Authors: Buck Sanders
A piercing slap on the stomach jolted Slayton back to the real world.
“Who the hell is
Wilma Christian had dutifully toiled for the better part of a half hour to bring her man relief.
“Janine who?” he asked sleepily.
“How should I know?” she said, her enormous white breasts moving and providing a neat transition between Slayton’s fantasy
She felt him get his second wind and jumped on top of him neatly, working at a steady pace until, at last, she had
writhing in passion for a change.
When she finished, though, he made it clear that the fun had only started, penetrating her from the rear while she lay face
down, panting. Slayton propelled her slowly around the bed in a circle until they both collapsed in a pile of sweating, satisfied
flesh and savaged bedding.
Nearly another hour passed before Wilma mustered the energy to creep to the bathroom. Soon steam was billowing beneath the
closed door; she favored Slayton’s pulsating, specially installed jet spray.
Slayton checked the bedside digital clock. Neon green numerals read 4:31 A.M. and he fell back, pulling the damp sheet over
himself. They had been making love since midnight, preceded by another Washington social dinner. Both of them quickly wearied
of D.C.’s rituals. Fifteen minutes down an open and moonlit highway lay Slayton’s exquisite Mount Vernon retreat, his “farm,”
nestled snugly in the Virginia coast.
Wilma moaned under the shower massage.
Slayton smiled. They had met a year before, at a to-do in Georgetown much like tonight’s affair, about six months prior to
the Rashid Haman case. The attendees in general fawned over the retiring Supreme Court justice in whose honor the whole thing
had been dreamt up. Slayton avoided him, and first saw Wilma trying to fob off the social column reporter from the
a shifty-eyed closet queen.
“And wasn’t the dinner just
reporter whined, as Wilma cast desperately around for an escape route. “But I felt, of course, that they should have served
a Tavel, not a claret, before the fish. Wilma, love, have you
Mrs. Frentzen’s gown? Just too-too!”
“I really didn’t notice, Jack,” she said, as he smacked his lips.
She turned away, and Slayton got a full view: a spill of auburn hair swept back
young Bacall, a superbly architectured “business formal” gown revealing, beneath its gauzy layers, a flat, muscular tummy,
a trim figure, and legs that went on forever. Everything was evenly tanned. The blue eyes were like laser crystals; they caught
and demanded Slayton’s attention. He drifted over.
Jack spotted the lean and tempered frame of Slayton and lisped, “Watch it, darling, here comes your match!”
Wilma turned and assessed Slayton before introductions could start. Hard, attractive, a man of power with a mischievous boy
lurking inside his skin. A veneer of cool casualness, of calm and diplomatic cordiality, and under that, a disdain that she
shared for these interminable parties.
bothering you, ma’am?”
“Oh, she’s not a
Emphatically.” Jack caught Slayton’s sudden icy glance. “I was just going over to the bar for a refill. Enjoy, enjoy.” He
“He’s not a bad little fellow,” said Wilma. “If small talk interests you.” She played her first hole card. “But I doubt it
does. I’ve seen you before at these things. You’re usually out the door by ten.”
Slayton toasted with an empty glass. “A token drink and I’m gone.”
“You don’t mind abandoning all the Beautiful People?”
“Rolls right off my back,” he said. He did not feel his usual need for wry intellectual jokes, or poking fun at the social
peacocks just to break ice with this woman. He was attracted to her instinctively. “You’re not with him, I hope,” he added,
meaning the departed Jack.
“No. I’m with you, now.”
He caught his breath, but managed to keep going. “I ’m glad. Reporters are such a pain in the ass.”
An edge crept into Wilma’s voice. “You have something against news people?”
“It’s the attitude they have toward everyone else; their supposed right to blithely invade anyone’s privacy.”
“Would you have newspapers banned as well?”
“No, I’m with Jefferson on that one. Just ban bad reportage, cheap exposes, yellow journalism, propaganda. Don’t cut the funnies,
“You’re pretty funny yourself.” She turned, giving Slayton an unobstructed glimpse of her proud breast line.
He almost faltered, sensing the standard Slayton charm was not what was called for here. “My name is Ben Slayton.”
