Avenging Olimpia

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1/9/09 20:33 –– Olimpia lies bleeding to death at the ATM down the street from the bar. The cops take the video tapes that could possibly hold clues to the perpetrators, but make no promises. I ignore them and ride with her to a hospital in Harlem. By the time we get there, we’ve already said our goodbyes. On her way into the OR, she arrests. By midnight, I’m on the street in a puddle of piss, losing what little of my mind I have left. I know the case will never be vigorously or adequately pursued, cause she’s not blonde and blue-eyed from the Midwest.

I decide to kill myself.

2/14/09 3:31 –– I can’t believe I’m still alive. I don’t eat. Must be the alcohol, killing me too slow.

3/23/09 20:04 –– A few hours ago the EMT’s were telling me not to fall asleep. One of them was holding a pump thing and I remember my air mattress. Are they staying over?

Wait…that was last week.

4/1/09 9:18 –– I decide I want to live. I celebrate by trying to kill myself with champagne.

4/22/09 18:49 –– Birthday comes and goes almost without incident. Just before the sun dips below my window I get word that there’s a package for me at the post office. Good people, my friends there. They’d never forward anything to my home address and would probably drop and cover if it were ticking. I arrive and immediately recognize Yaasmin’s handwriting. The box waiting for me is small and wrapped so thickly I wonder if I should chuck it into the river. I don’t. Instead, I walk the thing home and open it. There’s a small crystal with gold plating writing quill and inkwell tschotchke that’s probably worth more than the hotel. Under it is a newspaper clipping dating back a few years talking about a horse race. I see one of the horses is circled with lipstick. It’s name: Better Man. I wish she’d stop fucking around and just tell me what she’s trying to say. She’s always trying to get me to call her even though she knows I can’t. Angry, I throw out the crystal thing and put my lighter to the clipping. Then, just as the sun disappears, it hits me. I grab my spring coat and make for the elevator.

4/22/09 19:18 –– “Better Man” is a male escort service on the lower East side. You have to know it’s there to find it. I just about recognize the place with its sludge brown awning and chipped lion newel caps. I used to come here to collect from a fella named Paulo Nevab. He was part owner and full time gambler who only occasionally sold his abs to the old and rich to pay off his debts. I was very drunk the last time I was there (like I was the last time I was just about everywhere), and only vaguely remember him asking me if I was a bottom or a top. I do remember breaking his nose, however. Can’t remember if I was angry at the question or the fact that he didn’t want to pay. Either way, I got what I wanted. I know this because my nose looks fine.

I knock using the big iron ring, pissed that Yaasmin didn’t come out and tell me why I was here. If she was trying to humiliate me for disappearing on her, I guess I can’t blame her. However, if I didn’t owe her Saudi Prince dad a huge favor, I’d have mailed back the tschotchke and told her to tuck it in.

The door opens. It’s Paulo. His nose is still crooked and he says he’s been expecting me. I ask him to make it quick, and he tells me that he has something I want for a price. I tell him I’ll fix his nose for him for free instead and he lets me in.

4/22/09 19:21 — Paulo leads me to the tall, red door of a back room––the whole place is pretty much a stable of back rooms––and to my surprise, leaves me there. I knock and hear a woman’s voice telling me to “come in, it’s open”. I turn the knob and brace myself for who’s on the other side.

I enter and close the door behind me. I take one step, and hold my ground.

“You know, you should try and be nicer to Yaasmin,” says the woman in black lingerie, her long, shapely legs unwrapping on a divan, “her poor heart was so young when you broke it.”

“My leg was pretty young, too,” I tell her, unable to take my eyes off of her hand absently stroking her thigh.

“You don’t know that her father had anything to do with that,” she said. “Aren’t people always getting hurt in your business?”

“It’s not my business anymore, and by the way…what’s Paulo on about a price? You’d better watch him.”

She rose from the divan and fetched a cigarette. “You don’t mind, do you? You used to.”

“Go ahead…I’ll have what I came for before it’s done.” I was trying to rough the air up a little, but in truth I was resisting the urge to grab her. Sahara Rain North is as rare a woman as she sounds, and her beauty rivaled any view on this earth, but she was also the reason for my limp. As I watch her turn around and bend over for an ashtray, I realize the years haven’t touched her. Haven’t gone anywhere near her. Still, neither was I.

“What you want is in here,” she said, tapping the side of her head lightly with her cigarette fingers, “so about that price Paulo mentioned…”

4/22/09 20:43 — Saharah kisses my chest as I stare at the ceiling. I can feel her warm, firm breasts against my stomach, tracing an old knife wound. I can’t get Olimpia out of my mind, and apologize to her without saying anything. But there’s still business to see to.

“Do I have to guess?” My tone isn’t exactly post-coital cosy.

Sahara sits up and uses her hands to shake her hair full. It’s dark, but I can still see that her bosom is surprisingly well-behaved. The name Countess Bathory enters my mind. Then blood. Olimpia’s blood.

“Well?”

“Smoke?”

“No.”

Sahara reaches over to her pack of cigarettes and lights one up. The amber glow illuminates her lying chin and I want to grab it hard. Instead, I say, “If you’re making something up, don’t bother. I’ve already decided whatever you say is a lie and I’m never going to see you again.”

I can tell she’s hurt. It’s the only way. “You remember the day you got jumped?” She blows out a plume and taps her ash in the tray. “I was so upset.”

“Barely,” I say. “Either thing, actually.”

“You were set up. It was the prince.”

I push her away and reach below the covers to find my pants. “I’m here so Yaasmin can confess to something I already know? Tell her to get laid by a man––or a woman––once and awhile and stop fucking the horses.”

Sahara starts talking faster. “She thought knowing the score would help you focus…keep you from wasting your time on her father. There was never a bet. O’Leary got paid to give you the order…for a large sum of money, of course.”

“Yeah, well, I hope he had a nice funeral,” I said, buckling my belt and getting to my feet. “Did he really think I wouldn’t link the horses back to the stupid sonofabitch? Now I know where his kid gets her smarts.”

Sahara rises just after me, and the way she does it––the sheer power of her femininity––wires my jaw shut. “Maybe he wanted you to know it was him? Maybe it was his sense of humor?”

“If that’s his best stuff, I hope he likes tomatoes.” I find my shirt and head for the door.

“Wait!” she says, pattering after me. “There’s more.”

I look at her, barely making out her soft, pale skin in the din. “I’m all out of tokens,” I tell her, and I can see by the change in her posture that it leaves a mark.

“No, Hobert…” she says, adding a sniff, “this one’s on the house.”

(continued)