Read Uptown thief Online

Authors: Aya De León

Uptown thief (page 7)

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Chapter 13The fourth floor of the María de la Vega building held the clinic's administrative operations center. It consisted of Marisol's office, a file room, and an outer reception area. Marisol's assistant, Serena, had her desk there, and was always managing several crises at once.It was Thursday afternoon, and Marisol and Serena had just met with several funders.“You didn't just impress those women,” Serena said. “You freaking dazzled them.”“I hope we get the grant,” Marisol said. They stood among the bustle of the outer office.“How could they turn us down?” Serena asked. “You're wearing your invincibility shoes.”“Marisol has invincibility shoes?” Raul Barrios asked, suddenly next to her. He wore the clinic T-shirt in turquoise, and it fit him nicely. He smelled like coconut oil and wood spice.“I knew Marisol was some sort of superhero,” he said. “But I didn't realize she actually had a costume.”Marisol blushed. How could you explain something like perfect shoes to a guy—a straight guy?“It's nothing,” Marisol said.“Just so long as you keep them on,” Serena said. “Jeremy VanDyke should be here soon.”“VanDyke?” Raul asked.Marisol shrugged. “Exciting, huh? He could really set us up.”Raul nodded. “I'll leave you to it.” He walked toward the stairwell.Why did she feel the need to explain herself to him? It wasn't any of his business what she did with VanDyke or anyone else.Marisol headed for the hallway behind her office, and slipped through the hidden door. In what she called the “gift room,” she prepared the girls for display. Thug Woofer got photos via text, but a billionaire got VIP service.“No, Kim,” Marisol said. “That fringe thing is too busy. I want you girls in solid colors.”The gift gallery's windows were blacked out, and the illumination came from track lighting and colored spotlights. Marisol planned to put Jody on the top platform, Tyesha on the second one, and Kim on the lower one, with the least flattering lighting and lingerie.“Jody, try the dark wig,” Marisol said. “In the tabloids he's always with brunettes.”Kim's brick-red halter and booty shorts looked dull compared to Jody's black patent-leather demi-bra and thong, and Tyesha's royal blue bustier and garter belt.“Climb up, girls. He's due any minute.”“He'll be late,” Jody said.“How do you know?” Marisol asked.“I used to whip a billionaire at the dominatrix dungeon,” Jody said. “He'd come an hour late, pay a fee, and have me whip him extra for tardiness. It's part of the game.”Next to Tyesha, a phone began to buzz. “Kim, your cell's ringing.”“No calls right now,” Marisol snapped.“Okay.” Tyesha silenced the phone. “It said MPH. Are you considering a master's degree in public health?”“MPH?” Jody asked.“I wasn't gonna pick up,” Kim said.“He has your new number?” Jody demanded.“Apparently not a master's in public health,” Marisol said.“Mr. Potato Head,” Kim said. “This old guy client.”“Clients pay,” Jody said. “This guy is always looking to get some free time.”“He says he's in love with me,” Kim said.“They always say that shit when they want free time,” Tyesha said.“He once gave me a five-hundred-dollar tip,” Kim said.“Years ago,” Jody said. “Since then, he acts like he prepaid.”“Are you jealous?” Kim asked, pressing close to Jody.“No,” Jody said. “I'm pissed.”“Don't be mad,” Kim said, running a finger down Jody's chest.“I'm pretty cute while I'm angry, right?” Jody said, pulling Kim into a kiss.“Speaking of cute,” Tyesha said, changing the subject. “Marisol, when are you gonna get a piece of Raul?”“And you need to hurry,” Kim said. “Because Nalissa is trying to take your man.”“He's not my man,” Marisol said.“What's wrong with you, Marisol?” Tyesha asked. “He's a walking advertisement for fucking.”“I gotta say.” Jody was pulling the brunette wig on. “I'm one hundred percent gay, but I would totally fuck him.”“Excuse me?” Kim said.“If I was single,” Jody said.“He's just an old friend,” Marisol said.