Book Spotlight: Chosen Path by J. Whitney Williams

8:30:00 PM

Erotic Romance
Date Published: 4/28/2017

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Yumiko Itsumoto wants it all. An accomplished artist and feared attorney, she gets what she wants, all else be damned. Now she wants love, even if it means charting a new course for her life, but changing course can be dangerous.  In mere moments, she tumbles from the dizzying pinnacle of success into a bottomless abyss of murder and treachery.  Yumiko will not live happily ever after—not this time—but can she at least find a way to stay alive?

Editor's review 

Author J. Whitney Williams follows CARRIED AWAY—his surprisingly intelligent and deftly written debut—with a story that is even sexier, more thrilling and more enthralling than the first.
Again taking the reader on a trip across the world, meeting strange people in strange places via a prodigious narrator, CHOSEN PATH follows Yumi, a powerful and apparently dispassionate supporting character introduced in book one. But appearances deceive. Here, the reader is immersed in Yumi—into the very depths of her complex mind, her conflicted yet determined soul, her insatiable sex drive.

When Yumi encounters the woman who she presumes to be the fiancée of the love of her life—perhaps her only true love—she has every reason to seize the opportunity that presents itself to erase the woman from both of their lives forever. It’s no wonder Yumi is the prime suspect for the unfortunate woman’s swift and seemingly heartless murder. Unable to recall herself, Yumi assumes the worst, too. It wouldn’t be the first tragic fate to befall someone who stood in her way—or the last—and cameras don’t lie.

In CHOSEN PATH, Williams explores the very essence of what makes us human. The protagonist, a uniquely flawed yet extraordinarily likable woman of many talents and trades, demonstrates the jealousy and manipulation we see in ourselves and despise in others. At the same time, we’re drawn to Yumi. Geisha. Samurai. Assassin. Pseudo-royalty. Nothing happens to her; she creates. If we all shaped our own circumstances, our destinies, as adroitly as she, what paths would we choose and where would they lead us?

Excerpts from Chosen Path by J. Whitney Williams
labeled with word counts and themes

