Monday, 24 February 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast Continuation of Chapter Eight

Bradley, the overpaid chauffeur, sat 35,000 feet somewhere above America en route to an all expenses paid Caribbean holiday as Peter squirmed behind the polished wheel of his Mercedes heading for Tomales Bay to calm his frayed nerves for the weekend. Traffic ebbed and flowed, but he didn’t care. His emotions strained against the bog-like conditions precipitated by shock and a gnawing fear.
    Why he didn’t suffer a heart attack the night of the accidental death inflicted by Tarek’s garrote was beyond him. Peter was grateful the hysterical Turk screamed at them to get the hell out before the police descended upon the place.
    Victoire looked at her watch. She put on a jacket and walked outside the cliff house. Ribbons of fog skimmed over the salty waters scouting for terra firma. It was only a matter of time before the low hanging sun would be spirited away by the growing fog bank. Victoire’s footfall echoed on the newly enlarged deck, which extended dramatically over a two-story precipice. She flicked the light switch, pleased with the strategically placed spotlights illuminating the vertiginous drop.
    Victoire pulled out a lighter and carefully lit a large hurricane lamp on the deck table. Satisfied the stage was set, she headed back inside to wait for her husband.
    Peter walked through the door later that evening to find Victoire with her legs pulled up against her body in front of a raging fire, a glass of wine in hand. Without her neatly pulled back hair and customary deep vermillion lipstick, she appeared even younger.
    “Hello, Peter. I’ve been waiting for you.”
    Guilt knocked about in the pit of his stomach. He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You have no idea how happy I am you suggested we spend the weekend alone up here. It’s just what I needed.”
    His skin looks grey, like he has aged overnight. “Here,” she said, pouring him a glass of wine. “It’s your favourite year. I thought you might need it.”
     “Why don’t you get dinner organized while I take a shower and get changed?” He took a sip and savoured the full-bodied flavour. “I’ve had an exhausting day, and it’s been a very long drive.”
    “Peter, we need to talk.”
    His tight shoulders dropped. Peter simply couldn’t face a serious discussion. It would have to wait till the next day, depending upon his altered state of mind. “Not tonight, Victoire,” he declared as if dealing with a twelve year old. “Let’s have a quiet dinner and get to bed early. We’ve got the entire weekend.” He picked up his matching bag and briefcase.
    “Well I’m afraid this can’t wait, Peter. You might want to pull up a chair.”
     Branches scratched the windowpane and a low howl of wind travelled through the room.
    “Is everything okay? Is anybody sick?" he asked as if reciting by rota.
    She bit her tongue. “Nobody is sick, Peter. Please, just sit.”
    Annoyance flickered pointedly across his heavily hooded eyes. “Victoire, this better be important. I have enough on my plate as it is.”
    “I couldn’t agree with you more.” She produced the red manila from her large crocodile handbag and handed it to him.  “Open it up.” Her tone was riddled with hurt
    His mouth went suddenly dry, and he found it hard to swallow. “What is this?”
    “You know exactly what it is!” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.
    He knew what was coming. His quicksilver mind sought solutions, plausible excuses. 
    “For how long…”His arms flew up and his head fell back against his interlaced fingers.
    “For how long have I known, Peter?” she asked, looking at him with incredulity. “How could you, wasn’t I good enough for you?”
    Peter felt as if he’d been physically punched in the stomach and covered it with his hands. He had no excuses. “I didn’t mean to hurt you in any way,      Victoire, I swear to God! You have to believe me. I am so, so sorry.” His voice dropped to a muffled whisper.
    Victoire spun around and bent her head in mock despair.
He got up and tried to explain and comfort her. “Victoire, it’s me, it’s not you.”
She went deadly quiet, her blue eyes remained fixed on a point in the distance, unseeing.
    “For the love of God, I’ve given you everything you ever wanted, Victoire, haven’t I? Haven’t I been good to you?” he looked about the house, gesturing at the exquisite interior and the dramatic view. “You don’t lack anything.”
       “I thought we had the perfect marriage, that you loved me when all along, I was just a decoy.” Her voice cracked.

