The Maintenance Man
A Novel

By Michael Baisden

Scribner

Copyright © 1999 Michael Baisden. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-743-20478-6



Chapter One


I was 9:10 P.M. when my flight arrived in Los Angeles right on schedule. I grabbed my garment bag from the overhead compartment and rushed to meet my limo. My appointment with Helen was at 1:00 A.M. and Tina was waiting downtown at the Marriott. I was determined to kill two birds with one stone.

When I arrived at baggage claim, there was a tall distinguished-looking black man holding up a cardboard sign with my name neatly printed on it.

"Excuse me," I said, while extending my hand. "I'm Malcolm Tremell."

"Hello, Mr. Tremell. Allow me to take your bag."

"Thank you, Mr....?"

"My name is Allen," he said, "but everybody calls me Big Al."

"Well, let's go. I'm in a hurry!"

When I stepped outside the automatic doors, the brutal Los Angeles heat welcomed me home. June was always humid in southern California, even at night. Big Al wiped his forehead with a towel as he laid my garment bag inside the trunk of the freshly waxed black limousine. Then he politely opened my door.

Once inside the car, he buckled his seat belt and put the car in drive.

"Help yourself to a cold drink," he said while pulling out into traffic. "The bar is stocked with everything from cranberry juice to Moët."

"Don't mind if I do."

I poured myself a shot of Christian Brothers brandy and leaned back against the soft leather interior. As we merged onto Highway 105, I tuned the radio station in to 102.3. The deejay's sexy voice serenaded me as we maneuvered through the dense L.A. traffic.

"You're listening to KJLH," she announced. "Coming up next, your request for Anita Baker and Barry White. But first, an old-school classic by Kool and the Gang, 'Summer Madness.'" She paused as the intro began to play. "This song goes out to all you children of the night."

It was as if she were playing that song especially for me. I was definitely a child of the night, a moon child, a Cancer. It had been three days since I last saw daylight. My workdays began after 8:00 P.M. and ended before sunrise. On the days when I had no appointments, I kept my blinds shut and curtains drawn — I lived like a vampire.

The drive downtown to the Marriott took thirty-five minutes. It was 9:55 P.M. and the clock was ticking. I gave Big Al instructions to pick me up at eleven-thirty then rushed into the hotel. Tina checked into Room 1001, like always. I hopped aboard the elevator hoping she was ready.

As I approached the room, I could smell the familiar aroma of jasmine incense burning. I knocked on the door and put my hand over the peephole.

"Who is it?" she asked apprehensively.

"It's the plumber, ma'am," I said, trying to disguise my voice. "We received a call that the sink was backed up."

"There's nothing wrong with my sink. Are you sure you have the right room?"

"I'm looking right at the job order, ma'am. It says Room 1001. Guest needs drain unstopped."

When I burst out laughing, she was on to me. Tina opened the door buck naked and popped me upside the head.

"Malcolm, you scared the hell out of me!"

"I'm sorry, baby. Let me make it up to you."

I backed her into the candlelit room and dropped my garment bag. Then I lifted her by the cheeks and carried her over to the bed.

"I love a man who knows how to take control," she said.

"And I love a woman who knows how to let a man be The Man." I gently laid her down on the bed and began taking off my clothes.

"Hurry up, Malcolm," she said while pulling at the buttons on my silk shirt. "I'm horny as hell."

"Slow down, baby. These clothes aren't cheap," I said while backing away. "Let me do this."

"Why are you worried about your damn shirt?" She sounded upset. "I can afford a thousand shirts."

What she really meant was her husband could afford a thousand shirts. Tina was going through an ugly divorce with a star point guard in the NBA. Every dime she had came out of his bank account.

I didn't want to ruin the mood so I poured two glasses of the Moët champagne she had chilling out on the terrace. Then I proposed a toast.

"Here's to six months of good conversation, good company, and great sex."

"I'll drink to that!" she said.

While I sipped on my drink, I casually looked over at the clock on the nightstand, it read ten-fifteen. I excused myself to the bathroom and immediately went into action. I hung my clothes neatly over the shower rod, brushed my teeth, shaved, and took a quick shower. Within ten minutes I was ready.

"It's about time," Tina said with an attitude.

"I promise you, it will be worth the wait."

I pulled a Trojan condom and a metal flask of baby oil out of my garment bag and heated the flask by the fire from the candle. "Turn over on your stomach, baby," I told her.

I poured the warm oil on her back and massaged it into her shoulders. Once she relaxed, I slowly ran my tongue from her lower back to the base of her neck.

"Ssss, do that again, baby," she begged.

"Say please," I insisted.

"Please, please, please, with sugar on top."

I used my tongue like a wet probe, boldly going where no man had gone before. Twenty minutes into the foreplay, Tina couldn't take it anymore. "Stop teasing, baby," she said, sighing. "Give it to me." I pushed her legs back toward the headboard as far as they would go then I dove in. The candlelight cast an erotic shadow onto the hotel room wall. It was like looking into a smoked mirror. I tried to concentrate but I kept staring at the silhouette of her body. With every flick of my tongue, she winced and quivered.

