Beyond the etched glass doors of the hotel’s lobby I watched Manhattan’s traffic inch by. I tapped my foot against the marbled floor, echoing the Hunger’s nip of impatience inside me.
“Soon, soon,” I promised.
"Ma'am, your cab's here."
The Hunger leapt at the doorman’s words. I stood, smoothed my satin tank top and made my way outside. A wave of blaring horns, car exhaust and sultry air surged over me, all the pleasures of New York City in August. The doorman held open the door to the cab. "Thank you,” I said as I pressed a bill into his hand.
"Where you go, Lady," the cabbie asked as he pulled down his meter flag.
"I'm new in town. Take me to the hottest jazz club around."
His gaze found mine in the rearview mirror. "That Beau’s in Queens."
"Then Queens it is."
"Very good Lady, but maybe 75 dollar. Nobody come back.”
"I'll cover it. Will $200.00 do?"
"Okay, very good. You got money?”
I opened my clutch purse, held up a $100.00 bill in each hand.
"Hot jazz comin’ up."
He shot through a yellow light, slowed for man in a cross walk and then rocketed by. "So, you new to Manhattan. Have you…?"
"Stop," I said. "There's another twenty for you if you don't say one more word."
With his eyes again on mine in the mirror, he grinned, showing ragged dentistry through his straggle of beard.
I settled back in the seat and watched the people. They hurried along lost in their petty concerns.
The Hunger grew more insistent with each passing second. The hunt would have to be swift tonight and I'd dressed for the occasion, short black skirt, satin tank top, no bra, and my favorite Christian Louboutin silver, sling-backs. A small black, leather clutch with money, fake I.D. and the two room keycards completed
We passed beneath a street light and in the momentary brightness my fingernails glistened. I'd painted them special for tonight, Dead Red.
"What's your name?" I said.
He shook his head, refused to speak.
I laughed. "You may answer any questions I ask without losing your extra twenty."
"Dawud, David in American."
“Are you Arabic? My husband and I spent some time in Iraq. His name was David.”
The cabbie nodded. “Yes, I be here three years now.”
“I’ve been back in the states three years now myself. This is my first visit to Manhattan though. I don‘t know why I waited so long, it seems so perfect.”
“Yes. Yes. The city that never sleeps.” He eyes found mine in the mirror. “You like your hotel? My cousin, he…”
“I love my hotel. It has everything I need. I checked it out thoroughly on the Internet.”
“If you change…”
“I won’t. I never do. Now, no more talking please. I want to enjoy the view.”
People scurried along the crowded streets, eyes straight forward, most with cell phones pressed to their ears, concerned with their neat little worlds, not aware that any one of them could be my next kill. I looked away from the window. “How much further?"
The cabbie glanced at me in the rearview mirror. "We there, almost. You want I wait? You already pay for trip back."
"No, I'm meeting someone."
"But you not know you come here."
I smiled. "Oh, I am meeting someone; they just don’t know it yet. Now not another word, that last comment almost cost you your extra twenty."
We finished the ride in silence. He pulled to the curb. From a squat building‘s dim window, red neon blinked Beau's. A sign advertising, Smokin’ Hot, and showing three smiling men, almost blocked the narrow doorway. Before the cabbie could exit, I climbed out and handed him the money.
As I turned toward the jazz club's entrance he said. "Can be very bad in there. Be careful.”
“Thank you for your concern, David. But, I’ll be fine.” I smiled and walked away.
The Hunger twisted inside my stomach. Inside the doorway of the club, I stopped and let my eyes
adjust to the dim lights, and also to let everyone view me. The murmur of voices made my thighs quiver. There were as many women in the club as men. The dress code stretched from blue jeans and tennis shoes to silk shoulders draped with fur. My prey was among them. I felt it. I adjusted the scooped neckline of my
tank top so that it rode just above the pink of my nipples.
Cigarette smoke, perfume and sweat was a visible haze hovering over the room. On an upraised stage in the back, three men stood, smoking and drinking, obviously they were Smokin’ Hot. Must be break time.
There were a few empty tables, but I sashayed toward the bar. I loved bars, loved the way my skirt hiked up when I climbed upon the stool, loved the feel of the polished wood beneath my hand. This bar had a soft patina, like worn leather. Behind it, bottles of liquor lined the wall on both sides of a huge mirror. Mirrors were always a plus for I could scan the room without anyone being the wiser. I examined my reflection. I’d chosen the shoulder-skimming blonde wig tonight, with the ends that dipped downward, like fingers pointing to my cleavage. No jewelry. From my chin to my breasts you saw nothing but skin. My eyes were pale blue, translucent. I'd played the color up with blue eye shadow, black eye liner and mounds of mascara. My lips matched my fingernails, Dead Red.
Shifting my gaze to the crowd behind me I spotted interested appraisals by three men and two women. The bartender worked his way toward me. "What can I get you, miss?"
"Gin and tonic."
"I’m buying that for you.” The words came from behind me. I met his eyes in the mirror. He was one of the three I'd spotted. The man looked middle-aged. Carried a few extra pounds, but he had a full head of silver hair. His eyes were nice, the warm brown of cooking sherry.
"I don't think so," I said. "My mama always warned acceptin’ drinks from strangers is how a good girl becomes less than pure."
"Well, your mama sounds like one smart lady. The name's Bradley Williams.” He settled on the bar stool next to me.
I swiveled to face him, crossed my legs. A dangerous move with my short skirt, but I'd had some practice. It achieved the desired result. I watched his eyes widen. "Mister Williams, are you always so pushy?"
He smiled showing white, even teeth. "It works for me."
The bartender came back with my drink. I smiled, took it from him. "Yes, I can see it does."
The man dropped a ten dollar bill onto the bar.
"Oh, and Mister Williams, I'm a good tipper."
His smile lost some wattage, but then reappeared at full power. "Keep the change.”
The bartender nodded at me as he turned away.
"I didn't get your name," Bradley Williams said.
I sipped from the glass, looked at him over the rim. "Rita.”