    Everybody has a price, he thought, and he needed to find out hers. “Victoire, maybe we can work it out somehow...”

Monday, 17 February 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast Chapter Eight

Seventy-two hours after the incident, a young man dressed in a suit and tie browsed through a high-end gadget shop in Ghirardelli Square to kill time.
    “Willy?” Victoire asked, sidling up to him.
    He spun around beaming with anticipation. Three weeks, five days and fourteen hours passed without losing himself in her arms. “I missed you so much, if I don’t kiss you right now, I’ll die!”
    Her eyes narrowed. “Willy, I told you: we can’t take any risks. I just can’t.”
    His fingertips caressed the side of her face. “Okay, okay. Don’t freak out.”
    “Are you making any progress, Willy?  It feels like ages, and I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to pretend all is well.”
    Peter had looked unusually forlorn and stuck close to home insisting she stay with him. She thought he might have a cold, but there were no physical symptoms. She left the house on a false pretext to meet Willy only because he persisted over the phone.
Willy took something out of a bag and handed it to her. “I brought you something.” Victoire’s mood lifted when she saw the packet.“It’s my gift to you, Victoire, negatives and all!” He grinned and watched her devour the contents.
    “Oh-my-God,” she uttered, carefully inspecting every single shot.” Her entire body tingled, the cold forgotten. “These police pictures and the ones with ambulance,” she inquired, sitting upright keeping the evidence held close to her chest. “Are they in any way related to the story on the news about the dead gay guy?”
    Willy leaned back on the hard bench, crossed his arms, smiled widely and nodded.
    Victoire looked at the pictures again, thinking them too good to be true. Her jaw remained wide open.      “Did Peter kill him?”
    Willy shook his head. “Apparently not. The police are looking for a Turk. He’s the one who got the hell out of the place first looking like the Italian mob was on his tail. Peter and the other two stormed out right afterwards. Check it out.”
    But Victoire heard all she needed to know and much more. Suddenly, her blackmail plan took a more twisted turn. An unearthly look took possession of her face. “Do you know what this means?” she whispered.
    “Are you telling me?” he chortled. “I saw them escape the scene of the crime. Victoire, your husband just might be an accessory to manslaughter!” He rubbed his cold hands with glee. “Wait till the press gets a hold of this.” He bounded up and gestured with his arms. “A story of this magnitude is going to rock more than just Silicon Valley. Victoire, all you need to do is drop off the pictures at any police station-anonymously-and you’ve got your freedom!”
    The hand Victoire hoped to play was much less public. “Wait!” she pleaded. “Just wait, okay?” She stood up clutching the package possessively. “I’ve got to think here.”
    A sense of dread assailed him. He expected an entirely different reaction from her. His shoulders slumped. 
    “I don’t get it, Victoire. You are now in a position to call every shot. Why on earth would you hesitate?” He looked pained, muddled.  “Please don’t tell me you have feelings for the guy!” A gust whipped his straight hair about his pale face.
    Victoire immediately nuzzled up against his ear and cooed, “No, darling, no. I never have.” She touched him briefly on the mouth. “But I just can’t see a man like Peter capable of hurting anybody, despite everything he is or is not. He’s kind and generous to a fault.” She stood back keeping her hands on his chest. “What kind of a person would I be if I threw him to the wolves, Willy? I couldn’t live with myself. I’ve got to talk to him. Alone.”
     “You do what you think is best, Victoire. Just know that I love you. I’ve loved you since the morning I first saw you. There isn’t a day, even an instant, that goes by that I don’t yearn for you. You told me yourself you’re unhappy because you don’t really love the guy. But now you know what he’s all about, and what really makes him tick. Victoire, it’s all there in black and white.” He shook his head and took her face in his hands. “You deserve much more, so much more. Don’t let pity blind you.”
    Victoire went in for the kill. “Willy, I’ve prayed so hard to hear you say those words, you have no idea…”
Willy gobbled up the intense, unrestrained hunger of her brief, deep kiss. Every nerve ending in his body sprung to life.
She pulled back and stared at him intently. “I love you.  I love you so much that if you don’t wait for me, Willy Waites, I’ll lose my mind!”  She grabbed him by the tie.  “Swear to me you’re mine, mine alone and that no matter what, you’ll never let me go!”