1356 words, sex and humor

Jun gave me a towel, with which I wrapped up my hair, and a yukata, one of his. Its sleeves hung well past my hands, but its hem did not drag the ground. I decided to go ahead and indulge. I’d had a difficult night. A little smear of grease on my back would do the trick. I worked as quickly as I could to remove the rest, but it still took me perhaps twenty or thirty minutes.
I emerged from the bathroom with a much-improved mood.
Jun lived in a modest flat, sparsely decorated in Japanese style: tatami flooring and rice-paper screens to separate (or not) a small bedroom from the tearoom. I liked it. He had put on a yukata as well and sat formally in the tearoom. I duly went to the first guest position and knelt.
“Do you have any citric acid?”
He blinked and asked, “Citric acid?” I had woken poor Jun from a sound sleep and it seemed he was still trying to gather his wits.
In my gentlest voice, I said, “Yes. I was unable to remove all of the grease from my skin. If I might further impose upon your hospitality, I would be grateful for your help with it. Citric acid, lemon juice if you have it, might break down the grease more readily than soap.”
He stood and walked toward his small kitchen. I turned my back to him and widened my stance to sit directly on the ground with my feet beside me, and I opened my yukata to drop it from my shoulders and expose my deliberate grease smear. Holding the yukata up with the crooks of my elbows, I crossed my arms over my chest and turned my head down. His steps halted when he saw me. His voice, when he spoke, bore more confidence than his approaching footfalls.
“I would be honored to provide you with whatever counsel I can, Itsumoto-san.”
“Thank you, Jun-san,” I said, “and please call me Yumi.”
“Will you tell me of the matter?”
I inhaled to fill the hollow in my chest and kept silent, tasting enjoyment in dabs of cold lemon juice against my back, softer than raindrops. I’d have all day to tell my tale before he finished, and part of me wanted to drag it out. The better part of me wanted to rip the band-aid off and be done with it.
“I was in the subway yesterday. There was a woman next to me. She was killed by a passing train. I believe I will be charged with her murder.”
“Why would you be charged?”
Another deep breath did nothing to fill my chest. It was hard enough admitting my mistake, a mistake made in the making of another mistake. I had to tell him the unconfessed secret of my heart. In a way, sitting half-naked in front of him made it easier to let go of my pride.
“I believe she was engaged to marry a man I previously dated—a past lover. I had gone to his home yesterday hoping I could reconcile myself to him. When I got there, someone, I believe it was this woman, was there with him. I left without announcing myself. It seems she left not long after I did and intended to catch the same train as me.
“After the incident, I ran. That was foolish. I was scared, shocked, and not thinking clearly. I have not been sleeping well. I had not slept for perhaps a week. This insomnia has affected my mental state. I did not intend to kill her, but I stood to benefit from her death. There were witnesses. I paid my PASMO with a credit card. The police will be able to determine who I am.”
Jun’s hands on my back remained timid, but his voice reassured. “Your situation may not be so dire as you believe it, Yumiko-san, but I can understand how it troubles you.”
The room filled with silence until I deemed it thick enough to call attention to my next statement.
“Jun,” I said, “when a woman takes off her clothes and kneels before you, it’s safe to assume you can drop the honorific.”
“I never assume facts not in evidence.”
I sighed and gave instructions. “I want you to call me Yumi. I want you to press hard against the stain on my back and scrub until I am clean.”
He did as I told him, taking my shoulder in one hand to steady me and grinding into the grease with his other. Sooner than I might have liked, a smear of cold water slid up my back, and the collar of my yukata patted me dry. I gave him further instructions.
“I also want you to fuck my brains out.”
His hands snapped back.
I waited him out, wandering my gaze along the weave of his tatami floor. Eventually he spoke.
“Will you not be needing them?”
I liked the innocence of his question, so I answered earnestly. “They have functioned poorly in recent times.” I waited again to hear his next quandary.
“I would think it a difficult thing to do to a woman of your considerable intellect.”
“Take your time.”
I waited while he tried to think through what was happening, seemingly as disturbed by his own unanticipated circumstances as I had been by mine the night before. Clammy fingertips, followed by their palm, touched down high on my back and slid haltingly up my shoulder and alongside my neck. I tilted my head up, yielding to the almost imperceptible push of his index finger under my jaw. He followed, and I continued until I craned my neck back as far as it would go.
When his fingertips drew gently against my throat, I went with them instead of letting them drag against my skin. I kept leaning, transferring my weight onto my toes, which pointed back along the floor by my sides.
Flipping over my toes to set my weight on my spine and straighten my knees from that position is always an awkward move. Jun was unprepared for how suddenly I fell backward when my weight transferred, but he caught me with a hand behind my neck before my head hit the floor. That was just as well because his abrupt catch knocked the towel free from my hair and just in time because I held my back still fully arched and would have driven my head hard into the mat.
I’d left my hands in my lap, straightening my elbows as he bent me backward, leaving my torso bare in front of him. My yukata, folded inward over my thighs, provided only a pretense of modesty. His eyes struggled not to wander while I stared up at him, so I closed mine to let his have their way. I’d told him to take his time, so I parted my lips and waited.
“Did you do it?”
My eyelids rocked open. “You ask your clients if they’re guilty?”
“I’m asking you.”
I closed my eyes again and rolled my spine downward, relaxing my back to the floor. “Nice dodge.”
“Likewise,” he volleyed. “Shall we play again?”
“I’d rather not.”
“Then answer my question.”
His hand behind my neck firmed and steadied and was soon joined by his other hand to cradle my head. Jun had no idea how to handle a woman, but he knew exactly what to do with a hostile witness.
I had to tell him, and he knew it. I was the one asking him for help. He could simply decline and be rid of me. Something inside him clamped down and turned to stone. He was awake now, and our little back-and-forth spanned the full width of his patience. It takes a hard man to set murderers free every day and still look at himself in the mirror.
I drew a slow breath to show him I would answer. I needed a hard man. I was a murderer.

