Thursday, February 14, 2013

Plan B by Albert Tucher


PLAN B - ALBERT TUCHER
 
“So,” said the client. “What’s the boyfriend got planned for Valentine’s Day?”
 
Diana was sorry to see the quiet time end, but the client had bought conversation if he wanted it. He was one of the men who liked to pry into her private life. They also liked her to have a boyfriend who didn’t know what she did to pay the bills. Cuckolding an oblivious nice guy was better than Viagra.
 
So, for men like this one, she had invented a boyfriend.
 
“Nothing much,” she said. “We both think it’s pretty silly.”
 
The lie came easily. She knew that her job went beyond the mechanics of sex. Men hired her to be the “if only” woman, the low-maintenance one, the one who didn’t care about Valentine’s Day.
 
“We might hit the diner,” she said.
 
“Which one? I might see you there.”
 
“Really?”
 
That didn’t sound likely. From what he had told her about his wife, she wouldn’t settle for the early bird special.
 
“I wish. No, we’re going to Chez Thierry.”
 
Diana didn’t have to fake her sympathetic grimace. The ridiculously expensive restaurant in darkest Morris County catered to customers with an expensive point to make.
 
“I feel your pain,” she said.
 
She had been there more than once, and it usually led to a marriage proposal from a client who didn’t know how to respect boundaries. That kind of client also booked often and tipped well, which meant that she had to smile until her face hurt and come up with a tactful way to fend him off, all while eating food that she didn’t even like.
 
“I was lucky,” he said. “I totally forgot, but I know the owner. Now I’ll have to let him win on the golf course or something. God, I hate Valentine’s Day.”
 
He turned on his side to face her. The smile on his face told her that something was coming, and she wouldn’t like it.
 
“So let’s skip out. You and me.”
 
That was the penalty for being the “if only” woman. Guys thought life with her would be all good stuff.
 
She decided it was time to try distracting him. She stroked his abdomen, which was actually kind of fun. He kept in good shape for a balding middle-aged man. After a few moments of that, she sent her hand lower.
 
“My boyfriend doesn’t deliver the goods the way you do. Come on, show me again.”
 
He didn’t seem to notice what she was doing. That was a bad sign. Then his smile vanished, which was worse.
 
“I’m serious. You don’t love that guy. I can tell. And as for my wife, well, the last few years have been … Like, I’m in bed, and she comes out of the bathroom, and my first thought is, who are you? And why are you getting into bed with me?”
 
Diana withdrew her hand. It wasn’t doing any good.
 
“I know what’s she’s definitely not coming to bed for. I swear, one day she woke up and said, okay, I’ve caught my man, I’ve had my two kids, thank God that nonsense is over. And she put her knees together for the rest of her life.”
 
Diana sometimes wondered how she would behave in a long term relationship. She had no way to know.
 
He turned on his side to face her.
 
“So let’s do it. I’ll cash out of my business, and we’ll go. Anywhere you want. I can afford it. Or I will be able to, after we kill her.”
 
In almost ten years in the business, Diana had heard all kinds of nonsense. She had learned to keep quiet and let the man talk himself out of his own bad idea, but her hooker’s radar was telling her that this was different. And her radar was never wrong.
 
“We have a prenup. She’ll kill me in a divorce. Financially, I mean.”
 
She already sensed that if she said no, he wouldn’t even hear it. That left plan B.
 
“Okay,” she said, “Let’s do it. Leave it to me.”
 
He didn’t flinch.
 
“She doesn’t know about me, right?”
 
“Right,” he said eagerly.
 
“So you need to set up an alibi, while handle I business. We’ll work that out.”
 
“Fantastic.”
 
He hoisted himself to his knees and looked down at her with a demented grin. Any moment, he would start jumping up and down on the mattress.
 
“Then we stay away from each other,” she said. “Completely. For at least six months.”
 
“What? Why?”
 
He reached out and gripped her bicep, too hard for comfort. Diana tapped his wrist and looked at him until he released her.
 
“If the cops connect us, they’ll be all over you. And me, too.”
 
“Six months?”
 
“At least. You’re grieving. Then you meet somebody who helps you get over it. It has to be believable, and that takes time.”
 
“I don’t know about that.”
 
“Trust me. It’s crucial. Also, it won’t look suspicious when we kill my boyfriend.”
 
“When we what?”
 
“Kill my boyfriend. Fair’s fair.”
 
“Why do you want to kill him? You always talk like he’s this nice guy. Just kind of … dull.”
 
“He’s nice when he gets his way. When he doesn’t, look out. Which is why you better not miss. One chance is all you’ll get.”
 
“I gotta think about this.”
 
He was already thinking about it, so hard that it looked painful. She almost sympathized. Any guy could work up enough resentment to dream about killing his wife, but a stranger?
 
“Okay. Think about it tonight at dinner.”
 
“I’m not going. That’s the whole point. Not having to do this crap anymore.”
 
“Do you want to be smart, or do you want to do life in Rahway?”
 
The client subsided onto the mattress and came to rest on his back. He stared straight up, as if the ceiling held the answer to everything. There might be a ceiling like that somewhere, but not in this budget motel room.
 
“Maybe there’s a plan B.”
 
His tone said that plan B involved forgetting the whole thing. That worked for her.
 
Diana glanced at her watch. He had ten minutes left on the hour. It went against her principles to cut out early, but today he wouldn’t notice. And he might recover faster without her there to remind him that he had wussed.
 
She got out of bed and went to her clothes on the flimsy chair by the table in the corner.
 
Not a bad day’s work, she thought as she dressed.
 
A client in prison was money down the drain, and this client would come to realize that hating his life beat doing life. He might not call her for a few weeks, but when he did, he wouldn’t mention what had happened today.
 
It was almost a shame that the boyfriend wasn’t real. She could tell him how he owed her for saving his life. It might be fun to share a joke like that.
 
As long as it stayed a joke.

3 comments:

Elaine Ash said...

Albert, you sure know how to puncture a guy's dream on Valentine's Day. How noir of you!

Katherine Tomlinson said...

The "if only" woman. I like that.

Anonymous said...

Diana for president! And Tucher for Secretary of Noir!