The Night Is A Harsh Mistress
by A. Catherine Noon
The Valet Captain shooed her away from the main valet line and had her pull up around the block at a discreet waiting lot, in sight of the front door but out of the way of clients alighting from the valet line. Rachel smirked. It figured that there was some fancy way to divide the rich from the not-so-rich. She wondered if it were déclassé to have someone waiting for you. After about fifteen minutes, when a midnight-blue Mercedes pulled in behind her, she realized that this wasn’t the equivalent of the servant’s quarters.
Her quarry emerged from the Spa, fresh-faced and coiffed. Her nails flashed fire at the sun and Rachel suppressed a surge of jealousy. The woman looked entirely relaxed and composed, as opposed to Rachel, who suddenly felt wrinkled and used up. Rachel fished in her purse for a cigarette, hoping one had fallen out of the pack, but no luck. She sighed, resolving to go to the bank and deposit her check in person, so she could withdraw a twenty and go purchase another pack.
Mrs. Dawson waited for all of five minutes for the Valet to retrieve her red Audi, and then folded her long legs into the driver’s seat and took off. Rachel scrambled to keep up without being obvious, cutting off several cars in the process. Mrs. Dawson almost clipped a bicyclist and Rachel concluded she either didn’t know how to drive, or just didn’t care.
Rachel bet on the latter.
They rode through several busy streets and then came to a quieter section of town. Mrs. Dawson pulled up in the parking lot of a quiet little restaurant called simply, “Mario’s.”
Rachel knew for a fact the place didn’t open until dinner.
Rachel pulled up on the street a half a block down and waited. Mrs. Dawson floated delicately inside, the Maitre’d holding the door open for her and glancing up and down the street before he shut and locked it. Rachel itched to get out and explore but something made her stay put. After maybe a half hour of nothing happening, she stretched and glanced to her left.
She only just caught it: on the second floor facing the street, the curtain twitched. Rachel watched a moment or two longer and then took out her mobile phone just to make a show of calling someone, even though she didn’t actually dial. Rachel looked at her watch impatiently, and peeked under her lashes at the window.
Just between the gap in the curtains she could make out the gleam of a face. She couldn’t see anything clearly other than the cheekbone, but whoever it was watched the street. As Mrs. Dawson exited, the unknown watcher leaned close to the glass.
It was a woman! Rachel blinked in surprise and eased back a bit so her own eyes were hidden by her car’s window frame, just enough so she could see the woman’s chin. Her eyes, in that brief glimpse, gleamed clear blue, and she wore minimal makeup. Her lips glowed an angry red, pressed together disapprovingly. They watched until Mrs. Dawson pulled away.
Rachel sighed and let her go. The strange woman glanced at Rachel and raked her gaze across the car from the headlines to the trunk. Rachel pulled out her mobile again and made a show of dialing and looking at her watch. She even gesticulating a couple times like she were having an argument and the woman with the red lips finally retreated from the window, the curtains at last lying still against the glass.
Rachel figure that was her cue to leave and found her way back downtown to her office.
When she stopped at the 7-Eleven, they were out of her brand of cigarettes. It just wasn’t her day. First the man with the Porsche got away without exchanging phone numbers, then she lost Mrs. Dawson, and now this.
On a whim, she bought the kind Viktor had, $2 more than she usually spent.