“Bullshit,” Kim said. “You gave him the real smile.”“I saw that, too,” Jody said. “At the gala.”“Every pro knows the difference,” Kim said.“Psychobiological research shows that you can fake the mouth-smile part,” Tyesha said. “But when you're really feeling it, there's an involuntary muscle movement around the eyes.”“Moving right along,” Marisol said. “Tyesha, Thug Woofer told you to name your price. What's it gonna be?”“Don't sell yourself short,” Kim said to Tyesha. “Tell Thug Woofer you'll fuck him for a quarter million dollars.”Marisol shook her head. “Thug Woofer won't get you into the ‘Platinum Pussy' club. I checked his financials. Ten grand, max.”“You don't want money,” Jody said, adjusting her breasts in the bra for maximum cleavage. “You want something better than money. Something personal. Like his signature Woof chain.”“I don't want any of that shit,” Tyesha said as she pulled up the fishnet stockings. “What am I gonna tell my grandkids? I once fucked a rapper for a gold chain that says ‘Woof'?”“If it's not about the money, make him take you to something special,” Kim said. “Like his album release party. And get your picture in the paper.”“Yes!” She high-fived Kim, and turned to Marisol.“No, Tyesha,” Marisol said, pulling a piece of lint from Jody's waistband. “This is a cash business. I can't take a percentage off a picture in the paper.”Tyesha looked up from adjusting her garter belt. “Then gimme his number, and I'll negotiate.”Marisol stood up and turned to Tyesha. “I said no. He's off the list.”“What if he pays your fee?” Tyesha asked.Marisol put her hands on her hips. “Why have I told him no if you wanted me to book him?”“Because,” Tyesha said, “I want the dynamic to be more like a real date.”“Which is precisely the point,” Marisol said. “We don't date the clients.”“But it's Thug Woofer,” Tyesha said. “The number-one rapper in America. Can you make an exception?”“And he's public enemy number one on our client list this week,” Marisol said. “No exception.”“But, Marisol—”“Look, Tyesha,” Marisol said. “New York has eight million people. Forty-seven percent men. Twenty-six percent of those are in your age bracket. Seventy-five percent of them are unmarried. Three quarters of a million men. And you want the one who was already an asshole to you?”“Is she doing the math in her head?” Kim asked Jody.“I only date black men,” Tyesha said.“Fine,” Marisol said. “New York is twenty-five percent black. A hundred and eighty-five thousand men.”“Ten percent are gay,” Jody put in.“Eleven percent,” Kim said. “We've been recruiting.”“No,” Jody said, laughing. “We've just been setting a sterling example.”“Okay, ten percent are gay,” Marisol said. “A hundred and sixty-six thousand. Date one who's not a client.”“She's definitely doing the math in her head,” Kim said. “Damn.”“Most of those guys are struggling,” Tyesha said. “And the successful ones don't want a ghetto girl. I cussed Woof out and expected he'd move on to the next chick. But if he keeps calling it's because he saw the real me and he's still interested.”Marisol shook her head. “If you wanna try the ‘do you love me even though I've been a hoe?' experiment, it's not gonna be with a client.”“Wow,” Kim said to Tyesha. “Marisol is officially cockblocking you.”“Call it whatever you want,” Marisol said.“Marisol's right,” Jody said. “He's a dick. Forget him.”Before Tyesha could speak, her phone sounded an e-mail alert.“Phones off,” Marisol said.Tyesha muted the phone. “What the fuck,” she said.“A client?” Kim asked.“The public health department,” Tyesha said, laughing. “I put a résumé on file with them when I was job hunting last year.”“A year later?” Kim asked.“Dear public health department.” Tyesha fake-typed. “Please kiss my black ass. I am now an escort fucking one client a week, and making better money than any of your sorry-ass jobs.”Kim laughed. “You should sign it, ‘One of the smartest bitches on the block.'”“Ladies—” Marisol began.