Doing Vegas while sober is like driving into the setting sun without sunglasses. Everything’s just a bit too bright and a little irritating; but put on your shades and it’s all fabulous.
--Death Of The Party
But I tried to put on a happy face for Dena as we checked into The Encore and then went to the convention center to scope out the sex toys.
“What are these? Serenity balls?” I asked as I stared down at two, small, smooth white balls resting in the velvet interior of a decorative case. Dena and I had been at the Sex-Toy trade show for less than two hours and already I was sex-toyed out. Vibrators, lotions, gels that were supposed to “Increase sensitivity,” oh and one couldn’t overlook the plethora of pleather. Individually this stuff might all be fine but seeing it all thrown together like this was enough to make you want to become a nun. But the serenity balls held promise. I needed some serenity.
Dena shook her head. “They’re not serenity balls, they’re Kegal balls. You’re supposed to hold them in your vagina and squeeze. Like a thigh master but obviously not for your thighs.”
“Oh, wow. That’s just lovely. It took me five years to get comfortable with tampons. I certainly won’t be sticking whole balls up there.” I quickly moved my eyes away only to have them land on a woman in a bikini in the middle of a sex-swing demonstration.
Dena gave the vendor of the balls a tight-lipped smile before pulling me away. “I carry those in my store but the truth is Kegal exercises will work just as well without them. But those,” Dena pointed over to a large table filled with what looked like bath toys for children, “those I can sell.”
Reluctantly I followed her over to the table as a cheery and surprisingly conservatively dressed woman stepped up to help us.
“Hi, are you familiar with our products?” She asked as Dena picked up a bright pink, plastic anteater with a suspicious looking nose.
“You guys are the ones who make the rubber ducky vibrator, right?” Dena asked.
“Oh yes, but we have a lot more animals now,” The woman pushed her golden brown hair behind her ears and tapped the top of the anteater’s nose. “See, this clit massager nose actually vibrates and moves back and forth really quickly. You can use it in the bath of course and when it’s wet it feels more like a tongue.”
I tilted my head and tried to imagine getting it on with an anteater. There really was nothing about the thought that was appealing
“And the great thing about our products,” the woman continued, “is that they can double as children’s toys! “
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?” I asked instantly snapping out of my visualization exercise.
“You see, since they do look a little like children’s toys and they are waterproof your kids can use them as bath toys. That way if they hear the buzzing sound after you’ve put them to bed they’ll simply assume mommy’s having her bath! Just a clever use of sound association.”
I stared at her as I hovered between horror and amusement. “You do know that children often put bath toys in their mouths, right?”
“Oh, no worries! They can’t choke on these.”
“Well, okay, maybe not but…but you know how moms say, don’t put that in your mouth you don’t know where it’s been? In this case the mom will actually know where it’s been and that’s a big problem.”
“Which is why we have this!” the woman crossed to the other end of the table and came back with some kind of spray. “Sterilizer. Spray it with this, wait ten minutes and your toy’s ready to go.“
“Yeah, I don’t think you’re getting my point. It’s not really a hygiene problem, at least not entirely. Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.”
The woman furrowed her brow in confusion as Dena made a note in her iPhone to order the ten-minute sanitizer. “The thought of what?” the woman asked. “The thought of an anteater? Because we have an octopus too—“
“No!” I snapped. “That’s. Not. The. Point!”
Dena stuffed her phone back in her handbag. “Actually I’d like to see the octopus. Does each tentacle do its own thing or do they work in unison?”
“Each tentacle has its own function,” the saleswoman assured her as she handed over the octopus.
“Dena, this is insane! No one who shops at your store is going to want…wait, each tentacle has its own function? What do they do?”
Dena gave me an evil smile. “It gives a whole new twist to The Beatle’s Octopus’ Garden, doesn’t it?”
My phone rang and I reluctantly stepped away from the table. Marcus’ number flashed across the screen. “Hey Marcus, just in time. I was about to be eaten by an octopus.”
There was a long pause before Marcus cleared his throat. “Sweetie, do me a favor and don’t tell me what that’s a metaphor for. I’m at Hotel Noir now.”
