-That you, Silky?
-It's me, Mr. Gamberge.
-Where the hell you been all week?
-I was working.
-You were right about the one in the yellow dress. She turned out to be . . . you'll definitely want to tape this one.
-You were with her for a week?
-You never did that before.
-Never had to. We made out like bandits. Twelve hundred dollars and change. Felt much sweeter when I found out she's in the same business.
-You stole from a dip?
-How do you like that!
-Wait. Let me get the tape. I want this from the beginning. From when she finished her coffee. Threw the cup in the trash.
Gamberge flicked the tape on.
-After that she headed south. I followed her out of the park to a café on Madison. She sat at a sidewalk table. Elegant, enticing she was. I don't know why, but I had this odd feeling she wanted to be picked. I had several opportunities while she ate some pieces of fruit, and licked her long fingers. She had this sensuous way of licking them. Every time she leaned forward to wipe her face and hands, more opportunities presented themselves. I didn't want to put her in an embarrassing position, so I waited until she'd paid the check. Believe it or not, she put her bag on the ground. No challenge at all.
-What happened then?
-There was a wad of twenties in her purse but no ID. So I . . . I followed her for quite a way. Up Madison.
-Yeah, go on.
-Well, she stopped in a doorway in the seventies. One of those fancy boutiques.
-She took in the scene on the street for a while. Turned out she was looking for a mark.
-I like this. Very sexy. Speed it up.
-She settled on this man with a ponytail. Forty-five. Suntanned. He looked like good pickings.
-She swept out of the doorway. Smooth as a swan, no ripples. One move, a delicate swerve accompanied by a beautiful smile, was all it took. And your man was sans wallet. She was hot.
-You sure you haven't run across this dame before?
-Yeah. She operates alone. Very low-key.
-What happened then?
-Oh yeah. . . .
-Silky, what's with all the hesitation?
-Yeah. This is like pulling hen's teeth.
-Sorry, Mr. Gamberge.
-Are you holding back?
-Of course not. Why would I do that?
-You look pale. You better not be hiding anything.
-So cut to the chase.
-Yeah, idiot. You know, like what happened when you got back to her place. The meat and potatoes.
-I. . . .
-Mr. Gamberge. . . .
-This had better be good.
-I . . . I made it up.
-I didn't follow her.
-I didn't follow her.
-Wait! Let's get this straight. First you tell me you followed her. Then you tell me you didn't. You don't have a problem with that?
-I didn't follow her.
-So what were you doing? For a whole fucking week?
-I was with Emily Wurrboe.
-Emily who? Do I know this chick?
-Remember the one with her leg in a cast a few months back? Blonde?
-Bullshit. You didn't have time. You were always here when you weren't working.
-I made the others up. The ones you sent me out to get. I never met them.
Gamberge pointed to the notebooks on the shelf.
-You telling me there are women in those books that don't exist?
-They exist. But I made up the stories about them.
-You piece of shit. You never had sex with any of them?
-How the fuck did you get the money? You always came back with plenty.
-I'd cruise hotel bars on my way to see Emily. I dipped in, dipped out. Didn't take very long. Mark a fat cat. Bingo!
-How could you do this to me? Why?
-I didn't do it to you, Mr. Gamberge. When I met Emily . . . it was . . . I mean we . . . it was very fast. We fell in . . . it can happen to anybody.
-You fool. You know what this means?
Gamberge was shaking. He couldn't get his next words to form. He banged his fist on the mantelpiece several times before he was able to speak again.
-I can't handle this naked, he said.
He flew into the liquor cabinet. Fixed himself a very large, very dry martini.
-This for real? You and this broad?
-It's fucked up, Silky. How about the woman the other day, Marble Woman? Did she happen?
-Yes. I took Marble Woman. Stole her for you. If you think I found it easy deceiving you, inventing stories. . . .
-Traitor. . . . And before her?
-I think Monkey Woman was the last.
Gamberge kicked a chair over, took another slug of martini.
-After all I've done for you. You'd be nothing without me. Shit. Who do you think's protected you all these years? Huh? How many times have I saved your scraggy ass? You know you never never get involved with a client. Pick and fuck. Period.
-I said shut up. I don't want to hear it. What's this Wurrboe bitch got going for her anyway?
-She. . . .
-I'm waiting, Max.
-Don't "mister" me. I want to know what happened. I'm trying to run a business here.
-I took her money. When I returned her wallet we . . . I don't know. It was mutual I guess.
-You're disgusting. She know what you do?
-You fuck her a lot?
-We make love.
-Bullshit. What's the sex like?
-I don't want to talk about it.
-You're going to.
-You screwed me, Silky. You're never going to see her again.
-You can't stop me.
-Yes I can, and you know how.
Silky shut the door to Gamberge's apartment quietly and hurried to the elevator. Ten floors below he got out. Made his way along the corridor to 7G, where Gamberge's mother lived.
-He can't do this to me, he said out loud several times before he reached her door.
-I think she's asleep, Louisa, the maid, said when she answered.