    He pulled her so close to him that she could barely breathe.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast End of Chapter Seven

Time spent with Victoire consisted of passionate encounters at Ricky’s Hyatt in Palo Alto or his apartment, one more memorable than the next. Every time he ran his hand and mouth over her body he caught glimpses of heaven. She called him a twentieth century visionary, a legend in the making. She told him he was magnetic, irresistible and sexy in the throes of passion, and he believed her.
    The weekend could not come soon enough to join her in the cliff house. When Friday’s affairs came to an end, he pulled out Victoire’s directions and headed for their rendezvous in Tomales Bay. Peter was in Chicago with plans to return early Tuesday.
Victoire took advantage of his absence to instate phase two of her scheme. She was rehearsing her script when the knock came. “I’m so happy you’re here,” she cried, wrapping her arms around Willy like a frightened bird. He held her with equal force, and she felt his excitement. “Willy, I found something,” she pulled back, her blue eyes big and wild, “something so shocking, I’m beside myself!”
    “My love, what is it?” He placed his hands on her shoulders. “You look so spooked!”
    She took him by the hand to the living room and pulled out a manila envelope from a bag. “I found these.” She took out the sordid photographs and handed them to Willy. He went pale looking and shook his head in disbelief. He was speechless.
    Victoire let a tear trickle down her quivering lips. “It’s vile… it’s perverse- and Peter’s the man I’m married to!” She gasped. “ I had no idea!
    Willy put the photos down and went to console her. “You’ve got to divorce the son-of-a-bitch. I don’t believe this. God, I never imagined.” He pulled her up from the sofa. “You’ve got to divorce the son-of-a-bitch, Victoire!”
    “I want to Willy,” she said looking meaningfully at him, “now more than ever.” She walked slowly towards to enormous windows.
    She told him how from the onset, she wasn’t in love with Peter and how her mother pressured her into marrying him. Knowing how unhappy and lonely Victoire really felt allowed him to become her knight in shining armour. He jumped into his steed’s saddle fully charged and ready to do battle for her.
 “You must call an attorney, Victoire. Don’t delay. Make an appointment first thing Monday.”
    “I have.  I called one once I got my breath back.”
   “And? What did they say?” His eyes shone with hope. “It shouldn’t be too complicated, Victoire. You’ve got all the proof you need!”
    “They said I need more evidence.”
   “What? Did you show them that shit?” he asked, pointing toward the glossies.
   “Yes! According to the lawyers, Peter could argue that they were doctored, that they’re fakes and that somebody was trying to blackmail him.”
   Rumours about the CEO circulated down the corridors prior to his nuptials. “Are you kidding?  It’s him in those shots. Have them blow them up if they need a closer look.”
    “Another lawyer told me basically the same thing. What am I supposed to do? Do a stake out? He’d recognize my car in a flash.” A gust of wind hit a low-lying cypress. Its branches clung to the side of the house making scratching sounds on the glass. “Who can I possibly ask for help, Willy?”
    Willy called in sick to work Monday and spent the long weekend in the arms of his muse planning Prentice’s demise.

