Trip on This: Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

“I need to talk to Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo,” Trip says firmly to the receptionist, a woman about Trip’s age, also Asian, who is looking at Trip with bored disdain.  The receptionist is Chinese-pretty with slanted eyes and planed cheekbones—Lucy Liu in the flesh.  These North Beach bitches have such an attitude.

“Who?”  The receptionist asks, her voice nasal.  She’s twirling a lock of her shiny black hair around her finger with its perfectly-manicured fingernail, and Trip has the urge to reach across the desk and strangle the woman.

“Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo,” Trip says, enunciating carefully.  Her voice is flat, but menacing.  She doesn’t have time for this bullshit.  “I need to talk to him now.”

“There’s nobody here by that name,” the receptionist informs Trip, her tone implying that perhaps Trip better stop taking whatever drug it is she’s ingesting.  There is also a hint of smugness that sets Trip’s teeth on edge.

“Look,” Trip begins, then shuts her mouth.  This is the same receptionist she saw when she visited yesterday.  Either she’s losing her mind, or Nicole—as her nameplate says—is lying through her pearly-white teeth.  “I’d like to speak to whoever occupies the corner office, then.  The one with the great view and the elevated chair.”  Her tone is hard, and her eyes are staring into Nicole’s.  The latter would have to be made of sterner stuff or making more than twenty dollars an hour to stand up to Trip, so she merely nods and presses a button on her phone while picking up the receiver.

“Mr. O’Reilly?  There is a, uh, there’s someone here to talk to you.”  Nicole pauses to listen, and her cheeks are stained red.  “I know, but, uh, ok.”  She turns back to Trip, a bit more steel in her voice.  “Mr. O’Reilly is not to be disturb.  I’m sorry, Miss….You’ll have to make an appointment.”  Her voice is smug, as if she’s won a coup over Trip.  She pats her glossy hair, preening at a job well done.  Trip looks at Nicole until the latter’s eyes fall.  Nodding to herself, Trip walks past the desk and through the unlocked door.  “Hey!”  Nicole bustles after her, her voice bristling with indignation.  “You can’t just charge back there like you own the place.”  She totters after Trip in impossibly-high heels, swaying dangerously as she moves.

“You aren’t going to stop me.”  Trip halts in her tracks, turns and steps towards Nicole.  Trip’s biceps bulge as she clenches her fists.  Nicole emits a little squeak and takes a step back.  She is one of those Asian women who thinks it’s better to be tiny and cute than in shape.  Satisfied, Trip turns around and continues until she reaches the same office where she had met with Renaldo DiCalvo.  Without knocking on the door, she opens it and strides on in.  She stops when she sees what’s going on.  There is a man about six feet, stretched out on what looks to be a masseuse’s table, his white hair obscuring his face.  He is naked except for a towel wrapped around his mid-section.  Behind him is a breathtaking Japanese woman dressed in a traditional kimono, her hair pulled back in an elaborate bun.  The man doesn’t even bother looking up, but the Japanese woman does.  When her eyes catch Trip’s, she looks away in embarrassment.  Trip glares, angry at this woman for perpetuating that stupid fucking stereotype.

Trip takes several breaths to calm down, looking around the office as she does.  It’s definitely the same office, but there is no trace of DiCalvo.  Trip walks over to the desk, ignoring the other people in the room.  The pile of papers are gone; the picture is gone; the desk is sparse and clean with a neat pile of business cards perched on the corner.  Trip’s fury mounts as she silently contemplates what to do.  There is nothing in the this room that identifies it as the one where she had met DiCalvo.  There are now diplomas on the walls from prestigious Ivy League schools with the name, Caleb O’Reilly prominently penned on each one.  The man on the table doesn’t look like he’s Irish, but really, what has Trip seen of him other than his undercooked body and his shock of white hair?

“Are you going to tell me why you’ve disturbed my sanctuary?”  The autocratic voice cuts through Trip’s ruminating.  “I presume you are the person about whom my secretary was warning me.  What part of no do you not understand?”  The masseuse continues the massage, keeping her eyes on her work.

“Where is DiCalvo?”  Trip asks when she finally has her voice under control again.  “And who the hell are you?”