-I won't keep her long, Silky said.
-She's in the library.
-Thanks. How are you doing?
-I'm slowing up.
Louisa shuffled toward the kitchen. Silky walked through the sitting room to the library.
-Hello, he said as he tapped on the door.
The old lady was slumped in her chair clasping a glass. Two gin bottles stood, one nearly empty, the other unopened, on a table within her reach. The shades on both windows were pulled down almost all the way. She didn't respond.
-Hello, he said louder.
Mrs. Gamberge opened her cataract eyes and looked up, at least six inches higher than the top of Silky's head.
-No, it's Silky.
-Why does Paul never come?
-He's very busy.
-That's some excuse. He sends you, doesn't he? His conscience.
-He likes me to keep an eye on you, yes. He wanted me to give you this. A belated birthday present.
Silky handed her a box he'd wrapped up containing the two rings he'd chosen. She felt it on all sides. Then let it fall to the floor.
-How are you feeling today? Silky said.
-Terrible. My memory's getting worse.
Mrs. Gamberge felt for the bottle that was almost empty. Poured what remained from it into her glass, and drank.
-Would you like a drink?
-Too early for me, thanks, Silky said. Have you been into the park lately?
-No. It's full of robbers. Besides, Louisa's getting too old to push me over there.
She tipped the rest of her drink into her mouth.
-Let me get you another, Silky said.
He broke into the new bottle, filled her glass. She took the stuff straight.
-Can I get you anything else? he said.
-What else is there? Gin is fine. Louisa's always trying to get me to eat. I tell her I'm not hungry. But she won't let it go. I don't count anymore.
-She's only trying to be helpful.
-Some help she is.
Mrs. Gamberge, defiant, knocked back the gin in her glass.
-Another? Silky said.
-What sort of question is that?
Silky poured her more gin. He knew what he was doing, and he could only guess as to whether or not she knew what he was doing. Either way, she showed no signs of slowing down.
-Have you always lived in New York? Silky asked.
-Ever since I got married. Marriage. . . . That was a big mistake.
-Why do you say that?
-I was young and needed to get away from my family. Bernard seemed normal, supportive, you know, the proper sort. The only person I could trust at the time. I thought I was in love. What did I know? I was twenty-two years old.
-That must have been around the end of the war?
-Yes. Bernard had to go back to the Sudan after the wedding. God knows what he was doing there.
-So you were all alone?
-Completely. I learned to cope, although it was never quite the same after the war.
-Getting pregnant. Believe me, I wasn't trying to get pregnant. I wasn't prepared for one, let alone two.
-You mean twins?
-One, two, buckle my shoe.
-I didn't know Paul had a twin.
-I nearly died when they told me. Two, when it shouldn't have even been one. Bernard was scarcely around. He had no idea about children. Nor did I for that matter.
She scratched the top of her head, going after the spot where her white hair was thinnest, where there was an open sore.
-Paul's never said anything to me about a twin, Silky said.
-Paul can be that way.
-Was it a brother, or a sister?
-A brother. Max.
-Maxwell Davenport Gamberge. They were identical.
-Does he ever come visit?
-He would if he could. He's dead.
-It was a long time ago. But there's never an hour goes by. . . .
Mrs. Gamberge started to cry.
-Is there anything I can do? Silky said.
-I'm used to it. I'll be all right.
She sipped her gin. After a few moments she started to talk again.
-Max was sweet. The sweetest boy. If only he were here now. He wouldn't abandon me. It wasn't his fault. Poor, sweet Max.
-How old was he when he died?
- About four.
She threw her head back, shook it. Then she settled down again.
-Paul cried a lot. Sometimes all night. I couldn't bear it. When he wasn't crying he was whining. I was depressed enough as it was. Paul drove me crazy.
-Did they get along well together?
-Sometimes. Sometimes not. Max was always happy to be Paul's friend, but with Paul it was a different story. In his good moods he'd play with Max.
-What happened to Max, if you don't mind me asking?
-Darling Max. He was the sweetest little boy. . . . February nineteen. I found him in bed that morning, cold as a stone. Paul was crying. I don't think he realized what he'd done.
-What did he do?
-It was an accident. Somehow he rolled on his brother in the night. . . . He suffocated him.
-That's awful. I'm very sorry.
Mrs. Gamberge tried to mop up her tears with her sleeve, but more kept coming.
-Poor little Max couldn't breathe. He was such a treasure. I see him every day. I try to keep it to myself. He's always smiling. . . . People say they do, but they don't understand. Dear, precious Max. So unlike Paul. Paul was trouble. I couldn't always tell them apart, you know. When they were quiet it was almost impossible. I couldn't cope. Bernard was never home. I did what I could. What I had to do. What does it matter in the end? There's only one thing to look forward to.
She cradled her glass, pulled it to her, and closed her eyes. She moaned for a moment, then was silent.
-Are you all right? Silky asked.
He asked her again. There was no reply. He tiptoed out of the room.
Go To Page: 1 2 3 4