1030 words, horror

The metal shriek of the train’s brakes reamed out my skull. I didn’t realize I was staggering backwards until I slammed squarely into the chest of a shocked bystander.
I jumped and turned, excused myself, and walked toward the exit. Then I ran, but only one step. Clinging desperately to such cool as I could keep, I walked the rest of the way to the escalator. Exit gates flashed through the intermittent gaps between people’s walking legs. It was a trap.
I paid my PASMO with a credit card. The exit gate would read it on the way out and know I had been there. It would know who I was. The two hard plastic wedges that politely give way for innocent travelers would crush me. The entry gate read my PASMO on the way in. The exit gates would be ready, waiting to strike. There had to be another way out.
I needed time to think—time and thoughts, neither of which I possessed in abundance. Over to the side of the atrium, I camouflaged myself by staring at a system map. That bought me time but not much. People would ask if I needed directions. They would ask why I killed that woman. I needed to be alone.
My PASMO would betray me to the gates. It already had. It was too late. They knew I was in the subway, and they were guarding all the exits, waiting. The public bathroom’s walls and ceiling closed in around me, squeezing like the too-tight tie of my obi around my waist.
The girl was right. My kimono was lovely. It was Kosei’s favorite, black silk, soft lining. Flames, which I never cared for, licked up from its hems, but they morphed into a mix of petals and butterflies, flying into a black sky. My obi accented the flames’ colors. It bore the subtle texture of a dragon’s skin, coiled around my waist. I had it in a drum knot that day, but there were painted accents on it so if I tied it dangling, the ends would appear to be the dragon’s head and tail.
I rose and shook my hands, pruned from being held so long under the running water. The dragon stirred. I froze, but too late. It was awake, shifting in the light, too tight and too wide.
The dragon’s coils expanded, deviating from their neat, overlapping paths. It slithered around me, deftly reaching out to encompass my arms in its turns. It crawled down around my hips, frightening away the butterflies, diving between my legs to coil around one thigh then the other. The dragon had me, but it toyed with me. The gates would have killed quickly. As it undulated around my form in a single, sinuous arc of circumscription, it clung tight around me, not tight enough to crush my bones and suck the marrow, but tight enough to show me how it could.
It pressed hard and turned, forcing its way around and over my breasts, climbing up along my shoulder, down my back, and around. The dragon was strong as living steel. It snaked around me and defined the limits of my body, carefully propagating each curve down its length. Its slightest mistake could have torn me apart, forcing my flesh into an inhuman mold, squeezing me between its coils like dough through fingers.
The steady motion of its turns and counter-turns sheared my kimonos against my skin, burning them with friction, raising just enough smoke to imbalance the rising heat of the infinite sea of flame below me into a whirlwind, a sheath of fire whipping through that nonexistent space between the dragon and my skin. The maelstrom whirled, tight as the dragon but fast and angry. I threw my head back and coughed in the suffocating torrent of ashes and dust, a volcanic plume of butterflies, of flowers, of shredded silk, blowing high into the air.
The dragon’s head rose behind me, above my eyes. It flattened and widened like a hooded cobra. It swelled and ascended like a hot-air balloon. Its hungry eyes smoldered, and in a flash, its multi-forked tongue snapped down around me and blinked away, tasting my flesh. It licked again, its tongue descending around my head, enveloping my body as bonsai roots clutch a stone, branching into hairy tendrils to search every surface, looking for its meal.
The third time, it penetrated, measuring the rounds of my eyeballs and digging far enough under my toenails to taste the quick. My scream only gave it new entry, and it pushed aside my breath to lick the disused corners of my lungs. The tongue pressed both sides of my eardrums, filling my ear canals and yawning open my Eustachian tubes for its tiny tendrils to pass. It burrowed through the deepest recesses of my sinuses, prodding at the edges of my brain. It missed nothing, delicately attenuated enough to tickle my ovaries and so long and serpentine that two ends intertwined somewhere in my gut.
All those sensations slammed into my mind at once, bowling over all thought and scattering self-awareness like autumn leaves before a winter wind. The flash of its disappearance left my consciousness hollow, echoing with gentle resignation to the permanence of those sensations, deceived by their sudden absence. Into that absence, it licked and lingered for almost half a heartbeat, sliding over me before it was gone, testing every crevice, every pore, tasting and judging. It withdrew, filling the tracts of mind it had conquered with a twinge of shame for disappointing it.
The dragon’s face loomed over the earth like a thundercloud. It sent lightning, thick and dazzling, along every path its tongue had tested, snatching me up naked from a ruined world, from its preparatory coils, its whirlwind of fury. I slid along the peristaltic press of its throat, down into its belly. It devoured me. I belonged to the dragon. I was part of it. It was part of me.
I kicked and struggled in my acidic sack like a fetus unready to be born while my flesh melted away. I was not dead. I was no longer anything at all.