“As to your first inquiry, I haven’t the faintest idea to whom you are referring and as to the latter question, more apropos, who the hell are you?”  There is an undercurrent of amusement in O’Reilly’s voice which grates on Trip’s nerves.  He is playing the heavy-handed patrician which is supposed to reduce her to humble supplicant, a role she is ill-equipped to play.

“I met a Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo in this very office yesterday afternoon,” Trip says, a sense of unreality washing over her.  “Where is he?”

“Since I don’t know the person in question, I am very much afraid I cannot assist you in his whereabouts.  If there is something personal I can help you with.”  The amusement is growing stronger as is Trip’s rage, but his tone has shifted to slightly salacious.  “Don’t you hesitate to ask.”  Trip doesn’t bother to answer.  Abruptly, his tone shifts again to brusque.  “If you do not vacate these premises this minute, I shall be forced to alert security and have you removed.”

There is nothing for Trip to do but leave.  She cannot gain the upper-hand here and might weaken her position by further antagonizing this man.  The atmosphere is pressing around her, choking off her airflow.  Either this man truly has no idea what’s going on in his office behind his back—which makes him a big ass—or he’s part of something bigger.  Either way, he’s not going to spill the beans, so he’s of no use to Trip.  For now.  She’s about to leave when to her astonishment, the Japanese woman lifts her head to stare directly in Trip’s eyes.  The masseuse tilts her head minutely and holds up both hands, her fingers spread wide.  She drops her hands and her head again, and Trip takes her leave, but not before grabbing a business card off the desk.  Never know when it might come in handy.

“Don’t you come back here,” Nicole hisses as Trip walks by her.  “If you do, I’ll call the cops.”  Just a bit of female posturing to nurse her hurt pride.  Trip doesn’t even bother responding as she leaves, her mind on the masseuse.  If Trip read her right, the woman wants Trip to wait for her outside so they can meet in ten minutes.  Why?  To ask her out?  To explain why she isn’t selling out the sisterhood?  Or does she know something about DiCalvo?  Whatever the reason, Trip will wait for her for as long as is necessary.  She wishes she had a smoke, however, to pass the time.  True to the Japanese woman’s word, she emerges from the building in ten minutes.

“Don’t look at me,” the woman says in perfect English, her voice high and sweet.  She keeps walking so Trip is forced to amble after her.  “Pretend you just happen to be walking the same way I am.  Do you know where Sushi-A-Rama is?”  Trip nods her head slightly.  “Meet me there in ten minutes.”  She hurries ahead and Trip slows down so it doesn’t look like she’s following the woman.  She decides to leave her car where it is, feeds the meter, then makes her way to the sushi place.  She spots the Japanese woman huddled as far back in the tiny restaurant as possible, a menu obscuring most of her features.  Trip slinks over to her and casually sits so she can see the front door.  Trip picks up the menu and studies it, waiting for the other woman to speak.  Before either of them can say anything, however, a server bops over, bringing two mugs of green tea.

“Welcome to Sushi-A-Rama.  Would you like any appetizers?  The miso soup is my favorite.”  This woman is definitely foreign-born with her heavy accent and cutesy-girl ways.  She is bouncing lightly on her toes like an impatient twelve-year old, and she giggles at the end of her statement.  Trip hates girls who giggle.

“Edamame,” Trip says flatly.  “I’d like a glass of water as well.  Then five minutes to study the menu.”  Her dining companion has yet to speak, but she suddenly bursts out in a spate of Japanese which delights the server.  The two of them chatter away while Trip peruses the menu.  The other two are at it for so long, Trip is able to make up her mind.  “I’m ready to order,” she says, closing her menu.  She and her companion both order before the server finally disappears.

“My name is Evelyn,” the other woman says, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her face.  She has one of those typical Japanese faces with slanted cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes and clear skin.  Her voice is high, but not kittenish.  Her skin is naturally white.

“I’m Delilah.”  Trip offers her hand which the other woman shakes heartily.  Trip isn’t sure why she gave Evelyn her never-used real name instead of her nickname, but figures she can ‘fess up later if she has to.

“Look, I’m not going to give you some bullshit about why I’m dressed like this,” Evelyn says without preamble.  “I have a job, and I’m good at it.  If some dumb fuck wants to pay me double for fulfilling his fantasy, that’s his bad.”  She looks Trip in the eyes, her gaze not wavering.

“It’s your gig,” Trip shrugs.  “I wouldn’t do it, but that’s my choice, not yours.  Besides, we all do what we have to do to pay the bills.”

