The Further Adventures of Louis and Elle
A DAME TO SLEEP FOR
Elle Murphy had intended to take major sexual advantage of her handsome husband Louis Wentworth. But when she stalked into the bedroom dressed for romance, she stopped. Louis was sprawled out on the bed, spectacles on his nose, engrossed in the famous Raymond Chandler novel THE BIG SLEEP. Elle paused in the bedroom doorway and smiled at the sight; he was as absorbed by the story as a small boy listening to a Harry Potter book—so much so that he did not even raise his eyes to see his wife (and hypnotic dominatrix) fetchingly framed in the doorway in a cream silk teddy and matching panties, white thigh-high stockings, and cream-colored pumps, with a short silk robe cinched around her waist.
She did not have the heart to distract him. For one thing, his ability to lose himself in a story was one of the reasons he was such a fine writer himself—skilled enough to generate a six-figure income (which he immediately signed over to Elle, of course) from his Young Adult novels. It was also why he was such an excellent hypnotic subject—ready to tumble into deep trance as soon as she pointed a finger at him, to follow any absurd suggestion he was given, to believe whatever she told him, to see what he was told to see and not see what he was told not to see, to forget things that had happened and remember things that hadn’t.
Finally, Elle herself loved THE BIG SLEEP; she liked to re-watch the classic movie with Humphrey Bogart as Chandler’s suave, world-weary detective Philip Marlowe. As a teenager, she remembered, she had fantasized that Bogart would interrogate her, force her to give up her secrets, carry her to the couch in his shabby downtown office, and show her some secrets of her own. Remembering those fantasies triggered an idea.
So she went back to her study and worked for a while on her new book, SHALL WE TRANCE? EROTIC HYPNOSIS FOR COUPLES. After an hour or so, she strolled back into the bedroom. There, as she expected, she saw Louis fast asleep, his glasses falling down his nose and the book open on his chest.
All according to plan. Quietly she came up to Louis, took the glasses off his face, and moved the book to the bedside table. She dimmed the room lights, dropped her silk robe, kicked off the pumps, and crawled into bed next to her husband. He stirred restlessly. She reached across and gently traced a circle on his forehead with her hands. “Shh, shh,” she said softly. “Louis, you’re going to stay in a deep, comfortable, blank sleep, but you can listen to me while sleeping comfortably.” It was a trigger phrase she had repeatedly implanted; Louis shifted slightly, then his body visibly relaxed. His breathing changed slightly, but remained slow and relaxed. His eyelids fluttered slightly as his eyes moved back and forth in his head.
“Listen to me, Louis,” she whispered. Her index finger continued tracing a circle on his forehead. “Your conscious mind is going to drift away into a story about hard-boiled detectives. Meanwhile, I am going to have a little talk with your unconscious and every word I say will become true the moment I say it. Nod your head.”
Eyes dancing behind his lids, Louis, almost imperceptibly, nodded his head.
“Good boy, now drift into a dream. Meanwhile, I am talking to your unconscious, and when your unconscious is ready to open itself up to me completely, your right index finger will rise up.”
After several deep breaths, she saw his right forefinger move slightly. “Good boy,” she said. “Listen carefully. Every word I say becomes the absolute truth the moment that I say it. Now, Louis, you’ve been listening to my suggestions for months now, you’ve been letting them take root in your mind and grow into a beautiful garden, my suggestions have been changing you and making you happier and putting you in the place you belong and so you accept any suggestion I give you. You love being programmed, you need it, you daydream about it.”
Now she reached over his sleeping form, reached into his shorts, and gently took his erection in her hand. “Listen, Louis,” she said as she began to stroke it, “you’re not going to come because you can’t come without my permission, but you feel aroused and focused and blissful and you will accept any suggestion I give you because you feel such pleasure and my voice and my suggestions are what brings you this pleasure. Now, listen carefully. Louis, you are desperately in love with me. I am the only woman in the world to whom you feel sexual attraction. I am the only woman in the world you can arouse you. Your mind, your will, and your body are all focused on me. I am the most powerful, intelligent, and important person in your world.” Almost imperceptibly, she began to move her hand faster. Louis’s lips parted and he gave a faint groan of desire. “Feel it!” He groaned again, slightly louder.
