February 25th, 2001
Yesterday, after I had given the promo spiel at the Balmoral, I instructed my Chief Technology and Information Officer to answer any further questions, and then made tracks to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
But as I passed the ladies bar on the way out, my curiosity got the better of me. Erika was, after all, the catalyst that eventually lead to the construction of the Consciousness Projector.
What harm could one peek do?
She wasn’t there! But Willy was. She had to be somewhere in the building…in the vicinity. Maybe she was powdering her nose?
As I glanced back, she suddenly came rushing out of the conference hall. As our eyes met she became instantly agitated.
After regaining her composure she walked slowly past me and over to the entrance to the bar. She stopped, seemingly having trouble finding something in her handbag.
Although she was excellent eye-candy, I didn’t recall what she was wearing that first night until that very moment.
And it was also only now that I was critical of her choice in attire.
Why was a woman, I knew to be highly intelligent, dressed so impractically on such a cold night?
Working for a big local paper, she should have been well aware of the unusual weather that was creeping its way into the city.
But, I was soon to realize, as Chris De Burgh had sung in his song of Patricia the Stripper that, ‘This girl was in her working clothes.’ And I’m not referring to her job at The Chronicle.
In fact, her choice of attire had been highly rational and appropriate – the first time round that is!
For some reason, on that occasion, that obvious fact had managed to elude me (I guess infatuation is even more blinding than love? No wonder women find it so easy to pull the wool over our eyes!).
The weaker sex? Bah!!!
Erika was stunningly attractive; wearing a pair of tight-fitting jeans and a low neck sweater that displayed ample cleavage, allowing the onlooker to effortlessly complete those sensual lines in the recesses of the fertile imagination.
In order to display the maximum flesh, she had chosen not to wear anything beneath the sweater. This fact was clearly evident by the two prominent swellings that literally pointed out the slight chill in the weather.
I knew it was time to leave when my own anatomy had felt an involuntary urge to start playing the weather vane game.
I had seen more than enough, it was definitely time to get the hell outta there!
“Off so soon?” she asked as I passed her.
I narrowed my eyes. “Do I know you?”
She held out a hand. “Erika Angelo, assistant editor at The Chronicle. Our offices are just a block away.”
“Yes, I know. What were you doing inside the conference hall?”
“Listening to your talk, of course. Some of the jargon was a little over my head, but there might be something we could use.”
“Last time you said that…” Last time she had said that she hadn’t attended the promo talk.
“Sorry? Last time I said…what?”
I made a quick recovery. “Your paper had said you would definitely print something.”
“And we will. We got a man in there right now talking to your guy.”
“I’m the assistant editor, not the reporter. I’ll take a look at what he’s done, later.”
“Then why did you…”
“I normally come down to the Balmoral to unwind a little after a long day at work.” She indicated towards the bar. “They’ve got an authentic wood-burning fireplace in there. Nice an’ cozy. I need to thaw out a little. Wanna join me?”
“I really should be going.”
“I’ll make you a deal. You have one drink with me, and I promise to give you a really good…write up.” She had licked her top lip sensually during the pause.
“You’re passing a chance for some free advertizing? Come on! I know you’re not gay! Do you normally let pretty girls beg this hard?”
“How do you know I’m not…”
“I do my homework. We got a really thick file on you back at the office.”
She wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “One drink.”
“Great! And don’t look like you’re on your way to a root canal. I don’t bite!” Then she gave a mischievous grin. “Not unless you want me to?”
“This is Willy,” she said introducing me to Willy Newood. “And Willy, I’d like you to meet…”
“Cornelius Crane,” said Willy. “CEO of Crane Global Visions.”
“I see you’ve also been doing your homework!” I smiled wryly and shook his outstretched hand.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked frowning.
“Nothing, forget about it.”
Erika smiled at Willy, but spoke to me. “Besides being an excellent…barman, Willy here is practically a walking dictionary of famous film quotes. The man’s knowledge of the movies is legendary.” Then she asked Willy, “Go ahead, make my day?”
“Oh, come on, Erika?” said Willy shaking his head. “Everybody knows that one. Sudden Impact.”
“Oh? I thought it comes from Dirty Harry?”
“Nah, Harry Callahan only says it in the fourth movie, Sudden Impact.”
“See?” she said turning back to me. “A veritable well of movie knowledge.”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” I said dryly.
“Oh, come on man!” exclaimed Willy. “That must be the easiest one ever. Gone with the…”
“No,” I said interrupting. “You don’t understand. I was talking to the lady.”
Erika and I both laughed. Willy just stood blank-faced and muttered, “Eh?” We laughed even louder. “I don’t get it, man?”
