Fun with Brady and Angelica (Kit Tolliver #10 (The Kit Tolliver Stories)Lawrence Block
BRADY AND ANGELICA
A KIT TOLLIVER STORY
* * *
Copyright © 2013, Lawrence Block
All Rights Reserved
Cover Design: Jayne E. Smith
Ebook Design: JW Manus
Rita said, “Memphis! Did you see Elvis yet?”
“I was in a restaurant,” she said. “Just a diner, really. And there was an Elvis at one end of the counter and another one in a booth. Those were the only two I’ve seen and I saw them both at once.”
“Well, duh, yeah. I mean, if it was just one, I suppose it might have been the King himself, but with two of them—”
“What I meant was have you been to Graceland.”
“Oh. No, not yet.”
“That would have been my first stop. Kimmie, every time you call you’ve got a new phone.”
“Well, they’re disposable,” she said. “So I tend to dispose of them.”
“Kimmie, you kill me.” Oh, don’t say that. “You know, I thought I saw you the other afternoon. In Seattle, in Pike Place Market?”
“It wasn’t me, Rita.”
“Oh, don’t I know that? I took a good look, and she didn’t really look like you at all.”
“She was a lot prettier.”
“Silly! But you know what I went and did?”
“Picked her up and took her home.”
“And ate her pussy.”
“Kimmie, you’re terrible!”
“You know you are. But what’s really bad—”
“You thought about it.”
“Yes! I went home and jilled about it.”
“And is that what you’re doing now?”
“But I’m sort of in the mood.”
“Oh, are you?”
“Well . . .”
And a little later:
“So I was out walking one night, and this guy gave me a ride on his motorcycle. I never saw his face. He was all in leather, and he had a beard, and he was wearing these mirrored goggles. And I rode a couple of hundred miles on the back of his motorcycle.”
“You’re making this up, right? It’s okay if you are, because I like it just fine, but I was wondering—”
“No, this is real, Rita. Anyway, nothing happened.”
“Nothing happened? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“There was no sex.”
“Why not? I mean, even if you were having your period—”
“Neither of us wanted it.”
“I don’t know. We just didn’t. So I’m sitting beside him on the big Harley, and we’re zooming through the night, and there’s nothing in the world but the vibration of the bike and the smell of his beat-up leather jacket, and—”
“And you came in your pants.”
“You didn’t? I almost did, just from hearing about it. How come you didn’t?”
“I don’t know. I suppose I could have.”
“What stopped you?”
“I just . . . let it go. Have you ever been, like, out on a cold day, and you’re not dressed for it, and the wind’s like a knife?”
“And that’s like being on a bike and smelling leather?”
“No, let me finish. When that happens, out in the cold, there’s a thing I’ll do sometimes. I let the cold just blow right through me, and I visualize it passing through without affecting me. Have you ever tried that?”
“Well, it sort of works. It’s a mental thing, I guess, but it sort of works.”
“And that’s what you did? You let this biker guy blow through you?”
“The feeling I had,” she said. “I just sort of let it pass on through. It stopped being sexual, and then it just went away.”
“I know, it’s hard to explain.”
“That woman I saw? In the Pike Place Market?”
“Still thinking about her?”
“I mean, I never could have approached her. It’s one thing to think of it and something else to act on it.”
“I keep thinking I want to try it with a woman. I’m like, Well, if Kim were here, di dah di dah di dah. But you’re not here, and what am I gonna do, walk into a gay bar?”
“I know I could. There’s one I keep driving past. I don’t even slow down, but I keep finding excuses to drive past it. Kimmie, tell me the truth, okay? Have you ever been with a woman?”
“And here we are, a couple of phone sex buddies, and we don’t even know what we’re talking about. Except we sort of do, don’t we?”
The place she found was just off Beale Street. The windows were blacked out, and an unobtrusive sign told the establishment’s name: The Daiquiri Dock. There was nothing to suggest that it might be a lesbian bar, but she evidently sensed something, and lingered in a doorway across the street. And, sure enough, the door opened and a pair of visibly gay women left arm in arm. She stayed where she was, and another woman turned up and walked into the bar, and two more followed shortly thereafter.
She could have a glass of white wine. Get a sense of things, then go back to her room alone.
And that’s what happened, except that it was two glasses of red wine, not one glass of white. She bought one, and a woman who said her name was Sandy insisted on buying her the second. Sandy wasn’t very attractive, she had a stolid quality to her that she found unappealing, and anyway Sandy lost interest and went off to study the jukebox selections. A couple of other women glanced her way, but she kept her face unexpressive and let her body language suggest that she just wanted a quiet drink.
Back in her hotel room, she began loading her clothes into her suitcase. She wasn’t quite ready for this, but she was getting there. She’d get a good night’s sleep, leave town in the morning. And in the next city, or the one after that, there’d be a lesbian bar and she’d be ready.