“Louis, I am smarter, better looking, more powerful, bigger, stronger, more important than you. I am your superior. I am your alpha. I tower over you. You constantly wish to kiss my feet and obey me. Nod your head.” Again, his head moved slightly. He gave a deep sigh and seemed to sink deeper into the bed.
She continued moving her hand up and down on his erect cock. “Louis,” she said. “You love to cook. You love to clean. You love to wait on me. You love to do my errands. Feel how good it is to serve.” Her hand tightened and a small jolt of pleasure moved through his body. “You live to serve me. Taking care of me and obeying me is the sexiest thing in the world. You are constantly thinking of new ways to make my life easier. Nod your head.”
She watched him closely. She had been hypnotizing him in his sleep every night since their marriage nearly a year ago, and every night she gave him the same suggestions of serving her and acting as her houseboy—and she had watched as his personality began to soften, melt, and reform itself under her instructions. He now did virtually all the housework and errands—and he did them cheerfully, because housework now was incredibly sexy to him. She enjoyed relaxing on the couch while her hypno-husband fawned on her; it was sexy for both of them. She had but to point or snap her fingers, and his body jumped as if he had received a mild electric shock. He hastened to obey her every whim. Day by day, week by week, his smile was growing broader as he obeyed, and the service more devoted. Lately she had barely lifted a finger, and she had been glad to give her husband such pleasure by letting him serve her.
The affirmations done, Elle continued to stroke his cock. He groaned with pleasure. As if she had suddenly reached a decision, she now leaned down and whispered in his ear. “Now, Louis. In a minute you are going to go off to sleep and you’ll have no memory of our talk. You’ll follow all my suggestions,” she said. “Now let’s talk about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
I knew she was trouble as soon as she walked through the office door.
Serious trouble. The kind of trouble that can leave you in jail, or bleeding on the pavement—or just alone in a cheap motel room, watching dawn creep across the sky and wondering why you can’t stop thinking about the dame who got away with your wallet and your car.
But she was the kind of trouble a man can’t resist; the kind that, late at night when the bottle is almost empty and men finally tell each other the truth, any real man would admit he dreams about at night.
To begin with, there was that face. The full lips, the cheekbones—and those eyes. I read a story once about this piper guy who got all the rats to march into a cave and never come out—and when the townspeople didn’t pay his bill, did the same thing with the children.
That’s what the eyes were. They were the cave that guy piped the kids into. You could have told me I would never come out. It wouldn’t have made any difference to me. I’d have marched into them.
Then there was the body. The word “buxom” came to mind. It was an old-fashioned word for an old-fashioned look. In fact, she looked like a hot pinup from an old World War II movie. She had on a simple pale-purple silk dress and old-style cream-colored pumps and sheer black hose with seams up the back. The dress buttoned down the front—and the buttons over her breasts strained open just a little bit. I tried not to look at the little gaps between the seams, but I had to avoid the eyes too, so I didn’t have many places I could look if I wanted to keep my wits about me.
“What can I do for you, Mrs. . . . Murphy, is it?”
“From what I hear you’re the only man around this town who can help me.”
I tried not to smile. I know you probably think being a hard-boiled dick is non-stop action and excitement, but I’d had a dry spell lately. I’d spent all day doing paperwork—writing a long, long report so boring I could barely remember what it was about. I was itching to get out on the pavement—and I have to admit, I’m just the kind of sap who pricks up his ears when a woman like that says I’m the only one she can turn to. I like riding to the rescue.
It’s a character flaw. Sue me.
“Why don’t you tell me what you need?” I said.
She pulled a lace handkerchief out of a small clutch purse and dabbed at her eyes. “I’ve . . . lost something. A gift—something my . . . husband gave me.”