She looked past him. “I’m Wilma Christian, and I’m not particularly interested in how you do. But I am interested in what
you do for a living that keeps you at odds with the newspaper business.”
Something in the way she bore down on him told him his foot was planted in his mouth.
Keep it simple,
his brain warned him. “I’m with the Treasury Department.”
“A bureaucrat? You?”
“Hardly. More a troubleshooter, I’d say. I travel a lot. International matters. Domestic investigations.”
Wilma tossed her hair back. “Jesus Christ—a spy!”
“Wanna see my shoulder holster?” he said conspiratorially, grinning and touching her shoulder. “How did you know?”
“Because I’m a reporter for the
said Wilma, and Slayton’s grin went cheesy with embarrassment. They both laughed.
Slayton laughed now as he had that night. His romance with Wilma was still very casual, and neither complained. For three
years after the sudden death of his wife, Jean Marie, Slayton had adamantly refused to make provisions for another woman in
his life. Jean Marie had been a frail and delicate woman. Wilma, by contrast, was headstrong, individualistic, career-minded
without that sentimentalism that too often overrides common sense. The way their relationship had jelled after that first
memorable night together had surprised both of them, and they grew comfortable with each other. There was not yet room in
Slayton’s life for any prolonged commitment, and Wilma respected his right to keep a distance between them.
She emerged from the bathroom, sleek, smug, and glistening, adorned with perfume and wearing one of his shirts. Wet hair dripped
onto his face as she rubbed against him.
“I feel wonderful,” she sighed, lying on her back next to her lover. “Don’t set the alarm.”
The sound of snapping twigs triggered an instinctive reflex, and Slayton bolted up, wide awake. The full moon scattered a
pale white ray throughout the bedroom.
Was someone at the window? He strained to make sense of the tall, motionless figure. The wind blew; a branch scraped the glass.
Slayton relaxed for a second.
Then another crunch—heavy boots thumped across his front porch.
Slayton stirred from the bed and crept stealthily over the shag carpet. Wilma remained in deep slumber, undisturbed.
Perhaps a stray deer had found the courage to explore the two-story, split-level wooden frame house. Slayton put on his pants
and, reaching across to the rest of his clothes, he extracted a gun holster and withdrew his Smith & Wesson revolver. He crept
down to the living room, and cocked the gun, holding still at the room’s center, attentive to all external noises, unable
to hear his own heartbeat, suppressing any auditory stimuli that didn’t relate to what was approaching the front door.
The ice maker in the kitchen gurgled. Trees on the patio swayed, whispering with the wind.
A harsh thump at the door brought a cold sweat to Slayton’s armpits. He kneeled behind a chair, raising the gun toward the
intruder. The door swung open; the lights flipped on. Slayton swung into a classic firing stance.
“Holy shit, Ben!” said the man at the door.
Slayton relaxed. He could breathe again. The revolver fell away, pointing to the rug. The familiar figure standing before
him, bundled in a thick hunting jacket and toting an unassembled fishing pole, ducked quickly behind the open door.
“Don’t shoot!” The man held up one arm and waved.
Slayton stepped forward. “Come out, Max, I’m sorry. I thought you weren’t driving down this weekend.”
Maximillian Parrish, with bright green eyes shining through a light gray beard and short white hair, shook his friend’s hand.
“Good God, man,” he said, “I thought we had a date.”
Slayton laughed. “Didn’t you check with your service last night? I left a message.”
Parrish walked past him and to the far corner of the living room, grabbing the nearest bottle of scotch. Slayton’s in-house
bar stocked all manner of firewater. “Bottoms up,” he chortled, taking a long slug of Johnny Walker. Coughing through the
alcohol, he explained, “I never call in on Friday nights, Ben. Drove here straight from work. I hope you weren’t really going
Slayton returned the gun to its holster. “My assignment changed at the last minute. Sorry my message didn’t reach you in time.”
“You’re welcome to stay, though.”
Parrish raised the bottle again. “Great! Maybe we can go fishing later.”
Slayton removed two shot glasses from the bar cabinet, and they toasted the morning. Parrish was shaken by Slayton’s unexpected
welcome, but the drink calmed his nerves a bit.