“Forget it, Willy!” I said shaking my head. “Say, did you ever hear about that guy who shot a jaws?”
“You mean Spielberg?”
“Nah! I mean the guy who used his rifle to actually kill a jaws.”
“You mean a shark, man?”
“Nah, I mean a jaws.”
“What’s a jaws, man?”
“I thought you’d never ask! “Scotch and water; plenty ice!” Erika and I burst out laughing again.
Willy just frowned and said, “You got it, man! I knew you were a whisky man.”
“Yep, just like m’ granpappy. Definitely no apple juice!”
“And whatsa jaws? Will your job allow you to have one as well?”
“Oh, I get it now. Hey, that’s funny, man!” He laughed before adding. “I’ll be sure to use that on some of the regulars to get a few free drinks.”
“I would never have considered you the freeloader type?”
“I ain’t no sponge, man. It’s just one of the fringe benefits that come with the job.” He winked. “Know what I mean?”
“I surely do. So, whatsa yours gonna be, Willy? Wait, let me guess.” I pretended to deliberate the matter. “You’ll have a brewski? Something out of the tap?”
“You’re good, man,” he said forming his hand into a gun and making a clicking sound at me. “I love a long draft.”
“Tall, bitter and cold.”
“Just like your women.”
“Tall, bitter and cold.”
“You’re making my mouth water.”
“And a cocksucker, too!” It was a statement not a query.
“Make sure you give it a good head, Willy!” I smiled then indicated towards Erika. “I guess you already know what the lady drinks.” I opened my wallet.
“I said I was paying,” she said reaching for her purse.
I placed my hand on hers. “Next time, maybe.”
“I thought you said only one drink?”
“I changed my mind.”
“That’s a woman’s prerogative.”
“And that is just a polite way to say that women are indecisive.”
“Nope, just old-fashioned in my ways.”
“You’re not old.”
“I said old-fashioned.”
She touched the graying hair near my temple, brushing it back with her fingers. “I think you look quite…distinguished.”
“That’s right, distinguished…not extinguished.”
She forced a smile before saying, “Would you consider yourself to be…eccentric?”
“If I did, then I wouldn’t be.”
“I believe that true eccentricity is like…insanity. It’s something…natural, not forced or pseudo in its application. Therefore a true eccentric does not believe himself to be so inclined.”
“Just as a totally insane person believes himself sane?”
“Exactly! Does a mad scientist think of himself as insane or brilliant? Doctor Frankenstein never for one instant ever considered himself to be…”
“That’s fiction. What about you. Do you think you’re a brilliant scientist?”
“No, just extremely lucky.”
“Ah, yes! In your little speech just now, you mentioned that, ‘Crane Global Visions are more innovators than inventors.’ That was a very brave confession.” She raised her glass to me. “I salute you for your boldness.”
“I’ll drink to that,” And did.
She continued, “You claim to use Reverse Engineering and the Evolution of Invention in order to develop most of your…products.”
I raised my glass and said, “And I salute your astonishing powers of recollection.”
“And I’ll drink to that!” She took a long draft before saying, “I understand the concept of Reverse Engineering – you basically take something apart in order to better understand the principal…or principals by which it functions. Correct?”
“Correct…basically. The object of the exercise is to see if there is some way to duplicate the device, but in such a way so that you can call it your own. Sometimes it’s a ploy to squeeze around an existing patent.”
“I know! Shit, the Japs have been doing it for ages now!”
“Exactly! Wiley little bastards!”
Willy suddenly asked, “You call me, man?”
I laughed. “I said, ‘Wiley’ not ‘Willy,’ but maybe I was calling you.”
“Rack us up another round. We both seem to have run aground already. Must be the chill in the bones.”
“You got it, man!”
Erika continued. “As I was saying earlier, ‘I understand the concept of Reverse Engineering well-enough.” She placed her empty glass on the counter, shrugged her shoulders, turned both her palms up and shook her head. “But I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea what the Evolution of Invention is?”
“It’s quite simple really. A lot of people think that Reverse Engineering and the Evolution of Invention are one and the same. Wrong! Uh-uh! Very different! Let me try to explain it to you in layman…laywoman terms.”
“Laywoman…that sounds very evocative and …suggestive!”
“Shut up,” I said with a smile. “I’m explaining.”
“Yes, master!” she smiled back. “Hmm, I like a man who’s forceful.”
“There are 3 inventors. Let’s call them simply A, B and C.”
“Uh-huh,” she said with a look of interest that was too forced and artificial. “Go on.”
“Man A invents the Wheel – on its own it is a device able to do little more than roll down a hill.”
“He could build a cart?”
