The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 13

David's is stuck in the past, and makes no pretense otherwise. It's dark and sumptuous and romantic in the very classic sense. Their food hasn't changed in 50 years and one could easily believe that the waiters haven't either . . . David's is a place that makes the diner suspend disbelief, logic, and any thought of holding back.

The plates and flatware are big and solid, like the short wide glasses from which men in suits drink single-malt Scotch, or bourbon. The women with those men might be older and elegant, or young and hot, or something in between . . . David's is the place where a woman is special simply because she is a woman; one feels it the instant one sets foot inside. It's an institution from a simpler time, and going there one is starkly reminded of what has been lost in the process of making all those gains.

We're shown to our table, and perhaps it's the candlelight but King looks very good tonight. He keeps in shape and dresses well, so he always looks pretty decent, but tonight he looks better. I muse that we must make a handsome couple -- Me in a little black dress and pearls -- I saw us turn a head or two as we made our way through the restaurant, and in this crowd that's looking very good.

I look at the menu but it's just to have something in My hands -- I know exactly what I'm having -- David's dry-aged porterhouse and a baked potato the size of My niece's head. King orders scotch and I order a martini, and the waiter sweeps away as if on one of those moving sidewalks at the airport.

It's one of those times when there is something to be said both for taking on the subject head on and for very slowly inching one's way up to it. I decide to take the slow approach -- having a bad time at David's would be criminal, and besides, I was open to the (slight) possibility that King had a good reason for not telling Me he'd gone legit.

I looked up from the menu and smiled. "They say that in the old days, they'd give the woman a menu with no prices on it, like in the classic French places."

King smiled as the waiter brought our drinks and swept away, knowing with a good waiter's innate sense that we weren't ready to order just yet.

"A quaint custom . . . no longer necessary in these enlightened times, we're led to believe. Of course it was a money-maker, too . . . if one party is ordering without regard to price it probably boosts the bottom line a bit."

We raised our glasses in a perfunctory toast and I sipped the martini . . . savoring that beautiful clean dryness, finished off with subtle herbal notes. I am not a regular martini drinker but there is something magical about a really well-made one, now and then.

I nodded in return. "Well, there is that aspect . . . ironic that it helps the bottom line to keep the woman in the dark." I tried to deliver that line as innocently as possible.

King didn't bat an eye. "In the dark? I thought the idea was to give the woman the freedom to delight herself, unencumbered by financial considerations." I wasn't the only one who could deliver a good line innocently. And suddenly it seemed as though we were talking about envelopes . . .

I took another drink from My glass. "But some women delight in overcoming those . . . financial considerations." I paused a moment. "And some men, too."

King looked at Me blankly, for just a second.

I smiled. "You know what I mean. Most men . . . don't want to win if the game is rigged in their favor -- they lose interest eventually. They seek out the fair game, where the challenges are greater, but the rewards are infinitely more satisfying."

King suppressed a chuckle with a swig of scotch. "Do tell." It doesn't matter now if he thinks he's humoring Me. I forge head in the direction of the point of this dinner.

"Well, suppose a man is . . . a gangster, for the sake of argument. The game is rigged in his favor . . . no one with half a brain loses money being a gangster. And such a man is not cut out to be a working stiff . . . but, the challenge of running a business . . . or businesses, totally on the up-and-up . . . without the game being rigged . . . one could see that being a huge challenge, with huge personal rewards, not necessarily monetary in nature. At least not solely monetary."

I finished My drink. "And in the long run . . . safer."

The waiter appeared and we ordered our dinner -- I ordered another one of those transcendent martinis.

King's expression suddenly turned philosophical. "Danger is something a young man doesn't think about. Nor is the future. Nor . . . loneliness. One ends up with everything one could want, but nothing that matters."

I am used to hearing lies. Acting jobs. Sales pitches. I am good at telling the truth from a lie, real emotion from sales pitch. I'm looking right at him and for the life of Me I can't tell if that was real or something King thought would sound good to throw Me off.

I hear Frankie Boots in My head: "Doll, when you can't be sure what's what -- just play along and see where it goes."

So I play it straight. "And what matters to you, King?"

King pauses a moment. It's not a studied pause -- he's genuinely considering the question.

"Living long enough to enjoy all this money I've made. Being able to do what I want without worrying so much about who wants a piece of Me. Not thinking about cops, Feds, and DAs with axes to grind. Doing what I like with my money, and, yes . . . making more of it with the game not being rigged, as you put it."

He's telling the truth. Martinis or not, I can tell.

"So why not tell Me, King? You know you could trust Me."