511 words, mystery and power

“How many people must you kill before you would call yourself a murderer?”
It seemed a fair question. “One more than I have.”
“You admit your guilt.” He turned to me and smiled.
I stared only forward into the night. Had he known as much about me as he thought, he would have paid closer attention. “I do not,” I reminded him.
“That is a pity, Princess Itsumoto,” the old man said, turning back to stare into the same darkness as me. “I admit mine. You view me as a criminal. I can see it in your eyes. I am no more a criminal than you. We are both simply parts of the ecosystem. I am a scavenger, a shadow-dweller. I am a rat. I sift through the disgusting residue of human civilization, nibbling up the refuse of what you call society. Without me, moral pestilence and social decay would pile higher than the tallest buildings of the cities that produce them. We rats, we clean up after people like you, and so long as you fuel your avarice with the poverty of others, we rats will never disappear. Our work must be done.
“Rats like me are everywhere, crawling quietly through the tunnels and sewers of the world. Millions of people walk the streets above us every day while we work our labors in peace. No one cares about rats, Princess, until someone sees one. If any rat strays too far from the shadows, if one of the nice, clean people like the woman you killed sees a rat, that peace is lost.
“Normally we rats will kill and eat our own, but when one of us crawls into the light, what are we to do? What if we chase him, fight him in the clean spaces where nice people live? One rat can be ignored. When one rat pokes his head out of the sewer to smell the clean air, well, then people see a single rat. They curse the rats in an abstract way and go on about their lives. But two rats, Princess, two rats make an infestation.
“Only one good end can come to these rats that would forsake the shadows. They must be hunted by another animal. When humans kill a rat, they leave poisons and traps everywhere. Our lives become difficult, and our work slows down. But the hawk strikes fast and true, then there is peace. Our ecosystem must remain in balance. We need a predator.
“And you, Yumiko Itsumoto, are the apex predator of human civilization. You are more than a hawk. You are a dragon. When you killed, when you murdered, you came near enough to the shadows for us to see you. We risked ourselves to come and talk to you. We risked being seen, because the hawks have not done their job. I will take your refuse, Princess Itsumoto. I will hide it, and we will eat it, and it will be forgotten. All I ask in return is that you hunt.”

193 words, power

I had a chauffeured car drop me off late enough for the party to have reached its zenith. A handful of yakuza members stood idle near the front door. It was an invitation-only event, so I had worn my invitation.
One of the men challenged me, asking if I was affiliated with a particular prostitution ring, presumably their own. I backhanded him hard enough to split his lip.
The other men laughed, and the one I hit telegraphed his retaliatory swing so obviously, I was able to step out of his range, raise my eyebrows, and look around the group while his fist swept past my face.
An older fellow who had spent the moment of our confrontation putting out his cigarette called down his younger colleague in a sharp, barking tone. He bowed to me and said, “I beg you to ignore the ignorant impertinence of youth, Geiko-sama, and I welcome you to our humble house.”
Duly ignoring the others, I thanked the polite one for his welcome and walked inside, feeling only a tickle of regret that none of them, not even the polite one, would live to see another sunrise.

356 words, romance and humor

At the most elegant teahouse in Gion Kobu, Matron Kazaharu lowered a teacup from her ageless face.
“Willow-sensei.” Miharu-chan’s whisper crept over her shoulder. “A man in a cheap suit just asked—”
Matron Kazaharu—Willow-sensei, as the students called her—did not need to hear the rest. “It breaks my heart, Ambassador, that I am called away. I must beg your forgiveness and your leave.”
All at the table stood as she did, and the guest spoke.
“Of course, Lady Willow-Wind. It has been such a privilege to…” Blah blah blah blah blah. She had to move fast.
She had warned Emi-chan to expect the detective’s eventual return, but it seemed he had arrived while she was away. Willow could only blame herself. She scheduled Miharu as Emi’s backup. Any other woman might have discerned her gambit at first sight of him, but that poor girl would not know a man had been seduced if he engraved his name on her forehead with a diamond-tipped erection.
When Miharu refused him, he would have bolted like a spooked deer. Willow could not recall having previously chased a man, but unusual circumstances require innovative techniques.
Shimizu. He, and his story, was simple. What Willow read of him moved her. Like so many, he had married for infatuation mistaken for love, and more than a decade passed before he came to know so. His wife bore him one child, a now-adult son, to whom he had become mostly estranged. Had there been no child, the poor soul could still be married, thinking infatuation the most love one could feel.
He lost himself in his work because someone once—perhaps no more than once—told him it was important. That—his naivety—drew her attention. Even in a job that showed him the worst parts of human nature, something good and decent still lived within him. It shone from his heart like the morning star.
He was handsome, too, handsome enough to be sexy, yet sex is but a single feather. Within minutes of their first meeting, Lady Willow-Wind had decided to spread her stately wings. She would return that star to the sky.

