Read Edward Lee Online

Authors: Room 415

Edward Lee (3 page)

“All of them, sir. Leon Kingston. Very pleased to meet you.”

Flood shook the firm, long-fingered black hand.
Wow, he
ducked that one well, but what did I expect him to say? I’m
a pimp?
“Jake Flood. If you’re looking for the best wireless peripherals, stop by my booth across the street.”

“I just might do that, sir, I just might. Mr. Flood, please meet my good friend—”

Only at that moment did Flood notice Leon’s companion: elegant-physique’d, slender yet well-curved, hair radiant and black as ink cut straight as a bezel edge at the collarbone line—

“—Jinny,” Leon finished.

Flood surprisingly didn’t falter. He shook the cool soft hand, and said “Hello, Jinny,” then noted her fine, high-cheek-boned face and runway-model poise. The paprika-red wrap-dress clung to her curves as if she’d just been fitted by a pro fashion consultant. Flood’s earlier presumption was clarified; she was
not
a tacky convention whore, but an upper-end call-girl.

“Hello,” she said, smiling meekly. Then she seemed to restrain an uncomfortable flinch. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“First time on St. Pete Beach, Mr. Flood?”

The image of the girl stunned him once he compared it to the image he remembered last night: sperm all over her, face stamped into a mask of pain as she lay doubled-over on the bed, trim belly darkening with fresh bruises. “I-uh, yes, it is. Really nice beach town, nothing at all like Lauderdale and South Beach.” He tried to sound conversational, if only for an excuse to pay more visual attention to Jinny, a truly beautiful woman. “At my age, I like things a little laid back, a little less rowdy.”


Your
age?” Leon interjected. “I’m forty-five, Mr. Flood, and I
know
you’re younger than me.”

A pimp being ingratiating, Flood suspected, but he did know that he still looked good for the Big Five Oh. Before he could think of a reply, Leon continued, “But you could use a little sun, Mr. Flood, if you don’t mind my saying so. Give me three guesses. Seattle, Portland, or...”

“Got it on first one,” Flood admitted, but thinking simultaneously:
What a pillar of character I am. I’m having
a congenial conversation with a brutal PIMP. Good job,
Flood. You’re a real gem.
At the edges of his vision he noted Jinny’s forced smile, her continued repression of the pain at her abdomen.
I should have called the cops on this
criminal....
“And, no, we don’t get much sun there. In fact I was on my way out for a walk on the beach right now.”

“Great day for it. Lots of great bars and restaurants on this beach.” Like a magic trick, a business card appeared in Leon’s fingers. “And just in case you’re interested—since this is your first time—feel free to call my service number, if you’d like a top-notch tour guide to show you around.”

Flood looked at the card. SUN & SAND TOUR GUIDES - LEON KINGSTON, DIRECTOR, and a number.
Tour
guides, huh?
Flood thought.
Smooth, very smooth.

Flood couldn’t believe the illogic of his next words. “Is, uh, is Jinny one of your guides?”

“Indeed, she is, Mr. Flood, but unfortunately Jinny’s feeling under the weather today—”

Yeah, I’ll bet she is...
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Flood expressed to her. His eyes couldn’t quite meet hers. “Catch a cold or something?” he asked for no other reason than to sound nonchalant.

Finally her hands came to her abdomen. “No, just one of those twenty-four-hour stomach bugs—”

“—but I’d be delighted to introduce you to one of our other guides, and I guarantee you, Mr. Flood, they’re all just as provocative as Jinny,” and with that, Leon shot Flood a quick wink.

So this is how is works here,
Flood thought. Since Felicity, he’d hired more than one “escort” girl, and in the end, it was all a waste of time and money.

The elevator opened, then they were going down.

“Maybe I’ll give you a call tomorrow after the convention.” Flood slipped the card into his wallet. “But for now, I think I’ll just have a leisurely stroll on the beach. Thanks for the card, though.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Flood,” Leon finished up. “Enjoy the beach.”

“I will. Nice meeting you both.”

Jinny made another nod and pained smile, while Leon’s own smile followed him out of the elevator into the atrium.

Jesus,
Flood thought.
Some bag of worms.
He made for the courtyard which would lead to the hotel’s own beach bar, but stalled when he reached for his cell phone.
Damn
it.
He’d left it in his room, and he really needed to check his voice mail for the Seattle office. A queue of loud women in bikinis piled into the elevator cove, chattering, so Flood said
To hell with going back up,
and turned into a nicely paneled anteroom containing several payphones with private booths. He zipped in his credit card, was about to dial, when voices interrupted.

“Shit, Leon, I really hurt.”

“Well, I hope you learned your lesson.”

“I did but I still
hurt.
Oscar didn’t have to hit me that hard.”

“Osc wanted to hit you a lot harder, and would have if I’d told him too. Instead of giving me lip, try being grateful.”

It’s them,
Flood realized. They must be in one of the other booths and left the door ajar. Flood’s was ajar too.

“When’s Oscar taking me home?”

“When you finish blowing me. So shut up and do it.”

Flood held the dead phone to his ear, feigning use, but sat tensed, listening.

Moments of silence ticked by, then Leon grunted and said, “Yeah, yeah—shit. Slow now, suck it all out...” More silence. “No, no. Swallow... Good girl.”

Love in the afternoon,
Flood thought.

“Osc took a couple girls to the Tradewinds Resort for that pilot conference. He’ll be here in a couple hours, then he’ll take you home.”

“Leon, I need an oxy. Bad.”

“One, and that’s it.”