“Would you shut up so I can explain? Stop jumping the gun!”
“Sorreee…go on!” She pulled a hand across her mouth. “It’s zipped. I won’t say another word. Promise. Go on. Not another wo…”
“Shut the fuck up!” She pulled two hands across her mouth. I continued, “So, as I was trying to explain before I was so rudely interrupted – Man A invents the Wheel. That’s it for A – end of the story for him!
“Next comes along Inventor B who invents the Simple Lever – a long plank with a fulcrum placed near the end. This is basically a see-saw with the turning point moved to one side.” I used a swizzle-stick and a matchbox to demonstrate. “By placing a heavy load on the short end and then applying a force on the extremity of the long end, he is able to lift the heavy load with relative ease. This device has its limitation in that it can only move the load up and down.” I pumped the swizzle-stick up and down. “See?”
She nodded before saying, “I guess a crowbar would be a good example of where a simple lever can be put to practical use?”
I turned to Willy and said, “Give this lady a cigar!”
I burst out laughing as the stupid prick removed a cigar from the shelf and plonked it in front of her before asking, “You smoke cigars, Erika? Shit, you never ever tol…”
“It’s just a figure of speech, Willy,” she said visibly agitated.
I couldn’t resist adding, “An idiom, that’s with an m, not a t.”
She pushed the cigar back at Willy. “Right, it means…”
“Wait!” I said grabbing the cigar and putting it into my breast pocket. “I want to have it.”
“You smoke cigars?” she asked.
“No, I want it for a keepsake.”
I wanted badly to say, ‘Of a reminder of what an idiotic arsehole Willy is.’ Instead, I said, “Of our meeting.”
She grinned and fluttered her eyelashes. “Why, do you think I’m special?”
I could have said, ‘Very much so. You were the catalyst or inspiration behind the evolution of the invention of the Consciousness Projector.’ Instead, I simply avoided answering by continuing with the explanation. “Where was I? Oh yes, Man A – the Wheel! Man B – the Simple Lever!
“Now, along comes C who in a moment of brilliant inspiration combines invention A with invention B and voila we have the Wheelbarrow, a device capable of moving a heavy load across a great distance.”
“Well, that is really just a very simple explanation of the basic principal.”
“That’s enough about your work, for now. I want to hear about you.”
“I am my work.”
“No, I want to know what you do when you’re not working. What does Cornelius Crane like doing for recreation?”
“Hold that thought Mr. Distinguished-looking,” she said picking up her handbag. “I need to powder my nose. Now, don’t you run off while I’m gone.”
I knew what was coming next, because only now was I aware of how well-rehearsed the whole set-up had been originally.
Yep, no sooner had Erika disappeared inside the ladies room, when Willy came over.
“Hey, man,” he said holding his hand next to his mouth as if to tell me a secret; taking me into his confidence. “I gotta tell you something.”
“Erika comes in here quite often, and I never seen her like this, man”
“Yes, I just happened to notice that you’ve been looking in our direction quite a bit.”
“She got the hots for you pretty bad, man.”
“Really?” I asked trying to conceal the sarcasm in my tone.
“I wouldn’t lie to you, man. She wants you real bad.”
“I see! So, you’re what…an Erika expert?”
For a moment he was stunned into silence, but then asked, “What do you mean, man?”
“I mean have you ever fucked her?”
There was another stunned silence before, “Uh…no, man.”
“That’s not a very convincing no.”
He suddenly and miraculously had the answer, “We’re not allowed to fraternize with the customers, man.”
“But you been fraternizing with us the whole evening so far.”
“I’m talking about trying the serious shit, man. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah, like fucking the customers!”
“Whoa, man,” he said looking around nervously. “Keep your voice down. I lost my last job because I got too friendly with the ladies.”
“Where was that?”
“A hotel down in Florida. I was doing pretty well for myself, man. Playing toyboy to all those rich bitches.”
I played dumb. “Toyboy?”
“You know, pleasing all them older ladies from up north.”
“So, screwing old ladies is a turn on for you?”
“No man, it was just for the green.”
“How did you manage to get it up, then?”
He closed his eyes and smiled. “I just closed my eyes and pretended I was doing it to that hot number on the shopping channel. You know the one who advertizes that exercising machine, the one that…”
“So what happened? How’d you lose your job?”
“I got careless, man. I do my moves on this tough-looking number from Ohio. I’m like, ‘Hey mamma, if you’re a boytoy I’d love to be your toyboy.’ I should have known better, man. Turns out she’s a carpet muncher.”
I played dumb again. “Eh?”
“A fuckin’ lesbian, man.” I laughed loudly and he lamented, “Yeah, and she made enough noise to make sure I wasn’t gonna get another job on either coast. That’s why I’m stuck here in this shithole now.”