“That's right,” Jody said. “We're not bitches, we're hoes.” All three girls high-fived.Marisol was glad her escorts felt good about their choices, but her own years as a sex worker weren't high-five material.The intercom buzzed.Marisol rushed over to answer. “Hurry up and get into place.”“Elvis is in the building.” Serena's crackly voice came through the intercom.* * *When he knocked, it was forty-five minutes after the appointed time.“Mr. VanDyke.” Marisol opened the door. “Welcome to the gift gallery.” She ushered him in with a smile that didn't quite extend to her eyes.VanDyke barely stepped into the room. “Lovely,” he said, glancing at the women. “Can we go to your office?”Marisol supposed that the man who could make billion-dollar corporate takeover decisions in two minutes could decide between three women in two seconds.“Certainly,” Marisol said. “Serena will get you the donation paperwork, and I'll be right with you.”When the door had closed behind him, Marisol turned off the spotlights and opened the mirrored sliding doors of a walk-in closet. It held a selection of wig heads that ranged from green bobs to honey-blond Afros.Kim unhooked the long straight ponytail to reveal her own hair, dark and shoulder-length. Tyesha pulled off her wig to reveal cornrows.* * *As Marisol walked back to her office, Nalissa, the eager young redhead, approached her. “Serena had to go run an errand, but she said this grant proposal needs your signature ASAP.”She handed Marisol a pen and murmured, “Look, I know you got a lot of different kind of projects happening. Whatever you got going, if you need more hands on deck, I'm your girl.”Marisol met her eyes. “Good to know,” she said. “Now, run that down to the front desk, please.”Marisol hustled to greet her VIP guest in the inner office. Once inside, she went to the liquor cabinet behind her desk.“A drink, Mr. VanDyke?”“Scotch straight-up,” he said.She poured her best Scotch into a wide-mouth glass and handed it to him on a coaster. He drank.She poured herself a glass of rum and sat down.“So, which young lady appeals to you?” she asked.“You,” he said.“Excuse me?” Marisol blinked several times.“Ten times hotter, even fully clothed, in glasses, and with no makeup.” He sipped his drink. “Revise that. Mascara and a light lip gloss.”“I know what you're doing,” Marisol said. “Your chapter on negotiation. ‘Throw in a curveball. Put your competitor off-balance.'”“I want the woman who reads my books and devises brilliant, unethical, scandalous applications for my theories. The woman who has New York eating out of her hand,” he said. “You netted a quarter million at that benefit, didn't you?”“Six hundred thousand,” she said.“Money talk is foreplay to me,” he said. “Name your price.”“I don't have a price, Mr. VanDyke.” She smiled her standard donor smile.“I do my homework, Ms. Rivera. You've provided this service in the past.”“And you started in the mailroom. We've both moved up.”“Fifty thousand?”Marisol raised her eyebrows. “A tempting offer. But do you have a second choice?”“I don't do second choices, Ms. Rivera. First choice or no deal. You can make it seventy-five. Call my assistant. It's been a pleasure.” He walked out of the office, leaving the quarter-full glass with a complete set of fingerprints on it.* * *After VanDyke left, Marisol went to the downstairs kitchenette for coffee.“Hey, boss lady,” Raul said, stepping in. “How's your evening?”Her pulse quickened. “Busy,” she said.“Tonight's my last shift,” he said. “I got a consulting job.”“Thanks so much for your help,” she said, as Serena came running down the hallway.“Marisol,” the young woman screamed, waving her cell phone. “We got a huge plug from Delia Borbón onNew York Entertainment Roundup.”“That's fantastic,” Raul said.Serena grabbed Marisol in a tight hug, while their phones kept beeping.“We're trending on ‘Give Mo Money dot com,'” Serena said, jumping up and down. “The story's been up twenty minutes, but already our online endowment donations are nearly fifty thousand dollars!”
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