—who could see?
It would at
least be nice to get a look at the rest of her,
he complained. God, nature, or the universe could be mockingly cruel. The only reason he’d risen from bed and come to the window at all was to smoke. His secretary had booked him a non-smoking room, so he puffed before his own open window. He’d turned the a/c off; as a Seattlite, warm breezes coming off the water were a luxurious novelty, and so were all the inordinately attractive women he’d seen thus far walking down the streets, sitting in bars, and even shopping in grocery stores in string bikinis. Bikinis here seemed as commonplace as frumpish denim ankle-skirts and flannel blouses were on women in the Northwest. Flood didn’t expect such a personal reaction. He’d traveled to cities all over the country whose women clearly outshone Seattle stock as far as looks were concerned. His boss, in fact, always bewailed sending him on these marketing trips, with comments like, “Sometimes it really sucks being the president of a big company, Jake.” “Why?” “Because I gotta stay here and run the show, and send you guys to all these fancy hotels full of gorgeous babes.”

Babes,
Flood thought now. It didn’t matter to him anymore.

He stood a moment further, smelling the fresh salt air. He looked straight out and could see only a vast darkness that seemed incalculable, even monstrous. An interesting acknowledgment: he couldn’t see it but he knew it was there, the thousand-mile-long Gulf of Mexico.

His cigarette sizzled down, an orange brand; he glanced again to the window. The initial rush of voyeur’s excitement had exited. Now the woman sat on the edge of the bed calmly fellating an apparent black man who stood before her with his slacks down. Flood noted that the slacks appeared to be high-quality, as did what appeared to be a black-silk shirt and black tie. Flood couldn’t see the man’s face. When Black Guy’s hips began to flinch, he pushed the woman down on the bed and straddled her, silently masturbating the final moment. The image raved. The woman’s mouth gaped a greedy ecstacy, stark-white breasts atop the luxuriant tan; Flood thought of Hostess Snowballs topped by pink bon-bons. He was surprised by the clarity of detail he was able to see. Black Guy ejaculated viscid loops across the breasts, then shook out the last line across her lips. She sat back up to slowly suck out the endmost drops.

Another mindless rub to the crotch wrought no reaction. A masturbating voyeur’s dream, yet Flood didn’t care. His crotch felt comatose.
What a rip-off,
he thought to the sea.

For lack of anything else, he lit another cigarette. He needn’t be to the conference hall till noon, so he could sleep late. Besides, he really did enjoy this secret existential luxury: being totally alone before the lightless face of nature. Flood was sales director for a company that made wireless computer components; hence, these electronics shows proved a necessity to travel out of Seattle. His firm, in fact, had achieved a cutting-edge rep in the field. He’d always been successful but never more than now. Fifty, and he was living the white-collar success story: close to a mid-six-figure salary, stock options that guaranteed a lavish retirement, waterfront home on Puget Sound. 100k in his savings account, and a Mercedes
and
a Cadillac.

Yet Flood felt poor as a vagabond.

Felicity had wed the man she’d been cheating with immediately after the divorce, so at least there was no alimony. They’d been married for ten years, and he supposed, now, that she’d cheated on him for as long. He even knew she was a gold-digger but he didn’t care (Flood had lots of gold); he simply loved her for all he was worth, her flaws, her flirting drug problems, and her lack of character, and all else. She was more beautiful than any woman he’d known, and she soon became the very seat of his desire.

Oh, God. What a wreck my life is...

He knew he shouldn’t think about her; Dr. Untermann warned him of such pitfalls. What had she called his disorder? “A thematic-erotic inversion, Mr. Flood. It’s a fairly commonplace sexual dysfunction. A stimulating image or situation ignites an instantaneous and very normal sexual response. But then the inversion sets in. Stimulation reminds you of your ex-wife, and your ex-wife nearly destroyed your life. Let me put it this way, Mr. Flood, in more comprehensible terms. Your married life can be likened to a car wreck. You’re a crashed car. You’re going to be in the shop for awhile.”

Analogy notwithstanding, finally he understood, to the chagrin of his sex drive. Any woman who excited him would dig up memories of Felicity, then all bets were off.

Shit!
His cigarette had burned down in his musing, burning his fingers. He pitched it out the window and watched the ember fall five stories in total silence.

That silence, and the darkness, seemed a comfort here. It honed off his edges. Uncaring now, he glanced down at the fourth-floor window again, spotted the ink-haired girl on hands and knees on the bed. A wide, stocky white man with a shaved head was taking her from behind, quite frenetically. He’d dropped his slacks, and as he humped her, shrugged out of his own silk shirt, a deep maroon. The bald head shined. The wide back was astonishingly hairy; it reminded Flood of a professional wrestler. Flood focused down...

What happened next was easily discerned in spite of the distance and angle. The bald man’s head dipped down, whereupon he spat between the girl’s buttocks, then pulled his penis out—

“Hey!” Flood could hear the girl’s sudden disapproval. “I told you you couldn’t—"

Then a sharp yelp.