There’s always a husband somewhere. Oh, well. Probably a good thing. Business is business.
“Tell me about this gift.” I handed her a box of tissues. I always keep one at my desk. I see a lot of tearful women in my line of work.
“It was a . . . a small pendant. An antique. It’s valuable, but not hugely so. Mostly it’s . . . sentimental. It means something to him. If he knew it was lost . . . I don’t know what he would do.”
This guy sounds like a real sweetheart, I caught myself thinking. Married to a woman like this, a man who worried about a lost pendant needed to rethink his priorities.
“Do you have a picture of this pendant?”
I was really glad I asked. She seemed to be carrying the picture in her bra. I watched very carefully as she reached into the dress and brought out a folded piece of paper.
I studied it. A silver bird, with a turquoise center. A bird. “Native American, isn’t it?” I asked. “Southwest?”
“You have a good eye,” she said. “It’s Zuni silverwork, maybe a century old. He found it in an antique jewelry store. It caught his eye and he said it reminded him of me.”
“What’s the bird?”
“It’s the thunderbird. A mythological bird who controls the lightning. My husband said the bird hit him with the thunderbolt.”
I can see why, I started to think. No, Louis, I said to myself. Professional. Keep it professional. “And you can’t just tell him that you’ve . . . lost it?”
“I’d rather not. You see—well, I think I know who took it. It’s my stepmother. They’ve never gotten along and I am afraid this will make it impossible for us ever to spend time together as a family.”
“Your stepmother? Why would she take it?”
“She’s . . . well, Mr. Wentworth, she’s troubled. My father left most of his fortune to me rather than her, and she’s never gotten over it. She saw the piece and was jealous that my husband gave it to me. And I think she has taken it and sold it.”
“Any idea where?”
She began weeping harder, and shook her head without words.
“Okay,” I said. “Can I keep this picture?”
“Okay, then I just need your stepmother’s contact into. I can get on this today.”
She took my hand in both of hers. “Thank you, Mr. Wentworth, thank you so much.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I need to warn you I don’t come cheap. I charge $25 a day plus expenses. And I get paid whether I find it or not.”
“Mr. Wentworth, I assure you, money is no object.”
This was better. A rich client is good, and one who’s desperate is a little better.
I was patting her hand. Stop that, I told myself, but I didn’t. “I think I can sort this out, Mrs. Murphy.”
“I will be so grateful—I’d do anything—anything—“
Enough of that, I thought. “Let’s just see if I can get the pendant back, shall we?”
“Of course.” She scribbled an address on a piece of paper and gave it to me. Now I had two pieces of paper she’d touched. One of them had been between her breasts. After she’d gone, I sniffed it. It smelled good.
The stepmother’s name was Alice. She lived not far from my home office, in a small but very posh townhouse. I put the picture in my pocket and knocked on the door.
I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t the stunner who opened the door. Okay, she was a lot older than me——but she was in great shape. If I had older-woman fantasies, she would have been one of them. In fact, she could have been Mrs. Murphy’s real mom. Same kind of face—big eyes, cheekbones, nice mouth. She was taller and thinner, but she looked and moved like a dancer, or like someone who had spent a lot of time on stage.
And that’s when I realized she looked familiar. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Alice Murphy—didn’t you play the mother in THE GLASS MENAGERIE at Oak Mill Theatre?”
She looked at me with a trace of disbelief. “You saw that production?”
“Yes, sure.” Okay, I get it—I’m a private dick, not a drama critic, but that doesn’t mean I spend every night at the dog races, does it? I like an occasional play. Culture, you know? Why not? I can’t have layers? “You were really good.”
“Well, thank you, Mr.—I am sorry, I don’t know your name—“
“Wentworth,” I said. “Louis Wentworth.”
“How can I help you, Mr. Wentworth?”
OK, I had to introduce this carefully. “I work for your stepdaughter, the other Mrs. Murphy. I’m trying to help her recover some lost property. Do you mind if I come in?”
