Fade Away Page 55

“I didn’t work last Saturday night,” she said. “He must have been calling somebody else.”

Win frowned. “I grow weary of your tactics, Ms. Mason. As you just admitted to me, yours is a small firm. I could call your employer, if you wish. I am sure he would be glad to tell Mr. Windsor Horne Lockwood III if you were there or not.”

Thumper sat back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest, looking out at the game. The Dragons were up 24 to 22. Her eyes followed the course of the ball down the court. “I have nothing more to say to you, Mr. Lockwood.”

“Ah. No longer interested in a job?”

“That’s right.”

“You misunderstand,” Win said. “I don’t mean just with Lock-Horne Securities. I mean with anybody, including your current employer.”

She turned to him. “What?”

“There are two options here,” Win said. “Let me spell them out for you clearly, so that you choose the one most suitable for you. One, you tell me why Greg Downing called you on Saturday night. You tell me why you lied to Myron about it. You tell me everything you know about his disappearance.”

“What disappearance?” she interrupted. “I thought he was injured.”

“Option two,” Win went on. “You continue to either stay silent or lie to me, in which case I will begin to circulate a rumor within our industry vis-à-vis your integrity. More specifically, I will let it be known that there are federal authorities looking into serious allegations of embezzlement.”

“But …” she started, stopped. “You can’t do that.”

“No?” He made an amused face. “I am Windsor Horne Lockwood III. My word on such matters will not be questioned. You, on the other hand, will have difficulty finding employment as a hat-check girl in a roadside Denny’s when I’m through.” He smiled and tilted the bag her way. “Peanut?”

“You’re insane.”

“And you are normal,” Win countered. He looked down at the court. “Say, that young towel boy is wiping a player’s sweat off the floor. That must be worth”—he gave a big shrug—“oh, I don’t know. Fellatio at the very least, wouldn’t you say?”

Win smiled at her sweetly.

“I’m leaving.” She started to stand.

“Would you sleep with me?” he asked.

She looked at him in horror. “What?”

“Would you sleep with me? If you’re very good, I may consider employing you at Lock-Horne.”

Her teeth were clenched. “I’m not a prostitute,” she hissed.

“No, you are not a prostitute,” Win said, loud enough so that a few heads turned. “But you are a hypocrite.”

“What are you talking about?”

Win motioned to her seat. “Please sit down.”

“I’d rather not.”

“And I’d rather not have to shout.” He motioned again. “Please.”

With wary eyes she did as he asked. “What do you want?”

“You find me attractive, do you not?”

She made a face. “I think you are the most repulsive man I have—”

“I am just speaking only about looks here,” Win said. “The physical, remember? As you told Myron just last night, having sex is merely a physical thing. Like shaking hands—though with an analogy like that I question your partners’ prowess. Now, at the risk of appearing immodest, I know that I am not physically unattractive. When you think back over the many Giants and Dragons you’ve bedded in your stellar career, surely there must be at least one that was less physically attractive than moi.”

Her eyes squinted. She looked intrigued and horror-stricken at the same time. “Perhaps,” she allowed.

“Yet you will not sleep with me. That, my dear, is hypocritical.”

“How so?” Thumper countered. “I’m an independent woman. I choose.”

“So you’ve told me,” Win said. “But why do you choose only Giants and Dragons?” When she hesitated a bit too long, he smiled and wagged his finger. “You should at least be honest as to why you made that particular choice.”

“You seem to know a lot about me,” Thumper said. “Why don’t you tell me?”

“Fine. You immediately announce this bizarre rule about Dragons and Giants and whatnot. You set limits. I do not. If I find a woman attractive, that is enough. But you need this random team affiliation. You use it as a fence to separate you.”

“Separate me from what?”

“Not from what. Whom. From so-called freewheeling sluts. As you just pointed out to me, you are not a prostitute. You choose, dammit. You are no slut.”

“That’s right, I’m not.”

He smiled. “But what is a slut? A woman who sleeps around? Well, no. That’s what you do. You wouldn’t criticize a fellow sister to the cause. So what exactly is a slut? Well, by your definition, there is no such thing. Except, of course, you needed to deny being a slut when I questioned you. Why?”

“Don’t make it out to be more than it is,” Thumper said. “Slut carries with it a negative connotation. That’s the only reason I got defensive.”

Win spread his hands. “But why should there be any negative connotation? If a slut is, by definition, a so-called loose woman, a woman who sleeps around, why not embrace the term with both legs? Why put up these fences? Why create these artificial limits? You use your team affiliations to announce your independence. But it announces the opposite. It announces that you are unsure and insecure.”

“And that’s why I’m a hypocrite?”

“Of course. Go back to my request to sleep with you. Either sex is a purely physical act, in which case my brusque behavior with you now should have no bearing on it, or sex is something more than physical. Which is it?”

She smiled, gave a quick head shake. “You’re an interesting man, Mr. Lockwood. Maybe I will sleep with you.”

“No good,” he said.


“You’ll be doing it simply to prove I’m wrong. That, my dear, is as pathetic and insecure as what you are currently doing. But we are getting sidetracked. That is my fault, I apologize. Are you going to tell me about your conversation with Greg Downing, or do I destroy your reputation?”

She looked dazed. It was what he wanted.

“Of course there is option three,” Win continued, “which closely follows option two. That is, on top of having your reputation destroyed you face a murder charge.”

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