“What is it you do, Delilah?”  Evelyn asks just as the server returns with edamame and miso soup for both of them.

“I didn’t order this,” Trip protests.

“It comes with the sushi,” the server chirps.  “Is really good.”  Trip tastes it, and it is really good.  She drains the bowl quickly.

“You were just about to tell me what you do,” Evelyn reminds Trip, sipping daintily at her own soup.

“No I wasn’t,” Trip replied, popping the shell of a soy bean.

“If you don’t tell me, I won’t tell you what I know about Renaldo DiCalvo.”  Evelyn leans slightly forward, her eyes shrewd.

“How do I know you know anything?”  Trip counters, suddenly wary.  How would this geisha girl know anything about O’Reilly’s business?

“Because Mr. O’Reilly hires me to look like this,” Evelyn says deliberately.  “He thinks that I am brainless as well.  He treats me like a statue of sorts.  He says things; I hear things.”  Their eyes meet before they both look away.

“Sushi!”  The server says in an impossibly cheerful tone.  She slides the tray between both of the women.  As is usual for a sushi place, it’s attractively arranged with the ginger flowers and startling green wasabi.

“Real wasabi,” Evelyn confides.  “Not horseradish with green dye.”  Both women pick up their chopsticks, break them, rub them against each other to get rid of splinters, then dig right in.  Neither speaks for a few minutes.  Even though it’s only eleven-thirty in the morning, the sushi hits the spot.  Any time is sushi-time.

“I am a repo man,” Trip finally says after eating enough sushi to take the edge off her jones.

“What do you repo?”  Evelyn asks, her eyes sharp.  Trip says nothing, not wanting to give away her game.  “Ok, I’ll give you some of what I know to prove I’m trustworthy, then it’s your turn again, ok?”  Trip nods silently and waits.

The story Evelyn has to share is illuminating.  It seems Mr. O’Reilly is a corporate lawyer of sorts.  He has many high-powered clients and is compensated well for his endeavors.  Evelyn had been in the office last week when a phone call came.  Mr. O’Reilly kept calling the man, DiCalvo, and laughing every time he said the name.  It seems that DiCalvo is one of Mr. O’Reilly’s prime clients which means Mr. O’Reilly will go to great lengths to accommodate the man.  While Evelyn was pounding on Mr. O’Reilly’s back and fending off suggestions that she pound something else of his, he was yapping on his cell phone with Mr. DiCalvo, arranging to allow Mr. DiCalvo the use of his office.  For a hefty fee, of course.  They dickered over it in a friendly fashion until Mr. O’Reilly agreed to a nice lump sum of ten-thousand dollars for the day.  Trip nearly chokes when she hears the figure.  Ten-thousand plus the twenty-five thousand given to her, and the check hadn’t bounced.  Thirty-five thousand?  Someone sure had deep pockets.  Evelyn stops talking, staring at Trip expectantly.  Trip motions for Evelyn to continue.  Evelyn gestures that it’s Trip’s turn.  This is verging on the ridiculous, so Trip puts an end to the mime show.

“My clients are people, usually men, who get themselves in certain predicaments,” Trip says, choosing her words carefully.  “They foolishly give things to people that are best not given, or they have things taken from them.  I retrieve said possessions.”

“You’re a thief!”  Evelyn says, her eyes growing wide.

“I’m not a thief,” Trip says fiercely.  She hates that word with a passion.  She’d rather be called a burglar than a thief.  “I am a repo man.  I provide a service, much like you do.”

“Except I’m not breaking any laws!”  Evelyn’s voice has risen which earns her a glare from Trip.

“Just the tacky law,” Trip retorts.  Suddenly, both of them are laughing at the inanity of the situation.

“You really break into people’s houses?”  Evelyn asks, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Tell me more about DiCalvo,” Trip counters.  She doesn’t want to give too much away to this person she just met.  Who knows if it might come back and bite her in the ass?