St. Louis, on a quiet street near Carr Square, within sight of the famous Arch. Another city, another lesbian bar, and when she’d scouted it out the previous evening she hadn’t even allowed herself to cross the threshold. Instead she’d spent the better part of an hour in the diner diagonally across the street, nursing a cup of coffee, watching through the fly-specked window as women passed in and out of Eve’s Rib.
Now and then, a man. Not a mannish woman, there were plenty of those, but occasionally a man entering or leaving, sometimes accompanied by a woman, sometimes alone. One of these—alone, shoulders slumped, hands in pockets—reminded her for a split second of Sid.
Sid from Philadelphia, who of course was not from Philadelphia, and was probably not named Sid. Sid the Cipher, Sid the Unfindable, the one remaining name on her list of Things to Undo. Sid who, just by existing, kept her from—what?
Living her life.
But this wasn’t Sid. It was just a man who looked disappointed, as if he’d expected to find the secret of the universe in a dykery, and—
Oh, for Christ’s sake. That’s why the called the place in Memphis The Daiquiri Dock, even in the utter absence of a Caribbean motif. Daiquiri = Dykery. It had taken her a week and a few hundred miles to get the joke.
She shook her head, finished her coffee. Then she’d returned to her hotel room.
sp; Tonight she was back, and dressed and groomed for the place, more femme than butch, but certainly no housewife, no sorority girl, no cheerleader. Just a woman looking to meet a woman.
Missy, she thought. Tonight her name would be Missy.
And tonight she didn’t hesitate. She went inside, made her way to the bar.
While his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, the man led the woman to a booth with a good view of the bar. He sat down opposite her and breathed deeply, watching the women around him. And they were all women; he hadn’t seen another man since he crossed the threshold.
He said, “God, I love this place.”
“You love what we find here.”
“And the place itself. This bar, and others like it. I like the atmosphere, Jesus, I like the way it smells.”
“You like dyke bars because you like girls,” the woman said. “That’s the smell you like. You like the way they smell, and their softness, and how they yield, how they give in. How they submit.”
“Well,” he said.
The bar was called Eve’s Rib, and you had to be looking for it to find it, tucked away on a side street on the edge of the warehouse district. It catered to lesbians, but men were not unwelcome, so long as they didn’t make unwelcome advances to the women customers. There was a sad-looking older gentleman he’d seen there once or twice, always by himself, always wearing a suit and tie, always with a glass in his hand. But the fellow wasn’t here this evening, and he himself seemed to be the only man.
His name was Brady. That was his last name, but it was all anyone ever called him. He’d never cared for his first name, which was Winston, and had thought of changing it from Winston Brady to Brady Winston. Or perhaps to Brady Brady. With B for a middle initial. B for Brady, naturally.
He was tall, and he’d maintained the same weight effortlessly in the twenty years since college. He didn’t care that much about food, sometimes missed a meal. He didn’t run or go to a gym or do martial arts, but he somehow got enough exercise to maintain good muscle tone. The only thing he could be said to work at was his suntan, a deep bronze tone courtesy of the beach in the summer and a tanning salon in the winter. He was handsome, with strong facial features and high cheekbones, and he knew it, and knew the tan added to it.
His hair was dark, with just a touch of gray at the temples. He hoped it would stay like that, but knew it wouldn’t. A touch of gray was all right, it was even an asset, but he didn’t feel ready for a full head of gray hair. Maybe he’d dye it, if it came to that. But in any event he’d preserve the gray at the temples, because he liked the effect.
On the jukebox, an Anne Murray record ended and a K.D. Lang record followed in turn. A waitress came to their booth, took their drink order. She was neither tall nor short, a little thick in the waist but not objectionably so. She came back with two glasses of Chardonnay, and Brady watched her walk off.
“I wouldn’t mind,” he told the woman.
“Hands off the help.”
“Oh, I know. It was an observation, not a suggestion.”
“Anyway, she’s Girls Only. It sticks out all over her.”
“Not the only thing that sticks out.”
“She wouldn’t like it,” the woman said, “and you’d try to make her like it, but it wouldn’t work.”
“So? It could still be interesting. But it’s idle speculation, because, as you so kindly pointed out, it’s a case of hands off the help.”
“All the same,” he said, “I wouldn’t mind.”
Missy was sitting alone at the bar. She had ordered an Orange Blossom, straight up, without being all that certain what it was, but she’d heard the name and liked the sound of it. And wasn’t it something a sweet young thing named Missy would order? This one showed up in a stemmed glass, like a martini, and it was orange, which figured, and garnished with an orange slice. She took a small sip and identified two of the ingredients, gin and orange juice, but there was an undertone of something else, some cordial, that she couldn’t place. Triple Sec? Cointreau?
