By Jacob Hugart
Patrick Johnson sipped his wine. It would stretch the limit of his meal allowance for his trip, but the kitchen of this hotel produced excellent – and inexpensive – dinners. If his just completed meal was a typical example.
With a sigh, he reclined in his chair. The hostess had seated him by the glass doors which, during the day, opened onto a courtyard dining patio. Patrick was becoming very familiar with the arrangement of tables and chairs on the patio. Usually, he enjoyed talking to his wife during dinner, but she was half a continent away. His company discouraged the practice of having one’s spouse along on business trips by the simple method of making the paperwork unfathomable.
He had endured the silence surrounding his meal with the grim determination that his manners would be impeccable – and not one crumb had fallen on the tablecloth – but he had to look somewhere, and instead of staring at one of the handful of patrons in the large dining room, he stared out at the patio.
Not that he hadn’t noticed the other diners: a man, woman and two children at one of the round tables, two men conversing by another window table somewhere behind him; a lone woman in a corner booth. All served by the same waiter. And two hostesses had seated all the patrons in such a way that the waiter was forced to cover the entire space of the dining room to visit each occupied table.
Patrick watched as the waiter distributed bills to the other diners before approaching his table with another glass of wine … and a small white box.
“Compliments of the lady,” said the waiter, glancing to the corner booth. He set the glass and the box down, then withdrew.
Patrick looked toward the booth, but the woman was concentrating on a slice of chocolate cake. When Patrick reached for his glass, she looked up and smiled; a winning smile in a not unattractive face. Patrick nodded his head with a small smile, and raised the glass in acknowledgement. The woman’s eyes then darted to the box on the table as her lips pursed together. Looking back at Patrick with one eyebrow arched, she seemed to ask, Aren’t you curious about the box?
Patrick took a deep breath and let it out. He could appreciate the wine, but was not interested in any rendezvous. Setting down his glass, he reached for the box.
Opening it, he was surprised to discover no message, no room key … just a small plastic device with a little dial on one side. Turning it over in his hands, he noted a small door which resembled a battery compartment. He looked back to the woman, only to see that she had returned to her dessert.
Tentatively, he placed his thumb against the dial. Slight pressure didn’t budge it. A firmer touch released it. Unsure of what to expect, Patrick slowly ran the dial up as far as it would go. Noticing no effect, he dialed it back down again, until the feel of a soft click told him he had returned it to its original setting.
He looked up to the woman with a frown of confusion on his face, to see her sitting against the upholstery of the booth, head back, eyes closed, hands on the table. Slowly, her eyes opened, and a winning smile began to grow on her face.
Patrick’s eyes flicked to the little plastic box, then back to the woman. Her grin seemed a little wider. On impulse, Patrick flicked the dial on and off quickly.
At that, the grin vanished from the woman’s face and her eyes shut quickly. She opened them and looked back at Patrick shaking her head a little.
Then he understood.
Suddenly alarmed, he looked furtively around the dining room. The waiter was involved in the cleaning of the round table, and the two men were just leaving. He realized that the hostesses couldn’t really see the corner booth too well, at least not the spot the woman was sitting in.
Relaxing a little, his mind raced with questions. Who was she? What did she want? What was this thing? Looking toward the woman, he noticed that she was apparently ignoring him as she continued with her dessert.
Eyes narrowing, he thumbed the dial to its highest level and left it there.
The woman shuddered as if a jolt of electricity has passed through her. The hand which had been beside her dessert plate spasmed, knocking down her glass of wine. Instantly the waiter moved to the table to mop up the liquid, and Patrick turned the dial to what he presumed was the off position.
He heard the woman making her apologies to the waiter. Not quite able to hear the words, Patrick thought the sound of her voice was mellow, almost musical. She accepted the waiter’s offer of a new glass of wine. As the waiter left, she looked at Patrick. Her eyes widened momentarily and she took a deep breath, like someone who has barely escaped from an embarrassing situation. Then she beamed at Patrick.
In spite of himself, Patrick smiled in response. This was much better than the patio furniture. Patrick suddenly noticed her dark red lips as the woman placed another morsel of chocolate cake into her mouth. Quickly, he thumbed the dial again, but kept it on low.
The look on her face was clearly one of pleasure. Curious, Patrick left the dial at that level, even as the waiter approached with the new glass of wine for the woman.
“The dessert, it is good?” he heard the waiter ask. The woman’s eyes opened at the question, and she remembered to chew her cake again. “Mmm hmm,” she confirmed. Smiling, the waiter left the dining room.
The woman looked at Patrick again, slowly chewing her mouthful of cake, her eyelids slightly drooping. He noticed that her hair was straw colored. She appeared to be dressed for an elegant evening on the town. Patrick moved the dial up a little.
The woman’s eyes closed. She swallowed, and her hands went to the table’s edge. Curious, Patrick slowly increased the setting on the dial. The woman slightly arched he back as he did so, her hands gripping the table tightly.
Looking back at the device in his hands, he knew it had to be a remote control, but for what? It had not identifying marks on it. Maybe it was handmade.
Patrick looked at the woman again. She had moved her head to one side , chin held high, a look almost of pain on her face. Patrick rolled the dial to a lower setting and she seemed to relax a bit. As her eyes began to open, he moved the dial up again.
Instantly, she shut her eyes and nibbled at her lower lip. Patrick set the dial to the highest setting, then back to its lowest, and slowly up to its highest. The woman seemed to gasp at this, shuddering slightly.
It’s so quiet, thought Patrick, like a silent movie. Again he moved the dial back and forth across its range. Again, the woman relaxed and tensed.
Patrick found himself becoming aroused by her – responses? Yes, he was the one stimulating her. Somehow. Briefly, he wondered if he was doing something wrong. Then he shook that off, and looked at the woman again as he manipulated the dial.
Her legs, revealed by the skirt she wore, seemed to tense too. As if that was a signal. Patrick moved the dial to its highest setting and she did gasp, he could just hear it. Then her shoulders slumped, and her hands moved from the table to her lap.
As the waiter set the bill in front of Patrick, he quickly came back to reality, shut off the dial and left the device on the table. The waiter stood by patiently as Patrick scrawled his room number and surname on the bill. Placing his copy of the receipt in his pocket, he heard a pleasant, female voice. “Excuse me, but I believe this is mine.” Patrick looked up and saw the woman from the booth, caught off guard, he quickly replied, “Uh, yes, I guess it must be.”
The woman smiled. “Thank you for taking care of it for me.”
Two interpretations of her statement flashed through his mind before he settled on the safer one. “What is it?” he asked. She smiled again. “Just a toy of mine. Good night,” she turned, and left the room. Patrick stared at the table cloth, slightly perplexed. The empty box, he saw, was still there. So it wasn’t a dream. How very odd. Then he noticed the business card tucked inside … mail order novelties, with a local address and telephone number. Hmmmmm
Pocketing the card, he gulped the remainder of his wine, then stood and walked out of the dining room. The hostesses smiled at him as he left, wishing him a good evening.
For some reason, their smiles bothered him but he decided it was just his imagination. He smiled in return, and went up to his room.
He was still smiling when he arrived, for he had decided upon a gift to present to his wife when he returned. He hoped she’d like it.