Read Edward Lee Online

Authors: Room 415

Edward Lee (2 page)

Call the police!
Flood screamed at himself, hand hovering over the phone.

His mind, somehow, felt vacant, his spirit...gone.

Then his hand drifted off on its own...

A confusion consumed him. Flood’s eyes were riveted to the window. He kept watching the brutality, knowing he should do something to help the girl, but his conscience was nowhere to be found. Oscar afforded her several more blows to the belly, then threw her down on the bed. Both men walked out of view. Jinny shuddered on the mattress in a fetal position, gasping, pain stamped into her face like a twisted mask.

God Almighty,
Flood thought.
What am I doing?

Without even any direct awareness, Flood had pulled his shorts down and was masturbating. His penis felt alien, the erection so hard and so complete, for a moment he didn’t believe it was his own. A final stare, then, at the girl’s brutalized nakedness, the suffering on her face...

Fresh sensations churned, then exploded; Flood nearly cried out when his orgasm broke, gusts from his groin shooting feet-long plumes of sperm through the air. The first spurts actually sailed out the window, and what was left pelted the wall. Flood collapsed.

This was a big deal to him—his first orgasm in three years.

***

Next morning, his confusion turned to shame.
How could
that have happened?
he asked his own face in the bathroom mirror.
What kind of person am I?

He contemplated that question for the short walk across Gulf Boulevard to the convention center. And he
knew
.
I’m
not a bad person. I don’t exploit people, or lie, or cheat, or
steal.
So what had happened last night?

Flood’s job at the electronics show was essentially information support: to explain marketing and sales details to any prospective high-volume buyers, which generally didn’t occur until the last day. His underlings ran the booth while he wandered the showroom, pretending to be checking out the competition’s new products—
pretending
because his mind was surely elsewhere. He wended through the crowd, oblivious and still shaken; he scarcely even noticed the human eye-candy that some booths sported: stunningly beautiful women in bikinis and high-heels, handing out brochures. Additionally, when competitors he knew personally bid him a greeting he could only wave back or nod in the dimmest fog. Flood felt like a single bug in a haystack.

Walking around for several hours didn’t clear his head as he’d hoped.
I should have called the police immediately,
or the security desk—something, anything. But what did I do
instead? I stood there and jerked off because I haven’t been
able to come since Felicity left me. I witnessed a girl getting
beaten, and instead of doing anything about it. I JERKED OFF! What the hell is WRONG with me?
It didn’t matter that it was just a few belly-punches; it was brutal and it was sick. It was a criminal assault. The situation had been easy enough to figure, nearly a cliche: “Leon” was obviously the pimp, “Oscar” the lieutenant, and Jinny the prostitute. She’d been holding out on Leon, working on the side behind his back—a supreme no-no in the field. Flood’s id kicked in a plea to rationalize:
Okay, yeah, sure, she got beat up, but that happens
to dishonest whores. It’s part of the turf and she knows it. She’s
a whore, and prostitution is illegal. Leon and the bald guy are
panderers, and pandering is illegal. They’re all a bunch of
criminals, so why do I feel guilty? I’M not a criminal. If they
saw someone beating ME up, would THEY call the police? Fat chance. So I’m not gonna let myself feel like shit because
a girl who had it coming to her got her ass kicked ...

Flood felt better for all of five minutes, then slumped again when he admitted the falsehood.

By three, the convention center had become a hive; he thought of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, the only difference being that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange didn’t have voluptuous women in bikinis prancing about. That voluptuousness, though, only depressed him more. It was for every one else but...

Not for me. Never for me
.

Last night was an anomaly; he knew he was back to square one. His penis felt like a flap of numb skin in his trousers.

I don’t need to be here,
he realized.
Let the young guys
have at it. I think I’ll go get drunk.

“How’s business, fellas?” he asked his sales staff back at his company’s booth.

“We’re kicking ass,” said Farris, their Tom Cruise lookalike technical rep, who then held up a clipboard, “and taking names.”

“Good work,” Flood said, impressed by the list of possible buyers. “You guys are hauling them in.”

The sales rep, Nathans, looked more like John Candy than Cruise. He glanced up just as a competitor’s ad girl walked by: hourglass figure bursting out of a vermillion string bikini, the top of which hoisted what must have been 38 double-D’s. A big Colegate grin flashed behind the sign she held, advertizing network-user docking stations for palmtop computers. The sign read DOCK WITH ME!

“We’re hauling them in, all right, boss,” Nathans remarked. “But I wouldn’t mind if we had a couple ad-girls like that.”

“We don’t need tits and ass to sell our peripherals,” Flood said. “Ours work, theirs don’t.”

“Yeah, but still...”

The leering grins of both of the younger men followed the sultry woman. From behind, the tanned rump jiggled, cellulite-free, each perfect buttock totally nude, divided only by a t-back strap.

“How’d you like to plug something into
her
USB, huh, Nathans?” Farris asked under his breath.

Nathans made a ludicrous pelvic gesture. “Yeah, seven and a half gigs of RAM.”

Everything is sex,
came Flood’s dismal concession. At least he was conditioned now—yes, last night was indeed a fluke. The vision of the woman did little for him.

Flood tried to mask his despair. “Fellas, you know what I’m gonna do?”

“Give us a raise?” Nathan guessed.

“One better. I’m gonna leave you guys here to work your asses off while I go walk on the beach. You wanna know
why
I’m gonna do that?”

