Cooper’s Cavern, the fictional basement bar in this story, is very vivid in my mind. I can see the leather armchairs, the huge Persian rugs, the low lights, the old legal books on the shelves by the fireplace, the rows of Scotch bottles behind the polished walnut bar. It’s a place beloved of a certain type of man. And the soundtrack includes Lester Young.
Smooth, lyrical… and sweet. That was Young’s style, very different from the hard-driving saxophone of the prevailing style in his day.
In this week’s chapter, Ellen and the other Belles are on a mission, to sexually provoke the three suspects in Tina’s rape, and set them up for the “sting.” Ellen’s the bait, so she has a special assignment to flirt with each of them: Jaime, Hector and Hugh.
26. Cooper’s Cavern
The next evening, Kim picked up Emily and Ellen for the short drive to Cooper’s Cavern, which was in Center City. “Last night I forgot to ask you, how’d it go at the Triton?” asked Emily. “Did you get any leads?”
“Not exactly. Lily told me Hugh was ‘different from other men,’ but after that little revelation, she refused to say anything more. And then… I ended up sleeping with Hugh,” she confessed.
“Ellen! He’s one of the prime suspects,” cried Emily. “What were you thinking?”
“She gives new meaning to the term ‘undercover investigation,’” quipped Kim, who seemed less surprised at the news.
“It was like being hypnotized,” said Ellen. “I couldn’t stop myself.”
“Well, well,” said Emily disapprovingly, though Ellen thought she heard a touch of envy in her voice. “Did you find any clues?”
“He asked me again about the stolen money and wanted to know what was really going on. I didn’t tell him, of course.”
“Eeew. What if he did it, and he’s trying to find out how much we know?”
“I’m aware of that possibility,” said Ellen stonily.
“Are you falling for him?” asked Kim.
“I don’t know. I keep replaying that night in my mind, over and over.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in love. It might just mean you’re really horny,” said Emily. “The same thing happens to me with Angus after a good hook-up.”
“As long as you don’t suppress anything incriminating,” said Kim as they pulled in to the Cavern parking lot, “it’s your call whom to sleep with. I just hope you don’t regret it later.”
The Cavern was divided between a dining room and the spacious basement lounge for which the place was named. The ceilings were rather low, the lights were dim, and the room was filled with groups of leather sofas and armchairs. The music was a mix of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Lester Young. When they arrived, Jaime, Gerry the Drummer and Hector were already at the bar. Ellen was unsurprised to see Hugh relaxing in one of the man-sized armchairs nearby, a drink and a bowl of snacks ready to hand. Steeling herself, she nodded at him pleasantly and made for the bar.
She was the bait. That meant she had some work to do. She’d dressed this evening in what for her was a provocative outfit, tight black jeans with stovepipe legs, spike heels, a low-cut pink tank top with pushup bra, and a close-fitting black linen jacket. It was the type of clothing Kim usually wore to meetups. She left her hair loose and slightly unkempt, and applied some extra makeup. Amber had stopped by as she was dressing, and seemed almost shocked at her appearance.
“You look hot. The guys I know would call you a MILF.”
“Milf? What’s that?”
“Oh, nothing. It just means you’re sexy. You’re definitely going to have offers to hook up tonight.”
Ellen smiled now, remembering Amber’s surprise. It was pleasant to think that she was still attractive enough to qualify as “hot” at the age of forty-four. She ordered a martini and smiled at the handsome bartender, chatting with Emily and ignoring Jaime, who was clearly sizing her up. Eventually, he leaned in close to her and said in his low, musical voice, “Ellen, you look amazing tonight.”
Ellen picked up her drink. The martinis here were huge, served in glasses almost twice the size of hers at home. The icicle-like toothpick held three large olives.
“Thank you, Jaime. Let’s go sit at the end of the bar where we can talk.” She didn’t have to add more privately; he got the message immediately. Sipping her drink, she drew Jaime out about his rehearsals for “the Scottish play,” and he demonstrated the accent he planned to use for his role as Macduff. “I got some pointers from Angus,” he said proudly, as she applauded.
“Macduff is the virtuous hero of the play,” she teased him. “Now tell me, Jaime, are you really that virtuous?”
