PRINCESS IN FISHNETS
When I woke that morning on the leather couch the green corset nearly fell off me.
Sunlight was streaming into the windows when I opened my eyes and eased myself up on the couch. I couldn’t remember exactly where I had been the night before, it was the end of finals week and my four years of college were about to be in the rear view mirror. Kate, my best friend of the last four years, had suggested we celebrate in style this time. No more dingy campus bars with horny frat boys trying to take you home. So we headed to uptown Manhattan and hit one of those clubs with the stanchions and door men.
But I couldn’t remember where I was or how I had got there. I put my feet down on the floor and heard a thump. Still a little hung-over, I looked down at the Salvatore Ferragamo boots encasing my feet and calves. What the hell? I was still trying to get some mileage out of the last pair of Payless heels when I hit that club with Kate. We were afraid the doorman wouldn’t let us in, but he turned out to be one Kate’s cousins. What had happened at that club?
The next thing I noticed was the fishnet hose I was wearing. Okay, this was too crazy. I hadn’t tried to fit into a pair of those since I went as a 70’s hooker for Halloween. What was going on? And then I felt the cool leather of the couch on my ass. Almost to my bare cheeks. I looked down again while trying to grab the corset and saw the fishnets were attached to a garter belt over an Evaley Luxury webbed thong. There was no way I could afford this outfit on with my budget. I barley brought in enough waitressing tables to pay the rent and have money left over.
I stood up in the boots and wobbled a little as the surroundings were illuminated by the morning light. In front of me was a California King Size bed, but it was still made. Guess I hadn’t used it. There was a small silk sheet on the couch which I’d kept warm with during the night. But it still wasn’t making any sense. What was I doing here?
Okay, these boots have to go, I thought as I unzipped them. No way was I going to be walking anywhere in them with the way my head felt. My feet felt a lot better free and I managed to walk across the room to a full-length mirror on the wall. I squinted and checked out the reflection.
I didn’t appear to be the business major at college whose parents were coming up next week for graduation. The same tire blond face stared back at me, but without my glasses I looked a lot different. I steadied myself and looked again. And where were my glasses? I didn’t need them in the daytime, but they weren’t cheap.
The make-up was smeared, but they were the colors I’d selected the night before. The corset had to come off; I could hardly breathe in it. The lacing in the back had been taken out; I could feel it loose with my hand. I inhaled and undid the snaps in front until it swung free and fell.
Allowing my perky little A-cup breasts to expose themselves to the world.
I was in a strange room, wearing fishnets, a thong and nothing else. This wasn’t good. My hair, which I’d had done for the club date, was piled on top of my head and clipped back with a pin. The music, dancing and drinking of the club was starting to come back to me. I could barely remember feeling dizzy and sick around midnight. A huge man in a suit came up and told me his boss wanted to talk. Where the hell were my club clothes?
I was scared. This was the sort of thing that happened to women in Hollywood movies and they always had a bad end. I covered my breasts with one arm and looked around the room for something to cover the rest of me. I had to get out of here!
Then I noticed a printed silk robe folded on the table in front of the couch. I ran over to it, threw it on and tied the sash. Someone had known I’d be getting out of that corset the moment I woke. What else had they done to me besides trade my clothes for a sexy thousand dollar outfit? I didn’t feel sore and there were no bruises. Did some rich pervert stalk the streets looking to dress poor little 22-year-old college girls? I needed to get out.
The room itself was decorated with antiques. I knew a thing or two about the antique trade from working for an auction house and what was in this room would’ve paid for my four years of college. And it was all consistent. The only sacrifice for modernity was the huge bed in front of me. The rest of the room was decorated to resemble a rancher’s bedroom and office from the 19th century American West.
I looked up at shotguns over the fireplace. Were those things loaded?
