Chapter 2: A Detective, pursuing a lead not likely to produce significant results, comes upon a young girl needing to solve a certain mystery of her own, and upon interrogation finds her life to be not quite an open book, if not yet a fully closed one.
After reading and memorizing the case file that’d been faxed to the office, Riley grabbed the key to his residence for the night, the apartment of a lovely blonde secretary named Karen. He also grabbed his overnight bag with a few essentials. He left the office and took a cab out to her place in Tribeca, let himself in, and crept silently to her bedroom. A light was on. He eased open the door, and found that she had fallen asleep with the lamp on and a book in her hand, waiting for him. He took off his clothes as silently as possible, but not silently enough.
She woke up and asked what took him so long, but it was plain to see she had no real interest in the answer. He smiled, crawled across the bed, and kissed her.
When they were finished making love, Riley got up and took a shower, taking a moment to flush the condom down the toilet. After the shower he dried off and took a moment to use his beard-trimmer and then brush his teeth with his toothbrush from the overnight bag, things he liked to take care of at night. When he finished, he returned to the bedroom and sat naked on the bed, finally ready to get some sleep. Karen was lying there, looking at him, smiling, her arms and legs relaxed, her body contented. Before he could lie down, she crawled across the bed and hugged him.
“I’ve got some bad news, Riley,” she said, kissing him on the shoulder. “I’m taking myself out of the harem.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that, Karen. Why?”
“I’m getting married.”
“Really? That’s great! Congratulations!”
“Thanks. I’m really sorry, honey, but you can’t stay. He’ll be here in a few hours for a breakfast date. You’ve got to be gone.”
Riley was a little taken aback by being thrown out unceremoniously, considering they’d just made love. But he didn’t want to be a nuisance.
“Couldn’t I get some sleep on the couch? I can be your cousin from Schenectady.”
“Honey, I’m marrying the guy who gave jealousy lessons to Othello. You can’t be anybody’s cousin.”
Riley sighed a little and said, “OK, Karen, if that’s the way you want it. I’m sure you two will be very happy together.”
“Thanks, honey. Let’s hope so. I’m not starting things out too well, I know. I should’ve stopped you. I should’ve told you about him, but I had to have one last little taste of the Riley.”
Riley had the unpleasant reaction most men would have, hearing the word little used in any context during pillow talk, but he didn’t complain.
“I take it you never told him about us?”
“Us? There is no ‘us,’ Riley. One day a month does not an ’us’ make.”
Riley smiled. She intended to enjoy dumping him, getting some of the power and control back for the first time in a long while. She continued.
“Honey, how long do you think you can go on this way? A lot of the girls in the harem are worried about you. You’re knocking on forty, you know.”
“Please don’t call it a harem. If you call it that, I might start calling it that. I started this arrangement because I was tired of everybody hating me for having a lot of sex with a lot of different women. I’m tired of being the bad guy. I don’t like people acting like I’m a predator. This way at least there’s no lying, and everybody knows where they stand.”
“Plus you don’t have to pay rent.”
“Yeah. That’s nice.”
“And when’s the last time you told any random woman about the arrangement?”
“Because you know any woman who hears about it is going to hate you.”
“I wish women could be a little more understanding about this. You’ve never had any cause to complain, have you?”
“Honey, I’ve been a part of the arrangement for more than two years now, and I look forward to the twenty-fifth of every month like a high holy day. You never disappoint. But I never kidded myself for a second that this was a real relationship. Don’t you want a real relationship? Don’t you want to get married one day?”
“I’ve never understood the point of marriage, at least for me. You’re getting married; you explain it to me. What is it for?”
“Lots of things. Companionship. Not dying alone.”
“Oh, what’s the big deal about dying alone? If a couple is married for fifty years, unless they die together in a car accident, at least one of them is going to die alone. Right?”
“So you really don’t ever want to get married?”
“I really don’t. I don’t even like dating. Seduction kind of bores me. I really think I don’t have any ability to fall in love. But maybe some day I’ll meet a woman who might change my mind. I don’t want to say it’s totally impossible. It might happen.”
“Not if you never date, it won’t. Honey, I’m not kidding. A lot of the girls are worried about you.”
“Do you all get together and talk about me, or something?”
“There’s a Web site.”
“Of course. Of course there is. Please don’t tell me the name.”
She kissed him on the shoulder again and said, “Your clothes are hanging up in the usual place, Riley.”
“Thanks. Your fiancé didn’t find them?”
“If he’s checking out the clothes in my closet, we’ve got worse problems than you. Forget the dry-cleaning bill, OK? It’s on the house.”
He stood, turned, and leaned down to kiss her good-bye on the lips, but she gave him her cheek.
“Denied!” he said.
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Genre – Murder / Mystery
Rating – R
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