“Weekend Getaways”

Enclosed is Chapter 28 of “Weekend Getaways” which emphasizes the luxurious nature of food and wine to a man who sidelights as a contract killer to relieve the boredom of his day job:

28

 

          I knew I was in trouble when I wound up with two out of town assignments on consecutive weekends.  We had just started to really hit it off and now I was sure that this was going to be a setback of some sort.  With Audrey, I wanted to try to be as honest as possible with her, within reason of course given my alternate circumstances.  I really hated making excuses.  Since each job paid in excess of seven thousand dollars (on average), I could not very well turn down the more lucrative opportunities that came my way.  Also, I was now starting to develop a reputation that I needed to maintain.  Late Friday afternoon of the second weekend, I called her at work.

          “I WILL make this up to you.  I promise,” I beseeched.

          “Oh, yeah.  How?”  It was a direct challenge even though her tone sounded more acquiescent and I knew that I needed to respond quickly.

          “I’ll give you a tour of the absolute BEST the city has to offer.”

          “Best of what?”

          “Everything.  No matter the cost.”

          “You’ll get your chance, mister.  Call me.”  She hung up, not angrily but in a way to let me know that I was, indeed, getting a chance.  Perhaps a last chance.  And I knew I had to take full advantage of it.

          I followed my man most of Saturday.  He was an innocuous looking man in his late fifties, perhaps early sixties.  He looked more like an antique dealer with his specific manner of walking and moving.  I stopped my personal analysis there.  Knowledge of the individual and/or empathy was not only not necessary, it created interference and distraction.

          As he came out on Sunday morning to get his newspaper, I broke his neck and dragged him back inside to his foyer.  I closed and locked the door.  I was home before lunch.

          I watched the Travel Channel during dinner and beyond as I held a clipboard with a pad of paper.  I was taking mental notes, and then transcribing the ideas onto the paper.

          After a while, my huge list had many things crossed out, numbers placed alongside the remaining items, arrows drawn from one line to another.  On a clean sheet of paper, I made the final list.

          It was getting close to eleven o’clock on Sunday.  I called Audrey because I was keen on starting the anticipation now and causing her heart to flutter the entire week.

          “I’ve got this plan,” I said mysteriously, like I was a Watergate conspirator.

          “I’m sure you do.”  She was pretending boredom.  I heard through it.

          “I’m picking you up at six o’clock on Friday night.  I need you to dress for dinner.  Nice, but not too elegant.  Stylish and attractive, like you’ve got something to show off.  And one other thing.  Pack an overnight bag.  Goodnight, sweetie.”  I hung up, not angrily but in a way to let her know that she was in for an experience.

          I was at her house by six o’clock sharp.  I beeped the horn and waited for her to emerge.  She seemed somewhat confused that I was not going so far as to meet her at the front door.  However, I did very gallantly open her door and put her overnight bag in the trunk.

          “You’re being very mysterious,” she said.  “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

          “It’s a good thing,” I replied nonchalantly.  “You can count on it.”

          Despite my patronage of Monty’s, we went to the Hyatt’s Oak Room Lounge where they served the best martini in the city.  They called it The Perfect Martini.  Chilled Tanqueray is poured in a sterling silver shaker with extra dry vermouth-infused ice cubes which is then shaken vigorously and poured into a chilled Waterford crystal martini glass.  A rangpur lime twist is dropped into the final result.  The bartender touches only the stem as to not allow the temperature of his hands to alter the delicate balance.  I instructed Audrey to do as much.  3-5 sized Key West Pinks were served as the shrimp cocktail with a homemade sauce on the side that seemed to have a touch of citrus, perhaps mandarin orange in it.  I was never able to determine the exact ingredients.  It was a refreshing change from the typical spicy cocktail sauces designed to blunt the palette.

          “All right,” Audrey started, sounding like she was easing up a bit.  “It IS truly unlike any martini I’ve ever had.”

          “It is the best in the city.  But, please, this is only designed to whet your appetite.  Not quench your thirst.”

          Larry’s Chophouse has a name that sounds like it is frequented by a bunch of biker’s.  But ‘Larry’ is Lawrence Edelston, THE premier restaurateur when it comes to fine dining involving meat.  True to the chophouse style, all meat is cooked over a wood grill.  Oak.  Only and always oak.   The meat, which is aged as much as forty days, is hand-carved each day.  The portions are not for the dieter or health-conscious.  All side dishes are extra.  Sauces of all kinds from béarnaise to barbecue are offered as condiment.

