Chapter 7 - The Secondary, February 3 - March 28, 2000 - Episode 7Listen to podcast
The limo arrives but the bankers have bad news. The snow has closed Logan airport at least temporarily and they are not sure it’ll reopen this evening. The private jet that’s supposed to take them to New York for the next day’s meetings can’t get into Boston and there’s a backlog of planes on the ground around the country waiting for clearance in. Their first meeting is a breakfast at the Jockey Club in New York so they can’t take a chance on waiting for morning.
Larry suggests the train, but they’ve checked that. There are no reservations available. They could get on an unreserved coach train to New York but those are running very late because of some frozen switches and are probably very crowded, maybe standing room only. Also the storm — a Nor’easter — is blanketing the Rhode Island and Connecticut coasts and may disrupt the trains even more.
“Okay,” says Larry. “Let’s take the limo down to New York.”
The black stretch limo they’re in has stripes and dots of colored mood lighting in its interior. Now that it’s dark, the garishness of the lighting is more apparent. The driver is separated from them by a smoked glass window. Larry lowers it and says: “Hi. We need to go to New York instead of Logan. No planes there. Any problem?”
“Can’t do that,” says the driver. He has a broad Boston accent.
“We just do local jobs. Never been West of Framingham in my life.”
“Well, I know the way,” says Larry. “No problem.”
“Look, sir, I cuhnt take you down theah. That’s not what we do,” his accent grows broader.
“Try your office,” says Larry. “Maybe they have someone else who can take us down.”
The driver tells Larry, again, that they don’t do long trips but does try to call. He can’t get a dial tone on his cell phone. Larry has intermittent dial tone but gets a fast busy when he tries the number the driver tells him to call.
“Whole city is fucked up,” says Larry. “Everybody’s trying to call at he same time to say they’re gonna be late getting home or change their reservations or something. Look, let’s try this.” He hands the driver two 100 dollar bills. “You can say we hijacked you or something. Don’t worry, my banker friends’ll make everything okay with your boss. There’s two more of those for you when you get us to New York. And a hotel room at the W, too.”
“Don’t wanna stay at no W,” says the driver, but he folds the bills and puts them in his shirt pocket. “They got queahs theah.”
“They got what? says Larry.
“Queahs, queahs always stay at Ws.”
“Queahs? Oh, you mean ‘queers’ — gay people,” says Larry amused. “Do you mean Versace? Elton John? Who d’you mean?”
“Who? I don’t know those guys. Just queahs.”
“He thinks it’s the ‘Y’,” says Donna angrily to Larry. “This is a fucking nightmare. At least I thought we were going to get home tonight.”“‘W’… ‘Y’ — same thing,” says the driver. “Okay, first we gotta get outta this city. Looks like the ramps to the Turnpike down here’re blocked.”
A few minutes later they’re in the Sumner Tunnel headed for Logan airport.
“He’s taking us to Logan,” Donna hisses to Larry. “He’s just gonna dump us there to get rid of us. We’re gonna end up spending the night at the airport.”
Larry rolls the window down again. “Why are we going to Logan? It’s closed.”
“I know,” says the driver smiling. “That makes it the best way outta town. Trust me.”
“Trust him,” Larry tells Donna.
She turns angrily away and stares out the window at the grimy yellow tunnel walls. They are the only car in the tube.
When they arrive at the airport end of the tunnel, they snake through local streets on the periphery of the airport where snow-covered planes stand like ghosts of themselves and the rotating beacon lights only the underside of the falling snow. In a few minutes they are in a much newer tunnel.
The driver rolls down the window. “Ted Williams Tunnel,” he tells Larry. “Leads right onto the Turnpike.”
And it does. In a few minutes they are on the almost empty Mass Turnpike Extension in a canyon sunk below the old streets of Boston. Few cars can join them because most of the ramps are blocked by cars and even semis that have slipped on the greasy snow. The Turnpike, itself, is being sanded and salted by a fleet of trucks and they can and do easily make fifty on it.
“Okay,” says Larry. “We’re going to New York. Nothing stops hackoff. Bet the antihack guys are stuck and going nowhere.”
“Good job, Larry,” says Rachel Roth. The bankers have been very quiet during the commandeering of the limo. “It will be nice to get home tonight.”
“You’re welcome,” says Larry.
“How did things go at Semper?” asks Rachel. “We haven’t heard anything from the salesman, but that’s probably just because of the weather.”
“Tommy Chen was hard on us,” says Larry. “But Donna cheered him up. I think we’ll be okay.”
“Good work, Donna,” says Rachel.
