Brenda Loring was far too small for the overstuffed capacious couch. She appeared uncomfortably absorbed by the cushions, hardly consoled. At first glance, she looked swallowed by the plush off white arms. It could be assumed that her body had found a semblance of solace, but the truth was that there really weren’t any sacred places to turn for comfort; the fluffed up cotton squares were far too affectionate and they consumed her behind their good intentions, providing only a pretense of succor.
Brenda sat up straight and reached for her glass; next was the cigarette. Comfort was better found in a nicotine binge and a scotch devoid of ice or water.
Brock was still not sure if he should believe her, even though she’d been insisting for months. “I’m not hallucinating,” she kept repeating. “I know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s all going to hell.”
His thoughts raced ahead as he watched her light the tip of her cigarette with a lit butt from an old dish with more ash than a crematory.
Brenda was birdlike but hardly unattractive, just sticky and twiggy, unlike his wife, who was a full hug, an eye level kiss. Brenda took a deep drag and looked at him through smoke.
“What a fuck,” she said. “Both of them. They are both fucks, I’m telling you. Devon has bought Glen off, paid him well to screw us over, though I don’t know why he would, disloyal asshole.”
“It’s hard to believe, can’t wrap my head around it, that’s all.”
Brenda leaned forward and crossed her tiny legs, shapely but thin. Her fingers seemed as long as arms, her elbows stuck out like wayward bones.
“Peter has lost control of his people. He's too old to run the organization. I’ve sensed that for years. I have my spies, people who hate Devon and will tell me the truth when I ask for it. You think he’s above screwing his brother? I don’t even have to pay for the information. The conceited bastard doesn’t think he has enemies.”
“Why now, I wonder?”
“Why not now? I heard Peter was sick; maybe that's why he's losing control. Maybe it’s serious. Maybe Devon doesn’t want anything going to Peter’s idiot wife if he should die. Imagine Delilah in charge of the LVAJ? Ha!”
“I don’t think Delilah would want it. Advising Peter in business is not quite the same as running the entire organization. That’s a mammoth job.”
“Ha!” Brenda took a sip of scotch. “I wouldn’t underestimate her, Brock. She has a degree in art, after all. You sound like a misogynist, just because she’s blonde and beautiful. She’s far from stupid.”
“I didn’t say she was.”
“Didn’t say she wasn’t either.”
“Look, you think we ought to go to Peter with this?” he asked, “he should know of our suspicions.”
“No, I don’t.”
“So you’re saying the Prince was a phony, but what if he wasn’t?”
Brenda threw back her head and laughed loudly. He noticed that her hair didn’t move, so stiff it seemed to stand at attention. Her hair is obedient, he thought.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “The whole thing was a scam. I’ll bet my ass that the Yellow Diamond is sitting behind some asshole's velvet pull in Saudi Arabia and no where near that little turd that calls himself ‘Prince Vizueta.’ She drew out the syllables of the prince’s name and made a face. “Prince of bullshit.”
Brock thought for a moment. “So, if the Yellow Diamond buy was a scam, what’s next?”
Brenda did all three things at once. It was quite impressive. She laughed and took a drag off her cigarette as she put the scotch glass to her lips and drank.
“I wish I knew.”
Brock stood up and looked at his watch. He hadn’t called home. It was after ten p.m. in San Francisco. Jane would be angry. One should make a point of calling home when one is suspected of having an affair.
“It’s getting late,” he said.
He’d spent months on the phone with Brenda, ever since she first uncovered what she believed to be a conspiracy. He wasn't quite so sure. He was cautious. He liked absolute proof. With their constant phone calls he couldn’t blame his wife for suspecting him of infidelity. Once Brenda got to Philadelphia, she called him several times a day so she could give him the scenario of treachery; so she could share her anxiety as she nervously sucked on her cigarette and drew him into her fears like the nightmare fairy.
“Why don’t we wait for Devon’s next move, see where he’s going with this,” Brock said, putting Jane out of his thoughts, he’d deal with it in his own way. “No sense making a big deal out of something that could just be gossip,” he added.
“Well, it’s been months since this phony prince 'supposedly' put out a bid on the Yellow Diamond and went back to his phony country with it.”
