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Authors: Bonnie Rozanski

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BOOK: Come Out Tonight
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I went down a long flight of stairs at the 96
th
Street stop, caught the D train along with a few stragglers, this being after ten; changed at 50
th
to the F train and went on to 63
rd
.
 
I’ve got an apartment over a storefront at 65
th
and Lex, nothing fancy and nothing big, but my mother had it until she died four years ago, and it’s one of the last rent stabilized hold-outs in the city.
 
I figure I’m here until the landlord wants to go condo and decides to give me a big payout to leave.

The night was still nice when I came out of my hole in the ground.
 
I took a deep breath of warm air, spiced delicately with gasoline and soot, and headed for my apartment two blocks away.
  
But who should I see up ahead?
  
Henry Jackman.

Strange that he’s in this neighborhood, I thought.
 
I seemed to remember his apartment was on West 100
th
 
somewhere.
 
I called his name, but he didn’t turn around.
 
I could swear that that was Henry Jackman.
 
He’s tall and slightly scrawny and there’s something about the curve of his head.
 
True, he seemed to be walking with greater speed and confidence than I remembered: almost a swagger, but I remembered that lascivious grin he gave me the day I met him and decided that the swagger was just one piece I hadn’t seen yet.
 

I couldn’t really help myself.
 
It must be the detective in me, but when I discover someone in an unexpected place, I can’t help but follow him.
 
So I did.
 
As expected, Henry was pretty easy to tail.
  
He’s so clueless I could walk right in back of him without him seeing me.
 
Still, I kept a good half block between us. He finally turned onto 63
rd
and walked down a couple of blocks till he reached a brownstone, where he stopped and suddenly looked both ways before he climbed the steps.
 
Fortunately, I was in the dark pool of shadow between lamp posts, and he didn’t seem to notice me.
 
I stood where I was and watched him open the front door.
 
I waited till I heard the faint
zzzz
of a buzzer before I abandoned my shadow.
 
I stepped toward the entrance and opened the door.
 
There were five floors squeezed into that little building, each denoted by a single button: Lawrence, McMurty, Kuznitz, Ferrari, and Gitterman.
 
I left as silently as I came.

 

    
*
   
*
   
*

 

I was having a slice at Cheesy Pizza at 100
th
and Broadway.
 
FYI, I’ve tried an awful lot of pizza joints in the city, but I keep coming back to Cheesy Pizza.
The crust is thin but soft and chewy.
 
The crust on the end even eats like a soft bread stick.
 
The sauce is good and complements the dough and cheese very well, and they don’t skimp on the cheese either. Plus, they’re close. I mean, what’s not to like?

The place was packed with the
Upper West Side
lunch crowd, even though it was late afternoon.
 
And being a detective I couldn’t help but watch the people: a couple of uniformed tweens emitting the delicious aura of playing hooky; an undercover cop I recognized from the precinct; one old codger who kept counting coins into the cashier’s hand until it reached enough for one calzone, to go.

The slice was so good I was deliberating over whether I should get up and get another, and, if so, whether I should eat it or just apply it directly to my hips, but just then my cell phone rang, making the whole issue moot.
 
I checked the Caller ID.
 
Wouldn’t you know, it was my ex.
 
Did I really want to answer this?
 
I sighed and pressed talk.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?” I asked, dropping the last bit of crust on the paper plate, hoisting the phone between my neck and my shoulder blade in order to clap the crumbs off both hands.

“Can’t you be nice for once?” Julian’s voice said.

“It’s hard.”
  

It’s been less than a year since we’ve divorced, and I’m still not rational about him.
 
I married for love – you might not believe that about me since I’ve got this reputation around the precinct of being such a no-nonsense, tough broad. Well, I am: analytical, persistent, competent and ambitious enough to get promoted to Detective Second Grade in the dog-eat-dog NYPD.
  
But the inside me, not so visible, is pure unadulterated Jell-O.
 
Give me a guy like Julian: tall, charming, darkly handsome, and I melt like butter.
  
It doesn’t matter that he misrepresented himself.
 
Said he was 35 when he was really 31 or that he was a top hedge fund manager with Goldman Sachs, looking the part with his custom suits and Italian shoes.

Fact is, the guy had charisma.
 
Correction:
has
charisma. I still have to watch myself with him on the off chance I see him in the flesh.
 
A month after our divorce was final, he somehow talked me into bed with him again.
  
The movie star charm, the steady patter, that dimple in his chin beneath a bad boy grin: it gets me every time.
 

You’d think that a big city detective would think to check out her lover’s prospects a little before taking the plunge.
 
You’d think that, wouldn’t you?
 
What can I say?
 
I was a woman in love.
 
I didn’t really want to know.
 
So, yes, he
was
a hedge fund manager, but it wasn’t
top
and it wasn’t really
his.
 
Julian was more of a high-class gopher for a run-of-the-mill hedge fund.
  
Anyway, now he’s out of a job altogether.
 
And the ritzy place he had in lower Manhattan – the one on which he had paid practically nothing down and was carrying monthly charges the size of a New York recruit’s annual pay – well, that was gone soon after he lost his job in late 2007.
 
So, instead of my moving into his place, Julian moved into mine.
 
At first it was cozy; then it was confining, finally with the two of us hiding behind dueling newspapers, it became jail.
 
