Henry stepped into the dining room at six-thirty-three, as the shadows began
to stretch across the surrounding hellish landscape. He laid eyes on his client
sitting in a blue dress and on a couch in a corner of the room, a tall glass in
her hand, and he forced himself to smile.
The fortyish blonde smiled herself, shyly, as she stood up from the couch.
“You must be Dick.”
Henry took the not-unattractive woman’s hand and kissed it gently. “I am. And
you must be Valerie. Welcome to Mirage Springs.”
“Yes, thank you.” Valerie pulled the hand away. “I only stepped off the plane
an hour ago.”
“Very.” Valerie held her glass with both hands now. “My husband sent me over
in the Leer.”
“Yes, I guess your own private jet would be nice.”
“Well, it’s actually the company jet, but let’s not talk about that,” Valerie
replied in a quick string of words. “I didn’t fly all the way from Atlanta for
small talk, did I?”
“No, I suppose you didn’t.” Henry shoved his clammy hands in his pockets. “I
trust Larry laid everything out for you?” He blushed at his choice of words.
“It’s okay.” Valerie looked past Henry’s shoulder at the candlelit table for
two that had been set with two soups by a silent waiter. Then she looked down at
the half-empty glass. “He told me I shouldn’t drink any alcohol the entire week.
It’s not good for the process, but boy, could I use one right now.”
Henry gently placed a hand on each of her arms. “It’s okay. Eating something
Valerie managed another smile, a warm one. “Yes, I suppose it would.”