“Yeah,” is all Donna says. Then: “Larry, these mood lights are obnoxious. Can you get your friend to turn them off, please?”
At the moment, everyone is purple. By the time Larry has the window rolled down to the driver, they are red. The driver is sorry but he doesn’t have a switch up front for them, maybe there’s something in back. Do they want him to pull over so he can look for it? Larry says they don’t; he’ll look himself. They play musical chairs as Larry searches the back of the limo. He finds some warm soda; a package of condoms (opened); controls for the heat; controls for the radio; a switch that turns on white lights; but nothing for the mood lights.
“Skip it,” Donna says. They are all blue now.
There is a long bench seat down the left side of the limo. A smaller bench seat goes across the back and the door on the right side opens just forward of that. There’s a bar with dusty glasses and the warm soda. In front of that and behind the driver’s window is a single seat. Larry and Jason are sitting on the side seat. Donna is nearest the door on the back seat. Rachel is as far from her as it is possible to be on the other side of the back seat and kitty-corner from Larry.
“When do you think we’ll be in New York?” asks Rachel.
“Depends on the roads,” says Larry. “Probably after midnight at this rate. I’m going to have the driver stay away from the Coast. In this weather, there’s usually less snow inland.”
“Are you interested in meteorology, Larry?” Rachel asks.
“No,” says Larry. “I’m interested in mushrooms but they grow in weather.”
“Mushrooms?” asks Rachel. “I didn’t know about that.”
They make small talk for a while. Larry’s mushroom hobby and some recent mushroom hunts he’s been on. Rachel’s relationship with Ahmed. They still live together. Ahmed met her parents and it went okay. Sort of. She still hasn’t met Ahmed’s parents. He still isn’t very romantic. He has a good new job, though. He is New York liaison for a Palestinian group helping to outsource jobs to Palestinians in what he calls the ‘occupied territories’ — not that he’s very political.
“What was Davos like?” Rachel asks.
“If there was such a thing as an establishment, this would be it,” says Larry. He tells her about all the famous people who were there and about the demonstrators who suddenly disappeared.
Jason is working on his computer in the dim and shifting light. Donna is silent. Eventually the silence spreads.
“I’m gonna try to sleep some,” announces Larry. He tells the driver to take Route 84 towards Hartford — it’s either south or west, he’s not sure which — at Sturbridge. Then stay on 84 through Hartford. Make sure to wake him, Larry, up when they cross the New York border for more directions. Larry’d be glad to drive if the driver is getting sleepy.
The driver explains that he can’t let Larry drive because he doesn’t have a limo license, but he’s fine, used to working double shifts, and this is easier than Boston traffic. Larry congratulates the driver on being west of Framingham for the first time and asks Jason to take the single seat so he can stretch out. Jason is glad to.
“Before you go to sleep, Larry,” says Rachel, “let’s find out how many people want hotel rooms in New York besides the driver. Larry, you already have a reservation at the ‘W’ so I assume you don’t want to go back to Atlantic Highlands?”
“Louise is away,” says Larry. “Yeah, I’ll stick with the ‘W’. Protect the driver from the ‘queahs’.”
“Donna?” asks Rachel when Donna doesn’t say anything.
“I’m sleeping at home,” says Donna.
Turns out portions of Route 684 around Golden Bridge, New York are closed because of flooding. Larry, waking from a deep sleep when the limo stops at the police roadblock on 684, realizes that he is in a part of the world that he visited intensely many years ago during a short-lived romance with a distant relative of the Rockefellers whose estates still dominate the tops of the rolling hills. Half-awake and half-asleep, he fashions a bypass with only one or two back-trackings on the dark, wet two lane highways of the region. Still, it is very late — close to 2:00 AM — when the limo enters upper Manhattan.
The apartment Rachel shares with Ahmed is in Morningside Heights so dropping her off is the first stop.
“Ahmed coming down to let you in?” asks Larry. “Don’t want to just drop you on the curb this time of night.”
“No problem,” says Jason. “I’ll get out here, too, and see her in. Easy enough for me to take the subway to Brooklyn then.”
“You sure?” asks Larry. “We could easily get you a cab from the ‘W’. It’s a long subway ride this time of night.”
“No problem,” insists Jason.
He and Rachel get out. Larry has the limo wait long enough to see them both go in, then instructs the driver on heading downtown towards Donna’s brownstone on 95th Street.
Once the car is under way again, Larry moves to the back seat next to Donna. “You think they’re fucking?” he asks. “Maybe Ahmed the Arab isn’t even home.”