“Really? You’ve already dropped your stuff off at Encore and everything?” I glanced at my watch. “But your flight only landed thirty minutes ago.”
“We landed early. Hon, I have to tell you something.”
Immediately my heart sank as my mind raced through the various possibilities of what else could go wrong in my life. “Should I have a drink before I hear this?”
“Most definitely. Why don’t I just circle back to the Encore and we’ll meet at the bar there.”
I pulled the phone away from my ear for a moment. “Dena, it’s Marcus. He wants to meet at the Encore rather than the Hotel Noir.”
“Tell him no,” Dena said, somewhat distracted by the octopus which was vibrating so hard it was about to launch itself off the table. “I’ve been wanting to see the Hotel Noir since it opened. You know they have a theater in the hotel, right? They have an eleven o’clock showing of The Maltese Falcon. I was thinking we could see it after we have drinks.”
“The Maltese Falcon.” I repeated. Without hesitation I brought the phone back to my ear. “We’re meeting you at the Hotel Noir at…oh, you know, at the bar we originally agreed on…um, Double Indemnity, right?”
“Yes, that’s the place but Sophie, I really don’t think this is a good—”
“And check the theater in the hotel. See if you can get three tickets for the eleven o’clock showing of The Maltese Falcon. I’m coming now.”
I hung up the phone and turned to Dena. “Humphrey Bogart and Sam Spade are SO much more uplifting than an oversexed octopus.”
Dena shook her head. “Why does it always have to be an either or situation with you.” She held up the octopus. “Rent a couple of old movies and multitask.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Come on, Marcus is waiting for us.”
“Sophie, there’s at least ten more booths I need to stop by before I can get out of here for the night.”
I glanced around the room. There was a woman in a black leather cat suit dancing around using nipple clamps as finger cymbals.
“Can I go then?” I asked.
Dena sighed. “You have no appreciation for innovation. Fine. Go meet Marcus. I’ll be there in an hour.
When I got to Hotel Noir Marcus was sitting at the bar tapping his fingers nervously against his martini glass. That gave me a moment’s pause. Marcus had a thing about martini glasses. You could gesture with one in your hand but it had to be a smooth elegant gesture, demonstrating not only your sophistication but also your ability not to spill. Tapping was not allowed. And tapping out of time with the music, which was exactly what Marcus was doing, was a major Marcus No-No. Something had thrown him off his game.
Carefully, I weaved my way through the crowd of unsophisticated, spill-prone revelers and made it to his side. When he saw me his mouth turned up in a small and fleeting smile.
“Don’t tell me,” I said slowly. “The Maltese Falcon is sold out for the whole weekend. No, worse, The Maltese Falcon is sold out AND you gambled me away in a poker game so now I have to be the beard to some fat, hairy, closet-case with an evangelical family.”
Marcus smiled wistfully. “Honey, you’re describing a category four hurricane. We’re being pummeled with a category six.” He signaled to the unusually attentive female bartender that he wanted another drink like the half empty one in his hand. “Did you come in through the main lobby?”
I shook my head. “I came in through the entrance over—“
“Good,” Marcus said cutting me off. Our drink arrived and I could have sworn the bartender’s eyes lingered a second longer than necessary on Marcus’ Dolce & Gabbana covered shoulders. Someone needed their gaydar checked.
“It’s the house specialty,” Marcus said as he pushed the drink toward me. “They call it A Touch Of Evil which is apparently just another way of saying Spicy Martini.”
“What kind of Vodka do they use?”
“Grey Goose, double shot.”
“I love you Marcus. Of all my friends you’re my favorite enabler.”’
“I love you too.” He hesitated a moment before adding, “Honey, Anatoly is here.”
I chocked on my double shot martini.
“How many Anatoly’s do you think I know?”
“He followed me here,” I said quietly. He had used his professional sleuthing skills, found out I was going to Vegas and followed me here! This was bad. It was stalkerish and it infringed on my privacy. Totally inappropriate in every single way.
So why did I feel so giddy?
I took another long sip of my drink, not because I needed to take the edge off but because I needed the glass to hide my smile.