# # # #

    Tuesdays and Thursdays Peter went on the prowl. On those evenings, Willy checked into a motel on Van Ness Avenue under a false name and paid cash while he followed his target’s moves.
    The CEO frequented an establishment near Polk Street and another off Market. To Willy’s surprise, Bradley drove his boss to and fro his clandestine rendezvous. Peter tended to arrive alone, but usually exited with the same three men: two Caucasian, one Middle Eastern.
    The stakeouts took their toll on Willy after a month: his skin turned pasty, he gained eight pounds on a diet of submarine sandwiches, donuts and copious amounts of coffee. It wasn’t until the third week that he felt secure enough to park nearer the locations and shoot film. But that evening, instead of their usual exit time, the delicate looking Middle Easterner of the foursome burst out of a nameless establishment wearing nothing more then a look of panic. He hopped on his Harley and sped off to the sound of burning rubber.
In no time, Peter and the remaining entourage came out looking as if they had seen a ghost. Willy shot as many pictures as possible and held his breath. The two men were half-dressed; Peter wore a wife beater T-shirt and fringed chaps without the trousers. He gestured wildly with his arms. Bradley pulled up seconds later. The men pushed their way inside the awaiting car. Willy refocused and aimed the telephoto lens at the get away car until the Mercedes disappeared from view.
    Willy pulled off the baseball cap he wore during every night of his mission and slumped back onto the car seat. A feeling of intense relief flooded his cramped up body. Gotcha! It’s over, he thought. He turned on the engine and carefully dismantled the large lens from the camera while the car warmed up.
No sooner had he placed it back in its case, two police cars descended upon the Victorian house, their sirens at full blast. Willy hunkered down and turned off the ignition. He reached for the cap and placed it back on his head. His hands shook. Slowly, he lifted his head to peer out the window. Pandemonium ensued as a hoard of horror-struck men ran from the place like cockroaches under a fluorescent light.

Willy watched with astonishment as the cops stuffed two men in handcuffs into the back of a police cruiser.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast Chapter Seven

Husband and wife slipped into a comfortable routine. Peter spent his free time trawling for men at his favourite haunts; Victoire spent considerable time at her ocean front house overseeing its refurbishment. But that was not all that was getting fixed up. In between decorators, shopping expeditions and social engagements with her husband, Victoire’s long term goals and priorities were undergoing a serious facelift.
    Three options danced in her one-track mind like witches before a bubbling caldron: to either continue as if nothing happened and hope Peter died soon of AIDS; to take him to the cleaners armed with irrefutable evidence; or, finally, resort to good old-fashion blackmail.  But that morning, the hammering and non-stop chatter of the fastidious decorators interfered with her thinking. She needed to get out.
     The half-empty Silver Dollar in Tomales Bay smelled of fried food, and the television over the bar blared. A Grace Slick lookalike waitress well past her sell-by-date shuffled about braless in a tight fitting T-shirt and Birkenstocks.
     Victoire sat tucked away in a booth toying with her shrimp salad. Her intellect reawakened after the purchase of the glasshouse, and the vapid lifestyle of shopping, pampering and partying held less and less interest. With her energy levels coursing at full speed, the idea of blackmail gained momentum.
     A frown marred her face. In order to blackmail her husband, she needed an accomplice. But not just any accomplice; Victoire required unconditional allegiance and unquestioning loyalty.
     “Care for some more ice tea, sweetie?” asked the waitress before popping a loud bubble with her gum.
     Victoire looked up and nodded. She was about to ask for the bill when her ears tuned into the newscast.
     “Word from in Sunnyvale is that Theo Thompson and co-founder Willy Waites are unveiling a new peripheral compatible with the Sinclair 7 unit that will send tremors through the Valley…”
    Victoire jumped up to get a better look at the screen, knocking her newly filled glass onto the table and her lap. She gasped, reached for a paper napkin and wiped her jeans.
     The waitress looked startled. “Are you alright?” She pulled a handful of napkins from the metal holder to contain the damage. “Hang on. Let me get you something to clean yourself up with.”
     An idea came to Victoire at lightening speed. She pulled out a ten-dollar bill, shoved into the astonished waitress’ hand and bolted for the door.