“Don’t care,” says Donna. “But if you looked somewhere besides at her ass you would’ve seen that a light went on upstairs just as they were going in the downstairs door.”
“Is Francis home?” asks Larry.
“Doesn’t matter,” says Donna.
“What do you mean,” says Larry. “Doesn’t matter to whom?”
“Doesn’t matter to whether I’m going home tonight. I am.”
“Well, I was thinking that … if Francis isn’t home … I do have the room at the ‘W’…”
No answer from Donna.
Larry continues: “It’s sort of a tradition with us that we relive our youth after we pitch Tommy Chen at Semper. I mean…”
“Forget it,” says Donna. “I’m going home.”
When the car reaches Donna’s brownstone, it double-parks, blocking the narrow street and Larry gets out with Donna. She has her key out and opens the first door swiftly but fumbles for a minute with the key to the second. Meanwhile, a cab honks raucously to move the limo out of its path.
“Go ahead,” says Donna. “Your ride’s leaving.”
“He’ll just circle,” says Larry. “I’ll make sure you’re in safe.”
“You’re very gallant tonight,” says Donna, “making sure all the little girls get home safe. If you want to get laid, I suggest you go back to Atlantic Highlands.” She manages to open the second door; lights come on but no husband appears.
“Louise is away,” says Larry. “See you at the Jockey Club in the morning.”“So, look, this is the ‘W’,” says Larry to the driver,when they arrive at the front doors. “We’ll get you checked in somewhere safe from the ‘queahs’. Maybe the doorman’ll know where you can park the limo.”
“I’m gonna drive back to Boston,” says the driver. “Got a job tomorrow afternoon I don’t wanna miss.”
“You sure?” asks Larry. “Drive all the way back? You gotta be exhausted.”
“Like I said, I’m used to it,” says the driver, “and the weather’s cleahed up.” The sky has been washed clean and cold stars are visible in midtown Manhattan.
“Good luck,” says Larry. He gives the driver the extra 200 dollars he’d promised plus another 100 as a tip.
When Larry goes to the desk to check in, the woman at the desk tells him that someone has already checked in for his room and is in it. Of course, for security reasons, she can’t tell him who that is or give him the room number. Larry complains loudly enough to draw both a security guard and the night manager who does consent to have Larry call the room although without revealing the room number. Security looks like he would just as soon arrest him.
“Hello,” says a sleepy-sounding Louise.
“Louise? Aren’t you at your mother’s?”
“Obviously not,” says Louise.
“Is something wrong?”
“No. I wanted to surprise you,” says Louise. “I didn’t want you to come home to Atlantic Highlands when you have to be in New York so early in the morning so I made up the story about going to my mothers and came here to surprise you instead. Of course, I did think you were going to get back a little earlier than this but the Barcourt travel office kept me informed about the weather and everything…”
“How about letting me come up? What room are you in?”
She gives them the room number but ‘W’ security insists both on verifying with her and checking his ID before letting him go up. “I’m sorry, sir, but we have to be very careful these days.”
Louise is in a new negligee. “I was hoping to have you to myself for a little longer,” she says. “What time do you have to get up?”
“Got to be at the Jockey Club at 8:15 for an 8:30 breakfast,” says Larry. “So up at seven. Hey, that’s a whole four hours from now.”
“Maybe we better just sleep,” says Louise. “Snuggle me.”
“How did you manage to check into my hotel room?” asks Larry. “How come all that security didn’t stop you from checking in?”
“Barcourt arranged everything. The hotel knew I was coming. I called that nice banker lady, Rachel. She thought it was very romantic — of course, we’re probably old enough to be her parents. Anyway, she put me in touch with the travel people there and they arranged everything.”
“Yeah, everything except letting me in,” says Larry. “Did Donna know about this?”
“Yeah, I originally called her to see if she and Francis wanted to join us for a late dinner so he and I could listen wide-eyed and open-mouthed to how well the two of you did in Boston. But he’s out of town and she said she just wanted to get home and collapse in her own bed for a night. Why?”
“Nothing,” says Larry. “She was acting a little strange. Maybe just that she knew your secret.”
“How’s your secret?” asks Louise cupping his limp genitals under the blanket.
“Thanks for surprising me,” says Larry as he touches her clitoris lightly with the side of his thumb. “How’re your secrets?”
On the way back to Boston, the driver calls his cousin’s husband: “Okay,” he says, “I heahed a lot about a company called — get this — hackoff.com. Maybe Semper’s gonna buy some more of their stock and maybe they ain’t but this company’s got some problems. The CFO’s a broad and the CEO’s trying to fuck her, for one. I figuh you’ll know what to do.”