“He came all the way to Vegas for me.” I put the glass down and forced my mouth into a frown. “Well he’s totally crossed the line. I don’t care if he’s been crying himself to sleep every night, he can’t just follow me around the country. It’s pathetic and I’ll tell him—”
“Sophie, if I tell you something…something you won’t like, do you promise not to go all Carrie Underwood on me?”
“Carrie Underwood?” I repeated, suddenly feeling lost.
“You know that song where she slashes her cheating boyfriend’s tires and carves her name into his leather seats? Don’t do that, okay?”
“Why would I want to carve my name into leather seats?”
“Well, you probably wouldn’t…but then again you might if I told you that Anatoly was here with another woman.”
The frown I had forced my mouth into got heavier and a lot more real. “Another woman?” I repeated.
“It’s possible that she’s just a friend but…” His voice trailed off.
“But what?” I asked quietly. When Marcus didn’t answer I raised my voice to a much louder volume. “But what, Marcus? What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing,” He said throwing up his hands as if protesting his innocence. “It’s just that they seemed…close.”
“Last I saw them they were sitting on a sofa in the main lobby.” Marcus paused long enough to down the rest of his drink. “He had his arm around her.”
“HE HAD HIS ARM AROUND HER?”
Marcus looked miserable. He flagged down the bartender and ordered another drink, steadfastly refusing to meet my eyes.
“What does she look like?” I asked desperately. “Is she cute? Hot? If you were straight would you do her?”
“I’m not straight.”
“No shit, Marcus. If you were straight would you want to have sex with this woman?”
Marcus hesitated. The music in the bar seemed to have gotten louder. Or maybe the ringing in my ears was being caused by something else, like the little voice in my head that was screaming.
“I don’t think I’d be into her if I was straight.” He said slowly as his drink arrived.
I sighed feeling the tiniest bit of relief. “So she’s ugly?” I asked.
“No, I just don’t think that as a straight man I’d be into the bleach blonde bunny type. I see myself more with a Hillary Swank kind of girl.”
And then even that mild and sense of relief disappeared. “Double D?”
“Maybe,” Marcus said cautiously. “Maybe triple, but they have to be fake. There’s no way boobs that big could stay up on their own if they were real and there’s no way she could have been wearing a bra considering the skimpiness of that top.”
“Oh hell no.” I slammed my drink and got to my feet.
“Where are you going?”
“Where do you think I’m going? I’m going to the lobby and I’m going to rip Anatoly’s head off!”
“Honey, this is not a good plan.”
“This isn’t a plan! This is blind rage that needs an outlet!”
The few patrons who were close enough to hear me over the music threw bemused smiles in our direction.
“Yes,” Marcus said, “well that’s not so good either.”
“Marcus, there’s no way any of this can be good!” I heard the faint edge of hysteria in my voice and I struggled to contain it. “At this point all I can do is aim for bearable! If I can hurt him now and then chill out by watching people being murdered in a film noir then I might be able to bear this…this mess!”
“Ooh,” Marcus said slowly, ”You still want to see The Maltese Falcon? I didn’t think you would so—“
“Wait, are you telling me that my ex-boyfriend has moved on in less than a week AND you didn’t get us tickets to The Maltese Falcon? Are you serious? Are you trying to make me suicidal?” Yes, I was definitely hysterical. Obviously the movie wasn’t important but something had to go according to plan.
“Okay,” Marcus put a firm hand on my shoulder. “Tell you what, I’ll go get the tickets now and you sit here and have another cocktail. If by the time I get back you still want to decapitate Anatoly I’ll lead you to him.”
“The only reason you’d be going with me would be to stop me from actually committing assault.”
“There are worse motives to have.” He waved at the bartender again who was by his side in lightning speed. “Get my friend another drink, darling. You have my card.” Marcus then turned to me and gave me a light kiss on the cheek before pushing me back down on the barstool. “Stay,” he said sternly before giving me another kiss, this one on the top of my head, and walking away.
