Just back from being on the road. This is very much not my typical thing but I do believe stretching oneself and my comfort zone not only fosters evolution but also ads to chops. I was very pleased with the results.
Text & images Wayne Wolfson Feb, 2020
Cyckenine (for Vassilis G)
Wayne H.W Wolfson
Part One: Brian #259-L
It was Wednesday, so Wesley would most likely come in. He made his money doing things which he refused to recognize as criminal. The discretion required of his work carried over into his comportment, never had anything been said that could be viewed as an attempt at fronting. Although it was not part of Brian’s programming, after a decade working the bar with only the odd day or two offline for update patches to be installed, he had formulated the opinion that those with power do not feel the need to broadcast it. Nor did they feel the need to call attention to themselves by playing up the mystery angle. On the rare occasion when Brian had witnessed him not freeze out a lady in her attempt to flirt, Brian had heard him say, when asked something personal:
“I would rather talk about things that I am into instead of myself, that’s boring.”
He would then divert the stream of the conversation to a book or opera that Brian would later search the data banks for information on when things slowed down.
Once in a while, in would wander some of the well-heeled younger crowd curious to experience the novelty of people working side by side with Andys. As exotic as it sounded, the reality was Solomon and his vest with its ongoing battle to contain his paunch and Brian sliding drinks which did not have all the bad stuff removed from it, across the pitted zinc bar. Rarely were there any repeat visits.
For those in the know, it was not the staff but their discretion and of course the collection of pre-war Irish whiskies that was the draw.
It was Wednesday, so he would be in. Brian liked seeing him, although he was unsure of where from within him this idea of enjoyment had come from. Regardless of who served him, he said hello or good evening but without any of the smirking irony of those who bothered to talk to a replicant outside of expressing their desires.
Part Two: Trudy
She was dangerous in the way that a person who wanted desperately to be loved could be. It was Wednesday and he was back in town. Initially, she had been sad upon the realization that a big part of her early appeal to him was that she was too self-centered, too damaged, to ask him any questions about what he did. This was not a defect as, true her interest in him smacked of a type of teen morality, only being concerned with in how it directly affected her agenda, but weren’t his own actions a manly variation on this? Did he ask what she did when he was not around? The closest they had ever come to that type of talk was when early on twice, he lectured her on the importance of unwavering discretion.
An unnerving thing, he was the one who had called her to get together. Planning for the worst, she smeared extra lipstick across her face. So much for the distraction of the holidays she thought to herself. Her hand, as always moved from left to right.
Part Three: Wesley
The blood could only speak to him if he was in direct contact with it. Years of experience had taught him to only dip his fingertips in it. As he crouched, the two corporate men behind him were bent so far forward to watch that at any moment he expected to feel their mid-career formed paunches on his shoulders.
The one on his left coughed, receiving an annoyed look from his partner for having caused a possible disruption.
Who knew how long such things take, it felt like forever but time was a language that we all thought ourselves fluent in even while using the wrong words.
“All right” he said standing up.
The handkerchief he had previously asked the senior man to hold onto was handed back to him, the colonel’s initials in faded blue stitching now barely visible. He clenched his hand.
“Some people just need killing. Even the best scanner ops will not find anything which contradicts the official reports, tell the board that they are all set.”
The senior man discretely coughed so that Wesley held back, the two of them now alone in the tiny basement room.
“The boss said you always do a good job, made some near on joke about thoroughbreds needing to be taken care of, you know what he is like, wanted me to give you this if you were able to wrap things up quickly.”
Wesley took the black plastic card with its embossed diamond from the hand extending towards him. He recognized the insignia. Although he had never aspired to it, Heliogabalus, a members only ultra-exclusive club, where the skin jobs were said to be so good that one could not tell the difference between them and the real thing. Like a predatory beast, the streets were constricting most average citizens, starving them just enough so that they could not fight back but not enough as to kill them since they were still cheaper labor for some jobs than andys. Membership was more than most people, even the rarity of someone who still took pride in their job, would make over the course of several years.
The card was pocketed with a mumbled thanks. The senior man was envious but also a little disappointed at Wesley’s lack of outward display of enthusiasm.
They took the stairs, Wesley in the rear so that the senior man’s slow ascent meant that he had to keep bumping his shins as to not collide into him. A final handshake. The senior man fretted, should he say something?
“Uh, thanks again, great job.”