Leon!
I
really hurt!
Please, gimme one for tonight, too.
Please.

“Jesus, Jinny, you’re gonna turn into a junkie like Ann and Therese.”

“I can barely even
walk.
Oscar was hitting me so hard it felt like a sledgehammer.”

“You girls take too much of this shit...”

Oxy,
Flood thought. Oxycodone, a morphine derivative and the number one prescription drug of abuse.

“Ann’s supposed to meet me here for dinner,” Leon remarked. “Didn’t see her at all last night. Did you?”

“Yeah, but just for a minute.”

“How’d she do?”

“Said she did one-hour tricks all day, then bagged an all-nighter with some rich guy from Maryland. And she said she needs more oxyies.”

“I already gave her enough. You girls gotta watch it with that shit, I been telling you. Now come on. Let’s go to the bar and get some lunch, then you can wait for Oscar. You feeling better now?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

The door clattered open. Flood faked dialing the phone; in the corner of an eye he saw Leon and Jinny leave the anteroom, none the wiser of his presence.

Very, very interesting,
he thought.
A day in the life of a
pimp and prostitute.
Flood dialed for real, found no messages in wait, then left.

Now he got to thinking. How many of the beautiful women here were really call-girls? Everywhere he looked, they sat, walked, or waited.
Why should I care?
he asked himself.
Whether they’re hookers or not, I can’t do anything
with them anyway.
He kept mental blinders on walking through the resort’s pool area, ignoring side-glimpses of more, more, more drop-dead-gorgeous women in the sparsest bikinis, all sprawled out on lounge chairs like things on deliberate display.
You’d think I’d be used to this by now,
cauterized.
When did learned behavior sink into the psyche permanently? After three years? Flood wished it were so, wished that all desire would just die.

The hotel’s beach bar was just as bad, preeminent breasts maximized by so many women sitting at tables, leaning over fruity drinks. The bar was sufficient but too busy. Flood wanted to find a remote place, where he could think...

He embarked to the beach, clunky Seattle sandals sinking in sugar-white sand. The nearly wave-free Gulf of Mexico looked more like a vast and very tranquil lagoon.
This is
better... Tone down, relax. Get your mind off things....
Like—

Last night...

What had come over him? He’d chosen a sexual self-indulgence over a typical civic duty, as if his orgasm was more important than a woman being beaten.
Get off it!
he suddenly yelped at himself.

Oh, no,
he thought next.

The mental blinders weren’t working out here. Lines of them: women with faces and bodies worthy of swimwear calendars.
God in heaven! Stop!

The woman seemed to drift rather than walk down the beach; it seemed as though she were an entity coming out of the sun. Flood’s heart shimmied even at the initial distance, eyes blooming at this virtual paragon bereft of defect. Waist-length hair the color of the same sun-lit sand she walked on danced in the faint breeze coming off the Gulf. Zero body fat but every contour full, even exploited for the visual effect. Breasts the size and undoubted firmness of fresh grapefruits. A harder cardiac shimmy when he noted in detail her apparel: a white fishnet bikini, each “box” of which was one inch square, and through these boxes
everything
was flaunted. Beer-can-top-sized areolae, darkly puckered, and nipple-ends sticking out as hard and crisply delineated as bullet cartridges: perfect cylinders of pink flesh. His gaze trembled to the pubic region, where the large fishnet squares made no secret of the fact that she dealt with an expert electrolysist, the vaginal furrow and mystical folds simply right
there,
for all to see, burgeoning against the threads.

God’s really kicking my ass today—showing me THIS,
Flood thought. His groin seemed to cringe. The woman appeared to be in a hurry, looking over her shoulder. Flood just stood there; he didn’t even bother trying to
pretend
he wasn’t staring overtly at her body.

She walked right up, stopped; she seemed perturbed but cheerily greeted him. “Hi.”

“Huh-hi,” Flood said.

She kept looking behind her. A gust of wind lifted her white-blond hair. Flood was staring at the nipples showing through the net squares but managed to be coherent enough to ask, “Is something wrong?”

“Well, yeah. Some filthy old drunk guy is following me...”

It pained him, but he took his eyes off her body and looked down the beach. In the distance, he saw a guy with glasses staring back but he wasn’t moving. He was just standing there staring as no doubt many, many men stared at her with regularity. Dressed like this—if one could call a few ounces of threads “dress”—she must be used to it.

“No, not him. That guy.”

Flood’s eyes flicked. The glare of sun provided a momentary camouflage...then, from its glow a man emerged.
You gotta be kidding me,
Flood thought. It was one of those beach denizens, who was probably forty-five but looked sixty-five. Raggy shorts and flip-flops, skin scorched by decades in the sun, skinny but with a belly sticking out from chronic liver damage.

“Does this guy even have teeth?” Flood remarked. “He looks like Captain Salty on the skids.”

The girl laughed but was still addled. “He’s been following me for a half mile, saying the dirtiest things, stuff like because of my bikini I’m asking for it.”

“Yeah, well, I think all this guy’s gonna be asking for real soon is a liver transplant. Look at him. He’s a wreck.”

The man staggered closer. Tufts of matted hair sprouted around the rim of a crooked Orioles cap stained nearly white with sweat-salt. The gray-blond beard looked like fungus-encrusted Brillo. “Hey, there, brother,” he cragged, “what say let’s double-team that honey? You see the tits and box on that?”

Flood snapped, very unlike him, and stuck his face right in the old man’s, shouting, “What the FUCK is your problem, you wasted geezer? I mean besides the obvious alcohol problem? What are you doing harassing that woman?”

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