Her face had tightened a bit when she heard why I was there, but she nodded. “All right,” she said. “Can I offer you some coffee?”
Always say yes to that. It turns a suspicious source into a hostess. “If it’s not too much trouble, I’d love a cup. I just take it black.”
She bustled to the kitchen. I looked around the living room. There were a lot of theatrical souvenirs. As I looked more closely, I saw a picture of a young Alice Murphy with—holy crap!—Olivier; another of her with Richard Burton, and finally a young and gorgeous Helen Mirren.
I must be dealing with theatrical royalty.
She came back with a tray. “Oh, dear, I should take those old things down,” she said, waving a graceful hand dismissively. “Can you imagine—I thought Burton was interested in me because of my talent!” She laughed. “I learned better.”
“You’ve really worked with some amazing people.”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “But you know what? Even here, in the dinner theatres, I work with amazing people. Real talent. Real sweethearts. And I get to direct!”
I took a sip of the coffee. It was delicious. Dark and smoky, like the other Mrs. Murphy’s voice.
“Yes, I’m judging a new-play competition for the Tri-County Rep. I direct the premiere of the winning script.”
“Well, sign me up for a ticket.”
She gave me a very charming smile. I knew that she was an actress, with a large inventory of charming smiles. Even knowing that, I was totally charmed. And I am not that easy to charm.
“Is this New Orleans coffee? Chicory?”
“Yes,” she said with a sigh. Then she crossed one graceful leg over the other. “Mr. Wentworth, we’ve established now that you have good taste in drama and in coffee. But wouldn’t it be a better use of your time and mine just to tell me what Elle wants from me now?”
“Sure,” I said, putting down my mug. “But don’t shoot the messenger.”
I brought out the picture (quick thought—this picture was in her bra!—then I tried to refocus) and handed it over. “It’s a piece with sentimental value, she says. She’s lost it and she’s hoping you’ll help her find it.”
I saw the look on her face—sadness and a hint of desperation. “No questions asked, Mrs. Murphy. Your stepdaughter just wants to keep peace in the family.”
She gave a dry laugh. “Of course she does. She’s so much the forgiving sort.” She handed me back the picture. “All right, fine, then. No questions asked. If I were you, I’d ask about this piece at Ray’s Secret Shop. Mr. Kelly might know something about it.”
“What, the magic and barber supply place downtown?”
“No questions, yes?”
“I have . . . reason to believe that he may have helped sell the item you want.”
It had gotten later while we were talking. Fading sunlight caught her cheekbones and shadowed the hollows beneath them. I looked around the room, filled with memories of a golden girlhood. I realized that, whatever she might have done or been, I wished this lovely woman nothing but good.
“Thanks for the coffee,” I said. “Next time I see you, you won’t see me.”
She put a hand to her chest in alarm. “Why not?”
“Because you’ll be on stage, Mrs. Murphy, and I’ll be in my seat. I plan to see every one of your performances.”
That smile again. I closed the front door between me and it.
Ray’s Secret Shop was on a side street in the Arts District. I’d been there a few times. It was crammed with toys and magical paraphernalia—both tricks and equipment for stage magicians and also genuine materia magica—herbs and crystals, daggers, Tarot cards, and other divining tools. Performers hung out there, and teenagers who had seen THE CRAFT too many times. And, from what I heard, a few other people you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark pentagram. People didn’t talk about them much, and I didn’t ask.
When I walked in, the store was empty, except for the clerk. But he filled about half of it. A massive bald giant with an oddly fascinating gaze. “Well, my boy,” he said. “How can I help? You look like a man who could use a bezoar, am I right? No, wait—a cloak of invisibility? Or are you just after a new pair of twelve-sided dice?”
“No, thanks,” I said. “I’m in the market for a non-magical item.”
“We have those too,” he said. “Toys and games for children—and adults. Some of those . . . aren’t on display.”
“No, it’s one particular thing.” I pulled out the picture and handed it to him
I heard the intake of breath. “Ah, yes,” he said. “A lovely piece. But I don’t sell jewelry, even a striking antique like this. Sorry.”