I kicked him out a year and a half ago, even though it nearly broke my heart.
 
From what I understand, he’s still couch surfing.
 

“I don’t know what you’re always so bitchy about.
 
The fact is, y
ou
kicked
me
out,” Julian was saying.
 
“It wasn’t the other way around.”

“Yeah, well, it was
my
apartment.
 
It would have been pretty stupid for
me
to leave.”

The silence on the line went on longer than I could take.
 
“So, how ya doin’?” I said at last.

I could practically hear him shrug.
 
“Meh,” he said.

I waited two beats.
 
“That bad?”

“I just got kicked off my latest couch.”

Silence again on the line.
 
This time I wasn’t going to be the first one to break it.

Two, three, four beats.
 
“Can I stay a few days with you?” he asked, finally.

I sighed.
 
“Just a few days,” I said.

 

  
HENRY

 

A couple of weeks after Somnolux came out on the market, I remember Sherry coming back one night after work, all smiles.
 
She upended a brown paper bag onto my kitchen table.
 
Out spilled a couple of dozen blister packs of something: I couldn’t tell what.

“Somnolux!” Sherry announced, kissing me.
 
“It’s out!”

I opened up one of the packs, each one holding half a dozen little white tablets.
 
I picked one up between my thumb and forefinger, and threw it in my mouth.

“Hey!” she shouted, grabbing my hand, but it was too late.
 
“These things are fast-acting.
 
You take them ten minutes before you want to go to sleep.” She smiled.
 
“Well, better start the countdown, then.” She kicked off her shoes.
 
One went sailing into the hallway.

“Oh, yeah,” I said, as she did a slow tease with the zipper on her skirt.

“Feeling anything yet?”

“Yeah, but it’s not from any pill,” I whispered in her ear.

 
Sherry continued to strip off her pantyhose, one leg at a time.
 
She stepped out of it and kicked it away.
 
“Anything yet?”

It was hard to tell what I was reacting to: Somnolux or Sherry.
 
I was suddenly mesmerized by her body: the curve of her hip, the glow of her skin.
  
“Feeling a buzz, I think,” I said, swiping the whole pile of blister packs onto the floor, where they bounced around for awhile.
 
“This stuff have any side-effects?” I asked.

Sherry began this slow, excruciating dance, divesting herself bit by bit of her sweater, her satin demi-bra, her lacy panties.
  
I began salivating.
  
“Not as many as the barbiturates,” she said.
 
“It only attaches to a few of the benzodiazepine receptors.”
  
She hoisted herself onto the kitchen table, where she continued her dance to a light show in the background.

“Wow,” I said. “How d’ya do that?”

Sherry smiled lasciviously.
 
“If you have it, flaunt it.”

“No, I mean the lights.”

She stopped dancing.
 
“What lights?”

“There’s this whole freaking light show on the kitchen counter.”

“Uh-oh,” Sherry said.
 
“That’s not good.”

“Yeah, it’s good,” I shouted, climbing up onto the table alongside her, my pants around my knees.
  
I lay her head down as gently as I could, but whoa, suddenly I was banging her so hard, the table was jumping and jiving all over the fucking kitchen floor.
 
Sherry was writhing to the lights or were they bells? Yeah, the bells, bells, bells, bells. To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
 
To the tintinnabulation of bells. To the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells.
  
“Fuck!” I shouted before I fell down on top of her.

 

*
    
*
    
*

 

“You were something
else
,” Sherry told me in the morning with an amazed smile.
 
“I’ve never seen you like that.
 
You were
insane
.”

“But was it good?” I asked.
 
I hardly remembered it.

“Unbelievable!”
 
She paused a second then said, “But it kind of worries me that you’d have that strong a reaction to the Somnolux.
 
All it should have done was put you to sleep.”

I vaguely remembered popping that little pill into my mouth.
 
“You think it was the Somnolux?” I asked.
 
“You don’t think it was me?”

Sherry laughed, and kissed my cheek.
 
“I’m a scientist.
 
Let’s see if we can replicate the findings.
 
Tonight.”

And, yeah, we did.
 
Over and over.
 
Sometimes Sherry took the Somnolux, too, but she never seemed to get the buzz.
 
All she did was fall asleep.
 
As for me, I never quite hit the same peak.
 
I must have adapted to it, because after another month of taking it, I started taking it to actually fall asleep.

I don’t know.
 
Maybe the mood changed; we just didn’t have sex as much.
 
Sherry was pissed off a lot more.
 
When I mentioned it, she said it wasn’t me.
  
It was work. But it came to the same thing: we weren’t connecting the way we used to.

I got bits and pieces about what was going on, but she never said much.
 
She was pissed off because Somnolux was doing terrific.
 
It had captured a major part of the market share for sleeping medications, and here she was, not making a cent. The Institute, meanwhile, which had kept the rights, had spun off a small arms-length company created just to manufacture it.
 
Then this spin-off set up a marketing and distribution division, which, as Somnolux got bigger and bigger, split into separate Marketing and Distribution divisions.
 
This was big business from what was supposed to be a research-for-research’s sake organization.
 
So, the holier-than-thou-not-for-profit Vandenberg Institute somehow was raking in major profits.
 
Sherry had a lot to be pissed off about.
 

BOOK: Come Out Tonight
9.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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