In a slow circular motion I ascended from her pierced belly button to her supple nipples. She inhaled, then turned her head to the side and let out a soft moan. "Oh, Malcolm, you feel so good. Don't stop. Please don't stop."

I moved my hand slowly down her long, smooth leg until I felt the warmth from within. I paused briefly to massage her, then I put on my condom and slid inside. Her head sprang up in one quick motion.

"Wha — what are you doing?" she stuttered.

"I'm doing my job," I replied confidently.

She flopped back down onto the pillow and began to shake violently. Seconds later she let out a loud scream. "Oh, shit, that's the spot, baby, right there!" Her legs tensed as she grasped the sheets into her small fists. "I'm cumming. I'm cumming!" Tina bit down on her lip and frantically tossed her head from side to side. If there was an Academy Award for best orgasm she would have won, hands down. When it was over, she rolled onto her side, clutched the pillow between her legs, and dozed off. Talk about perfect timing. The clock read 10:55 P.M. Her time was up.

I grabbed my garment bag and stepped into the bathroom. While the bathwater ran, I pulled out my black book to confirm my next appointment. I recalled writing 1:20 A.M. but my notation read: Helen — Melvin's Jazz Club — 12:00 A.M. "So much for a long, hot bath!" I said in disgust.

I pulled the shower lever and quickly jumped in. While I washed in the hot drizzle, I tried to relax. The four-hour flight in from Chicago had me worn out. I thought about canceling my appointment, but Helen was a priority customer. According to the article I read in Fortune magazine, she was worth ten million dollars. I wasn't going to disappoint my golden goose, not for a basket case like Tina. She had more drama in her life than a soap opera: death in the family, relatives in jail, the dog being run over by a car, and an impending divorce. I couldn't help feeling sorry for her. So, I penciled her in as a courtesy fuck.

By 11:15 P.M. I was rejuvenated and ready to go. When I stepped out of the bathroom, I expected Tina to still be asleep but she was standing outside on the terrace buck naked, smoking a cigarette. The moonlight accentuated her tanned skin and long silky hair that extended to the middle of her back. I paused to admire her one last time. As I was about to announce I was leaving, she muttered something.

"Did you say something, Tina?" I asked while walking toward her.

"You heard what I said, men are no damn good! All they do is tell lies, get you pregnant, and then move on to the next young piece."

"I don't know what kind of drug you're on, but I don't have time for another one of your tantrums, not tonight. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to collect my money and leave."

She turned suddenly, her eyes filled with tears. "Fuck you, Malcolm!" she shouted. "I knew you didn't give a damn about me. All I am to you is another trick."

She tossed her cigarette over the balcony then stormed past me looking for her purse.

"Here, is this what you want?" Tina pulled five crisp hundred-dollar bills out of her wallet and threw them in my face. "Take them!"

I looked at her like she was out of her mind. Then I calmly took my black book out of my suit pocket and began writing.

"What are you doing?" she asked, sounding concerned.

"I'm scratching your name out of my book."

"But I want to see you next month." Tina quickly composed herself, clearing her throat and wiping the phony tears from her eyes.

"Next month? I'm scratching your crazy ass out for good," I said. "I'm sick and tired of these dramatic episodes. This is the third time in six months I've had to deal with this shit. Enough is enough!" I put my book inside my pocket and headed for the door.

"Where do you think you're going?" She tried to block my way with her naked one-hundred-and-twenty-five-pound frame. "I paid you for your time, plus a hundred-dollar tip."

"You think you can throw money at me like I'm some kind of cheap prostitute? I couldn't buy a decent pair of shoes with that chump change."

"I'm sorry, Malcolm. Don't go. Please don't go." Tina gathered the bills off the floor and handed them to me. "You know this divorce has me under a lot of pressure."

"I can't believe you're still dealing with this nonsense," I said. "Let it go and get on with your life."

"I gave that bastard the best ten years of my life. I'm not about to let him walk away scot-free."

"Scot-free?" I asked sarcastically. "He offered to settle out of court for five million dollars, the house, the Mercedes, and twenty-five thousand dollars a month in child support. What more do you want?"

"I want to break that son of a bitch, that's what. He just signed a twenty-five-million-dollar contract with Nike. I'm not going anywhere until I get paid!"

I lifted her by the waist and tossed her onto the bed. "You're nothing but a gold-digging tramp."

"You'll be back, Malcolm," she said seductively while caressing her breasts. "I'll give you a call when I get my first million. We'll spread it on top of the bed and fuck on it."

"You're pathetic," I said. Then I picked up my garment bag and rushed out the door.

While I waited on the elevator, I searched through my bag for aspirin. The stress of playing the role of lover and psychiatrist was getting the best of me. My reflection in the corridor mirror spoke volumes. My eyes were red and my hair was graying in places I didn't recall. For the first time in twelve years I contemplated retiring from the business. As I stepped onto the elevator I popped two Tylenol and nervously laughed at the thought.