King's expression softens. "I know, X. I know. But I have found that there is a certain value in certain people thinking I am still in that 'rigged game.' Surely you can understand that."

I nodded. Really was self-evident - I shouldn't have needed to ask.  Damned martinis!

"The killings -- I'm pretty sure you're not the target."

"I know I'm not." He paused to drink more scotch. "For a long time, X, I had to have that sixth sense about who wanted to do me harm and who didn't. I couldn't have survived without it. And I still have it. One benefit of that former life I don't mind retaining."

I want to talk about envelopes but King is rolling.

"Once you ruled out Bobby Astro, something fell into place for me. I realized that that world spins on its own axis. There are a few psychos who can't let go, but once you leave it, as long as you leave it the right way, it more or less goes it way and you go yours."

I sip the martini, wondering how many of these I can have and maintain My wits. Assuming I still had them.

"Then why . . . " He reads the question in My mind.

"Why all the envelopes? Well, it's not that I don't think the Blog City PD can solve this, X, but I trust you more than I trust them. I had too many of those clowns on my pad for too long . . . I know their limitations. I knew that you would work hard for the money, and these murders are happening at places I own . . . so I've got an interest in stopping them."

Smooth as silk he pulls an envelope and slides it across the table. I barely feel Myself taking it and slipping it into My little bag. The bastard is good.

The waiter appears with our food. King looks across the table at Me before he digs in. "Besides, it might be confusing if I gave you that later."

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 12

Blog City's District 4 precinct house is distinguished from the other old shabby buildings on its block only by the police cars parked all around it and the constant stream of people coming in and out, pretty much 24/7. District 4 covers a big slice of Blog City's night life, legal and otherwise. Being a cop in this part of town is never dull and considered within the Department as the best place to work to get promoted, because of all that action.

Inside, the precinct house is not unlike the outside -- old and shabby and in need of a very good cleaning. I make My way up to the third floor, where Arty Daniels' office is, mindful of the slightly lingering looks from the cops I pass on My way . . . I made sure to dress as non-flashy as possible, but it's not that . . . cops simply can't help themselves. Even the women, I'd noticed.

The one advantage to an old, shabby filthy building filled with cops is that you can smoke wherever you want. I light a cigarette and lean My head into Arty's office to let him know I'm there; I can see he's on the phone. He waves for Me to sit down so I plop down and wait for his call to finish. I blow some smoke towards the ceiling, idly musing that the nicotine stains on the ceiling are a better color than whatever the hell it was originally.

Arty hangs up the phone and looks at Me with that self-satisfied look that tells Me he's got something and can't wait to bring Me in on the big secret.

He lights up and opens a file folder in front of him on the desk.

"OK. I was thinking about the places where we've found the bodies. Professional domination studio, pool hall, restaurant. No connection except all are owned by King. Obvious, but pretty much a dead end. Right?"

I stub out my cigarette in the "Police Tactics Convention, 2002" ashtray and sit up a bit. "Right."

"Well, I got to thinking about that and did some checking. And some digging and talking to sources. And I don't know what it means . . . and maybe it means nothing, but . . . " Arty pauses for dramatic effect.

I lean forward, a little peeved at the theatrics.

Arty lowers his voice a little. "As far as I can tell, X . . . King has been 100% legit for three years . . . maybe longer."

I'm speechless a moment . . . King? Legit? Arty continues, filling the silence. "I can't tie a single illegal thing to him. He was never involved in drugs, that we know of, but there's no prostitution, no illegal gambling places, no loan sharking, no protection shakedowns, no phony contracting schemes . . . nothing. The snitches I talked to have him totally out of the game for a while now."

I turned this over a bit. King, having lots of money but not having the time a young man has, cashes it all out and buys more legitimate businesses, having figured out that they could have a use other then as fronts for laundering money. He lives longer, sleeps better, and sleeps in his palatial triplex overlooking the City instead of on a cot in a cell in BC Correctional.

It wasn't totally far-fetched. Old gangsters are rare . . . King always was plenty smart.

I collected My thoughts and looked Arty. "OK, let's say that's true. What's the connection to the case?"

Arty looked as if he was going to start a long expository speech, then caught himself. "I'm not sure. But it must mean something, right?"

I liked Arty's optimism in the face of the highly random nature of the universe. "If it's someone from his past . . . maybe that person is trying to pull him back into the life, somehow?"

It was more or less plausible but it didn't quite "play." Plus, the cops (and Me) had been over all of King's enemies, real or imagined, with a fine toothed comb.

Sometimes you just know a thing. Arty and I exchanged a glance and it was clear to both of us that for reasons we both knew but couldn't prove in any court, King was not the target. whoever was doing this found a convenient hook to hang these killings on . . . in all likelihood whoever was paying to have these killings done didn't know that King was now 100% solid tax-paying citizen.