“Excuse me, Ben. We haven’t been introduced.” Parrish referred to the young woman standing at the bedroom doorway, arms crossed
and stifling a yawn.
Slayton took out a third glass. “My friend, Maximillian Parrish, this is Wilma Christian.” Parrish nodded in her direction,
turned back to the bar and drained another glass of scotch.
“Max is a little on edge,” Slayton said. “He opened the door and I was pointing a revolver down his nose.” Wilma waved them
both off in approval and spun around, heading for the bed.
She knew of Max. Slayton spoke frequently of his ex-wife’s father, a genial family man who took to his son-in-law as if he
were a full member of the Parrish clan. The two men laughed together in the living room.
“I had no idea that I’d be interrupting anything,” she heard Parrish say.
“Don’t worry,” Wilma answered, reappearing at the door. “I’ll just slip into something a bit more sociable.” Her flimsy attire
threatened to expose a breast as she scratched her right leg.
“A drink is waiting for you,” Slayton said, as she casually strolled away.
“No thanks, I have an early morning.” Her voice faded.
“She’s a staff reporter for the
Slayton fell silent for a moment, then noticed the time-5:14. “Has to be at work by seven.”
Parrish beamed, “A beautiful girl, Ben. Have you considered marrying again?”
“It’s nothing like that. We’re very close, though.”
After a pause, Max spoke. “I was back in Ann Arbor last week, on business.” He was marketing manager for Demo, Inc., a plastics
firm. Divorced from his wife of twenty-four years, Parrish traveled the country, working with advertising sales managers and
promoting Demo’s products, mostly industrial and chemical synthetics.
“How’s everyone back home?” Slayton went to work on another scotch and soda eye-opener.
“You can bunk here for the weekend. Chances are I’ll be free, and maybe we can reel in some bass. I hooked a fifteen-incher
two nights ago.”
“I’ll take the attic bedroom.”
That suited Slayton. He and Max had seen tough times over the years; they were good friends, sharing a terrific rapport and
a love of fishing and the sea. When away on assignment, Slayton allowed Parrish to stay at the farm and maintain its fifteen
acres, sometimes for weeks at a time. Parrish, raised on a farm in Wisconsin’s dairyland, looked forward to those sojourns,
enjoying an otherwise dull ride on Interstate 95 with the expectation of a decent catch and hours of relaxation amid rolling
Wilma emerged from the bedroom fully dressed in white casuals and slippers, crossed the room to the two men, and slipped her
arm around Slayton. “Isn’t it a tad early for a nightcap?” she said.
Parrish raised his glass. “Not if you’ve been driving all night.”
A persistent, low-pitched ringing erupted in the adjacent chamber, Slayton’s private library and study.
“Excuse me.” Slayton knew who it was. Only one person ever called him on that line. “Damn!” he grumbled.
Wilma and Parrish fell into conversation as Slayton closed the study door.
He plucked up the phone in mid-ring. Hamilton Winship, career administrator for the U.S. Treasury Department and Slayton’s
boss, bellowed, “Where in the hell were you?”
Slayton, offsetting Winship’s ill humor, retorted, “Just having a drink.”
“At five in the morning? Most people would be in bed.” He sounded tired.
“I can’t sleep during a full moon.”
Winship raised his voice again. “Please be in my office in twenty minutes.”
“I can’t tell you any more over the phone,” Winship interrupted. “We have an extremely serious condition here. Put your pants
on and drive like the devil.”
Slayton mumbled, “Twenty minutes?”
“Right.” The line went dead.
Slayton returned the mouthpiece to its hook and bit his lip angrily. At the bar, Max was telling dirty jokes; Wilma shrieked
uproariously at a punch line.
but duty calls.
Stepping into the living room, to the welcome laughter of his friends, Ben Slayton wished he could take up Parrish’s offer
and spend a weekend on a boat, soaking up sun and baiting hooks.
“Senator?” The long-distance line crackled. The voice was cold, passionless.
“Who is this?” Senator Willard Parfrey, switching on the light and fumbling for his glasses, noticed the time. “Do you know
it’s three ayem?”
“My name is Peters, Senator. You do not know me, but my employers have asked me to warn you.”