I waited for him to be out of site before finishing off what remained of Marcus’ drink, leaping back up onto my feet and pushing my way through the crowd toward the lobby. My balance wasn’t all that it should have been. I shouldn’t have slammed two cocktail in the space of five minutes. I should have downed three. Right now I was just drunk enough to be overly emotional but not drunk enough to forget. Not a good place to be.
When I got to the lobby I spotted him immediately. He was still on the sofa, his back toward me and his arm still draped over a blonde woman’s shoulders. I took three steps toward them and then lost my nerve. I skirted behind a corner and flattened myself against the wall. I wanted to yell at him, scream at him even, but you can’t scream when you can’t breath. I opened my mouth hoping the air would just float on in but my throat was completely constricted. I tried again to suck in a steady breath but I only managed a gasp. When I exhaled it came out as a moan.
“Are you all right?”
I glanced up to see a man with impossibly green eyes looking down at me. He had strawberry blond hair. I don’t like guys with strawberry blond hair but those eyes….they had to be colored contacts, right?
“Are you all right?” he asked again.
I realized then that I was trembling. “No,” I whispered. And then a little louder, “No!”
He tilted his head slightly to one side. “Can I help?”
Help me, yes, yes please help me! But how could anyone help me with this? I peeked around the corner. Anatoly still had his back to me and I watched as he stood up and reached down to pull her to her feet. He didn’t let go of her hand once they were standing. Instead he draped a small duffle bag that I hadn’t noticed before over his shoulder and started leading her toward the elevator. I recognized the duffle bag. Anatoly always used it for short trips, so perhaps he had just checked in and was going to his room for the first time…with her. I ducked back behind the wall and grabbed Mr. Green-eyes’ arm. “Yes, yes you can help me. Do you see that tall guy in the black t-shirt and dark jeans talking to that bleach-blonde bimbo in the bright red, low-back top?”
The man looked at me quizzically before looking to see if he could spot the couple in question. “Yes,” he said slowly, dragging the word out so the s turned into a hiss.
“That’s my boyfriend and he’s about to go upstairs. I need to know if he takes that…that woman into his room with him. Or her room…maybe it’s her room. Anyway, I need you to get on the elevator with them, get off on the same floor as him, give me their room number and tell me if they went in together.”
“I think I may be changing my mind about wanting to help you.”
“No, you can’t change your mind! This is life or death!”
“Someone’s going to die if I don’t spy on your boyfriend for you?”
“Umm, maybe? I mean yes. Sure, someone will die.” Like Anatoly right after I bludgeon him with a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You.
“I still think I should stay out of it.”
Again, I glanced around the corner. The elevator hadn’t arrived yet but it would in a moment. “I’ll pay you,” I said quickly. “I have…” I dug around in my purse and pulled out my wallet, “one hundred and eighty-five dollars on me. You can have all of it. All I need is a room number.”
“I’ll do it for two-fifty.”
“But I don’t have two hundred and fifty dollars!”
“I take checks.”
“What? What! You’re shaking me down?”
“Not at all. I’d be happy to walk away from this whole thing but if you want me to spy on my fellow man I’m going to require fair payment.”
The elevator arrived but now there were too many people waiting for it. Anatoly stepped aside and allowed a woman in a wheelchair to take what would have been his spot.
“Fine!” I hissed. I pulled my checkbook out of my purse and scrawled two- hundred and fifty dollars across it in blue pen. “What’s your name?”
Mr. Green Eyes smiled. “Kinsky.”
“Russian.” He took the check from my hand before I had a chance to remark on that. “The elevator’s here. Don’t move from this spot. I’ll be back with a room number.”
I nodded and watched as the kinky, Russian, green-eyed guy strode across the room and slipped into the elevator with Anatoly and his bimbo just before the door closed. What if he didn’t come back? What if I had just paid some guy $250 for nothing?
Well then I’d cancel the check of course. That was the benefit of not paying cash.
But what if this was some kind of identity theft scheme? Now this guy had my name and account number…what could a really skilled identity thief do with that?
What if Anatoly really was taking that woman up to his hotel room to make love to her?
Breathing was becoming hard again. I closed my eyes. Everything was going to be fine. Maybe they wouldn’t even go into the same hotel room. Maybe they’d get off on different floors. Maybe…maybe…