“Alice Kelly said you might help me find it. No questions asked.”
He stared at me for a long minute. “Alice said that?”
“Yes. To be honest, my friend, I think Alice is close to being in a jam and maybe is hoping the whole thing can be fixed. To do that, we need to find the pendant.”
He sighed. “Alice, Alice, Alice,” he said. “Look, whoever the hell you are, I might have some information about this piece. But I am not in this business for my health. My information is not, so to speak, gratis. Are you sure you don’t want to buy a bezoar? I have some lovely ones. Persian wild goat, the very best!”
“No, I really don’t.” We were at an impasse. Then I had an idea. “You sell gift certificates?”
I had an expense account. “How much do you think would make it worth your while?”
He thought for a second. “I’d say it’s hundred-dollar info.”
“Okay, but I need a receipt.” I handed over a C-note. He handed me the certificate and a receipt. That certificate would fit neatly into a bra, I thought. Scratch that thought.
“Fine. If I were you, I’d ask about this piece at Sky City Crafts.”
“What, that indigenous art place a couple of blocks from here?”
He nodded. “Nice doing business with you.”
“Yes,” I said. “You know, I thought magic wasn’t real. But you just made a hundred-dollar bill disappear.”
His laugh was like the boom of a church bell. “So I did, dear boy. Come back and I’ll do it again.”
At the crafts shop, I showed the girl behind the counter the picture. She seemed to be expecting me. “We have it. It’s $850,” she said.
I could have gotten tough, talked about the law against receiving stolen property, but she looked about 14 and as cute as a puppy. I was quite sure that whatever tale that giant had told her, she thought the whole deal was on the up and up—and she’d dig in her heels if I tried to muscle her.
Anyway, the client had said “Money is no object.”
I handed over my credit card. She was going to reimburse me.
“It’s a beautiful piece,” she said.
I shrugged. “It’s not for me.”
I called the client from the car and she guided me to her house. Turns out it’s not far from mine. In fact, it looked almost exactly like mine. I guess that’s a hazard of buying a house in a new development. But hey, it’s a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I tried not to think about how easy it would be to slip over there from my place on a slow afternoon when hubby wasn’t home.
Not a helpful thought. All I had to do was hand over the pendant, get my check, and put this trouble behind me.
That was the right thing to do. That was the professional thing to do. That was the smart thing to do.
It made me feel surprisingly depressed.
She opened the door in her robe. “I am so sorry,” she said. “I was napping when you called. Come in.”
I had nothing to say for a moment. She looked like something straight out of my dreams: cream silk teddy and matching panties, white thigh-high stockings, and cream-colored pumps. The robe was the same color, and short enough that I saw the tops of the stockings.
I looked away.
“Look, Mrs. Murphy, I’m kind of busy. You wanted this piece back and I got it. I’ve written out a bill. It’s $25 for my time and $950 for expenses.” I pulled it out of my coat pocket and held it out to her. But instead of taking it, she grabbed my wrist.
“You didn’t come here to give me a bill,” she said.
“No.” I pulled back my hand. It tingled, and the tingling was spreading slowly up my arm. “I came to give you this.” I pulled the jewel box from my pocket and held it out. She grabbed it as eagerly as a little girl on Christmas and squealed a little with delight. “It’s soo pretty!” she said.
She put the chain to her neck and then turned around. “Help me fasten this?”
OK, part of the service. When I was finished, I said, “Look, I’d better be going.”
“Oh, no, Mr. Wentworth,” she said. “I’m not anywhere near done with you.” She pirouetted gracefully toward me and then just like that she was in my arms, perfume, cheekbones, breasts and all and I was kissing her and then I was like those kids following the piper, falling into those eyes.
“Be gentle,” she said. She grasped my tie and tugged me toward the back of the house. When we entered the bedroom, I bent down, swept her legs out from under her, and carried her to the bed.
“Where’s your husband?” I asked.
“He’s in China on business,” she said. “We have all the time in the world.”