I like cases where I have a bad feeling early on, and then gradually it improves. I don't like cases where I have no feeling early on and end up with a bad feeling. I lifted My eyes skyward in silent communication with the dear departed Frankie Boots . . . this one ain't no ground ball, Frankie.

I got up . . . Arty looked he hadn't been expecting Me to leave. I stopped a moment.

"What is it, Arty? Unless you have some other revelation about this case I need to get out of here."

Arty looked at Me impassively. "No . . . just thinking about stuff, that's all." I nodded and walked out of his office.

Thinking about stuff. At times I wish I could just stop thinking about stuff.

* * *

On the way home I called mandy at the office, making Myself feel less guilty about pretty much blowing off work today.

Just hearing mandy's sweet voice brightened my mood. Nothing major -- apparently I picked a good day to play hooky. Mrs. Frankenhauler paid her somewhat large outstanding balance, mandy informed Me; a few weeks ago I'd have been hanging on that news eagerly . . . today it made little difference -- I hadn't even looked in King's last envelope to see how much was in there. I laughed to Myself that I suddenly was the kind of person with large sums of cash laying around her apartment and not even needing to know how much it was. I made a mental note to give mandy Mrs. Frankenhauler's $3,000 as a bonus.

I made another call -- time for the envelopes to stop. If I was convinced King wasn't the target I certainly couldn't keep taking his money.

* * *

This time I insisted we meet in a restaurant that King didn't own. I was feeling self-righteous and feisty and didn't want to be on King's turf at all.

King, perhaps sensing the situation, responded like the masterful tactician he was: he didn't object to My wanting to not eat at one of his places. In fact he embraced the idea . . . and suggested David's.

Fucker. David's served the best steak in the city . . . King knew that I couldn't resist David's. And dinner at David's meant dressing up a bit . . . and he knew, in that place, with its tremendous food and romantic atmosphere, I'd feel more girly, less . . . judgmental, less inclined to really take him to task for withholding something that had to be pertinent to the case.

I got off the phone, parts upset, anxious, pissed off, and excited. Domme Detective X. Remember. Focus. You're angry. No more envelopes. Be firm.

I stopped at a red light and suddenly the only thought I had had to do with what I was going to wear tonight.

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 11

I lolly-gagged in bed . . . mandy made Me some breakfast and a cup of coffee and then scooted off to the office . . . I lingered, munching on a bagel, half-watching Regis and Kelly, admiring Kelly Ripa's effortless sexiness -- it's really hard to do the "I have no idea how hot I am" thing and pull it off.

I put the plate back on the nightstand and turn the sound down, rolling over and stretching with a sigh, wishing mandy was still here in bed with Me . . . it's one of those days where I feel as though I could nap all day and not feel rested, yet if I did force Myself out of bed I'd be fine.

I close My eyes . . . I'm not taking any chances today.

* * *

Arty Daniels is your classic plodder, and proud of it. He has no pretensions of extreme intelligence, no witty banter or good looks to ease his way up the organizational ladder. He's not known for bold moves -- he's brave, but no more than the job calls for. But what he does have are street smarts, persistence, and a veteran cop's understanding of human nature. And he didn't like to lose . . . he really hated it, in fact. And that trait, perhaps above all the others, made Arty Daniels a very good cop.

Arty's ancient chair creaked as he leaned back and looked at the whiteboard of "clues" in the Cryptic Man case. To call them clues was to give them a status they hadn't achieved -- disconnected facts weren't clues until one made that intuitive leap to associate them . . . they weren't clues until the solver turned them into clues. Arty laughed -- just like cryptic crossword "clues" . . . they were, just like the evidence in this case, simply a bunch of things strung together . . . waiting to be made into a clue.

Arty pulled out a legal pad and began to write.

1. Not a psycho. Psychos have a pattern, a preferred thing they get off on. This killer wasn't pursuing any crazy compulsion.

2. If not a psycho, then a pro. If a pro, then:
2A. Who's paying?
2B Why?

3. King isn't the target . . . someone wanted King dead and has the money to pay for all these hits, he could afford to do directly after King. Unless the idea was to make King really scared, first. Possible.

4. Victims . . . no connection whatsoever.

5. Places. All owned by King . . . other than that, nothing.

Arty paused, then got up and headed over to Records.

* * *

Vallie actually owned quite a nice wardrobe . . . but when he was working he tended to dress down -- he stayed in the part of town where people didn't pay much mind to their neighbors and dressed not to be noticed. But when the job called for it, Vallie could afford to dress very nicely, and did.