“I happen to live in this shithole.”
“Hey, sorry, man! It’s just that I used to go surfin’ in my spare time. I hate being so far from the ocean, man. Know what I mean?”
“So, what are your plans for the future, then?”
“As soon as I get enough cash together, I’m gonna buy me my own bar.”
“What’s a bartender make these days?”
“Not much, man. It’s gonna take awhile, but I’ll get there.”
“That’s the spirit, Willy. You gotta keep that dream alive.”
“You said it, man!”
I took a $100 bill out of my wallet. “I hope this helps you get just a little closer to that dream, Willy.” I folded it and placed it into the tip jar.
“Hey, thanks, man!” He pointed two finger guns at me. You are the man. You know that? You are the man.”
“Yeah, so you’ve been telling me the whole night.”
“I mean it, man!”
“What do you mean, Willy?” asked Erika returning from the Ladies Room.
“He means to buy the next round of drinks.”
“You said it man. This round is on Willy.”
Erika frowned, “I’m gone 5 minutes and you manage to convince the barman to buy the next round?”
“I’m a pretty persuasive person. Besides, we all gotta pay sometime.”
“Does that include me?”
“Especially you! You gonna pay big!”
“Oooh, that sounds…exciting!”
“It’s gonna be spectacular!”
“Promise?” she asked taking the fresh drink from Willy.
“Oh, I promise alright.”
It was a quarter to midnight when we stepped out into the cold night air outside the Balmoral.
She was hanging tightly onto my arm when she noticed me looking at my watch. “What time is it?” she slurred and stuttered.
“It’s a quarter to the bitchin’ hour.”
“I believe that should be witching.”
“Same thing,” I said dryly before asking, “Which way you headed?”
“Uptown,” she said sliding her hand inside my jacket and removing the cigar. She slid it under her nose and sniffed. “I think you’re special too. I don’t mean in the way that the rest of the world sees you. I mean as a human being. The world sees the great inventor…innovator. I see more…much, much more. The…personality. It is our personality that ultimately defines the whole person. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Indubitably,” I said before gazing up and down the street. “You wanna share a cab?”
She stared intently at me. “I’d rather share a bed.”
“You don’t waste time?”
“Come on! Admit it?”
“That you feel it too. There’s something special happening here. I know we just met, but I feel as though I’ve known you forever. Admit it, you feel the same.”
“It’s called soulmates.”
“Yeah, soulmates. That’s a lovely word. I love it!” She looked back at the hotel entrance and said, “I want you. I want you, now!”
“Let’s get a room.”
“My thoughts exactly. See how alike we are?”
The man at the reception desk looked us up and down.
“You heard him, Malcolm!” said Erica sounding agitated. “Mr. and Mrs. Crane. And don’t give us any fucking shit about it either.”
“I wasn’t about to, Erika.” He took a key from one of the hooks and handed it to her. “Three ten…third floor…last door to your right.” Then he sang, “Pleasant dreams! I’ll tell Willy you said hi.”
“Shut the fuck up, Malcolm. I’m in no mood for your sarcasm tonight.”
In the elevator I asked, “What was that all about?”
“Forget about it!”
“Forget about what?”
She gazed up from my chest where her head was resting. “Oh, I am so gonna screw your brains out. Now that you’ve explained the Evolution of Invention to me in laywoman terms, it’s time to lay the woman in no uncertain terms.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
“That’s because we’re soulmates. We can finish each other’s senten...”
“I think the only way I can get you to stop talking so much is like this.” I pulled her closer and we kissed long and passionately. She would never know that it was not the first time for me that our lips were meeting. When we finally separated she said, “That sounded good didn’t it?
“Mr. and Mrs. Crane?”
“You see,” she said too excitedly. “You knew exactly what I was thinking about. Yes! Mr. and Mrs. Crane! Such a nice ring to it!”
How I ever managed to fall for her shit the first time round, I’ll never know? I guess love really is blind?
The board is set. The first moves have been made. There’s no need to consider twenty moves ahead when you already know exactly how the game will end. I’ve said it before, ‘Knowledge is power. Knowledge of the future is absolute power!’
I thought I would have trouble making love to her again, but she’s a beautiful woman with an amazing body. And although I am loath to admit, very good in bed, even if she did pretend to have several orgasms during the course of the long steamy night.
It might have been chilly outside, but we managed to generate some serious heat – and we didn’t even have a fireplace.
I know that Erika is feeling a great sense of accomplishment at the moment, but it is nothing compared to the victory that lays ahead for me.
Not too long to go!
Less than seven months!!!