Late on Thursday afternoon Jules LaRocca appeared once more. "Gotta message from Tony. He's sending wheels for ya tomorra morning."
Danny nodded, but it was Miles who asked, "Wheels to take him where?"
Both Danny and LaRocca looked at him sharply without answering, and Miles wished he hadn't asked.
That night, deciding to take an acceptable risk, Miles telephoned Juanita. He waited until after locking Danny in his cubicle shortly before midnight, then walked downstairs to use a pay phone on the club's main floor. Miles put in a dime and dialed Juanita's number. On the first ring her voice answered softly, "Hello."
The pay phone was a wall type, in the open near the bar, and Miles whispered so he would not be overheard. "You know who this is. But don't use names." "Yes," Juanita said.
"Tell our mutual friend I've discovered something important here. Really important. it's most of what he wanted to know. I can't say more, but I'll come to you tomorrow night." "All right."
Miles hung up. Simultaneously, a hidden tape recorder in the club basement, which had switched on automatically when the pay phone receiver was lifted, just as automatically switched off.
Some verses from Genesis, like subliminal advertising, flashed at intervals through Roscoe Heyward's mind: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
In recent days, Heyward had worried at the question: Had his illicit sexual affair with Avril, which began that memorable moonlit night in the Bahamas, become his own tree of evil from which he would harvest the bitterest of fruit? And was all that was happening adversely now the sudden, alarming weakness of Supranational, which could thwart his own ambition at the bank intended as a personal punishment by God?
Conversely: If he severed all ties with Avril decisively and at once, and expunged her from his thoughts, would God forgive him? Would He, in acknowledgment, restore strength to Supranational and thereby revive the fortunes of His servant, Roscoe? Remembering Nehemiah… Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness… Heyward believed He might.
The trouble was, there was no way to be sure.
Also, weighing against severance from Avril was the fact that she was due in the city on Tuesday, as they had arranged last week. Amid his current melange of problems, Heyward longed for her.
Through Monday and early Tuesday morning in his office, he vacillated, knowing he could telephone New York and stop her. But at midmorning Tuesday, aware of flight schedules from New York, he realized it was too late and he was relieved that no decision could be taken.
Avril phoned in late afternoon, using the unlisted line which rang directly on his desk. "Hi, Rossiel I'm at the hotel. Suite 432. The champagne's on ice but I'm hot for you."
He wished he had suggested a room instead of a suite, since he would be paying. For the same reason, champagne seemed needlessly extravagant and he wondered if it would be ungracious to suggest sending it back. He supposed it would. "I'll-be with you shortly, my dear," he said.
He managed a small economy by having a bank car and chauffeur take him to the Columbia Hilton. Heyward told the man, "Don't wait."
As he entered Suite 432, her arms went around him immediately and those full lips hungrily ate at his own. He held her tightly, his body reacting at once with the excitement he had come to know and crave. Through the cloth of his trousers he could feel Avril's long slim thighs and legs, moving against him, teasing, shifting, promising, until all of him seemed concentrated in a few square inches of physique. Then, after several moments, Avril released herself, touched his cheek, and moved away.
"Rossie, why don't we get our business arrangements out of the way? Then we can relax, not worry any more."
Her sudden practicality jolted him. He wondered: Was this the way it always happened. the money first, before fulfillment? Yet he supposed it made sense. If left until afterward, a client his urgency gone and appetite sated might be disinclined to pay.