It was at that moment a knock sounded on the door. Before I could say anything, it swung open and a maid came rolling a silver breakfast service into the room. I couldn’t see behind her, but she didn’t care the door was left open. The lady looked to be sixty years old and was wearing a uniform. She was dark in complexion and looked over as she entered the room. I decided to wait and see what was going on before I tried to escape.
“Good to see you awake, missy,” she said. “Mr. Rico say bring you some food. You hungry by now.”
“My name is Carol,” I told her, standing there in my stocking feet. “And who is Mr. Rico?”
She shook her head. “English very bad.”
Then she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
I waited another three minutes and went to the door. I was about to leave when the door knob turned in my hand. The door, which was made out of some heavy wood, swung away from me to reveal the form of a huge man of African ancestry dressed in a fine suit. He wore a plain gold chain about his neck and had an ear piece plugged in. Looming over me by a good foot, he stared down for a few seconds, and then spoke into the receiver clipped to his shirt.
“Yes, she’s okay. Maria told me Miss Brooks was up and moving about. Okay. Okay. I’ll tell her you’ll be up in a few minutes.”
He extended his left hand, which bore a gold ring with a back diamond in it. “Jones. Edward Jones. The boss sent me up to check on you.”
I took the hand which swallowed my own. He gave it a light squeeze.
“You were one sick girl last night. Feeling OK?”
I put a hand to my forehead. “I think so. How did I end up here after the club?”
“Mr. Rico will be up in a few. He’ll explain everything.”
Then he shut the door. I couldn’t even hear if he walked away or not.
I walked over to the breakfast tray and picked up the cover. Eggs. Biscuts. Ham. Pancakes. There was enough to feed my entire apartment floor in this tray. Somebody didn’t know what I liked so they fixed a sample of everything they had. Thoughtful. I put the cover back in place. I wasn’t very hungry and still felt a little sick after last night.
And why hadn’t anyone brought me my clothes? Did they expect me to walk out of here looking like a porn star?
At least there was a glass of orange juice on the cart. Should I drink it? I hesitated. If someone had gone to this much trouble to kidnap me, they wouldn’t be slipping drugs in my food. I went ahead and drank the orange juice, feeling better. The clouds in front of my eyes were starting to fade.
The sun had risen over the Manhattan skyline and was pouring into the room. The curtains had been drawn back to allow a clear view of the city. I went to a balcony door and looked out. The Wild Wild West interior gave way beyond the doors to reveal a balcony outfitted with every kind of upscale patio furniture imaginable. A rail protected anyone out there, but it was big enough to hold a conference on that deck. I had no clue how high I was up in the air, but I could see window cleaner team at work on a building four hundred feet away.
The door opened a third time and I turned to see who it was.
It was Mr. Jones, who smiled at me, his big wide grin visible from across the room. He turned to some one behind him.
“Mr. John Rico will see you now, “a phrase he’d announced thousands of times.
And then my benefactor entered the room.
He wore a clean-pressed suit from a designer I didn’t recognize. His tie was carefully knotted and made of green silk, which matched his pocket square. He looked to be about forty, had a full head of hair and green eyes with a narrow chin. Mr. John Rico, a man I instantly recognized, entered the room with his hands clasped in front of him.
“Are you well? I had my doctor check on you last night. She said you’d be better this morning and it I see she was right.”
The man who stood before me in his Gucci shoes was one of the richest men on the East coast. I almost dropped the glass with the orange juice in it.
I knew all about him, but the general public didn’t. Old money of his class didn’t like their names being tossed around. They kept a quiet profile and paid top dollar to stay that way. You might see them slumming in the village, but they’d be wearing designer downscale clothes with a servant discretely following behind and security detachment limo trailing. Try and ask for their autograph, you’d get body-slammed by a former NFL quarterback.
And did he ever look nice. All that money he’d inherited had went into the upkeep on his body. He was toned by the best trainers and gyms the city had to offer. Mr. John Rico would have a full-time personal trainer taking care of his build. His physician would also be in fealty to the Rico family and dedicated to making sure they stayed healthy, happy, and disease-free.