          We ordered 14 ounce rib eyes, exquisitely marbled, cooked to just the rare side of medium, with a side of roasted Yukon gold potatoes Françoise and wild rice pilaf with almonds and porcini mushrooms, starting the whole thing off with a wedge salad with chunky blue cheese dressing.  We opted for the lemon béarnaise and the chimichurri sauce to accompany our steaks and a Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

          The walls behind the bar contained racks and racks of wines.  The predominant ambience was several shades of wood and brick, fire and warmth.  There could have been a major snow storm blowing outside and you would never have noticed it in there.

          “I must admit,” she stated, “this IS exquisite.  I’ve heard of the place but I wasn’t aware it had this degree of elegance.”

          “As far as I’m concerned, you can keep all those Texas-style roadhouse steak places.  Those places are for people who don’t know what real meat is.  And I KNOW that you do.”

          I smiled lasciviously.  This was a romantic, adventurous evening and I was enjoying the hell out of it.  And it was nowhere near to being over.

          North of the city was a new shopping development that was centered around a circular man-made lake with an elegant series of fountains that created an orchestrated water and light and music show a la Las Vegas.  Tucked away was Il Romano, a gelateria that had authentic equipment imported directly from Rome.  Twenty different flavors were made fresh daily.  Their biscotti were far superior than anything a cheap coffeehouse had available.  And as for coffee, well, I didn’t bring up the Cappuccino that Audrey had originally gotten for me at the bookstore.  We had traveled well beyond that point by this time.

          We sat with our espresso and gelato (she got hazelnut, I got raspberry cream) and it looked like Connie Francis and Tab Hunter out of a teen heartthrob movie from the 50’s, only a lot more refined and a lot more expensive.  She sighed.

          “What’s wrong?”  I was genuinely concerned.

          “I think you’ve more than made up for your two week disappearing act.  And on top of that, you’ve made me feel better than anyone I’ve ever known.”

          I reached over and softly placed my hand on top of hers.

          “Wait.  The adventure is only just beginning.”  I looked at my watch.  “Sorry to interrupt this magical moment but we’ve got to get going.”  The look on her face deserved to be captured for eternity.  I just didn’t have a camera or the time.

          The windows were open, the wind was blowing in and through her hair.  It didn’t have to be perfect now.  We were not going to be concerning ourselves with other people and our appearance at just this moment.  I pulled into long-term parking at the airport.  She was non-plussed.

          “Okay, wise guy.  You said pack an overnight bag.  All I brought was a sexy babydoll and jeans and a t-shirt with some makeup.  Do I have enough?”

          I pulled out a medium sized suitcase from the trunk.

          “You do now.”

          I already had the tickets and we could go right to our gate.  I didn’t have to worry about anything that I was carrying or that was on my person.  My cell phone and wallet were all that I had and all that I needed.  At least for this particular “assignment.”

          When we got to the gate, part of the surprise had been revealed.  Grand Bahamas.  She looked at me with an utterly lost look on her face.  I imagined she had a myriad of questions.  I answered them without even being asked.

          “I bought a small wardrobe for you with what I thought that you would, a, need and, b, would look good in.  I hope I wasn’t too presumptuous.  We get in around nine a.m. So make sure you get some sleep on the flight.  Time is short and we have a busy weekend.  We should get back about five p.m. our time on Sunday.  Granted, you might be worn out come Monday.  But I have a feeling that adrenaline might get you through the day.”

          THOSE weren’t the questions she had.

          “HOW can you afford this?  All of this?  I can’t imagine on your salary, I mean, this must have cost you a fortune and I, well, I didn’t mean to make a big deal out of the lost weekends…”

          QUICK.  THINK.  RESPOND.  ANSWERS THAT WILL BE ACCEPTED AND NOT QUESTIONED LATER.  EVER.

          I was smooth and precise and didn’t sound the slightest bit rehearsed.

          “After my divorce, I realized two things.  First, I was never really conscientious about money and finances.  And second, that I never actually DID anything.  So, I learned about money markets and investments and stocks and bonds and started to aggressively save and watch my money grow.  It took a few years of living like a monk but I’m doing pretty okay.  Well, maybe a little better than okay.  Bill Gates I’m not.  But between my 401k and my pension and my personal investments, I don’t have a lot of financial worries.  Of course, as far as the second part goes, I never had much of an opportunity to do anything quite like this.  Sure, it costs a bit to do what we’re doing but…”  I acted all Jimmy Stewart-like “I think you’re worth it.”

          There were tears in her eyes.  The sun was hot without baking us.  The sand was almost pure white.  The sound of the surf was magical, as though being on a flying carpet. The atmosphere was exotic, other-worldly, fascinating. The sex was great that weekend, exotic, other-worldly, fascinating.  I could disappear for weekends at a time and not be questioned.

          I had the best of all possible worlds.

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