Beginning in the hollow of her neck, I kissed her slowly, moving down, not up. I gave those breasts a lot of attention—not as much as they deserved—then turned her over and kissed her back, beginning at the base of her spine and moving up. When I finally moved my mouth to hers, she was ready for me.
And that kiss. By that time it was way too late. I had marched into the cave and there was no way out.
She wrapped her legs around me and said, “Take me now!” and I entered her. I was hard as a diamond, but I was also falling, falling, into her until I started to disappear and I said, “Elle!” and came like a fire hose, pumping into her.
She cried “Louis!” at the same time.
After a minute I came back to myself. OK, I’d gotten my bonus. And now we were on a first-name basis. She still owed me my fee. And I needed to get out of here. If I had a sawbuck for every husband who has come home early from “China” and shot the poor sap in bed with his wife, I wouldn’t need to bill clients.
“Listen, sweetheart,” I said. “This has been nice but—“
“Louis,” she said.
“Yes, sugar dumpling?” I said.
“Look at me. Look at my finger. And sleep. Sleep. Sleeee . . . .
I didn’t hear the rest.
After a long blank nap, Louis Wentworth woke in his bedroom in a happy tangle of limbs with his wife Elle. His head was resting in his favorite place—between her breasts, a site he had often thought he would like to retire to. He lifted his head and said, “Hello there! I sense we had a good time just now.”
“Oh yes,” she whispered. “You especially.”
He was used to blanks in his memory, often apparently covering epic sexual encounters while he was in a trance. He’d have minded forgetting if there hadn’t been plenty of memorable encounters that she did let him remember. And sometimes she would take a memory away and then give it back, either as a part of a plan or just on a whim.
She ruled him with a whim of iron. He worshiped her.
“I’m not sure the good times are done,” he said. He began to kiss that delightful valley between her breasts. His lips encountered a small cold object.
“What’s this?” he said.
She held it up in front of his eyes. “You know what this is,” she said. It was a beautiful bird pendant, silver and turquoise. The piece caught the light and reflected it into his eyes. It was relaxing. “You bought it for me, Louis,” she said.
As he followed the shiny pendant, he began to remember. He’d been over at the Arts District for some reason and had seen it in that indigenous art store. And he’d known she had to have it. It had reminded him or her. It was the thunderbird. He got the thunderbolt when he saw it.
He’d had the money—he’d saved the allowance she gave him because he wanted a new tailored suit to wear when he and Elle went out on date nights. But when he saw the bird, he realized that he didn’t need a tailored suit for date nights. When Elle was dressed for an evening on the town, nobody—man or woman, gay or straight, adult or child—was looking anywhere but at her.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “I was over that way—“ Suddenly another memory tugged at him. “Speaking of which . . . .”
His clothes were scattered on the rug. He wondered why. Usually he folded them neatly. He fished in the coat pocket—there! He pulled out a piece of paper.
“Here, I am sure you can put this to some good use.”
She turned it over. “It’s a gift certificate from Uncle Ray’s store! Louis, that is so thoughtful!”
Since Uncle Ray had come back into Elle’s life, she’d been studying magical arts as his student. By now she had a nice collection of magic items in her office—crystals, a dagger, a Persian wild goat bezoar, three decks of Tarot cards. “It gets me about halfway to that seeing stone I’ve wanted,” I wanted. “I’m sure I can save up enough in a month or so—I hope Ray doesn’t sell it, though—“
“Don’t be silly, Elle,” Louis said. “If you need a stone, I’ll buy it for you.”
“Oh, no, Louis, I couldn’t accept that, you’ve done enough. You’ve been saving that money for new shirts.”
“I don’t need new shirts! Elle, darling, please please please have mercy and let me buy you the stone you want.”
She stroked his face gently with her hand. “You are too sweet, darling,” she said. her tone showed no surprise. “If it means that much to you, I suppose it would be all right.”
“Oh, thank you, Elle! I can pick it up tomorrow, actually,” he said. “I have errands to do in that part of town.”