Evelyn gives Trip a look like she knows Trip is evading the question, but obliges.  Evelyn’s never met this DiCalvo person, of course, so she can’t even confirm if it’s the same bastard who tried to put the screws to Trip.  Mr. O’Reilly kept laughing with this DiCalvo character, saying, ‘That’s a good one, DiCalvo.  DiCalvo!  Hah!  I wouldn’t mind having you on my team, you son-of-a-bitch!”  This joking back and forth went on for ten minutes before Mr. O’Reilly nailed down the specifics.  He would have a name plate ready; his secretary would be informed; there would be nothing of Mr. O’Reilly’s personal effects noticeable to the naked eye.  DiCalvo would have the office for the whole day, including the wet-bar that Mr. O’Reilly kept discreetly in the corner of the office.  Nobody but Mr. O’Reilly and his secretary would know about the switch, and the vic—that would be Trip—would be carefully kept away from the other staff.  Evelyn winds down her tale and continues eating.

“That’s the word O’Reilly used?  ‘Vic’?”  Trip wants to be sure Evelyn is reporting accurately what she heard.

“Yes,” Evelyn nods, plowing her way through the sushi rolls.  Trip’s face heats up; she really does not like being called the same thing she calls her marks.  She can’t believe she got taken for such a fucking ride.  She’s a professional, damn it.  Things like this aren’t supposed to happen to her.

“Anything else?”  Trip bites savagely into a piece of unagi to soothe her feelings.  The sweetness of the barbecue eel does little to improve her temperament.

“Just that Mr. O’Reilly complimented Mr. DiCalvo on his quick thinking in dealing with the problem.  Told DiCalvo he might even take a trip south of the border on his day off.”  Evelyn shrugs as her chopsticks flash over the sushi.  “Then he hit on me again, and I almost told him to fuck off.”  It’s an incredible turn-on to hear foul language escaping from such a traditional-looking Japanese woman.  If Trip wasn’t so disturbed by the new information, she might try to see if Evelyn were up for a little afternoon delight.  “So what’s this about?”  Evelyn asks, lifting a delicately-arched eyebrow.

“I can’t tell you that,” Trip replies.  The less said, the better.  “You’ve helped me, though.  Thank you for that.”  She pauses before asking the question that is really on her mind.  Well, the second question on her mind.  “What made you decide to tell me?  You must have some loyalty towards that son-of-a-bitch.”

“Sisters have to look out for each other,” Evelyn smiles, her full lips curving upwards.  “Besides, I hate that asshole so I don’t owe him anything.  It’s not as if he told me to keep quiet.  That’ll teach him to treat me like a geisha girl!”  Evelyn flushes indignantly, which only makes her more attractive.  A look of speculation crosses her face but quickly disappears.

They talk of other things for the rest of the lunch.  Evelyn is from the Midwest as well, having moved to San Francisco to attend SFSU in design.  Realizing that she didn’t have what it took to be a designer, she dropped out and has been drifting ever since.  That was four years ago.  In the meantime, Evelyn attended massage classes and became a licensed massage therapist.  It’s not what she dreamed of doing with her life, but it pays the bills.  She’s twenty-five, no significant other, but is never hurting for company.  She is unaccountably coy in divulging her orientation, carefully steering clear of gender in her discussion of her private life.  Trip wonders why the subterfuge and presses a bit harder.  Evelyn finally admits that she’s experimented with women, but always returns to men.  She has a theory that anyone who moves to the Bay Area is obligated to bat from the other side at least once because of the historical significance of gay culture for San Francisco.  She lives in Bernal Heights and has no intention of ever leaving.

The whole time they’re conversing, Trip has the oddest feeling that Evelyn is alternating between hitting on her and hiding behind a very high barricade.  First, Evelyn leans forward, a look of rapt attention on her face.  Then, she leans back, looking anywhere but at Trip.  Trip doesn’t know what game Evelyn is playing, but she’s having none of it.  She treats Evelyn as she would any other person who she doesn’t hate and lets it go at that.  The atmosphere isn’t strained between them, but it’s not exactly relaxed, either.  The times when Evelyn isn’t pointedly ignoring Trip or coming on to her, she’s staring at her with a fierce look on her face.  Trip puts up with it for most of the lunch until she is fed up.  She isn’t the type of woman who likes to play games of any sort, and these female-type head games are the worst of all.  She much prefers the macho-bullshit of men to this.

“What’s up, Evelyn?”  Trip asks, pulling out some money and tossing it on the table.  “You’ve been acting crazy for the last half hour.”