“Right, and there hasn't been anything since, no bids out on any precious stones at all.”
“But it doesn't mean there won't be,” she said. “I sense it in my bones that we’re being screwed with.”
"Look, if someone out there really has the Yellow Diamond other than the Prince, wouldn't they have contacted Peter and told him he was being made an ass of, that you can’t purchase what someone else owns?"
"Why should they say anything? Anonymity is what matters, not friendship, you know that."
Brenda stood up tall but barely reached his chest. She went to a wall of windows and looked out from her thirty-second floor condominium. The night was dark, but the city shone against the sky. It seemed like a false movie set, almost too perfect a Manhattan skyline.
She turned to face him. “Let’s confront Glen, find out what the hell is going on. If he knows we’re aware he’s a turncoat, he’ll tell us everything. He’ll be too afraid not to.“
Brock raised his eyebrow. “And you think Glen is going to admit he screwed with Peter? He has his own agenda,” he said.
“Where is it going to leave us if Devon takes over the American operation?”
“Under Devon’s employ, that’s where.” He realized Brenda was being too emotional; one of them had to be rational.
Brenda sat and puffed; taking deep drags and pushed the smoke out through her teeth.
Brock paced a bit around the room. “So, according to you, Devon paid the commission out of his own pocket? To make it all look legit?”
Brenda moved her head, barely a nod but he knew that’s what she’d intended.
“Right. He has a plan,” she said. “I just don’t know what it is. I mean, a phony bid? A phony buy? I don't get it.”
Brock sat on the arm of a chair so thin it hurt his backside and he moved quickly onto the couch with false substance.
“It has to have something to do with discrediting Peter, that’s what I think. What else could it be? Devon has finally gotten sick and tired of sharing his customers.”
Brenda squashed her cigarette out. He was relived she didn’t relight. His throat felt raw from her smoke, and the nicotine stunk.
“Devon has thought this whole thing up, a fake prince, a ludicrous bid ─ and he sent it all to Peter on a silver platter. I watched Glen go through the motions of recovering the Yellow Diamond; it was clear bullshit.” She looked back out at her seven million dollar view. “I never saw the diamond with my own eyes; I never watched any money exchange hands. He had me answering the phone and reporting back to Peter all day while he said he was doing business.”
Brock wet his lips with his tongue. “Why would Devon approach Glen and not me, or not you, for that matter, if he’s plotting against Peter?”
Brenda rocked her body just a bit. She was flirting, which was always her way, her constant affectation around men. Brock smiled, but only to himself. He’d never wanted any other woman but Jane from the moment they'd met. It was absurd that she now thought he did, especially Brenda, whose scantily fleshed out body reminded him of an adolescent boy. He wanted to flip open his cell phone and call his wife, just to tell her that her father was a bastard and the only thing he wanted from Brenda was assurance.
“Because you’re married to Jane and Peter was always more of a father to his daughter than he was. Jane would never let you betray Peter. And me?” Brenda winked at him. “My few one night stands with Peter could be interpreted as loyalty, though God knows, I have none.”
Brock stood up. He towered over her and nearly reached her eight-foot ceiling.
“If what you’re saying is true, I want a take over. I want no part of this war between Peter and Devon. Let them chew each other up. You and I together have enough contacts.”
He stared at her. He was surprised at his own words, but he meant it. If he had wanted to work with Devon he would have stayed in England. Devon was a mean bastard. He was also greedy; his split had been an absurd five percent.
“I was hoping you’d say that.” Brenda lit another cigarette without leaving his gaze.”
“That would make us partners,” he said, “just you and me, I’m not opening this up to anyone else.”
“I’m yours,” she said, sending him smoke rings. “Peter is getting too old for this and Devon is a creep; we can’t trust him. This idiot ploy of his is going to splinter the whole operation, so let’s take our contacts and run.”
Brock slipped on his jacket. “Let me think this through,” he said. “I’ll be back in touch. We're bound to hear of another false buy very soon. If this is Devon's plan, to discredit Peter, he won't wait very long to send him another bullshit surfaced precious stone.”
“Maybe art this time, who knows? What about Jane, will you tell her?” she asked.
“Of course, I tell her everything,” he said and paused at the door. “Not right away though, she might not like it.”
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