This time worked called for it. Monty's Men's Store was near the bank; Vallie got $3,000 in cash and made his way to Monty's. He did have several credit cards in various names, but those were only for non-working times.

The sales clerk at Monty's might've looked askance at Vallie in better times, but commissions were down lately and these days you couldn't tell a millionaire from a pauper anyway.

Vallie was not one to linger in any one place too long, stores included. He saw what he wanted right away, picked it out, and in less than fifteen minutes he'd been measured for alterations, and paid for a beautiful Armani suit, two dress shirts, and two silk ties. $2,882.90. The clerk's eyes widened a moment at the sight of $2,900 cash but he got over it quickly enough to take the money and give Vallie his $17.10 change. He confirmed the suit would be ready tomorrow by 11 and took the shirts and ties and left.

An expensive fifteen minutes, but well worth it in the larger scheme of things. One last job, then leave Blog City behind for a good long time. The back half of a big payday and a lengthy vacation beckoned.

* * *

In My dream I was . . . someone important, it seemed. It was hazy, but I seemed to be in charge of lots of things, and was telling lots of people to do things. The phone was ringing but I couldn't quite reach it . . .

Slowly I woke up . . . the fucking thing was actually ringing . . . mandy wouldn't be calling Me unless the sky was literally falling . . . who the hell . . .

I reach the phone . . . without My glasses the Caller ID is a meaningless blur. "Hello?"

"X, it's Arty." I'm contemplating pretending I'm an answering machine but I don't think I can pull it off. Plus I said "hello" already . . . I think.

"Arty . . . hi."

"I figured out a couple things, I think. Can you come down to the precinct?"

It's one of those times where I know what the right thing to do is, and I'm getting paid so damn much I can't not do it . . .

"OK, Arty. I'll be there in an hour." I don't wait for an answer . . . I'm up and turning on the shower within seconds. In for a dime, in for a dollar, as Frankie Boots used to say.

Belonging And Not Belonging

"I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
Gonna free fall out into nothin’
Gonna leave this world for a while"

From "Free Fallin'" Tom Petty

Sometimes a thing just . . . hits you a certain way. You're not expecting it, and an insight, or a lesson, or just a new way of appreciating something just falls into your lap.

I've heard "Free Fallin" plenty of times. Tonight, driving home form work I heard it again and it was . . . different, somehow. I listened to that last verse, quoted, above, and I felt, much more deeply than ever before, Petty's alienation. And my own.

I've long had the thought . . . that the world is very broadly made up of just two groups of people: Those who belong and those who don't. By that I mean: those who are able to just go along and get along, adn those who don't. The former group never seem particularly unhappy, or stressed; the latter group never seem to be fully happy, totally relaxed, 100% at ease.

When I heard those lyrics tonight, it really crystallized it for Me. It was one of those rare and wonderful times when a song in a moment transports one to some other place, a place of immediately heightened understanding. An understanding that can only be described as bodily.

And from "Free Fallin" I went right to "You Don't Know How It Feels":

"But let me get to the point, let's roll another joint
And turn the radio loud, I'm too alone to be proud
You don't know how it feels
You don't know how it feels to be me"

One powerful thing about the belong/don't belong division is how obviously and strongly it cuts across all of the other divisions in life. Sex, race, religion, economic standing, gay or straight, kinky or vanilla . . . no accident of birth or life circumstance insulates us from belonging or not belonging.

Another powerful thing about this divide is how easy it is to recognize in people. We can meet someone for the first time, and within minutes, if we are looking for it -- and sometimes when we're not -- we know which side of the divide they fall on.

And, as far as I can tell, it's more or less impossible to "switch sides" in this divide.

That this divide is so universal, so easily recognized, and very hard to cross leads Me to logically conclude (or at least expect) that it must have some utility.

But . . . what utility, exactly? And what does any of this have to do with any aspect of D/s?

Well, for Me at least, knowing about it, thinking about it, swimming in it . . . revelatory musical discoveries about it -- don't help. To "not belong" feels just as bad when it feels bad . . . and retains its sour goodness when it feels good.

I wonder if D/s couples from opposite sides of the divide are a good match? For that matter, perhaps people from opposite sides of the divide make good (or no good) vanilla couples?

The way it feels to Me -- I couldn't imagine being intimately involved with someone who was happy-go-lucky, totally at ease with life. What would we talk about? But for others, that difference, extreme as it is, could be just the thing . . . I can see two people complementing each other like that.

For right now I don't have any overwhelming insight. For today, to have been reminded so powerfully, so totally, of who I am and where I stand on the side of this massive existential divide, was enough.