“I know,” Evelyn sighs, digging out some money of her own.  “It’s just that, well, I’m not quite sure how to tell you this.  I’m attracted to you but I don’t want to be.”  She flushes and fiddles with her purse.  “Can we blow this place?  I need to smoke.”

“Sure you want to be seen with me?”  Trip asks evenly, standing up and stretching.

“I think it should be ok.”  Evelyn flashes a smile as she stands up as well.  “God, I can’t wait to get out of this get-up.”  She plucks at the voluminous sleeve of her kimono and minces her way outside.  She pulls out a Virginia Slim pack from her bag—Virginia Slim!—and lights up.  “Want one?”  She holds the pack out to Trip who accepts with alacrity.  The taste is strange, but not unpleasant.

“Talk.”  Trip is laconic to the point of comatose.  She is beginning to lose interest in this woman and is fidgety.

“I don’t like what you do,” Evelyn blurts out.  “I mean, it sounds fascinating and all, and I’m sure you think there’s a good reason for what you’re doing, but it’s still against the law.  Besides, I’ve sworn off women for now.”  Her eyes are begging Trip to convince her otherwise, but Trip has no patience for this.

“I do what I do for the money,” Trip says, scowling.  “I do it because I’m good at it.  I do it because it pays the bills.”  Evelyn has the grace to blush.  “Look, I’m not going to justify myself.  It’s my job; I like it.  Enough said.  As for the other—”

“No, not enough said,” Evelyn interrupts, sucking hard on her cigarette.  “What about the morality of it?  Doesn’t it bother you?”

“No,” Trip says simply.  “The people who have their things repossessed by me are usually using the things they acquire to blackmail the people from whom they acquired the stuff.  They are the ones breaking the law—I am merely righting wrongs.”

“Maybe,” Evelyn allows.  “But you do it by breaking into their houses, right?  That’s against the law.”

“So is speeding.  So is feeding a meter more than once.  So is turning right on a red when it says not to.  So is smoking marijuana.  I bet you do one or more of those things on a regular basis,” Trip says, throwing her cigarette into the street.  “So is littering.”

“It’s not the same, and you know it.”  Now, Evelyn is angry, too.  “You’re just playing word games.”

“As to your other point, you should really decide which team you play for so you don’t mess up everyone.”

“Hey, not everyone only plays for one team,” Evelyn says angrily.  “That’s one reason I hate dykes.”

“Who said I was a dyke?”  Trip asks incredulously.  “I did not ever say I was a dyke.”

“You’re straight?”  Evelyn’s anger turns into bewilderment.

“Now who’s making assumptions?”  Trip sighs loudly.  She’s more than done with this conversation.  “Thanks for the information.  See you around.”  She starts walking away from Evelyn, but finds her arm being grabbed.  She stares down at the hand until it’s removed.  As she might have mentioned, she hates being touched without permission.

“Look, I’m sorry.  I hate doing this geisha-girl shit, and I’m taking it out on you.  Can we at least be friends?”  Evelyn’s eyes are beseeching as she stares deeply into Trip’s.  It would be touching except it doesn’t feel completely sincere.

“I have to go,” Trip says coolly.

“Here.  Just take this.”  Evelyn pulls out a scrap of paper and a pen from her bag and scratches her name, numbers, and email address on it.  “Call me or email me, and let’s hang out.  What can it hurt?”  Trip takes the paper, but doesn’t say anything as she walks towards her car.  Her mind is contemplating the information Evelyn has given her.  DiCalvo paid his lawyer to use his office for the day in order to meet her and con her.  He wanted a place where Trip couldn’t find him again, thus the elaborate con.  Trip, who prides herself on being the scammer not the scammee, is seething in indignation.  She hops in her car and turns on the ignition.  What’s her next move?  She decides to return to Vandalia’s apartment and find out more about Angelica Sylvian.  If Sylvian was the mistress of a big-shot, she should be listed on the web somewhere.  That is, if DiCalvo was telling her the truth about that.  Trip suddenly realizes that perhaps DiCalvo had fabricated everything, then pushes the thought away.  The thought that DiCalvo lied about everything is just too horrible to contemplate, so it’s better not to think about it for the present.  Trip will have to validate all parts of DiCalvo’s story so that she can determine what is true and what isn’t.  When she gets her hands on DiCalvo, and she will, she’ll demonstrate to him exactly why it’s such a bad idea to fuck with her.

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