754 words, sex

It took a bit of crouched stumbling to get free of my clothing and tie up my swords to hang from my waist. The rain's intensity plateaued, though not for lack of trying, and settled into the calm rhythm of a furious storm.
I stood and leaned back against the cliff face. The overhang protected us, but a thickening curtain of runoff sheeted down from it only inches from my face. It puddled and splashed onto my legs from the nest of silken rags in front of me, seeking out any part of me not yet drenched.
I looked down at the foot I’d wrapped up. Cool rain soaking through my impromptu silk boot dulled the searing pain. A faint red tint tainted the puddles in which I stood, but the blood wasn’t mine.
I turned to my companion. He looked like he’d been poured out of a blender, but as he rested with his back up against the rock wall of our narrow shelter, some of his cuts were clotting. With the toes of my unbandaged foot, I fished up one of the kimono at my feet. The sheet of rainwater in front of me smoothed and untangled it from the other garments while I searched for its collar. I wrapped the silk around my arm and tucked a corner of it over my fingers.
“I’m fine,” he said when I reached up toward him.
He was not fine.
Dabbing away the blood from his face and head showed how badly he’d been injured. A particularly nasty gash on top of his head resisted my efforts to staunch it. I fished one of my obi from the pile at my feet and used it to tie a turban around his head. He bowed, accepting my kindness.
I continued down his body, advancing the silk across my hand when it got too bloody. Most of his cuts were shallow and had stopped weeping. Another gash on his right arm still oozed a trail of blood that dripped from his fingertips. I tore a strip of cloth to bandage it.
“No.” He pushed my hand away. “This is who I am.” He refused to let me cover the intricate tattoos across his arms and torso. I cleaned around the bleeding cut as best I could and continued down his arm.
His hand was utterly shredded, both of them were, but the tattoos stopped at his wrists. He allowed me to bandage his hands, and I bound them in thick wrappings to protect them from more damage scrambling over the ravine’s sharp rocks.
The man’s tattoos looked as old as he was, once colorful but faded over the years. He wore a snake motif, a mixture of snakes and dragons, slithering up his arms, climbing over his shoulders, roaring and hissing, biting and clawing at his chest. He was a marked man. The tattoos represented his commitment to his clan, absolute, permanent, and uninterrupted. He would not hide them on the day of his death.
His arms had taken the brunt of the chasm’s assault, but his trousers were torn and bloody. I unfastened his belt and unbuttoned them. The heavy holster in which his pistol rested, mostly hidden inside his waistband, tugged awkwardly while I handled his zipper, as did the dangling head opposite it. I controlled his trousers and underwear all the way down his legs and past his bare feet, working to save him any pain I could.
His tattoos, the snakes, continued smoothly down his legs. With the last of his clothing removed, he looked better, more complete. Nothing hid any part of the life he had written on his body. I read his story while I tried in vain to heal his bloody knees. His feet, like his hands, were unmarked and ravaged. He let me wrap them as well, enough to cover the broken calluses on their soles, enough to keep us moving.
His faded ink did not camouflage him against the rocks at his back, but it contrasted as much as the rocks did against my pale hands. To look at us through our concealing curtain of water, he might have been invisible behind me, but I, with frigid rain sheeting down my back, felt exposed and vulnerable. When I finished with his feet, I slid up his body to stand before him, leaving the pain in my foot so far behind I forgot it entirely while I turned my face up just as he lowered his.