Wesley tilted his head in a sort of bow so that his face was gone, eclipsed except for very bottom of his chin by the brim of his hat.
As soon as he saw the card, Wesley felt the start of a disappointment which, if he could not beat back would color the entire rest of his night and possibly even tomorrow morning. The gift of the club pass was not a no-strings-attached reward, he had been in the game too long to think that. Of course, he could go and have a good time but inevitably he would while there bump into someone that the boss wanted a read on. It was not one of his gifts, but Wesley could already hear the conversation after going in for the requested meeting: “So, how was the club my boy? Enjoy it? Good, good, you deserve it..”
There would be a pause as he considered which was better to refer to Wesley to his face as, a thoroughbred or good producer?
“Yes, well have to keep our top producers happy, say I heard you ran into “…” while there…so, what’s your take on them? I know it’s just a casual read but with your skill even that is of value.”
Part Four: Date Night
Wherever we were to meet, she always had herself dropped off down the street. I think this was her clumsy attempt to see who dropped me off or how I arrived. Again, the disappointment for her as it was the same car service I had been using for years.
I made no move to meet her halfway but merely offered up a soft wave as I allowed her to come to me. She was walking extra slow whether to annoy me as a bite-back or because she was on something. Reaching into my pocket for a smoke my fingertip brushed the edge of the card.
Even my rewards and leisure seemed enmeshed to the job. Would I ever be free? Did I even want to be? I had money in the bank, it was boredom that I abstractly found myself worrying about on the occasions that I found myself contemplating getting out.
There had been no artifice in this work-reward and I still found myself trying to fight down an increasing annoyance. Trudy’s slow-motion pace was not helping.
Finally, she stood before me, people walking by us turned their heads to take in as much of the scene as possible. She did a little twirl as I held one of her hands above her head. The blue dress I had gotten her one Christmas, information that I was glad to have remembered, since there was a very good chance that later on she would try to spring a trap by asking me if I liked it.
With her in that dress, I knew that the night may still have two more dances to offer up. One with which to seduce, the other to say goodbye.
“Done with work?”
I let her have her hand back, she kissed me. Her kisses always made me feel like a soldier cut off from a cause, all that remained was trained brutality.
“Go to Solomon’s?”
She crinkled her nose.
“No, I am hungry. Let’s eat.”
“We can do that but later I still have to swing by there and pick up my messages, you can not complain that you are too tired.”
I would see how dinner went and if it was all smooth sailing then maybe I would bring her with me to Heliogabalus. Just as it had not been for me, I was not rewarding her but thinking strategically as she would serve as a buffer with anyone that I ran into.
We headed towards I Vitelloni. I do not know why the boss being disingenuous was so getting on my nerves tonight. I tried shaking it off, telling myself it was merely residual taint from the bad blood.
We were given one of the good tables, nestled in an alcove towards the back. Not because any money had changed hands with the Maitre’d but on account of having seen the look in our eyes and wanting as little to have to interact with us as possible.
My reverie was broken by her question:
“It is always sexy watching you drink champagne.”
However, I knew that beauty was always a brief reprieve, like seeing an undulating field of flowers on the way to an execution.
The food was good and, in his relief, that no scene had broken out at our table we were given little cordials of cognac to warm us before our departing.
I decided I would bring Trudy with me. Why this inspiration came into my head, I have no idea.
The building managed to be imposing but also sort of camouflaged by the rest of the city’s vertical sweep. I touched the card to the scanner by the door, nodded to three burly men in black blazers who looked up at me from a kidney shaped desk before crossing the lobby to the elevator where I had to repeat the process.
There were no floor buttons to push, just a flat screen that the card was once again flashed to be read by a green light. Trudy had not said anything which was fine too. Had she been if not here, then someplace like this of perhaps a lower grade? Probably.
The doors slid open. An ante chamber all in white marble with a podium. Two beautiful women bookended the podium behind which stood a balding man in a tuxedo with gold rim glasses perched at the end of his nose. The women were both naked except for a thigh length piece of sheer white silk which still afforded a view of all their charms.
I gave the man my card, a puff of nano steam with all the electronic keys was spritzed in my face. I moved aside for Trudy to step up, the women continued to smile, I noticed that there was a pattern to them, goosebumps, erect nipples, smile, eye contact, blush response.
The man behind the podium cleared his throat.
“This card is for one.”
Trudy intuitively knew to move aside. I met the man’s gaze and slowly took off my calf skin gloves. The man looked at my hands.
