Read an Excerpt
* * * * *
Reiner’s penthouse. A large room giving onto a patio with a swimming pool. There are about twenty people in the room and on the patio—includinga number of goodlooking young women. There are tables and chaise longues out at the pool and naked girls splashing in the water. On the outer patio there is a cabana and a bar with a bartender mixing drinks and a large black weight-lifter beside him at an outdoor stainless steel grill cooking steaks and ribs. In the room itself are tables and sofas. There are two waitresses on rollerskates taking drinks and food to people, one in a bikini and the other in panties and T-shirt. One of the cheetahs is stretched out on a sofa and the other is crossing the room. The waitress pulls up at the bar and orders two Budweisers. Her T-shirt, worn bra-less, bears a cartoon of a dragster with enormous wheels and a huge 671 GMC supercharger mounted on the engine. The script says: Injection Is Nice But I’d Rather Be Blown. The bartender opens the cooler and takes out two longneck bottles and calls out Pilsener! and the cook, wearing cut-off bib overalls, braces himself and the bartender shoves the bottle into the seat of his overalls and pops the top off the bottle and then does the same with the second beer and puts them on the girl’s tray and she glides away and pulls up at a coffee table and sets the beers out and two young women pick them up and sip from them. On the wall there is an enormous screen which continually flashes color photos taken of people at parties here. The counselor passes through the room and comes to a door where he pushes three buttons on a keypad. He waits. There is a click and he pushes the door open and enters and turns and shuts the door. The room is modern and elegant. A bank of computers and electronic equipment along one wall.
An elegant desk of figured hardwood and stainless steel. Reiner is sitting on the edge of the desk talking to Malkina, who stands between his knees. She turns and smiles at the counselor and Reiner greets him.
Reiner: Good morning, Counselor.
Malkina leans and whispers into Reiner’s ear and pats him on the knee and turns to go. She is tall, dark, and very attractive. She smiles again at the counselor as she passes him.
Malkina: Hola, Guapo.
She goes out and closes the door and Reiner gets off of the desk and turns his leather swivel-chair and sits in it and motions the counselor to a leather sofa at the end of the desk and at right angles to it. The counselor comes over and sits down.
Reiner: How’s the bride?
Reiner: That sounds about right. Nice lady. I assume she’s not privy to your newest business venture.
Counselor: She’s not. And your lady?
Counselor: Yeah what.
Reiner: She’s fine. I don't know what she knows. I don't want to know.
Counselor: You don't trust her.
Reiner: Jesus, Counselor. She’s a woman.
Reiner: Yeah, well. I don't mean it to sound that cold. I just mean that where men are concerned they’ve got their own agenda. I always liked smart women. But it’s been an expensive hobby.
Counselor: Yeah. (Nodding toward the electronic wall) Do you know what all that stuff is?
Reiner: Mostly. Anything I don't know I can ask her. Which worries me even more.
Counselor: You never told me what happened with you and the lovely Clarissa.
Reiner: Miss Clarissa. Of the extraordinary body. What happened? I think in the end it was jealousy that undid us.
Reiner: Yeah. She was getting more pussy than I was.
Counselor: (Smiling) Is that true?
Reiner: I don't know. Probably. I have to say that for a girl who liked girls she took an extraordinary interest in the male member. She sucked on it so hard it finally corrected my vision. She left me for this good-looking black woman. Had a boyfriend played for the Oilers. Nice chap. We met once for drinks at a club in Dallas to discuss our mutual plight. He was taking it rather poorly, I have to say. Women do better don't they?
Counselor: Maybe they have more practice at it.
Reiner: Yeah, well. My guess is that in most cases if you still had the woman you’re weeping over you’d be weeping harder.
Counselor: (Smiling) You cant hear anything in here, can you?
Reiner: It’s better than that.
Reiner: You can't hear anything out there.
Counselor: So is this place secure?
Reiner: Who knows? I don't speak in arraignable phrases anywhere. There’s a scrambler on the phone but still there’s a lot of smart people out there. Of course anybody who thinks he’s the smartest is on his way to the slam.
Counselor: Would that be me?
Reiner: Nah. Although I have to say that I always did think a law degree was a license to steal. And that you for one hadn't really capitalized on it.
The counselor shrugs.
Reiner: Yeah. Well, you’re not the straight dude people think though, are you?
Counselor: I guess not.
Reiner: I don't mean the caper. I mean you. Women like you.
Counselor: All right.