“Really?” she gave him a fond but amused glance. “What errands?”
“Well,” he said. “I need to pick up your dry-cleaning, your car needs to go to the detail shop, and you mentioned yesterday that you needed some new strapless bras. I know where to get them. There’s no reason you should waste time driving all the way across town. I’m happy to do it.”
She trailed her fingers—those long, vivid red nails—across his face and he felt dizzy. “You are such a busy boy,” she said. “I think you need a reward for being such a good boy.” She put her hand behind his head and began to gently push his head down. “Think ice cream.”
It didn’t occur to him to resist, and he couldn’t have resisted if he’d wanted to. She guided his head between her legs and said, “Drink deeply, pilgrim.”
He had been carefully trained what to do. Slowly he drew his tongue up her pussy from top to bottom. Then he began again from the bottom, but halfway up he paused and used his tongue to open her up slowly until he heard her groan. His tongue began to move faster. She grasped his head with both hands. “Please me, bitch,” she said. He began to spell out words with his tongue: O-B-E-Y, A-D-O-R-E, S-L-A-V-E. He was halfway through S-U-B-M-I-T when her hands tightened on his head and her body bucked against him. “Oh, GOD!” she said, then bucked again and fell still.
His head came to rest on her stomach. It was a comfortable place, touching her all over but still below her, where he belonged. “Louis,” she said after a companionable pause, “I am very pleased with you.”
Suddenly he had a panicky thought. “What time is it, Elle?”
She glanced at the clock-radio. “It’s a little past 7.”
He started up. “I need to start your dinner!”
“Freeze!” She snapped her fingers and he came to a stop. “Louis, you’ve had a busy day. I can handle something to eat for us.”
“Um—“ He found his voice. “Is that what you want? Remember the stroganoff—“
“Oh, don’t worry, darling,” she said. “I have no idea of cooking. Let me handle things, while you sleep . . . sleep . . . sleeee . . . .”
After another blank time he heard her voice. “Wide awake, Louis! Hungry and feeling wonderful!”
His eyes popped open. On the table by the bed he said a board with salami, prosciutto, sliced cheeses, potato salad, pickles, mustard, and crusty French bread. “Oh, yum,” he said.
“Here,” she said. “Have a glass of wine.” She handed him a goblet. He sniffed: Pinot Noir, his favorite. “Louis, you darling boy,” she said. “Tell your mistress the truth. Have you had a good day?”
He thought about the question for a moment. There were some gaps in his memory, but—
“Oh, yes,” he said. “I got a lot of writing done this morning and then just now—I had this dream and I think I have an idea for some new novels.”
“Really?” she raised an eyebrow. She looked so provocative that he wanted to kiss her feet for the next three or four hours.
“Yes, I had this character, he just came to me. He’s a private eye, see, in a town like this one—just a regular place—but he finds out there’s a kind of magical underground—real witches and wizards, you know, a whole occult world in the ordinary-seeming suburbs. And he learns about this world and gets sucked into what’s going on there, like gang wars in THE GODFATHER. Everybody trusts him because he has no magical abilities at all, he just doesn’t have a dog in their fights. He has to move back and forth between the different groups. But he has this girlfriend, see—actually in my mind she seems a lot like you—but slowly he realizes that she is actually a witch, a very powerful one—she’s basically good, but you know witches and wizards, they’re not like us, those terms mean something different in that world, and he’s always in danger but he doesn’t realize at first that she’s watching over him—What?”
Her fond look had ripened into a broad smile. “Oh, nothing,” she said. “I just think you’re sexy when you have a new idea for a novel.”
“It’s cool,” he said. “This could be an adult series—I can take turns writing one of these and a Hypnoteen YA novel.”
“I smell money,” she said.
“I trust your literary judgment,” he said.
“Of course you do,” she said, and again brushed his face with her nails. “So you did have a good day?”
“Oh, yes,” he said.
She raised her wineglass in salute. “Then,” she said, “here’s looking at you, kid.”