“Because you
can
?” Farris said.

“Smart boy.”

“No problemo, boss,” Farris assured. “We’ve got it covered. Put your faith in us.”

Nathans piped in, “Aw, that’s his kiss-the-boss’s-ass way of saying we don’t need you.”

“Works for me,” Flood replied. “I’ll be here all day tomorrow to handle those sales interviews. Anything you guys need before I blow this computer-geek pop stand?”

“Maybe just a collar and chain,” Farris said.

Flood looked quizzical. “A collar and chain?”

“Yeah, to keep Nathans off that docking-station bimbo in the t-back.”

“Don’t need it now,” Nathans told them. “I already shot my load in my pants the last time she came around.”

“See ya, boss!”

“Have fun on the beach!”

Flood walked away, shaking his head.
Kids,
he thought.
If they only knew.
He hustled out of the con center, but even crossing the street back to his hotel, his vision was further assailed by more of the same imagery: more young women in bikinis strutting up and down the sidewalk, sashaying across the parking lots, bending over their open car trunks to lift out beach towels and coolers.
Holy Jesus,
Flood’s thoughts groaned.
I can’t turn my head without seeing it...

He all but raced back up to his room, frustrations piling up.
Oh, man,
he thought when he looked in the bathroom mirror after changing.
Gee, I wonder if anyone’ll guess I’m
not from Florida.
Parrot-green swim trunks, clunky Seattle sandals, and skin whiter than a Kenmore refrigerator. He slipped on an old Mariners shirt, sighing, and left the room.

More young women in bikinis stood waiting for the elevator, chatting gayly. One girl’s bikini—a bright and nearly luminous fuchsia—clung so tightly to her breasts and rump that it seemed anodized on her. Another had nipples which poked out like thumb-ends. Flood felt a twinge in his chest, turned, and fled for the stairs. Better to walk the five flights than stand waiting in that gaggle of cruel reminders.

He felt calmer once in the cool stairwell. 4TH FLOOR, read the next door down. Flood stalled.

What am I doing?
he asked himself. His hand was turning the knob.

He
knew
what he was doing.

Morbid curiosity, I guess...
What did he expect? To actually
see
the girl? What was her name? Jinny?
What, I
think I’m just going to SEE HER walking out of the room?

He pushed his confusion behind. In his mind, he pictured the hotel’s eye-beam configuration, then turned on the next wing.

That must be it,
he realized. Last room on the south wing.

415, the door read.

A plastic tag in the key-card slot let him know: DO NOT DISTURB.

So this was the room. Room 415.
Big deal...
But at least the unspecified curiosity that had brought him was sated now.

“Are chew lookink for Meester Kingston, sir?”

The voice startled Flood to the extent that he almost shouted. A Latino accent, Cuban probably. He caught his breath and turned to face a chubby housemaid with brown hair back in a bun standing behind a cart full of brooms, towels, etc. Mammoth plops of breasts looked jello-like in the blasé work apron. Before Flood could answer, she continued the prattle: “Because if chew are, chew must call him, not knock. See the sign, hmm? Meester Kingston never wanna be bothered. He good man, teep good to all of us. He always get theese room here when he here.”

Information overload.
She must mean Leon, the black
guy,
Flood put together.
And he’s a regular, probably brings
his stable here whenever there’s a nearby convention.
Finally Flood got his brain back on track. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. Stupid me; I got off on the wrong floor. I’m on the fifth.”

Her breasts tremored when she bent to pick up a can of Comet. “Well, yes, but theese is forf floor, sir.”

“Yes, yes, I just realized that. Have good day,” and then he offered a covering smile and walked for the elevator.

Jesus, what an idiot!
But he wasn’t even to the elevator cove when heard the door open.

He stepped up his pace.
Fuck!
But what was he anxious about? Leon Kingston had never seen Flood before, and there’s no way he or his cohort could know what he’d witnessed last night.

Flood wisely didn’t turn when his ears picked up the voice he’d already heard: “Maria, good afternoon!”

“Good afternoon to chew too, Meester Kingston.”

“And how are you today? Muy buena, I hope.”

A blushing chuckle. “Very muy buena, sir.”

Flood turned into the cove, hit the down button. In dread he could almost hear what she might say:
Strange gringo
man was standink in-frunna chore door,
but then he relaxed at her real words after obviously accepting a tip. “Muchas gracias, sir!”

Hurry, hurry,
he shot the though at the elevator. The carpeted hallway would betray no footsteps. He still didn’t know what he was afraid of, though; to Leon Kingston the Pimp, Flood was just another pale-skinned tourist. The elevator hadn’t opened yet when two figures came around the corner.

Flood nodded, smiled.

“Good afternoon, sir,” came Leon’s upbeat greeting. He looked better than Flood’s stereotypes imagined. Ring-like Billy-Dee-Williams hair, sharp conservative dark slacks and a fine heather-gray silk shirt, open at the neck but no gaudy gold pimp chains. Class, not flash. “I hope you’re enjoying your stay at the Rosamilia.”

“I-I am,” Flood said, off guard. “Very much. It’s a gorgeous hotel.” The weirdest impulse, then, just another curiosity, a test to elicit a response. “I take it you’re one of the managers here?”

“No, no, sir. But it’s my favorite hotel on the beach. I always stay here during convention weeks.”

“Oh, really? The CES convention? That’s where I’m at.”

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