Reiner: You know what they like about you?
Counselor: I’m a good fuck?
Reiner: Yeah, right. They can sniff out the moral dilemma. The paradox.
Counselor: Moral dilemma.
Reiner: Yeah. They’re drawn to it. Not sure why. Maybe it’s just that lacking any moral sense themselves they’re fascinated by it in men. You think about it. You want to know if a guy has issues watch the way women react to him.
Reiner: Men are attracted to flawed women too of course, but their illusion is that they can fix them. Women don't want to fix anything. They just want to be entertained.The truth about women is you can do anything to them except bore them.
Counselor: Well, there’s nothing about Laura that I would want to fix.
Reiner: Maybe not.
Counselor: But you think she probably knows things about me that I don't know about myself.
Reiner: Jesus, Counselor. I’m not even sure what sort of a question that is.
Counselor: Yeah. And you? Vis-à-vis your inamorata.
Reiner: You don't want to know. I don't want to know.
Counselor: Moral dilemmas.
Reiner: Yeah. You pursue this road that you’ve embarked upon and you will eventually come to moral decisions that will take you completely by surprise. You wont see it coming at all.
Counselor: Such as?
Reiner: Such as whether to waste somebody. Or have them wasted.
Counselor: You ever been faced with a decision like that?
Reiner: You’re a member of the court.
Counselor Well. I don't intend to take this up as a trade.
Reiner: One-time deal. Right?
Counselor: Which you’ve heard a thousand times.
Reiner: No. But a few. What usually happens is that after a couple of deals they know more than you do and they set up shop across the street.
Counselor: How does that work out for them?
Reiner: Not well.
Counselor: So would that be a moral issue?
Reiner: Not for me.
Counselor: Or for your associates.
Reiner: Yeah well. They have a real aversion to mixing business with pleasure. Do you know what a bolito is?
Counselor: No. A bolo is one of those skinny neckties. Or is it one of those things you throw? Argentina.
Reiner: Yeah. In this case it’s a mechanical device. It has this small electric motor with this rather incredible compound gear that retrieves a steel cable. Battery-driven. The cable is made out of some unholy alloy, almost impossible to cut it, and it’s in a loop, and you come up behind the guy and drop it over his head and pull the free end of the cable tight and walk away. No one ever sees you. Pulling the cable activates the motor and the noose starts to tighten and it continues to tighten until it goes to zero.
Counselor: It cuts the guy’s head off.
Reiner: It can.
Counselor: There’s nothing he can do.
Counselor: How long does it take?
Reiner: Three, four minutes. Five maybe. It depends on your collar size.
Counselor: You’re shitting me.
Reiner: Nope. Mostly wretched excess of course. It’s just that there’d be no easy way to turn the thing off. Or reason to. It just keeps running until the noose closes completely and then it self-destructs. Actually you’re probably dead in less than a minute.
Counselor: From strangulation.
Reiner: No. The wire cuts through the carotid arteries and sprays blood all over the spectators and then everybody goes home.
Reiner: Yeah, well.
Reiner: Yeah. Probably a play on words too. Boleto—with an e—is the spanish word for ticket. As in yours has just been punched.
Counselor: I wouldn't think it would go through bone.
Reiner: It wont. It would have to go between the vertebrae. The gear is a worm drive with a gain built into it. Or a reduction, actually. It keeps getting stronger and slower. To compensate for the compression of the tissue.
Counselor: How do you know all this?
Reiner: You know how I like gadgets. Anyway, a friend of mine got hold of one. In Calexico. Stolen out of County Property.
Counselor: I would think they’d be expensive.
Reiner: They are. This one was used.
Counselor: Why does no one see him?
Reiner: See who?
Counselor: The garroteer.
Reiner: Oh. Well, given a choice between watching someone walk away down the street and watching someone being slowly decapitated by a device apparently engineered and patented in the halls of hell you are going to watch the latter. That’s just the way it is. You may think you should avert your gaze. But you wont.
Counselor: Where’s all this beheading shit come from? You never used to see that.
Reiner: Yeah. It’s blown in here from the East.
Counselor Meaning the East.
Reiner: Yeah. You put nine Mexicans and an Arab in a room and give them each a hundred dollars and come back in a couple of hours who do you think is going to be holding the grand?
Counselor: So are you gearing up to do business with them down the road?
Reiner: The Arabs?
Counselor: Why is that?
Reiner Because they don't need your money.
* * * * *