“Yes, well this comes from a long-standing client. I am sure we can make an exception, the single card probably an oversite anyways.”
He cleared his throat again as he raised the atomizer even with Trudy’s face.
The place was cavernous, it was lit so that nothing was ever in direct light. There was a central bar surrounded by cushioned conversation pits, an older man with sharp features in a white vest with pointed fronts worked the bar.
Skin jobs wandered around naked, slowly floated above the room and down mosaic tiled halls on nearly invisible wires. The main hall branched off into high ceilinged salons. In one, men and women sat and talked, glasses of wine in hand as two naked women in bird masks fought on the floor in an increasing tempo of violence. Another looked more plebian with a DJ booth and people dancing to bad house music. Everyone was in varying state of undress. A few women were beautiful but also looked slightly drunk. I wondered if they were skin jobs too as for some people taking advantage of a loss of control was a kink.
There was almost every body type conceivable to be seen and had. One polite man held a door open for us. He seemed to have zero body fat, with genitalia so oversized that no man born of woman could ever measure up. For a second I understood one of the mindsets of people who come to places like this. After one has indulged in everything else, you need to seek out new taboo; things not organically occurring in erotic daydreams. To see someone utilizing what was so casually swinging around off of the doorman would be so strange that its uniqueness would serve to create even if only momentarily, a sort of heat. Surprisingly though, I did not get the feeling that the people who were obviously regulars to the establishment gave any thought as to where they could go once all of this became overly familiar.
Trudy’s shoes were bothering her, she pointed over towards a bordello style fainting couch, telling me that she had to sit down for a moment. I told her that I would go get us some drinks.
Approaching one of the smaller bars that was curved to mirror the alcove it was in, my communic-phone went off. The number was that of the unlisted one the boss sometimes used. Discretely, I looked at the screen for a moment. No text, just the picture of a man with an ingratiating smile trying hard to pretend to be unawares of the camera eye.
The very same man was at the bar. He gave a little start as he glanced to his right and noticed me. He snapped his fingers and said:
I nodded. As well trained as he was, only an expert would notice, the corners of his mouth did an involuntary quiver for what he knew would look suspicious if he tried to avoid. I took a glove off and offered my hand to shake. Of course, he was untrustworthy. The board had already known this. I was just the hammer, here so that later during negotiations, there could be no objections. Their expert had told them what he was so if he wanted in this was their percentage demand.
We exchanged a few pleasantries. Now that he was caught, he could relax, might as well enjoy himself. I ordered two whiskies Tai-Pan style.
“Well, I will let you get back to it.”
He nodded and was so relieved to be able to slip away that he almost forgot who I was and went to shake my hand again in farewell. Watching him disappear down the hall, I fought back the curiosity to see which salon he chose to lose himself in.
Trudy was laying back on the couch, one hand was inside her dress lazily caressing her breast. Rubbing her feet was a skin job elvish in its androgyny. It said hello to me and I returned greeting. It continued rubbing her feet, moving its torso forward and back as if rowing, through an unbuttoned blouse showing two smallish breasts but also a visible if unimpressive erection. I handed her a drink and we clinked our glasses. She moved a little so I could sit down too.
“These hands are heaven. Have you tried one of these? Probably not, you are always working, and this is a new model, I think the idea was taken from a folk tale or something. Would it be wild if we had it join us? Would that be a lark?”
I did not like talking right in front of it as if it were not there, but it would also be considered absurd were we to private conference about what Trudy wanted to do.
“If you want to try it have at it, I am good though, I assure you no hard feelings on my part. I still have to swing by Solomon’s too.”
“Wait” she said.
She sat up gathering her shoes in one hand. She leaned forward and they started kissing. Her cheeks turned beet red.
“Ok, I’m ready.”
As we were crossing the floor, I told her;
“You could have stayed if you wanted to, do whatever, I do not care.”
We stopped. She looked up at me.
“You wouldn’t be sore?”
She kissed my cheek and I saw her quickly walk back to where we had just left. In unison the girls by podium wished me a good night, their entwined voices a birdsong.
I found my way to Solomon’s. It was the slow time of night and I relished the peace.
Brian set me up with a drink.
“Tai-Pan style?” I asked and we both laughed.
A few hours later I saw Trudy getting out of a cab. At some point she had put more lipstick on. For anyone else it would look too much but with the crazy look on her face it worked. She staggered down the street, her head lolling from side to side fever dream like.