395 words, romance

Lady Willow-Wind, in the course of her illustrious career, had accumulated a great many of kimono, trunks upon trunks of them. No doubt, she owned at least two matching any description the human mind could dream. Be that as it may, she owned but a single pair of shoes.
Her father worked as a carpenter, but his true passion was carving. When her parents came to celebrate her debut, he gave her a pair of geta he had carved while she was an apprentice. He made them of East Indian rosewood, which itself is a very hard wood, but the tree from which he cut them had been struck by lightning. He cut the geta from wood formed in the cleft that split when the tree was struck. Swirling gnarl of the tree’s proud grain covered their surfaces. It must have taken him all the years of her apprenticeship to carve them, shaping wood so hard he would have sharpened his fine gouges between each cut to craft their flawless finish.
Those geta were the only mementos she kept of her childhood, and she wore them every day. Over the years, she replaced their thongs dozens of times, but the teeth, hewn from that impossible wood, never wore down. Even without her trying them on, her father sized and shaped them perfectly for her feet. When he gave them to her, they fit like she had been born into them.
Now she had lived an entire life in them. Step by step, day by day, year by year, her soft soles wore themselves into the footprints her father carved for her. The geta belonged to her and she to them in a way she herself did not fully understand.
Willow had been given some beautiful pairs of zori by various and sundry of the men who came and went from her life, but she always gave them to the other girls. Anything other than her geta made her feel like she was walking with washboards strapped to her feet.
Those geta, grown from hardship, cured by lighting, carved with love, shaped by decades of wear, indestructible, irreplaceable, unimpeachable—their worried wood met her feet with expectant welcome every time she slipped them on. With her cheek pressed against Shimizu’s chest and his arms enveloping her, Willow remembered how she felt the first day she wore them.

170 words, mystery

“Jun,” I began, “I’m sorry about what I said, about your theater coach.” He flicked his turn signal down and checked his mirrors. “I can’t imagine what it must be like working as a prosecutor. I’m sure it was difficult for you, and I wish you would try not to be so hard on yourself.”
Jun kept driving. It felt like he was listening to me, like he was not angry. He probably didn’t know what to say. I resigned myself to doing all the heavy lifting in the conversation I wanted to have with him. I continued.
“I want to thank you for your help these past couple of weeks and for answering your door early in the morning…and for inviting me in. It means a lot to me, more than I realized, and I’m sorry if this sounds critical, but you passed the freeway entrance.”
“The car behind us was parked in a fire lane outside the office. Looks like they missed the entrance, too.”