She kept her eyes facing forward but surveyed as much of the room as she could out of the corners of her eyes. She felt someone looking at her, actually felt the gaze, and she turned her head just enough to catch an oblique glimpse of them. A man and a woman, and she was a beauty while he was movie-star handsome. And they were looking at her, and wasn’t that interesting?
But someone else was looking at her, and not from a distance. And walking toward her, no, not simply walking, striding toward her, with an aura of butch self-confidence overlaid upon a core of nervous anxiety.
“What’s that you’re drinking?”
“An Orange Blossom.”
“It’s all right.”
“Well, drink up and I’ll buy you another.”
A deep voice, probably deeper than the one God had given her. She’d read about a film star—a gay man, actually, although he kept it a secret until AIDS got him. He’d started out with a high-pitched voice, and did something about it; every day he went to a local subway stop, and when the express train roared by he screamed at the top of his lungs. After a few months his voice dropped a full octave, and he went to Hollywood and started playing romantic leads.
Did this one know the subway trick? Or was she just forcing her voice into its lower register?
Then again, what did she care? It was nice to be admired, but she wasn’t interested. If she was going to try being with a woman, what did she want with one who was trying to be a man?
The woman set down her glass of Chardonnay. “Hell,” she said.
“That one would be ideal,” she said, “but that swaggering bull-dyke got there first.”
“Have a look to their right, why don’t you.”
“How did I miss her? But isn’t that—”
“No, but that’s close. Suzanne.”
“Suzanne it is. We called her Suze, as I recall.”
Which rhymes with cooze, she thought.
“Which rhymes with cooze,” he said, predictably enough. “She was delicious. And she really didn’t want to play, not at first.”
“She wanted to play with me. She didn’t get unhappy until you joined the party.”
“And then she got very unhappy.”
“Yes. Fear and anger in equal parts. I have to say it added a little something.”
“But she got over it. In fact by the time we were done with her I was afraid she was going to propose marriage.”
“She did show some enthusiasm, didn’t she?”
Her own name was Angelica, or at least that was the latest variation on the theme. Her parents had named her Angela, which early on got shortened to Ange and Angie. And then she resumed being Angela again, until for a while she morphed into Angelique, but that never felt entirely natural. She’d barely considered Angelica, until one night that was her response when someone asked her name, and she’d been Angelica ever since.
She was beautiful, and she knew it, but there was a portion of her psyche that would never entirely believe it. You could be better, it had said, always and forever, and it had led her to lighten her hair the slightest bit and warm its tone to a rich honey blonde. You could be better, it told her, through four minor plastic surgeries, smoothing the imperceptible bump on the bridge of her nose, lifting her full breasts a few degrees, erasing a crease here and a wrinkle there. “Gilding the lily,” her Sao Paulo surgeon said on her most recent visit, but she knew what she wanted, and he did the work.
“Suze the Cooze,” Brady said. “What an eager little thing she turned out to be, and inventive in the bargain. I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t mind a return engagement. And I don’t think it would be all that hard to persuade her.”
“No? You certainly had a good time, at least the way I remember it.”
“Another time,” she said, “Tonight I want someone new.”
br /> “You want the conquest.”
“I do,” she said. “I want the yielding, the submission. And then I want the fear, the shock and awe, when she discovers she’s getting more than she thought. And then that delicious moment when she yields all over again.”
“To me, you mean.”
“I love that part,” he admitted. “And if she doesn’t yield, well, in certain ways that can be even nicer.”
“It’s delicious either way,” she said. “That’s what I want.”
“Well, I want what you want, my dear. And she’d be perfect, so it’s a shame your little dark-haired friend is taken.”
“But I don’t think she is,” she said. “Watch.”
“Thank you,” she said. “But no.”
“Hey, I just got here, you know? My name’s Bobbie.”
“You’re not gonna tell me your name?”
“I’m not interested.”
“Hey,” Bobbie said. “I’m just being friendly, you know?”
“I’m still not interested.”
“Man, that’s cold. All I said was my name and I’d like to buy you a drink. I wasn’t suggesting we take a place together and go pick out drapes.”
“You’re not my type,” she said. “So why should we waste each other’s time?”
“I’ll bet you’ve never been with anybody like me. Am I right?” She didn’t answer, and the woman took that for assent. “You don’t know what you’re missing, sweetie.”
“And I won’t find out,” she said, putting a little steel in her voice. “Not tonight, at any rate, so why don’t you go find someone who’s looking for what you’ve got on offer?”
“Women,” Bobbie said, heavily, and sighed. And got up from her seat.
“My turn,” Angelica said.
Brady watched her go. His eyes clung to her bottom as she crossed the room, and he didn’t have to check to know that his were not the only eyes on her. She was beautiful, and they were gorgeous together, he and she, and they hunted as a team, spotting their prey, cutting her off from the herd, running her down together, and sharing in the feast.