I had to know: was he wearing a wedding ring? I glanced down. No. Wonderful!
I blushed and went a little weak-kneed in those fishnets. At least I had the robe still on. He shouldn’t be seeing me like this. Unless, unless, unless.
He smiled. “Did the outfit you picked out fit? You seemed to like it.”
Now I was really confused. “I picked this out? When? Where?”
The richest man in the east turned to Mr. Jones and said. “You may go Edward. I’ll spend some time here with Miss Brooks. I will call you when needed.”
“Yes, sir”, the onyx giant said and left the room, the door swinging shut behind him.
“You don’t remember very much about last night, do you? Come sit on the couch. I would like to talk with you.”
My legs led me to the leather couch and sat down. The floor was cold and I drew my stocking feet up under me. Ever the gentleman, he allowed me to sit first and sat down at the opposite end.
“Nice interior,” was all I could manage and looked around the room.
“I’m glad you like it,” he responded. “My grandfather was a big fan of the old west and collected much of what you see here.”
His great-grandfather founded an oil company which sawed through the competition. No one was safe in that man’s path. Hezekiah “Hex” Rico was one of the most vicious oil men in an age when fortunes were made in a single day. He kept a private army in control of his wells, and gunned down anyone who tried to drill on one of his claims. A few generations might have bred out the raw might of what his great-grandfather created, but there was no denying how he acquired it. Hex did one good thing before he died and built and art museum in Tucson. To this day, local people call it the “Attila the Hun Museum”.
By the time the money worked its way down to John Rico, it was diluted by corporate investors and boards. Say what you will, but making a public offering on the stock exchange has a way to take the blood thirstiness out of a company. When a single owner no longer calls all the shots, he’s less willing to finance guerilla raids against his rivals. Like other oilmen fortunes, the current families had a hard time keeping their kids in line.
John, for instance, had managed to buy some computer companies when their stocks were hot. When they cooled, he was able to short them to some chumps who assumed because the Rico family had invested in them, the prospects were golden. To make a long story short: they weren’t. It was one of the case studies we were taught in business school about what and what not to believe in the market. While other members of the family were wasting their money on Brazilian show girls, John had done something with his. His fortune increased while others dropped like a silver dollar in a Vegas casino. I was told he had some sort of sister living in a Hawaii commune. Her trust fund was the only thing keeping it open.
“You really had me scared last night,” he told me. “When you stated convulsing I got you to the doctor as soon as possible. I don’t think she’s ever seen a patient before in a corset and boots.”
I looked at him and told the truth. “I don’t remember a thing after we were let in the club.”
“Dr. Miriam thought you might not remember much. Looks like she was right.”
I pulled both legs up in front of me. Even with the silk robe on I felt vulnerable. I’d spent the entire evening with a man who could buy and sell my college over three times?
“What happened? Can you tell me without a lawyer present?”
He laughed. “I don’t think an attorney will be necessary. Where do you want me to start?”
“From the moment you saw me.”
So he leaned back on the couch and started to talk.
He’s noticed me in the club the moment I’d arrived. Kate and I looked way out of place in there. Most of the women and men were wearing designer label clothes. It was still cool outside and Hermès scarfs were all over the place. That much I remembered. He’d had his usual table in a booth toward the entrance, guarded by Big Ed. For some reason Rico found the place conducive to business deals, I didn’t ask why, though I suspect the eye candy had something to do with it. The bouncers had been busy in the front of the club just letting the “right” looking women in when we’d arrived.
“You were an innocent little flower in that hothouse of greed,” he told me. “I knew something bad was going to happen. So I told Edward to keep an eye on you.”
While Big Ed was trying to keep one eye on the boss’s person and another on me, some uptown lawyer had decided to move in for the kill. One minute I was at one of the bars with Kate, wondering how much glitter tile was on the floor, the next, a fat dude in a suit had pushed himself between us.
“Need some company, girls?” He offered.
We looked at each other and laughed.