958 words, power and humor

Detective Robinson jumped at the thud of a bottle of Macallan hitting the bar top in front of him. He looked over at the woman holding it and said, “I’ll be damned.”
The whiskey-bearer, a Japanese woman in a business suit, mounted the stool next to him. “Get anything good out of the box?” She caught the stool’s crossbar under her heels and started swiveling her seat back and forth.
Robinson took the bottle’s neck between his fingers and turned the label toward him, scrutinizing it as if it would tell him what was happening to him and why. “Fourteen arrests awaiting trial,” he answered. “How’s the girl?” He never did get her name.
“Very much enjoying her new life, I expect. I’m sorry to say I’ve come to ask you for another favor.”
“Nuh-uh. No way, honey.” He still spoke forward, as if making his case to the liquor bottles. “Internal Affairs is still crawling up my ass from the last time. The Feds are super pissed I just let you skate, think you’re some kind of vigilante or assassin, say somebody in Japan went and shot up an entire gang.”
The woman’s sunny smile went well with the tempo of her rhythmic turns. “Of those two, I would prefer vigilante, and I assure you I have never shot anybody.”
“Sure thing.” Robinson nodded and took another sip of his scotch. “Guess I’ll just take your word for it then.”
The swivel—and the smile—stopped dead, facing forward, aimed at something on the far side of the wall behind the bar. “I used a sword. Local police did all the shooting.”
An echo in the highball glass he’d been consulting while she spoke drew out Robinson’s exclamation. “Ho- Ly- Shit.” He set his drink down and shook his head. “You’re bad news, Lady. I ought to take you in.”
“You can if you want.” Grinning and swiveling resumed. “Bet you five bucks I’m released in under an hour. Want me to take care of your internal affairs thing for you?”
He spun to face her and demanded, “Who do you think you are, exactly?”
“Sometimes I wonder.” Her eyes flared and rolled, coming to rest on Robinson’s pocket. “Mind if I use your phone?”
With one hand holding the detective’s ancient flip-phone and the other twirling a lock of hair, she said, “Hi, sweetie, it’s me. I feel like we haven’t talked in ages, but…” … “For a few days, yeah. Are you free?” … “Boo. You’re no fun. Hey, listen, I have a client who was at the human-trafficking thing in Long Beach a couple weeks ago.” … “Yeah. She says one of the detectives who helped her is getting investigated, and she wants us to fight the city for him. I told her it was just paperwork, nothing to worry about. It isn’t, is it?” … “He’s here in the conference room now. Want to talk to him?”
Her voice still playful as a songbird, she covered the phone and said, “The mayor wants to talk to you.”
That was the end of sugar and spice.
“I’m out on a limb here,” she hissed. “Don’t embarrass me.”
It was a close call for Robinson as to which he considered more dangerous, the woman or the phone. He took the latter gingerly between his thumb and forefinger, raising it toward his face but meeting it halfway.
“Hello?” … “Yes, sir.” … “She made the tip on condition of anonymity.” … “No, sir.” … “Yes, sir.”
She took back his phone from where he dangled it in front of her. “Thank you for taking my call, Your Honor. I’m glad the matter could be settled amicably. Goodnight.”
The flip-phone snapped shut in her hand, and she held it out to return it.
Robinson didn’t take the bait. Instead he asked nobody in particular, unless he was talking to the phone, “What the actual fuck was that?”
Sugar and spice resumed.
She set the phone on the bar and said, “That was a favor. How do you feel about Mexican drug cartels?”
Robinson put his phone away with a shrug and turned back to his drink. “Love ’em,” he quipped. “Can’t get enough. Pablo Escobar comes over to my house every Wednesday night to suck my dick.”
“Isn’t he Colombian?”
“He’s also dead. Are you looking to get introduced?”
“Yes but not to him. I’m planning a trip to Tijuana,” she said, “and I need a pimp.”
“A pimp? Planning on doing some sightseeing, maybe a little shopping?”
The swiveling stopped again, and they were both talking to the same empty space somewhere in front of them.
“Something like that.”
Robinson squinted and blinked, but it did nothing to clear up the situation’s absurdity. After all, the woman had, it seemed, exercised some sort of devious power on his behalf. The IAG investigation was looking like it’d be a whole lot of probing with not a lot of lube. He’d be glad to be rid of it if that—whatever that was—stuck. His tone descended into a serious conversation.
“Look, I’m grateful and all, and it’s none of my business, but honey, girls like you don’t come back from TJ.”
“Why not?” She feigned innocence. “Do all the gentlemen open doors and pull out chairs?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what they do.”
The woman turned and stared him down. “I appreciate your concern, Detective, but you reason from a false premise. There are no other girls like me.”
Robinson downed the last of his drink to give himself time to think it over. To the empty glass, he said, “Well, that’s for damned sure.”

274 words, sex and humor

No one said a word, except when I excused myself to get my wallet back from the Mexican border guard I had sweet-talked into holding it, a precaution that paid off nicely. On the other side of passport control, the silence changed.
The men had gone to Zona Norte to get drunk and laid, and left sober and frustrated. They said nothing, but their irritation with me showed as soon as they finished dodging whatever trouble was to be had. Deciding to cure one or more of their ills, I took the arm of the man who had carried me.
“I’m staying at a hotel downtown.” I ran my hand up the inside of his arm, around his bicep, and back down. “Would you guys like to come back to my place for a drink?”
None of them answered, but they reverted to the comportment I saw in them before inviting myself in under their aegis. Somewhere in the silence that followed, one of them threw back his head and guffawed. Another said, “Ma’am, you do realize, I hope, that we went to Tijuana to drink and fuck.”
I amended my invitation accordingly. “Would you guys like to come back to my place for a drink and fuck?”
My topless escort looked down at me while they all laughed, and said, “I might need more than one.”
“I have plenty to spare,” I assured him. “Or if you meant drinks, I expect room-service can accommodate.”
No time was wasted on further conversation. I squealed when he picked me up into a fireman’s carry over his shoulder. “Alright,” he said. “Where’d we park?”

A mathematician by training and computer programmer by trade, J. Whitney Williams lives and works under the X in Texas, thinking too much and speaking too little.

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