# # # #

     Friday nights at the El Toro were sacrosanct to Willy. The popular Tex-Mex cantina renown for its guacamole and buxomly servers sat in Silicon Valley next to a three-star hotel that included hot tubs.
     Willy shuffled in with a group of four others and quickly ordered a round of drinks. His mind slowly disengaged from office matters letting the weekend mode slip under his skin. Aside from going over a new modem design eating away at his brain, he only planned to buy groceries and get a haircut. He had toyed with the idea of asking Julie out on a date, but by the time he seriously considered the matter it was already Friday morning.
     Victoire sat in a dark corner and kept to herself during Happy Hour, her eyes darting between her watch and the door. When Willy eventually turned up, she watched where he and his nerd posse seated themselves and slipped out of the cantina to set the wheels of her plan in motion. She retrieved a nail gun and shot several nails into the front right tire before returning to El Toro.
     She waved and slowly weaved through the crowd. Willy looked stunned and missed the punch line of his friend’s joke. His body relived the same rush he’d experienced when he first laid eyes on her. The admiring glances from the men around were not lost on Victoire. She wore a short skirt that showed off her tan legs at their best. A floral scent snaked up his nose seconds before she spoke. To the group’s surprise, the predatory blonde bent down and planted a kiss on Willy’s flushed cheek.
     “Hello, Willy.”
Transfixed, words failed to come forth. The group went silent and stared. “Would you mind if I joined you?” Willy cleared his throat and nodded.
     A chubby fellow in a short sleeve shirt with pens gapping from his shirt pocket recognized her from his days at Bassadai. He nudged his nearest companions and said, “We were just leaving.” He looked at the third fellow whose eyes doubled since Victoire’s appeared on the scene. “Catch you later, man,” he said, steering the geeks to the bar.
     “Wha-what are you doing in this neck of the woods?” Willy asked in a croaky voice.
     “I’m waiting for AAA to sort out my car.” She pushed her hair back; he noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding band. “I was driving back from Carmel when I got a flat tyre.” She sighed. “I’m told it’ll be an hour’s wait before they can get to me they’re so busy. I was lucky it didn’t happen in the middle of nowhere, can you imagine?” She absentmindedly ran the tip on her middle finger around the rim of his empty Margarita and slowly licked off the salt. “Yum…”
Willy gulped.
“That tastes so good,” she said enticingly.
      “Can I get you one?” he blurted.
   She placed her hand on his thigh and looked grateful. “Oh Willy, I’d love one. I’ve had a long, hectic day, I could use something to relax me.” She slowly took off her cropped jacket. Her nipples strained against the thin white T-shirt. Willy’s reason teetered like a seesaw on speed.
     Victoire led the conversation, pulling every emotional string she could think of between rounds of Margaritas. “I miss working with you guys.” He looked up at her quizzically. “Honest. There was a buzz, a sense of accomplishment.”
     “You lead a very busy life,” he said, remembering the articles he recently read about her. “It’s not like you just sit around, Victoire.” A flicker of resentment crossed his eyes.
      “Of course I don’t just sit around! But Peter’s so much older and expects so much of me.” Her tone sounded hurt. She took another sip before continuing in a calmer tone.  “I miss being with people my age, Willy. Hell, I still miss our Friday nights hanging out at TGIF!”  She shrugged prettily and added shyly, “You were the only person who could make me laugh.” She briefly touched his cheek. “I don’t do a lot of that these days.” She took a deep breath and reached for her jacket.
     Willy’s heart skipped a beat. “Wait, what are you talking about, Victoire?”
     She looked down and shook her head. “Nothing, Willy. Forget I said that.” Then she got up to call the recovery service about her car. Dumbfounded and mellowed by alcohol, Willy watched her disappear in the crowd. He settled the bill and went out to look for Victoire.
     She cut a melancholic figure, leaning on her car in the semi-darkness waiting for his preordained move on the board of her narcissistic chess game of greed.
     “Victoire?” She turned to look at him. “Why did you leave? You can’t go anywhere.”
     She pretended to be startled. “Oh Willy, she cried, turning to face him. “You frightened me!”  A teardrop glistened as it made its way down her cheek.
     “You’re crying?” he asked softly.
     Feigning embarrassment, she delicately wiped her alligator tears. “I’m okay, I’ll be alright.” She sniffled and placed her forearms against his chest.
     Without thinking, he put his arms around her. To his amazement, Victoire lifted her face and looked into his longing eyes. A raw moan escaped his lips before they clumsily locked onto hers.

     When Willy woke up the next morning, Victoire had already left. He reached for her pillow and pressed it against his face inhaling every last inch of her scent. He looked up at the innocuous hotel ceiling feeling the happiest he ever felt.