He stretched slightly and adjusted himself on the barstool, keeping his eyes on hers, and then leaned forward. With a charming grin, he said, “Would you like to find out?”
“You mean, make the acquaintance of Big Mac?” she said, matching his smile. Before he could answer, she touched his arm and said, “Jaime, do you ever look at Playboy magazine?”
He seemed taken aback, and cautiously agreed that he did. “They have it online, nowdays.”
She opened her eyes wide. “Oh, I think you’re missing out on the real pleasure of it. There’s nothing like the feel of that coated paper in your hands and the way the centerfold opens out. Now, the Teles twins from December 2003, when they feed each other popsicles… you can’t tell me that they look as good online as in the hard copy.”
Jaime stared at her in disbelief, his mouth hanging slightly open. “The hard copy…” he repeated slowly. Dropping her eyes to his chest, she could actually see his heart pounding in excitement.
“Yes,” she replied earnestly. “I’ve really got to have it hard. There’s nothing else that comes close.” As he continued to goggle at her, she said, “It’s been so much fun talking with you, Jaime. And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to visit the ladies’ room.”
The Cavern was very much a masculine domain, but it had a surprisingly opulent ladies’ room, with good lighting and mirrors, fresh flowers, and a pump bottle of Yardley’s of London English Rose hand lotion. Ellen stood at the sink, gulping air, her heart racing. I have power, she thought.
Early in their marriage, she and Derek had owned a golden lab named Basil, who used to sit by the dining table as they ate, intently focusing his entire being on the possibility that a crumb might fall, or a hand descend to bestow a secret offering. Jaime’s expression had reminded her of Basil. He had been utterly mesmerized, and Ellen felt a correlative surge of sexual arousal at the knowledge of her ability to turn him on, followed by a swift wave of self-disgust. Wasn’t this deceptive and wrong? No, Emily had told her. The police do this all the time. She took a deep breath, wondering what must be the feelings of female officers who dressed as prostitutes in order to round up would-be customers.
Upon emerging from the restroom, Ellen saw that the spot next to Jaime had already been taken by Kim. As she passed by, she smiled at Jaime and he gave her a look that spoke volumes. Good… I think. She stopped to order another martini, feeling the need to further fortify and anesthetize herself, then moved on to where Hector, Tina, and a newly-arrived Charlie were standing next to one of the Cavern’s convincingly realistic gas fireplaces. The area above the mantel was filled with shelves of old leatherbound legal tomes.
“It’s about the problem of evil,” Charlie was saying of his latest novel, which was still in an early draft. “It’s set partly in Paris, where these terrorists try to blow up the Eiffel Tower.”
“Oooh, I love the Eiffel Tower,” said Tina. “Next to the Empire State Building, I think it’s the most romantic place in the world.”
“Well, see, in my story, the terrorists don’t succeed in Paris, so they move their operation to New York, and they target the Empire State Building.”
“Have you thought of using Dubai?” said Ellen. “Don’t they have the tallest building in the world now?”
“Oh, it’s not romantic, just because it’s big,” scoffed Tina, but Charlie was quite taken with the idea. “Not bad, Ellen. Terrorists use Dubai for money laundering, so maybe if they had an internal conflict, it would play out there. And my hero and heroine could travel to Dubai to investigate,” he argued to a skeptical Tina. “Just think,” he coaxed. “They could get it on at the top of the tallest building in the world!”
“Yes, that’s impressive to the reader,” said Tina. “But it’s not how tall the building is. It’s how you use it. In your story, I mean.” Still arguing over the merits of building size, the two wandered off to refill their drinks, leaving Ellen alone with Hector.
Copyright 2016 by Linnet Moss
Notes: In case you’re wondering what a MILF is, the Cambridge English Dictionary primly defines it as “a sexually attractive woman who is a mother.” The acronym is more direct: Mom I’d Like to F***. In the United States, the term became mainstream in the late 90s. What I find interesting about it is the presumption that moms are not sexually attractive, and that the unusual example of a desirable mom requires a special category. However, the term seems to have originated among teenaged boys who occasionally lusted after the mothers of their friends. I think this is an age-old phenomenon. It just never had a name before.
The corresponding term DILF exists, but seems never to have caught on…