"All right," he said. He had put two hundred dollars in an envelope; he gave it to Avril. She took the money out and began counting it, and he asked her, "Don't you trust me?" "Let me ask you something," Avril said. "Suppose I took money to your bank and paid it in, wouldn't someone count it?" "They certainly would." "Well, Rossie; people have as much right as banks to look out for themselves." She finished counting and said pointedly, "This is the two hundred for me. As well as that, there's my air fare plus taxis, which comes to a hundred and twenty; the rate on the suite is eighty-five; and the champagne and tip were twenty-five. Why don't we say another two hundred and fifty? That should cover everything." Staggered by the total, he protested, "That's a lot of money." "I'm a lot of woman. It's no more than Supranational spent when they were paying, and you didn't seem to mind then. Besides, if you want the best, the price comes high." Her voice had a direct, no-nonsense quality and he knew he was meeting another Avril, shrewder and harder than the yielding, eager-to-please creature of a moment before. Reluctantly, Heyward took two hundred and fifty dollars from his wallet and handed it over. Avril placed the full amount in an interior compartment of her purse. "Therel That's business finished. Now we can attend to loving." She turned to him and kissed him ardently, at the same time moving her long, deft fingers lightly through his hair. His hunger for her, which had briefly flagged, began to revive. "Rossie, sweetie," Avril murmured, "when you came in, you looked tired and worried." "I've had a few problems lately at the bank." "Then we'll get you loosened. You'll have champagne first, then you can have me." Dexterously she opened the bottle, which was in an ice bucket, and filled two glasses.
They sipped together, this time Heyward not bothering to mention his teetotalism. Soon, Avril began to undress him, and herself. When they were in bed she whispered to him constantly, endearments, encouragement… "Oh, Rossiel You're so big and strong!"… "What a man you arel"… "Go slow, my dearest; slow"… "You've brought us to Paradise"… "If only this could last forever!" Her ability was not only to arouse him physically, but to make him feel more a man than ever before. Never, in all his desultory couplings with Beatrice, had he dreamed of this at/-encompassing sensation, a glorious progression toward fulfillment so complete in every way. "Almost there, Rossie"… "Whenever you tell me"… "Yes, darling! Oh, please, yes!" Perhaps some of Avril's response was acting. He suspected that it might be, but it no longer mattered. What did, was the deep, rich, joyous sensuality he had discovered, through her, in himself. The crescendo passed. It would remain, Roscoe Heyward thought, as one more exquisite memory. Now they lay, sweetly langorous, while outside the hotel the dusk of early evening turned to darkness and the city's lights winked on. Avril stirred first. She padded from the bedroom to the suite living room, returning with filled glasses of champagne which they sipped while they sat in bed and talked. After a while Avril said, "Rossie, I want to ask your advice." "Concerning what?" What girlish confidence was he about to share? "Should I sell my Supranational stock?" Startled, he asked, "Do you have much?" "Five hundred shares. I know that isn't a lot to you. But it is to me about a third of my savings." He swiftly calculated that Avril's "savings" were approximately seven times greater than his own. "What have you heard about SuNatCo? What makes you ask?" "for one thing, they've cut back a lot on entertaining, and I've been told they're short of money, and they aren't paying bills. Some of the other girls were advised to sell their shares, though I haven't sold mine because they're trading at a lot less than when I bought." "Have you asked Quartermain?" "None of us have seen him lately. Moonbeam… You remember Moonbeam?" "Yes." Heyward was reminded that Big George offered to send the exquisite Japanese girl to his room. He wondered how it would have been. "Moonbeam says Georgie has gone to Costa Rica and may stay there. And she says he sold a lot of his own SuNatCo shares before he went." Why hadn't he sought out Avril as a source of information weeks ago? "If I were you," he said, 'I'd sell those shares of yours tomorrow. Even at a loss." She sighed. "It's hard enough to earn money. It's harder still to keep it." "My dear, you have Just enunciated a fundamental financial truth." There was a silence, then Avril said, "I'll remember you as a nice man, Rossie." 'Thank you. I shall think of you in a special way too." She reached out to him. "Try again?" He closed his eyes in pleasure while she caressed him. She was, as always, expert. He thought: Both of them accepted that this was the last time they would meet. One reason was practical: He couldn't afford Avril any more. Beyond that was a sense of events stirring, of changes imminent, of a crisis coming to a head. Who knew what would happen after lust before they made love, he remembered his earlier concern about the wrath of God. Well, perhaps God the father of Christ who acknowledged human frailty, who walked and talked with sinners and died with thieves would understand. Understand and forgive the truth that in Roscoe Heyward's life a few sweet moments of his greatest happiness had been in the company of a whore.