The bald man had thumbed open her buttocks and slammed his penis into her rectum.

He humped even more frenetically now, grasping her hips close to restrain her objection. In a moment the thrusts slowed, then stopped.

The night air carried stray words upward, which Flood could hear with little trouble:

“Leon! Oscar put it in my—”


Damn
it, Oscar! That hurts!”

“—I told him he couldn’t put—”

The bald man was gruffly wiping his penis off on some fabric, presumably the girl’s dress.

“Leon! Tell Oscar not to—”

”Shut up, hosebag—”

She whirled around, sitting upright on the bed. “Don’t you call me a—”

SLAP!

Flood flinched to what he witnessed. The bald man—Oscar, evidently—had one arm back into his silk shirt when his hand blurred. He cracked an open palm hard against her face. First, silence. Then—

“You can’t hit me!”

“Be quiet, Jinny,” a third voice said.

More silence.

Flood calculated, something he was good at.
The girl’s
Jinny, the bald guy Oscar. The third voice must be Leon, the
black guy.
Flood continued to watch and listen.

“What do you wanna do with this cum-drain, Leon?” Oscar said.

“Leon, tell him not to talk to me like that!”

SLAP!

Flood flinched again. Leon the Black Guy calmly walked back into view: tall, lean, well-groomed.

“You don’t like it when Oscar talks to you with disrespect?”

Jinny was sobbing now through obvious stinging pain. “Nuh-no!”

“Then why do you treat
me
with disrespect?”

Now the silence gaped.

The girl looked up wanly as Leon and Oscar towered over her.

“Whuh-what do you mean?”

“Don’t insult me, Jinny. I’ve always taken care of you, and now you betray me.”

“I-I never...”

“You’re made, bitch,” Oscar said, his bald head out of frame. “You’re busted.”

“We know, Jinny. So admit it. If you admit it, then everything’ll be cool. If you don’t... Just, please—don’t insult me.”

Flood’s eyes were peeled now, the drama cutting through the dark. More words flew upward, like tiny bats.

“I-I worked a car show in Tampa luh-luh-last weekend...”

Flood could see Leon standing, arms crossed, his head, too, out of frame.

“Um-hmm. And?”

The girl’s lower lip quivered, one cheek a blushing pink from the slaps. “And—that’s all.”

“Solo? Or were you working for Henry Phipps?”

“Solo!” she nearly jumped up and exclaimed.

“Hmm? Really?”

“Yes! I swear!”

“I’ve lost three girls to Henry. I’m not going to lose anymore. I won’t let you girls embarrass me like that. I take care of you all, and I don’t deserve to be humiliated.”

“I was soloing the car show, I swear to God! I wasn’t working on the side for Phipps!”

“I heard she was,” Oscar said.

“I wasn’t! I swear, I swear!”

Leon: “What do you think, Osc? You believe her?”

“No. Lemme fuck her up. Lemme bottle-job her.”

Jinny put face in hands, sobbing. “I didn’t, I didn’t. I’d never work for someone else...”

“I...,” Leon began. A beat. A gust of breeze. Then: “I believe her.”

Now her sobs were of relief.

“Thank you for being honest, Jinny. I hope we can maintain a wonderful friendship and working relationship.”

“Thank you, thank you. I made about a grand, I’ll give it all to you tomorrow.”

“Not necessary. I know you need it for your child. But you know the rules. If you hadn’t told the truth, it would be... much worse. Right? You know the rules?”

She gulped and nodded.

“Do you deserve what’s coming?”

Another gulp, another nod.

“Good girl. I’ve always liked you. You can make it hard, or you can make it easy.”

The girl stood up, head stooped, her nudity lusterless now.

Oscar seemed to be putting something on his hand. Flood’s mind flashed with the worst possibilities (
Brass
knuckles? A blackjack?
) but then he noticed it was a glove, a large black glove. The girl turned to face Oscar, while Leon chicken-winged her from behind.

“Don’t make a sound,” he said into her ear.

By now Flood realized the glove’s uniqueness: it was a sand-mitt, something police and prison guards used as a non-lethal weapon.

Holy shit,
he thought.

In the dark he reached for the phone to call hotel security and report an assault, but—

The room’s darkness around him, and the glaring image from the lit window, made him feel encased in cement.

“Not the face,” Leon said, propping the girl up by her elbows.

Oscar opened and closed the gloved hand, smacked it into his palm several times.

Call security,
Flood thought.

The bald man belly-punched her once with a sound like a sandbag hitting the floor.

WHAP.

She tried to double over but Leon’s hold wouldn’t permit it.

WHAP.
Another jab to the belly. Then another, and another.

The legs she stood on gave way; Leon kept holding her up, like a trainer holding a boxing pad. The fifth blow to the belly sent her head bouncing around, a ball on a spring. She must barely be conscious now.

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